Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: “USPIS” (Season 2, Episode 8)

One appealing if overlooked attribute of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and various other workplace-centric comedies is the lack of jokes stemmed from references to modern culture and technology. The precinct, along with the offices on shows like Parks & Recreation and The Office, do not seem very high-tech. Since the show is not steeped with constant references to the age where it is set, that bodes well for syndication, where the stories and dialogue are more likely not to come off as dated.

Alas, the series pokes fun at some of its more antiquated charm when Jake and Boyle go to visit a snooty member of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in one of the comedy series’ more inspired episodes to date. The aide of a fantastic guest turn from Ed Helms as the fiercely uncool “federal agent” Jack Danger – the surname rhymes with “wrong her” – helps to elevate a half-hour packed with enough one-liners to turn you into a figurative “giggle pig.”

Helms’ postal investigator is supposed to help Jake and Boyle help out task force leader Rosa – who finally gets more screen time and a chance to do something active. The efficient morning briefing speaker is desperate to make some gains with the “giggle pig” drug trade. With the help of an ancient-looking key with the USPIS insignia pointing the way, Rosa hopes that the cops can find a connection within the postal service.

However, she, Jake and Boyle are not impressed with Danger. Helms plays him to the tee, never extending his toe quite into any stereotypes of old-fashioned purists. Still, Danger grimaces at being in touch with the 99 through email, explaining that he would rather use “R-mail,” also known as real mail. He recites his pride in regards to how his Dutch surname is derived from a word meaning “prudence and financial matters.” This is a man who is convinced of the sanctity of his position to the extent that anyone with a negative thing to say about the postal service, including that the Kevin Costner flick The Postman was a flop, rattles him. Who knew the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers’ room had so many postage-inspired ideas ready? (Consulting producer Brian Reich gets the writing credit this week.)

Helms gives the character both a smugness and self-righteousness that bodes well as he butts heads with Jake, but you also have a pity for the man, as he desperately tries to fulfill the expectation his name promises. Both Jake and Jack are boastful about their heroic abilities in their line of work. Jake continually acts like the savior and loves to brag about his victories, while Jack is convinced of his role as “the nation’s first defense in the war on terror.” (He even listens to marching band music in his car to pump him up.) To watch Samberg and Helms (along with the help of a frequently funny Lo Truglio) try to match up their egos yields some strong comedic moments this week. Their prideful banter, however, earns laughs better than a clumsy slapstick bit by a mailbox, though.