On Wednesday night, between 8 and 8:30, you might have been doing any number of things — celebrating Halloween, seeking the refuge of an Internet hotspot (if you’re an East Coaster robbed of electricity), or perhaps phoning your elderly shut-in pal Morrie to explain why you were over 24 hours late for your regularly scheduled meeting. But there is one thing you were probably not doing: having any idea that a new 30 Rock was playing on NBC.
The placement of 30 Rock in this slot does make a good deal of sense. As a result of Hurricane Sandy, many of the networks’ programs have been preempted — a fate that would have been particularly detrimental to the comic effect of this particular episode of Tina Fey’s sitcom, as the subject matter deals with the forthcoming presidential election (airing the ep next Thursday, after Election Day, would have made the whole ordeal just a bit stale). Furthermore, 30 Rock’s Wednesday night airing served another purpose: to take the place of the recently canceled Animal Practice, which will inevitably be usurped by the second season of Whitney.
But rationale aside, the ad hoc relocation of 30 Rock does have some pretty serious ramifications: many regular viewers, diligent aficionados of the regular adventures of TGS’ cast and crew, probably didn’t catch this week’s ep. And that makes this recap extra important. Even more world-shaping and life-affirming than usual.
As such, the recap will take a different form — a more utilitarian form. See, you don’t want your fellow dedicated 30 Rockers to think you missed out on one of the all-important final season’s installments. So here’s a quick breakdown of the plot — a cheat sheet if you will — to breeze through just in time for your next water cooler discussion with that bespectacled coworker who thinks he’s so much better than you because he once bumped into Scott Adsit at Penn Station.
“There’s No ‘I’ in America” Plot Breakdown!
A-Story: Liz, Jack, and Jenna
-Liz and Jack both realize that the fate of the country is in Jenna’s hands — last week, they discovered that due to the nation’s split, the next president would be elected by the only indeterminate region: the Florida panhandle, the residents of whom are such devoted Jenna Maroney fans that they’ll do whatever she says.
-Liz and Jack rush through the hallways of the GE building, each vying to reach Jenna first (glass windows, marble collections, and misleading paintings causing problems for the lot of them).
-Liz and Jack plead their cases to Jenna. She agrees to let them face off in a debate, judged by her, to decide for whom she will tell her fans to vote.
-Liz and Jack bicker about their conflicting political views, growing upset about not having rubbed off on one another after all these years, foreshadowing the emotional conclusion at which they realize they actually have rubbed off on one another (twist!).
-The Debate! Liz and Jack both pander to Jenna’s vanity, trying to prove why Obama and Romney, respectively, would be the candidate most conducive to her personal happiness
-After the debate, Liz resorts to a dirty trick (taking a page from Jack’s book). She gives Tracy, the man with a superhuman ability to tweet offensive things about dead celebrities, access to Jenna’s Twitter, in an effort to offend even her most steadfast fans
-Jack, however, finds himself inadvertently borrowing from the sentimental mind of Liz. A young, highly intellectual girl with the very same ambition and zest for business that has guided him his whole life, finds herself jaded by Jenna’s power, opting instead to forget education and instead aim to be just like the idiotic, self-involved Jenna. Jack’s heart drives him to convince Jenna to drop the whole antic, as he can’t live with the idea of leading the smart young girl down such a path.
-Liz and Jack have a drink in the latter’s office, bonding over their friendship and their mutual lack of control over the future president of the United States.
-We feel happy.
B-Story: Pete and the Kissing Security Guard
-Pete attempts to revive the spirit of the 2008 election so that an attractive security guard named Maria who kissed him upon the announcement of Obama’s presidency would do so again.
-Brian Williams does a flip.
-Peter Horn, a confident doppleganger of Pete with a full head of hair, impressive job, and fancy car, shows up to rub the whole thing in his face.
-Pete kisses Kenneth. I didn’t really get why, exactly, but what are you gonna do?
-Kenneth gets his absentee ballot from Stone Mountain, Georgia, and can’t decide which way to vote on an issue concerning a clock tower
-Tracy says something about Americo Vespucci, and Kenneth is happy again.
And now, for a deeper look.
“There’s No ‘I’ in America” Quality Critique/Analysis!
Laugh Factor: Funniest episode of the season, easily. The wit and pacing of a 30 Rock ep of yore. Silliness and banter intact.
Storyline Satisfaction: The most important goal of this final season should be to settle all of the long-running character qualms that have faced Liz and Jack (and everyone else, I guess) since the beginning. This episode, with the forefront of the election, addressed the nature of Liz and Jack’s friendship: the most important element of the series, arguably. As such, a riveting success.
Pete: Yes, there was a whole lot of Pete. I love Pete. You know I bumped into Scott Adsit at Penn Station, once.
All in All: When a 30 Rock of today feels like a 30 Rock of yesteryear, your heart wells up a little. This was, by and large, the best episode of the series I’ve seen in quite some time, in scripting, character crafting, and cleverness of plot. We’re all sorry we missed it last night, but thankfully, we have this recap to embody the spirit of the episode forever. I guess that kind of makes me a hero.
[Photo Credit: Ali Goldstein/NBC]