I honestly had forgotten this episode’s existence. I knew Liz went on a date with Wayne Brady1 in one episode, but I didn’t remember that much about it. And I was really hopeful that Floyd (<3) would return, since it’d been two episodes since we met him.

Sadly, we only got one, brief glance of Floyd.

Bae. Did I use that right?

Bae. Did I use that right?

Anyway, despite my lack of memory about this episode, I really liked it, even though Wikipedia describes its critical reception as “mixed.” The three main plot lines are all wrapped up in each other and it makes the most thematically strong episode of the season.

1. Kenneth accidentally snubbed music producer Ridikolus at Tracy’s party. Tracy tries to keep Ridikolus from murdering him and his family.

2. Jack tries to make his disgusting Donaghy wine the new drink of hip-hop.2

3. Liz goes on a date with Tracy’s new manager, Steven (Wayne Brady), who accuses her of not liking him because he’s racist.

We’ll start with the Liz plot, which thematically informs the rest of the episode.

The trouble starts when Liz claims to be color-blind, without using those words. Steven’s race doesn’t matter to her, she says. “When I leave work at night I am just riding on a subway car full of scary teenaged people.”

I couldn’t help but think of Donald Glover’s response to a similar comment during his brief appearance on “Girls.” Skip to about 3:30.

I’m even more into this parallel than I normally would be since Donald wrote for  “30 Rock.” Boom.

Liz and Steven are hilariously mismatched. An inclusive list of what we know about Steven:

  • Doesn’t own a television
  • Participates in Vietnam re-enactments3
  • Takes pictures of doors as a hobby (?)Called “Star Wars” “the fantasy movie with monsters”
  • DOESN’T CARE ABOUT FOOD4
  • Think it’s a good idea to summarize “Zoolander” to a comedy writer on a date
  • Thinks a carriage ride around the financial district is romantic
  • Says Gracias to Latino waiters
  • Collects tote bags

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that we know way more about Steven than we do about Josh.

And then things get awkward. When Liz tells him it’s just not clicking, he assumes she’s being a racist and announces this to the whole restaurant. Liz, unable to stick up for herself, is shamed into staying on the date.

Later they have this really hilarious exchange:

Liz: Can’t we all just not get along?

Steven: Maybe one day our children or our children’s children will hate each other like that. But it doesn’t work that way today.

This was crazy funny to me, this sort of “Now we live in a reality where everything is racist until proven not, so you’re actually not aloud to not like me because, until we live in a post-racial America, that’s racist.”

But what makes it actually funny is that “30 Rock” doesn’t believe this: This is Liz’s half-assed, ill-conceived liberalism. We’ve seen shades of it in other episodes, like when she told Pete that inner-city kids in Sudan read better than American kids, then realized that didn’t seem right. Or her Barack Obama line in episode 5.

In Liz’s world, it’s better to date someone you hate so no one thinks you’re a racist than it is to explain to that person that this is not what racism is! Liz is more concerned with looking like a cool liberal than in actually understanding or supporting liberal politics. And that’s funny because there are tons of people like her!5

Meanwhile, Tracy has decided the only way to get through his dilemma is to channel his inner Oprah at the Source Awards, where he’s afraid someone will kill him:

Shooting people  at the Source Awards is a tradition. It’s like Christmas. Or shooting people outside of Hot 97.

It’s funny because it’s true. Jack offers to give him a gun to make it through the evening.

The Oprah thing is weird, but it’s even funnier because when Liz asks if she’s racist, he responds, “No. I think you like to dress black men as Oprah as part of your effort to protect our dignity.”

And then he spends the rest of the episode dressed as Oprah, turning this into an amazing meta moment. He even gives himself a pep talk as Oprah.

Screenshot 2014-07-09 21.41.48

 

At the Source Awards, Tracy literally reveals Chekhov’s gun and Liz accidentally shoots Steven in the butt as he reaches for her purse. Oops.

The whole thing is meta and weird and funny. And I appreciate the show’s self-awareness about Tracy Jordan.

Bits & Pieces

Jack confused Liz with Angie Harmon. Ok…

Jack wants a clear plane “like Wonder Woman has.” Valid.

Best Frank Hat: Time Travel Agent

Character I related to least: Liz, when she mentioned being excited that her name was on the board at a Phillies game. Boooooo.

Character I related to most: Liz, when she tried to flirt with Floyd and only managed to say, “You got the old pumpkin leather?” about his basketball.

Best name of a hip-hop artist: Redonkeykong

Best Tracy one-liner:

Liz: What is it with men and guns?

Tracy: I think I speak for the both of us when I say it’s because they’re metal penises.

Best line in a rap song: “Donaghy kind of rhymes with party which is cool.”

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: He’s unfazed by Ridikolus’ threats. Only an immortal person wouldn’t fear for his life…

1. I kind of just think of Wayne Brady as NPH’s gay brother now. Thanks “How I Met Your Mother.” Also! Wayne Brady is the first, but not the last, actor to be mentioned on the show AND appear on it.
2. It was Cristal until the maker of Cristal proclaimed his hatred of hip-hop and his love of Dane Cook. (This would have been a very relevant joke in 2007.)
3. This is unrealistic; real life war participants in these activities refer to it was “living history.”
4. At this point, I wrote in my notes, “liz leave just leave liz just leave 5. It’s worth noting that Liz was not at all the first female character like this on TV. Bea Arthur’s Maude on “All in the Family” and “Maude” did this pretty frequently.

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