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The Best Cold Opens On Brooklyn Nine-Nine Ranked

Since 2013, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has delivered the lighthearted comic adventures of a New York Police Department precinct full of detectives who bust bad guys and solve crimes in their particular borough. Led by Andy Samberg as goofy but capable Detective Jake Peralta and Andre Braugher as the stone-faced Captain Raymond Holt, Nine-Nine is really a workplace comedy, more similar to The Office or Parks and Recreation than it is to The Wire or NYPD Blue

While the bulk of any given episode is devoted to crimefighting and the personal conflicts between some of the Nine-Nine's detectives, most installments begin with a "cold open" — a short, standalone comic sketch about life in the precinct with little to no bearing on the forthcoming plot, one that airs before the show's opening title sequence. Brooklyn Nine-Nine's cold opens have become a fan favorite, and the show's writers work hard to come up with great ones year after year. Here, then, are the funniest, silliest, wackiest, and most memorable of these sequences, ranked from really great to absolutely fantastic. Nine-Nine!

The Nine-Nine tries to freeze out some ants

The January 2015 episode "The Defense Rests" begins with an opening scene about winter weather — literally a cold open. Jake notices a preponderance of ants on his desk, and his fears of a full-on infestation are quickly confirmed. Accusatory eyes fall on Detectives Hitchcock and Scully, the precinct slobs who eat at their desks virtually all day. They absolve themselves of any blame, however, by pointing out that they'd never leave behind any food remnants that could attract ants. "We're the ones who eat up all the crumbs," Scully says. "Yeah, we're the solution," Hitchcock adds. 

The situation quickly escalates, and it gets personal, with ants invading Amy's sanitized desk, using a computer monitor cord from Jake's messy desk as a "land bridge," and invading Terry's beloved yogurt. (And then they start biting the poor guy.) Jake vows to fight back on behalf of humans everywhere while Captain Holt figures the ants are merely seeking refuge from the seasonably cold weather and suggests "freezing out" the insects. But the bugs prove to be the more wily party. After throwing open all the windows and letting in freezing air and snow, it's the humans who wind up uncomfortably cold, despite their heavy jackets ... which are soon invaded by the ants.

Hitchcock drinks a goldfish in this crazy cold open

Season 3's "The Mattress" begins with Detective Scully bearing a mason jar full of lemonade and sharing the news with Jake that a place in the neighborhood is selling lemonade in such a fashion that customers get to keep the jar. Jake is curiously intrigued by this mundane development in Scully's life, and he corrals a good part of the Nine-Nine into the break room. Terry wonders aloud why Jake has gathered up everyone to tell them that Scully bought a jar of lemonade. Jake explains that he's actually about to change their lives. 

It would seem that a few minutes before the arrival of Scully and his lemonade, Hitchcock arrived with an identical mason jar holding his new pet goldfish. Jake invites guesses on how the situation will likely end. Will Hitchcock put fish food in Scully's lemonade, or will Scully drink Hitchcock's goldfish? As he's about to run down the possibilities and likelihoods of either outcome, it's all rendered moot because somehow, someway, Hitchcock knocks back his own mason jar and downs everything inside ... including his goldfish.

Terry vs. an inflatable Christmas tree

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Captain Latvia" aired in December 2016, heralding Christmas time in the Nine-Nine. At Jake's behest, the crew has gathered for the "diggity-dopest tree lighting" in Nine-Nine history, although the gang is a little perplexed because, amidst all the holiday decor in the precinct, there doesn't seem to be an actual Christmas tree anywhere. It's not "inside us all along," as Boyle ventures to guess, but rather, Jake has procured a yet-to-be-inflated inflatable tree. 

Detective Peralta turns on the electric compressor so the tree can erect itself, and it's a big one, standing ten meters tall when fully inflated. Jake obviously thought ten meters was roughly ten feet, but as Captain Holt calculates mentally, that's really the equivalent of 32.81 feet. The massive tree is way too big for the break room, and everyone flees in panic. But once safe, Rosa notes that they "left a man behind." Cut to Terry, his face squished against the break room window as the tree keeps growing and growing. In fact, it expands so quickly that it sends Terry hurtling through the sheet glass window. However, he doesn't seem to be hurt in the least, letting out an energized "Yeah!" in response to Jake's sheepish "God bless us everyone?"

Just who is Kelly, anyway?

Detectives Hitchcock and Scully are just secondary, sort-of members of the Nine-Nine inner circle. Not only significantly older than their coworkers, they're also far too strange, inept, and obsessed with eating and napping to concern themselves with devoting time to actual police work. The rest of the Nine-Nine keeps the two at arm's length, and in the cold open for the 2014 episode "The Ebony Falcon," the detectives realize just how little they know about Scully's personal life. 

