Before she finds out about Gavin Volure's criminal history, Liz seems to have found her match, while Tracy tries to keep his sons at bay
30 Rock Gavin Volure
Credit: Nicole Rivelli/NBC
30 Rock
S3 E4
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Upon reflection, Liz Lemon has a ridiculous knack for attracting men doomed to disappoint her. Start with Dennis the Beeper King, who tried to push Lemon in front of an oncoming subway train. There was the Coffee Fetus with mother issues. Don’t forget about seasons 1’s Stephen Black (Wayne Brady), who seemed black in name only. Even sweet, non-confrontational Floyd fatefully chose the city of Cleveland rather than Lemon. So it was no surprise to Lemon that her latest admirer, corporate titan Gavin Volure (Steve Martin), appeared to be suffering from severe agoraphobia like a modern-day Howard Hughes. Par for the course.

Lemon deserves better, of course. Attractive, successful, honest to a fault, she says things we all have thought at one time or another: her potpourri/chips dilemma; her anxiety about an “away-toilet situation”; her desire to forgo the spontaneity of a new relationship for the stale comfort of an old couple, “when you don’t really have to try any more, and you can just sit around together and goof on TV shows, and then go to bed without anybody trying any funny business.” So when Gavin became smitten after hosting her (as well as his pal Jack and art buff/professional yeller John McEnroe) at his palatial mansion, Lemon’s first instinct was caution. But Jack could not have been more enthusiastic, suggesting she “work this thing like a Chinese gymnast: Wear something tight, force a smile, and lie about your age.” Star-struck himself, Jack admitted a hypothetical sexual desire for Gavin rivaling his “black thing” for Denzel, Michael Jordan, and Taye Diggs. Oh, and he also let slip that he had already told Gavin that Lemon used to have a thing for Jack. Lemon seemed to laugh it off like it was a bad joke, but it was the first time either one of them had directly acknowledged their occasionally simmering tension.

Jack’s blind faith in Gavin’s financial genius resulted in the stronger of the show’s two subplots. Not only did he contribute a healthy amount to Gavin’s vague new endeavor — “Wind power, bandwidth, Chinese market” — but he guaranteed cash-starved Kenneth a windfall if he invested all of his non-Confederate money. “Next stop, home ownership,” promised Jack, before leveling with Kenneth. “Just kidding. The middle class is dying. You’ll be renting forever.” (Funny, but Ouch. Too close to home, 30 Rock.) Jack suffered immediate karmic retribution for his callous remark when he learned that Gavin had swindled them both. Kenneth handled the loss better than Jack, spinning the line of the night: “We Parcells have eaten our fair share of rock soup and squirrel tail. But we’ve also known lean times.”

NEXT: Yes, Hornberger!

The weaker subplot involved Tracy and his two sons, Tracy Jr and George Foreman. Still swimming in riches from his pornographic videogame and alarmed by his boys’ sudden interest in him, Tracy concluded that they’re planning to “Menendez” him. His solution: disrupt their murderous schemes with a life–size Tracy Jordan Japanese sex doll. Meh. Scenes like the one with the boys in hockey masks were uninspired, and the post-episode “The More You Know” spoof yielded this thread’s only real giggle. It’s been a slow start to season 3 for the reliably hilarious Tracy. His pseudo-white transvestite with monster claw was a homerun in the Oprah episode, but he hasn’t really connected in the other three shows.

Lemon, meanwhile, was truly connecting with Gavin despite his condition. They spent a promising weekend together watching MTV Canada, and Gavin seemed to be making progress, cupping Lemon’s breast during an episode of Top Chef. Alas, Gavin’s reclusive existence was not exactly self-imposed: He was actually under house arrest for tax fraud, embezzlement, and racketeering. Yet, here was a guy who truly liked Lemon. Even after he fooled Jack and the U.S. Marshals with his Ferris Bueller-style audiotape ruse, he risked his freedom for Lemon. Rather than flee to some place “where U.S. law couldn’t touch [him], like Bali or Utah,” Gavin snuck onto the TGS set to woo Lemon. Jack, however, vindicated himself by stepping in and telling the convict that despite her Big Ben sized biological clock, Lemon is too good for him. But is she? I personally thought they had Shopgirl-caliber potential. Steve Martin and Tina Fey speak the same language, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Gavin again, even, or especially, if he were behind bars.

What about Jenna? Like Lemon, we missed her and her dad’s visit. But kudos to the resurrected Pete Hornberger, who scored laughs — “Cloverfield monsters” — and a 12-cents-per-mile per diem for gas. Yes, Hornberger!

Thoughts on Steve Martin? Was he more Oprah or more Jennifer Aniston? Did you catch the token 30 Rock product placement? (Hint, they’re frozen and unbelievable.) Is it possible that part of Tracy’s problem is that the show is dragging out his Dongslayer story line?

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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