Every Sunday, we pick a new episode of the week. It could be good. It could be bad. It will always be interesting. You can read the archives here. The episode of the week for October 15 through 22 is “HalloVeen,” the fourth episode of the fifth season of Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. Being immersed in the news is always tough, but combing through dozens of sexual assault accusations against one of Hollywood’s biggest figures has been an exhausting task.
I don’t tell you this to inspire pity; this is, after all, my job. But I wanted to make clear exactly how much I needed and was relieved to have something like Brooklyn Nine-Nine this week, which allowed me 20 whole minutes of pure, uncomplicated joy.
The Fox sitcom is reliably silly, warmhearted, and very funny, but it wasn’t a stretch to assume that its October 17 episode would be particularly good. See, “HalloVeen” is the fifth of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s annual Halloween episodes, which have centered on the detectives pulling off increasingly ridiculous heists to prove they can outsmart each other. Every single Halloween episode has been a season highlight, but “HalloVeen” still managed to outdo all the rest thanks to some canny callbacks, a clever twist, and a very good dog.
So in the spirit of keeping things fun and breezy — at least for a few minutes, at least while we can — here are the three best things about “HalloVeen,” ranked.
3) The heist took place entirely within the precinct — and still managed to reach bonkers new heights
Every year, the core cast of Brooklyn’s 99th Precinct try to prove they’re the “ultimate detective slash genius” by stealing a predetermined item and being the last to have it in their possession by midnight. (This season, it’s a commemorative belt — or, if you ask Andre Bruagher’s Captain Holt, cummerbund.) With every passing year, the stakes have gotten a little higher, the detectives a little more competitive, and the lengths they go to a little more ridiculous. What started as yet another harebrained scheme to slack off from Jake (Andy Samberg) has become a beloved tradition for the precinct and the series alike, with even — or, honestly, especially — the unflappable Captain Holt ditching his stoic professionalism to outwit his subordinates (or growing furious when he can’t).
But where other seasons have traveled all around the city as the detectives get caught in each other’s schemes — one memorable year even had Jake crashing Holt’s party bus — “HalloVeen” stays firmly within the precinct walls. The second the challenge begins, Jake and Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) cut the lights and get an accomplice to lift the belt out through the ceiling. When Boyle betrays Jake (gasp), he handcuffs him to a filing cabinet and stashes the belt — sorry, cummerbund — under a server. Holt then lifts the server through some highly improbable mechanics — it’s hard to explain, but it involves a stationary bike and his trained corgi — and steals it back, only to hit a dead end when Amy (Melissa Fumero) swaps his corgi out for a decoy corgi and stashes the prize in a safe under her desk. But one Handmaid’s Tale-themed flash mob later, Jake ultimately distracts everyone long enough to get the belt back.
Even as typing all that out made me realize exactly how absurd it is, it brought a huge grin to my face — which, of course, is the entire point. At this point in Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s run, it’s completely comfortable reaching for weirder heights, and it should be. It has a rock-solid cast that clearly has a ton of fun bouncing off one another, and especially shines whenever they get the opportunity to lock into their characters’ competitive streaks.
But even with all these twists and turns, the greatest trick anyone plays in “HalloVeen” is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s co-creator Dan Goor, whose script manages to use the conceit of the Halloween heist to take a left turn that truly no one saw coming.
2) The heist became a thoroughly decent proposal
With only minutes to go before the episode is over, Jake and Amy end up the final two in contention to be the Ultimate Detective Slash Genius. But right when Amy thinks she’s found the belt, she reads the inscription and realizes she’s been had, because it’s not the one they were trying to steal at all. Instead, it’s one Jake swapped out that reads, “Amy Santiago, will you marry me?”
“Surprise,” Jake says as Amy — and, I bet, most anyone watching the episode — stares at him, slack-jawed in shock.
Throughout the episode, Amy had been telling Jake he couldn’t surprise her anymore. They’ve been romantically involved for a couple of years now, and have worked together far longer than that. But at this moment, Jake not only proves her wrong but proves why they’re so good together. Both of them are competitive; both of them love the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of having solved a case. Add the fact that Jake manages to steer the heist in the direction of the precinct’s evidence room — the place where they first kissed — and it’s hard to deny that he nailed it.
With this proposal, both Jake and Goor draw upon the couple’s shared history, making this moment fittingly personal. It’s hard not to share Amy’s ecstatic smile as Jake emphasizes how much he loves her for being smart, kind, and an amazing detective, and having a great butt (a point he stands by, even if he immediately regrets making it part of his proposal).
Five Halloweens in, it would’ve been easy for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to rest on its laurels and produce another fun heist. Instead, it took on the challenge of doing something different, and managed to surprise us the second we thought it wasn’t possible anymore.
By any standards, this perfectly executed twist would’ve been the best moment of “HalloVeen.” But this episode also featured something spectacularly adorable, so with apologies to Jake’s careful planning, I am awarding the best moment of “HalloVeen” to:
1) Andre Braugher shaking paws with a corgi named Cheddar
I would leave it at that, but you should also know that this miraculous moment only happened after Holt realized someone initially swapped his beloved corgi Cheddar with “some common bitch.” His disdain and subsequent relief at finding his real dog are both, to say the least, beautiful to behold.
So if you haven’t seen this episode yet, I implore you to drop whatever it is you’re about to do — especially if it’s checking Twitter — and fix that. I can’t guarantee much in this world, but it seems safe to say you won’t be sorry you met Cheddar.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesdays at 9:30 pm EST on Fox. All episodes are currently available to stream on Hulu.