Every so often, a great episode of a television show you love comes along to remind you why you have stuck with that series so long in the first place. Sunday evening’s episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine did that for this reviewer. Brilliantly plotted and brazenly funny, this Halloween-themed episode will only ensure that, along with scary movies and scandalous costumes, we remember to look forward to the end of October to revisit the FOX comedy. (Also, placing the comedy on Sunday nights, immediately after the revered “Treehouse of Horror” installments of The Simpsons, is a double-stuffed cookie of guaranteed fun and excellence.)
The episode is titled “Halloween II,” which sets up future themed sequels that continue with the charade of the bet between Jake and Cpt. Holt. Last season, one of the most memorable half-hours featured an audacious bet, where Jake bargained a week of overtime to get the captain to do a pileup of paperwork for him on Halloween – and he succeeded. This year, he has upped the stakes. He tells Cpt. Holt that he will retrieve the captain’s watch. If he succeeds, Jake will hand over his paperwork to the captain. If he fails, he has to take a whopping five weeks of overtime for no pay. After a quick cost/benefit analysis in his head, Cpt. Holt shakes on it.
As the stakes of the bet increased during this half-hour, so did the elaborate storytelling, which also raised the stakes of Jake’s predicament with each step. It all starts easily enough, with a complex series of distractions that Jake organizes with his precinct team, aided by a noted pickpocket nicknamed “Fingers,” to retrieve Cpt. Holt’s watch without him realizing it. It is “Fingers’” job to switch the captain’s watch with a replica, and it goes off without a hitch. This entire sequence of tomfoolery is beautifully executed, aided by how we do not know how each member of the team would contribute to this charade.
However, before Jake can toast his victory, he gets a note from “Fingers” that indicates the criminal accomplice still has the captain’s watch and won’t give it to him. With just a few hours to spare before the trick-or-treaters head to bed, Jake has to figure out a way to retrieve it, to prove how he one-upped the captain. What follows is a series of rookie mistakes by Jake, whose hubris turns to be his tragic flaw yet again, that rids him of his car, badge and ID.
Usually, in the aftermath of a big reveal, the exposition that reveals how it all happened is told in an intricate, surgically precise way. (Think of the excellent mid-movie montage in the current box office hit Gone Girl.) For a sitcom, though, doing this can lack spontaneity, which would weigh down on the show’s comic velocity. So, there were hints dropped of the precinct’s involvement in this bet, although from the captain’s side. The show lingered a bit too long on the distracting giant teddy bears and the weirdly dressed folk in the party bus, slightly giving away that there was something a little familiar about who these masked men and women really were. However, the reveal, deftly using swift flashbacks under Cpt. Holt’s satisfied baritone voice, was a dynamic way to relate exposition while keeping the jokes coming.