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“Work is the only thing I’m good at, Lemon. You and I have that in common.”

Here we are, at the end of season one. What a great 21 episodes it was.

Last episode left us with a cliff-hanger, so this week gave us with what I think is the only “Previously on ’30 Rock'” in the history of the show. Of course, it doesn’t play this straight either: first they show a random scene before the real highlights, and Kenneth asks at the end of the montage, “Where was Kenneth? Let’s find out!”

Instead of jumping right into the plot, we get two scenes intercut with each other. Jack is visiting Dr. Spaceman, who mostly just gives him sex advice, while Liz visits her doctor, played by Rachel Dratch, who I had feared had left us forever. Thankfully not so.

Dr. Rachel: Still not eating right, huh?

Liz: No but I am eating a lot.

Anyway, Liz breaks down because Jack is mad at her and her boyf is in Cleveland and “it’s the season finale of my show this week and the star is missing and may have been abducted by a cabal of black celebrities.” That’s a lot to handle.

Jack also reveals that his mom is coming to New York for Bianca’s wedding, which gives us:

Screenshot 2014-07-14 19.48.34.jpg

 

Honestly, I could write 138 posts about how amazing Colleen is. Elaine Stritch won an Emmy for her performance in this very episode. And she’s 89. And 89 times better than you.

Colleen, queen of my heart, immediately likes Liz and can’t stand Phoebe — like any sane person — especially after British bird bones calls her “Mother Donaghy.” JUST LEAVE ALREADY.

Eventually, the stress of his mother, his crazy fiance, and Tracy’s disappearance are too much for him, and Jack has a heart attack. The phone call from the hospital breaks up Liz’s pathetic video chat with Floyd because Liz is Jack’s emergency contact!

The first time I watched this, I was probably like, “OK, whatever,” but now I’m like, “SHE’S HIS CONTACT THEY’RE BEST FRIENDS AH WOW.” There were a lot of <3’s in my notes.

And that’s the power of these characters and this storyline for me. Jack and Liz’s friendship is the heart of this show.

But that wasn’t necessarily as clear way back in 2007. Jack tells Liz, “Work is the only thing I’m good at, Lemon. You and I have that in common.” And in 2007, it’s true. Liz sucks at being a friend (see: the “Rural Juror” fight). Jack sucks at being a boyfriend (see: his relationship with Condaleeza Rice and his failed marriage). Jack can invent the popcorn button on the microwave, but he doesn’t know what it means to be happy.

His life flashed before his eyes and, in an exact reversal of every other hospital bed scene ever, he says, “I should have worked more.” It’s a funny moment, but it’s also intensely sad. I’ve talked a couple times about how great it is when “30 Rock” knocks Jack down from his pedestal, and in this scene his misery is cast in vivid color.

Eventually, Colleen realizes Jack’s heart races when he’s lying and his hospital heart monitor becomes a lie detector. And when he admits he loves his mother, he’s telling the truth! This moment is definitely more powerful seven seasons later, but it’s still cute in context.

And thankfully he doesn’t love Phoebe. Bye bye, boring British bird bone lady.

And when Liz asks Jack how he liked the show, he tells the truth again: “I no longer think you’re doing a terrible job and I’m very proud of you.” I literally wrote “<33333.”

Meanwhile, Tracy’s subplot focuses less on the Black Crusaders of America (sadly) and more on his burgeoning friendship with Kenneth, who has hid him with his cousin in a small Pennsylvania town with no dancing or liquor and a lot of wolves.

When Tracy decides to go back to New York — he’d rather die famous than live to 100 unknown — Kenneth’s cousin ties him up and threatens him with some scary stuff:

Screenshot 2014-07-14 20.00.16

Kenneth, assisted by Grizz and Dotcom, saves Tray, only to get stuck in traffic in Manhattan. They try to convince an ambulance to help them, but they’ll only turn the lights on if someone is seriously injured.

So Kenneth throws himself down a flight of stairs.

Tracy tells Liz to recommend Kenneth for the NBC Medal of Excellence, which does not exist. But it should. I would give it to Questlove.

And that’s season one. Watch out this week for a season one recap video, where I’ll summarize and extrapolate and maybe be funny.

Bits & Pieces

Colleen had “the only marriage in the history of St. Helen’s Church where the priest recommended the divorce.” But given how awful Jack’s dad is, can anyone blame her?

