’30 Rock’ Recap: Damn You, Liz Lemon — You Can Still Get to Us

30 Rock - Tina Fey, James Marsden

For some time now, we steadfast 30 Rock fans — purists, nostalgic for the days of the Cleve and Subway Heroes, who keep watching the show in large part out of Tina Fey loyalty — have looked forward to the eventual conclusion of Liz Lemon’s misadventures. Though the long running NBC sitcom is still more than capable of inspiring ample laughs, the 30 Rock of today is inarguably slighted by the unique and dynamic comic sensation that it once was. More than great gags, though, the show has been long dormant in supplying genuine heart. Even in its heyday 30 Rock was not an overtly sentimental show, but through its exhibition of the great friendships fostered between Liz and Jack, Liz and Jenna (the old Jenna), Kenneth and Tracy, and — a personal favorite — Kenneth and Jack, could always manage legitimately touching stories. And damn it if it still doesn’t have some of that old magic tucked away. In fact, although I maintain that it is better that 30 Rock head to pasture before slipping into the crevasse of comedic failure, this week’s episode “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” — the second to last in an impressive 7-year run — does make the imminent finale a tad more bittersweet.

The episode follows Liz as she attempts with desperation to save TGS from certain doom. Jack is unable to simply give Liz her program back, but he has granted her the ability to “prove her case” to the board members with said authority by putting on the perfect episode of her variety show. Unfortunately, Liz has her regular arsenal at her disposal: a lackluster writing staff, a marginally competent producer, no money (even with the help of her new sponsor, Bro Body Douche), and worst of all, two of the most unreliable, destructive, actively difficult stars in television history. But even with her longstanding derision for all of these people, she still fosters an unrelenting compulsion to protect them. She loves her nerds, and will stop at nothing to keep their show alive.

But if Liz only had her nerds to worry about, then things would be easier: on the other end of her cell phone all episode long is husband Criss, begging with Liz to let TGS go and come help him prepare for the arrival of their two adopted children, who are being flown into New York imminently. So accustomed to putting work first, Liz is incapable of tearing herself away from this project to save the show, even at the expense of her budding family life. Poor Liz Lemon. Having it all ain’t as easy as you thought.

But for dramatic effect, let’s delay the tear-inducing conclusion of Liz’s story and jump over to Jack and Kenneth, who have a sweet little thing going on all their own. See, Jack, now the CEO of KableTown, is seeking a replacement to head NBC. As such, he’s brought on Kenneth — the page! He made him a page again!— to give a tour/secret interview to the five prospective candidates. Jack will lurk and judge the group, each a grown version of a Willy Wonka character in this extended parody of the classic children’s move… Kenneth even dresses up like Slugworth to try and illicit “bad behavior” from the prospectives in hopes of narrowing down the selection. While Kenneth urges Jack to go with the “purest of heart” among the choices, Jack insists that the new NBC president must be a pragmatist who understands business and is willing and able to be cold-hearted and decisive. Upon the eruption of the disagreement, Kenneth meekly chastises Jack’s own sensibilities, making the man question himself (Kenneth is the only one who can ever get through to Jack, so it seems) and how good a businessman, and man in general, he is.

In the end, Jack recognizes that through all his education at Princeton undergrad and Harvard Business School, his tutelage under Jack Welch and Don Geiss, his long line of experiences molding him into the perfect executive, Jack has utterly failed in the TV business. He picks shows that flop, invests in ideas that suck, and is constantly at odds with his own devices. Why? Because TV makes no sense. As such, Jack decides the only person who can appropriately run NBC is someone who simply and unabashedly wants to. Someone who just loves TV.

You know where this is going.

Jack names Kenneth the president of NBC. And it’s silly and sappy. It’s long predicted (even the episode jokes about this, naming the top candidate among the group “Mr. McGuffin”). But it’s really funny, really sweet, and exactly what so many of us wanted. Cue the everlasting hug between Kenneth and an unwilling Jack, who takes one final glimpse out of his office window… while Kenneth is still adhered.

But back to Liz! Back to Liz! Her show’s a mess. Her new 5-year-old twins are landing at JFK. Her husband is getting fed up with her devotion to TGS. And she has no one in her corner … OR DOES SHE?

Taking note of how much Liz has on her shoulders, her friends and coworkers decide to finally do the right thing. And when I say “finally,” I don’t just mean in this situation. I mean finally, after seven freakin’ years. Tracy and Jenna, shrugging off the own hits their careers will take after the death of TGS, tell the board that they quit. Following their lead are Pete, Frank, Twofer, the whole gang. Everyone throws in the towel. But not because they’re lazy, selfish, craving attention… because they want to free Liz Lemon. They know that as long as she is shackled to TGS, she’ll be unhappy. But if they let her go, she can finally live her life, find joy and satisfaction elsewhere (with her family, and maybe a new job?), and actually have it all. It’s really freaking sweet. But not as sweet as when Liz rushes to the airport (just like that time in Season 1!) to meet her children.

For these are no ordinary twin 5-year-olds. In addition to being two different races (this is possible… everyone saw it on Maury), they are unique in personality. Her new daughter Janet is a vapid blonde with a peculiar affect (“Is that a cam-a-ra?”), and her African-American son Terry as rambling loon with an affinity for troublesome pets who calls her Liz Lemon. Yep, she has her very own Tracy and Jenna to raise. And she couldn’t be happier. Yay.

[Photo Credit: Ali Goldstein/NBC]


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