This week’s “30 Rock” was another episode in which the various plot threads existed more or less independently of one another, but unlike last week’s subpar effort, “Mamma Mia” was elevated by several things: Liz’s fangirling out on the titular movie and its parallels to Jack’s situation, Alan Alda’s fantastic (if brief) Alec Baldwin impression and an extended Liz-Pete pairing.
Liz is imploring Jack to find his real father, even though for him, family represents mostly “resentment, guilt, anger [and] Easter egg hunts that turn into knife fights,” and he doesn’t see why he would want to invite more of that into his life. Liz and her Sims experience finally wear him down, though, and his PI (hooray for Steve Buscemi getting a little more to do this week) brings him a list of three names of men who might be his father.
“It’s ‘Mamma Mia,’” Liz yelps, then tries to restrain herself: “Don’t push it, Liz, let it happen. … There’s gonna be ‘Mamma Mia’!” Of all the girly things in the world, I would not have picked that for something the otherwise cynical Liz would be into, and that is part of why the bit is so great. Her enthusiasm for the sappy musical comes pretty much from nowhere (“Maybe we should watch it real quick”), and it’s just really funny.
Her enthusiasm, or maybe Jack’s weariness of the situation, eventually causes him to accept her plan to lure the three guys — a Korean gentleman, a man who lost his equipment in World War II and Alan Alda — to New York under the pretense of a contest so Jack can meet them. Of course it’s Alda (or, if you insist, Professor Milton Green) who turns out to be Jack’s dad (he was a boarder at Colleen’s 50 years back), and of course he and Jack are polar opposites except for their love of a good argument.
And, oh yeah, there’s a little wrinkle to their tearful reunion. Despite Liz’s assurances that either Milt will walk away or he’ll suddenly have a dad and it will be great — “There’s no weird third thing,” are her exact words — there’s a weird third thing. Milt needs a kidney, and the look on Jack’s face at the revelation of this news is priceless. Hey, Jack, just be glad your dad’s name isn’t Anthony Cooper.
While Jack is discovering who his dad is, Liz and Pete are trying to figure out if the guy who’s claiming to be Tracy’s love child really is Tracy’s love child. This leads to a long conversation between two of them about how old Tracy might really be — the evidence against him is that he doesn’t know how to use a computer, yells at the TV a lot and his favorite show is “NCIS” (“He might be 70,” Liz marvels) — and how Liz and Pete are really, really awful at judging the age of African-Americans.
The guy calling himself Donald Jordan isn’t Tracy’s son, and in fact is a year older than Tracy. But he’s also not the con artist Pete and Liz assume he is — he really is opening a dojo, and the magazine subscriptions he sells Kenneth really do benefit a community center (“Kenneth’s $80 bought a chess set and a crate of condoms,” Tracy says). Tracy knows all this too: “I may hug people too hard and get lost in malls, but I’m not an idiot.” But supporting Donald makes him feel good, so he goes along with the ruse.
OK, fine. Not much of a wrapup to that one, but I’ll live with that because: the totally unfair Lutz-Donald karate fight and Kenneth knowing the lyrics to both “It Takes 2″ and whatever thing about maidens and knights Tracy was singing (Google was no help in telling me if that was a real song; anyone know?).
That’s a dealbreaker
In the inevitably underserved C-story, Jenna is getting lots of notice for a catchphrase — “That’s a dealbreaker, ladies” — that Liz wrote, and Liz is resentful (though shouldn’t she be used to that by now?) that she’s not getting recognized too. Jenna lets Liz tag along to a photo shoot, and it allows for some good physical comedy from both actresses. Tina Fey gets the bigger stuff as Liz fails to heed Jenna’s advice and uses the props (“Oh boy — they went for birthing the chicken on the toilet”), but my favorite moment was Jenna just letting the rubber chicken bounce off her — “Nice try, pal … I’m staying serious and horny.”
More good things from “Mamma Mia” (obvious commercial tie-in at the end of the episode not included):
- “Come on in, Jack. I’m just practicing sitting.”
- Jack acquiesces to the “Mamma Mia” plan: “All right, I’ll meet them, but that’s all I’m promising.” Liz: “And all I’m promising is a madcap musical romp, dot dot dot, fun, dot dot dot, good. … That was on the poster.”
- Liz on how she pulls an all-nighter: “I write till 4 in the morning, eating dry fistfuls of Raisin Bran to stay awake. Which, by the way, is how I’m able to ride the fart train to work every day.”
- Liz assures Jack that if things don’t work out with Milt, he can just go back to being Jack Donaghy, which is pretty nice in its own right. “Thank you,” he replies. “My hair just dries like this.”
- “I like S&M magazines — that’s my abbreviation for super and magical.” Kenneth Ellen Parcell, ladies and gentlemen.
What did you think of this week’s “30 Rock”? How do you like the dynamic between Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda?