30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 2
When It Rains, It Pours
Remember how I went on and on last week about 30 Rock's fall from glory and how I refused to recalibrate my expectations yet because of a deep seated, though fast receding hope that the show had not lost its charm? Well I would have been eating my words all episode this week if I hadn't been laughing too hard to do so (that line right there is why instead of writing on 30 Rock I write a little read blog in a dusty corner of the internet where long forgotten dreams go to quietly die). This was easily the best episode of 30 Rock in the last year, mixing a variety of brilliant plotlines with the verve of the show during its early glory years, and not dropping the ball in even one of them.

At the forefront, Liz realizes that being in a relationship gives her a confidence that makes her attractive to other men, and imediately sets about taking advantage of that to get what she needs out of the head of the editing department (Paul Giamatti, really stretching his wheelhouse by playing a sad sack). Giamatti was certainly playing a familiar type here, but he nailed the role nevertheless, mixing the perfect amount of comic geekiness and social desperation into his deep seated loneliness and unrequited love for his assistant editor. He uses Liz' fliration to begin a rumor that he is sleeping with her in order to draw the attention of his assistant, and their fake break up at the end of the episode (in which Liz throws in all of the tidbits that will make him attractive to his assistant) was very solid.

Jack, meanwhile, realizes that he is going to be an old dad, and sets out teaching his son the ways of the world on videotape in case he dies before he can impart his wisdom in person. This is a plotline that has been done numerous times before (even once on The Office, which follows 30 Rock directly at this point, and used to precede it directly), yet the plotline wasn't so much a story as an excuse to put Alec Baldwin in front of a camera and just let him throw out one-liner gold for the entire episode (some of which I will recount in the Notes section, which will be extensive tonight). Much of last season mired Jack and/or Liz in story heavy plotlines, which the show has never done all that well. Tonight, Jack was allowed to just be Jack with a plotline so light that there was no need for any exposition, just a continuous flow of brilliant and absurd jokes.

Which is the exact tactic that lead to even greater success in Tracy's subplot this week. Of all the one-liner machines doubling as characters on 30 Rock, Tracy is the character that needs the least prompting. Just putting him in a room allows for the possibility of a long, absurd riff of one liners, and the show took it up another level when he became a contestant on Cash Cab and had to win in order to make it to the birth of his daughter. Again, this is a razor thin plotline that allows for a constant stream of jokes, and even a glimmer of heart (which is all I would ever hope to see out of the generally heart-free show) when Tracy shares the joys of fathering a daughter with Jack (who learns that he is not having a son after all). Thrown into the background of all of these plots (often literally) is Kenneth, who has been sneaking around NBC making sure everything he used to do gets done. The show was clearly going to bring Kenneth back, and this seemed as funny and effortless a way to do it as any.

From its inauspicious premiere, 30 Rock has leapt forward into its fifth season with an episode for the ages. After last week left me pretty numb to the prospect of the show's return to brilliance, this week probably contained more laughter than I ever could have hoped for. As Liz and Jenna say in unison at the episode's opening (and perhaps a little knowingly, 30 Rock writers), when it rains, it pours.

Grade: A


-"Not because you're not cute. You are. Like a pretty refugee on the news."

-This is just whar I need...to store my rock collection!"

-"Do you remember my tattoo mishap? It was supposed to say 'Peace' but it says 'White Hooker' instead."

-"I missed the birth of my sons, for both good reasons." "Cooking a french bread pizza, and forgot."

-"Will I even be there for his first subpoena? Will I live to see that father-son bonding moment when you both realize you were at a masked orgy at the same castle?"

-"I don't get why people like brunch. What's the benefit of combining break dancing and lunch?"

-"That song 'You're So Vain' was in fact written...by me."

-"What are you guys working on?" "A piece for The Today Show about how next month is October."

-"So to get to the birth of my daughter, I have to answer trivia questions, despite having gone to middle school at an Exxon Station?"

-"Your new vibe is a double edged sword. Much like the one Mickey Rourke once tried to kill me with."

-"Neighbors who wear my exact size don't die every day!"

-"...because Centipeding means having sex with 100 women."

-"After I'm gone, your mother might meet someone else. I want her to be happy...so his death must look like an accident."

-"Drugs during childbirth? Isn't the whole point feeling God punish you?"

-" 'And the tree was happy.' Shel Silverstein was a communist."

-"Tracy Jordan: Hero. Husband. Diabetic Alcoholic."

-I like that immeditaley after Tracy wins Cash Cab, he can't figure out how to open a door.

-"I wouldn't have missed what just happened here for anything!"

-"Also, I have given a whole lot of money to the Catholic Church and I have been assured I will have special powers in Heaven."

-"I hate to say I told you so, so Welcome to Miami!"
Tags: 30 Rock
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