30 Rock: “Reunion” (Episode 305)

TV Reviews 30 Rock

Guest-star free, the “Reunion” episode saw Liz Lemon get called out for her often hurtful humor once again. Invited to a high-school reunion, Liz initially shrugs it off because she was a tortured nerd in high school, bullied by catty prom queens like Kelsey Winthrop (Robyn Lively, sister of Blake).

But, after attending the reunion (with Jack, whose trip to Miami to “get some ass and enjoy the city’s burgeoning art scene” was derailed after bad weather), Liz’s memory proved to be spotty. She wanted to prove herself as the ugly duckling that’s blossomed into the “vaguely ethnic swan,” but she’s horrified to learn she was the bully, having spouted hurtful comments about pill addictions and poop-colored birthmarks to her classmates. Even her effeminate friend Rob, “the first gay guy” she ever kissed (who has since married a woman and raised three lovely…dogs), resents her.

It’s a story we’ve seen before. In season one, Jenna gets upset over Liz’s failure to say anything kind about her film The Rural Juror (you know, the Kevin Grisham adaptation). The ever-astute Jack takes Liz to task for using humor as a defense mechanism, thereby explaining why she’s a woman approaching 40 but still alone.

Jack, meanwhile, is still struggling on his path toward taking the throne of NBC. After a rather bizarre photo shoot that involved Kathy Geiss, a magna-doodle and a stuffed unicorn, Don Geiss suddenly re-emerges from his bedridden coma. But, unfortunately, he takes it as a sign of reinvigorated life and re-assumes his post as CEO.

Jack and Liz have cultivated a nicely supportive relationship, one where they can call each other out on their crap and still remain friends at the end of the day. When Liz’s high school enemies conspire to “Carrie” her, Jack valiantly comes to her rescue. The only problem with the episode was it’s stuff we’ve seen before, and better. It also portrayed Liz Lemon in her first truly unlikable light. After avoiding being draped in blood, she lays a few insults out to her critics before saying “Lemon out” at the end of the episode. It seemed a bit uncharacteristic and unflattering to her character.

The episode’s side-story, thankfully, was pretty funny. Tracy made a bizarre non-joke in the elevator about why there are no Puerto Ricans on Star Trek and is miffed when no one laughs. Worse, when Kenneth has everyone in stitches after a series of his own brand of non-jokes, Tracy instantly feels threatened and runs to sulk in his “angry chair” (a plastic red chair clearly made for children). Later, Jenna finds herself similarly upstaged by Kenneth in the elevator, and responds the only way she knows how: by belting out the chorus of “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Props to Jane Krakowski for the episode’s funniest moment.

Jenna and Tracy later pose as pages, hoping to embarrass Kenneth into never taking the attention away from the actors. Ever. Again. Because, as Jenna put it, “without actors, how would anyone know who to vote for?” (Which reminds us of a hilarious one-off comment Jack made about wanting to attend a Princeton reunion so he “could wipe that smug smile off Michelle Obama’s face.”)

Finally, while this episode was essentially unremarkable (especially in its portrayal of Liz), there was one particularly funny joke. When Jack tells Liz there is popcorn on the plane, she instantly responds “I want to go to there” in a trance-like daze. Later, to entice her to come on stage at the reunion, the girl dangles a $50 gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse. Her response? “I. Want. To. Go. To. There.” Liz may use off-color humor as a coping mechanism, but the episode revealed her true soft spot: food. Free food, preferably.

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