Upon a Monday morning arrival, Scully recounts his weekend, in which he went for a long walk in the park and fell asleep watching TV with Kelly. Who is Kelly? The detectives can't figure out if she's Scully's wife or his dog. When he comes back in the room, a game of "Wife or Dog" begins, but the line of questioning doesn't clear up anything, as Kelly is said to love the park because she "gets antsy if she doesn't get outside enough." Plus, she loves to eat peanut butter, and once, she got hit by a car while fetching a newspaper. Jake gets frustrated and flat-out asks Scully if Kelly is his wife or dog, which offends Scully, and he walks off ... without revealing the answer.

The shocking reason for Captain Holt's wrist injury

Captain Raymond Holt is a taciturn, robotic intellectual, and he's content with his life of low-key, boring pursuits and few displays of emotions. And in the cold open for the 2014 Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Unsolvable," he exploits the perception others of have him for his own amusement. He enters the precinct wearing a split and bandage on his arm, and when asked what happened, he says he sprained his wrist and offers no further details, only that he's "fine." It's as if he knows the second he goes to his office, his subordinates will gather to speculate on how the injury occurred, and that's exactly what transpires. 

Holt overhears and finally tells them how he got hurt, even though it bears no impact on their ability to do their jobs — he tripped on an uneven sidewalk. Then he takes Jake aside and explains how he actually sustained the injury ... in a hula hoop class. Holt even provides photographic evidence of his mastery of the hoop, but Jake wonders why he's being given this information. "Because no one will ever believe you," Holt quips, and then he deletes the pictures from his phone.

Boyle likes his partners a little bit older

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "The Vulture" opens with Jake bearing news that he's just arrested an 81-year-old drug dealer, by far the oldest person he's ever caught. The other detectives share their own stories about their most elderly "collars" — Amy nabbed a 96-year-old flasher, Scully remembers busting 50-year-old twins (which he argues should equal a single 100-year-old), and Rosa nailed a 78-year-old, although "the PCP made her fight like she was 20." 

Boyle enters in the middle of the conversation and majorly misinterprets the situation, thinking his coworkers are discussing the oldest person they've ever been intimate with, as if that's a thing people often discuss at work. Boyle then offers that his oldest example is a 68-year-old woman he bedded at the tender age of 20. Jake declares that to be gross because she's "someone's grandmother." Indeed, Boyle recalls, she was the grandmother of a college friend, and she was quite the dynamo, what with her powerful replacement hip that allowed her to make love "like a Transformer."

Jakes wants it that way

The 2018 episode "DFW" begins with Jake assisting a witness in selecting a suspect from a criminal lineup. The woman can't identity the criminal by his face, as she was hiding in a bathroom stall, but she could probably recognize his voice. After all, during the event in question, he sang along to the bar's sound system as it played the Backstreet Boys' 1999 hit "I Want It That Way." As the camera has revealed five suspects in the lineup, viewers can probably tell where this is going, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine indulges that assumption.  

Jake asks Suspect No. 1 to sing the opening of "I Want it That Way" ("You are my fire"), and he obliges. Suspect No. 2 keeps it going ("The one desire"), as does No. 3 ("Believe when I say") and No. 4 ("I want it that way.") Jake can't help himself, interjecting with the chorus-starting, "Tell me why!" which prompts all five perps to sing together like the accidentally prefabricated vocal group they've just become. They sing for a while to Jake's rapturous approval ... until the witness recognizes the voice of one of the men. "It was No. 5," she says. "No. 5 killed my brother." And that darkly funny twist is what snaps Jake back to the reality.

The truth behind why Amy is late

Every workplace has at least one overly fastidious, extremely organized individual, and in the Nine-Nine, that person is Detective Amy Santiago. She's always heavily prepared, and she's certainly always punctual, which places the cold open for the 2014 episode "Jake and Sophia" in unfamiliar territory. 

The crew has assembled near the elevator, staring at the clock as it strikes 9:01 AM. Amy is, as Jake puts it, "officially late for the first time ever." It's such a strange and unlikely occurrence that Jake wants to hear his coworkers' theories on what could lead to this bizarre scenario. Terry guesses her alarm didn't go off. Jake scoffs because Amy has three alarms, all with battery back-ups. Gina figures Amy fell into another dimension where people might find her less boring. 

As for Captain Holt, he doesn't understand why no one is working, and Jake explains that they're all wondering why Amy is late. The Captain ventures a characteristically mundane guess — she got held up in line at the bank. Amy finally sheepishly arrives, 70 seconds late she notes. Holt forces her to explain herself, and she offers, "There was a problem at the bank." Not only was he right, but this leads to one of Holt's few emotional reactions in the history of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a boisterous and self-congratulatory, "Hot d**n!"

