'30 Rock' recap: Diving into the sexual abyss
I believe it was Sigmund Freud who once said, "Sex makes the people go away." OK, it was actually Liz Lemon, but it may as well have been everyone's favorite Austrian. Now in its fifth -- and so far stellar -- season, "30 Rock" is actually pushing its characters forward. For years, the joke was that Liz was bitter and romantically deprived, but now that she's in a loving relationship, the truth comes out: Liz doesn't like sex. It would be easy to get angry at "30 Rock" for trotting out another stereotype about intelligent "career women" -- they're all cold fish -- but if that really bothered me, I would have quit years ago. Let's not forget, Liz also lives on junk food, wears dumpy clothes, never works out, and is incapable of commanding respect from her subordinates. Point being, if you're sensitive to stereotypes, "30 Rock" is the wrong show for you.
But let's get back to Liz's sex life. Jack is on a winning streak of problem-solving (he calls it "Reaganing") and he gently cajoles Liz into sharing a traumatizing event from her childhood -- her "rosebud" moment, if you will. Only instead of losing a sled, Liz lost her posters: Hans Solo, Kermit, Grizzly Adams, Larry Wilcox, and Mike Schmidt, to be exact. All her fantasy males were whisked away because Liz was discovered writhing with underneath a Tom Jones poster, underwear around her ankles. It was all an accident -- or so she claims -- but the ramifications were severe. Sex, indeed, makes the people go away.
Of course it was all very silly, but I appreciate the attempt to humanize Liz a little bit. Sure, she might be scared of sex, but at least there's a good (I'm using that word loosely) reason for it. There's a distinct possibility I'm reading into this episode a bit too much, since a third of it was devoted to a plot in which Jenna, Kenneth and Kelsey Grammer swindle a Carvel ice cream store. And, after all, Liz's sexual dysfunction kicks in only when Tom Jones is present, so how bad can it be, really? When Jack tells Liz, "You and I have never had an adult conversation about boning," he is right. Not to get too cornball about this, but Liz is growing up. She's fallen in love, and now she's tackling her sexual hang-ups head-on -- with a little help from Jack, of course.
There was a general air of experimentation in this episode, and I am not just talking about Liz and her sexual awakening. The subplot involving Tracy's attempts to correctly deliver a single line in a Boys and Girls Club commercial was also highly entertaining. We saw the same commercial -- complete with kids shooting hoops, jumping rope and doing aerial flips -- repeatedly, and each time it got a little funnier. It wasn't just anticipating whatever ridiculous thing Tracy would say next. There was something ever-so-slightly satirical about it, a gentle spoof of the supposed wonders of charity (why, just look at all those healthy, vibrant youths!). I didn't read any larger sociological implications into the Carvel grifting, but that's OK by me. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a cake is just a cake.
Line of the episode: Tie!
"You are the sexual equivalent of a million Hindenburgs." --Jack, to Liz
"Sorry I'm a real woman and not some oversexed New York nympho like those sluts on 'Everybody Loves Raymond.'" --Liz
Extent of Liz Lemon's humiliation: Between the gray toe knuckle hairs, Tom Jones posters, and "junk" that closes up "like Ft. Knox," the levels of degradation were basically off-the-charts this week. But all the humiliation helped foster Liz's personal development (or something). So it was acceptable.
Most meta moment: "I'll swing by MSNBC. I have to talk to Rachel Maddow. Only one of us can have this haircut." --Jack
Jack's conservative streak: "Making it through a full 24 hours without a single misstep is called 'Reaganing.' The only other people who've ever done it? Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch and -- no judgment--Saddam Hussein."
Least PC joke: "I don’t want wheelchair Jenny from accounting to get credit." --Jenna
Smarty-pants reference: "I'm the Sisyphus of Reaganing." --Jack
Jenna's diva moment: "You've got a good heart. I hope you get in a car accident someday so I can have it." (to Kenneth)
Quintessential Kenneth: "If Cookie Puss knew, he’d tear us apart with his fangs."
Something I'd like to know more about: Liz's adolescent crushes on Grizzly Adams and Mike Schmidt
Most absurd Tracyism: "Let's just shoot a hundred of these and see what we get." (on the set of the Boys and Girls Club commercial)
Celebrity guest star: Kelsey Grammer
Winner of the episode: Jack. He was Reaganing, after all.
— Meredith Blake
Photo: Kelsey Grammer (as himself), Jenna (Jane Krakowski), and Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) celebrate their successful Carvel scam. Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC