A review of this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “The Takeback,” coming up just as soon as I’m the hottest ASMR performer on Twitch…
All three stories in “The Takeback” sound extremely promising on paper. In the main plot, the Pontiac Bandit returns, and Doug and Trudy Judy have to help Jake pull off a reverse heist on Doug’s bachelor party weekend. Captain Holt makes an early return to command of the Nine-Nine, and is displeased with how Terry handled something in his absence. And Boyle competes with Scully and Hitchcock to help Amy select the precinct’s new vending machine.
Andy Samberg and Craig Robinson are always fun together, and as Trudy, Nicole Byer was a great addition to the annual tradition in last season’s “A Tale of Two Bandits.” Holt regaining his proper rank at this stage feels about right, and the show has mined interesting tension in the past from his and Terry’s different leadership styles. And contrasting Boyle’s food obsessions with those of the squad’s resident dum-dums feels like a pretty fresh note.
In execution, though, none of the three lives up to its potential. Like a lot of the series’ episodes with three separate plots, none have enough running time to get up to full speed, which results in fairly superficial takes on each idea.
The concept of Jake being involved in a reverse heist, for instance, is so on-brand for both him and the show that it arguably could have filled up an entire episode, perhaps as this year’s twist on the Halloween Heist. Here, though, it had to be squeezed into a few minutes, in between Jake/Doug musical duets (which, admittedly, are always the highlights of these episodes), a largely unnecessary Mark Cuban cameo, skepticism of Jake from Doug’s criminal bachelor party buddies, and the return of Trudy. “A Tale of Two Bandits” generated humor by juxtaposing Trudy’s seeming naive sweetness with her true nature as a stone-cold criminal. With that side of her already revealed, it felt like no one knew what to do with Trudy other than to bring her back, and she wound up adding to the episode’s overcrowding.
Holt’s return was already foreshadowed after Wuntch’s death last week, and it felt good to have him back behind that desk. But the subplot here, with Terry throwing away Holt’s prized business card from Zeff Wilcox, was a missed opportunity to explore the transfer of power from the other side(*). We know how the demotion weighed on Holt, but Terry’s temporary status as commander of the whole precinct was largely ignored; he was just the guy at the desk after Captain Kim left. While Terry wouldn’t want to get a permanent command in this manner, the show could have addressed his feelings about the interim job, and that power/responsibility going away. Instead, we got this silliness about the business card he threw away. And somehow, the character best showcased in the conflict was Rosa, whose lack of belief in the idea of normal names, and obsessive attention to the color of the fake chewing gum samples, got the biggest laughs in the episode that weren’t related to Jake whispering as part of the reverse heist.
(*) For that matter, it occurs to me that we never got an episode exploring the idea of Amy outranking her mentor and idol in Holt. That’s a layup that the show never even bothered to attempt. Strange.
Finally, the vending machine C-story was the thinnest of the three, though I’d argue the episode would have been better off saving Holt’s return for another week and beefing up this and the bachelor party stories instead. That’s because the premise of this was sound — and, again, a natural tension between long-running characters that the show hasn’t explored all that much — and could have still been fairly compact even as more time was given to Jake and Doug’s Miami misadventure. Here, though, we basically got the idea itself and not much else. Like the rest of “The Takeback,” it works better in theory than reality.