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'30 Rock' recap: The platonic ideal

November 5, 2010 |  7:15 am

NUP_142101_0157.jpgCan men and women really be just friends?

Obviously, I am not talking about real life here. (Why would I want to do a thing like that?) If one were to survey the romantic comedies and sitcoms of the last 40 years or so, the answer would have to be a resounding "no." Pop culture would have us believe that most male-female friendships are destined to turn into romance by Season 5.  Jack and Liz are the rare exception.  Not only have they never "gone there," the very idea of anything other that a friendship seems, well, gross. They represent that rare thing in TV land: A completely platonic friendship between two heterosexual people.

Thursday's episode of "30 Rock" was an exploration of the strange-but-sweet nature of Liz and Jack's relationship. Liz's dad, Dick Lemon (played by the excellent Buck Henry), rolls into town.  The octogenarian is on a late-life "gentleman's intermission" from his marriage to Liz's mom, going to bars named "Swingles" and donning Ed Hardy T-shirts.  Understandably, Liz is mortified and desperate to shake some sense into her father.  

But Jack's exceedingly capable fiancee, Avery (Elizabeth Banks), has decided to lay down the law.  She's weirded out by Jack's friendship with Liz and asks him to set boundaries.   Without Jack's guidance, Liz can barely function.  Jack too is adrift without having someone to mentor. He tries to find another mentee, but his other candidates lack the combination of drive, intelligence, humility and chaos (the acronym D.I.H.C. is pronounced ... well, just sound it out).  Liz and Jack awkwardly try to stick to the prescribed subjects.  "Hey Jack.  How's things?" asks Liz.  "I made several overseas phone calls," he replies.  Then as Liz shuffles off, he whispers, "Shoulders back, Lemon.  You’re not welcoming people to Castle Frankenstein."  Only on "30 Rock" could a line like that tug at your heartstrings.

NUP_142101_0015.jpg If we're being honest, though, there is something lopsided about this friendship: Liz needs Jack more than Jack needs Liz.  Think about it for a second. Just where would Liz be without Jack? By now, she probably would have broken up with Carol, and her dad would be trolling the Meatpacking District looking for hotties.  And Jack?  Sure, he wouldn't have anyone to mentor, but that's about it.

There's nothing wrong with that, per se.  Every relationship, platonic or otherwise, has its own balance of power.  I just wonder what, exactly, Jack gets out of the whole deal.  There's the obvious ego boost that comes with doling out sage advice, like how to make John Boehner's hands look bigger on camera (ed. note: I'd be more worried about the orange tan).  But maybe there's a part of Jack that actually enjoys hearing about Liz's bowel movements?  

The most apt description of their friendship was contained in Thursday's episode. To borrow their own words, Jack is Liz's "work-husband-slash-uncle," while she's his "co-worker-slash-little-brother."  Maybe my brain is just too saturated with "Mad Men," but they're a little like Don and Peggy, only a whole lot funnier.  Sure, Peggy would never wear a Duane Reade bag for underwear (or would she?), but there's something similar about the way Liz is always waltzing with ease into Jack's office, while everyone else tiptoes around the Big Kahuna.

In any case, Avery needn't have worried about the relationship between Liz and Jack.  If not exactly equitable, theirs is a strictly platonic friendship.  There might be a few "30 Rock" enthusiasts out there who long to see these two pair off, but there's no way that will happen outside the realm of fan fiction. And even then: Ew. 

Line of the night: "I’m looking for D.I.H.C., Avery, and I’m gonna take it wherever I can find it." --Jack 

Most meta moment: "Every Tina I’ve ever known is a judgmental bitch." --Liz

Jack's Alpha-Dog Wisdom: "Ambition is the willingness to kill the things you love and eat them in order to survive."

Meanest thing said to Liz but also, in a weird way, nicest: "You are a remora clinging to me with your suction cup head.  I give you a free ride and in exchange you, uh, eat my parasites."  --Jack

 Least PC joke: "Telephone etiquette is important.  It lets people know your race even when they can't see you." --Dick Lemon

Jenna's diva motto: "Tell people in lieu of flowers, they can pour jewels into my open coffin." 

Quintessential Kenneth:  "That way Mr. Jordan can see his own funeral, just like Tom Sawyer.  Tom was a fella' from my town we accidentally buried alive." 

Something I'd like to know more about: Tracy's all-giraffe basketball team, the New York Necks.  Also, how it was he gave the Queen parvo. 

Most absurd Tracyism: "I’m Tracy Jordan.  When I go to sleep, nothing happens in the world."

Celebrity guest star: Buck Henry, Meredith Viera, Lester Holt

Winner of the episode:  Avery, who lives on only four hours of sleep and speaks Swedish (or whatever that was)

— Meredith Blake

Top photo: Avery (Elizabeth Banks) wants Jack and Liz to keep some boundaries in their relationship.

Bottom photo: Dick Lemon (Buck Henry) gives his daughter a call.

Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC


Complete coverage of '30 Rock' on Show Tracker 

'30 Rock' recap: Diving into the sexual abyss

'30 Rock': East Coast vs. West Coast

'30 Rock' recap: 10 best live moments

'30 Rock' recap: The rainbow coalition

'30 Rock': 'When it rains, it pours'