Best Frank hat: Force Field

Best description of Phoebe: When Liz calls her a white geisha

Best dialogue exchange:

Josh: Can I play Barack Obama?

Liz: No, it’s bad enough that Tracy plays Barack Obama

Things we know about Josh: Wants to play Barack Obama in a sketch. Want to do a Robocop walk on the show.

Star Wars references: Liz – “Is that how far apart my eyes are? I look like Admiral Akbar.”

When his hick cousin shoots at his car, Kenneth also shouts, “By the Hammer of Thor!”

When Jack’s life flashes before his eyes, one of the moments he remembers most clearly is when he participated in Hands Across America. No one else makes jokes like that. Bow down to Tina. And Robert Carlock. Mostly Tina.

Favorite Spaceman line: “He might have scurvy because he keeps asking for Lemon.” Awwwwww

Favorite Colleen line: When Liz goes to visit Jack – “Tell him his mother’s here and she loves him. But not in a queer way.”

Character I related to most: Liz when she avoids Floyd’s calls because she knows they have to break-up, but she doesn’t want to have the conversation

I’ll miss you Floyd.

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: He asks Tracy to take care of his birds if he doesn’t make it. Not proof that he’s immortal, but the birds will return in creepy, creepy ways.

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Have i really been doing this two weeks? That’s impressive commitment for me.

—-

Before I begin, I have a pretty unrelated aside. Last night I watched the end of “27 Dresses” because I hate myself and I, like Liz, love James Marsden. But he was not the only “30 Rock” alum — can I call him that if he shot this film way before his “30 Rock” tenure — to show up. Because who was the best man but our very own…

JONATHAN.

Apparently right now he voices an Indian kid with an anthropomorphic snake on a Nickelodeon show called “Sanjay and Craig.” Good for you Jonathan.

—-

Like I mentioned on Day 1, “30 Rock” is a sitcom about a working woman that’s very interested in subverting the classic working-woman sitcoms. And this episode does that in a very clear way.

At the episode’s start, Frank mentions catching a “Designing Women” marathon on TV the night before. It’s about a sharp, liberal working woman and her more conservative, looks-obsessed sister as they run an interior design firm. The show became well-known for speeches the main character would make at the end of the episode, espousing her liberal beliefs and telling people off.

Are Jenna and Liz the modern versions of those sisters? We have no way of knowing. Liz also frequently goes into long, explanatory rants at the end of the episode that either she or another character subverts. “30 Rock” isn’t interested in Liz’s triumphs.

So in this episode, the writers criticize Liz for being too mean, which she kind of is sometimes. But then Lutz calls her the “C” word. Rachel Dratch, in her third appearance as the cat lady Lagreta Johansen, conveniently named one of her kittens “Runt” to help you figure out what the word is.

Anyway, Liz ends up doing all of the writers’ work because she wants them to like her, and Pete tells her to stick up for herself. The next day, she, half-asleep and full of garbled ideas from the “Designing Women” marathon she caught the night before.

She delivers this epic:

And then she subverts the brief moment of fulfillment by crying and falling asleep! Brilliant.

But that was only one hilarious half of a great episode.

The other main plot involved Jack taking Tracy to Don Geiss’ golf tournament so he can entertain Don with his “grandchildren’s favorite movie star.”

Jack painted this really terrifying portrait of Don:

Screenshot 2014-07-07 10.01.41Jack also gets some great double entendres in about Don:

Being in a foursome with this man can change your life

Tomorrow I’m going to be in an intense 6 hour foursome with 3 other men and Don Geiss is going to get all my attention and you’re just going to sit back and watch.

Next weekend Tracy and I are going to double team Don Geiss with our big ideas.

But the real gem is Tracy. When he meets Don, he asks him, “How come there’s no black people here? Black people can’t make light bulbs?” Then he calls the one black guy in the Don Geiss entourage “Carlton,” which Jack tries to save by reminding Don that “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was on NBC. It doesn’t work.

Tracy refuses to play the role Jack wants him too, and embarrasses him as much as possible. Until Jack reminds him that he’s not a movie star anymore, since he hasn’t been in a movie in two years, and it might be in his best interest to suck up.

But I really like this Tracy plot because it reminds us that Tracy isn’t an idiot, that he’s very self aware about the way he portrays himself, and that he has moments of shrewd business acumen.

