MILF Island is back! Also, an anonymous staffer tells Page Six that Jack ''can eat my poo''; Pete Hornberger finally receives a substantial subplot
30 Rock
S2 E11
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After three months of strike-enforced exile, tonight’s 30 Rock generated the expectations and excitement normally reserved for a season premiere. During my sad, solo Thursday night Liz Lemon parties, only habitual rewatching of the glorious ”Midnight Train to Georgia” musical number maintained my spirits. The fact that Tina Fey hosted SNL and seemed to grace every magazine cover during the break seemed designed to intentionally taunt my cravings, so tonight was huge. Game on.

Leave it to Fey & Co. to cherry-pick a throwaway joke — MILF Island — from last fall’s premiere (the Jerry Seinfeld episode) and build an entire show around it. Twenty MILFs, 50 eighth-grade boys, ”Erection Cove,” bursting implants. What’s not to like? As the show’s executive producer Jack Donaghy says, ”It has sex, lies, puberty, betrayal, relay races. MILF Island reflects the drama of the human experience. And isn’t that the essence of art?” Don’t forget the shower confessionals, Jack.

The show is a huge hit, go figure (especially in the most profitable demographics: soccer moms, NASCAR dads, white collar pervs, and the obese), but Jack’s shining moment of corporate glory is eclipsed by a disparaging Page Six gossip item that quotes an anonymous employee calling him a ”Class-A moron” who ”can eat my poo.” With his hopes of succeeding CEO Don Geiss in the balance, Jack turns up the heat on his staff… while simultaneously plotting his next network move: a MILF spinoff featuring the regal Deborah (pronounced de-BORE-uh).

Panic ensues. Dirtbag Alliances are formed. Fingers are pointed. Meanwhile, ”apple-faced goon” Kenneth reminds Liz Lemon that he witnessed her making the insulting comments in a fit of rage (that unfortunately took place right in front of a Page Six reporter) in the elevator the day before. Not unlike Deborah, Lemon displays a surprising ruthlessness in playing the blame game. She manipulates. She lies. She avoids a staph infection. She admits that she literally ate her twin in utero. Kenneth, sickened by Lemon’s dishonesty, falsely admits to Jack that he’s the disgruntled employee. You’d think Jack would actually be impressed by Liz Lemon’s survival tactics, and maybe he secretly is, but since he knew the truth all along, he used his upper-hand to build an elaborate ruse to force her into writing his MILF spinoff.

NEXT: Pete Hornberger fans, rejoice!

But first, let’s return… bum, bum, BUM… toMILF Island. Host Rob Huebel’s Probst-esque diction had me in stitches (”Prepare for the craziest night of television… of your life”) and nothing will top his cast-off catchphrase: ”Heidi, we no longer want to hit that. Get off MILF Island.” Did you notice who created the show? ”Brit Ishman.” Sound familiar? Try British Man. Take that, Mark Burnett.

With Jenna totally MIA tonight and Tracy just slipping in and out, Kenneth held center stage. He’s totally the Woody Boyd of 30 Rock, and anytime he starts referencing his backwoods roots (”Your eyes look like my uncle’s after he would drink from the air conditioner,” or ”The truth will come out. Like my cousin Stephen after he went to music college,”) you know you’re in for a laugh. But the moment that killed was when Jack took Kenneth to the mat and demanded that he tell him what he knows. With Lemon eyeballing him with bad intentions, Kenneth momentarily wobbled under the pressure and nearly fainted, but Jack McBrayer didn’t overplay it, yielding another perfect Kenneth moment.

Tonight also gave Pete Hornberger fans a chance to rejoice, as the fifth (sixth?) wheel finally received a substantial subplot. The bad news: He’s trapped in and then under a vending machine. ”Someone upstairs has changed their mind about ol’ Pete Hornberger,” he optimistically proclaimed before his SoyJoy debacle. Yeah, not so much. If anything, his predicament was a metaphor for his overlooked and arguably unnecessary role on the show.

Overall, though, it’s great to see the show in midseason form. Jack still drives the comedy: confirming on a call with Dick Cheney that Deborah’s breasts are fake, taking an inexplicable swipe at fellow Class-A moron Randy Quaid, and imagining a dimwitted, masturbating childhood friend named Gilly. I thought the plot also added a welcome new layer to Liz Lemon, and it will be fun to see if she’s learned her lesson or if there’s greater potential for her brief fling with corporate Darwinism.

Question, Rockers: Are you past the point of being bothered by the show’s serial product placement? No show has been as creative and seemingly blasé about weaving products into its plotlines. The ”Jack-Tor” episode from last season was specifically about product placement, and tonight’s show slipped in some SoyJoy references (”Fortified with Optimism”). I understand increasing product placement is the price we pay to enjoy TiVo and DVR viewing, but I still wince a bit, especially when Liz Lemon throws lines at Jack like, ”What we do is art.”

Art schmart? Let me have it, 30 Rockers. And tell me how it felt to have a real Thursday TV night again.

More 30 Rock: See this week’s EW cover story profile of Tina Fey

Episode Recaps

30 Rock
30 Rock

Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.

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