A review of “Debbie,” this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, coming up just as soon as I have 16 copies of Blind Melon’s first album…
“The Jimmy Jab Games II” and “Debbie” aren’t exactly a two-parter, but this one picks up where last week’s installment left off: with the squad trying to figure out who stole the drugs and assault weapons out of the evidence locker. It’s to this episode’s credit that everyone immediately pegs Debbie for the perp, since she’s too transparently odd to escape notice. But from there, things get weird, and not always in a good way.
For starters, it’s yet another episode in this early stretch where Jake spends the bulk of the story being blatantly wrong about everything. In this case, his desire to go easy on Debbie is at least reminiscent of the blind spot he has for Doug Judy. But it still feels like the show is leaning too heavily at the moment on its main character not only being an idiot, but being told repeatedly in every episode that he’s being an idiot. The episode tries to pivot at the end by suggesting that Rosa was actually the one who was wrong the whole time in not being sympathetic to Debbie. But that doesn’t really land, because Debbie is such a colossal screw-up that it can’t all be blamed on her cruel mother (played by guest star Christine Estabrook). It’s fun to watch Vanessa Bayer play this almost surreal cartoon character who has no idea how to function, yet Debbie is so absurd — especially after she starts using cocaine(*) — that she winds up making both of our heroes look bad.
(*) In a recent podcast interview, Dan Goor mentioned that one of the biggest changes in the move from Fox to NBC is that they can now do jokes involving bleeped profanity, when Fox had a rule against it. Here, they go big on the device, with Rosa trying to appease a coked-out Debbie by going on at length about what she would do sexually to Mr. Bean. It’s the funniest thing in the episode. (Also, Fox didn’t always have this policy, as sitcoms like Action and Arrested Development made frequent, hilarious use of bleeped curse words.)
Finally, it’s odd that neither Charles nor Holt are directly involved with Debbie this time out. Charles, after all, was the one who inadvertently inspired this crime, while Holt was Debbie’s partner for a bit. Instead, both are left back at the precinct with the rest of the squad to go through Debbie’s insanely detailed collection of journals. This does lead to an entertaining nerd-off between speed-readers Holt and Santiago. It just seems a missed opportunity to have someone with actual history with Debbie (even if it’s extremely recent history like Charles) interacting with her on this loopy (and strangely surveillance-light) undercover assignment.
We’re only five episodes in, but that’s more than a third of this abbreviated 13-episode season. Hopefully, we start getting some other kinds of stories with Jake, and soon.