Deck the halls with gangs of Latvia drug lords, in this week’s episode of BROOKLYN NINE-NINE. “Captain Latvia” does a lot of interesting things to the show’s typical narrative structure. Instead of the usual ABC story structure, with the main story including Jake, and the secondary stories taking up less time throughout the episode, this week’s episode splits roughly equal time between the storyline involving Jake and Boyle, and a storyline involving the rest of the precinct.
The episode felt a bit lackluster in comparison to previous episodes this season, mainly because there wasn’t much focus on any one character except for Boyle. And to that end, Boyle’s storyline and jokes throughout the episode wound up being the most humorous. But even so, the only really laugh out loud funny bit was the cold open when Jake tries to inflate a Christmas tree that is way too large to be an indoor tree, and Terry gets trapped in the breakroom with it. Visual humor at some of its finest.
I’m also a little bit weirded out by the turn Gina’s voice has taken in this season. Her lines just never quite feel like her character – it seems like she’s being written this season by new writers who aren’t familiar with her character voice. There’s been a lot of repeat jokes about her not listening and not being in the loop or up to date on what’s cool or popular or all the rage in popular culture. This week it was a bit about her going to see Hamilton on Broadway and “discovering” the musical as a hit. Except, while it would definitely be like Gina to take credit for discovering a hit musical and making it cool, doing so over a year after its been on Broadway and a huge hit not only feels dated, but it feels out of touch with her character. Gina would be the type to somehow swing tickets a month after the show opens and is super popular, and then claim that she was somehow the reason why it became so trendy. Gina’s always been the most in-the-know at the precinct, so all these jokes about her not being with it seem a little off for her character.
Back to Boyle, though. This episode was all about Boyle trying to find a very hard-to-get Captain Latvia doll for his son, which he’s promised to get him for Christmas. Except, he ordered the doll months ago and never received it. When he and Jake go to investigate at the delivery warehouse, they discover that the shipments from Latvia are often also used to smuggle in drugs, and that sometimes the actual item getting shipped gets lost in the process. Apparently Boyle’s Captain Latvia doll was one of those items, and Jake and Boyle decide to infiltrate the Latvian mob to find the doll and save Christmas for Boyle’s son.
Meanwhile, the rest of the precinct is locked in a caroling battle with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, who, like Glee, somehow just magically have a group full of amazingly talented singers whose voices harmonize beautifully together. And the nine-nine are terrible singers. However, a drunkard they have locked in a cell for public intoxication, has a beautiful singing voice. And, you guessed it, they’re so engrossed in winning they make the terrible choice as dysfunctional cops to allow this criminal out of his cell to carol with them.
The runner joke with Boyle is that, throughout the night, he and Jake get further on infiltrating the mob than Jake would have ever thought possible, purely on instinctual luck on Boyle’s part. He’s determined to get this Captain Latvia doll back for his son, and without a lot of thought or planning, just keeps diving into the next situation full on, and somehow successfully getting out alive with the information he needs.
The runner joke with the nine-nine caroling hits its mark less accurately. While I’ve never thought of the nine-nine as being unsuccessful in their dysfunctionality, this time around they are. They make the really terrible choice to include this drunk as part of their caroling group, and of course, when he’s sober he has stage fright, so Amy – of all people – gets him drunk so that he’ll sing, but then he starts singing really crass lyrics to the Christmas songs. It’s a disaster. And also, as much as I know Amy is extremely competitive, I have a hard time believing she would be willing to not only let this criminal out of his cell to sing with them, but also get him drunk just to win against the douchey MTA.
One thing this episode gets so, so right though, is Boyle’s continual oblivion to the incredible number of sexual innuendos he makes while trying to come up with cool phrases to say, in the spirit of being more like Jake. In fact, other than the Christmas tree defeating Terry, that was probably the highlight of this episode. There was also a cute scene at the end where the precinct comes together in a very Christmas-y spirit sort of moment, which was a nice way to wrap up the episode. I’ll be looking forward to the next non-holiday episode, though. Hopefully it will have a little more of the humor we’re typically used to seeing in this show.
Season 4, Episode 10 (S04E10)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesdays at 8PM on Fox
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
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Tasha Cerny | Contributor