Bits & Pieces

Kenneth is in love with another page who has these really great NBC logo earrings. I want them. They also shared this amazing awkward movie quote exchange:

You make me a complete person.

When you said hello, you had me.

Best Pete one-liner: “If you’re worried about disgracing the National Broadcasting Company, you’re too late.”

Best Lutz sketch ideas: “Dancing With The Hobos,” “America’s Next Top Hobo,” “Hobo Eye For The Straight Guy,” and “The Amazing Hobo.” Again, it is a travesty that we never get to see these performed.

Best Frank hat: 1,000,000 Points

Kenneth allegedly majored in television theory at Kentucky Mountain Bible College. While KMBC does exist — and I encourage you to explore their website — that major sadly doesn’t.

BALD WRITER SPOKE.

I HAVE WEIRD SINUS STUFF.

I HAVE WEIRD SINUS STUFF.

Character I related to most: Liz. Being a woman in charge is hard.

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: He’s pretty cut throat when it comes to page-related tasks, even when the girl he loves is involved.

And it’s Valentine’s Day at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. “30 Rock” tends to do Valentine’s Day episodes really well.1 This isn’t my favorite Valentine’s episode, but it was pretty good.

This is probably the least Liz-focused episode to date because every cast member has some plot to deal with. The overarching theme is that the writers have to stay up all night to finish the episode after some food-poisoning caused by Cleveland clams set them back.

1. Jack finalizes his divorce from Bianca and then wallows in a sea of pity and booze.

2. Tracy tries to spend the night with his wife, finally played by Sherrie Shepherd. Weird roleplaying ensues.

I am very annoying in real life, but very funny on this show.

I am very annoying in real life, but very funny on this show.

3. Jenna doesn’t understand why Frank always kills her when playing “Boff, Marry, Kill.”

4. Kenneth tries to get with Cerie after she says she would do him while playing “Boff, Marry, Kill.”

5. Liz receives flowers from a mystery person.

6. Pete forgot to get his wife a Valentine’s/Birthday gift.

7. Cerie is fighting with her fiance because she refuses to have a Greek Orthodox wedding because she disagrees with the church’s stance on Cyprus.

The main thrust is plot 1, which continues yesterday’s theme of humanizing Jack. He’s still a crazy rich person — a main asset in his divorce is an Arby’s he and Bianca bought because they love hamburgers — but he’s a flawed, broken, crazy rich person. He also mentions the love letters he wrote Bianca, which made me think of a young, romantic, hopeful Jack, and then I got sort of sad. He also specifically mentions making love on the floor of the Conchord with Bianca, and all references to the Conchord make me giggle.

This relationship is crazy screwed up though. No wonder Jack struggles to figure out what happiness is; he thinks this sex/hate/murder thing is love. I’m not sure I was struck by how sad Jack’s life is the first time I watched. So much focus is on Liz’s misery, but Jack isn’t doing better.

Also, Rachel Dratch appears again as his prostitute.

Never leave me Rachel

Never leave me Rachel

The other plot I find interesting is the Frank and Jenna plot. it all starts with the writers playing Boff, Marry Kill. Let’s talk about the two trios they consider.

The women: Jenna, Liz, Cerie.

Frank marries Liz, boffs Cerie, and kills Jenna. I’m not sure my choice would be the same. Liz and I are pretty similar — would our relationship go down in Jack and Bianca-esque flames? Potentially. I might just try to marry whoever was richest. In season one that might be Liz, but Jenna probably isn’t hurting financially either. And Jenna would probably do a lot of crazy stuff in bed…

So! Marry Liz, Boff Jenna, Kill Cerie. Sorry girl

The men: Toofer, Lutz, Kenneth. Cerie marries Toofer, kills Lutz and gets with Kenneth. Considering Kenneth in any sort of sexual way is weird, though. If I consider Kenneth’s future career, then I’d marry Kenneth, get with Toofer, and kill Lutz. Otherwise, Cerie is right.

Anyway, so Jenna confronts Frank about why he keeps hypothetically killing her, and he explains that she’s too fake. Honestly, he’s completely right. I think that’s part of the reason why the Liz and Jenna friendship falls a little flat sometimes. Jenna is so rarely genuine, and she might only become faker as the seasons continue and she becomes more famous.

Jenna is also right when she tells Frank, “You spend just as much time and energy trying to look look as I do trying to be beautiful.” But she’s still missing the authenticity point, though.

