Last week’s episode of 30 Rock was largely devoted to bidding a fond farewell to a handful of beloved recurring characters: Devon Banks, Dr. Spaceman, Len Wosniak, and (to a lesser degree) Kylie Hooper. But behind the showmanship of these oddballs’ sendoffs, a few key plot points were sneaked into the show’s chronology: Liz decided that she would opt for the adoption of an older child, and Jack came out on top in the battle for the position of KableTown CEO.
But this week, both of our main characters have their bright futures challenged: Jack, still plagued by his mother’s ostensibly manipulative last words (“I just want you to be happy”), heads down to Florida to settle her estate. Liz tags along at the last minute, taking to heart Tracy’s admonition of her as too uptight and unwilling to live in the moment. Once down in the Sunshine State, Jack meets his Colleen’s housekeeper Martha, who regales him with stories of how joyful and gentle she knew Jack’s mother to be. Jack is at first suspicious that Martha is making up stories about a woman she didn’t even know, plausibly to con her way into Colleen’s inheritance. But it is Liz’s energized snooping that allows the realization that Colleen and Martha were, in fact, lovers.
The revelation, which Jack resists furtively, sparks Liz to question the nature of her own relationship with her longtime boss and friend. After dismissing Jack’s insistence that Colleen and Martha could have shared a platonic relationship despite spending every waking second together and even sharing a bed, Liz wonders why she and Jack — who have cohabited the sky highs and deep lows of past seven years — never pushed their rapport to the romantic, even once.
Through Liz and Jack’s exchange (the heat of said conversation bolstered by the duo's obligation to share a bed while staying in the late Colleen's Florida home), 30 Rock explores the very will-they-won’t-they that fans have kept alive since the beginning of the series. As Jack confirms, the pair’s unique, complicated friendship — one free of any sweeps weeks flings — is far more interesting than the standard, unimaginative alternative. But springing from this meta commentary comes further insecurity from Liz. Does Jack’s consistent lack of interest in her (when considered in opposition to his promiscuous nature) indicate that she is not an appealing person? Too serious and uptight, as Tracy had insisted earlier?
And once Jack does indeed come to terms with his mother's romantic arrangement, thus accepting her as a genuinely happy person later in life and, in turn, sincere in her final words to him, he begins to engage in a few big questions of his own. Is he really happy? Does he know how to be? Is becoming the CEO of KableTown what will actually grant Colleen's dying wish, or has he only been driven by compulsion rather than a conscious effort to live the life that will satisfy him the most?
But these problems are small potatoes compared to what Liz and Jack are in for when they return home. See, while the two levelheaded higher ups are away, and Pete is off at some glossed over convention, Tracy and Jenna take charge of TGS, instituting complete anarchy. The real trouble sets in when Hazel (ugh, yes, her) files a lawsuit against TGS, highlighting the leviathan of inappropriate conduct enacted by each and every member of the staff. While Tracy, Jenna, Frank, Lutz, and the rest of the amoral loons have no problem denying their behavior in a signed deposition, Kenneth finds himself at an ethical crossroads, wanting to tell the truth but wishing not to betray his friends. Seeing how troubling the ordeal is to Kenneth (who dons a leather jacket and a new ambivalence towards hard work, as he might as well give up his standards entirely), Tracy and Jenna employ their soft spots for the ambiguously aged grunt worker and encourage him to tell the truth. The whole truth. Every detail about all of the horrendous misdoings he has witnessed since working at TGS. And he does.
As such, as Liz finds out upon returning home, the final deed of a retiring Hank Hooper is to cancel TGS. All this just when she has agreed (again, on a whim, to prove herself not the tightly wound by-the-book bore that people seem to think she is) to adopt a pair of twins, without even consulting Criss. Dramatic stings all around.
It's kind of a pain that Hazel is at all a perpetrator of any major plot points in this show's conclusion, considering the derision that character's existence warrants. But this week's episode does tackle the sort of ideals that 30 Rock needs to explore in its final weeks. What will Liz do without her show? And what's to come of her hope of a family life in light of this news? What can Jack do to be happy, if not devote himself entirely to work? And what about Subhas? WHAT ABOUT SUBHAS?
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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