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30 Rock Recap: Scenes From a Marriage

Presumably there’s a fair contingent of 30 Rock fans who want Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy to be together, who see their undeniable, if firmly platonic, connection to be a long Sam-and-Diane flirtation rather than a winking reaction to decades’ worth of that ingrained expectation. So barely a minute into the first new episode in five weeks, we get this: You want these guys together? How ‘bout they get married, that together enough for you? As Jeffrey Weinerslav says, "You guys have always thrown off a real will-they-or-won’t-they vibe and it’s been a real thrill to watch your courtship."

Seems the retired French admiral/defrocked minister who performed Jack and Avery’s five-minute ceremony in St. Esclavage mistook stand-in best man Liz Lemon as the bride — her white men’s tennis shirt and government-sanctioned mosquito head-netting looked more bridal than Avery’s black cocktail dress, plus Liz didn’t understand the French word for “witness” on the marriage certificate. Pretty sure Friends did this gag, but this plotline is less a relationship-driven gambit than a setup for a long, sadistic game of chicken: Liz will only sign the divorce papers if Jack agrees to reverse the emergency budget cuts that have turned Jenna’s dressing room into an IT company’s server farm, while Jack greets this blackmail with typical viciousness.

Like the therapy and college episodes earlier this year, this takes the concept of marriage and runs with it through all the subplots. Jenna and Danny are forced to share his dressing room, forcing them instantly into harried husband-and-wife roles, with Kenneth as the man-child victimized by their domestic squabbling. Sorry, but bit this feels kinda rote: “Looks like we’ve got Cheyenne Jackson on contract for this this episode, what do we have for him?” “Fake weird pseudo-marriage to Jenna?” “Go with it!” (Kenneth’s “we forgot you worked here” line seems to acknowledge Danny’s transient cast status.) But: “delicious testicle meat,” so not all is lost here.

Meanwhile, Squeaky Fromme paramour Dr. Leo Spaceman tells Tracy he is going to die — he has no reflexes, his blood tastes like root beer, and some of his bones appear to have vanished — which makes Tracy worry about his family: “Who’s going to raise my kids if I can’t pay someone to raise my kids?” Thanks to the Kabletown merger, the staff’s benefits are being slashed, which means Angie needs to start her own career in entertainment. Thanks to Liz and Jack’s path of mutually assured destruction, Angie goes from intern to landing her own reality show in TGS’s (terrible) Friday at 11:00 p.m. time slot. From this subplot we get a classic Tracy non sequitur: “My alarm clock died in a cockfight last night.”

Most shows would have built an entire episode around the wedding high jinks that are dispensed with here in a couple seconds’ worth of flashback shots, and once again this economy — both in terms of narrative and real-world budgetary concerns — serves the show perfectly. 30 Rock doesn’t do set pieces. It does, however, do Liz Lemon going on TV in Grey Gardens drag to announce her husband’s $5 million donation to the Jack and Elizabeth Donaghy High School for Teen Drama, the Arts, and Feelings. Enter Wienerslav, who mediates this escalating anti-nepotism HR nightmare and finds that Liz and Jack are, not despite their vindictiveness so much as because of it, perfectly suited to be husband and wife. They realize this, of course, and stand down. If the question is, “will they or won’t they?” then the answer is, “duh, they already are.” This isn’t 30 Rock’s first rodeo. It was a cat rodeo. In a gay guy’s apartment.

Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC