'30 Rock' goes inside the bubble

Jonhamm_30rock It was probably never meant to be, Liz Lemon and Drew Baird. He's just so goshdarn handsome, and Liz, for all her flights of fancy, really needs to live in the real world. But in going inside "the bubble" with their relationship, "30 Rock" gave us a very well-done episode this week.

You can serve Gatorade with these spoilers.

The sitcom plot about a really good-looking person getting things we mortals don't is not new, but in the past the pretty person has usually been a woman. That's not the case here -- Drew is the hottie of this couple, and as far as he's concerned, people randomly telling him how good-looking he is and a cop ripping up a parking ticket is just part of his normal day.

It's the bubble, Jack explains to Liz, a place where beautiful people enjoy a life of "free drinks, kindness and outdoor sex." Liz wonders how Drew can still be such a nice guy with all that, and Jack offers himself up as an example of someone who turned out OK after spending so much time in the bubble. One giant Liz eye-roll later, Jack shows her a picture of himself at 25 (and here are a couple shots of Baldwin himself at roughly that age). Suddenly Liz is seeing her boss in a new light, and decides that the bubble might not be such a bad thing.

Except, she soon learns, that the bubble tends to shut out all the negatives from the pretty person's life. He has no idea, for instance, that he's the worst tennis player since Milos from the "Seinfeld" episode "The Comeback," that there's no such thing as salmon bourguignon -- and even if there were, it shouldn't include Gatorade -- and the remedy for choking doesn't involve shaking the foreign object out or pushing it down with a fireplace match.

Liz decides to pop Drew's bubble, figuring a good guy like that deserves to have the truth told to him. In a tightly edited sequence of life's small indignities, we see Drew as a man opening his eyes to the real world and then immediately wanting to shut them again. Jon Hamm sells it really well, and his tirade after Liz actually tries in tennis, although really mean, felt about right for someone who's never had things go against him.

In the end, they're just two star-crossed lovers from different worlds, and Liz decides to end things. But on the bright side, her chances of being seriously injured on the motorcycle Drew has no ability to drive have just gone way, way down.

Alecbaldwin2_30rock_s2_240 The night's other main story was also about a relationship -- the one between Tracy and Kenneth. After Jack foolishly notes during contract talks that Tracy doesn't need any more money ("His video game made a fortune, and he invested it all in a company that dismantles bank signs -- it's doing very well"), it dawns on Tracy that he doesn't need any more money. So he quits.

Jack has one card to play, though: Kenneth's slavish devotion to getting Tracy whatever he wants, whenever he wants it -- duties he's been performing even after Tracy's walkout. Jack gets Kenneth to play along just enough to convince Tracy to come back, and order is restored.

Mostly, though, the B-story was an excuse for a parade of accents and impressions, with Jack McBrayer doing both a bad British voice as "Cranston," his page alter ego, and some really weird hill-folk thing that only comes out when Kenneth is excessively nervous. Jack's Billy Dee Williams and the NBC accountant's Bill Cosby (Tracy's reaction to "Cosby's" phone call was, by the way, priceless) made for some chuckles too.

And, as usual, there were the great "30 Rock" non-sequiturs and throwaway lines. A sampling, plus some other thoughts:

  • Kenneth, after hearing Drew is a doctor: "Don't get too attached, because once people realize his tonics don't work, it's on to the next town."
  • Loved just about every word that came out of Tracy Jr.'s mouth, especially "Thanks to you I now have an unemployed father. Are you trying to make a stereotype out of me? Did you even vote for Obama?" and "I didn't come here for excuses -- I came here to see the dumbest cracker in all New York."
  • Liz: "You can't put Gatorade on salmon." Drew: "Yes you can -- the hot Italian lady from the Food Network told me so." "Did she say it on TV?" "No, she said it to me when she jumped escalators to try to talk ... oh."
  • The Dotcom-Jack exchange about Tracy's "tactile" learning style continues a theme of Dotcom exasperating Jack by flaunting his intelligence. Nice callback.
  • The Jenna-haircut story didn't really click for me, but Pete and others firing off words to describe Jenna's beauty -- "Fading." "'80s." "1880s" -- was kind of scathingly funny.
  • I don't even want to think about what Jack and Tracy's version of "BFF" stands for.
  • Did you notice that Jack and Drew's gibberish French translated to the same set of nonsensical letters?
  • I initially balked at the idea of Drew being a terrible cook since we were introduced to him as he was baking and smelling like frosting. But loving to do something and being good at it don't have to go hand in hand, I guess.

Jon Hamm's run on "30 Rock" is at an end. Did you like how he was used on the show? And what did you think of this week's episode?

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