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I’m liking how 30 Rock is mixing up its character interactions some this season. Thursday’s episode paired Kenneth and Jenna, while Liz had to face the formidable gatekeeper that is Tracy’s wife.

But please, 30 Rock writers, get Jack back into the office and into Liz’s life.

(Factory-notched spoilers on their way.)

Alec Baldwin can make just about anything work — including making us believe that Jack Donaghy has a pathological fondness for cookie jars ("We never had cookie jars, because our mother never made us cookies, because we weren’t good enough. … So no, this has nothing to do with my childhood"). But — and I know I brought this up last week — the show was often at its best last year when Jack had has hands in all of Liz’s business. The brief scenes they’ve shared over the first few episodes this season just aren’t enough.

That said, Jack’s sessions with Steve Buscemi, P.I., were pretty funny, with Jack ticking off the litany of family craziness and personal indiscretions — my favorite, on his arrest record: "The 1976 Democratic National Convention. But it’s OK — I was there beating up hippies." — like it was nothing, and SB, P.I., blase about everything except the cookie jars (loved the photo of Giuliani and his wooden dolls too).

The rest of the episode was solid too, but again, things seemed a little disjointed. And is it me, or has there been almost no discussion of actually putting on a TV show this season?

Some of the highlights:

  • Liz, on what kind of animal Jack would be: "An eagle, with the head of a bear?" Jack: "Your respect means the world to me."
  • Jenna’s weight-loss angst — as in, she’s losing weight when being heavy has made her a star. The opposite-of-expected approach is a fairly old comedy trick, but something about the way Jane Krakowski goes after it so completely makes it work better than it usually does here. Her distress over possibly losing the "secret ritual" she and Jack now share (Liz: "A high-five?" Jenna, sobbing: "It was our special thing!") and having to go back to the already punched holes on her belt all played well.
  • Plus, I loved the Enorme ad.
  • Ditto Kenneth’s motivational tactics, courtesy of Liz (wow, can she be mean), to get Jenna to eat, and his subsequent realization that Jenna deals with her self-esteem issues through sex, not food: "Turns out she’s the wrong kind of crazy. And now, I guess we have to get married."
  • Liz and Tracy’s initial improv of the sick-cobra story, which broke apart when he started talking about his thumb up his butt or whatever it was. It also led to one of Tracy Morgan’s better scenes on the show, as he broke up Liz and Angie’s fight: "I’m the immature one, and you’re making me act like an adult."
  • Have you been picking up on the Smithers-like love Jack’s assistant has for him? At the top of the show he stomped off in a huff after Liz interrupted his moment with Jack on the balcony.
  • Kenneth’s repeated references to "my mom’s friend Ron." I don’t ever, ever want to know what made Kenneth what he is.
  • Jack: "If you’re ever at the [cookie-jar] convention in Sarasota … tell them Vic Nightingale says hello."

What did you think if this week’s 30 Rock? Does Jack, and everyone else, need to concentrate on the show a little more?