Jake and Charles cannot lose when it comes to embarking on a winning endeavor. Their insanely charming antics are so open-ended in possibilities and hilarity that it’s truly no wonder why Brooklyn Nine-Nine has repeatedly gone back to this specific well so many times. “Hostage Situation” couldn’t be more self-aware in that regard. In keeping with this wonderfully weird friendship, it continues to justify the strength of Peralta and Boyle’s bro-mance by totally arresting itself in the absurdity of Charles’s relationship with his ex-wife.
How about this relationship, by the way? Who would’ve honestly thought that, of all the possessions Boyle would lose custody of from their divorce, one of those would be his own sperm? It’s quite understandable to think a man as generous and exploited as Boyle would allow Eleanor, the straightfaced ex-wife, to keep eighty-five percent of his work salary, but even the most naive of men know better than to withdraw the rights to the last remaining trace of their fertility.
Fueled by his readiness to bear a child with Genevieve (the latest of Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s relatively undervalued love interests), Boyle is committed to win back what’s rightfully his, and I could not thank this episode enough for realizing how jarring and ridiculous this plight is from the jump. Whether it’s though Jake’s facial and verbal expressions in reaction to Boyle’s hilariously uncomfortable retorts, or the “rescue mission” guise that the two gentlemen label this caper under – I had a blast laughing through every waking minute of their efforts and the circumstances surrounding them. Each scene here is played for outright amusement, and nearly every gag joke hits its mark with precision.
All of which is highlighted by two things: careful, balanced writing , and the bro-mance itself. The former aspect amazingly works the sperm jokes in with brilliant affect, while methodically peeling away at the old Boyle to show us a prouder, more responsible version of the character at the episode’s conclusion. The latter once again demonstrates why Jake and Charles are such a perfect mash up of detectives/BFFs, and the end of the episode brings that home with a touch of sadness as we see Boyle reach a low point when he actually wills himself into sacrificing his dignity to strike a deal with Eleanor. Even Kathryn Hahn’s guest appearance as the long-fabled ex-wife meets expectations, although I wish she was given a bit more to do considering how long I’ve waited to finally meet the woman who got hitched with a guy like Boyle. All in all, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has rarely done a better job with its main story, and it’s a testament to it that it has the ability to carry this entire episode on its own.
That being said, “Hostage Situation”, like most installments this season, has the ingredients to be collectively great: Peralta and Boyle chasing after Boyle’s sperm with Charles’s ex-wife holding them hostage (hence the title), a one-on-one interrogation that somehow compels Captain Holt and Diaz to enlist Gina’s help, and Santiago gassing up Jeffords in an attempt to receive a letter of recommendation that pushes her one step towards joining the “S.A.M.S.A.M.” mentoring program. With enough love, care and humor, these elements can easily come together to produce an outstanding half-hour of television. Unfortunately, only a third of tonight’s episode – the one I’ve already expressed my impressions for – really takes off, while the rest sort of meanders towards the finish line.
Perhaps a lot of that ironically has to do with the excellent work this season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done developing these characters. Some of it can also be the result of a 20+ episode plan that assumes there is going to be at least a modicum of filler sprinkled throughout. Let me explain exactly what I’m talking about here. Knowing what we know about Santiago and Jeffords, it seems odd that Amy would feel as though she needs to prove herself to Terry in order to gain his commendation (and even odder that she didn’t just go to Captain Holt first), but the real issue with this B-story is that it simply does not utilize any of these character’s traits or tendencies to any considerably entertaining effect. Sure, Amy does kick Jeffords in the face during a martial arts training routine, and of course the running gag of her unintentionally harming him whilst trying to promote his well being afterwards lends itself to the predictably endearing charm of both Melissa Fumero and Terry Crews. Besides that, we’re given some rather formulaic fluff that sort of lingers up until Terry finally sends the coveted letter of recommendation. There’s also little inclination that this tandem has grown any stronger, and one of my personal selling points with Brooklyn Nine-Nine is how it manages to squeeze out underlining character development in even the most inconsequential of side plots.
We’re led to believe at the end of the episode that Terry finds Santiago to be a true leader, a mentor rather than a “mentee”, but this conclusion is reached prematurely because it’s never proven here. Nothing happens within the course of “Hostage” that states otherwise, yet strangely enough nothing happens that encourages this level of praise. Did Jeffords see something in how persistent she was in making his nose feel better? Amy mentions the importance of guiding others and getting into “S.A.M.S.A.M.” to do so, but for some reason that ambition fails to translate in her actions this week.
