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30 Rock: Corporate Crush

As Simon Cowell said to Melinda Doolittle, “It was bound to happen eventually. I didn’t like it.”

I’m speaking, of course, about “Corporate Crush,” the latest episode of “30 Rock.” Before we get to the recap, I think it’s important to identify just where things went so seriously wrong. Here are five possible factors:

1. Mid-Season Slump – I’m guessing there are a number of causes for this. It’s normal for most shows at this time of year to be exhausted from grinding out so many episodes without time off to get rejuvenated. Plus, it stands to reason their best efforts were going into the season finale – which might have been the series finale, had they not been picked up. Even so, just because they have their eyes on the finish line doesn’t mean they can stop worrying about their form. Run, my friends, don’t crawl.

2. Bad Plotting – Jack as a third wheel? That’s not only a worn-out concept, it’s wrong for his character. There’s nothing funny about a character being tiresome. (Example Two: Frank.) Plus, the suggestion that he’s jealous of Liz, or she’s going to be jealous of him? These two aren’t Sam & Diane; they’re Mary & Lou. Even worse is Tracy’s Jefferson fixation. It’s simply not interesting enough to justify as much time as they are devoting to it. If anything, I’d much rather they built this subplot around, “The Rural Juror.”

3. Bad Writing – Tina Fey recently said she wanted the show to have the highest joke per minute ratio on TV. Didn’t happen here. In fact, scene after scene ends without a joke. Many of the jokes we do get are recycled (the fireworks; Tracy & everything Jefferson) or weak (Tracy’s friends dancing at the idea of more money). Last episode, Liz spilled a series of details about herself, which was both funny and charming. Here we get details about Jack. For instance, he goes to Sbarro’s when he’s angry, the New York Stock Exchange when he’s horny, and Christie’s when he’s depressed. With the money from the sale of his ex-wife’s jewelry, he bought a boat, named it after her, and sunk it. He’s written a book, filled with hilarious business suggestions, like… “Show up early to meetings.” Thunk!

4. Missing Characters – I previously bemoaned the absence of Jenna, Josh and Cerie. This episode, they are all still missing, but now they have been joined by Pete and Toofer. Also, that’s two episodes without Rachel Dratch. Wasn’t she supposed to be a fun, Hitchcockian cameo in each episode? I know they give the actors time off, but this is ridiculous. If they can’t show up every week, why should we?

5. Lost Concept – Three times last week we caught glimpses of shows within the show. (The 10 Second Internet Sitcom; the “Maury” dream; Jack’s Fireworks Special.) This week, we got Tracy’s “Jefferson!” trailer and the fireworks again. But isn’t this supposed to be a show about the workings behind a sketch comedy show? Isn’t that the logical thing for us to see? Now, I know that’s not where they wanted to go with this, and they are probably wise not to show us the sketches in full. But follow me here: Take for instance the scene where Liz and Jack argue about Floyd, and Liz analyzes Jack’s motives. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for her to use this situation to create a sketch? And for Jack to recognize himself in it?

Okay, enough from me.

When we last left Liz, she had finally hooked up with Floyd. First they kissed, followed by an actual date. This episode picks up soon after, as Liz traipses through the office, whispering “Hello” in a breathy voice, still glowing from all the fireworks the night before. (Also from her date. Ha ha.) Frank notices and doesn’t like it. He makes the connection to Floyd, about whom Liz swoons, “He just gets me.” Cut to:

• Floyd accidentally smudges some chocolate on his lip. Liz points it out. He smears a little more. “Here?” he asks. And then more, across his chin. “Right here?” Across his forehead. “Right here?” “You got it,” she laughs.

• Coming out of movies, where they’ve gone to see either:

“The President’s Wife”
“Moonquest: Quest for the Moon”
“Speaking of Emily”
“The Boy Made of Corn”

Floyd: That movie was a complete waste of time.
Liz: I thought it was moving. My bowels.
They high five.

• In bed. Candles are everywhere. Liz and Floyd are… playing Uno.

Liz: Reverse. Reverse. Skip. Skip. Draw four.

And then, we’re back to Frank. What does he have to say about all of this? He offers to help hold the camera if they ever decide to film some porn. Sigh. Frank is just icky. Worse, the episode goes totally downhill after this. It’s a shame they didn’t just fill up the time with a hundred more of Liz & Floyd’s dates.

By the way, what’s their celebrity mash-up name? Lloyd? Fiz? Flemon?

Anyway, Don Geiss shows up in Jack’s office to talk about the fireworks disaster, which we see another flash of: Fireworks bursting from a building in the middle of New York. Jack says he knows it turned out bad, but he’s not sorry for trying something new. Don understands, but informs Jack he’s going to take the Microwave Division away. As if that wasn’t a big enough blow, he suggests that maybe Jack’s problem is that he’s not married. Jack reminds him that he just got divorced. Don points out that everyone in the division is married except for Jack, and that what Jack needs is a supportive companion.

