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30 Rock: "Retreat To Move Forward"

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I go away for one week and the most dependable sixty minutes on television goes all haywire on me. Actually that’s not entirely fair. Tonight’s episodes of The Office and 30 Rock just seem weak because of each show’s incredibly high standards. I suspect the makers of Kath And Kim would sacrifice their first born children for a half hour as funny as tonight’s 30 Rock. See, Kath And Kim are totally dumb and gauche! And they don’t even know it! Oh, how I enjoy laughing at them and their questionable taste in the three minutes leading up to The Office!

But we expect more from 30 Rock. Usually 30 Rock delivers. In “Retreat To Move Forward” Jack Donaghy frets over delivering a speech at a big corporate retreat. He brings Liz Lemon along for back up but is dressed down by a sour-faced colleague for treating a subordinate like Lemon like as an equal. It was one of those tricky moments when friendship interferes with the heartless dictates of business.

It’s long been established that there is a bit of a corporate shark in good old Liz Lemon, a barracuda in geek-chic glasses. Competition brings out the gladiator in Liz though in tonight’s episode she nobly sacrifices herself to save Jack when her boss neglects to remove his microphone before going to the bathroom and his desperate pep talk to himself gets overheard by everyone at the conference. You might remember that gag from the first Naked Gun movie.

To make the retreat forget about Jack’s gaffe Liz ripped open her shirt and treated the audience to some very painful improvisation (is there any other kind?) and a terrible Sling Blade impersonation. Or maybe it was Oprah. Like Jenna, I have a hard time telling them apart. Sling Blade’s the one who gives his audience new cars, right? The hormone-addled brains of geeks everywhere spontaneously combusted, Scanners-style. Twas the shirt-opening heard round the world, or at least round the internet. But you guys don’t care about that kind of thing, now do you?


Meanwhile, the gang decides to exploit Jenna’s stupidity and naivety by editing Janis Joplin’s Wikipedia entry so that Jenna, who is “getting in character” to play Joplin, or at least a suspiciously Joplin-like figure, will do things like attempt to eat a cat and strut around wearing leg braces. Oh, you can never go wrong with Alf references. I’ve heard from reputable sources that Alf is back now—in pog form!

I found Jenna’s method attempts to get inside the mind of Joplin terribly amusing two episodes back but that jokes is wearing a little thin. Jenna and Frank end up good-loving-body-rocking-knocking-boots-all-night-long and Jenna is horrified to discover that Frank wants to keep their clandestine fling a secret. She’s the one who’s supposed to be filled with shame over shtupping someone so beneath her attractiveness level that it’s hard to believe they’re part of the same species, but Frank apparently wasn’t kidding about not wanting to ruin his chances with the least glamorous, most matronly/post-menopausal women of 30 Rock.


The great Dr. Spaceman returns for a not-so-great subplot in which Kenneth tries to scare Tracy into pursuing a healthy lifestyle and not getting diabetes by pretending to be a witch only to be upstaged by Jenna, who looks like a witch without even trying. Tonight’s episode was consistently amusing but 30 Rock engenders such sky-high expectations that being good oftentimes just isn’t good enough.

Grade: B

Stray Observations—

—Favorite lines: let’s hear ‘em

—Several 30 Rockers make appearances in Mystery Team, including Dot Com and one of the writers


—Are any of you getting tired of Jenna-as-Janis gags?

—At least they gave Frank more to do in tonight’s episode

—It was exciting to see the sizzling sexual tension between Jenna and Frank finally boil over into hot, hot dork-on-skank action


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