30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 8
Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish
You'll forgive me, 30 Rock fans, if this review is a little brief, but after the novel I just posted on tonight's Community episode my fingers, and my soul, are tired. This week's episode finds Liz seeking counsel from ears that are not attached to the head of Jack Donaghy, as he sends her out to get professional help. In a strangely elliptical episode (or perhaps not, considering its title), Liz seeks help from Kenneth, who seeks help from Jack, who claims to be able to destroy all of hsi issues in a mental vice, but ends up receiving the help he really needs when he tried to help Tracy help his "son."

Let's start at the beginning. Liz Lemon has to be among the upper echelons of the most psychologically messed up characters in the history of television (she might even give Tony Soprano a run for his money if she got the chance to sit in Dr. Melfi's chair for a few months, and most of the patients on In Treatment are a psychological cake walk by comparison), and tonight is no different. Liz worries that Carol is growing distant, which stems from her fear that all men are betrayors, which in turn stems from a ridiculous amount of horrible experiences (she tried to seek revenge on Santa who blew up at her, her divorced aunt used to make her wear her uncle's cologne and give her a massage in the bathtub, all of her boyfriends in high school were either gay of girls dressed up as boys to win journalism scholarships) that have occurred throughout her life. She unburdens all of this on Kenneth, who seems able to handle it, especially considering the regular stream of demeaning, menial tasks he bears with a smile. Yet the deep, deep issues that plague Liz get to Kenneth and he goes completely insane...

...Until Jack steps in and takes a look at Kenneth's head. Kenneth's problems mostly stem from a terrible Oedipal situation in which he was forced by financial straits to devour the pig that had served as his surrogate father figure in order to afford his ticket to New York to become a low level employee at a last place network. I was surprised and a little disappointed that the "Kenneth's been alive forever" joke didn't crop up tonight, but on the whole, this was a dark, hysterical Kenneth story.

Jack is so disturbed by Kenneth's patricide that his own father issues crop up. It seems that Jack always wanted to be a scientist (which makes his cleaning of the Princeton monkey cages slightly sadder) but his dad convinced him he couldn't cut it because he mispronounced the word protein while rehearsing for an elementary school play. This ties in with his efforts to help Tracy, who is trying to cut his "son" off after another business idea tanks. Jack decides he was wrong, and that Tracy should continue supporting his son because parents are meant to have a ludicrous amount of faith in their children no matter what. The moment near episode's end when Jack recites the speech from his elementary school play was, like the monkey cage scene I mentioned above, a near perfect moment from Baldwin, who combined comedy and subtle tragedy together so well I was laughing while I was moved. In short, give this man another Emmy. He deserves it.

The subplot that ties into the main plot in every way except actually being brought into the chain involves Jenna's relationship with her own impersonator (a brilliant storyline I wish the show would do more with now that Forte has a little more time on his hands) goes sour because she refuses to actually become serious with him and wants to tastelessly leak a sex tape instead.

This was a pretty solid episode of 30 Rock that allowed for some great moments from all involved, but was absolutely stolen by Alec Baldwin, who continues to be near-perfect as Jack Donaghy, master of the world. As I say pretty much weeky, I'm just happy to have 30 Rock back to its pre-season four quality and glad that it seems primed to stay there for a while yet.

Grade: B+


-"What is Senior Mexico saying? Stop keeping me out of the loop!"

-"Jenna and I are mirroring until we achieve touchless orgasm. I'm finished."

-"you're a bigger disappointment than our current President Jimmy Carter!"

-"Get a room! Whatever that is..." I like that on 30 Rock, homeless people don't know what rooms are...

-"I ate him sir. I ate my father-pig!"

-"Why can't we paint each other's toenails, watch vintage pornography, and go to sleep in our swing like a normal couple?"

-"I should have moved to Cleveland with that guy when I had the chance!" "No! Godzeera!"
Tags: 30 Rock
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