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30 Rock Fodder

30 Rock: Hiatus

The good news is, as a regular episode goes, this one wasn’t bad. The bad news is, as the season finale, it wasn’t good. The problem, as I see it, is way too many missed opportunities, but before I make the inevitable list, let me mention a few things I did like:

• Elaine Stritch – Perfect. Both loveable and loathsome, her refreshing honesty was hilarious and surprisingly accurate. After all the anticipation built up by Jack’s references and calls to his mother, it was great that they cast an actress who could fill those shoes. And she’s just so New York.

• Kenneth’s Interrogation – Poor Kenneth. Slapped around, shot at, and sacrificed. It’s too bad he didn’t have a better reason for all his heroics, because he should get a medal: Scene Stealer.

• Floyd’s Web Cam Friend – Little Squirrel found a Big Nut!

Okay, that’s enough. Now for a little tough love. Keeping in mind that this episode wraps up story threads going back to Valentine’s Day when Liz received flowers from a stranger (meaning we, the audience, have been implicitly promised a satisfying set of conclusions), here’s what they missed:

1. Liz & Floyd – Broken up? After just a few days, and for no good reason? Okay, I’m not a fool. Clearly, Floyd could come back. Liz is naturally happier being unhappy. The show isn’t really about them. And there’s more humor in misery. But for all the time and effort devoted to this couple, their break-up could have been both funnier, and more significant. With such a limp conclusion, I felt cheated.

2. Liz & Jack – There were multiple scenes where Liz talked about finding Tracy (and Jack’s expectations of her to do so), but in the end, she had nothing to do with it. Either that shouldn’t have been repeated so often, or she should have been more integral in Tracy’s return, or the fact that she wasn’t should have been more of an issue. As it was, it was an unfulfilled set-up, made even more pronounced when Jack praises her for putting on a good show. (Remember what Liz went through to get Tracy in the first place? The strip clubs? The clubbing? The greasy food? That's what I'm talking about - giving us the other bookend.)

3. Liz & Jack II – Jack’s monitor revealing how he feels about his mother and Phoebe worked great the first time, but when Liz is in the room, we get the (same) joke about Phoebe, that he’s not in love with her. More interesting would have been something for the audience that Liz doesn’t get, and that relates to her – Jack says something that Liz takes at face value (about her job performance, or better, about her) and we know he’s lying. I know they’re not getting together (or so says Tina Fey, on her video blog). I simply wanted a little intrigue, or at least, an inside joke.

4. Jack & Phoebe – I said before that I thought Phoebe would be a fun, Lillith-like recurring character, especially since Alec Baldwin plays exasperation so well. The fact that they didn’t get married wasn’t surprising, given the circumstances of their getting together, but if there’s humor in misery, why did Jack get off the hook so easily?

5. Liz & Phoebe – Liz recently discovered that Phoebe’s accent comes and goes, which means there’s much more to Phoebe than meets the eye. Guess we’re not going to find out what that is.

6. The Black Crusaders – So much build-up, so little payoff. Yeah, Tracy is still being followed, which means there may be more to come, but that’s the problem. What we’ve had so far hasn’t been so terrific. This started with Tracy learning he’s a descendant of Jefferson; that became Tracy wanting to make a movie about Jefferson, which became about Tracy’s “come back,” which led to the Black Crusaders and hiding out in Needmore, which turned into a limp “Misery” rehash, and then back to New York with no repercussions from the B.C. My suspicion is that they (the writers) don’t know what to do with Tracy’s character (partly because he’s been written as more of a parody than a person, and partly because Tracy Morgan hasn’t brought much depth to the character), which explains all these wild fluctuations in his story. My opinion is that none of it has been very funny, and they should swap the focus from Tracy to Jenna.

7. “Not Toofer” – I swear I watched the ten seconds of the Black Crusader over and over. Last week, I suggested that this is Toofer, but the credits say otherwise. (Unless there was another Black Crusader in the story, other than the one who stalks Tracy at the end, and I missed him?) If that’s the case, what a wasted opportunity. But I’ll stop there until I know better, one way or the other.

