Brooklyn Nine-Nine Recap: ‘The Honeypot’ Quietly Normalizes Queerness

Brooklyn Nine Nine The Honeypot Brooklyn Nine-Nine, "The Honeypot" (photo NBC)

In a well balanced episode, Holt and Jake put to rest the ongoing rivalry with Commissioner Kelly while Amy is called on to Marie Kondo the precinct of unnecessary personal items.

Thus far in its sixth season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has struggled to maintain its consistency across its various A/B/C plots in individual episodes. Overall the show is continuing its strong run, but the individual episodes have had a little more swing in what works and what doesn’t.

“The Honeypot” is the first episode to prominently feature Andre Braugher’s Holt in a significant way since the premiere when he crashed Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy (Melissa Fumero)’s honeymoon. I have no shortage of praise for Braugher’s deadpan comedian skills, which are typically employed in the service of ridiculous adherence to procedure and boring/inane factoids. That these elements are used in ‘The Honeypot’ as part of a sexual spy ruse in conjunction with a Holt-like doppelganger assistant is just the icing on top.

It’s an understatement to say that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is quietly revolutionary in its no-biggie depiction of sexual diversity. Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz)’s coming-out as bisexual over the last two years has been handled gracefully, recurring occasionally as only one component of her identity (in the same way that her proclivity for archery, weapons and rom-coms comes up).

The same is true for Holt, who casually mentions his husband as often as his preference for good wine and proper grammar and punctuation. This laissez-faire attitude is arguably one of the show’s best stealth weapons to move the needle on sexual politics in an age of mock indignation and outrage at anything deemed too PC, too SJW, or too progressive. The show’s writers have fastidiously upheld Holt and Rosa’s sexual orientations, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine is so sly that it could never be accused of “shoving it” in someone’s face.

Which brings us to “The Honeypot” – an episode which takes as its central treatise the fact that Holt is a sexual gay man. Naturally a great deal of humour emerges from Jake’s literal “straight man” role as a confused bystander to the quote/unquote flirting and innuendo that is occurring between Holt and the world’s most boring Red Sparrow double agent, Gordon Lundt (Karan Soni). It’s a wise move by writer Carol Kolb to make Gordon a mirror of Holt’s more restrained characteristics, which not only reinforces the kind of dry humour that the Holt character is renowned for, but also because its staunch refusal to adhere to traditional notions of sexual seduction only serves to make it funnier.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has delivered an A-plot that effectively normalizes flirting and attraction between gay men.

A number of jokes arise from word play and Holt and Jake’s staunchly different personalities, evidenced in Jake’s far-too-excited operation acronyms (NASTY and DRAGON) and contrasted by Holt’s pragmatic – and occasionally Debbie Downer – responses like his tepid drum roll. Still, so much of the comedy arises from Holt’s unwillingness to “whore” himself out – a storyline that literally puts Holt’s sexuality front and center. By repeatedly prompting audiences to evaluate and unpack the interactions between Holt and Gordon (using Jake as a stand-in surrogate), Brooklyn Nine-Nine has delivered an A-plot that effectively normalizes flirting and attraction between gay men.

This is most evident in the final stinger when Holt confesses to Jake that he looks tired because he was up late making up with his husband Kevin, which is the PG equivalent workaround for “having gay sex.” Rather than make that the joke, the series normalizes queer sexuality by having Jake equate it with his paternalistic affection for his “two dads.” It’s bold, it’s progressive and it is so well executed that there are undoubtedly viewers who were so busy chuckling that they didn’t even realize that they watched a sitcom about gay sexuality.

Random Thoughts:

  • There’s a good mix of laughs and sweet sentimentality in the B plot, which finds Amy trying to help the others declutter the crowded precinct of personal items. The Marie Kondo reference already feels dated, so it was helpful to move on to the fictional Monkensmact method (despite its sordid history that led its Norweigan creator to freeze to death after giving away everything, even his clothes). Tying the subplot to both a literal garbage fire and using Terry (Terry Crews)’s suspenders as a symbolic stand-in for his absent dreams reinforces how adept this show is at balancing its comedy and character work.
  • The cold open – featuring Holt, Rosa and Jake speaking really fast – literally has nothing to do with anything , but proves that even the simplest of ideas executed well can be funny.
  • Anyone else feel bad at the repeated digs at Marcy Lux, the woman who will never become Holt’s new assistant because she listed Microsoft Office and cross country skiing as skills on her resume?
  • Jake’s acronyms include: NASTY (New Assistant Selection Team U) and DRAGON (Don’t Reveal Anything Gordon’s Our Nemesis).
  • Is there something sexual about barrels? Bunghole does sound pretty dirty. And it gets Amy going.
  • According to Rosa, a “funny mess” on Hoarders constitutes the discovery of many black cats.
  • Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) trying to throw out an old unsolved case because it doesn’t spark joy is Peak Scully.
  • Finally, anyone else want to go watch some Thomas Cruise films on Home Box Office now?

Best Lines:

  • Holt (to Jake about Gordon): “Bring me somebody who can keep it in their slacks.”
  • Holt (to Jake, upon entering the bathroom): “Any poopers?”
  • Jake (to Holt): “Don’t roll your eyes at me, Daria.”
  • Holt: “I looked at his satchel. I’m married; I’m not dead.”
  • Holt (to Kelly): “Stop masking your evil with a candy cane smile.”
  • Jake (when Holt confesses Kevin forgave him): “My two dad’s straight-smashing it.”
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