’30 Rock’ Recap: Brooklyn Without Limits

S5: E7 This show is bit more akin to political message than its other Thursday night brothers and sisters, but last night it really took the cake. They went a bit too far, and things got really cutesy really quick, but I think most fans are happy to see them take stabs at hipsters, the Tea Party, and Hollywood phonies (Jenna).

When the episode starts, Liz is shopping with Jenna in what looks like an Urban Outfitters, and Liz finds that the jeans she’s trying on look amazing on her (like body double amazing), and decides to buy 10 pairs and wear one pair out of the store. The clerk asks her what to do with the ones she wore in and she replies in a creepy, raspy voice, “Burn them.” Uh-oh, Jenna. What have you done? It turns out that it’s not Urban Outfitters, it’s actually Brooklyn Without Limits – an Urban Outfitters/Brooklyn Industries hybrid located in White Harlem and the Van Beardswick section of Brooklyn. Translation for non-New Yorkers: hipster central. Hipster Liz Lemon? I don’t know if I can handle that.

Queen Latifah is back (in an image on Jack’s TV, anyway), making problems for NBC and Kabletown as Representative Regina Bookman. Jack happens upon a newscast chronicling her continuing campaign against them despite his attempt at diverse programming with America’s Next Top Black Guy. In a timely twist, Bookman faces an election in which she risks losing her seat in the house and Jack is determined to make that happen.

Tracy pulls Jenna aside because his movie, Hard to Watch (take that, Precious), is getting Oscar buzz and he just learned about air quotes. Even though he knows it’s hard for Jenna to hear about his success (despite her upcoming Jenna Gets Hard “exercise” video), he’s come to her with his latest issue. The Hollywood Foreign Press – a.k.a. the people who give out Golden Globes – want to interview him. That sounds like a disaster. Jenna suggests that he bribe them. Great; an even bigger disaster.

Jack calls in Rep. Bookman’s opponent, Steve Austin from Rhode Island (guest star John Slattery with a very un-Mad Men accent) and offers to help him out. Austin isn’t a Republican, and he doesn’t believe in parties. Tea Party? He’s trying to usher in a rebirth for America, so naturally his campaign ads feature him shirtless, in a bonnet, shaking a rattle and banking on the fact that he shares his name with the famous wrestler. That’s something I never thought I’d see. I think he should stick to three-piece suits. Jack wants to make sure that Austin won’t support government interference in the buying and selling of companies. They agree and Jack says he’ll throw a fundraiser for him. Austin will only agree if Jack commits to his philosophy – he makes him shake the rattle and say “goo goo gah gah.” Damn, that wasn’t nearly as humiliating as I hoped it would be.

Jenna is helping Tracy prep for his Golden Globes event – I don’t know if Kenneth as a sushi platter and piñatas filled with marinara sauce are really going to seal it for you, Trace. It turns out Jenna’s not actually being as generous as it looks- DUH. She’s convinced Tracey to bribe the Globes people even though she knows it won’t work; they were so offended when Jenna tried it, they banned her for life and that’s exactly what will happen to Tracy. Jenna’s really just become an awful human this season.

Jack introduces Austin to Liz and asks her to produce a biographical video for the fundraiser – but not before we get another flash of shirtless Slattery in a campaign ad situated between a pregnant woman’s legs awaiting the newborn baby and banking on the fact that he shares his name with the Six Million Dollar Man. If that wasn’t enough, Austin proves his backwards insanity a little further and prompts Liz to pull Jack aside and question his moral decision. He’s willing to put an idiot in office to keep Bookman from screwing with his business model? Yep that sounds about right. Of course Liz and her newfound hipster mentality guilt Jack as her body double trots away. (“I’m technically a freelancer.” Ha.)

Back with Jack and his political, plaid wearin’ buddy, Jack’s got Austin in front of a green screen to record new political ads. (Yeah, I guess the giant baby thing isn’t going to work.) Unfortunately, Austin’s still letting a few bouts of bigotry slip through. Whoops. Just then, Liz storms in, touting her fair trade jeans and accompanying levels of smug but Jack’s got news for her. It turns out Brooklyn Without Limits isn’t actually run by Brooklyn Zach of the famous dumpster parties, but it’s owned by Halliburton and the jeans aren’t made in U.S.A., they’re made in Usa by slave orphans. Ouch. (They are really taking huge digs at Brooklyn here, but aren’t they worried about being too specific to New Yorkers when they’ve got a national audience?) Jack takes it one step further and even connects the liberal mecca New York Times to Halliburton. Of course Liz investigates, and finds some very convenient Wikipedia entries proving Jack is right. Liz storms back into Brooklyn Without Limits and attempts to shame the clerk who sold her the jeans, but he’s in on the whole thing. Lemon’s mind: totally blown.

Jack brings Austin to his fundraiser, but quickly finds that he’s too stupid and far too prejudiced to be around a room of politically charged New Yorkers. He asks him to hide in a dressing room and create an air of mystery, to which Austin replies with spooky sounds. Okay, guys, we get it. You’re taking jabs at the Tea Party mentality, but that’s quite a dig. Of course, Lemon dashes in, still donning her BWL gear (but they look so good and she’s got to do her awkward “Back it Up” dance on Skype with Carol later). She admits she’s selling out but points out that Jack is too (oh, no, really?) and they both claim they’re okay with it. Something tells me they’ll come around.

Meanwhile, Jenna and Tracy (dressed in what I hope is an homage to Samuel L. Jackson) host the Golden Globe committee and they watch a special screening of Tracy’s movie, “Hard To Watch: Based on The Book Stone Cold Bummer by Manipulate.” Okay, first it was a subtle dig, but this is just in your face and if you don’t get the reference at this point, I probably can’t help you. After they watch the film, there isn’t a dry eye in the house and Jenna decides she can’t go through with her diabolical plan. She says she’ll be so jealous and angry when he wins an award, but he’s great so she can’t stand in his way because she has to do the right thing. (Are we in some alternate universe where Jenna has a heart and Tracy’s acting is actually good?) Liz interrupts trying to stop Jenna’s inspired speech, but ultimately admits they’re right. Goodbye Liz Lemon body double, the jeans are going back and being replaced with her “lesbian Mario” overall shorts (two words that should never meet). My eyes hurt, those jeans were a-w-f-u-l (and stuffed to make Liz have a total turkey butt).

For the fundraiser, Jack’s pieced together different words and phrases to make Austin sound like he isn’t a crazy bigot. Liz’s moral turnabout inspires Jack and he calls on Austin to actually speak to the crowd, which only results in him chanting like a monkey and ending up as part of a Leno monologue. Jack’s upset that he relinquished the opportunity to make his life easier by getting rid of Bookman, but it’s okay because Kenneth has stopped being a human sushi platter long enough to be “cake boy” – a walking platter of cake with fork in mouth. Ugh. Really? It was cute when he was serving raw fish, but this is just ridiculous.

The tag fixes a little of the cake boy damage, showing the real Austin monologue with a side bar showing which words Jack selected to put in the edited campaign ad.