What’s scarier: Thinking there’s a monster under your bed, or knowing there’s a Jason Mantzoukas in your closet? The cold open on “Monster in the Closet,” this week’s episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which, by the way, nice to have you back after nearly a month, show), is maybe the most perfectly unexpected way to bring Adrian Pimento out of hiding, but poor Nikolaj is going to see that ferocious, untamed beard in his dreams and nightmares for the rest of his days. If we’re lucky, we’ll at least get to see it once every other episode, depending on how much time Mantzoukas has been hired to put in on the series. Based on how “Monster in the Closet” ends, “more” seems likelier than “less.”
In the meantime, let’s not look a gift Mantzoukas in the mouth, mostly because his teeth are probably still stained by his own blood, but also because he might bite you. Having Adrian back on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an utter and insane kind of joy, much in the same way that having Brooklyn Nine-Nine back on air is like breathing after being denied oxygen for several weeks. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. This is as true for the audience as it is for Rosa, whose reaction to Adrian’s return can best be described as “spirited.” And to drive the point home, she and Adrian decide to pick up where they left off and get married, thus spurring the 9-9 to action in preparing matrimonial festivities at a moment’s notice.
“Monster in the Closet” revolves around the impossible race to put the wedding’s pieces in place on a tight schedule, but tucked within those revolutions there is doubt and strife: Doubt because Adrian persuades Jake to drive him six hours away from Brooklyn to the pawn shop where he hocked the ruby earrings his grandma wore on her wedding day; strife because Rosa, trusting Amy to handle all of the wedding logistics, gets totally blotto on peach bellinis in the name of Nancy Meyers. (Note: Do not make the mistake of conflating Nora Ephron with Nancy Meyers in front of Rosa. Or Adrian’s. They will either threaten your life or suggest you end it yourself. Brutal.) To no one’s surprise, Adrian believes that everything in life is a sign from the universe, and so, when the pawn shop turns out to have burned to the ground, he spirals.
Calling off a wedding is no small thing. Jake, being Jake, realizes this and pushes Adrian to keep hope. Meanwhile, as Rosa goes down her own spiral and catches both Terry and Boyle in her drunken orbit, Amy struggles to maintain order. They’re the two straight people in the episode’s A and B plots; this is fairly typical for Amy, but a rarity for Jake, who’s normally the one who enjoys the freedom to clown around while everyone else tries to actually do their jobs. If anything, his uphill battle to appeal to Adrian’s senses proves that Adrian and Gina should not be allowed to team up together, ever, for any reason at all: She enables him, or maybe it’s more that he enables her, or really they just enable each other, and the last thing you need when the stakes are high and marriage is on the line is two people who take their cues from the cosmos.
The real key to “Monster in the Closet” is its quantity of punchlines, and the way the writing is able to sneak meaning and character development into its laugh-a-second structure. Jake doesn’t do a ton of learning here, and frankly neither does Gina, but Boyle and Terry both face up to the fears currently dominating their personal lives. Boyle is anxious about Genevieve; he wants to ask her to marry him, but he knows she’s nervous at the idea of getting hitched again on account of her bad divorce from her last spouse. Terry is anxious about his daughters; one fine day, he’ll be attending their weddings, and they won’t be his little girls anymore. Rosa, for her part, is anxious about marrying Adrian, but being Rosa, she doesn’t acknowledge her feelings and instead pours gasoline on everyone else’s. (She also does the best sober person impression when she’s blitzed. It’s kind of amazing.)
Adrian is anxious about marrying Rosa, too, but of course it takes the whole episode to get there, plus some light robbery, promises of bodily harm, balloon arches, and a whole lot of alcohol. It’s a miracle that Scully and Hitchcock end up being Amy’s best helpers, whether they’re selecting and arranging the chairs for the ceremony with sublime perfection or hosing down Rosa, Terry, Boyle, and even Holt, whose feelings are stung when Amy rejects the balloon arch that he births with his own two hands (because he used an air pump). It’s magnificent in his eyes, but awful in Amy’s: “The truth is, every time I look at it, I want to die and take you with me,” she tells him, flipping from nervous to vicious in the time it takes her to spit out the sentence.
It’s like looking at the Bizarro World version of the 9-9: Amy is a savage, Scully and Hitchcock are useful, Rosa is coming undone at the seams, Holt is petty, and Jake is an unwitting vessel for the universe. Fair enough. The results work, and besides, they’re hilarious, which is all anyone wants out of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. “Monster in the Closet” winds up the threads of the Figgis story arc and reunites Rosa and Adrian, but more than that it lobs nothing but beautiful, joking perfection at us from start to finish.
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing about film online since 2009, and has been contributing to Paste Magazine since 2013. He writes additional words for Movie Mezzanine, The Playlist, and Birth. Movies. Death., and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.