30 Rock – 5.02: When It Rains, It Pours

“Remember, the backflip is 90% confidence” – Jack

In this episode, there were two major sequences that were essentially thinly veiled ways to give the writers the freedom to just go off and write a bunch of one-liners for the two actors on the show who best deliver one liners.  In one sequence, Jack tapes a series of video messages to his unborn son in the event that he dies before he’s fully grown.  In the other, Tracy needs a way to get to the hospital for free in order to be with his wife when she gives birth, and out of all the taxis in New York, finds himself in the Cash Cab.  Perhaps not the hardest way to write an episode in the world (although I think the Cash Cab plot turn was a particular stroke of genius), but it did make for quite possibly the funniest episode 30 Rock has had in several seasons.  Casting away the requirements of needing to work through the building up and resolution of an actual plot, the show instead spent a good portion of the episode allowing Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin to be their effortlessly hilarious selves, and it absolutely worked like a charm.  Jack gives his son some of the most insane advice that a father could ever give his son (“The secret to a strong, healthy head of hair is Dove…blood.”), while Tracy rattles off answers to trivia questions while giving way too much insight to his own twisted history (“The capital of the United Arab Emirates is Abu Dabhi.  I know that because if I go back there, I’ll be executed.”).  The laughs just kept coming, one after another.

There was another plot in the episode that involved Liz Lemon actually getting some attention for her feminine side when the everyday men in her life started noticing that she’s actually become somewhat attractive, due to having a newfound confidence and happiness in her new relationship.  Though it wasn’t as funny as the rest of the episode, it was notable in that it finally got us off the overly used gag of Liz Lemon being a sad sack and a slob all the time.  Liz managed to use her new feminine wiles to not only get her way, but to even play matchmaker and set up a new couple amongst the video editors!  As hilarious as pathetic Liz Lemon is, seeing that side of her too often makes the show seem too much like a simple cartoon.  Much like seeing business-savvy Jenna was a breath of fresh air last week, so too was successful and confident Liz Lemon of this week.

Between this episode and the last, things are really really looking up for the future of this show.  Things feel fresh and newly funny again and this episode had the spirit and energy of episodes from the first couple seasons.  Jack’s sequence in this episode, in particular, was reminiscent of the season 1 episode that showed a series of bloopers during the filming of the instructional video on slipping in positive mentions (or “pos-mens”) corporate products into NBC shows.  Oh yeah, and the very welcome return of Dr. Spaceman.  Truly inspired madness.  Hello show, I think I’m in love with you again.

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