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Emmys 2017
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30 Rock recap: My Favorite Things

Liz is moved by an (imaginary) encounter with her hero, while Jenna and Tracy wage a racial-gender war

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30 Rock

TV Show
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Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski

“It’s about race. It’s about being a woman. It’s about money. It’s about being on TV. And no one understands all that.” — Tracy Jordan

Actually, one person understands all that and more: Oprah Winfrey. It was probably Tracy’s comments that subconsciously planted the idea of entertainment’s most influential woman in Liz Lemon’s drug-addled mind, plotting the course for one of 30 Rock‘s best-scripted episodes.

Last night’s show was a battle of the sexes. Picking up where last week’s Dong-Slayerthread left off, TGS‘s two top stars were locked in litigation. Tracy had countersued Jenna for defamation, though she didn’t understand how a man who had already been arrested in the ball pit of three different Chuck E. Cheeses could conceivably make that claim. Jenna better have a good lawyer, though. Not only does Tracy know the inside of a courtroom, but he picked up some legalese from watching “Boston Legalnine times before I realized it wasn’t a new Star Trek.” Jenna, however, was tired of being pushed around, and even Liz Lemon egged her on. “No one has it harder in this country than women,” said Lemon. “It turns out we can’t be president. We can’t be network news anchors. Madonna’s arms look crazy.” Jenna agreed, with a little backdoor bragging: “Women are the oppressed ones. And it’s even harder being a beautiful woman. Everyone assumes I don’t try in bed. It’s discrimination.” She and Tracy, who acknowledged only racial prejudice in the world, can’t agree on anything — except that Adrien Brody’s Oscar mauling of Halle Barry is evidence of both their claims. “Do you know it’s still illegal to be black in Arizona?!” Tracy asked. After a failed mediation sit-down with Jeffrey the Unhappy, Overweight Transgender, the two nemeses challenged each other to sample life in the other’s shoes.

Jack was engaged in his own battle of the sexes. Sort of. His adversary was a certain “inner-city Latina,” also known as Kenneth. The “hillbilly nobody who doesn’t know anything,” according to Jack, lost respect for his boss when he learned that Olympic sports like synchronized running, octuples tennis, women’s soccer (ha!), beer pong, and tetherball had been fraudulently invented by NBC just so Americans would win. To Jack, a little chicanery was worth the Nielsen boost and the bump in President Bush’s approval ratings. “White men are resented the most because they make the unpopular, difficult decisions,” he argued. Kenneth, however, was crestfallen. “You’re not in Stone Mountain any more,” Jack told the page, referring to his Georgian hometown. But Jack, who once predicted that Kenneth would one day run GE — or murder the whole staff — was irked by his subordinate’s tsk-tsking. So he set out to corrupt him.

As I wrote last week, this is Jack Donaghy’s comfort zone. Like an ancient god descending from Olympus to toy with the mortals, Jack probed for Kenneth’s weakness. Practical self-interest wasn’t it, as Kenneth eagerly moved to sacrifice himself in Jack’s orchestrated elevator disaster (“You’ll have to choke me with my belt. I will fight you. It’s human nature.”) But once Kenneth exposed his soft-spot — his love of television — it was a fait accompli. Jack sucker-punched Kenneth with a new big-screen television, which tempted Kenneth to steal cable. An ashamed Kenneth conceded, “I am glad I’m not a white man, Mr. Donaghy.”

NEXT: Please welcome, Oprah!