8. Cousin Jesse – When I heard that Sean Hayes would be playing Kenneth’s cousin, I was delighted. The physical similarities make this perfect casting (so much more than Nathan Lane and Alec Baldwin as brothers… Blurg!), and I was looking forward to seeing the two of them play off each other. Instead, they had almost no interaction, and Jesse was written and played as a country bumpkin. Not that he was bad, but the brief moment where Jack McFarland shone through (dancing on the street) was the best. How much funnier it would have been, ditching the “Misery” references and simply forcing Tracy to process Country Ken vs. City Ken? We’ll never know.

9. Extras! Extras! – I’ve been bemoaning the absence of the rest of the cast the last few weeks. This week I got my wish, and everyone was present and accounted for. But guess what’s worse than missing characters? Characters standing around with nothing to do.

10. “T.G.S” – As further proof that “30 Rock” has gotten away from the original concept of the show, they built an episode around the concept that without Tracy they were lost, but they had to put something together anyway. It would have been fun to see at least a little bit of that process. Maybe a subplot about the writer’s coming up with their best material ever, only to have it shoved aside because Tracy returns to play Cowboy Hey Hey? The other side of this is that we are led to believe that Tracy is the only funny actor on T.G.S., which isn’t borne out by anything we’ve seen.

Jack’s Mother: The Stress of Her (Dis)Regard

Jack and Liz both get physical exams; Jack with Dr. Spaceman, Liz with Dr. Beauvoir (Rachel Dratch).

Dr. Spaceman: Cough.
His hands are out of sight. Jack coughs.
Dr. Spaceman: And cough. And… cough.
Jack hacks his way through.
Dr. Spaceman releases.
Dr. Spaceman: Okay. Now let’s start the examination.

(Uh-oh, Jack, you just got manhandled, like Joey and his tailor.)

Liz admits to not getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, getting any exercise, and is still working long hours. Jack, on the other hand, is feeling great, and his mother is coming up from Florida to attend Bianca’s wedding, so – the implication being that he’s going to ruin both their plans by getting married that same day – everything’s great.

Jack: I guess our friends will have to choose between us.

However, he does admit to being a little stressed, but it’s “under control.” And his blood pressure --

Dr. Spaceman: 310 over 280. We have a winner!

Spaceman asks if Jack has “any questions” about the wedding night. No… Just in case, he gives Jack his new book, a sex manual called, “You’re Doing It Wrong.”

Jack: Is that you in these pictures?

Although Liz’s test results are good, she says she’s not eating right.

Liz: But I am eating a lot!

Liz tearfully confesses to stress over having a long-distance relationship with Floyd. Jack is still freaked out that she knows he fell asleep on top of Phoebe in Paris. It’s the season finale of “T.G.S.,” and the star is missing because he’s on the run from a cabal of powerful black celebrities.

Liz holds a work meeting. Nobody has heard from Tracy. Pete announces that they will be giving some of Tracy’s parts to Josh, and –

Jenna raises her hand, offering to take some extra parts.
Pete: Cut the rest.

Jack arrives. He and Liz argue about finding Tracy.

Pete: I hope he’s okay.
Liz: I hope he’s taking his medication.
Kenneth: And I hope he took a jacket. Cause it can get real chilly there.

Oh my. What happened to your poker face, Kenneth?

Liz and Jack interrogate Kenneth. Kenneth refuses to talk.

Kenneth: I’m sorry, but I swore I wouldn’t tell anyone where Tracy is.
Jack: Kenneth, my ex-girlfriend is a member of the Black Crusaders. I can make all of this go away.
Kenneth: My lips are sealed.
He locks his lips.
Kenneth: Key. In. Pocket.
He puts the imaginary key in his pocket.

And then they finally, FINALLY, get to a magical 30 Rock moment, worthy of all this endless exposition.

Jack and Liz both zone in tight on Kenneth, yelling at the same time.
Jack: You are pissing off the wrong person, and you will tell me where he is –
Liz: You tinsel-faced goon, I will cut you open like a tauntaun –
Jack & Liz: You mouth-breathing Appalachian.

(Okay, pretty sure Liz did not say, “tinsel-faced.” Anyone catch that phrase?)

