30 Rock: Season 7, Episode 9
Game Over
These last few episodes of 30 Rock are in full on wrap-up mode, bringing back tons of guest stars and wrapping up ongoing storylines and generally acting as a satisfying final chapter to the series. Most shows limp across the finish line, but this one seems dedicated to striding triumphantly to its end. "Game On" is another in a line of great episodes, part of a final season that is shaping up as a strong return to form. From the early, glorious return of Leo Spaceman, who leaves the show not in handcuffs, but as the new Surgeon General, to the return of Steve Buscemi's private eye, Will Arnett's Devon Banks, and Chloe Moretz' Kaylie Hooper, this episode is a murderer's row of returning fan favorites, all in fine form. Also, Octavia Spencer is there to out-crazy Tracy and Megan Mullally gets a nice moment as an adoption consultant. If this paragraph alone doesn't just make you smile warmly before (and after) laughing hilariously, I don't know what to tell you. But I am a happy camper.

The best of tonight's stories was, unsurprisingly, Jack's rivalry with Kaylie Hooper. When Hank Hooper announces his imminent retirement when he turns 70, Jack, realizing his plan to tank NBC hasn't worked out (Celebrity Homonym is a surprising success, and also an amazing running gag) launches his end game. He hires Buscemi to infiltrate Kaylie's school, teams up with Devon Banks, and throws Jenna Maroney at the problem. In other words, he is clearly engaged in a fake scheme, which is soon revealed to be a distraction to ensure Kaylie forgets her grandfather's birthday while Jack endears himself to Hank.

It's strange how satisfying it is watching Jack systematically destroy a fifteen-year-old girl. But it isn't strange that seeing Baldwin and Arnett back together is a joy, nor that Moretz continues to be hilarious as Kaylie. This plot line was basically just a huge heaping helping of fan service, bringing back beloved characters, turning Buscemi into a drag queen who decides to stay in his persona as a female drama teacher, and throwing everyone in Jack's office for a parlor room mystery-style ending. In short, it was sublime, a hilarious plot line that managed to recall some of the shows highlights without feeling like a retread (or worse, shudder, a clip show).

In the show's glorious B-plot, Tracy's directorial career runs into trouble when his Harriet Tubman biopic is derailed by the antics of Octavia Spencer. Spencer (who is unsurprisingly stellar and hilarious) thinks perhaps the script should be changed so her character can walk through walls, wear a tshirt promoting her website, and maybe be called Harriet Tubgirl to sound less like a dude. Also, the movie can't be set in Maryland, because of her feud with Cal Ripken Jr. I just wanted more of this, which is great for a show that often coasts in its subplots, especially in its later years.

LIz's story was slight tonight, but I liked the idea that dealing with Tracy over the past seven years has basically given her the experience of mothering an infant and toddler, and makes her more comfortable with the idea of adopting an older child. Is it weird that she doesn't even consult Criss in this decision? Only if you don't just write it off as James Marsden not being available for this episode, or the show saving money by sidelining him in a week where Liz has less to do anyway. Ultimately, I thought this was less a plotline and more a sweet emotional beat for Liz Lemon, but the show has been nailing those this year and this one is lovely, even if it is slight.

As I watched "Game On," I couldn't help but wish that it was an hour long episode or, even more insanely, that all of 30 Rock's final stretch was super sized. The show had so much going on tonight, and all of it was working so well, I just never wanted it to end. If we could have seen more of Octavia Spencer with a fire extinguisher reenacting Tracy's freak out from the pilot or Steve Buscemi's new life as a drama teacher, I would have lapped it up. The jokes flew so fast tonight, and landed so frequently, it was a beauty to behold. I've been coping well with the imminent end of one of my favorite comedies of the past decade by reminding myself that its time for it to end and contrasting it with the deathless immortal behemoth How I Met Your Mother. I tell myself that the show will leave with its legacy intact, ending at the top of its game. But when the highs are this high, it makes me consider how much I will miss 30 Rock when its gone.

I'll save most of my sap for my review of the finale (which I'm sure will be all sorts of saccharine, so get ready for that), but this week, 30 Rock continued to provide an ending befitting a show of its quality. I can't wait for more, but also, the more we get, the closer we are to the end. It's a bittersweet feeling, but of the sort that only goes along with great art.

Grade: A


-I hope you're all cool with me just giving the rest of this show "A" grades. If it stays this good, it will deserve them.

-"Carol, they're towing your car!" "Damn it, my kids are in there!"

-"Sorry, it's the other one."

-"It'll work great! Just like Conan and Jay!"

-"I'm taking hormone shots to have a baby you little bitch! A beautiful little baby..."

-"Octavia, excellent, you're black."

-"I'm done for the day. I've gotta go home and feed my eels. They're not electric, but I have a plan."

-"Boy, Jay Z and Shakespeare have nothing in common. Or do they..."

-"Ok, I don't know why you had to be a woman..."

-"I can give you a six year old yesterday. Pick a color."

-"Steve Forbes was born a ball of fingers. He had the best surgeons money can buy. But you can still tell."

-"You are off the rails!" "Thanks for the compliment, Lemon. Train travel is for hobos."

-"Damn it, why do I keep helping you? I'll do anything for approval. I would have been a Nazi!"

-"Jack, pleasure is the name of a pony I hate. This is business."

-"FYI, Kaylie is my best friend, so I sit next to her at the movies." "Why can't she just sit in the middle?"
Tags: 30 Rock
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