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Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Best Cold Opens, Ranked

We know what you're thinking: How could we have possibly narrowed the dozens of spectacular "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" cold opens down to a handful of standouts, never mind ranked them? Truth be told, the show has opened with so many funny moments that we could have just listed every single cold open and called it a day. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" has consistently been one of the smartest, wittiest, and most progressive sitcoms on TV for years. How the cast ever gets any work done is beyond us, because there must be a lot of uncontrollable laughter on set. We have a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the editing team are the unsung heroes of this particular sitcom.

How does one go about choosing "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" highlights when there are so many to choose from? Well, first we whittled down the definition of a cold open. Generally, the phrase describes any episode set-up that takes place before the opening title. But for the purposes of this list, and in accordance with the unique way "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" handles cold opens, we've defined it as any pre-title skit that has nothing to do with the rest of the episode. From gift basket gluttony to caffeine carnage, these cold opens are the best in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" history.

13. Knees in the breeze (Beach House)

Obviously, everything on this list will make you smile. But there's something particularly special about this cold open. Whether it's Jake's niche investigative skills, Holt's earnest reaction, or the beautifully shot payoff, the minestrone incident more than deserves its place here. 

Having detected that Captain Holt's knees are indeed "in the breeze" following an uncharacteristic lunch malfunction, Jake decides to provide the squad with visual proof of Holt's alleged pantslessness. Cue several unsuccessful attempts to get the Captain to stand up, including a fake choking incident that Boyle completely ruins. In the end, Jake opts for the simple approach: He offers a replacement bowl of soup and makes Holt get up to retrieve it. Holt, of course, sees this coming, and just admits to sitting in his underwear. Jake's celebration creates a second soup-pants interaction, leaving not one, but two grown men sitting behind Holt's desk in their undies. The final shot is comedy gold on its own, but the punchline makes it sublime. Quoth Jake, after Amy walks in,  "Look at us. Just three people with pants on having a normal conversation." Holt agreeing only adds to the hilarity.

12. Fuzzy Cuddlebear (Pilot)

The very first episode's cold open remains one of the series' best. While investigating a robbery at an electronics store, Jake and Amy take very different approaches to the case: Amy questions the owner, and Jake plays with keyboards, cameras, and anything else that happens to catch his eye. After Jake performs a speech from "Donnie Brasco," Amy feels the need to justify his unprofessional attitude to the store's owner. "I'd like to apologize for my partner," she says. "His parents didn't give him enough attention." 

Given what we now know about Ma and Pa Peralta, that remark is chillingly close to the truth. But the real kudos here go entirely to Jake's Fuzzy Cuddlebear speech. Having found video footage of the robbery thanks to a nanny cam hidden within a teddy bear, Jake just can't help himself. In a gruff voice, he makes the bear hit on Amy. When she walks away in disgust, Fuzzy exclaims, "Detective Santiago! Don't you walk away from me!" Thus, S.S. Peraltiago set sail ... on the back of a grizzled teddy bear detective.

11. Empee-re State Building (Payback)

This cold open is notable for many reasons. We hear Charles Boyle say "gastro-sensuous" for the first time, learn about Jake's preferred choice of date night vending machine, and gain an intriguing glimpse into the life of one Rosa Diaz. 

Rosa's surprising desire to do something "nice" by taking Marcus out to celebrate his birthday has the squad in a tizzy. After Jake suggests slinging take-out into a pot and passing it off as her own cooking, Rosa answers as only she can: "I'm not buying a pot. We're not married." The gang then throws out all sorts of weird suggestions as inspiration, including one we'll definitely be trying: "Drag queen dim sum." Thanks, Gina. But it's the drunk guy in the holding pen who has the idea Rosa finds most attractive ... for a few seconds, anyway. He suggests going to the top of the Empire State Building, as it's tres romantic. But then, he finishes his sentence: "You can pee on the WHOLE city from up there." Look out, New Yorkers.

10. Coffee morning (The Honeypot)

When Charles treats the squad to some cold brew, he unintentionally causes a caffeine crisis so hilarious, there's no way it wasn't going to make this list. The size of Rosa's cup alone is worth the entry.

This is the sort of skit a show can really only do after its cast has been working together for a while. The timing necessary for the payoff to work takes years to perfect — and luckily, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" has those years. Captain Holt, Rosa, and Jake have all somehow forgotten that cold coffee still has caffeine in it and gone to town on Charles' special brew. Again, have you seen the size of Rosa's cup? She drinks three of those. 

