8.5
TV  |  Reviews

30 Rock Review: "Sun Tea" (episode 4.6)

November 20, 2009  |  12:15pm
30 Rock Review: "Sun Tea" (episode 4.6)

The most tiresome thing about this season of 30 Rock has been the entire Dealbreakers plotline. There’s a lot of other gripes people have had, some well-founded, some not so much, but for my money the Dealbreakers thing has generally slowed things down and turned a somewhat funny joke into a running gag that lost its steam some time ago. It’s sadly a bit like what SNL will do by taking whatever success it accidentally stumbles upon and reusing it again and again until even hearing about it makes you cringe. Dealbreakers had become like that for me, and the prospect of an entire season with that as a plot thread had me somewhat dreading last night’s episode.

Luckily, these fears turned out to be unnecessary because “Sun Tea” for the most part avoided the topic and went back to basics. I wouldn’t claim that it was an absolutely top tier episode, but that seems largely a result of its NBC-forced environmental subplot. When the show’s at its best, Fey is dealing with a crazy personal issue or TGS’ cast, Tracy Morgan’s off doing something insane, and the TGS writing crew not only shows up to work but even gets speaking lines. “Sun Tea” was three for three on those counts, and sure, it doesn’t take the show anywhere new, but what the hell, it had some pretty great moments.

The show’s main focus is on Liz’s desire to take over her upstairs neighbors’ apartment. Her only problem with this is that he’s an incredibly nice gay hipster policeman who’s unwilling to leave regardless of money, drama or large, threatening boyfriends. He’d be an amazing roommate if Liz was interested in one, but she’s not, so she spends the episode getting advice from various cast members on how to annoy him enough to make him flee. Yay, a Liz plotline that doesn’t suck this season!

Back at NBC Jack decides to get a vasectomy and quickly proceeds to convince Tracy that he needs one as well. The pair heads to good old Dr. Spaceman for treatment, but Tracy’s utterly adorable son pulls on Jack’s emotional heartstrings enough to stop the surgery and give both of them a chance at the joys of parenthood. Or in Tracy’s case, parenthood with daughters. Who cares if it means you can’t tell that dirty strip show story when there’s love in the hearts of your children. That being said, his story sounds like it was pretty damn awesome.

Unfortunately NBC did feel the need to once again shoehorn its green week thing into the episode (not that I’m against environmentalism or anything, I’m just against corporations acting like they’re out for the greater good). This year, Kenneth spends the episode going around nagging at people to be more environmental, including Liz, because she owns a mini-fridge. Apparently fridges aren’t environmental? Probably true, but I’m continuing to use one anyhow—take that NBC! So while the plot thread is lame and more disappointing than another appearance of Greenzo, it’s pretty minimal and does eventually lead to both the appearance of Al Gore and the revelation that Frank keeping his pee in jars is in fact a good thing. An awesome thing, even.

Best episode of the season? Yup. Things took off in the sort of zany circus that 30 Rock does (did?) better than anyone and led to some great pee-related humor and, on occasion, other types of humor as well. That being said, I’m going to use that terrible standard of journalism and say that I’m cautiously optimistic about next week’s episode. On the one hand, 30 Rock seems to be on an upswing. On the other hand, the next episode is titled “Dealbreakers Talk Show #001,” which bodes … poorly. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll get lucky and the episode will both kill off that whole business and be funny. Yes, cautiously optimistic sounds about right.


Stray Observations:

The whole Liz-is-into-food-not-exercise thing is always weird because Tina Fey looks amazing. Sometimes it can be a good running gag, but lately it feels like these have been on autopilot

Geiss meta-jokes at the beginning = meh.

"Some of them are sun tea and some of them were sun tea."

The Yale sweatshirt joke amuses me, but mostly just because I’m a Yalie. Also: because I wrote for the <i>Lampoon</i>’s Yale competitor and am super duper jealous of Twofer.

Ted Roxbear!

"If he was a monkey, then why was he killed by a monkey?"

"What have children ever done for us?" “Well they make our shoes and wallets.”

"Wow, that sounds like something I’d come up with if I were smarter!"

"Do you remember that horrible roommate you had back I Chicago?" “You mean you?”

"It’s take your black kid to work day."

“Because I’ve got this little d-bag here” “I know what that means” "And yet you won’t tell me”

“Bitches can be tricky. I’m going to get some strawberry milk.”

"So I’m in a strip club with Charles Barkley and one of the Hobbits and …" - I really want to know where this story was headed.

"I don’t think there’s a box for that on the form … what about Cheers lied to me?"

Dr. Spaceman is always awesome. He's the one thing in my sad, dark existence that never disappoints. That being said, I wouldn't let him get near me for a vasectomy.

Tracy explaining his entire plotline to Tina is pretty great. When you hear it like that, you can see why the episode works so well.

"The Geiss name used to be associated with money, power … funny incidents where girls died at barbeques. Now it’s being dragged through the mud."

"If a patient’s friend runs into the office and yells at you you have to stop. It’s the doctor’s code."

"It’s demeaning to women, especially if they’ve had their boobies sneezed on by a tiger."

“There’s an old African proverb that I made up...” Gore also rarely disappoints. His guest appearances are a gold mine of humor, even if the meta-ending to his bit was pretty dumb.

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