Right-winger Jack falls for a -- gasp! -- Democrat, and Lemon gets all paranoid thinking her neighbor is a terrorist

By Jeff Labrecque
Updated November 16, 2007 at 02:44 PM EST

30 Rock

S2 E6
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When professional thinker Bertrand Russell wrote that fear is the parent of cruelty, he wasn’t referring to 30 Rock. Nevertheless, our favorite New Yorker proved him correct. When we first met Liz Lemon last season, she defiantly purchased scores of unwanted hot dogs just to prevent a simple injustice. Last night on 30 Rock, alas, her paranoia caused her poor neighbor, Raheem, to have his nuts shocked. Not since Babu was deported to Pakistan onSeinfeld has an immigrant been so shabbily treated. (Actually, check that: This was worse.) You very bad woman, Liz Lemon. Very bad.

In her defense, the smell of fear was in the air. By that I mean the city reeked of maple syrup, and everyone was on edge. Jack thought it might be Northrax, a deadly chemical in the hands of the Saudis. Tracy couldn’t concentrate at all, because the smell of waffles was making him horny. (Pete likes his naughty Pop-Tarts, Tracy lusts for waffles. Is the breakfast buffet on30 Rock‘s set a daily orgy?) Although she had an unblemished record of ignoring racial stereotypes — ”Remember, I asked that black guy if he’d seen Sideways?” — Lemon suspected that her aloof Middle Eastern neighbor (SNL‘s Fred Armisen) might be a terrorist. All signs pointed to yes. Or was he simply practicing to be a contestant for The Amazing Race? I loved seeing Lemon drift to the dark side, threatening Pete — who dared call her ”Elizabeth Lemon” — with a call to Homeland Security about him, too. Fey’s politics are pretty much an open book on her show, and clearly, the moral of this episode was that, as a nation, we’ve been far too hard on Alberto Gonzalez.

In contrast to Lemon’s tango with torture, Jack had a night to remember with C.C. (Edie Falco), a mysterious woman he met at a conservative black-tie dinner. First off, any episode featuring Jack in a tuxedo is scientifically proven to be 11.7 times better than a nontuxedo show. It’s not just that he looks great in a tux; Alec Baldwin thrives comically in any scenario that requires him to be wearing one. Exhibits A and B: Ordering a Nancy Drew — I mean, a Hardy Boy — at the bar, and tickling the ivories with a heartfelt rendition of Burt Bacharach’s ”What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Jack was over the moon for C.C. — ”She ‘does it’ like her dad’s a minister” — but their love is, sadly, forbidden. To Jack, she’s tainted with the political equivalent of a scarlet letter: a blue ”D.” C.C. is actually a Democratic congresswoman from Vermont. (Did you catch the news crawl when Jack saw her on MSNBC? My faves: a shout-out to striking writers and ”Anne Heche leaves husband for pony.” With a crack in his voice that was half Lloyd Dobler and half Ron Jeremy, Jack bade farewell the morning after: ”I gave her the ottoman and she walked out.” C.C. clearly didn’t have birdlike bones, like Jack’s ex-fiancée, Phoebe.

NEXT: Going ape

Falco matched Baldwin note for note, although I wish NBC hadn’t teased their ”you made love like an ugly girl” scene in commercials. It was hilarious just the same, but the anticipation cost the show’s best line some of its zip. Fortunately, the Lifetime movie based on C.C.’s tragic accident was a total surprise: A Dog Took My Face and Gave Me a Better Face to Change the World: The Celeste Cunningham Story. Jack kept the door open for more C.C. when he threw caution to the wind. Outside Bill Clinton’s Harlem office, Jack yelled up to her, while Tracy played a depraved Cyrano, offering such irresistible bon mots as ”tell her that you want your privates and her privates to do a high five.”

With Jenna taking the week off, noble Kenneth soaked up the rest of the plot, struggling to replace Jack’s missing tuxedo pants. He sacrificed some of his vaunted Parcell pride to raise money by accepting a series of dares, like eating expired ketchup and provoking Lutz with an ill-advised ape attack. Jack McBrayer looked literally dazed after taking that golf club to the head.

Overall, another splendid show. My only beef was with the Verizon bit. 30 Rock normally does a splendid job of balancing the corporate elements of television, often utilizing it for comic fodder. But the winking cell-phone banter lacked subtlety, and it seemed to me like the show was trying to have its cake and eat it, too. ”Sure, we have corporate tie-ins and product placement,” they seem to be saying. ”But we make fun of them, so we haven’t surrendered our souls.” Pssst, 30 Rock: You’re not The Little Show That Could. You’re NBC’s potential flagship comedy, and there’s no shame in that. Unless you repeat these clunky nonpromo promos.

Were you wondering where Jenna was, TV Watchers? (I hope Dr. Spaceman wasn’t involved.) Can you see C.C. becoming a semiregular this season? And has this episode opened a Pandora’s box of bigotry in sweet, little Liz Lemon?

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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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