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Brooklyn Nine-Nine - PB & J & The Set Up - Review


A lot of this season has been spent on police reform. A lot of that focussed on reform on a larger scale, but this batch of episodes focussed on an individual cop can do better. For two episodes in a row, Jake puts himself in a difficult spot, and it's up to him to learn and change his behaviour. Let's dive in! 

PB & J

It's Jake and Doug Judy's last hurrah, as Doug is going to prison and there's nothing Jake can do to change that. Or so he thinks. In order to at least spend some last quality time with his friend, he arranges for him to drive Doug to prison. Jake has planned for it to be a fun ride full of things he knows Doug loves, but it quickly turns into a series of mindgames that are essentially a competition of who knows the other best, as Doug reveals that he has been planning to escape all along.

Jake accuses Doug of being a bad friend by setting him up, but Doug rightfully points out that Jake is being the bad friend by driving him to prison, despite knowing that Doug has changed his life around. While it may be nice to focus on the journey rather than the destination for a while, ultimately Jake was saying that because he didn't want to think about the destination. Because then he would have to confront what he was doing to his friend. 

Jake isn't ready to face that yet, so instead he proposes a contest to find out who knows the other best and is therefore the better friend. He and Doug go neck and neck until Doug's final question: does Doug have an earring? It was a brilliant question, because not only Jake was stumped, I was too. It's one of those facial features that you at some point stop conciously noticing, and so your brain doesn't remember them. The question shows just how clever Doug is. Not that we needed a reminder, as he manages to outsmart Jake every time he makes an appearance on the show. Doug wins the game, but Jake was stalling the whole time and back-up is on the way. This is followed by several more twists and turns, as Doug and Jake keep playing their mindgames with each other. But while it's fun to see them try and outwit each other through how well they know each other, the issue of Jake driving his friend to prison lingers throughout the entire episode.

"You're more than just your job" is what Doug tells Jake after their second car switch. For a while, I've been wondering if the show is working up to Jake quitting the force. This episode only reinforced that feeling. Jake is more than his job, and his friends matter more to him than his job does. He wants to have it all, but he learns the hard lesson that this isn't always true. And that sticking to the rules of the NYPD isn't always the right thing to do, because those rules aren't always morally correct. Letting Doug go to prison despite having reformed himself is wrong, and Jake ultimately learns that he shouldn't prioritise his job over everything. He learned to prioritise his family in 8x04 and now he learns to prioritise his friends and morals too. It's been a wonderful journey to watch so far and it's rewarding to see how far Jake has come.

Another thing that I really liked about this episode is how it set up the information Jake and Doug needed to help each other out in their moments of need. Earlier in the episode, Jake learns that Doug knows a trick that allows him to escape from handcuffs with just a pen. A bit later, Doug learns that Jake and Charles use "Estelle Minderman" as code when there's a twist in their plan. Jake and Doug remember these facts about their friend, and it saves both of them. In the end, both of them are good friends to each other. Doug chose Jake's life over his freedom, and Jake repaid him by putting his job on the line to give Doug his freedom. 

My only criticism of this episode is that their Amsterdam set was the worst Amsterdam set I've ever seen. As a Dutch person who has seen her fair share of American TV series, I don't have high expectations for how accurately my country is represented on US television. But a little effort would still be appreciate. I did enjoy the list of the many benefits to living in the Netherlands, though. I also really eliked the misdirect with the orange shirt. That was a very clever use of our national colour. In terms of Jake and Doug's relationship over the course of the show, Doug's call from Amsterdam was a wonderful and heartwarming end to their friendship. I'll miss seeing them on my screen, but what a last hurrah this was.

The Set Up

This was a hard episode to watch. Not because of the quality of the episode, which was stellar, but because it's not fun to watch a character you love be the bad guy. We don't like thinking of ourselves or the people we care about as the bad guys in someone else's life, and the same can be said for fictional characters we love. We're protective of our self-image and the image we have of others. But sometimes we simply are the bad guys, and it takes a lot of strength and courage to take a step back, stop being defensive, and admit that. And more importantly, to change our behaviour so we don't stay the bad guys. 

Which is what Jake does in this episode. The Set Up opens with Jake learning that he's gonna get to "work a Speed." Once again, the show emphasizes how much Jake's love for being a cop is rooted in his love for cop movies. And once again, that comes back to haunt him. He gets so caught up in this case being like Speed that he refuses to accept the facts presented to him by other officers. He wants to be the hero who solves the case and catches the criminal against all odds, even if no one believes in him. During his scene with Rosa, he even admits that the case being a Speed is all he cares about. What was once a character trait mostly used for jokes has become a serious character flaw in season 8, and I really like how the writers are using it to address issues within the NYPD and the police force as a whole.

Instead of admitting that he made a mistake when Holt tells him he made a wrongful arrest, Jake proceeds to make the situation worse and worse for himself. It takes several wake up calls before Jake is ready to admit that he was wrong all along. It was frustrating to watch Jake so unwilling to face the truth, but that was the whole point. It's unfortunately realistic and shows the mindset a lot of cops (and people in general) undoubtedly have. Thankfully, once Jake does face the facts of his situation, he makes sure that he's punished for his behaviour, despite O'Sullivan's attempts at stopping him from doing so. Holt makes a great speech about what a lack of punishment for Jake could mean on a bigger scale, and Jake really takes his words to heart. He learned a valuable lesson. But, like Holt said, it shouldn't cost a man his job for Jake to learn a lesson. 

While this was certainly a heavy episode, it still had some great comedy in it. It was fun to see Charles and Terry get more and more competitive. They can be intense when it comes to their kids, and sometimes their love for their kids brings out the worst in them. Which is why it was easy to imagine that they would sabotage each other's candy deliveries to Scully, and why the twist that O'Sullivan was behind the sabotage all along worked so well. Speaking of O'Sullivan, I also really enjoyed the joke of him trying to blackmail both Holt and Rosa by threatening to out them. It showed just how ridiculously old fashioned he is and how far behind he is on the times we live in. Going back to the Charles and Terry storyline, it was nice to see them eventually apologise to each other and say they wanted to do better in the future, even if when given the chance, they did it all over again. Terry throwing water at Charles to win their contest was a great throwback to him doing the same during the Little Mister Michigan peagant. 

Another fun plotline was Amy and Rosa tricking O'Sullivan. Their interactions are always really enjoyable and it was fun to see them try and still pull off their plan as they get increasingly more drunk. Especially once they decided to use O'Sullivan's bigotry against him by switching places on the assumption that he wouldn't notice the difference. 

PB & J and The Set Up were two strong episodes that had important stories to tell about police reform and how the idealisation of cops can affect individuals in the force. Brooklyn Nine-Nine managed to tell these stories through a mix of brilliant performances from its cast and a good balance between well placed humour and serious moments that really confront the viewer with how messed up the situations were that Jake got himself into.

What did you think of PB & J and The Set Up? Let us know in the comments!

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