Brooklyn Nine-Nine Recap: Diminishing Returns for “A Tale Of Two Bandits”

Brooklyn Nine-Nine A Tale of Two Bandits Brooklyn Nine-Nine A Tale of Two Bandits, photo: NBC

A game Craig Robinson and Nicole Byer can’t save a formulaic recurring episode premise that needs to be retired.

Six seasons is a long time in the life of a sitcom. By this point in its run Brooklyn Nine-Nine has countless recurring gags, but only a few full-length recurring episodes (the strongest of which is, naturally, the Halloween heist).

The title of episode five is liable to strike joy in many fans’ hearts, because “A Tale Of Two Bandits” announces the return of fan favourite Doug Judy (Craig Robinson) who has appeared more than any guest actor aside from Kyra Sedgwick (and folks playing romantic partners). Alas, as a mild fan of the original Doug Judy and someone who has been less and less impressed with successive outing, for me, the return of Judy doesn’t offer the same excitement.

There are two main issues with Judy:  1) the writers keep falling into the trap of trying to recreate the original “twist” ending of 2014’s “The Pontiac Bandit” wherein Judy pulled a fast one on Andy Samberg‘s Jake (to no one’s surprise) and 2) his presence reduces Jake to a blithering idiot.

The second issue is a hang-up that dates back to the series’ first season when Samberg was “the star” of the series and received the bulk of the show’s attention. This is typical for a Goor and Schur series; they tend to need approximately one season to figure out their comedic ensembles before realizing how and where to best use the star at the center (see also: Parks and Recreation). For Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this meant dialling back on the inept bravado and childishness that originally defined Jake. Alas, whenever Doug Judy shows up, Jake regresses back to his moronic S1 state, which is aggravating and not all that enjoyable to watch.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season 6
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE — “A Tale of Two Bandits” Episode 606 — Pictured: Joe Lo Truglio as Charles Boyle

The “inept cop schtick” plays an integral part in the other Doug Judy issue, which is the narrative pretzel that the writers create trying to devise a twist to end his episodes on. For the first few outings, this resulted in reveals that Judy was secretly playing Jake for a buffoon, using their relationship as a cover to execute criminal ventures. After this played out, the writers took the idea the other way, using the twist to confirm that Judy had changed. Which leaves us with “A Tale Of Two Bandits” and no reasonable twist left.

Enter Nicole Byer as Doug’s sister, Trudy Judy (this marks Byer’s second guest appearance on a Goor & Schur series this year after a one-off on The Good Place). In theory the introduction of a familial element should work; Byer is a gifted comedienne whose wit and delivery is well suited to both Robinson and Nine-Nine, but the writing is on the wall the moment that she’s introduced due to the episode title and its premise about a copycat cat jacker. As a result the “twist” that she is actually as bad as her older brother once was fails to hold any weight; the writers have conditioned audiences to expect this about-face and while you could argue that this is all beside the point for a comedy series, this is seventh time back to this particular well in six seasons.

Robinson and Byer are both delightful, but I would be happy to retire this particular premise for good.

Random Thoughts:

  • Call it Snowflake Syndrome or SJW or what have you, but the jokes that Doug Judy lied about Jake being a gay sex worker who was grifted on improper butt implants don’t land. Sure Jake doesn’t balk at the idea of being queer like he could have, but the joke still essentially boils down to “gay prostitute butt stuff” which…isn’t great in 2019 .
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine does love its rhyming jokes, so Jake and Doug’s extended rift on Trudy Judy’s Cutie Booty, etc merits some praise.
  • It feels like it’s been a while since Terry (Terry Crews) has been along for an A-plot, so it’s fun to see him and Jake interact. Naturally this devolves into commentary about Terry’s muscles, his antiquated fashion (everyone believes suspenders keep your pants from flying off) and a push-up contest that Terry has no problem executing.
  • Terry knows a lot of bad nurses off the top of his head: Nurse Ratched, Kathy Bates in Misery, and Nurse Jackie.
  • In case you were wondering, Doug Judy has been MCing Jewish Bar Mitzvah’s. As one does.
  • In the B plot, the squad battles their firefighter antagonists for possession of Shaw’s bar. Not a ton of laughs in this section, though nearly every character gets a moment to shine.
  • Good callback to Amy (Melissa Fumero)’s various drunken states: 3 is dance, 4 is horny, 9 is French.
  • Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz)’s giggle each time Rob Dulubnik (Rob Riggle) mentions losing a man in a “pole hole” is – once again – a bit of gay humour, but Beatriz almost pulls it off .

Best Lines:

  • Joel McKinnon Miller‘s Scully (to the firefighters): “Get ready for the backdraft, bitch.”
  • Jake (wearing terrible wigs with Judy): “We look like the hot twins from The Matrix.”
  • Rosa (declaring that she never throws up): “My body is terrified of me.”
  • Jake (declaring a childhood folly): “I was once in a flash mob.” Trudy: “Ew.”
  • Jake (when Terry insists he sit on his back during push-ups): “Coming strong man!”
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