But I left this exchange thinking about what an amazing couple Frank and Jenna would have been. A quick perusal of Tumblr leads me to believe that literally one other person thinks this is a good idea. There appear to be no fan fiction stories about this couple.

But it actually feels like a really interesting couple. There are so many things Jenna thinks she wants, and Frank is none of those, but I think it would have helped her get in touch with her more authentic side. And Frank would have had to clean up his act. True love!

Alright, this mostly would have just been funny. But the actors have really good chemistry — which is why they end up with a lot of plot lines together — and seeing that turn into a long-term, romantic situation would have been funny.

But the biggest long-term plot development happens at the end, when Floyd walks in, having sent his flowers to Liz Lemon instead of his girlfriend, Liz Lemler.

And man, Floyd is gorgeous. And funny. This is the Liz relationship that I mourned until Kris arrived.

But our last moment of the episode was really weird because of this caption:

what.

what.

This has not appeared in any other episode’s captions. Also, the “30 Rock” captions, as I’ve mentioned, are full of things that people don’t say. Not mistakes, just words that aren’t said or are suddenly changed. An instrumental rap track has lyrics, an orgy at Elizabeth’s turns into an orgy at Elizabeth Hasslebeck’s. WHAT IS CAPTION MAX DOING?

Bits & Pieces

Jack goes on a long rant about Bianca while suddenly moving from place to place, indicating the passage of time. A similar montage showed Liz stealing a baby a few episodes ago. I never noticed how iconically “30 Rock” that narrative move is.

Best Liz one-liner: When she calls the flower shop to find out who send the flowers, she says, “No, I’m not with so many men that it’s impossible to tell who it’s from.”

Liz is taking off her bra when Floyd walks in. Classic Liz. Props to “30 Rock” for subverting the meet-cute.

Jenna participates in Vagina Day: “A group of celebrities who have never been invited to do the ‘Vagina Monologues’ improvise monologues about their lady parts for the homeless … just for them.”

Character I related to most: Liz because she’s alone on Valentine’s Day.

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: When Cerie calls him an old-soul, he says, “My mama thinks so too. In fact, she’s pretty sure I’m the reincarnated soul of Adren Twyfer. He was our town minister who died in an organ fire.” ……….

1. I also love their Christmas episodes, season 6’s “St. Patrick’s Day” episode is amazing, and it’s probably the only show that has a Leap Day episode. I love you “30 Rock.”
2. We’re going to take a moment here to appreciate Cerie. She’s often just the silly millenial — before that word was in our lexicon — but she’s also pretty smart and funny.

Such a good episode. Obviously, this is the episode when we finally get the details on Jenna’s amazing movie, “The Rural Juror,” based off a Kevin Grisham novel.1  Apparently, Tony Hawk plays a blind character.

But this episode is actually the most essential piece in the puzzle that is Jenna and Liz’s relationship. When Liz hates “The Rural Juror,” she compares it to other things she say Jenna in back in the day, things that were also awful, forcing Liz to come up with bland compliments. Liz remembers herself as supportive, while Jenna remembers her as mean.

In Liz’s defense, the three flashbacks are to Jenna’s performances in “The Jenna Chronicles,” “Con-Air: The Musical,” and at a freestyle rap contest. “Con-Air,” of course, is a Nicholas Cage movie about a prison riot on an airplane. This isn’t the last time we see Liz remember herself as nicer than she really was, and it’s a good reminder that our narrator is pretty flawed.

Also, past-Liz looks like Velma from Scooby Doo:

Jinkies.

Jinkies.

Eventually the writers verify that “The Rural Juror” is a decent movie, and that Jenna is pretty good in it. Teenmoviescene.com even gave it five out of five iPods!

Anyway, Liz finally admits that she is sort of jealous, because even though she’s happy with her job, because the dream was for her and Jenna to be famous together. Of course, Jenna pointed out the impracticality of that dream: “You couldn’t have been serious about acting. you have brown hair.”

But I actually think this is the height of Liz and Jenna’s friendship on the show. Last episode I noted how bizarre it was to see Jenna in Liz’s apartment; I’ll let you know if it does, in fact, happen again. In season one, their relationship is about friendship, even if work stuff gets in the way of that sometimes.2  But in later seasons, their relationship becomes increasingly boss-employee. Liz is constantly “handling” Jenna’s drama, which isn’t the right verb for friendship. As she becomes better friends with Jack, her friendship with Jenna loses its oomph.

