30 Rock recap: Midnight Train Wrecks
Merry new year, 30 Rockers! I trust you all had a fabulous holiday with your fams. Me? Fine, thanks for asking. Resolutions? I’m going to stop pretending to my colleagues that I watchThe Wire, and I’ve vowed never again to mention a potential Lemon-Donaghy hookup. Starting…now. You’re welcome.
Yes, the last few weeks have been tough on all of us, TV-wise. You may have heard that there’s a writers’ strike, and as scripted shows have gradually expired, we’ve been abandoned, much like Rosemary (Carrie Fisher), pleading to our television screens, ”Help me, Liz Lemon, you’re my only hope.” For one glorious half hour last night, friends, all was right with my world: Kenneth rode the brown serpent; Lemon was rejected by a co-op board; and 30 Rockended its abbreviated season on a musical high note.
I can’t emphasize enough just how giddy I was about getting this new episode. It hit me during the opening credits, right at the moment when they introduce Alec Baldwin: He makes a quick spin to the camera with a puckish grin that’s much more Baldwin than Donaghy. For some reason, those 1.3 seconds never fail to put me in the right mood. Like the initial jolt from a morning sip of sweet, sweet java.
Which Kenneth can now relate to, thanks to Tracy. To make up for throttling a 19th-century French dictator, which may or may not have been a dream, Tracy treated the staff to a deluxe cappuccino machine. Till then, Kenneth had forsworn hot drinks of any kind — ”That’s the devil’s temperature” — but one sip and he was hooked. ”It’s like my heart is trying to hug my brain,” raved our beloved rube. Tracy, who knows a thing or two about chemical dependency, cautioned Kenneth to slow down, since ”coffee’s not like alcohol — it’s pretty addictive.” Undeterred, Kenneth launched into a caffeinated bender — attending PG-13 movies! eating Jewish donuts! — that showcased Jack McBrayer’s many talents. His agitated exchange with Lemon, where he made fun of her weird last name and praised the German-language Bible for providing the versteckte Bedeutung, was his best moment of the season.
Lemon endured a shame spiral of her own when she attempted to purchase her first home. It’s about time. After all, she’s only two payments away from owning her own bike. The building was gorgeous (was that really the voice of German director Werner Herzog extolling the residence’s charm?), but the co-op board was unimpressed by her claims of racial solidarity and desperate anecdotes about meeting Brett Favre’s cousin. It was like the worst first date ever, worse even than when Liz nearly hooked up with her distant cousin last year. Later, her Favreauvian drunk dialing spanned the spectrum of psychotic behavior; she went from irrational jealousy to suicide threats to Alanis Morissette to petty vindictiveness. (”I bought a whole bunch of apartments,” she slurred to the co-op’s answering machine. ”I bought a black apartment!”) Needless to say, she didn’t get the place.
Sadly for Jack, his own romance came to a bittersweet end. Head over heels for C.C. (Edie Falco), Jack made a real effort to juggle his passionate courtship of the liberal congresswoman and the potential acquisition of a German television network. (In related strike news, NBC just ordered 24 episodes of the hit German game show Interrogation Bear). Jack and C.C. rendezvoused at a Pennsylvania OTB parlor and spent one magical night at a Red Roof Inn. But reality intruded when she missed a crucial vote on recreational whale torture, and Jack committed a cardinal sin when he clicked over to his boss in a decisive cell-phone face-off. They tried to meet each other halfway — strike analogy anyone? — but in the end, they were simply too far apart to make it work. Maybe he really was willing to give it all up, grow a beard, and sell homemade cider. But eight o’clock screenings of Fred Claus and romantic getaways to Pennsylvania coal country can only take you so far. I expect Jack to bounce back. Sure, C.C. was special, but he’s not one to look back in sadness. As Herzog intoned, love is a ”urine mirage in a desert of fear,” and as Tracy knows, ”Regrets are for horseshoes and handbags.”
The episode (and, sadly, the season) really finished strong with a fabulous Gladys Knight musical number. Kenneth, fortunately, was misinformed about the midnight train to Georgia, and Grizz and Dotcom were even better than the Pips. When Lemon sang, ”I’ve got to go! I’ve got to go!” after Jack mentioned Floyd’s name, I got the impression she might be catching a 12:15 to Cleveland.
What do you think? Where will Liz, and the show, go from here? Let’s hope we don’t have wait too long to find out.
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.