A review of this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Ransom,” coming up just as soon as I show the right level of excitement for a yellow-crested warbler…
There is only one thing to complain about with “Ransom,” the funniest episode of Season Seven, and one of the funniest Nine-Nine installments in years, so let’s get it out of the way quickly: Because this one immediately follows “Valloweaster,” it means Cheddar the Dog gets a triumphant slo-mo introduction two weeks in a row. Like Amy’s pregnancy news, that one moment would have benefited from being spaced out even a little more.
The rest, though? Pretty darned unimpeachable — especially for a traditionally structured episode that doesn’t have the squad together for the entire time.
If Samberg-plus-Braugher is easily the show’s most potent comic pairing, then Samberg-plus-Marc Evan Jackson has mounted a surprisingly convincing case for the number two slot, considering that Kevin has only appeared in a dozen-odd episodes over the years. It’s a similar odd-couple dynamic to Jake and Holt, but more extreme. Kevin’s not a cop, and he’s even more of a humorless snob than his husband. So there’s more tension when he’s forced to interact with the sloppy, juvenile, exuberant Peralta than when Holt has to work directly with him, and more potential for big laughs. (Case in point: Kevin learning how to clap back.)
“Ransom” gets to have the best of all possible worlds from this trio. Kevin and Holt get to melt down over Cheddar’s abduction, making them both — Holt in particular — act more frantically Peralta-esque, while offering a literal role reversal where Jake has to learn to impersonate Kevin. While the writers have grown more relaxed over the years at letting Holt drop the robotic demeanor to get silly, they remain wisely judicious about when he’s able to go full Eighties action-hero badass. So it’s as much a pleasure for us as it is for Jake to witness Holt calling people “sumbitch” and tossing out clever kiss-off lines. Each Holt outburst is funnier than the one before, in part because Jake’s excitement about them is infectious. The peak: Jake screaming “Tell him why! Tell him why!” after Holt has delivered the setup for his punchline about needing an umbrella for the shitstorm Holt will rain down on the dognapper. Holt snarling “You took the wrong fluffy boy!” would be hilarious enough, but having Jake be his adoring audience takes the whole thing to another level. That final sequence — including Holt leaping on the car like he’s T.J. Hooker, followed by Jake trying to figure out what famous action movie (Passenger 57? Lethal Weapon? Rush Hour?) was inspired by the captain — may be the entire series’ most pure synthesis of what Braugher and Samberg can do together(*). And Samberg’s stilted impression of Jackson is almost as great, particularly as Jake’s trademark “Cool cool cool cool” becomes “Indeed indeed indeed indeed” while he and Kevin have swapped clothes and roles.
(*) The Holt/Jake stuff is so good that it nearly overwhelms the return of this season’s best low-key running gag: Jake hates Wario, mainly because he can’t beat him when he plays. In this case, the dognapper is on the verge of telling Jake how to become Wario in the game when Holt arrives to save the day.
The subplots, meanwhile, are exactly what you want from an episode with such a strong A-story: Each had one or two funny ideas that gave the rest of the cast something to do, without requiring more than the minimum possible screen time to get the joke across. For Amy and Rosa’s attempt to win an expensive stroller in a Hands on a Hardbody-style endurance contest, all we needed was the usual dullness of Amy’s ex Teddy, wielded like a superpower. Charles and Terry teaming up to market the healing powers of the Boyle family’s bone broth, meanwhile, was mostly an excuse to have Joe Lo Truglio say the phrase “workplace bone buds” early and often, followed by a literally explosive finale where Terry’s broth jars begin shattering during their investor presentation. Easy, amusing, and efficient enough to let us to enjoy more of Captain Holt covering himself in grenades and declaring, “I’m too old for this crap.”
My feelings for this one can be summed up with a Raymond Holt line from much earlier in the series: Hot damn!