Of course, Jenna is to blame too. As she points out at the episode’s beginning, “TGS” has two movie stars now, and Jenna will use that for every piece of diva behavior she can. This episode, then, is the turning point.

Speaking of Tracy, this episode he and Jack have a scheme to get him some money quickly: the Tracy Morgan meat machine, which uses meat instead of bread to make sandwiches. Did no one at KFC ever see this episode? Did they watch it and think “what a great idea?” Is Tina a psychic? We have no way of knowing.

The meat machine’s shoddy craftsmanship and propensity to cause severe burns reminded me of The Cornballer on “Arrested Development.” But this plot line is actually ridiculous and I almost want to quote the whole thing to you. Instead, three highlights.

Tracy asks Dr. Spaceman if bread rots your brain, to which he replies, “We have no way of knowing because the powerful bread lobby keeps stopping my research.” This is actually one of my favorite quotes and I continually reference it in real life, often to people’s confusion.

Tracy offers to repay Jack for his help by making him a mix CD.

Tracy: You like Phil Collins?

Jack: I’ve got two ears and a heart, don’t I?

The window shade behind Jack contains a flow chart of GE’s many subsidiaries:

Screenshot 2014-07-03 19.00.43

NBC, you’ll note, is classified as a domestic appliance, and, as is frequently mentioned on the show, controlled by Sheinhardt Wig Company.

And one more thing:

Rachel Dratch’s best cameo was as Barbara Walters on “The View” rambling total nonsense at Jenna in the vain of the now-iconic “Rural Juror” song. Did the finale make me obsessed with all “Rural Juror” mentions or did Tina just inherently know how much the world loves that plot line? We have no way of knowing.

Bits & Pieces

Most ridiculous sketch title: “MTV Darfur”

Tracy’s goatee is back. Of all the actors, I would say he seems to have aged the most since 2006.

Things we know about Josh: He let Tony, the creepy security guard, watch him pee so he could get the screener of “The Rural Juror” from Liz’s office.

Jack has moved from Condaleeza Rice to Maureen Dowd.

Best Pete one-liner: “For the first time in your life you’ll be in a room full of women and you’ll be the least crazy one,” about Jenna’s appearance on “The View”

Continuity: Liz is outraged that Jenna slept with her brother because he was “in a really bad skiing accident.”

Character I related to most:

Grizz invested all of Tracy’s money in Worldcom.

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: He’s in an intense feud with one of the prop guys.

1. B.J. Novak’s book of short stories, “One More Thing,” also has a short story about John Grisham, which is very funny. Did B.J. just watch “30 Rock” until he got enough short story ideas? We have no way of knowing.
2. Liz uses her position to her advantage brilliantly, though, during her fight with Jenna. She gives her impressions she can’t do, like Bill Clinton. I think I read a Mike Schur quote once about how he writes impressions Amy Poehler can’t do into “Parks and Rec.”

Our three plots:

1. Cerie’s announcement of her engagement helps Liz realize that she’s baby crazy.

2. Jack tries to avoid his mother, who won’t stop calling.

3. Tracy is angry that Josh keeps impersonating him.

Plots two and three were both funny. Jack’s stories of his mother’s shenanigans (see below) were funny, and watching him stress eat to cope with it was hilarious (see below). Meanwhile, the Tracy/Josh plot has to be the most screen time Josh ever gets on the show, and he did a good job with it. Too bad it’s fleeting.

But I want to talk about the Liz plot, because I think it’s at the center of both the character and the show.

The episode begins with Jenna trying to sing “The Greatest Love of All” at her birthday party, which provides great foreshadowing for the episode: “I believe the children are out future.”1 

The young, beautiful Cerie interrupts to announce her engagement, and Liz worries that she’s too young. Cerie’s reasons for getting married are pretty solid though:

“We both wanna have babies while it’s still cool.”

“You can have a career any time, but you only have a short period to be a young, hot mom.”

Liz counters that there are other things that matter, like working, your career, your job, working… Oops. By the episode’s end, Liz admits to Jack that he was right all along: She does need to work on her personal life. If this seems like a cliche, don’t worry — “30 Rock” subverts it in the end. Liz proclaims, “Maybe it’s impossible to have it all … But if anyone can figure it out, it’s me!” Then Jack points out the elevator she just got on is going in the wrong direction. Oh nerds!

