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Brooklyn Nine-Nine goes full-on Finding Dory with "Pimemento"

Feb 14, 2020 at 13:45. 22 comments
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“Pimemento” was bound to be a Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode that comes in absolutely hot. It even does so in its cold open, with Jake’s harmless prank on Hitchcock turning into Hitchcock almost “being strangled to death.” (“How?!?”) But the exact reason it was always destined to come in hot was because of the return of Jason Mantzoukas’ wildcard undercover cop-turned-private detective character, Adrian Pimento. Personally, I was naturally inclined to enjoy this episode, because I’ve always been pro-Pimento (and pro-Mantzoukas) on the show. But “Pimemento” is an episode that completely maximizes Pimento’s (and Mantzoukas’) chaotic energy, and if you’re not a fan of that, it only makes it that much harder to enjoy this episode and the A-plot as much as you would if it were focused on a different character.

But this plot is one that’s perfect for Pimento, specifically. And while his chaos is technically front and center, it also ends up serving as quite the backdrop for the issues between Jake and Boyle in this episode. As decided at the end of “Manhunter,” Jake and Amy are trying for a baby. Other than some Harry Potter-related awkwardness surrounding that, the major issue now is that Jake has to keep that information a secret from Boyle, because as we all know, Boyle has no idea how to be “lowkey” and can be “a bit much.” So, in a way, it makes perfect sense for Pimento to be in this episode, with this conflict: Because even more than Charles Boyle, Adrian Pimento has no idea how to be “lowkey,” and he is, by very definition, “a bit much.” The only reason Jake even trusts Pimento with the baby information at all instead of Boyle is because of his “Memento/Finding Dory Disease.”

Which is just an insane thing to even type: An episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine relies on the plot of Memento/Finding Dory. (In true Brooklyn Nine-Nine fashion, Jake’s attempt to turn a case into a cool movie is thwarted at every turn.) It also relies on the comedic principle of repetition being funny—from the beeping watch (beep beep, Mr. Pimento) to Pimento’s screams to the Memento/Finding Dory bit—as well as the general deja vu that comes with this plot—as Pimento’s paranoid-but-correct belief that someone’s trying to kill him was also fodder for Season Three’s “Paranoia” and “Maximum Security.” Again, if you’re dreading Pimento going into this episode, none of that really sounds like something to look forward to. At the same time, the repetition and how over-the-top Justin Noble’s script is work hard to force even the biggest Pimento hater to hop on board. Due in large part to Mantzoukas himself, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, impressively, was able to give a character like Pimento a pretty decent arc and story—both with Rosa and as an individual. But ultimately, he is a character who is designed to work best in short bursts, and “Pimemento” simply maximizes those bursts for a character who is somewhat of a funhouse mirror image of Jake’s Cool Movie Cop mindset. Never a dull moment with the guy, you know?

More than the reveal of who’s trying to kill Pimento, this episode is set up for Boyle’s reaction to the fact that Jake is hiding something major for him. Thankfully, the show doesn’t attempt to drag out Boyle learning about Jake and Amy’s babymaking attempts—and confirms early on that Rosa knows, after the pregnancy scare and because she’s able to be cool—and instead deals with it as soon as it could after the two opening episodes of the season. Boyle’s anger at Jake falls right into the “a little much” criticism of Boyle but is also understandable; sure, Boyle tells Jake everything, all the time, immediately, and that can be annoying, but Jake also always tells Boyle what’s going on with his life. Only, he can’t do it now, and it stresses him out. Even with the power dynamic that is Cool Guy Jake and, well, Boyle, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s clear in the fact that they are best friends. While Pimento’s presence keeps the stress of hiding this from Boyle from being all Jake thinks about, the first scene of Jake’s attempt to cut Boyle out of his life entirely—and how that game plan fails—is a reminder of how important Boyle is to him. It’s not just a one-way street. As the rest of the Nine-Nine deals with a conflict management seminar, Jake’s tactic when it comes to Boyle is conflict avoidance altogether, and that doesn’t work too well.

Predictability with Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the execution works, and that’s also the case here. Not only is it predictable that Pimento isn’t just imagining that someone wants to kill him, but it’s especially predictable that Dr. Jones (Oscar Award-winning Dean, Jim Rash) is (actually) gaslighting Pimento and is the episode’s bad guy… because he’s Oscar Award-winning Dean, Jim Rash. (It’s also the only rational explanation for a truly irrational plot, in the first place. It also doesn’t diminish the tension.) That type of predictability in terms of casting is actually subverted—or ignored—in the case of the B-plot, with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s unsettling Trent /Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer Paul Welsh as the “funny” seminar guy.

