Things take a serious turn in this week’s special episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Directed by Stephanie Beatriz, “He Said, She Said” tackles the some of the many issues brought to light by the #MeToo movement.
Content Warning: There will be descriptions of attempted sexual assault and harassment in this recap.
Holt assigns a difficult “he said, she said” case to Peralta and Santiago. An investment banker, Seth, was admitted to the hospital the night before with a broken penis. After letting Peralta and Rosa string themselves out with guesses as to how it happened (“He dipped it in cocaine and tried to use it as a croquet mallet!”), Holt informs them that the banker was hit with a golf club by a female employee that claims he tried to sexually assault her. Hitchcock volunteers to partner with Peralta on it, but Holt wisely decides to give him a few days off instead. (“Have fun working, cucks!”)
Peralta and Santiago bring in the banker for questioning, who, after some difficulty sitting down in his diaper, claims that he was just giving his attacker some pointers when she went “crazy” on him. When they bring up her charges against him, he dismisses them claiming to be an ally to women… even going so far as to say, “I think Kathryn Bigelow should direct the next Star Wars, and I said that out loud to a room of men.” Next, they interview Carrie, the woman who whacked him with the golf club. She tells them that she loves her job and is extremely good at it and would never do anything to jeopardize her position, but that Seth crossed the line. She was working late, and he called her into his office. He had clearly been drinking and tried to push her up against his desk and rip her clothes off. She grabbed his golf club and whacked him in “the cookie monster” (his nickname for his penis) and ran out.
Meanwhile, Boyle and Terry inform Holt that the County Coroner’s office called, and Holt’s old nemesis Ernest Zumowski, the “Disco Strangler,” is finally dead. He died in transport when the prison van carrying him to a medical appointment crashed and caught fire. Holt is immediately suspicious and refuses to believe he is dead, so he drags Boyle and Terry with him to examine the body. The body was badly burned in the fire, and both Zumowski and the body have no teeth (he is 88 years old now), which makes it difficult for Holt to clearly identify him. However, there was hair found at the scene that matches Zumowski’s DNA. But, there was also a burned piece of string found with the body that Holt believes is from a yo-yo (the “Disco Strangler” used a yo-yo to strangle all 28 of his victims) and that Zumowski left it as a calling card and has finally escaped.
Santiago and Peralta want Carrie to press charges, but she tells them that the firm has offered her $2.5 million to sign a non-disclosure agreement. And she is inclined to accept, because it is currently just her word against his. They promise her that they will find proof of what happened, and she agrees to press charges. Rosa overhears this and questions that strategy. Santiago is shocked that Rosa thinks maybe Carrie shouldn’t press charges, because she always thought Rosa was a feminist. Rosa explains that, right now, they have no proof that Seth assaulted Carrie and that if she goes forward with the charges, not only will she not get $2.5 million, but she will also have her life dragged through the mud in court and will probably lose her job. Rosa reminds them that they have to think about the well being of the victim, which sadly sometimes does not involve the criminal being brought to justice. But Santiago and Peralta are determined and head to the bankers’ office to question the other employees.
At the hospital, Holt is interrogating the driver of the prison van who was badly injured but managed to survive the crash. He is convinced that she has been seduced by Zumowski’s “disco voodoo” into being his accomplice (a tactic he employed during his original killing spree in the 70s). Unfortunately, she denies any wrongdoing and even points out that the string Holt was so sure belonged to a yo-yo was in fact part of a lanyard that the prison used to identify elderly prisoners who were fall risks. Holt is forced to admit to Terry and Boyle that perhaps the “Disco Strangler” really is dead, and sadly this means his glory days are officially behind him.
At the investment firm, Santiago and Peralta are having difficulty questioning the other employees. They all tell them exactly the same line: “Seth is a very good guy, and this is a very professional working environment,” even as they are being interrupted by a wild birthday party for one of the employees — a man nicknamed “Beefer.” Seth and the firm’s attorney also inform them that, since there is no proof of Seth having committed a crime, Carrie will be fired, because the firm has a zero tolerance policy against violence, and the offer of the NDA is now null and void. Upset, Santiago rushes off to pull an all-nighter, trying to find any proof that will help Carrie.
The next morning, Peralta tries to console Santiago and reminds her that, unfortunately, not all cases get solved. Santiago confesses to Peralta that the reason she cares so much about this case is because she experienced something similar. When she was just starting out on the force, her first captain became her mentor. He gave her “all the good cases,” and helped guide her on her path to becoming a detective. However, once she passed her detective’s exam, he invited her to dinner where he tried to kiss her and told her that she owed him for helping to make her career. She ran out of the dinner and immediately filed for a transfer to the Nine-nine. She tells Peralta that she never told anyone because, not only was there the risk that she wouldn’t be believed, but she also didn’t want to jeopardize her own career — and that every single woman she knows has a story just like hers.
Peralta, who throughout this episode has been learning just how difficult it is for women in their everyday lives, is shaken by Santiago’s confession and promises to help her solve this case. They decide to reach out again to the other employees, but this time privately, so that they don’t feel the pressure of being in the firm. One of the employees responds and agrees to meet them with proof. The employee turns out to be “Beefer” (whose real name is Steve, “…but I hate Steve – makes me sound like a douche”) and he gives them his phone, which is full of text messages from Seth describing the attack just like Carrie did (except ending with “lol epic fail” and a Kelsey Grammer gif). They thank him for doing the right thing, and he says, “Oh I’m doing the right thing… for me. With Seth gone, I get promoted to his position.” They are disheartened by his motivations but now they have to proof to help Carrie and send Seth to jail.
Back at the Nine-nine, Holt is packing up a box of memories of his glory days, when he receives a fax from one of the helicopters he had sent out searching for Zumowski. They spotted him in the park. Holt was right: the “Disco Strangler” had staged his own death. Holt, Boyle, and Terry amass the troops for a man hunt, warning them about how dangerous the 88-year-old serial killer still is. (“Always remember to protect THE NECK!”) They eventually corner him, and after an embarrassing hard-of-hearing standoff, they cart Zumowski back to prison.
Santiago and Peralta go to the firm to tell Carrie the good news about the case but find her packing her boxes. She has quit the job that she loves because, not only does everyone treat her like either a victim or a traitor, but she has been removed from all of the outside-of-work group chats. This means that she is no longer being invited to events where she can network, so she will no longer be thought of for assignments, and her career has been permanently frozen at this firm. But she tells them that, in spite of not getting the money and having to quit, she would still make the same choice to press charges if she could, and she is glad that she is getting justice.
Santiago returns to the precinct with Peralta feeling defeated and tells Rosa that she was right about it being “two steps forward, one step back.” Rosa tells her that she was actually right as well, because now another female employee at the firm has come forward, and she did it because Carrie was brave enough to do it first. Rosa reminds Santiago that “two steps forward, one step back still means one step forward.”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.