This gets to the key reason why I love Liz. The question at the heart of “30 Rock” is about what it means and what it takes to be happy. And as a workplace comedy, the two main characters, Jack and Liz, often define happiness as professional success, only to find that interpretation lacking.

I would like to suggest that as a 21-year-old woman at the beginning of her career who recently graduated college, I feel so much pressure to focus just on my career. Leaning in doesn’t leave time for a boyfriend, or friends, or looking at World Cup tweets when you should be focusing on your work. But those are the things that make us happy.

So although I’m not as baby crazy as Liz — who accidentally steals a baby — I relate to the struggle she showcased in this episode, the struggle at the heart of the character’s journey. It speaks to an experience I’ve seen older women have, and a journey I now embark on. You don’t care that you’re single, but you feel sort of alone. You’re happy you have so much work, but you also want to goof off. Liz handles it with absolutely zero social grace, which is refreshing.

But since this is “30 Rock” it’s also really funny, especially as people put themselves forward as potential baby daddys.2  The funniest offer comes from these three amigos:

Screenshot 2014-07-02 20.19.44

Can we just imagine Liz’s babies with these guys ?

Baby Lemon-Lutz would be the most socially awkward, sheltered child ever. Lutz would be strangely protective and Liz would be so uptight all the time. She would also spend a lot of time regretting her choice of mate

Baby FrankenLiz wouldn’t help her mellow out either though, because she would be so afraid that Frank would scar the child for life with his lackadaisical/misogynistic ways that she would become his polar opposite. That kid is going to make a very lucky therapist very rich.

Toofer’s right: his baby with Liz would have a better chance at getting into Harvard. But at what cost? What cost?3 

Bits and Pieces:

If I were giving out awards for season 1, Jonathan would be Rookie of the Year. Or most underrated character. It’s not what he says, but the way he says it — and the way he silently responds to what Liz says.

Champ

Champ

Best Ridiculous Sketch Title: “Jazz Police,” which apparently stars Jenna

Things we know about Josh: He does a surprisingly good Tracy impression. Tracy tasered him once. He does an adequate Jack Donaghy.

Jenna and Liz have a girls’ night at Liz’s complete with red wine and cake, and I think it’s the only time we see Jenna at Liz’s apartment ever. Liz apparently gets sad when she drinks red wine, another thing I can relate to…

Jack stress eating moment of the episode: When he fills his pockets with m&m’s from a candy bowl

Colleen Donaghy badass moment of the episode: When Jack tells us,  “My mother tried to send me to Vietnam to make a man out of me. I was 12.”

Foreshadowing: Grizz approaches Liz with flowers to offer to be her baby daddy.

Screenshot 2014-07-02 20.28.56

Jenna told “Life and Style” her favorite book is the Quran.

Tracy-ism of the episode: “This is untoward! This is not toward!”

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: When Jack tells him to go to hell, he says, “Thank you.” Jack interprets this, but perhaps Kenneth is such a lonely immortal that he would appreciate any death, even if it means eternal damnation.

1. Let’s take a moment to honor what a beautiful singer Jane Krakowski is. OK. 
2. Rachel Dratch even offers to be her surrogate. 
3. In real life, Toofer’s wedding was written up in “Vows” in The New York Times and it sounded really sweet. Also, I have an unhealthy obsession with this column, and have considered doing a Nate Silver-esque statistical study of it. One day.

Despite my oft-mentioned love of Dennis Duffy, I was excited when I saw the episode’s title. Liz needed to move on.

But before I get to the episode, an aside about Rachel Dratch:

I didn’t plan on talking about the Rachel Dratch-thing, but then my friend — and most loyal reader, probably — asked who the “extra” was that kept showing up, so I felt bad not explaining.

Said friend hates SNL, so she didn’t know that Rachel was a long-time SNL castmember. My favorite Rachel Dratch character is forever the Boston teen, Denise, who made hilarious videos with her boyfriend Sully, played by my fav Jimmy Fallon. Here’s a link to one of those sketches.

Rachel Dratch was originally cast as Jenna on “30 Rock.” In fact, the Liz-Jenna backstory is clearly at least inspired by Tina and Rachel’s real life friendship: They met in Chicago, did comedy together, and came up with a critically acclaimed two-woman show.