Kenneth reels in shock, but then has the perfect reply.

Kenneth: Fine. I’ll tell you. Right now.
Big smile.
Kenneth: That you are never gonna find him.

Liz and Jack move away, but not before Liz delivers a decisive SMACK. Kenneth smiles again, and thinks of Tracy, far away, and safe.

Liz tries calling Tracy’s wife for information, but as far as she knows, Tracy has been filming a vampire movie in Bucharest since February. (By the way, Tina said, “Feb-boo-ary.” Which I know was just her rushing the line. But still. Maybe that would be a good name for the vampire movie?)

Before they can discuss things further, they are surprised by Colleen, Jack’s domineering mother. (Elaine Stritch.) I love the way she darts into the room from the balcony, like some sort of other-worldly creature who has just teleported in, and how she rapidly repeats certain words, as though trying to prove that she’s in control, not her mid-morning cocktail. She gets one look at Liz, who she thinks is Phoebe, and is delighted, but Jack corrects her.

Colleen: This is not Phoebe?
All joy drains from her face.
Colleen: Well, why the hell not? I mean, she’s perfect. Character. She’s got strength of character. And I’ll tell you something else. She’s got a good, solid baby bucket.

Liz laughs, surprised.
Liz: You are a sassy, old broad, aren’t you?
Colleen nods.

Phoebe leans into the room. Jack introduces her.

Phoebe (patronizing): Hello Mother Donaghy, I’m Phoebe. It’s such a pleasure to meet you. I love your little hat.
Colleen absorbs this new information.
Colleen: Oh my God.

Liz calls Floyd for consolation, but he cuts her off, tired of talking about nothing but work. They try to discuss the weather, and when that quickly goes nowhere, he ends the call.

Jack begs Liz to go to dinner with him, his mother and Phoebe, on Colleen’s “request.” He asks Liz to try and get Colleen to like Phoebe a little bit.

Jack: You owe me.
Liz: Okay, fine. But I want a lobster. I want two lobsters. Totaling five pounds of lobster meat.

(Watch Jack’s expression as he closes the door. Hilarious. Is that his, “You’re a rude little pig” face?)

At dinner, Phoebe and Colleen are at odds, while Jack and Liz are very uncomfortable. Phoebe escapes to the restroom, and Colleen jumps at the chance to talk with Liz.

Colleen: Alright. Scout’s honor. What do you think of her?
Liz gets the nod from Jack.
Liz: I think she’s very well read. And she’s very stylish, don’t you think? And you know, the most important thing is that she makes Jack very happy. She’s like a… white geisha.
Jack is pleased.
Colleen: A “white geisha?” Say no more, Shark Eyes.
Colleen gives Liz a wink.

(Shark Eyes? Now that you mention it…)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Colleen tells Jack that Phoebe is not the right girl for him. Jack works himself into a frenzy coming to Phoebe’s defense, nearly having a stroke in the restaurant.

That night, in bed with Phoebe, Jack tries to make love to her, but she’s more focused on his ratty pajamas. And maybe putting a faux finish on the ceiling. Jack hushes her, and climbs on top.

Phoebe: Careful! My bones!
Jack gets a funny face.
Phoebe: Are you alright?
Jack: What with your condition, wouldn’t you ordinarily just… be on top?
Phoebe: I can’t. I have vertigo.

Colleen starts pounding on the door, and quickly riles Jack up, who has another episode and falls out of bed in pain.

Liz fits in a few minutes with Floyd via Web Chat (noticing herself how far apart her eyes are).

Liz: I look like Admiral Ackbar.
Floyd laughs.
Floyd: Relax. It’s one of the reasons I like you.

Because of her busy schedule, Liz postpones her trip a few days, but then the Web Cam starts acting up. Floyd says their transmission is breaking up, but Liz only hears part.

Liz: Did you say we’re, “breaking up?”
Floyd: Yeah. No! Why would you think we’re breaking up?

And yet again, they are interrupted. Liz gets a call about Jack.

