30 Rock season 3 episode 5 review

There's a battle for top billing in the elevators at Rockefeller Plaza, and a despondent Jack covets mediocrity and borrows an identity at Liz's high school...

5. Reunion

After a one week absence for the Thanksgiving holiday, Jack jets with Liz to her hometown of White Haven, Pennsylvania where he’ll drop her off to attend her high school reunion and he’ll continue on to Miami. He has big plans to party in the Florida sun to ease the pain of Don Geiss finally emerging from his coma, only to decide he’ll remain as CEO of GE until death. But a snowstorm forces Jack to stay in White Haven, and to add salt to a tequila-less wound, he’s trapped in a dry county, where liquor sales are prohibited. The reunion is the only place with the alcohol needed to drown his sorrows, so he heads there.

As soon as Liz steps into the transformed auditorium she learns how wrong reminiscences can be. She remembers her high school days very differently than the rest of her schoolmates. She’d always considered herself the harmless nerd, picked on by the cool clique kids, but they all have a darker version of events. They’re neither welcoming, nor impressed by her success.

Everyone at the reunion remembers Liz as a bully who made cruel jokes at their expense, leaving them emotionally scarred and some in need of years of therapy. Liz hopes Jack will help her convince her class that she’s a good person, but Jack, envious of the happy chat of men and women in low profile jobs, content with their families and friends, pretends to be a fellow former student when one attendee mistakes him for classmate, Larry Braverman. Although Jack is twelve years older than everyone else, he explains his ability to maintain the deception: “Lemon, rich 50 is middle class 38.” Looks like Liz is on her own.

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Back at the studio, Tracy is outraged that Kenneth is getting more laughs than him as each performs impromptu comedy acts between floors in the building’s employee-packed elevators. Tracy first complains to Grizz and Dot Com, who he feels didn’t perform their jobs of protecting him from embarrassment. When Dot Com explains Grizz had to go to the optometrist, Tracy warns that making up words won’t save them.

Tracy takes his grievance to Jenna to enlist her help in putting Kenneth in his place. Jenna quickly agrees, believing their status rates them higher than any other 30 Rockers: “Of course, [we’re the most important people here]. We’re actors. If we didn’t exist, how would people know who to vote for?”

Back at the reunion, a game of Spin the Bottle – Seven Minutes in Heaven goes woefully wrong when Jack’s spin points to a suddenly approaching Liz. Closeted together, Liz lets loose one of her patented zingers, aimed at Jack’s jugular, announcing she found the business cards Jack ordered for a job she says he’s never going to get. “You went to a printer, didn’t you? You picked out a font. You paid extra for a rush order.” At which point Jack rushes from the closet in tears.

Liz may come to regret the sharpness of her tongue because the rest of the alumni are planning to Carrie her. (That’s right, another proper name that’s now a verb. That makes two in consecutive episodes.)

Lured to the stage to accept a phoney school spirit award (and an extra incentive of a gift certificate for Outback Steakhouse), Liz is about to be doused. Jack rushes to the stage to intervene and, in a rousing speech, reminds the attendees that everyone makes mistakes. Explaining Liz’s insults were attempts at humour to fit in, he adds, “We all have ways of coping. I use sex and awesomeness.”

The alumnis’ revenge thwarted, Tracy and Jenna’s strategy works perfectly, in contrast. They take on Kenneth’s jobs of sandwich orders and studio tours to drive home the message that it hurts when someone else does your job. Tracy and Kenneth end up in tears, but friends again, and Jenna remains smug. Everything’s as it should be at the plaza.

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This was another excellent episode that proves the show doesn’t need a big name guest star to be successful. It’s made up of such a fantastic cast, including just a few regulars each week is plenty fodder for laughs.

Most memorable moments include:

Liz’s embarrassing phone messages delivered aloud by Kenneth.(“Your landlord called and said it’s not the toilet, it’s you.“)

Liz’s storm-shaken plane confessions.

Jenna’s rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings to a captive, unappreciative, elevator audience.

Jack’s paltry triumph over the network standards department: (“They’re telling me you can only say ‘cat anus’ twice during the show, but I’m gonna fight for you. You can say it three times… cat anus, cat anus, cat anus.” )

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30 Rockefeller Plaza… I want to go to there, too.

Check out our review of episode 4 here.