The original pilot isn’t online (that I could find, at least), but here are some clips of Rachel as Jenna:

Anyway, then they swapped Rachel for Jane Krakowski. Rachel has a great, passive aggressive interview with “New York Magazine” from right after the show debuted.1 An excerpt:

What happened there? 
I think the big thing was—at least what they told me—that at first they wanted to have more comedy sketches in the show. Then they decided they weren’t going to focus on the sketches, so they needed more of a sitcom actress, as opposed to a character actress.

That’s very diplomatic. Ha! Yes, I’m phrasing this all very nicely. That’s the party line, at least—it’s what I can tell my parents!

Were you pissed? 
Well, when Tina told me I was going to play different characters each show, I was actually psyched about it, because it sounded really unique. But then the media kind of ran with this “demotion” thing, so that was kind of a bummer. But whatever, I’m over it.

How many episodes will you be in? 
Six, but that’s a whole other thing. I was kind of like, Why do I only have six? But then I decided I shouldn’t open my trap too much, so I just left it at that.

Then there was all this dumb media stuff about whether Rachel is too ugly for Hollywood. She talks about it elegantly here.

Anyway, I don’t have any interest in discussing whether Rachel is too ugly to be Jenna, because she’s obviously not. It would have been a very different show with Rachel as Jenna  because she has different strengths and a different personality.

Moving on!

Liz broke up with Dennis and is having doubts. This leads to the creation of an amazing Pro/Con list about Dennis, which I have partially transcribed for your benefit.

Pros

– good chili

– remembers my birthday

– rarely wants to do it

– doesn’t care about money

– loyal

– too lazy to cheat

– loves The Simpsons

– has already seen me throw up two times

– good hair

– fixed tv

Cons

– dental hygeine

– wears acid wash

– not much money

– Catholic

– doesn’t like his mother

– I don’t like his mother

– his mother doesnt like me

– loves Family Guy

– reads The Post

– insists on spending the holidays with his mother

– has seen me throw up

– attempted threesome

– racist

“Jack likes Dennis” ends up on both sides of the list. In the words of future Liz:

And the final Dealbreaker? Dennis ends up on an episode of “To Catch a Predator,” complete with the real Chris Hansen. 2006. What a simpler time.

Screenshot 2014-07-01 21.19.14

(This reminds me that BJ Novak’s book of short stories, “One More Thing,” which I highly recommend, has a really funny story about Chris Hansen at a Justin Bieber concert. You should check it out.)

Anyway, I will miss you Dennis Duffy and your attempts to claim that both love and squatter’s rights should keep Liz from kicking you out. What a treasure.

I mentioned that Jack likes Dennis. Why the sudden turnaround of opinion? Dennis gave Jack some advice about his ladyfriend: Condaleeza Rice.

Jack is on point this episode.2  He thinks Condi might be cheating on him with Putin when he sees Vlad squeeze her butt on TV. When Liz mocks her, Jack calls Liz a “godless, glassy-eyed Clintonista,” a description with which she vigorously agrees.

Meanwhile Toofer and Tracy are at an impasse re: their different expressions of black masculinity. This leads to Jack explaining to Toofer the re-appropriation of the n-word, which is a completely hilarious moment. But their inability to find common ground is clear: Toofer refers to Bill Cosby as “Dr. Cosby” while Tracy quotes “Professor Martin Luther King” as having said “I have a feeling.” Awkward.

Bits & Pieces:

Everything we know about Josh: His parents raised him as a girl for ten years. End list.

Best Frank line: “Everybody loves a dude in a dress. Those are the best Bugs Bunnies.”

A selected excerpt from Dennis’ goodbye letter: “And for the first time since the ’86 Series I cried … but there’s a new thing called ‘women’s liberation’ and you have chosen to abort me.”

Character I related to most: Liz. Not only is she rude to all the straight men at the bar, but the only guy she “clicks” with is gay. And she utters perhaps my favorite Liz line: “But I already have a drink…”

Screenshot 2014-07-01 21.01.06

 

Tracy’s goatee is mercifully gone.

Best Frank hat: E.S.P. tutor

“Mean Girls” reference that is not really a “Mean Girls” reference: The song Liz sings at karaoke is by Janis Ian:

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: Sadly there was no Kenneth this episode. I also think this was the first Pete-less episode. I am less sad about this. Sorry Pete.

