‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Recap: Family TiesRolling Stone — Alan Sepinwall
A review of this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Gintars,” coming up just as soon as I’m too sad to drink duck broth…
Jake and Amy‘s marriage has put slightly more emphasis on them as them as professional partners this season. This makes sense, and it’s been fun to see the variations in their relationship over the many episodes where they’ve shared the A-story. But that focus on the newlyweds has come at the expense of Jake’s best friend and other primary work sidekick, Charles, who has mostly been involved in B-stories like last week’s acting exercise.
“Gintars” is only the second episode so far this season to spotlight the Peralta/Boyle duo. It’s a good one — and a rarity for how the show has featured them together, in that it’s about Charles asserting himself and pointing out the ways in which Jake can be a bad friend.
Our inciting incident is the arrival of the title character, Gintars, birth father to Charles’ beloved son Nikolaj and generally sketchy person. (He’s played, of course, by Ike Barinholtz, TV’s go-to guy for dirtbags of various ethnic origin.) Charles is understandably concerned about Gintars disrupting his relationship with Nikolaj, but Jake takes things much too far in arranging for Gintars to be arrested and deported for selling dangerous counterfeit jeans. Jake intercedes on his pal’s behalf all the time but here he’s taken it much too far without Charles’ input. Charles rightly gets to be mad at Jake for it and to maintain the moral high ground through the episode’s closing scenes. He forgives Jake without condoning what he did, which feels like a big level of growth from a guy whose emotional life has always been in thrall to the show’s main character. On the whole, it’s a fine spotlight for Joe Lo Truglio, who gets to play Boyle at his most broad (the moans in the briefing room, the way so many conversations are framed in the context of Disney cartoons like Zootopia and The Little Mermaid) while also having genuinely hurt feelings regarding his son and his best friend.
Our subplot brings back Reggie Lee’s Dr. Yee, the forensic expert last seen in Season Five’s “Return to Skyfire,” and the object of shared professional worship by Holt and Amy. This is the two of them at their most insufferably nerdy, so the story wisely casts its sympathy with Rosa, who is skeptical that Yee’s bugs can help solve her case, and with poor germaphobe Terry, who spends most of the episode wearing different kinds of fake eyebrows and a bleached goatee after learning of all the tiny mites that live inside his facial hair. It’s a very, very old type of visual humor (one set of Terry’s fake eyebrows resemble Groucho Marx) but the kind that’s stuck around this long because it works. The contrast of handsome, superstrong Terry Crews with the way he temporarily mutilates his own face is hilarious every single time and probably the most memorable bit from another strong episode.
Some other thoughts:
* I suspect most adoptive parents I know won’t love Charles’ use of “real father” (as opposed to “birth father” or “biological father”) to describe Gintars in the final scene. The language on this issue is delicate and has evolved to reflect as much. (As Charles points out, “Adoption is complicated.”) But this is also a ridiculous show where Gintars refers to Nikolaj as “my sex result” and describes his relationship with both Nikolaj and Nikolaj’s half-brother Dragomir in ways that evoke the lyrics to “I’m My Own Grandpa,” so it may be best not to get too hung up on terminology.
* An accidentally timely joke: Gintars taunts Charles and Jake by watching Mad About You on “Latvian Hulu” in an episode airing a week after a Mad About You revival was announced. Not only that, the revival will only air on Spectrum cable which may as well be Latvian Hulu if you live in a non-Spectrum market.
* Accidentally less timely joke: Gintars blocks Nikolaj’s shot and screams out the name Kristaps Porzingis. It still makes sense that he’d invoke Latvia’s favorite basketball son, but the episode was shot in November, before Porzingis was traded from the Knicks to the Dallas Mavericks.