It’s no big surprise that the perennially awkward Liz Lemon had a rough time in college, what with the Richard Marx hair and the pilonidal cyst. (Do not look that up, by the way.) Aside from the magical first two weeks when she was mistakenly given a handicapped room that became party central, school was as socially confounding as everything that came before and after for this granddaughter of Adolf Lemon, Union Station pickpocket. (“Don’t worry about getting to your point,” Jack says, “I’m going to live forever.”) But one would think that college would be a different story for Jack Donaghy at Princeton. Not so — he used to be poor, and was forced to clean the floors in the Princeton monkey lab (“It wasn’t the feces that got to you, it was the crudely scrawled notes that said, ‘Help me.’”) as well as read the entire dictionary for the linguistics department to preserve the perfect American accent in case of nuclear war.
Princeton has since sold those sound files to Pronouncify.com (do look that up, though — seriously), an unwelcome reminder of Jack’s hardscrabble beginnings. College wasn’t his glory days, his 25 years at General Electric have been, starting with his 1985 cover photo for the annual report with the wheelbarrow full of cocaine just out of frame. But with the Kabletown acquisition nearly complete, so is Jack’s time at the company. When the microwave division sees its best quarterly report in five years, without his close supervision, Jack wants to reassert his influence by proving that the new so-called perfect microwave — the TK-421, featuring Jack’s voice and five vections — can’t work in freezing rain, even if it makes Kenneth briefly die of hypothermia. This is his last week of senior year and he’s gonna party hard before having to go out and get a real job.
Meanwhile, Liz gets a chance to relive her two weeks of glory after she wins the crew’s lottery raffle and spends the $1,000 prize on a bar tab. (Jenna warns that this game is only for the strongs and lifters and will only lead to further resentment.) That daytime bender wins everyone over but the alcoholics. For them: a sundae bar. But what of poor Tony, lactose-intolerant alcoholic? How could she be so inconsiderate? For Tony, Adolf’s watch. She used to feel like Hitler, now she feels like Hitler in Germany. Of course, the inscription is discovered, and so is Liz’s craven pandering. She gives up her dream of being the Lizard, or Blizzard, or even Blizbian, and for the second episode in a row, Jenna is right: You are who you are. Jenna Maroney’s the hot blonde, Ogbert “Tracy” Jordan is the nerd who everyone realizes is hot after he takes off his glasses, and Liz Lemon is the R.A.
The writers play a prank on Pete, using Pronouncify.com to call him to Jack’s office with a guitar, beer in cans, and wearing a Mexican poncho, much to Lutz’s horror. But the prank backfires — that’s exactly what Jack needs to unwind, and the aborted cover of “Aqualung” doesn’t hurt. This is the college Jack never got to experience, even if he would have hated it. Pete never experienced it either, thanks to Paula getting pregnant two weeks into school. (The season-five creepifying of Pete continues unabated this episode, thanks to the elevator-groping gag and the revelation that Four of Clubs is Paula’s nickname for his penis.) But it’s not a party until Liz shows up and shotguns a pizza. (“She’s unhinging her jaw!”)
Worth noting: In the two brief scenes with the Indian microwave-lab geeks, 30 Rock nails the exact joke Outsourced seems to want to belabor for half an hour a week. Only cleverly. The button featuring the delivery guy who actually looks like Jack is a great best example of what this show does better than anyone — finishing off an already dizzying barrage of jokes with a quick-hit, unexpected twist.
The Animal House–homage epilogue isn’t quite unexpected — The Simpsons did it, so did plenty of others — but it’s done perfectly, if for no other reason than that we learn a new kind of borkulator has indeed been invented.