 

1. Also, in retrospect the question about “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” is hilarious. Tina Fey > Aaron Sorkin every day.
2. I squealed when he asked Liz if she was crying because the Liberty lost last night, a plot thread that will get picked up in a later season.

The first episode I ever saw — which, again, will be revealed in time — was very Dennis heavy, so I get inordinately excited when an episode features a strong Dennis plot. After a couple of name drops in the first five episodes, we see him in the flesh.

What a vivid character Dennis is. Through Dennis, we learn so much about what Liz thinks of herself. “The only beeper salesman left in Manhattan” is a decidedly horrible boyfriend. The best thing he contributes is the ingenious game “Daughter or Mistress,” in which he and Liz look at old men and predict their dates’ identities.1

Dennis is both the source and subject of some of the episode’s best lines. His obsession with rats — “You know there are 17 rats per person in New York” — included a particularly vivid description of a rat king.2 He also claims that beepers will come back because “Technology’s cyclical” and orders chicken nugget-like cod at a fancy restaurant because “I’m actually allergic to fish unless it’s fried.”

This serves as further reason for Jack to try to bring Lemon under his wing as a successful mentee. He even introduces Liz to a former, successful mentee as an example, but how Jack managed to actually help someone remains a mystery, since, as we and Liz realize, he’s “just an alcoholic with a great voice.”

Liz accepts Jack’s tutelage because “Sadly you might be the most stable person I know right now.”3 That’s because Jenna has gone off the deep-end trying to make herself seem young. There’s a hilarious exchange where Jack asks her how old she is; she says 29, so he asks for her year of birth, prom theme, teenage crush, and what movie she lost of her virginity to. Her answers are immediate. He doesn’t believe her, so she goes to some extreme surgical measures:

Ouch.

Ouch.

Meanwhile Tracy is trying to regain his street cred after a magazine called him normal, so he gets matching face tattoos of a “biblical dragon from face.” His justification?

Tracy: You take away my street cred and I am Wayne Brady.

Liz: No, Wayne Brady has three Emmys. You have a People’s Choice Award that you stole from Wayne Brady.

Liz eventually  finds out he drew the dragons on with Crayola markers.

Iconic

Iconic. Also, that season one goatee is hilarious.

Even Josh, the most forgotten castmember, gets something funny to do this episode. Apparently he occasionally makes fun of Liz Taylor on the show and she is not amused. She shows up at the studio to beat Josh with a fire extinguisher while yelling White Diamonds, the name of her perfume.

We only see Liz’s eyes:

This is probably my favorite Rachel Dratch moment of the show. I'll let you know if that changes.

This is probably my favorite Rachel Dratch moment of the show. I’ll let you know if that changes.

Overall, great episode. Dennis Duffy is a national treasure.

Bits & Pieces

Frank wears his Ninja Expert hat again. It’s the first hat we saw him in, and also appeared in episode four.

Best Islanders dig: Dennis is suicidal because the islanders lost. Liz replies, “Doesn’t that happen a lot?” It does Liz. It does.

Foreshadowing: Tracy tells Liz she can’t cover his tattoos because it’s in his contract. When Liz contests this, Pete says, “Actually, he’s got a pretty weird contract.”

Character I related to most: Liz when she sat at her desk writing and singing “Maybe” from “Annie” aloud. I have definitely done this before.

Most bizarre pop culture reference: Liz tells Jenna she can’t judge Dennis because Jenna “wrote Scott Peterson a letter once.”

Most bizarre literary reference: Liz apparently let Tracy do a tribute to August Wilson only to find out that Tracy didn’t know who that was.

Best one-liner: When Jack sees Dennis’ dinner and comments “I didn’t know they sold chicken nuggets at this restaurant,” it wasn’t particularly quotable, but it stung.

Hints that Kenneth is immortal/mystical/terrifying: None. He was only in one scene, giving a tour.

A scientific ranking of Liz’s boyfriends from most to least hilarious: Dennis Duffy, Conan O’Brien

1. In Dennis’ defense, this is a pretty amazing game that I plan on playing whenever possible.”
2. When the tails of a group of rats become entangled and then the bodies fuse together, they’re a rat king (May or may not be an urban legend).”
3. Did I point out that this has been one of the most quotable episodes so far? The dialogue was snappy.