Speaking of the seminar plot, if you’re not into Pimento and this gimmick here, then the B-plot is really the one that this all hinges on. It has a lot of great moments, but it’s also mostly just that: moments. With Pimento’s level always being at an 11—and the A-plot living there also—even a still-over-the-top B-plot is just going to look “lowkey” in comparison. That can arguably be for the best, but it is jarring to cut between the two plots at such different speeds. That is, until the B-plot gets to the inevitable—again, predictable, but not disappointingly so—conflict between everyone. Snippy Holt returns at this moment, this time not attached to his current position in the Nine-Nine. But the most important part of all is the reveal, after all these years, that Scully’s “Kelly” was, in fact, his wife. And also his dog. Well, there were two Kellys, and everyone would know that if they listened to his podcast:

The first Kelly reveal is what kicks off the conflict between everyone, after the squad all processes the answer to that long-term question. The issue, however, is that the episode doesn’t quite set these conflicts up as something simmering. There’s Rosa’s issue with Terry being “too nice to have pet peeves,” but Holt’s problem with Amy incorrectly finishing his sentences comes out of nowhere. Especially after being so jazzed about her plan because: “It’s genius. And it’s fun. I love committing things to memory.” While the Jake/Boyle confrontation is as natural as it can be considering the way Boyle finds out what’s going on, it’s slightly disappointing that these arguments and the eventual resolution don’t have the same level of effortlessness. (This is perhaps a time where the show could really use a shit-stirrer like Gina around.) It still manages to come down for a bumpy but decent landing with the Amy/Rosa moment that wraps it up, with Rosa revealing she did the seminar homework—after clowning on Amy about it in the first place—because Amy told them to. Because they’re a team, you know?

The point of the B-plot is to slowly but surely get to the conflict between the team, but other than that final Amy/Rosa moment and the reveal about the two Kellys, it’s actually at its best in the lead-up. The scene of Amy explaining that they need to do homework before the seminar is great even without her newfound tween slang (“ya flope”), but her insistence that it’s real—as well as Holt being so on board with her plan—pushes it over the edge. In fact, as usual, Melissa Fumero is able to push things over the edge just with a seemingly simple line reading. The way she says “But we beat you. We beat you at study.” is pretty much the picture of a short-circuiting Amy in one line.

Once any show gets past a certain number of seasons or episodes, quality is always a concern. In comedies, this is especially an issue when it comes to characterization. Characters become their catchphrases or their quirks, with no nuance or personality outside of that. Seven seasons in, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is at a high risk of that happening; and the way Season Six had to function as Brooklyn Nine-Nine 101, the show could’ve fallen right into that trap and possibly remained there heading into this season. In fact, last week’s “Captain Kim” ended up playing on those quirks. But that was in addition to the rest of what these characters are and have become. Three episodes into Season Seven, the writers seem determined to prove that they still have quite a bit of story to tell with these characters. They’re doing a good job so far.


Stray observations

  • “Pimemento” is such a clumsy portmanteau.
  • Which side are you on when it comes to using “wizard terms” as part of Jake and Amy’s sex life? Yes, what they’re making is magical, but “mischief managed” is now highly upsetting to me.
  • Last week, Boyle said he’s “taken,” so I knew Genevieve had to still be around… and now we know her new shampoo is edible. It’s always too little or too much with this guy.
  • Amy: “What is happening?”
    Holt: “He’s buttering us up before giving us some devastatingly bad news. My god. Jake and Charles are dead.”
  • Pimento: “Are you kidding?! You don’t think I know how Darlene walks?!” Jake’s issue with Pimento’s story is that The Masked Singer ended four months ago, as this was written in a world before FOX decided The Masked Singer would always be on, like NBC’s The Voice. Unfortunately for Pimento, Sara Gilbert was not the Egg. It was Johnny Weir. Somehow, there hasn’t actually been a bowl of ramen on the show… yet.
  • Pimento: “‘Just keep swimming!’”
    Boyle: “That’s what Dory says.”
    Pimento: “Classic Dory, Jake!”
    Jake: “You guys really ruined the coolness of this Memento thing.”
  • Pimento: “Come on, everybody knows that the skull is the hammer of the body.” As good as the idea that Pimento’s cartoonish Finding Dory Disease is the result of all the head trauma he’s caused himself, I did find myself slightly uncomfortable with the idea of “CTE is funny.” Of course, it ended up being the result of the evil pills.
  • Jake: “This just says ‘Don’t Trust Your D’?”
    Pimento: “Ah, that’s good advice. My ‘D’ does get me in a lot of trouble.”
    Jake: “Are you sure that’s what the ‘D’ stands for?”
    Pimento: “Oh, it’s for sure my dong. It could tell some stories. Costa Rica in ‘98. ‘Nam.” I couldn’t see all of Pimento’s tattoos clearly, but one did just say “JAZZ?” Another said “SOMEONE IS TRYING TO KILL YOU.” There was also something about the lady who lives downstairs not being pregnant and making sure not to ask her about a baby.
  • Holt: “We may be arguing, but we’re all thinking the same thing: Terry talks about his children too much.”
  • The “ONE WEEK LATER” tag to the episode is kind of unnecessary, but that pause after Pimento gives his opinion on Memento (“It’s okay.”) is quite perfect. In all the chaos, it really is the central Memento/Finding Dory/Christopher Nolan runner that makes for the funniest part of the episode, as well as a solid marker of growth when Jake finally accepts Dory. While the Pimento revealing Jake’s baby secret is more a moment to just move the plot along, the original version of the gag—with Pimento correcting Jake that Following is Nolan’s first movie, not Memento—is such a great zinger to the introduction of this all.
  • In college, a guy in one of my film classes had this argument that television could never make something like Memento, which he felt gave him permission to be condescending about television. Congratulations to Brooklyn Nine-Nine for officially proving him wrong and for doing so with a Countess Luann reference and a preference for a Pixar film.

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