‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Welcomes Back The Pontiac Bandit For ‘The Negotiation’


A review of tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine coming up just as soon as I meet Dustin from Stranger Things

When Fox ordered Ghosted to series last spring, even Dan Goor didn’t know if Craig Robinson would be available again for his annual appearance as Doug Judy. Ghosted is still around (though on hiatus at the moment, and after experiencing a change in showrunner), but fortunately schedules were able to be bent enough for Robinson to come hang with Samberg and friends again.

In a way, these Pontiac Bandit episodes seem like even more of a challenge to reinvent each time out than the Halloween heist stories. There, the premise never really needs to change, and nobody has to worry about long-term consequences for what happens. With Judy, though, the writers have to keep coming up with new and increasingly complex ways to justify both his continued freedom and the lack of professional repercussions on Jake for being so friendly with a repeat offender. Last season’s Judy episode seemed to solve the problem in two ways: by pairing Peralta with Holt so the captain could comment on how inappropriate the relationship is, and by having Judy go straight at the end so that the threat of incarceration wouldn’t have to hang over future appearances.

Of course, when you take away that threat, you also take away much of the point of doing these stories, and “The Negotiation” brings back that tension by forcing Judy back into a life of crime to keep a drug kingpin from killing his mother. On the one hand, it’s fun as always to have Samberg and Robinson riffing and singing and enjoying each other’s company, and to have Jake constantly aware that he’s going too far with this guy. On the other, it felt like he really did go too far, even for this silly, fictionalized version of the NYPD, for everything to turn out okay after Judy returned the stolen diamonds to him. You don’t come to this show for gritty realism, but it makes enough nods to the idea of this being an actual institution that having Jake get off scot-free rang false. If nothing else, it feels like Dennis (played by the great Chris Bauer, who somehow needed four and a half seasons to turn up here as a cop) would raise a huge stink as vendetta against the guy who took away his first shot at a hostage crisis negotiation.

Judy’s farewell message to Jake at the karaoke bar suggested this will be the last time we see him, but it feels like half the Pontiac Bandit stories end that way, to hedge against the availability of a busy guy like Robinson. If the show’s back next year, and someone has a good idea for a Jake/Doug story, I’m sure something will get worked out.

Some other thoughts:

* Rare to see Hitchcock and Scully appearing in separate subplots, but not surprising to see them being the comic highlight in each, with Holt and Terry somehow pulling an Eliza Doolittle with Hitchcock for a few hours (even though his hands are always wet for reasons too gross to explain) and Scully doing what he does best: turning his heart off to provide a distraction for Jake and Doug. Those guys are such a treat to watch.

* Holt and Terry, bad actors pretending to be talking about work rather than watching Hitchcock: “Spreadsheet spreadsheet,” “Crime crime,” “Precinct precinct.”

* Brooklyn episodes with three separate stories often have to give short shrift to one. In this case, it was the first day of operation for Charles’ food truck, which played out exactly how you might expect it to, and without enough of Gina playing Boyle whisperer to make up for the predictability of it.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His new book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.