The resulting reaction is a thing of beauty. From slow-mo Charles to the double-speed trio, the writing, editing, and performances are stellar. But it's the caffeinated trio's interaction in the final seconds that pushes this gag into classic territory. Refusing to acknowledge what they've done to themselves, they all decide that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them whatsoever. Their individual "yups" gather speed and ultimately sync up, leaving us helpless with laughter.

9. Handshake extravaganza (The Bimbo)

Jake and Holt's relationship has always been the lynchpin of the show. From their weird father-son dynamic to the incredible levels of pettiness they sink to, the pair never fails to find new ways to demean and respect each other. This cold open falls into the former category. 

Jake's issues with punctuality have long been a theme of the show, and by Season 6, Holt is getting a little tired of his tardiness. It's especially galling when one considers the fact that Jake's paramour is the frickin' queen of being on time. In order to underline the importance of timekeeping to his work-son, Captain Holt devises a special kind of torture. He introduces it with an immortal line: "I will break you. Right now." Though he's never been one for any kind of interpersonal touching, Holt has painstakingly invented and rehearsed a special, personalized handshake for every member of the squad, and the copy guy. It's the one thing Jake never saw coming. And while every second of it is hell for Holt, it's handshake heaven for us.

8. The broom closet puzzle (Maximum Security)

It's no secret that Holt and Amy consider themselves to be head and shoulders above the rest of the squad — at least where puzzles are concerned. This superiority reaches its zenith in the cold open to "Maximum Security. After Holt gives them a brain teaser that will reveal the location of a clandestine meeting, most of the squad slowly trickles into the broom closet. Terry and Gina are already there when Jake arrives, apparently having solved the puzzle first (well, Terry did — Gina admits to just having followed him into a dark closet). Jake is way too full of himself over his victory, but does become suitably embarrassed when Amy's love of adult puzzle camp is brought up.

Perhaps the squad shouldn't be so quick to mock Amy's summertime activities, however. When they notice that Holt and Amy are absent, they consider that they might be in the wrong place. Hitchock and Scully's entrance confirms it. Jake is unable to contain his disappointment at discovering he's no smarter than Hitchcock and Scully, and it's beautiful. Also, Rosa's drawn-out pronunciation of "nerds" is unforgettable.

7. Basket of joy (House Mouses)

When an incredibly extravagant gift basket arrives, the squad decides it absolutely must be for them. They help themselves to the basket's decidedly decadent contents, which range from real French brie to chocolate-covered strawberries. Gina, always the wisest member of the team, interrupts the feast by pointing out the Gallic nature of the edibles, as well as the card attached to the basket. Clearly, the gift came from a Paris-based Kevin.

Panic ensues, but Jake knows exactly how to fix it. We cut to Captain Holt opening an entirely re-built basket. The squad waits with bated breath as he inspects the replacement contents. A veritable smorgasbord of shiny new stationery emerges — it's clear the team has spared no expense to cover their gluttonous tracks. They really do understand their Captain, though: Clutching a bag of rubber bands — because we all know how much he hates balls of rubber bands — Holt declares, "That man really knows me!" Yes, Raymond, he really does. But the man we're talking about is Jake.

6. Donut hole-d up (The Venue)

This cold open has everything that makes "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" great — and we're not just talking about Jake's mad skills. Stephanie Beatriz's complete commitment to deadpan delivery, which remains intact as she tosses donut holes at Andy Samberg, is on fire here. Then there's the spectacular soundtrack, which gives the skit a ton of cool points. Finally, the writers, apparently unsatisfied with the already brilliant idea of having Rosa toss donut holes into Jake's mouth, took things one step further. 

Jake misses catching a donut hole with his mouth, and it goes sailing off the roof. This looks like game over — and on any other show, it would be. But on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," nothing is ever wasted, so it's only natural that the stray pastry finds a home in Scully's mouth. As he's walking into the precinct, several floors below, the donut hole pops into his gob. Yup, Rosa is that good. Fried desserts falling from the sky is literally Scully's idea of paradise, and the look of pure joy on his face is one of the funniest things you'll ever see.

5. Pulling a prank on Hitchcock (Cop-Con)

Bumbling, inappropriate, and bizarrely accident-prone, Hitchcock is the show's secret, shameful weapon. We're used to seeing him bring pain entirely on himself, but in this skit, he's merely the innocent victim of Jake's diabolical scheme to make the older detective pee his pants. Well, as innocent as Hitchcock gets, anyway — let's not forget that he falls asleep in the break room, facedown on the table. 

