The Spool / TV
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: We Need to Talk About “Debbie”
Vanessa Bayer's rogue cop breaks bad in a middling misfire for the season.
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Vanessa Bayer’s rogue cop breaks bad in a middling misfire for the season.

This was a good (or depending on where you stand, Bad) week for people with Kooky Aunt Vibes on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as the precinct deals with the repercussions of Officer Debbie Fogle’s (Vanessa Bayer) theft at the end of “The Jimmy Jab Games II”

At this point in the series, the squad has gone well past coworkers and established themselves as a tight-knit family. They’ve taken vacations together, gone undercover for months together, dealt with the Vulture and Wunch and Kelly together. It’s easy to imagine how isolating it would feel to be a newcomer in that kind of environment, and that kind of insular behavior might be why they didn’t realize sooner that there wasn’t something quite right about Debbie Fogle. 

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE — “Debbie” — Episode 705 — Pictured: (l-r) Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta — (Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC)

Surprisingly, Debbie does not disappear with the cocaine and machine guns but comes into work the next day, not-so-subtly trying to glean what leads the squad has on the perp. They know the theft was an inside job, and that everyone at the Nine-Nine is now a suspect with the exception of Hitchcock and Scully since the perp took the stairs. 

Because Debbie is Debbie, it doesn’t take Jake (Andy Samberg), Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz), Terry (Terry Crews) and Amy (Melissa Fumero) long to figure out that Debbie is the thief, and this is confirmed by Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker), who overhears her arranging the sale of the drugs in the women’s restroom. It’s nice to be reminded every so often that Hitchcock may be the biggest of creeps, but at least he’s not dirty. Rosa wants to immediately arrest Debbie, but Jake thinks they can use her to catch a bigger fish in dealer Silvio Nucci. Rosa, who is undoubtedly sick of watching white women get away with everything short of murder, isn’t having any of it. 

There are a lot of missed opportunities here.

Expectations were high for this episode and ‘Debbie’ never manages to quite reach them. Between Jake’s dogged attempts to absolve Debbie of committing a felony and Holt (Andre Braugher) and Amy’s competitive speed read back at the precinct, there are a lot of missed opportunities here. As much as I enjoy Holt and Amy’s competitive spirit and their mocking of Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) for reading to relax, it feels as though director Claire Scanlon deliberately sidelined the three characters who would have been the most involved in the manhunt. Holt was Debbie’s partner and is very close with both Rosa and Jake, yet he, Amy, and Boyle are barely involved. And to have Jake act so willfully obtuse is frustratingly out of character. Jake Peralta is a lot of things, but he has always been a good detective. 

It’s Rosa who finally manages to get a coked-up Debbie to cooperate, bonding over the cruel lessons parents inflict on their kids “for their own good.” This doesn’t exactly align with the portrayal of Rosa’s family we’ve seen before her coming out, but it’s easy to believe it of Debbie’s mother (played by Christine Estabrook—who is usually marvelous—but here falls flat). And while it would have been a lot of fun to have Debbie as a secret mastermind and season villain, it probably serves the season better to have the character swept under the rug at this point. 

Random thoughts:

  • NBC is making full use of bleeped profanity on the show, but I still want to know what Rosa and Debbie would do to international sex symbol Mr. Bean. 
  • Could there be a whole web series that’s just Holt using slang he learned from reading “the entire urban dictionary?” 
  • I did think back in episode 1, “Manhunter” that at some point there would be a Debbie Fogle/Jared Fogle joke at some point, and I wish I’d been wrong. 
  • Vanessa Bayer’s energy is so manic, adding a coke binge into the mix just feels like too much of a good thing. 
  • Hot Tub Brian knows what he did. 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Debbie” Clip: