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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

30 Rock: "Cooter"

Illustration for article titled 30 Rock: "Cooter"
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Illustration for article titled 30 Rock: "Cooter"

Let me save you the trouble: "Hey, you're not Nathan Rabin." In so many ways you are absolutely correct. Sadly, Nathan can't be here for the finale this week as he's attending the funeral of a great uncle. I'm sure he'd be glad to receive your condolences below.

In the meantime, I'll try to match his passion for 30 Rock. That shouldn't be hard. I love this show with a Rabinesque intensity and my only disappointment this year–apart from a couple of episodes I thought were merely very good rather than mindbendingly excellent–has been with the strike-mandated brevity of the season. Can we be at the end already?

Unfortunately, yes. But it's been fun getting here. Since the return, we've seen a lot of everyone, including the too often neglected Pete (even if his most prominent sub-plot–getting his hand stuck in a vending machine–was this season's biggest clunker). But only two characters have really had developments that spanned a couple episodes, namely Jack and Liz. For Liz each episode has provided another chapter in the ongoing crisis of Lizdom: Namely, the concerns of a deeply talented woman who's found some success and career satisfaction at the dark end of her thirties but finds herself already asking if that's all there is. Then there's Jack, now suffering an identity crisis after failing to beat out hated archrival Devon Banks (Will Arnett) as chairman of G.E., even if Banks now rules only via a puppet dictatorship officially headed by his wife, Kathy Geiss. (Has this show ever revealed what exactly her condition is? Is it funnier if they don't? I think so.)

Her scene, playing the unwitting (and possibly brain dead) counselor to Liz was certainly funny enough, but it says something about the quality of this show, and this episode in particular that the scene of a middle-aged woman surrounded by unicorns and Marky Mark posters removing a toy car from her mouth isn't even one of the most memorable moments, even if tonight it certainly ranks as the strangest. (Or maybe that would be a room full of Bush staffers suffering (?) from the effects of a gay bomb.)

Everybody got at least one moment, many more than one. But before we break revisit the regulars and see where the finale left them, props are due to special guest star Matthew Broderick as "Cooter Burger," a low level officer of the executive branch whose commitment to the administration's official line even in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary has started madness and desperation churning behind his glassy eyes. Like Dean Winters' Dennis Duffy (who also turns up, as does Edie Falco's C.C.), he's welcome back any time, especially now that he's Jack's best friend.

Also welcome to return any time: Paul Scheer's conniving page Donny, the antithesis of our Kenneth who here not-so-slickly tries to sabotage Kenneth's attempts to serve as a page at the Olympics in Beijing. After considerable effort, including an amazing "personal essay" from Jenna, he gets the job, but apparently puts himself in grave, sexy danger in the process, according to the show's "3 Months Later" coda.

Speaking of the personal essay, it's always great when the show gives Jane Krakowski a chance to sing since a) She's really good at it and b) She always gives it her all and then some, delivering a wicked parody of self-indulgent Broadway-style showstoppery. It's like watching Supergirl use her heat vision for evil, not good and it's always funny.

Meanwhile, Tracy seems to have developed some powers of his own. I thought the porn video game sub-plot ended a little abruptly two episodes ago. Now I see why. Having apparently found a way out of the uncanny valley, he ends the episode secure in the knowledge that his game has the power to entrance Frank, if no one else. Are Grizz's erotic line readings his secret weapon? I'm going to go ahead and guess yes. It certainly can't be the title, Goregasm: The Legend Of Dong Slave.

Finally, at the heart of the episode: Liz's pregnancy, or lack thereof. (I guess you could argue that Pete rediscovering his archery skills is the true heart of the episode, but that's kind of a stretch.) This was all nicely done, with Fey beautifully playing Liz's confusion, frustration, elation, and disappointment without losing sight of the comedy. The show's genius comes from its ability to layer smart jokes on top of smart jokes while keeping characters like Jack and Liz warm and alive. This episode had all that and evaporated bull semen, for that added thickness and shine.

Grade: A

Stray observations:

- Translation please: Does anyone know what was said in that last scene in China?

- Translation, you're welcome: "Sabor de Soledad" means "Flavor Of Loneliness." But of course.

- Random quote: "It's a guaranteed disaster. Like eating a burrito before sex."

- "You fixulate this," will now be what I say when I send stuff back to Nathan for rewrites.