Liz’s dilemma on “30 Rock” tonight? I’ve been there. Not the sexual harassment part, but I get that unexpected time off can put you out of sorts. And that very real feeling helped ground a pretty absurd episode of the show and make it all that much funnier.
Following Liz’s come-on to the budget consultant last week, she has to serve out her suspension while sitting through sexual-harassment seminars led by HR guy Jeffrey Weinerslave (pronounced like it sounds). The training is as deadly dull as you would expect, and Liz is kind of freaking out about not being able to be at work either, taking it out on the increasingly nonplussed doorpersons at her building.
But lo and behold, a ray of sunshine named Emily appears and introduces Liz to the wonders of a life of leisure, where massages and yoga are part of the daily routine and stress melts away to the point that you don’t even know what day it is anymore (“I read somewhere that it was Tuesday,” one of Liz’s new friends offers).
It’s a seductive life, and Liz finds all her cares melting away (along with the usual jeans-baggy shirt-glasses ensemble she usually sports, letting Tina Fey glam up a little). Jack is skeptical of the transformation, asserting that people like her and him need the stress, and that her new friends are secretly unhappy.
And as usual, Jack is right, though not in the exactly way he thinks. Emily explains that in order to counteract all the down time, their minds need stimulation — which they get by beating the crap out of each other, “Fight Club”-style.
So Liz, once again, can’t win for losing — and is really OK with that by the end of the episode, when she’s back in her zone attending to the overgrown children that are Tracy and Jenna. “I’m back, nerds!” may become my new rallying cry.
The B-story of Jenna trying to push her not-Janis Joplin biopic also worked really well to me, as it played both to Jenna’s endless well of vanity and her utter ignorance of how to work the PR machine (“I’m prepared to do a nipple slip if you need it,” she tells Jack … at the Kids Choice Awards). The rare extended pairing of Jack and Jenna worked really well for me, and it produced several of the night’s best lines. I think I’m going to go with “Jenna, I want to Tupac you.” “OK, but I have to pee first,” as my favorite.
The Janis Joplin/Janie Jimplin/Jackie Jormpjomp story has been a nice little through-line this season, and it was nice to see it pay off in this very cracked, very “30 Rock” way, with Jenna unable to let her fake death pass after seeing her real birthdate on a tribute poster (also? The brief scene from the movie, with Jackie and “Jimmy Hendrickson” — who was playing the saxophone — at “Woodstox” was awesome). It was also one of Jane Krakowski’s better showcases this season — just good stuff all around.
Other highlights from “30 Rock” this week:
The idea of Dotcom (last name, per Kenneth, Slattery) and Kenneth as romantic rivals is a fine one, but since it was the C-story it didn’t get quite as much play. I loved Dotcom’s repeated (but never finished) assertions that he and Kenneth aren’t really friends, just as I also loved the fact that no one was really paying attention.
- That particular thread also gave us this line from Tracy: “Friendship and trust in the entourage is the most important thing. Like on that HBO show — ‘John Adams.'”
- The latest real NBC employee to get hilariously but not exactly positively name-checked on the show is “Today” host Meredith Vieira, who apparently has a thing for Kenneth. “I don’t know if this is harassment,” he tells Jack, “but someone at the ‘Today’ show made me eat an unripe banana in front of her.”
- Jack: “‘Sing Dem Blues, White Girl: The Jackie Jormpjomp Story’ has got to get some buzz.” Jenna: “Do you need a sex tape? Because I’ve got a weird one. It’s night vision, and you can see his buddy robbing me.”
- Nice conception/editing on the sequence with Liz de-stressing and getting absorbed into the ladies-of-leisure lifestyle without even really realizing it.
- Liz: “Eating right, working out, sleeping — is anyone else BM-ing like a rock star?” Oh Liz. What is it with you and the bodily functions?
- And the yes-they-went-to-there line of the night, courtesy of Tracy, explaining why he doesn’t need to read the sexual harassment manual: “The whole thing is loosely based on an evening I spent with Isiah Thomas.”
Your thoughts on “30 Rock” this week?