A better use of the show’s manic energy without treading too much on the shrill side was Jake’s mission. Since Sophia feels neglected from getting good cases because her boss knows she is dating a cop, she wants to pause her relationship with Jake. Since Jake’s feelings are hurt more than he expects, he enlists Terry to be his date for a public defenders dinner, where he hopes to charm Sophia’s boss, Jeffrey Hoytzman (Chris Parnell). This subplot did a better job at balancing out the lunacy, with Jake and Jeffrey’s one-upmanship contest bringing both fun and an escalating tension. (Choice bets between the men included figuring out the appetizers and how tall Terry is when measured in spring rolls.)
Still, this segment had a couple of heavily unrealistic moments that stuck out amidst a good storyline; sadly, it involved Parnell, who is normally a reliable comedy guest star. (Dr. Spaceman, anyone?) His character’s abrupt shift to a coke-snorting lawyer with an uninhibited mouth was a good idea undone by Parnell’s loopy line readings. After Jake discovers him powdering his nose in the men’s room, Hoytzman seemed to come out of a sketch. If the irony of making this professional the one with the issues was supposed to be original, then Parnell shouting his lines did the idea no favors.
Speaking of silliness that felt out-of-character, Cpt. Holt’s descent from fantastic burns toward Wuntch (“Boston? But it’s so close to Salem… you do know what they do to witches up there, don’t you?”) to getting his revenge by replacing the auto-correct on her computer to ‘butt’ didn’t ring true at all. (That kiss between them, meanwhile, was about as broad as their rivalry could go while still working in the show’s favor.) Holt and Wuntch’s juvenile competitiveness works at its best when the two chiefs snivel at each other with highbrow put-downs. But Holt’s final move felt like too much of an easy way to get a cheap laugh. That was, simply, a Peralta-level insult.
Comedy is a serious business, and although Brooklyn Nine-Nine still gets some big laughs due to the sheer will of its ensemble, “Defense Rests” overdid a lot of gags in stories that needed to be grounded in reality. At least the episode ends with an endearing group meet-up at the local tavern, with the characters toasting and cheering. Perhaps they do so in relief that the over-the-top shenanigans will subside in future weeks.