Don moves on to meet with Tracy.

Tracy: Thanks for agreeing to meet with me, Don Geiss. Would you like some grenadine, or some fried rice?

(Yes, he has both, and more, in his dressing room.)

Tracy pitches Don his movie idea, “Jefferson!” Don LOVES the idea of a big screen version of, “The Jeffersons.” No. Thomas Jefferson. Remember, Tracy recently found out that TJ “went to town” on one of Tracy’s ancestors. Now Tracy wants to make a film of his life, and play all the parts: Thomas Jefferson. Sally Hemings. King George III. In particular, he wants to speak with TJ’s lisp. And he asks Don for $35 million.

Lutz shows up late to the writer’s meeting, and apologizes. Liz is so happy she doesn’t even care.

Liz: Aw, Lutz, that’s okay. I’m just glad you’re here.
She grabs his face.
Liz: Aw, you’ve got a face like a baby’s bottom.
She squeezes his mouth into an “O.”
Liz: Boop!

Apparently, Liz is drunk on love. This is confirmed in the very next exchange:

Frank: I hate when you’re in a good mood. It makes me feel unsafe. Like when my mom used to make daiquiris and sing Tanya Tucker songs.
Liz: That sounds awesome.

But there’s a crisis. Kenneth rushes in. Jack wants to see Liz at the nearby Christie’s Auction House. (Or, 20 Rock, as they like to call it.) She finds him there, where he’s studying the paintings.

Jack: You’ve been avoiding me, Lemon.
Liz: How do you do that, without turning around?
Jack: To be perfectly honest, the first couple of people I did that to were not you.

They are interrupted, briefly, by Phoebe (Emily Mortimer), an employee at Christie’s, who has the odd habit of assuming nobody remembers her, pointing it out, and introducing herself repeatedly.

Phoebe: Mr. Donaghy, you probably don’t remember me, I’m Phoebe. I handled the sale of your ex-wife’s jewelry to an Anonymous Arab.

When Liz and Jack are alone again, Liz wonders if he’s okay. They talk about the special which we see again on video, this time as part of the Channel 6 Chopper News: “Disaster: Worst TV Show Ever!” (The whole fireworks thing wasn’t funny the first time around, and it’s not funny again. Or again.) Eventually, the fact that Liz wasn’t there for Jack leads Liz to say she wants Jack to meet Floyd, and they set a dinner date.

Tracy tells Kenneth that Don rejected his idea, because audiences see movies based on the preview, and Don couldn’t imagine the preview. My opinion of Don goes up, briefly, until he suggests Tracy reprise his starring role for, “Fat Bitch 2.” (We see the poster from the original, “Fat Bitch: She’s Off the Leash.”) Kenneth tries to advise Tracy to do what Fat Bitch did, and Tracy runs off to make a trailer to show Don Geiss. (It wasn’t clear to me if Tracy picked up on the suggestion, which Kenneth never finishes explaining, or if he just heard what he wanted to. Either way, it was lame.)

Still, we got to see what Kenneth was working on.

Kenneth: I’m never going to finish this bikini before Nana’s birthday.
(The NBC peacock is knitted into the cups.)

Tracy asks Liz for help with his trailer. She says no. He calls her his Alexander Hamilton. She doesn’t know what that means. I, however, looked it up, and found this blurb on Wikipedia:

After returning from France, Jefferson served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington (1789–1793). Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton began sparring over national fiscal policy, especially the funding of the debts of the war. In further sparring with the Federalists, Jefferson came to equate Hamilton and the rest of the Federalists with Tories and monarchists who threatened to undermine republicanism. In the late 1790s, he worried that "Hamiltonianism" was taking hold. He equated this with "Royalism", and made a point to state that "Hamiltonians were panting after...and itching for crowns, coronets and mitres".

Liz and Floyd go to dinner. Floyd has read Jack’s book, “Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business,” and is excited to meet the Head of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming. Jack tells them he lost the Microwave Division. Floyd goes into a boring rant about all of Jack’s achievements, which bores Liz, who tries to change the topic to “Star Wars.” But it’s too late. Floyd charms Jack, who immediately suggests they order drinks, and is disappointed to learn that Floyd is having club soda.

The next day, Tracy stables a horse named Freddy in Liz’s office. Liz goes to complain to Jack, who has Phoebe in his office with two horse paintings he’s trying to choose from. Phoebe introduces herself again, a bit peeved that Liz might not remember her… but Liz does remember her, and tries to shake hands.

Phoebe: I don’t shake hands. I have Avian Bone Syndrome.
She turns to give Jack a flirtatious smile.
Phoebe: Hollow bones.

Liz finds out that Jack did approve Tracy using the crew and the office to make his trailer. Jack is more interested in talking about Floyd. Calls him “The Floydster.” Liz doesn’t want him to give Floyd a nickname before she does. Jack buys the painting for Floyd, who is apparently up for a promotion, which Liz did not know. The two men go to lunch, and invite Liz along. She calls them on their behavior.

