There may not be a richer, more rewarding relationship on television right now than that between Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon. I’m sure there are records that can be checked, but they might be the first mixed-gender leads in sitcom history who share no sexual tension, nor does will-they-or-won’t-they innuendo drive the show in any way, even well into a fifth season. Sure, they may have been glimmers of flare-ups — they are only human, and good-looking — but their codependency revolves around something more complex and unique than doin’ it. Liz has no real friends to whom she can unload her neuroses upon, and Jack’s ego demands to be in service of more than the proverbial bird with a broken wing. That bird also has to have a life marked by Drive, Intelligence, Humility, and Chaos. D.I.H.C. (Jack hears it and he doesn’t care.)
A hormonally imbalanced Avery, prone to fits of rage during which everything smells like onions, has understandable reservations about Jack’s close connection to Liz, just as it’s understandable that Jack agrees to no longer revel in Lemon’s never-ending chaos, for the sake of his fiancée and the unborn not-Charlotte Jessup Donaghy. But this is bad timing for Liz, whose father Dick (the amazing Buck Henry, every bit as inspired a piece of parental-figure casting as Elaine Strich, Carrie Fisher, and Jan Hooks) is in town hunting for a extra-marital romp, a gentleman’s intermission. If Jack can’t help her, who can? Pete, who sympathizes with her dad’s age-inappropriate and adulterous lechery? (Man, Pete’s kind of a creep this year, no?) Jenna, who is obsessed with making NBC News’s list of pre-recorded obituary segments? Tracy, who is Tracy? Some other person who isn’t one of the three main characters of this show? Not likely. So Liz takes action in a manner that Jack would certainly not have recommended, posing (amazingly) as Tootsie at Swingles to awkwardly entrap her own father.
And while Liz is rudderless without Jack’s guidance, his search for a new mentee proves futile. Jonathan refuses to cut off Jack’s pinkie, meaning he lacks ambition. Tracy, sitting on the soundstage in his sadness spotlight, fails the test of humility, concluding that he must become a hero in order to redeem his embarrassing, felony-filled obit. Despite being an unceasing onslaught of dysfunction, Jenna fails the intelligence requirement when she decides to make her own obit. Avery’s closet has been on the cover of Organized Living twice, she doesn’t have the capacity for chaos. No, there can only be one.
(Note to James Dolan and Donnie Walsh and David Stern: Tracy’s all-giraffe basketball team, the New York Necks, sounds promising. Can they maybe replace the Knicks? Go Necks!)
Tracy’s plot to have Kenneth attack the 911-dialing cat so he can be a double-hero backfires when he gets distracted noticing his indie film Hard To Watch is garnering Oscar buzz — that’s his ticket out of tabloid infamy. Plus, he left Tracy, Jr. in Atlantic City. (Right, Mickey Rourke?) Jenna comes to the rescue instead and becomes the double hero.
Avery tells Liz she has come to accept that she and Jack need one another (Liz has resorted to wearing a Duane Reade bag as underwear). Jack defuses the gentleman’s intermission problem in virtuoso fashion, calling Dick Lemon and threatening to curbstomp him for disrespecting his sister. Intermission over, Dick is heading back to Philly, and Liz is showing Jack something weird on her leg. All is well. The scene by the elevators where Jack and Liz were forced to talk about only non-personal things? Couldn’t have been more awkward if they’d slept together; their desperate dynamic is funny, of course, but it’s also recognizably human, which is a nice touch for silly sitcom characters.
Finally, this: How good a show is 30 Rock? They can even make a Googling myself/masturbation joke funny in 2010.