30 Rock season 4 episode 2 review

It's not vintage 30 Rock, but Liz Lent still enjoys her time in the company of Liz Lemon...

4.2 Into The Crevasse

Poor Liz Lemon. Nothing ever quite works out the way she imagines it, does it? In the teaser, Liz walks past a bookstore window and stops to admire a stack of her ‘Dealbreakers’ books, happily tapping on the glass and telling the store clerk who she is. The guy, though, isn’t really a fan of Liz’s decree that if a guy is over 30 and still wears a nametag, well, that’s a deal breaker. The nametag wearing book seller proceeds to rip the head off the cardboard Liz Lemon display and Liz is disappointed yet again.

That opening mirrors the way I sometimes feel about 30 Rock. I look forward to it all week long and then the episode somehow manages to rip my head off and disappoint me. But let’s face it, I’m still going to stop and look in that metaphorical shop window again because I just cannot resist.

As with last week’s show, the Achilles heel of Into the Crevasse is how political it gets, this time taking Congress and the U.S. automakers to task for generally being idiots. The thing is, though, you don’t need a really fine satirical edge to make fun of those guys. They’ve already done all the heavy lifting for you, so whatever jabs are thrown just feel ham-fisted and tired.

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The episode starts out with Liz stopping in to give Jack a copy of Dealbreakers and him announcing that he’s off to Washington to take part in an industry task force on microwaves and small appliances. While he’s there, Liz asks, could he look for the retainer she lost during a junior high field trip to the Air and Space Museum? Jack agrees, as he rails against Obama and corporate bailouts, and laments the fact that he has to take the bus to D.C. after those idiot automakers took private jets. Also, sadly, he has to change his fancy tie label to a more respectably American J.C. Penney label. Poor Jack.

Also, in a flashback to the once popular days of microwave ovens, we discover that Kenneth never ages. Maybe. Possibly. All we know is, he looked good on American Bandstand.

Back with the writing staff, Liz discovers that every man on staff is angry with her for Dealbreakers including Frank, who tells her he’d picked up a girl after practicing Jedi moves in Prospect Park, taking her back home on the handlebars of his bike and sneaking her past his mom. But because Liz had pooh-poohed action figures in her book, the girl totally ditched him after seeing his mint-condition Hellboy action figure. See, that would have been a reason for me to stay. Fictional women today have their priorities totally messed up!

Meanwhile, we discover that Kenneth is volunteering at an animal shelter, and that he also volunteers for an organization I really, really wish was real called Pants for Zoo Animals and also for Big Brothers, which is far more Orwellian than fraternal in nature.

Ah, and the Jenna storyline. Jenna’s still angry at Liz for attempting to hire another actor, so she has decided to join the cast of an independent student werewolf film being shot in Iceland. You know, that place where at certain times of the year, the sun fails to go down and werewolf-inducing moonlight is conspicuously absent.

In Washington, Jack is horrified to discover that his nemesis Devon Banks, played with wonderful over-the-top abandon by Will Arnett, is heading up the industry task force and is hell-bent on revenge after losing out on Jack’s job. He begins grilling Jack: Is it true that your executives routinely use company helicopters to dry their home tennis counts? That GE kept a party clown on retainer with a six figure salary? That in 2007, a GE officer used corporate funds to throw a cabaret-themed Halloween party on Fire Island?” Banks declares that GE’s behavior is an affront to the American people!

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Later that night, Tracy shows up at Liz’s house, angry that his wife has thrown him out of the house after reading Dealbreakers. It’s okay, though, he’s brought his reef shark…in a plastic bag. After reading the book himself, Tracy is furious that Liz stole large chunks of her ‘what guys shouldn’t do’ ideas from all the lousy things Tracy himself has done. And he’s going to get her back for it.

At the pound, despite his protestations that he won’t become attached to the animals, Kenneth immediately falls in love with all of them and decides to adopt every single dog in the place. There is no reason for this except to serve as one of the payoffs for Tracy’s indignant rage. Okay, also, we get to look at cute dogs, which is kind of a reward in itself.

Back at 30 Rock, Banks confronts Jack in his office and tells him how he’s plotted his revenge since being tossed from GE. Part of that revenge? Insinuating himself into the most exclusive inner circle in America. And then we cut to an awesome flashback with Banks in an all-pink bedroom, talking to a little girl whose back is to the camera, and gleefully saying, “Oh my God, Malia, he did not say that! Let’s text him now!” Yes, he’s infiltrated the ultimate power team: Sasha and Malia Obama.

In order to save his job and the company from Banks’ evil ways, Jack decides he has to “sell a lot of microwaves to a lot of people” and enlists the help of the Girly Show writing staff to help him design a new, improved, consumer-friendly microwave. Their first two ideas? Make them bigger and less well-made. To which Pete replies – because we may not have gotten this obvious point yet – “Wow, that sounds an awful lot like the American auto industry.” In the end, the design-by-committee process has managed to actually eliminate the microwave part of the microwave and instead replace it with wheels and cup holders.

By the end of the story, Jack manages to poke holes in Banks’ plans via a hilariously homo-erotic stand-off and also manages to end the feud between Liz and Tracy, marking the first time in TV history that a problem was solved with good, old-fashioned porn. Yay, porn!

As with any episode of 30 Rock, there were some truly hilarious moments, most of them courtesy of Arnett’s Devon Banks, who is seriously the most wonderfully incompetent bad guy in forever. With the show taking a trip to Kenneth’s hometown in their latest episode, I’m hoping they can leave behind the big issue/political themes that have been needlessly weighing it down. Please?

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Check out our review of the fourth season opener here.