30rockseason4

Episode: “Into the Crevasse” (Season Four, Episode 2)

Synopsis: Liz begins to see the negative ripple effects from her book “Dealbreakers” – especially from an aggravated Tracy Jordan – while Jack struggles to find a way to make GE profitable to appease President Obama’s Microwave and Small Appliances Task Force headed up by his arch-enemy Devon Banks (Will Arnett).

Review: After the bar was set so high by “Season Four,” I was a little skeptical about how successfully “Into the Crevasse” would follow up.  But, after Jack deflected Devon’s pretend laser blast with a pretend laser shield, I knew that season four was going to be 2-2.  Not only did writer Robert Carlock continue the self-reflexivity and social commentary that Tina Fey laid down in the previous episode, but he was also smart enough to dole out the successful elements from “Season Four” in effective proportions: plenty of Jack and Devon, a splash of social commentary, and just a touch of the supporting characters who, like salt, can enhance the flavor of a product with just enough and ruin it with too much.

Example #1: Jack and Devon.  I’ll get to that later, because it’s the highlight of the episode, so for now, let’s start with…

Example #2: Social commentary.  Thanks to our president (“who is Kenyan and smokes cigarettes, by the way”) Jack is forced to answer to a task force for microwaves and small appliances because he refuses to accept a government handout – it’s corporate welfare, after all.  Jack Donaghy has always been the satirical embodiment of the Conservatie corporate exec, so maybe it’s not so much the show’s focus as much as society’s focus that now he’s come to embody corporate excess and Conservative foolishness moreso than he has before.  Either way, it’s great to see Donaghy defend himself against accusations of GE execs using helicopters to dry their tennis courts (“yes it did happen and no it didn’t not happen”), putting a party clown on a retainer with a 6-figure payroll (“Silly Willy’s fee was advertised for all birthday’s company wide”) and betting company money at the racetrack (“But I have system for that”).  The system, by the way, is based on the size of a horses penis.  It may seem a little far-fetched – it is a comedy after all – but the rich people of the world are unintentionally hilarious themselves in the stupid shit on which they’ve blow money.  At least here we can laugh at it.  On second thought, maybe it does go a tad bit overboard, but I attribute that to the “Produced by” credit for Alec Baldwin, who vowed to leave the country if Bush was re-elected in 2004.  Clearly that worked out.

Example #3: Supporting characters.  I love Tracy, Jenna and Kenneth, I really do.  But I love them in smaller doses than I love Liz and Jack.  And I love Frank and the TGS writing crew in even smaller doses than I love everyone else.  A little bit too much of one and not enough of the other can throw off an episode, but the supporting characters were given just enough screen time to really effective.  Kenneth, whose country bumpkin naivety can be tiresome if laid on too thick, sticks around just long enough to make an effective joke about his mom’s boyfriend, Ron, then steps aside so that his adoption of way too many orphaned dogs can be used for the much funnier Tracy to get his revenge on Liz.  Tracy is just crazy enough to work (highlights include him bringing a reef shark to Liz’s apartment in black, plastic garbage bag when his wife kicks him out) and Jenna’s oblivious egotism doesn’t take up too much of our time that’s better served on…

Example 4: That is to say, Example 1: Jack and Devon.  Guest stars have always been a strength for 30 Rock and I would argue that there is none better than Will Arnett’s flamingly homosexual yet threatening Devon Banks.  He’s the perfect foil to Jack and with Donaghy’s eventual humbling experience of accepting government bailout money – crawling into the crevasse, he calls it – it’s guaranteed we’ll see more of him in the future.  Then we’ll be able to witness more exchanges like this one:

  • Devon: You know, revenge is a dish best served cold, Jack; like shashimi or pizza.
  • Jack: You prefer cold pizza?
  • Devon: The morning after?  It’s the best.
  • Jack: Better than hot pizza?  That’s insane!
  • Devon: You don’t tell me what kind of pizza to like!

It’s a completely absurd exchange, but with both actors so comically intense, it’s like watching two 8-year-olds arguing in suits.  In a way, though, maybe that’s the social commentary sneaking back in.

Grade: A. Keep it coming.  Two in a row is a coincidence, but three becomes a trend.

Favorite Quote: Please refer to the aforementioned exchange between Jack and Devon.


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