Episode: “Argus” (Season Four, Episode 19
Summary: After the contents of Don Geiss’ will are announced, Jack finds himself the owner of his ex-mentor’s peacock, Argus. Meanwhile, Liz must not only help settle the dispute between Dot Com and Tracy over who will be Grizz’s best man, but she must also uncover what secret Jenna’s new boyfriend, Paul (Will Forte) might be hiding.
Review: Then denizens of 30 Rock are no strangers to the absurd, the ridiculous, even the stupid, but the show has never really crossed the bounds of the surreal until “Argus” and it’s left an odd flavor in my mouth.
I’ve found that you can typically tell how strong an episode will be by the quality of the jokes that occur before the opening credit sequence. The banter between Jack and Liz that kicks off the episode isn’t bad, per se, but it’s not great either, which I feel is an accurate description of the rest of the episode.
Maybe it was too many cooks in the kitchen (3 credited writers for a 22-minute episode), but “Argus” reeked strongly of running out of ideas. For starters, the coupling of Liz and Pete, which has been so strong throughout the entire season, lacked the pop and chemistry that’s been exuded in past episodes this season. The running joke of Pete wanting to be called “Dallas” wore out pretty quickly and after a while he just sort of disappeared, but luckily it wasn’t before a great joke about why he’s avoiding his kids’ performance of ‘Oklahoma': “none of the cowboy hats can fit my kids’ heads so they’re just wearing turbans.”
Pete wasn’t the only victim of flat jokes though as Tracy’s gags didn’t quite pack the usual punch either – specifically, I’m thinking of the “don’t make me show you the back of my hand” bit (on which is taped a note, ‘Please be nice to me’) and his attempt to show Liz his adeptness (or lack thereof) at standing on one foot. But Tracy isn’t fully a victim in this episode, revealing his soft under belly when he admits to Liz that his assertion on being Grizz’s best man is strictly for the purpose of protecting Dot Com, who’s in love with Grizz’s fiance, Feyonce. It’s a cute end to the best story thread of the episode, which saw hilarious references to the Liz/Grizz hook up that was mentioned as just an afterthought way back in season 2. It’s a prime example of a running gag that worked from the very beginning, when Grizz told Liz he’d feel safer talking with the door open, to the very end, when he says, “damn, Beth, get over it.”
Counteracting that, though, was the shenanigans with Jenna’s new boyfriend, who is indeed hiding a secret: he’s a Jenna impersonator. Of course, Jenna is aware of this and not only does she not care, that’s what drew her to him. As Liz realizes, the draw in the relationship is that Jenna can physically love herself. Now, it’s no secret that Jenna is egotistical – this is a woman who was upset when her stalker gave up on her, remember – but it seemed a bit too surreal and stretched to see her kissing a man dressed as herself at the end of the episode. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Forte was given more jokes to work with (though he does admit he would stop taping his penis for her), but he’s given little and therefore, gives little, unlike his appearance alongside Paul Reubens in “Black Tie” years ago.
Similarly, it’s weird to see Jack conversing with a peacock that he believes contains the spirit of Don Geiss and similarly, it could’ve been forgiven if Jack was funnier in the episode. Sadly, that’s not the case (the slow motion grieving process was meh) and we have to settle for mildly amusing Jack instead of A-game Jack.
Favorite Quote: [Tracy] – “‘Let’s not do this in front of everybody?’ You sound my mother being pulled on stage at a Two Live Crew concert. Damn. My mother had problems.”