Liz: It’s kind of like you two are dating.

That night, as Liz seduces Floyd while modeling her flannel pajamas, they are interrupted by Jack’s text message. He wants Floyd to go out for a veggie burger and a milkshake. Liz points out that it’s midnight, so Floyd declines, but Jack keeps texting. Liz sends a more final reply, but Jack knows it was her, because she didn’t sign it, “Floydster.” Suddenly, all the phones start ringing. There’s nowhere to hide from Jack!

The next day, Jonathan gives Liz tickets from Jack to see a Knicks game with Floyd; supposedly the reason he was stopping by the night before. When they get there, they have private box seats… with Jack.

Tracy shows Don the trailer for “Jefferson!” It’s nearly as bad as it sounded when he described it, although Tracy playing all the various parts was almost interesting. I’m not saying it would make a good movie, either as a drama or a comedy, but I’d most certainly rather see this over, “Fat Bitch 2.” The best parts of the trailer:

• Kenneth, with a big smile, as a soldier delivering the line: “Mr. Jefferson, the British have invaded.”
• “Thomas Jefferson. Writer. Inventor. Jungle-Fever Haver.”
• “Tracy Jordan: Source Award… Nominee. NAACP Image Award… Presenter. And Academy Award Watcher.”

Don says no. Guess what he still wants Tracy to make?

At the Knicks game, Jack tells Floyd a story about Don. Liz has heard it a million times before, and quotes along. Floyd goes to get more crab cakes. Liz confronts Jack, suggests he’s the third wheel. He tells her that she is the third wheel. Jack sees himself in Floyd. Liz tells him to back off. He threatens to take Floyd away from her. Liz knows Jack is in a bad spot, but he can’t have Floyd. Jack suggests a Floyd Time Share: She takes him Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She doesn’t want Friday, they have a show –

But why are they discussing this?

Liz: Look at your life, Jack. It’s like this Skybox. It’s fancy, and empty, and smells like crab cakes.

She takes off. The waiter comes. (The one who would have brought them more crab cakes? Why didn’t Floyd just go to the bathroom?) He delivers Jack a drink. End of scene. (See what I mean?)

Don offered Tracy $7 million to do, “Fat Bitch 2.” Tracy’s posse start dancing, but Tracy wants respect, and he’s going to make the Jefferson movie anyway. Only Kenneth is thrilled.

Jack returns the painting, and tells Phoebe his problems. She makes some flirty suggestions, which apparently led to more fireworks. Jack comes to see Liz. Informs her that he and Phoebe are now a couple; she’s his “Floydster.” Asks if Liz likes Phoebe. She says she does, which is good, because Phoebe has been lurking outside, and now pops in and introduces herself. Jack pulls out the ruby & diamond cluster ring (Bianca’s engagement ring – tacky move, Jack!), which he has bought back from the Anonymous Arab.

He asks Phoebe to be his wife!

Although she doesn’t explicitly say yes, she does put out her hand and allow him to slip on the ring. He leans in for a kiss. She groans from a little bit of A.B.S. pain.

Liz stands nearby, in shock. Here’s what she’s thinking:

“What’s their celebrity mash-up name? Phack? Joebe? Phonaghy?”

Favorite Random Line:

Jack: I really do like these equestrian paintings. Isn’t that magnificent? I wish I were a horse. Strong. Free. My chest on haunches, glistening in the sun.

Next Episode: “Cleveland” on April 19 at 9:00.

Posted by Chad on April 13, 2007 2:01 PM
Permalink |

People in the small 'fandom' are calling Floyd and Liz 'Fliz.'

And on your favorite random quote - it's 'chestnut haunches' not 'chest on haunches' I believe.

Good review. As always.

-- Posted by: Tasha at April 13, 2007 8:27 PM

You just don't get it, do you. You probably didn't like Arrested Development either?

30 Rock is brilliant!

-- Posted by: jon at April 14, 2007 10:08 AM

Tasha, thanks for the correction of "chestnut haunches," which does make better sense, although I almost prefer it the wrong way. A much more evocative image, don't you think?

And Jon, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but if I didn't "get it," why would I bother with writing this blog? I love the show; I also loved, "Arrested Development." That said, maybe you missed the part where this is an episode "review?" If I blindly praise every episode, then what's the point?

On the other hand, I will admit that I missed something during the last show: A good, strong drink. I was going to have an Orange Fliz (1/2 Vanilla vodka, 1/2 Absolut Mandarin, shaken, and served in a champagne glass), but forgot to restock the Mandarin. I won't make the same mistake this week.

-- Posted by: Chad at April 17, 2007 7:08 PM

I was practically wetting my pants during this episode. I thought Jack as the third wheel was great. Sure it was a little out of character, but any episode that focuses around him is super in my book.

Great recap though.

-- Posted by: Rachel at April 18, 2007 1:49 AM

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