As soon as Brooklyn Nine-Nine started to drag a bit, in comes “The Cruise,” with enough stellar guest star energy and smart plotting to remind everyone why they love the show in the first place. “The Cruise” is centered around Amy and Jake’s romantic vacation cruise that is interrupted by Doug Judy, the former Pontiac Bandit and Jake’s nemesis played by the delightfully winsome Craig Robinson. “The Cruise” also features strong secondary stories as Rosa and Boyle battle over a beautiful apartment that belonged to the victim of a case, and Captain Holt deals with his dramatic sister coming to town. It’s an episode where everything works because the show invests in dramatic tension and meaningful relationships.
Take Niecy Nash’s introduction as Captain Holt’s sister Debbie in this episode. She’s not a character that the show has spent any time with, and yet immediately she feels welcome, because of the way her character is folded into Captain Holt’s life. Debbie’s hysterics are in direct contrast to Captain Holt’s stoicism, and while it’s a great chance to get Andre Braugher to say the phrase “hot mess” with total seriousness, the show goes beyond that. It manages to tie in years and years of sibling intimacy in eight cumulative minutes. Debbie seems connected to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Captain Holt in a way that shouldn’t really make sense, given this is first time the show has brought her up in a meaningful way. (Or ever? It would not have been surprising if Captain Holt had just spontaneously appeared and/or self-spawned, like strawberries.)
Debbie’s visit intersects with Captain Holt’s continued ennui around Kevin’s sabbatical; both siblings are dealing with being left: Debbie by her husband who cheated on her, the real reason she came to visit Captain Holt, and Holt with Kevin’s departure to France. The way they show creates a space for these two siblings to support one another through their challenges, just like the squad rallied around Captain Holt last week, makes Debbie immediately have more weight as a character. And there are blanket forts, which of course make everything better.
Debbie’s introduction and successful integration can be seen in direct contrast to Eleanor’s in “Hostage Situation.” Eleanor was a character the show had been building up for a while as Boyle’s tales of his ex-wife got more and more fantastical. When she actually appeared, it was in the context of Boyle and his current partner Genevieve wanting to have children, a desire the show hadn’t ever acknowledged before the episode. Eleanor wasn’t grounded to anything important in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine universe because the show hadn’t spent enough time exploring Boyle and Genevieve’s relationship. Guest stars playing minor characters on the show seem to fall into one of these two categories: rushed and unconnected like Eleanor or comfortably integrated like Debbie.
Doug Judy, Craig Robinson’s sparkly villain, is a great example of the latter. This is the third appearance Robinson’s made as the character, and the show continues to build his mysterious, charming persona in “The Cruise.” It’s clear Robinson and Andy Samberg as Jake have a great time playing off of one another, and that chemistry is capitalized and commented on by both Jake and Doug Judy during the episode. The entire convoluted scheme, that Judy sent Jake and Amy free cruise tickets under the guise of them winning a contest so they could board the ship and prevent Judy from being murdered by a hitman, is as nonsensical as Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets. “The Cruise” finds some way to make this seem normal, as the unlikely trio search around the ship for the would-be murderer. The episode also showcases Robinson’s skills as a comedian and musician, as Doug Judy moonlights as a lounge singer named Horatio Velveteen on the ship.
There’s a lot to love about “The Cruise,” from Captain Holt’s touching sibling reconciliation to Amy and Jake’s declaration of love to Rosa speaking Spanish (just a couple of lines, but still). It’s a well-crafted episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that highlights relationships and actually does some solid police work. If this episode is an answer to last week’s question of “Where is Brooklyn Nine-Nine going?”, it’s an encouraging direction for the show to go in, as it balances humor, heart and a lot of widower salsa classes.
Photo Courtesy of FOX