“The Cruise” is by far the funniest episode Brooklyn Nine-Nine has dished out yet. Constructed under fantastic setup – laminated cruise activity itineraries, a boisterous little sister complaining about cab rides and stolen hairbrushes, and a beautiful, affordable apartment arousing both amazement and skepticism – this week’s installment features the sharp writing necessary to run away with every A, B, C-D-E-F-G story on tap. Furthermore, the grounded, more realistic nature of the proceedings elevates the hilarity of the gang’s character beats – proving that this show has attained a rare range of raunchy, silly, subtle and grounded comedy that can seamlessly work together on any given night.
Craig Robinson is so good as Doug Judy/Pontiac Bandit, the fact that he’s been scattered throughout the series as a guest star is a crime all it’s own – so you can probably imagine my elation when I saw him performing smush-centric show tunes at the cruise ship’s all-ages piano lounge. It appeared I had a good reason to be happy about that: his return wound up becoming the indisputable anchor of the episode. The circumstances of his situation – speculation that his old boss from back when he actually stole Pontiacs has hired a hit on him, thus forcing him to lay low on a boat where 40% of the ship’s labor force is rife with criminal records of their own (because, according to the captain, no normal person would want to live on a boat) – and the pull that he uses to swing Peralta into his predicament – the free “tix” courtesy of a made-up sweepstakes – are both hilarious, strangely plausible, and perfectly true to the characters. Once these two butt heads again, the action ensues at a breakneck pace, with loads of amazing slapstick swiftly guiding us along – from the running gag of Craig Robinson’s surprisingly adequate notching of high-pitched singing notes, to Peralta and Doug’s setting-appropriate love for Speed 2: Cruise Control. And because Peralta and Judy share a lowkey chemistry that vibes with the playfulness of both their personalities, their interactions appear naturally effortless; the comedic nature of it all consistently in form, with enough underlining realism for us to care that they secretly care for one another. Boyle warned Jake not to make any new best friends, but that’s a mighty difficult promise to keep when Jake’s long-time nemesis is so darn endearing.
Even Amy shared some sweet moments with Doug – of course they’d both know that “boat jail” is commonly referred to as a brig! – in a brand-new dynamic that worked its way into the Peralta/Santiago relationship in heartwarming fashion. I loved how easy it was for Doug to gel with her, and how her overall charm drove him into becoming the voice of reason for Jake – who was too busy going after his archnemesis to acknowledge his girlfriend’s merriment during the cruise. The payoff couldn’t have been sweeter, as Jake finally drags his ego aside to tend to Amy’s wants and needs (those 76 cruise activities had to be completed sometime), while they both release the big “L” word from their tongues. Was it a little too easy for Amy to brush aside the fact that the majority of her mini-vacation with her hubby took a back seat to saving a fleeing criminal from a relentless hitman? Yes – and no, considering how immensely fetching Robinson was this week – but at least there’s enough context to justify the couple’s kiss, make-up, and love-declaring. I’m glad that the show continues to subvert sitcom relationship expectations, and allow these two to grow as a couple without allowing these small bumps in the road to play a bigger part than they should.
Holt’s younger sister, Debbie (Niecy Nash) was a hoot, with her constant gossiping and indifference to personal events in her life making her the exact opposite of the captain’s more straight-faced demeanor. She’s instantly an annoyance for him – and rightfully so – but her appearance runs deeper than simply having her older brother hear her whine and complain. Brooklyn Nine-Nine crafts some of its best B-story work here, subtly including Terry and Gina into the mix as the links to Holt’s “humanizing” side – the very same character development we’ve been watching progress all season – and hitting us with the sadness of Debbie’s formerly undisclosed separation. I laughed – a lot – over the Captain’s sudden craving for seltzer water (especially his need to hide in the file room while drinking it), and the made-up instances Gina and Terry wailed out over to fuel his own brand of bickering towards Debbie – but I also felt bad for the two siblings, seeing that this is a time where they need each other’s accompaniment more than ever. Holt bringing the joys of their childhood back with that tent in his office was the perfect way for this subplot to end: It shows the ever-increasing liveliness Holt is beginning to express towards others, and is an expressive callback to a past we never saw, but are now emotionally attached to.
We got another dose of the Boyle/Diaz dynamic at play this week, and the apartment subplot paid off by remaining rooted in realism and credibility. The overall astonishment of the home where that old lady died felt like a natural reaction for two modestly-paid police detectives to have (especially when it has as much closet space as it did), and the “old-fashioned suck-off” that followed featured some of the series’ funniest phrases and cutaways. The fact that they both lost the apartment to another suitor was predictable as all hell, but it sprung their deductive skills into action in a believable way. Having them fall immediately suspicious to the landlord ignoring their advances and figuring out he did so to cover up his murdering of the old resident rings true to the hard, honest work they’ve displayed during most cases – and the apartment being left up for grabs still gives this C-story a chance to return in the future. I didn’t mention in-depth how much fun it was seeing Charles and Rosa honorably fight over residency here, but I don’t feel like I have to – their typically zany collaborations always make for a winning break from the main plot.
On that note, here are some of my favorite lines from the week:
- “Say ‘I Love Carousel Cruises International Ltd.'”
- “We got songs about smushing, songs for smushing to, songs for the kids.”
- “The drama queen of the Holt family? What, did she laugh out loud one time?”
- “Once I used an exclamation point in an email. You called me Diana Ross.”
- “I mean, the game of contacting next of kin.”
- “I smiled at you…for what!?”
- “That’s the man you’re looking for, a little bit to the left”
- “Why wouldn’t you want cops with great credit living in your apartment?”
“Great credit and an eel hookup.”
- “Now, turn to your partner and tell them how your spouse died!”
One more thing: I will definitely be re-watching that “Rosa” rendition, if only to see Doug hilariously attempt to direct Jake to the hitman in the lounge a couple hundred more times.
“The Cruise” is the prime definition of a good thing gone perfectly right, taking various scenarios and working all of them into the workplace theme of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with astonishing finesse. It’s a comedic masterpiece, making you laugh just as hard as the slight instances where you might even cry – yet swirling around all of this incredible work is the honest truth that the show stays true to itself throughout. I could watch this episode again, and again – and again – but even multitude viewings can’t diminish the magic of cerebral storytelling graced with this particular stroke of genius. Job well done, Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
+ Craig Robinson, smushing, hitmen, and navigational love songs
+ Judy’s impact on Jake/Amy relationship
+ Holt and Debbie’s brother-sister drama
+ Boyle and Rosa’s “suck-off”
+ Literally laughed out loud all throughout the episode