'30 Rock' recap: Goo goo, ga ga, it's time to clean up Washington
Would you sell your soul for the perfect pair of jeans? This was the moral conundrum faced by Liz Lemon on Thursday night's "30 Rock." At a hip boutique called "Brooklyn Without Limits," she finds jeans that give her the coveted "boy on the bottom, girl on top" look. (I enjoyed the decidedly unsubtle use of a butt-double for Tina Fey, though it's not like she needs one) Even better,the jeans are locally made of fair-trade cotton. Liz can wow everyone with her new backside, and she can feel guilt-free about it.
Alas, the jeans are too good to be true. In one of those absurdly silly plot twists that only "30 Rock" can get away with, it turns out that Brooklyn Without Limits is actually owned by Halliburton, the giant oilfield and military contracting conglomerate and favorite target of left-wing scorn. According to Jack, the store began when Halliburton had some leftover canvas waterboarding hoods they refashioned into messenger bags. Even worse, the butt-minimizing jeans Liz believes were "Hand Made in USA" were actually sewn by orphans on an island prison named "Usa" (pronounced "ew-suh"). OK, so the Halliburton joke was a little 2005, but Liz was in a real pickle: What's more important, her conscience or her booty?
As we all know, "30 Rock" is an equal opportunity offender, so Republican Jack had to grapple with a similar problem. He's desperate to unseat Representative Bookman, who continues to rally against the merger with Kabletown. Opportunity presents itself in the form of Steve Austin. Steve is played by the excellent John Slattery, also known as Roger Sterling on "Mad Men." Like his fellow cast member, Jon Hamm, Slattery has considerable comedic chops. His Rhode Island accent was spot on (take that, Julianne Moore) and he was totally convincing as a schlumpy paranoiac -- the virtual opposite of quick-witted Roger Sterling. As a fan of both shows, I love the unexpected kinship they seem to have developed. If Miss Blankenship shows up on "30 Rock" -- or Kenneth the page gets a job at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce -- I'll die of happiness.
Anyway, Steve sounds like the perfect candidate for Jack, at least at first. He's a small-business owner who wants to clean up Washington like it's "the bathroom of a paintball facility." "I believe in small government, or no government at all," he tells Jack. But like a pair of hand-sewn artisanal jeans, Jack's dream quickly falls apart. "If it works in Antarctica, why can’t it work here?" adds Steve. "If we have to have government, why don’t we make it as small as possible? Dwarves in tiny buildings, pizza bagels for lunch."
I don't think anyone actually uttered the words, but it's pretty clear that Steve, "a Constitutional originalist" was a caricature of some of the "tea party's" more unhinged members. Indeed, he made Christine O'Donnell look like Margaret Thatcher (to be fair, he also bore a resemblance, at least biographically speaking, to Alvin Greene). Steve is literal about wanting to return America to the way it used to be. In his campaign commercial, he promises no more paved roads or anesthetic, and a return to slavery; it was a very funny, shrewd riff on some of the antediluvian political rhetoric bandied around nowadays. The Founding Fathers didn't get everything right, after all.
In any case, Steve is a nutjob, one whose anti-Semitism and paranoia are unpalatable even to arch-conservative Jack. (There's also the small matter of Steve's possible homicidal tendencies. I laughed out loud when he said, "There’s work to be done. Hand me that shovel so I can dig a grave for her.") So just what is a media tycoon to do in this situation? Should Jack prop up a dangerous candidate just to ensure the deal goes through? Like Liz, Jack decides that it's just not worth it. The merger might save the company, but -- to borrow the words of a certain Alaskan yodeller -- who will save his soul?
What did you think? What price would you pay for the perfect jeans?
Joke of the night:
Liz: "That place is crunchy on the outside, right-wing nutjob on the inside."
Jack: "Like Ann Coulter’s underwear."
Most meta moment: Representative Bookman's complaint to the press that "Kabletown still has an auxiliary button on their remote. What is that for?"
Jack's Alpha-Dog Wisdom: "Letting morality get in the way of making money. I might as well go and become a teacher."
Meanest thing said to Liz: "Lesbian Mario brothers." -- Jack, re: Liz's "short-eralls"
Least PC jokes: "Now the only thing I use a football for is as a toilet." -- Tracy, starring as a down-on-his-luck inner-city football player in the movie "Hard to Watch," based on the book "Stone Cold Bummer" by Manipulate.
"It’s not your fault nobody watched 'America’s Next Top Black Guy.'" -- Jonathan
Jenna's diva behavior: She's still jealous of the attention that baby Jessica got for falling down a well.
Quintessential Kenneth: "Lying perfectly still reminds me of hiding under the porch during a hill people raid."
Something I'd like to know more about: Che Guevera's grandfather, Domingo Halliburton.
Most absurd Tracyism: "Great like good, or grate like the thing I dropped my asthma inhaler down the other day?"
My new mantra: "Technically, I’m a freelancer, which is pretty much a modern day cowboy." -- Liz
Celebrity guest stars: John Slattery, David Gregory
Winner of the episode: For the first time maybe ever, it's Jenna, who manages to teach everyone else a lesson in morality.
-- Meredith Blake
Photo: Third-party candidate Steve Austin (John Slattery) might be the only person who can save the Kabletown merger.
Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC