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Rainbow Chicken, Gay Bombs, and Cooter on the Season Finale of "30 Rock"

I can't believe that the second season of 30 Rock is already over, just when we finally got the series back on the air after the end of the writers strike.

While I found last night's episode ("Cooter") to be pretty damn funny, it didn't quite coalesce at the end in the streamlined fashioned I had hoped for. After all, this was a hugely ambitious episode, cramming in no less than four separate storylines that didn't intersect at all. Would it be possible to juggle the demands of so many competing stories in the space of approximately 21 minutes? Sadly, not quite though it gave it the old college try.

Liz. I really enjoyed the A-storyline in which Liz thinks she's pregnant due to a false-positive on a series of home pregnancy tests (including one swiped from Jenna's dressing room drawer) due to the "evaporated bull semen" that gives Liz's favorite off-brand Mexican snack, Sabor de Soledad, its distinctive flavor. While everyone (including possibly Liz) wishes that the child was Floyd's, Liz reveals that she did sleep with Dennis Duffy one last time, though BEFORE he tried to push her under a subway train. (That has to count for something, at least.) I loved how Dennis has forced his way back into Liz's life again by using her apartment as shelter since he lied to his mother about getting a job. Loved that Dennis wanted to name the baby either Morpheus (from The Matrix) or Judy to "honor" a girl that he had boffed.

The entire pregnancy scare gave a little bit of pathos to Liz's life as she first fears getting pregnant, especially with Dennis' child, but then slowly comes to terms with this life-changing news (she'll be a "kick-ass single mom... like Erin Brockovich or Sarah Connor") and embraces looking at cribs online, only to learn, soul-crushingly that she's not pregnant after all.

That this entire cycle of denial, despair, hopeful acceptance, happiness, and loss are all recounted via voicemail messages on Jack's Blackberry is a thing of beauty. Never have I wanted to hug a fictional character as much I did upon seeing Liz's sad face when she opens the door for Jack. The true testament of a comedy is being able to get your audience to laugh at, embrace, and feel for your character in equal measures and 30 Rock pulled this off magnificently. The look on Jack's face when he realized that Liz needed him has paid off two seasons' worth of haughty remarks on his behalf to reveal that he really does care about Lemon. And he did mean every word about helping her arrange an adoption. I'm curious to see if 30 Rock will actually pay off this storyline by having Liz adopt a kid (or try to adopt one anyway) or if this will fall by the wayside. (I'm nervous to have the dynamics of the series change with the introduction of a precocious kid to the mix.) It was a little strange that the "three months later" epilogues didn't actually include Liz's adoption quest... or indeed Liz at all.

Jack. I also really liked the B-storyline that had Jack working in a rundown Homeland Security branch in Washington D.C. responsible for weather preparedness and the War on the Poor. I also loved seeing Matthew Broderick as a sad-sack Cooter Burger (a.k.a. James Reilly), allegedly nicknamed by W. because he resembles a turtle and was eating a hamburger once (it was actually a sandwich). Realizing that he may have made a huge mistake (upon seeing the leaky roof, the candle under the lampshade, and the woeful lack of pens), Jack tries to resign but the Bush Administration isn't letting anyone leave, so he and Cooter embark on a quest--with the help of Jack's former flame C.C. (Edie Falco)--to get themselves fired by relaunching a study commissioning a "gay bomb." Bizarre, and that's saying a lot considering it's 30 Rock; Jack and Cooter present the results three months later and Cooter accidentally knocks over the vial containing the sexual identity-reversing weapon as the gas fills the room. So is Jack temporarily gay? Is he, um, involved with Cooter? And what were the writers smoking when they came up with this plot?

Kenneth. I thought there was a lot of screen time given to Kenneth's storyline in which his dreams of becoming a NBC page at the Summer Olympics in Beijing were nearly foiled by his archrival, Head Page Donny. (In case you haven't guessed, I am not really a fan of Donny.) I loved Jenna's videotape endorsement of Kenneth and her advice about backdoor self-compliments ("I can't watch American Idol because I have perfect pitch") and Kenneth's Olympic-inspired dash to turn in the application to NBC Sports before the deadline. But it seemed to overtake a lot of the episode without much payoff. Sure, there was the scene of Kenneth in bed with a beautiful woman in China before an armed man bursts into the room, but I wish the writers had instead not shown Kenneth until the very last moment. Instead, they buried the joke a little too much there. While I love Kenneth, I do think a little Kenneth goes a long way and I wish that they would have downplayed his storyline just a touch in order to link up the disparate plot threads in a more meaningful way. It just felt, while funny, a little jumbled and disorganized, instead of the smooth, effortless way these stories usually unfold.

