30 Rock, NBC, Airs Thursdays at 9:30/8:30c

Episode: “Retreat to Move Forward” (Season 3, Episode 9)

Synopsis: Jack has been selected to give the keynote speech at the GE’s Six Sigma Retreat to Move Forward and, apprehensive of how his cohorts will think of him, requests that Liz join him. Unfortunately for Jack, the suits don’t look too kindly on Liz’s unprofessional behavior. Meanwhile, back at the studio, Kenneth tries to convince Tracy to eat healthy after he’s diagnosed with diabetes, and Frank pulls a prank on Jenna as she prepares for her Janis Joplin (“or Janis Joplin type character”) biopic by directing her research towards the Joplin Wikipedia page that he has falsified.

Review: Perhaps it’s because someone new (Steve Buscemi, to be exact) stepped behind the camera that this episode felt off, but there was this pervasive feeling of laziness throughout the episode that only Tina Fey really broke through. Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, and even the ever consistent Alec Baldwin all performed as though they were just reading lines as opposed to acting them out. The legendary Akira Kurasawa once said with a bad script, it’s impossible to make a good film (let’s pretend he said TV show) and while I wouldn’t go so far as to label this episode’s script as bad, it certainly left something to be desired. Typically, audiences can count on Tracy Jordan spouting out something bat shit crazy, Jack Donaghy insisting on something borderline stereotypical, and Kenneth Parcell dropping nuggets of country bumpkin absurdities. In Episode 3.9, they’re not given many good jokes with which to work to the detriment of Tracy (dumb, but not endearingly so), Jack (boring), and Kenneth (just plain juvenile). The fact that it doesn’t seem as though Buscemi can nail down his comedy timing doesn’t help much either. WARNING: Spoiler ahead.

Frank and Jenna end up hooking up due to some not entirely logical reasoning between the two and while it’s humorous to see Jenna’s ego thrown back at her (claiming he has “many irons in the fire” around NBC, Frank is the one embarrassed of the encounter, though Jenna believes it should be vice-versa), Frank suffers the same fate as the above mentioned three in regards to the “meh” jokes he’s given. It’s a little more glaring with him than with the others though, seeing as he’s not normally given so much screen time and he’s not able to do much with it. Still, it’s better watching the banter between these two than watching the mostly unfunny exchanges between Kenneth and Tracy. I will admit though, that the fruition of Kenneth’s “Hill Witch” story is rather uproarious.

That leaves Tina Fey to carry the episode on her shoulders as Liz Lemon and, God bless her, she succeeds. The crass and self-deprecating humor of Liz keeps the episode afloat as she makes the corporate goons around her uncomfortable at every turn. Whether she’s showing off her robot penis or doing bad impersonations from Sling Blade, she is consistently hilarious. Thrown into the background of her and Jack’s trip are also subtle, yet nonetheless incisive pokes at the ridiculousness of corporate speak (“nicknameification”) and lame ass team building, synergy-centric activities with impossible to remember acronym names: L.U.N.C.H., Lego Utilization for Negating Crisis Hierarchies and C.L.A.S.S., Consuming Lunch And Simple Socializing. Salma Hayek doesn’t return for a third episode in a row so to make up for it, they throw in a brief sequence in which Liz rips open her shirt and dances on a stage in her bra in order to distract the other retreat guests from Jack’s bathroom musings coming through the speakers via his lavalier microphone. Fey is no Salma Hayek (who is?), but for any of you who may be hopelessly in love with the comedian (okay, me), then this is the closest thing to heaven you’ll (I’ll) ever get without fear of a restraining order.

Favorite Quote: [Jack] – “There they are – the Six Sigmas themselves. Each of them embodies a pillar of the Six Sigma philosophy: teamwork, insight, brutality, male enhancement, handshakefulness, and play hard.”

Grade: C – Last week’s episode had me in stitches, this week’s episode gave them time to heal.

What did you think of this week’s episode?

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