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'30 Rock' recap: Congratulations, Jack and Liz!

January 21, 2011 |  7:25 am

Preview After more than a month of reruns, "30 Rock" returned Thursday night, and what an episode it was. It had everything: marriage, divorce, a corporate merger, even a bat mitzvah. Mazel tov!

Part of what has made "30 Rock" so strong this season is that it's returned to the basics. The splashy guest stars are still there, but the focus of the show is back squarely on the outlandish characters we know and love. Most important of all is the dynamic between Jack and Liz, which is the show's linchpin. But with Jack starting a family and Liz in a healthy relationship (last time I checked, anyway), this odd couple has been forced to reexamine their friendship many times over. By my count, "Mrs. Donaghy" was at least the third episode this season that examined their strange pseudo-marriage -- which, by way of a clerical error, has now become a real one. Somehow, Liz and Jack are such a perfect, if unexpected, pair that this theme manages not to wear thin. Their accidental marriage in St. Esclavage (translation: "Saint Slavery") was almost inevitable, the logical end to which the writers could stretch the relationship. It does make you wonder what the writers can possibly do next, but I have faith.

"30 Rock" has drawn comparisons to shows as wide-ranging as "Sex and the City" and "The Muppet Show," but I've always thought of it as a live-action "Simpsons." You've got the core "family" made up of lovable characters, and a large rotating cast of more cartoonish supporting roles. On "The Simpsons," you've got Patty and Selma, Principal Skinner and Dr. Nick; on "30 Rock," there's Angie, Jeffrey Wienerslav and Dr. Spaceman, all of whom showed up in this episode. Dr. Spaceman can always be counted on for laughs. This time around, he tells Tracy that he's dying. "You have no reflexes, your blood tastes like root beer and some of your bones appear to have vanished." I'm guessing Tracy's illness is a way of writing around the real Tracy's recent kidney transplant.

It also means that Angie will have to become the family breadwinner. Given her lack of talent and need to make millions of dollars, Angie's only real option is -- naturally -- becoming famous. As Jack wisely notes, she's got all the hallmarks of a reality superstar: "Hair-pulling-ness, delusions of grandeur, an insanely short fuse, catchphrases." Add to that a fat, hilarious best friend, a white divorcee with crazy eyes and showbiz ambitions (paging Kim Zolciak) and a nephew with a meth problem and you've got a show Liz Lemon, Andy Cohen and I would all watch religiously. Not since "MILF Island" has "30 Rock" spoofed reality television with such deadly accuracy. (If your DVR cut off like mine and you didn't catch the credits on this episode, do yourself a favor and watch them on Hulu now.)

This also works nicely for Jack, who's engaged in a battle of will with Liz over the "TGS" budget. If Liz doesn't agree to a divorce, then "Queen of Jordan" will replace "TGS." In a sit-down with HR representative Jeffrey Wienerslav, Liz and Jack realize just how important their completely unprofessional relationship is to them, and they make up. Surely, it wasn't hard to predict this ending, but that's why "30 Rock" is so great: It's absurd and completely familiar all at the same time.

Line of the night: "If you need to make millions, but have no real skills or education, the best place to do it is in entertainment." -- Tracy (Did Ricky Gervais write this joke?)

Most meta moment: "Make it 1997 again through science or magic."

Meanest thing Jack said to Liz: "Try to walk like a woman, Lemon."

Least politically correct joke: A tough call, but I'll go with Angie grabbing what she thinks is Liz's weave.

Jack's alpha-male wisdom: "Where I come from, if you have more than two colors on a tie, you're looking for a certain kind of bar."

What you shouldn't tell your kid if you're getting a divorce: "Don't think for a second this means we love you less. Know that it means that."

Quintessential Kenneth: "A buffer, like pigs have around their delicious testicle meat." 

How you know you have an inappropriate relationship with your boss: "Do personal issues often dominate discussion, including but not limited to mothers, diarrhea, having babies, problems in the bedroom, neckties, food issues, foot disorders, having it all?"  -- Jeffrey Wienerslav

Jenna's diva-esque behavior: Chopping up a Barbie doll out of anger at Danny.

Something I'd like to know more about: Dr. Spaceman's relationship with the "difficult" "Squeaky" Fromme. Also, why Bob Ballard ended up eating a toucan.

Winner of the episode: Angie, who scored her own reality show.

-- Meredith Blake


Complete coverage of "30 Rock" on Show Tracker

'"30 Rock" recap: 'No one can escape the horrors of Christmas

"30 Rock" recap: Paging Dr. Freud 

"30 Rock" recap: The old college try

"30 Rock" recap: The Platonic ideal

Photo: Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, Jean Brassard as a French admiral Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC