’30 Rock’ Recap: Dungeons, Dragons, Drunkards and Dennis

30 ROCKS6E12: After last week’s mishap of an episode, I began to wonder if 30 Rock would ever fall back into the form of its glory days. While it might never really reach the same caliber of its first three years on air, 30 Rock does prove that it still has potential. This week’s episode “St. Patrick’s Day” is an example of the quality the show still has at its disposal.

All too often this season, 30 Rock has exhibited an abandonment of a cast of characters we once called “human.” This week, however, our old friends Liz and Jack do seem to fall back in step with their relatable, believable incarnations. For the first time in quite a while, Liz experiences some real emotional growth. And Jack takes a legitimately interesting professional step.

“If it wasn’t for the Germans, we wouldn’t have any of the Indiana Jones movies.” – Liz

It’s St. Patrick’s Day in New York City, and Liz has big plans: stay home with Criss, completely avoiding the madness outside, and lambasting everything related to Irish culture. Liz’s plans are interrupted when her least favorite piece of Irish culture shows up on her doorstep: Dennis Duffy, one of the greatest sitcom characters in TV history.

After suffering a minor head injury, Dennis takes up on Liz’s couch to recuperate. But Liz wants him out immediately, knowing that Dennis is a toxic force who will only serve to damage her relationship with Criss. Dennis’ presence does bring up a touchy issue that Liz and Criss are dealing with: her emotional unavailability. Whereas Criss is secure and sweet and capable of expressing his feelings for Liz, she is closed-off, anxious, and phobic over saying “I love you,” much to Criss’ dismay.

Side note: the last two times or so when Dennis has been on 30 Rock, his material has not really lived up to that of earlier episodes featuring the character. Tonight’s Dennis dialogue is perfect—misguided, oblivious, generous with misinformation.

After Liz learns that Dennis has managed to pick up his own life—finally getting married to a girl far better suited for him than Liz ever was—she also realizes that maybe it’s time for her to change and grow up. As such, she finds Criss and apologizes, vowing to open up more, just before telling him that she loves him.

We haven’t seen Liz really grow in quite some time. Although I’d never have pegged Criss for her “perfect man”—Floyd, Carol, pre-“The Bubble” Dr. Drew Baird, even good ol’ Cousin The Hair—any vehicle for Liz to experience any sort of fleshing out or examination is a worthy one.

“We all have faces that people just want to punch.” – Frank

Ever since Kabletown took over, Jack has been a shell of his old self. The show has alluded to that lately, hinting that his new, soft persona is not just due to his daughter or kidnapped wife. It’s because his job is no longer a challenge—no longer something he can live for or define himself by. But maybe he can change that.

Jack discovers a Dungeons and Dragons-style game being played by the TGS writers. Due to the nature of the game—there’s a lot of trading, business planning, conquering, the works—Jack takes immediate interest, drawing parallels between the isles in the game and his real life companies and such.

Jack quickly becomes champion of the game, even managing to solve one of the hardest puzzles (thanks to some advice from a light-hearted priest), and realizes that he can do the same for Kabletown. He doesn’t want to sit idly by, working for a company like this. So, he won’t. The writers shower Jack with fake gold coins while he deliberates his next move for his real company. Kabletown will be Jack Donaghy’s.

“I’ll treat them like my own children. Which is a bad example, because I left my kids at a Sears in 2004.” – Hazel

Meanwhile, Hazel is not doing so hot at keeping Tracy and Jenna from fighting with each other. When Jenna is billed first on NBC’s St. Patrick’s Day special, Tracy throws a fit, and cue an eruption of excessive pettiness and name-calling. Pete has a conniption, NBC suffers, and Hazel just can’t seem to figure out what to do.

Only one person can solve a problem like this: Kenneth. And after countless denials (from himself) of his right to do so, Kenneth gives in and vows always to be there for Tracy, Jenna and Hazel. It may no longer be his job, but it’s his passion.

So, Liz has made personal steps and Jack professional. Both of these characters are exhibiting growth, and are suggesting some interesting stuff in the near future. What do you think will happen with Liz? Will she and Criss stay together? Get married? Have kids? And as for Jack, how far will his reign take him? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.