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
“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!
Liz Lemon was in Chicago, getting out of jury duty. Admit it, guys, when Lemon admitted to dressing up like Princess Leia to avoid service, you were hoping it was the golden bikini outfit. Just a little bit? Instead, we settled for Death Star Leia’s Danish-pastry hair don’t and white robe. Lemon’s ploy worked — “I don’t think it’s fair for me to be on a jury because I can read thoughts” — and she flew home to play peacemaker. Her flight was enhanced by a healthy dose of a potent canine-strength relaxer called Comanaprisil, which can cause dizziness, sexual nightmares, and sleep crime. Liz fell under a spell, slapping one of her airplane neighbors in her sleep and “snitting next to Barpo.”
Lemon was as star-struck as Kenneth was when he met Bucky Bright, and she couldn’t help but sniff Oprah’s essence (a mix of rose water and warm laundry). Unable to restrain herself, she launched an assault of verbal diarrhea that emptied the remaining skeletons from Liz’s closet. It was like Crash Davis’ “I believe…” speech from Bull Durham, if Crash had been a medicated wacko determined to humiliate himself: On a dare, Lemon kissed a girl at summer camp who then drowned; she had sex dreams about Oprah’s pal Nate Berkus and Dr. Oz; she hated her feet. Oprah, of course, had all the answers, and she even offered to visit Lemon in New York to solve the Jenna-Tracy standoff.
The Freaky Friday feud, however, was already out of control. Jenna was singing tunes from The Wiz in blackface, while Tracy had donned white makeup, a blond wig, and a monster claw. Tracy in drag was an acquired taste that only Frank seemed to appreciate. (Jamie the Coffee Fetus? You’re off the hook.) Their momentary flirtation was reminiscent of classic Looney Tune episodes that have Elmer Fudd enamored with Bugs in a dress. “Do you think I’m sexy?” cooed Tracy. “Giggle giggle.”
Lemon dragged the two combatants into Jack’s office to meet with Oprah, but instead, a spunky little tween named Pam arrived. And then suddenly, it all became clear to Lemon: She had hallucinated it all. The drugs had left her a tad lopsided. And no, I’m not only referring to her breasts, which she had exposed to the 12-year-old “Oprah” on the plane. Nevertheless, Pam reasoned with the two divas and helped them reconcile. Jack empathized with Lemon’s misjudgment — “In-flight medication is how I met M. Night Shyamalan, until it turned out to be [Jonathan]” — and counseled her to “Be a white man. Take credit” for Pam’s efforts.
Where does Oprah rank amongst 30 Rock‘s celebrity guest stars? I thought writer Robert Carlock did a masterful job of incorporating Oprah within the main character’s stories, unlike some of the other cameos, which clearly felt tacked on. Were you as surprised as I was by the twist ending? Did you feel like they dropped the tetherball subplot too quickly? What became of silver medalist Tyler Brody? Let me know: “I’ve been hearing. But I haven’t been listening.”