I laughed when reading the description for this week’s installment of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The prospect of Jake Peralta of all people owing a substantial amount of money to his colleagues is plausible. This series has been on long enough for for us to understand that he is indeed too irresponsible not to have carried over so much as a tab within the precinct over the years, so reading that this episode was about said tab amused me. Because of this, I set some pretty high expectations for “Payback.” Not all of them were met, but I was ultimately very pleased with the results.
First and foremost – let’s discuss this tab. None to my surprise, Jake has accumulated so much debt from lunch favors and entertainment systems, he’s found himself inside the pockets of the entire precinct. Picture the first squadmate in the Nine-Nine you think of, and chances are Peralta owes him or her at least a couple grand. Terry seems to have had enough with the money borrowing – or has he? After some off-screen detective work and “Facts, The” (like Terry’s subsequent trips to the Dentist), it is then revealed that Sergeant Jeffords is indeed preparing for the birth of another child. Leave it up to Peralta to take on the task of keeping it a secret from the rest of the gang, while simultaneously paying Terry back an astounding $2,437 without anyone else finding out. Considering how this season has focused on forming unlikely relationships within the office, it’s not hard at all to imagine Jake’s incessant, meddling nature to once again clash with Terry’s more concealed approach to matters. It’s a fun avenue to venture, yet the risk “Payback” has with keeping it fresh is that the context is similar to that of “Chocolate Milk”, where Jake vowed to keep Terry’s vasectomy visits a secret.
Thankfully, the episode played off Terry’s problem a bit as a way to get the rest of the office involved this time. No one needed to tell me that Jake would eventually tell everyone about the pregnancy (Terry’s wife’s, not his), but the build-up led to a few funny segments, and better yet, some killer payback lines. Even though Peralta’s plan to work off his debts to everyone was hit-or-miss (Gina’s favor in particular was a bit bland), watching Jake give Hitchcock a massage and take care of Boyle’s horny dogs was totally worth it. It’s weirdly amusing how persistent Jake is with feeding Jeffords baby names, so I thought it was great to have him reveal Terry’s secret by accidentally e-mailing everyone his suggestion to call the child “Hurricane”. Gina, Rosa and Boyle’s attempts at cracking the password to Terry’s e-mail was also great, mainly because the material was so true to the characters themselves. I loved how stupid Rosa thought the password was since it didn’t include the name of Terry’s wife, and Charles solving it through a simple deduction (Terry’s love for yogurt) was a classic Boyle moment.
At the end of the day, Peralta’s efforts led to Terry making him his upcoming child’s godfather. I think the decision was quite fitting, considering their growing bond and the fact that Jake literally sacrificed his body (at the gym, no less) to save the sanctity of the secret. There’s little doubt in my mind now that Jefford’s kids will start to make guest appearances in the show to help portray Jake as more of the caring father figure he feels destined to be. If not, he’s at least proven that looking out for his friends has become somewhat of a character instinct – one that wasn’t so keen last season, I might add.
Like all great Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes, there’s usually a hilarious b-story to complement the main proceedings, and “Payback” was no different. Just like the Peralta-Jeffords dynamic, we need to see new elements of Amy and Holt’s relationship to prevent it from becoming stale. But their banter this week worked so well, and felt so original, part of me wishes the whole episode covered just them and their stakeout. Holt coming out of his shell a bit in last week’s “Beach House” carried over here beautifully, as he offered Amy “Nutrition Bricks”, unknowingly rhymed about street-meat, and faced a dangerously personal diarrhea problem (which also led to a hilarious drive back to the precinct to rid of said problem.) The two also bonded a bit over Holt’s stories of his old partner, Martin Ohrmancup (I hoped I spelled it right), which just might help make their embarrassing stakeout a fond memory someday. Things like that help sell the legitimacy of their chemistry, and prove to us that Holt views Amy more as a budding partner than a hapless employee he could boss around. There truly hasn’t been much this season overall that could match how swiftly the Amy-Holt dynamic has developed.
Besides from a few cutaways falling flat, “Payback” shined because of its ability to reunite a couple familiar dynamics and make them fresh again. Whether it’s for laughs or for sentiments, Jake and Terry continue to work well together. As do Holt and Santiago, who took the “buddy cop” trope to both grounded and uproariously funny levels this week. It’s stuff the series may have touched on quite a few times already, but “Payback” will make you hope they spring it back up one more time in the future.
Here are my favorite lines of the night:
“Do you want, like, classic-romantic, or gastro-sensuous?”
“But, if you can’t get a reservation, you can always go home and shampoo his hair.”
“You would have made money on this deal, machine!”
“The bank of Terry is closed!”
“We’re gonna bounce ideas off each other, eat some street-meat while we stakeout some perp, bond over burnt coffee…”
“You don’t outgrow punk, sir.”
“You should also note it’s all in singles ’cause it takes SO MANY bills to fill a briefcase.”
“Meat. From the street. Sounds like a fun treat.”
“Wheel him out, Charles.”
+ Jake and Terry share baby names, heavy weights, and secrets
+ Amy and Holt bond over some cheap coffee and tainted meat
+ Smart move to involve the rest of the Nine-Nine in Jake’s plan to hide Terry’s secret