Jakes attempts 'the Full Bullpen' in this inspirational cold open

When Brooklyn Nine-Nine scenes are set in the precinct building, most of them take place in the large, main office area where all the detectives have their desks. The staff of the Nine-Nine calls this place "the Bullpen," and in the cold open for the 2016 episode "Skyfire Cycle," the detectives can't actually be in there because they've been temporarily moved to the night shift, which is when a maintenance guy power-waxes the floor. It's in this moment that Jake decides to cement his status as a workplace legend by attempting and completing "the FBP," aka "the Full Bullpen."  

He endeavors to slide on the slippery floor in his socks in its entirety, all the way from Captain Holt's office to the elevator. After a brief, Rocky-esque preparation montage — stretching, putting on a helmet, receiving a good luck kiss from Amy — Jake is ready to glide. And then, in an oddly inspirational and emotional moment, probably because of the slow-motion camera work and the strains of Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" on the soundtrack, Jake does it. Even Captain Holt is thrilled for him.

The Nine-Nine takes its Halloween Heist very seriously

Very rarely do the cold opens on Brooklyn Nine-Nine have anything to do with the plot of the forthcoming episode, instead serving as slice-of-life vignettes set in the world of the New York Police Department.

But when a particular episode's plot is especially complicated, the show's writers need that extra 45 seconds to pack in all the story that they can, such as in the near-annual "Halloween Heist" episodes, in which the Nine-Nine competes in an elaborate scavenger hunt full of twists, fake-outs, unsteady alliances, and double-crosses. Friendships and relationships are superseded for just this one day a year, and the Nine-Nine staff will do anything to get an advantage over each other, and that's all depicted in the cold open for the fifth heist episode, 2017's "HalloVeen." 

Jake wakes up at 3 AM in order to prepare for the heist, only to roll over and find Amy already awake before him — and she's already dressed. But then, so is he, and even better, he says, he's made breakfast. He whips the blankets away to reveal ... an empty plate. "Wait, where are my eggs?" Jake asks. "In my belly," says an ominous voice in the dark. A lamp turns on to reveal Captain Raymond Holt, sitting in a chair and in full uniform. "Now get up and get a move on," he urges. "It's heist time!"

Bullets over Broadway over Boyle

Effective comedy is all about the timing — words must be said in the correct order, at the correct speed, with pauses interjected at just the right times to maximize the humor. Absolute silence can also help ensure a hilarious, explosive punchline, rapidly building up comic tension that can then be relieved with a quick pop of a few words. (It's kind of like that old expression about how jazz gets its power from the notes that the musicians don't play.) And the cold open of the 2016 episode "The Overmining" contains scarcely half a dozen lines of dialogue because it's all about the quiet moments that make those words (which consist of some mildly crude wordplay) all the funnier. 

Jake arrives on a Monday morning and asks Boyle about his weekend. The latter explains that he got sick. As he explains, "Yeah, Bullets Over Broadway was on TV. I came down with a big ol' Dianne Wiest infection." The camera cuts back and forth as actors Andy Samberg and Jo Lo Truglio stare at each in silence for a full 13 seconds before Boyle emphatically screams out, "Like yeast!" That word rhymes with Wiest, the name of the star of Bullets Over Broadway, and while the joke itself is an eye-roller, the whole scene is absolutely hilarious.

Captain Holt eats a marshmallow in this brilliant Brooklyn Nine-Nine opener

Andre Braugher is objectively one of the greatest dramatic actors of his generation and an Emmy winner for his work as one of the all-time great TV detectives, Frank Pembleton on Homicide: Life on the Street. However, his Brooklyn Nine-Nine character, Captain Raymond Holt, is a hard nut to crack. He's ultra-serious, extremely professional, and utterly unflappable. The dryness of Braugher's comic acting only makes the impenetrable Holt all the funnier, and as a result, there's a hilarious release of comic tension in the cold open of the 2016 episode "Mr. Santiago" when he acts unpredictably ridiculous. 

Jake holds a Captain Holt impersonation contest, in which participants will be judged on voice, mannerisms, and "overall lack of flair." The task? Act like Holt would when eating a marshmallow for the first time. Terry's impression involves the use of many long words, and Rosa says, "The sugar in this is sweet." But Boyle descends into a series of wordless and ecstatic purrs, coos, squeals, and laughter. No one believes Holt would ever do that, but then Holt catches the contest in progress, and Jake offers a marshmallow in order to see if anybody got close. Holt is intrigued by this "marshed mallow," takes a tiny nibble ...  and then reacts in the exact unbelievable way that Boyle predicted he would.