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'30 Rock' recap: Splitsville!

February 11, 2011 |  7:30 am

NUP_142321_0032 Before I begin, I have to confess something: I'm feeling a little verklempt this morning. I suppose that, deep down inside, I knew this day was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier for me to accept Liz's and Carol's breakup.

Whereas other sitcoms indulge their sappy side on Valentine's Day, the holiday has always been a fraught occasion on "30 Rock." In last year's excellent "Anna Howard Shaw Day" episode, for instance, Liz met her "future husband," Wesley, while in a drug-induced fog at the dentist's office. Granted, the previews for this week's episode did not exactly inspire confidence, but I was hopeful that Liz and Carol would patch things up. This appears unlikely.

As bad as it is that Liz told Carol that he "sucks" at his job, it's far worse that he pulled an air marshal's gun on her. Not to be too literal about the whole thing, but that was kind of dark, wasn't it? As Carol screamed "I will waste you," his eyes welling with tears, I felt like I had been momentarily transported into some dark melodramatic indie movie about the miseries of marriage. It was a split-second punch to the gut, exacerbated by the sad, snowy establishing shot of Liz's dark apartment building. Jack calls Liz with the happy news that he has given birth to a "Canadian-American" daughter, but fresh off the breakup, she's already back to her miserable old Liz ways. "You have a whole lifetime ahead of you of that double-edged sword, just swinging around trying to cut your faces off," she tells Jack. "I'm glad I called," he replies.

The real question is where the show can go from here. Last season, "30 Rock" went to somewhat extraordinary lengths to humiliate Liz. She was subject to the cruel scrutiny of HD television, made out with a houseplant she thought was Jon Bon Jovi (who knows which is worse?), almost married a man who loves "Notting Hill," and had a threesome with James Franco and his fetish pillow. The season's overarching narrative was Liz's personal evolution. All the romantic humiliation was worth it, or so it seemed. First, Liz abandoned her girlish "astronaut Mike Dexter" fantasy, then she met Carol. The theme of this season has been her pseudo-marriage to Jack, through which Liz has tackled her fear of intimacy. It seemed clear that that next step in Liz's growth would be a real-life marriage of her own; apparently, I was wrong. How will Liz deal with this latest setback? Will she try internet dating? Can she and Carol somehow make amends? Or will she find a new boyfriend who's less mule-headed? I have no idea, but I am sure of one thing: I'm not ready to revert to episodes about sad-sack single Liz. NUP_142321_0105

So why do I feel so invested in Liz Lemon's romantic future? This is a comedy, after all. I guess it's that Tina Fey and her fictional counterpart have come to mean so much to a certain demographic of women. She is a 2ist century Mary Tyler Moore, more than just a sitcom character and actually emblematic of a whole swath of women. We want her to marry the handsome, funny pilot and thrive professionally because we want that too. Maybe it was inevitable that Matt Damon was never going to be a regular guest star on "30 Rock," but I still had high hopes for these two. I was also looking forward to how Liz would deal with the challenges of marriage and maybe even babies -- subjects that Tina Fey recently discussed in the New Yorker with her trademark honesty and wit. This is the woman who practically single-handedly derailed Sarah Palin's vice-presidential dreams; surely Tina Fey can figure out a way to make Liz happy, while also staying true to her character. Instead, it looks like we've got more jokes about junk food and foot fungus in our future.

Being a "30 Rock" fan, and identifying with Liz Lemon, can be a real double-edged sword.

Meanest thing said to Liz: "All passengers, including any lipless middle-aged women in lesbian clown shirts, should please take their seat at this time." -- Stuart the flight attendant

Bitchy joke clearly written by a Harvard Lampoon alum: "Cornell commencement address? Sorry, but Tracy Jordan doesn't do safety schools." -- Tracy

Why Al Sharpton denounces people in the street: "Because Al Sharpton doesn't have an office." -- Tracy

Sign that motherhood is not going to change Avery: "Let’s drive this bomb to Buffalo and get this little bitch out of me."

What Liz Lemon's stomach says when it's hungry: "Turkey wraps!"

What Avery thinks of Alexander Hamilton: "A big-government duel-loser."

The real reason Jack wants his daughter to be born in America: "So she can one day become president and declare war on Germany like back when we were awesome."

Great things about Carol: "He compromises readily on movie choices and sexual positions." -- Liz

Reasons to dislike Canadians: According to Jack and Avery, their milk comes in bags, their pavilion at EPCOT does not have any rides and their Asian gangs make most of our meth.

Why pilots lie about taking off in "a half-hour": "To control the herds of walking mozzarella sticks who think that $300 and a photo ID gives them the right to fly through the air like one of the guardian owls of legend."  -- Carol

-- Meredith Blake
Twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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Upper photo: Matt Damon as Carol. Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC 

Lower photo: Tina Fey as Liz Lemon. Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC 

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