At the hospital, Phoebe wants in to see Jack, but she’s not family or his emergency contact, so she’s denied. His mother is free to enter, but refuses, frightened she’ll catch bird flu and die. Liz arrives, and is permitted to go in – she is his emergency contact.

Dr. Spaceman delivers the news, after an alarming moment when he arrives, covered in blood. Jack will be fine, despite a very serious cardiac episode.

Dr. Spaceman: Also, he may have scurvy. Because he keeps asking for lemon.
Colleen shouts out her message.
Colleen: Tell him his mother’s here. And she loves him. But not in a queer way.

Liz goes in. Jack tells her about his episode, and how it made him realize that he should have worked more during his life, because “work is the only thing I’m good at.” He’s been working on the Tracy dilemma from his hospital bed, and thinks he might have arranged for Nixon to come on the show. Or maybe that’s the drugs talking.

Also, he thinks his monitor is actually the Dow.

The night of the show, Pete has been scrambling to put something together without Tracy. Josh offers to do his Robocop impression. Liz shoves him out of her way.

Liz: Great. That’s completely topical.

Pete asks Cerie to dance in front of the house band for ten minutes on air. She’s not interested.

Liz tells Pete that she thinks she broke up with Floyd – and that she’s “kind of relieved.” And when she gets another call from him, she doesn’t take it!

Wha…….aaat? Booooo. Hisssss.

Jenna runs up.
Jenna: I hear you’re looking for someone to dance in front of the band?
Liz & Pete: No…

Phoebe signs herself up as Jack’s new emergency contact, but Colleen notices, with a plate of helpful jello, that Jack’s heart rate fluctuations are visible on his monitor, and that Phoebe causes him stress. Colleen gives him a quick quiz.

Colleen: Jack, do you dye your hair?
The monitor shoots up.
Jack: No, mother, why would I do that?

An obvious lie. Now she needs the truth, so she asks his middle name. Francis. Phoebe starts to catch on.

Colleen: Did you take $20 out of my pocketbook in the summer of 1970?
Jack: No I did not. (Lie.)
Colleen: Do you love me?
Jack: Of course I do. (Truth.)
Colleen is triumphant.
Colleen: I knew it.
Phoebe: Do you love me?
The monitor goes crazy!
Phoebe: I see.
Jack rips the sensors off his body before he reveals anything else.

(Can I just say, I felt a little sorry for Phoebe? I think I’m going to miss her and her hollow bones.)

After that night’s show, Liz returns to visit Jack.

Liz: So I’m your emergency contact, huh?
Jack: You’re the only person I know who wouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug.

Liz reveals that she’s not going to Cleveland. Jack reveals that he’s not getting married.

Liz: So what did you think of the show?
Jack: Honestly? I no longer think you’re doing a terrible job. And, I’m very proud of you.
Liz: Thanks, Jack.
She leaps to her feet.
Liz: I’m gonna pull the plug now.
Jack holds up a hand: STOP.
The screen goes dark.
Liz: Just let me do it!

Kenneth’s Cousin: Misery Loves Company

In Needmore, Pennsylvania, Tracy sits on a park bench, bag in hand, wearing chunky black glasses to disguise his face. He’s pretending to be Gordon Tremeschko. (At least, that’s the way it sounds.) A local comes running across the street, through traffic, yelling, “Mr. Jordan! Mr. Jordan!” This is Jesse Parcell (played by Sean Hayes), he’s Kenneth’s cousin, there to pick up Tracy, and he remembers the code word.

Jesse: What?
Tracy: That’s it!

Tracy promises not to be a burden, then demands a smoothie and then to go clubbing. But life is different in Needmore.

Jesse: Oh, we don’t have dancing or liquor here.

Back at Jesse’s rustic house, he stokes the fire while Tracy weaves a basket. Kenneth calls, checking in.

Kenneth: Rooster, this is the farmer. Is the egg safe?
Jesse: The egg is in the nest.
Kenneth: Good, but be careful. The badger and the bear have been asking questions.

Jesse doesn’t know who that is. But he assures Kenneth that Tracy is safe…

And here’s where it starts to get a little creepy.

Jesse: He’s with his biggest fan.
Jesse winks at Tracy, pointing the fireplace poker at him.

Uh-oh, Tracy. Looks like you’ve got yourself an Annie Wilkes.

Jesse reminds Tracy that he’s not a movie star anymore, and that they don’t go out at night, because of the wolves. Soon they are doing chores together, like cleaning the dead birds out of the chimney. Tracy is forced to pass up an easy conquest because he has to stay in disguise. When he’s had enough, he calls Kenneth.

Tracy: I don’t care what they do to me anymore. I’d rather die famous than spend a hundred years living like this. Carrying plastic bags. Sitting on benches. Brushing my own teeth. This is unsuitable!

But Jesse hears him calling, and goes crazy, ripping out the phone and threatening Tracy with the poker.

Kenneth arrives in Needmore with Grizz and Dot Com to pick up Tracy, but Jesse tells him Tracy left that morning. Actually, Tracy is trussed, with tape over his mouth, laying behind the door.

Jesse: I’d invite you in, but I’ve got a living room full of dead chimney birds!

Kenneth isn’t fooled. He spots Jesse wearing Tracy’s watch. While Jesse is out picking up lunch, Kenneth sneaks in and frees Tracy. With Grizz and Dot Com, they barely escape, as Jesse shoots out the back window of their escape vehicle.

Kenneth: By the hammer of Thor!

Back in Manhattan, they get stuck in traffic. Jumping from their vehicle, Tracy asks an EMT if he knows what the hold-up is from.

EMT: Yeah, the President’s in town, there’s a transit strike, it’s the Dominican Independence Day parade, a guy in suspenders is doing chalk drawings down on Canal Street.

Tracy asks them for a ride to midtown, but the EMT explains that they don’t go anywhere unless someone is badly hurt.

Tracy: But I’m gonna miss the show!
Kenneth: Mr. Jordan.
Tracy turns. Kenneth stands at the top of a staircase.
Kenneth: No sir, you are not.
Tracy: Ken you are my boy!
Kenneth salutes –

And falls backwards down the staircase, head first!!

At the studio, Liz gathers everyone around for a pep talk before the show. She tells them she thinks it will be the best show they’ve ever done –

Tracy arrives!

Liz is relieved.
Liz: Robocop out! Cowboy Hey Hey back in!

Tracy recommends Kenneth the Page for an NBC Medal of Excellence, so Liz tells him to write a recommendation letter for his file. He tells her the same thing he told Kenneth during the ambulance ride, when Kenneth asked Tracy to take care of his birds if he died:

Tracy: I’ve got a lot on my plate!

(Hmm. Not such a good guy.)

Tracy puts on a vest (without a shirt), a hat, a quick smear of lipstick, and runs onstage.

Tracy: Take this, Black Crusaders. It’s Cowboy Hey Hey!

The Black Crusader we saw in the last episode (who looks almost exactly like Toofer, but the credits say it’s not him) follows after Tracy, reporting into his watch/phone. Liz notices… but does she understand?

Favorite Random Line:

Jesse has been watching Tracy’s movies, and does a bit from, “Honky Gramma Be Trippin’,” complete breakdancing in the snow along the sidewalk.

Jesse laughs with delight.

Jesse: I nearly wet my other pair of underpants!

Posted by Chad on April 27, 2007 7:25 PM
Permalink |

Wow Chad - You really did some work on this.

I agree with your main points - this was an OK episode, but a little disappointing for a finale. Hopefully, Tina comes back more next year in full "Source Awards"/"The C Word" stride.

-- Posted by: Jamie at May 3, 2007 5:57 PM

It was: "You two-faced goon, I will cut you open like a Tan-Tan, you mouth-breathing Appalachian!" A Tan-Tan is the bipedal creature Luke Skywalker rides in the Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo cuts it open with a swipe from Luke's light sabre to save Luke from exposure.

-- Posted by: Nash at June 1, 2007 1:39 AM

Actually, Nash, you're both wrong. Liz called Kenneth a "turtle faced goon"

-- Posted by: Robert at January 23, 2010 8:04 PM

so informative, thanks to tell us.

-- Posted by: DedoVioheds at September 29, 2010 6:55 PM

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