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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

30 Rock: "¡Qué Sorpresa!"

Illustration for article titled i30 Rock/i: ¡Qué Sorpresa!
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To Jack Donaghy, the television-and-microwave business is like warfare, only less sentimental and more cold blooded. Jack is a purist when it comes to the brutal art of finance; he’s a big believer in spreadsheets, protocol, hierarchy, and an iron-clad chain of command. He is, in other words, a man who likes rules and tradition and lines of succession. He worships at the altar of Don Geiss and Jack Welch.

So it is utterly terrifying for Jack to see his old, clearly defined world vanish and give way to a terrifying new order, where his boss is not a fellow shark in a five thousand dollar suit or a coterie of Japanese businessmen but rather a friendly goober from Kabletown, who prefers long, intimate hugs to firm handshakes and trips to the Yakov Smirnoff Theater in Branson to glitzy, hooker-and-coke-fueled trips to Las Vegas.


Even more terrifying to Jack, the new owner of NBC practices a form of radical professional democracy where everyone in a company, no matter how lowly or pathetic they might be, is entitled to pitch ideas to the upper brass. What’s the point of even being part of the upper brass, one of the masters of the universe, if the ignorant rabble can interact with you at their leisure?

Meanwhile, Jack coerces Liz into going baby-shopping with his fiancée Avery. While shopping for maternity clothes, the duo is spotted by Avery’s ferociously competitive primary competition for a plum job as a financial reporter on NBC whose indeterminate and amorphous ethnicity proves one of the episode's sharpest and most dependable running gags.

Since pregnancy is considered a form of weakness in the high-stakes, winner-takes all world that Avery, her rival, and Jack inhabit, Liz decides to cover for Jack’s baby mama by pretending that she is pregnant. The rival reporter doesn’t believe it for a second and decides to “cover” the non-story of a semi-obscure television writer’s pregnancy solely as a way of tricking Liz into admitting that she’s only pretending to be pregnant to cover for Avery. It didn’t really make sense logically, but it was very funny, and the episode gleaned a lot of sly laughs out of the deference shown toward fake-pregnant Liz. 30 Rock has eased up on the Liz Lemon-is-undesirable gags as of late, thank God, but it nevertheless felt the need to go for the easy/non-existent laugh by pretending that Tracy and Jenna would find Demi Moore-style semi-naked photographs of faux-pregnant Liz comically unattractive and even borderline repulsive. We didn’t get much of a glimpse of Liz in just a bra and jeans (much to the chagrin of geeks of both genders/people with good taste everywhere) but I’m guessing they’d be pretty hot.

In the requisite flimsy C-story Jenna and Tracy become incredibly competitive over a silly little sweatshirt. It was a trifle, but it didn’t take up too much time, and the two main stories were both consistently hilarious and provided more insight into the psyches of Jack and Liz and the ever-shifting world they inhabit. The show has been in a good groove for a while now; let’s hope it continues for the rest of what’s looking like a very strong comeback season.


—Stray Observations

  • I love that Jack tells the assembled crew not to act like themselves. Has there ever been a worse yet more popular and ubiquitous piece of advice than, “Just be yourself?” That totally ignores that most people’s selves are complete crap.
  • "If you don't volumize my hair, I'll strangle you with your boyfriend's wig!"
  • "Actors deserve gifts. Without us, who will present awards to other actors?"
  • I wish the DVR was still known as the Thing Carlos Thought Of
  • "By the law of verbal traps, you have to do it"
  • "She's relentless, like a bloodhound. Literally, because I don't know what she is."
  • "I'm Jack Donaghy. Don Geiss gave me this watch for firing someone on their deathbed"
  • I liked the sight gag of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" popping up on the voice-activated TV after Jack says "crap"
  • "She ordered us around like we were a couple of normals!"
  • "She's a blonde. Don't you know there's a war going on?"
  • "Now is not the time to discuss this, but I will need to eat your umbilical cord later."

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