30rockseason4

Episode: “Stone Mountain” (Season Four, Episode 3)

Synopsis: Jack and Liz take a trip to Kenneth’s hometown of Stone Mountain, Georgia in yet another attempt to find all-American talent while Jenna attempts to charm the writing staff so she’ll get favorable roles once a new cast member is hired and they in turn attempt to charm her for an invitation to a Halloween party.  Also, Tracy becomes paranoid that the Rule of Three applies to celebrity deaths and that he’ll be unlucky #3.

Review: “Everything that makes this show great made this episode great . . . you’ve got an episode that should satisfy the devoted fans who have been salivating for the show’s shenanigans and should make it clear to newcomers that the hype is justified.”  That’s what I wrote in my review for the first episode of season four and part of me wishes I could take it back solely because I’ll now repeat myself by saying the same thing about tonight’s episode.  I thought “Season Four” set the bar pretty high for the rest of the season, but I see that the crew of 30 Rock has once again shattered my expectations.

At the risk of repeating myself, tonight’s episode fired on all cylinders and was absolutely solid from beginning to end.  I guess that’s the one bad thing about being the best show on television – all the well-deserved acclaim becomes repetative after a while.  But I digress.  The episode begins solidly with Liz applying a scented candle to her apparently odorous armpits and Jack cracking wise about Liz’s talent search in both San Francisco (“you’re not going to find him in the people’s gaypublic of drugafornia”) and Toronto (“Canada?  Why not just go to Iraq?”).  Donaghy makes a note to emphasize again the difference between middle American conservatives and New York City liberals, which raised a few concerns about the show moving past its self-reflexive pokings into the realm disconnect between its stars and its public. Those fears, however, were efficiently crushed by the episode’s climax in The Chuckle Hut…uh, make that The Laugh Factory.  More on that later.

Tonight’s episode shone a little bit of the spotlight on the TGS writing staff – specifically Frank (Judah Friedlander), Toofer (Keith Powell) and Lutz (John Lutz) – who are typically relegated to brief scenes of one-liners and wisecracks.  This time they’re given their own plot thread and it was surprisingly hysterical.  Not surprisingly, we find out that the three writers are pretty big losers (a hot girl came to their Halloween party the year before requesting that they close the blinds), but they’re at least smart enough to concoct a plan to use the scheming Jenna to help change their fortunes when it comes to striking out with chicks.  How exactly is that supposed to work?  A bit like this:

  • Frank: We need to pretend to be Jenna’s friends for the next 24 hours – she’s our ticket to a gay Halloween.
  • Lutz: How come when Jenna suggests it everyone’s on board?
  • Frank: No, Lutz.  Jenna attracts gay guys.  Gay guys throw awesome Halloween parties.  Hot girls go to awesome Halloween parties.  Ergo, if we’re Jenna’s “friends”…
  • Toofer: (with Lutz): We get to spend Halloween with hot girls!
  • Lutz: (with Toofer): We get to spend Halloween with gay guys!  (quickly) Hot girls.

Jenna eventually finds out the plan of the writers and strikes them a deal that will be mutually beneficial to all parties involved including us male members of the audience who get to see Cerie (Katrina Bowden) in her costume: an Italian senator.  I didn’t understand the joke, but she was in a bikini and that’s good enough for me.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that 30 Rock sinks without Jack Donaghy and while I think the show would be lost without him, I think he would in turn be lost without Liz Lemon.  Their exchanges are some of the snappiest, funniest and most revealing writing of the entire show and Baldwin and Fey play off each other magnificently.  I nearly died when Liz literally forced Jack to veer his car into a fast food establishment called “Fatty Fat’s Sandwhich Ranch” and when Donaghy, unwilling to comfort a later ailing Liz, strokes her back at distance with a broom he finds in the bathroom.  It’s also their story thread that alleviated my previously mentioned fears.  Donaghy is shocked when the act that he signed as the new TGS talent, ventriloquist Rick Wayne (comedian Jeff Dunham), turns out to be a lot more foul-mouthed and rude than anticipated.  He quickly realizes that the residents of Stone Mountain aren’t “simple.”  In fact, they’re terrible.  Just like the people in New York.  Subsequently, we, as an audience, realize that 30 Rock’s penchant for poking fun at the elite comes not from a misguided sense of entitlement (as in, we’re rich so only we’re allowed to make fun of the rich), but from a realization that everyone loves to laugh at everyone who isn’t them.  It’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek twist on the belief that all God’s children are beautiful in their differences (I believe the exact line is “all God’s children are terrible.”)

For a while, it looked as though Tracy’s story thread was going to flop.  In fact, if I have one complaint about “Stone Mountain,” it’s that his story thread doesn’t really seem to resolve itself, though this could be do to the fact that my DVR cut something off after the credits and I missed it.  While he (obviously) doesn’t die, we can be grateful that his thread gave us a great cameo by the always hilarious Betty White as well as another opportunity to make fun of a failed NBC experiment ala Jay Leno at the end of “Season Four.”  This time, though, it’s someone MUCH more deserving of scorn: Jimmy Fallon.

  • (Fallon runs screaming with an axe at Tracy, who turns to meet him screaming with a wrench)
  • Fallon: Okay, okay, truce, truce.  But if some celebrity doesn’t die soon, I’m gonna kill my first guest tonight.  It’s a dog who plays soccer.
  • Kenneth: Really?  That’s your first guess?
  • Fallon: Yeah… (slinks head, walks away)

Do you think Fallon cared his former SNL alum was making fun of him?  Or do you think he was just happy to be on a show with more viewers than his (and that’s really saying something)?

Grade: A. The best episode of the season by far and definitely in my top 5 all time.

Favorite Quotes:

” [Kenneth] – Excuse me, Mr. Donaghy?  I wasn’t sure if you were participating in this year’s pumping carving contest or, if like last year, I should ‘go jump up my own ass?’

[Jack] – Same as last year.”


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