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30 Rock Review: "Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter"/"Khonani" (4.17 & 4.18)

April 26, 2010  |  10:48am
<em>30 Rock</em> Review: "Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter"/"Khonani" (4.17 & 4.18)

For reasons only NBC's scheduling department can say for sure (which I assume are the result of The Office having the station's best Nielsen ratings on Thursdays by far), the last two episodes of 30 Rock were aired on the same night, but not back to back. There's a lot of plot to run through so let's get right down to business (and as a result we're a little light on commentary this week). It's also an odd way to watch things, and especially jarring because one of the primary concerns of both episodes was Jack's love triangle with Nancy Donovan (Julianne Moore) and Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks). After several episodes stressing how great either of these women would be for Jack, his conundrum makes sense and leads accordingly to a love triangle between Jack and these two women.

"Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter" begins this with a stereotypically sit-com style night of Jack jumping between the two women and trying not to be caught along the way. It's a cliché—hell it's one of the biggest cliches a sit-com can have—but 30 Rock knows this and for the most part just doesn't care. We all know how trying to balance these triangles ends, and so does the show, and it subverts expectations by... not having things explode. In a twist that may be easily overlooked, Jack has no negative consequences for his philandering ways and things fail to resolve. Even more importantly, 30 Rock truly revels in the silliness of this sort of nonsensical plot. At this point both Nancy and Avery are equally interesting, and it's hard not to feel like Jack's caught in the midst of this mess. My guess is that he'll eventually go with Avery as that's less of a truly serious relationship which would change the show in a more permanent way, but his indecision is understandable.

While Jack is dealing with this crisis, Liz is doing every singles event she can find in order to meet someone. The episode goes back to the old "No one wants to be with Liz even though she's actually gorgeous" well a bit, but her behavior at these meetings shows off why no one's too interested. It's not that she's not pretty, it's that socially she's kinda insane. This interacts a lot with Jack's business, but is really a secondary concern and Liz not being the center of things allows her to work as a character for delivering good lines, which is a nice change of pace.

A last plotline for "Lee Marvin" focuses on Twofer getting fed up with his status on The Girly Show's staff largely being the result of his race rather than his ability. Tracy helps out with his efforts to gain respect and while this entire plot isn't given more than a few minutes of screen time it also doesn't wear out its welcome. Anything that gives the writers more time is usually a good thing, and this is no exception. The show doesn't address race, gender, or affirmative action in a particularly enlightened manner, but who cares, it's funny.

Jack's indecision about the women of his life continues into "Khonani," but in a less interesting way. He's decided to lock himself in his room until he makes a decision about who to stay with, but is profoundly unable to do so and makes any excuse to escape his self-imposed exile. This leads him to actually caring about a janitorial issue that he'd otherwise ignore entirely.

The janitorial shift business is something I really want to like. The entire affair is a very thinly veiled commentary about NBC's mishandling of the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien scheduling affair, where two janitors want the same coveted evening shift which has been promised to both men, thus the title of the episode and the slighted janitor being named  "Khonani." But it's just not an elegant way of handling matters and feels very un-30 Rock; it's the sort of heavy-handed ranting they'd do on South Park. It also doesn't really say anything novel about the situation, more recounting what happened at NBC and how it was unfair than offering any new insight into things.

Liz spends her time being jealous that all of her employees go out without her every week and plans revenge while Tracy is forced to opt out of attending her revenge party in order to try and be a good husband. Liz's party is annoying at first in being once again about how no one likes her and she's no fun, so nothing new. But Tracy's attempt at staying around his wife involves him putting an electric dog collar on in order to fight his instincts and is wonderfully insane in the way that Tracy does best. This also means his dog, Tracy Sr., escapes and chases Kenneth (who'd been assisting Tracy in tending to his wife) back to Liz's party. Tracy Sr. does exactly what his namesake would and wrecks the joint and steals the party, though perhaps with a bit more vicious biting. At this point, Liz's party actually gets interesting.

Jack's shenanigans in the first episode of the evening were just plain-out more interesting than anything that happened in the second episode, which isn't to say that "Khonani" was bad, just that "Lee Marvin" was extremely good. These days, 30 Rock is on-and-off, and there doesn't seem to be too much separating the two; sometimes the jokes are successful and sometimes they misfire. Two seasons ago, that wasn't the case, but these days you have to take what you can get from the show, so while "Khonani" was disappointing after a particularly stellar episode earlier, it was still entertaining enough. That being said, Jack's love triangle dilemma is now being extended into a third episode and it feels like things should be over by now. Let's move it along already.

Stray Observations:
"You look like a prison weed dealer."
"Lemon are you wearing a cup?"
-Singles dodge ball is just the worst idea imaginable.  Visually entertaining, though.
"Tomorrow is the wine and cheese tasting, or as I like to call it: singles fart suppression."
-National Lampoon's Van Wilder 's Wingman Incorporated
"The grownup dating world is like your haircut, sometimes awkward triangles occur."
-Mrs. Doubtfire Shimself.
"Come to think of it, I saw a white judge on Law and Order last night."
"Peanut butter and Miller High Life is the best flavor ever."
"You always know you're at the right party when it feels like the Riddler is going to attack."
"You are officially a John Mayer-style garbage."..
-Hiding Your Arms, Hiding Your Anger: Dating Over 35.
-The Disney princess thing forgets about Hercules and its white princess Megara. Failure.
"This is one of the only restaraunts with a veal tank."
"The last time I used a birth control device it was the 70s and it looked like a soap on a rope."
-Will Ferrell as a "Bitch Hunter" is a show I wouldn't miss
---------------------------
"I haven't seen your brow that furrowed since you saw Helen Mirren in a bikini"
-The "fresh" NBC logo is wonderfully awful.
"There ain't no party like a Liz Lemon party cause a Liz Lemon party is mandatory."
"The secret service never gave me back my t-shirt cannon."
"I am innoventing... a word that I just innovented."..
"I'm like a chameleon... always a lizard!"

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