Amy gets what she wants, and Terry’s proud of what she’s done, but a number of episodes before “Hostage” have provided a happy ending without doing so just because. Before this series went on a brief absence for the Holidays last month, “The Swedes” had a lot of fun bringing this exact same dynamic back, with the two of them illustrating their leadership qualities in an attempt to help Gina pass an Astronomy final. There, the show actually establishes the positive difference they made in mentoring their colleagues by taking the usually overlooked intelligence both individuals seem to carry on an everyday basis, and applying it to a field of study they absolutely excel at. The end result is a wrap-up that feels natural and earned, and the tidbits we gather from Amy and Terry geek-ing out over how much they remembered learning in college is the meaningful material that the B-story in “Hostage” is missing.
My guess here is that Brooklyn Nine-Nine was afraid to go to the well so quickly, hoping that the wildness that followed in its central plot would cover the nakedness of what went on elsewhere. This is also an indication that Season Three may be beginning to tread familiar territory with a reliance on its prior success. While I’m poised to give this particular installment the benefit of the doubt, the unfinished nature of this half of “Hostage” is very difficult to ignore.
Where this half of the episode feels rushed and unearned, the other half involving Holt, Diaz and Gina is just paltry. First off, the “filler” part of this week’s installment is definitely evident here. Gina gets to proclaim how cool it is to break the law; Holt pulls her back; we find out about Steven and his brief history with Gina; Gina gets one more shot to break Steven; Diaz saves the day. The aforementioned interrogation is stemmed from Steven, the apparent suspect, requesting to talk with Gina instead of an actual police officer, and although the real reason for his request opens the door to a wide breath of character exposition (they went to high school together!?), “Hostage” takes it nowhere, ironically staying far enough away from Gina’s past that we’re left with hardly anything to chew on. Why this subplot neglects to explore Gina’s high school days further than how well the old Lacrosse team has aged is beyond me, but it sure as hell is a missed opportunity considering the events that followed. That alone makes the pay-off so unrewarding; Diaz and Steven going back and forth on Gina’s narcissism should’ve been good for more than a few chuckles. Like the foolishness between Amy and Terry this week, the trio’s situation is the equivalent of a cry for help: the proceedings playing out simply to kill time, stumbling to make the most out of its premise and shockingly finding ways to disappoint.
Here are a few extra notes and some of my favorite lines from this week’s episode:
- First and foremost, let me begin by pointing out just how insanely funny Andre Braugher was this week. The beginning scene where Holt busts out his dance moves while Jake and Charles fumble their phones in astonishment perfectly prepares us for the ridiculousness that later ensues.
- Then there’s his “intimidating” overview of the “realities of the municipal court system”, featuring the processing of Form 38E-J1. If I’m Steven, and Deborah’s really on maternity leave, I’m spilling my guts out after that.
- “Dancing over. Situation Diffused.”
- “Tell me everything the doctor says about your uterine climate.”
- “–shooting dust.”
- “It also says that she, and I quote, ‘owns your dignity’. You initialed right next to that!”
- “I should’ve known it was a mistake when she said “I suppose” instead of “I do”.
- “Please don’t dump my sperm on us!”
- “You thought I wanted to be a S.A.M. and not a S.A.M.!? Are you Insane!?”
Let me be perfectly clear in declaring that I genuinely enjoyed watching “Hostage Situation”. It’s a solid, consistently funny romp through yet another one of Jake and Charles’ adventures that once again maximizes the potential of their combined zaniness. Very little can be stripped away from how extremely well written their shenanigans are here, and tonight’s episode wins out by taking full advantage of them.
It’s a shame that we have to sit through a show as certain as Brooklyn Nine-Nine struggle to conjure up its other pieces in crafting a full, worthwhile 22 minutes of quality entertainment. The rest of “Hostage” plays it so safe most of the time, it’s almost as if the show forgot what makes it so special at the end of the day. It plants its own seeds and offers great setups for humorous, expansive material, but can’t find a way to cash in on them. Never before have I seen an episode like this – where one part is absolute gold, while the others discernibly dry – and hopefully we get a more well-rounded outing next week.
+ Jake and Boyle material is, again, brilliant
+ Dancing Holt, and intimidating Holt
+ Kathryn Hahn as the ex-wife
-Holt/Diaz/Gina subplot fell flat
-Amy and Terry B-story aimless and somewhat arbitrary