Tracy. Tracy's dream of leaving a lasting legacy to his children finally came to fruition with the completion of his porn video game "Goregasm: The Legend of the Dong Slave," for which Grizz and Jenna lent their voices in a hilarious recording session. ("Again, and this time we'll record.") It was funny but a little too unbelievable to me that Frank had been playing the game for three months in his office... a reveal that took me out of the absurd, heightened reality of 30 Rock a little too much. Still, who will ever forget Tracy's advice to Jenna, overacting during the recording session, about how to approach the experience: "Don't overthink it; I don't want another Judi Dench situation." That made me laugh.

Best line of the evening: a tie between Kenneth's Mandarin delivery of "I will not fail you, rainbow chicken!" and Jack's sage wisdom of "It's a guaranteed disaster. Like eating a burrito before sex." But both of those paled to the sight of Kathy Geiss silently pulling the the miniature car out of her mouth and then placing it back once Liz ran out of her office.

What did you think? Did you think that this was yet another hysterical installment of 30 Rock and the perfect way to end the sophomore season? Or were you slightly disappointed that things were as disjointed and unfocused as they were? Discuss.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer
(CBS); Most Outrageous Moments/Most Outrageous Moments (NBC); Friday Night SmackDown! (CW; 8-10 pm); TV's All-Time Funniest (ABC; 8-10 pm); Man of the House (FOX; 8-10 pm)

9 pm: Moonlight (CBS); Dateline NBC (NBC; 9-11 pm)

10 pm:
NUMB3RS (CBS); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Sarah Jane Adventures on Sci Fi.

On tonight's episode of the Doctor Who spin-off ("Warriors of Kulak, Part Two"), Luke and Clyde find themselves enlisted in an intergalactic war via a laser-tag game as Sarah Jane and Maria race to save them. Afterwards, it's Part One of "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?," in which Maria sets out on a time-traveling quest to find her missing friends Sarah Jane and Luke as a meteor threatens Earth.

9 pm: Doctor Who on Sci Fi.

Season Four of Doctor Who continues tonight with "Planet of the Ood," as the Doctor and Donna encounter the Ood on the Ood Sphere, where they discover some terrible things about the human race.

10 pm: Battlestar Galactica on Sci Fi.

On tonight's episode ("Faith"), the search for Earth takes a rather unexpected turn, forcing some unexpected alliances to be forged.


Brad said…
I thought Jack said "like eating a burrito before six..." as though it makes for a terrible lunch or something.
Thanks for the correction.
I enjoyed Kenneth's story, because of Donny's villain and the archery flashback. "Peanut farmer!"
Unknown said…
A really disjointed episode but when Kathy Geiss pulled the toy car out of her mouth and then put it back in, I couldn't stop laughing. Loved the Jack and Liz moment at her apartment too. Thought Matthew Broderick was very funny - loved when he told Jack they were due at a meeting and Jack said, "But I'm not prepared" to which Cooter answered, "I'm not drunk either but we'll manage."
Anonymous said…
I have to go with slightly disappointed. But I still got a lot of laughs out of it. I am oddly immediately comforted when i see Matthew Broderick.
I loved the Liz storyline and the Jack storyline and wished they would have just concentrated on those. The Kenneth storyline was amusing but I just don't think Donny is that funny. (I don't know if it's a script issue or the actor but he can't compete with the other characters on the show.)And, again, the Tracy storyline was amusing but I would have rather seen more of Jack and Cooter or Liz.

A good episode with some very funny moments but not as satisfying of a season finale as I had hoped.
Anonymous said…
Some people here say that the season finale was slightly disappointing - but they're measuring it by 30 rock standards. Compared to any other finale, it was stupendous.

I really laughed my socks off at the Gay Bomb commission, as I'd just read about that a few months earlier. The things our military comes up with, eh?
The CineManiac said…
I think Cooter knocking over the "Gay Bomb" was part of their plan to get fired all along.
Anonymous said…
I agree that, for a series finale, this episode left me wanting more. (I believe when it ended I said, 'So that's it?')

However, the episode itself was funny as usual. My two favorite lines were: 1) When Kenneth finds out that Donny has told him the wrong deadline by which to turn in his Olympic page application he exclaims, "Saboteur!", in a perfect French accent; 2) When Jenna finds the used, positive pregnancy test in the garbage can and says, "Uh oh! Someone's going to get more attention than me." It's dialogue like that which makes 30 Rock so unique and why I love it so.

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