Jake relies on the tried-and-true summer camp method for his prank, leaving Hitchcock's hand in a bowl of lukewarm water. Jake immediately brags about his joke to the squad. When they check on the pee progress, Hitchcock is somehow facedown in the water. Killing Hitchcock wasn't part of the plan, and they grab him in the nick of time. In Rosa's opinion, this macabre turn hugely improves the whole situation. "I take it back, Jake," she says, actually smiling, "great prank." If Rosa thinks it's funny, then you know something's gone sideways.

4. Hitchcock's wardrobe malfunction (White Whale)

When Hitchcock feels he's been badly treated at the local coffee shop, he vents his frustrations to the gathered squad members. He's about as worked up as we ever see him, so clearly, the slight has had a profound effect. Who knew Hitchcock was so concerned with how people see him? 

The squad very politely allows him to go on a tirade about the staff and customers' behavior, even as they grow visibly uncomfortable. But the rant doesn't end, and it falls to Jake to put the squad — and the entire city of New York — out of its misery. He interrupts Hitchcock to tell him that an intimate part of his anatomy is hanging out of his pants. That's right: Hitchcock accidentally exposed himself to everyone in the coffee shop. And on the street. Also, the precinct. What's most telling is the accidental flasher's immediate response: "Well, that's a relief." Better to be creepy than to be unpopular, apparently.

3. Holt damn! (Jake and Sophia)

When Amy fails to appear at her desk at exactly 9 a.m., everyone comes up with outlandish theories to explain her uncharacteristic tardiness. Charles goes super dark and guesses she was kidnapped in her sleep. Jake opts for mole people. Gina conjures a vision of Amy falling into a magical world where she's interesting. Holt's contribution, however, clearly pushes his imagination to its very limits. Having searched his mind for the ultimate bizarre scenario, he proudly proclaims, "I'd say she's ... in line at the bank. This is fun."

Andre Braugher's deadpan delivery is amazing, but he's actually saving the best for last. When Amy walks in seconds later, the squad demands that she explain herself. And wouldn't you know it, the mole people had zero input. Nope, the culprit was, in fact, the bank, as Holt predicted. His reaction is an utterly beautiful and completely unexpected exclamation: "Hot damn!" According to Stephanie Beatriz (via Vulture), even the cast wasn't entirely in on this moment, which just makes it all the funnier.

2. Secret Santa (Game Night)

 Each member of the team picks a name for Secret Santa in this holiday-themed cold open — except for Rosa, who refuses to participate. What follows belongs entirely to Andy Samberg, thanks to his absolutely perfect delivery. Almost instantly identifying everyone's Secret Santa, Jake proceeds to humble-brag about his skills. We even discover he's legally changed his middle name to Sherlock, for exactly this sort of situation. 

Funny as that is, though, it's not the reason this cold open is ranked so highly. Rather than being impressed by Jake's antics, Holt speaks for, we assume, the whole squad when he suggests they re-do the draw but leave out the killjoy. This level of disappointment from his work-dad is more than Jake can handle. Daddy may well love nachos, but he loves Holt's approval way more. "Nooo!" Jake cries, "Sherlock wants a present!" Sometimes, a classic "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" gag achieves its lofty status by coming out of nowhere and leaving you in pieces. This is one such gag.

1. Jake wants it that way (DFW)

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a better cold open than this. As Jake and a haunted-looking woman examine a lineup of five men, she reveals that while she didn't get a look at the criminal's face, she heard him singing the Backstreet Boys' 1999 hit, "I Want It That Way." Jake has number one sing the opening, followed by number two, then number three. The idea of having a police lineup sing "I Want It That Way" might sound surreal, but in practice, it's effortlessly perfect. Everyone is committing to the bit so fully, it feels completely natural when Jake joins in.

The musical magic is so powerful, in fact, that after the woman identifies the fifth man as her brother's killer, Jake actually exclaims, "Oh my God. I forgot about that part." You know, the part where he's a detective who solves murders. As cold opens go, this one sets the bar almost impossibly high. And it's okay, you can admit it — "Now, number fiiive!" has definitely been added to your personal recollection of the lyrics to "I Want It That Way." Years from now, we believe people will sing those words and have no idea they don't belong. That's the power of Jake Peralta.