30 Rock season 5 episode 2 review: When It Rains, It Pours

Paul Giamatti leads the guest stars in the latest 30 Rock. So is the new episode any good?

5.2 When It Rains, It Pours

Since the day John Wayne swaggered onto the set of I Love Lucy, or Mork from Ork sat on the Cunningham’s sofa in Happy Days, the American sitcom has been head over heels with guest stars and crossovers. Being set behind the scenes at NBC gives 30 Rock more reason than most to continue the trend, and season 5 is shaping up to have as much pull with celebrity guests as the stellar cast of Curb Your Enthusiasm or unstoppable cameo magnet, The Simpsons.

After last week’s season opener saw Matt Damon return as Liz’s fake-sounding pilot boyfriend, Carol, this episode welcomes NBC newscasters Andrea Mitchell and Brian Williams as themselves and Paul Giamatti of Sideways and American Splendor fame for a brief stint as Richie from editing.

This week, Giamatti’s Richie is just one of the men who fall prey to Liz’s newfound allure, achieved via the ‘when it rains it pours’ phenomenon that gives the episode its title. With 30 Rock‘s characteristic knack for coining weird turns of phrase (including the season premiere episode linked below), Liz’s happy relationship vibe is not so much making men fall at her feet as making them want to put their feet in her mouth.

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Giamatti’s role as a fantasy hockey league-playing civil war re-enactor is nicely turned out and ends in a fun scene at the doughnut counter between Liz, the ponytailed editor and the object of his affections.

While loveable curmudgeon Liz is taking advantage of her sexual magnetism and Julia Roberts laugh to get TGS moved up the editing queue (and rocking a “sweet lid” of a cowboy hat as she does so), Jack and Tracy have their unborn children on their minds. Jack is anxious he won’t live long enough to guide his son through the trickier stages of life, while Tracy is anxious he won’t make it to the birth of his third child, having missed the first two due to the watertight excuses of  a)making a French bread pizza and b) forgot.

It’s the Tracy storyline that provides the crossover in this episode, as the expectant father makes his way to the hospital as a contestant on Discovery Channel quiz show Cash Cab. Tracy draws upon his rich and varied life experiences, from his extradition from the United Arab Emirates to a youthful attempt to get a flash of the statue of liberty’s green boobies, and manages to Slumdog Millionaire his cab ride all the way to the birth of his daughter.

As we could have predicted for someone simply voted ‘Most’ at Harvard Business School, Jack also comes up with a solution to his problem. Recording a series of DVDs for his future son, Jack lets Donaghy Junior in on the secret to a magnificent head of hair (clue: it’s really gross) and dictates advice on how to throw a punch, make love to a woman and dispose of the bodies of any suitors who come knocking on Avery’s door after his father’s demise. A twist at the end has Liz giving Jack’s unborn child her two cents on the potential of potato chips as sandwich fillings and the sexiest way to wear a bandana.

Elsewhere, TGS is running as smoothly as ever in Kenneth’s absence, the reason for which is quickly discovered hiding behind Jack’s office curtains dressed in a phantom of the opera cape. Kenneth, who hasn’t quite got NBC out of his system (well he has been working there since 1945…), gets some tough love that sets him on a quest that will hopefully keep him  around for future episodes.

30 Rock‘s next airing anticipates guest spots from directing legend, Rob Reiner, and Queen Latifah, before welcoming back Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm as Drew for the show’s live episode on October 14th.

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Read our review of the season premiere, The Fabian Strategy, here.