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30 Rock: "Anna Howard Shaw Day"

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My friend and A.V Club colleague Claire Zulkey recently wrote a piece ranking Jack's top girlfriends. Tonight witnessed the introduction of a particularly impressive new addition to the distinguished roster of attractive women the NBC alpha male has had sex with: a MSNBC shit-talker played perfectly by Elizabeth Banks.


Banks inhabits a potent combination of sexy, funny, smart and fast. She was so machine-gun fast during parts of tonight's show that I had no fucking idea what she or Jack were saying, particularly during a spoof of one of those shows that stick talking heads in a hot seat of some sort, then force them to spout motor-mouthed gibberish about the issues of the day.

The segment doubled as a master class in flirting, as Jack and Banks' shark in a skirt fell into lust, if not love, on air and began a courtship that could easily pass for an epic power struggle. Let me just say here how delighted I am to see the show get back some of its blinding speed. In the first two seasons I missed a lot of funny lines because I was laughing so long and hard at a joke that just passed. The show has gotten a little poky as of late but the Jack/Banks courtship was a refreshing reminder of just how fucking sharp 30 Rock can be.

In the episode's other threads, Liz is forced to confront the sad state of her love life when she goes in for dental surgery and doesn't have anyone to pick her up from the dentist. I like drugged-up Liz, especially when she's conducting animated, understandably one-sided conversations with a tree she mistakes for Bon Jovi and ghosts of three of her ex-boyfriends.

I'm also a sucker for moments of Jack/Liz connection so I found it enormously sweet and kind of touching when Liz woozily slurs to Banks that Jack is the best just before he very awkwardly but sincerely carries Liz to bed. I've said this before but the relationship between Jack and Liz forms the emotional core of the show: without it, it tends to devolve into free-floating wackiness.


Speaking of free-floating wackiness (yes, I am the segue king), Jenna tonight experienced heartbreak of her own when she learned that a creepy stalker played by Horatio Santz is no longer interested in her. This, of course, makes her feel lonely and unwanted.

This subplot easily could have lurched and lumbered but it was pulled off with aplomb: I liked the montage of Jenna lovingly remembering all the horrible things her stalker would do for/to her, like filling her refrigerator with disembodied doll heads.


The resolution to this thread summed up everything 30 Rock has been doing right these last two episodes. Kenneth decided to cheer Jenna up by pretending that she has a whole new stalker with a strong desire to dine lustily on her mucus in a capper at once funny, disarmingly sweet and wholly in keeping with the universe the show has created.

Stray Observations—

I hope Banks comes back. That is a very promising character. Incidentally, who are your favorite girlfriends for Jack/boyfriends for Liz (I was a little disappointed that Peter Dinklage didn't return)?


—Favorite lines/moments/scenes from tonight? There were a bunch.

—Hey, what happened to Robot Guy? Is he hanging out with Josh?


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