30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 5
The Problem Solvers
In my review last week, I said that I was not yet ready to throw in the towel and declare 30 Rock in a slump as many critics have this season, and I hoped the show would show a gallant return to form this week. My faith has been rewarded, as "The Problem Solvers" is easily the best episode so far this season, and definitely a return to the type of episode this show should be turning out on a weekly basis. Each season of 30 Rock has started out a bit shaky and then found its footing as it went along. I hope that this episode shows us the buildup is over, but only the next few weeks will let us know if we're out of the woods and into the sun of comedic genius just yet.

The plot this week centers on Jack offering Liz her own talk show based on her hit book Dealbreakers. She at first accepts, but at the advice of Tracy and Jenna (whose plotline I'll get to in a minute) she decides to play hardball instead, hiring an agent and exploring her options. Long time viewers should know this was a foolish step, as no one is better at business and negotiations than Jack Donaghy, but Liz set out with her agent, who had just begun catering to humans and primates after a long career of representing dogs. She managed to secure a meeting with the maverick producer of Sport-Shouting (a program where analysts simply shout their opinions at the same time). We all knew where she would end up, but the hilarious and slightly heartfelt take on romantic comedy endings as she and Jack realized they were (professionally) perfect for each other and shook hands really hit home.

After his hiring last week, the robot, revealed tonight to be a Canadian immigrant named Danny (his real name is Jack, but there aren't allowed to be two Jack's, so now he is Danny) who just wants to get on everybody's nice side. This includes Kenneth, so he refuses to let the page do anything for him. Unfortunately, Tracy and Jenna, who have dubbed themselves "The Problem Solvers" of the episode's title, see the wisdom of this practice and leave Kenneth with nothing to do. This plotline winds up in a hysterically absurd sequence in which Kenneth proves how good he is at his job by producing a pizza box to assuage Tracy's hunger, then revealing that the box is in fact full of the waffles he secretly desired. Everyone cheered inexplicably and Kenneth grinned like a mad man, and the whole world was right again.

I would be remiss if I did not mention tonight's cameo by Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef fame, who Jack brings in to host Dealbreakers in Liz's stead. Padma is not much of a comedic actress, but the show uses her pretty wooden delivery to its advantage as she proves that she has gotten by simply on her beauty and then steals some of Jack's food, cramming it into a clear sandwich storage bag she claims to have invented and has therefore embroidered with her own initials. She may not have lit up the episode on her own, but the show new just how to use her, more evidence of a strong return to form. This episode was not perfect, but it made me laugh harder and more often than anything else the series has provided so far this season, and it gave me hope for the weeks to come.

Grade: A-


-In China, Liz's name is Lesbian Yellow Sourfruit.

-The continuity gag was a cute, inoffensive sort of meta joke, even if it was a bit obvious and on the nose.

-"Must I live by Superman's moral code and will the sex woman get older?" The questions of our age.

-"Spit take! Are you serious?" I love when the characters simply say what they would do or what is going on. The best other examples are Tracy's "wordplay!" and when every character gasps and says "twist!"

-"I feel about as useless as a mom's college degree."

- Another in the growing list of successful books in 30 Rock land: The Founding Father's Diet.

-"I've already spoken to Padma." "Then who's going to host Top Chef? You're ruining my life!"

-"Kenneth, you can't be a page forever." "Who said I've been alive forever?" I love the running joke that Kenneth is immortal. So absurd but so consistently hilarious.

-Tracy makes Kenneth brush his teeth.

-"Do you want to switch where we're standing or switch our shirts?" "Just to be safe let's do both." I'm no Jenna fan, but when she's paired with Tracy, a lot of good tends to come of it.

-"I didn't get a bathroom door that looks like a wall from being bad at business."

-"What's a problem other than a stripper having a seizure on your boat disguised as an opportunity?"
Tags: 30 Rock
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