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'30 Rock' recap: A graceful transition into spinsterhood

February 18, 2011 |  8:14 am

NUP_142905_0034Dear readers, I'd like to begin this week's recap on a serious note. We all laugh at "30 Rock," but spinsterhood is no laughing matter. Should you or someone you love feel that you're sprialing downward into spinsterhood, there are ways to help. Don't give up. Telltale signs of premature spinsterhood include: Pets named after female literary figures; fanny packs stuffed with various pharmaceutical products "just in case"; kitchen gadgets used as hair accessories; faithful viewing of grotesque reality shows and/or CBS procedurals. Remember, the more you know, the more you can do to help.

Thankfully, the TGS gang is well aware of these symptoms, so when a post-breakup Liz shows up to work with a new cat and a powder pink "New York" sweatshirt, they immediately know it's time to intervene.  Jenna forces Liz to join her for a night out on the town so she can "rebuild sexually." She's resistant, but when editor Donna Strunk suddenly comes down with food poisoning, Liz is all out of excuses. She and Jenna head to a nightclub with ample seating, acoustic music and clearly marked fire exits. Even these selling points are not enough for Liz to stay, that is until she meets Anders, a handsome "Star Wars" fan who also drinks white wine Sprite spritzers and uses the word "malarkey." Their nightclub flirtation ends with a "repulsive act in a midtown hotel room," and Liz happily rolls up to 30 Rock the next morning with a serious case of bed head and same fetching ensemble from the day before. Just like that, Liz is back in the game.

Or is she? When Anders tells Liz "it's never too late for now"-- also the name of the song Pete and Frank are recording-- she becomes suspicious. The episode culminates in a bravura sequence straight out of "Murder on the Orient Express" in which Liz enumerates the many suspcious circumstances surrounding her tryst. The evidence strongly suggests that her co-workers coordinated a one-night stand to help her get over Carol. First, there's the matter of the quiet, uncrowded nightclub itself; then there's the fight that broke out and forced Liz and Anders to make a hasty exit; then, there's the unopened bottle of ibuprofen in LIz's fanny-pack.  The clincher? "How does one lose one’s license out of a malfunction-proof Velcro Phillies sport wallet?" Like an Ugg-boot-wearing Hercule Poirot, Liz has assembled an airtight case against her colleagues. But, happily, she decides that it doesn't matter whether Anders was a Swedish prostitute recommended by Martha Stewart: If she's got friends who'd go to such lengths, she's a lucky lady.  The Agatha Christie spoof -- down to Kenneth's ring full of poison -- was spot-on. It also encapsulated the highbrow/lowbrow references that make "30 Rock" so much fun. It's hard not to love a show that alludes, in a single episode, to a global economic crisis, an appalling reality show and a 80-year-old British murder mystery novel. 

Jack also manages to triumph over his latest adversary, an intractable Trinidadian baby-nurse named Sherry. Preparing for licensing negotiations with the new corporate parent, Kabletown, Jack's usual steely confidence is shaken. He can't seem to say "no" to any of Sherry's demands, no matter how outrageous. How can he play hardball with his colleaguse when he "just got reamed by a woman wearing Winnie-the-Pooh hospital pants"? For one thing, baby Liddy is powerful emotional leverage. Sherry is also an unflappable negotiator. She sits, silently, peeling a tangerine, while Jack blabbers on, giving in before he's even put up a fight. For his sit-down with Kabletown -- which Meeting Magazine is already calling the first great meeting of the decade -- Jack takes a page from Sherry's book. Armed with nothing more than pursed lips, a scornful look and a ripe tangerine, Jack easily works over his Kabletown cronies. It's funny stuff but also, I think, revealing. There's always been an interesting relationship between Liz Lemon and Tina Fey; Liz both is and isn't Tina. Sometimes, there are "30 Rock" plotlines that seem especially personal and specific to Fey's experiences, even if they don't directly involve Liz. Jack's willingness to pay a Trinidiadian baby-nurse any amount of money to keep his family happy seems too personal, too specific, to have been invened out of thin air. Is Jack going to be the character through which Tina Fey shares her parenting experiences? Now that would be interesting.

With Tracy Jordan "in Africa," the C-plot this week is handed over to Pete and Frank, who form a band called "Sound Mound" and team up to write a hit monster ballad, "It's Never Too Late For Now."  Pete, it turns out, left his dreams of rock stardom with the band Loverboy to go to college to study television budgeting. Naturally, Pete and Frank's partnership quickly hits the skids when they argue over song-writing credits, and when Frank suddenly procures an opinionated Japanese girlfriend named Yuki. Something about this plotline felt a bit obvious, but it still made me laugh enough that I didn't feel Tracy Morgan's absence from the show too acutely. It could be my critical perspective has softened after watching so much "Bridalplasty" and "NCIS." In any case, I ought to be going -- it's time to feed my new kitten, Jane Eyre.

Most meta moment: "But aren't NBC and Kabletown the same company now? That seems like a pretty big conflict of interest. Why would the government even allow that merger?" --Liz

How to keep your baby-nurse happy: Keep the fridge full of shark meat and say nothing about the  Trinidadian soap operas clogging up your DVR.

Most inspiring words of encouragement: "I didn’t give up when Eric Roberts abandoned me in the desert, and I won’t now." -- Jenna

Why Jenna is talking so fast: "Because I've been taking these new Czechoslovakian organ-slimming pills. They contain a little bit of meth, which is something my body needs anyway."

Jack's definition of first base: Sex with a stranger

Conservative talking point: "Since inventing democracy, those guys have been ... coasting." -- Jack re Greece

How Jack describes his newborn daughter: "Eight pounds of screaming, toothless, soft-skulled leverage," and "other than a fondness for Avery’s breasts we have nothing in common."

Proof that Liz is over 21: "I participated in Hands Across America."

Thing I'd like to know more about: The time Joe Namath threw up on Jack.

Thing I wouldn't: "I like my tampons to be cold." --Liz

-- Meredith Blake


Complete coverage of "30 Rock" on Show Tracker

'30 Rock' recap: Splitsville!

"30 Rock" recap: Hysterical pregnancy

"30 Rock" recap: Saving Mel Gibson's sex jacuzzi

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

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

Photo: Liz (Tina Fey) is not handling her breakup so well. Credit: Ali Goldstein/NBC