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30 Rock Recap: The Spinsterhood of the Drawstring Pants

Until now, the only thing keeping Liz Lemon from being a full-on cat lady has been the fact that she didn’t actually own a cat. But after her breakup with Carol, at gunpoint, she decides to make it official — enter a tabby named Emily Dickinson, an Orlando fanny pack, a loose-fitting sweatsuit, and a Chip Clip ponytail. Giving up never looked so good. That Liz is resigned to life as a loveless spinster is no shocking revelation — it’s the show’s go-to gag. That Pete once played bass for prime Get Lucky–era Loverboy, however, is shocking. (And, frankly, is a bit of a slap in the face to late actual Loverboy bassist Scott Smith — rest his Canadian, leather-trousered soul. Oh come on, you were thinking it, too.) Although his alarming resemblance to Superchunk guitarist Jim Wilbur should have been a clue. They write an inspirational new song together, “It’s Never Too Late for Now,” but the pressures of nascent rock stardom quickly threaten to tear apart Soundmound and … their friendship.

Hopped up on Czechoslovakian black-market organ-slimming pills, Jenna insists on taking Liz out for a night of rebound club crawling, but she has to edit a "Best of Tracy Jordan" episode. They’re really running with this “he’s in Africa” business — good luck with your new movie/family commitment/rehab stint, Mr. Morgan! But Donna the editor gets food poisoning, so Liz agrees to go out, solely on the grounds that she can leave the second she gets uncomfortable — it’s not Eric Roberts’s teepee or anything. But really, who could ever be uncomfortable in those soft, baggy warmups? She has her lost driver’s license returned to her minutes after she gets to the bar at the faux-industrial Canal Yards Project by her dream man, Anders — a handsome Star Wars geek with a taste for funky juice (white wine, ice, and Sprite; she keeps a thermos of it by her toilet, you misheard her) and no patience for malarkey. When a brawl breaks out in the club, Liz decides that the universe, which had previously been telling her that she was destined to die alone, is now telling her she should go with him to his hotel and get laid. Or at least make fun of Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love.

Master negotiator Jack Donaghy, whose impending licensing meeting with Kabletown has already been picked as one of the ten biggest meetings of 2011 by Meeting magazine, has met his hardball-playing match in Sherry, the Trinidadian baby nurse for little Liddy (as in Dole and G. Gordon). Even though there’s no logic to paying her the same amount for her evening shift as he does for a full day, he’s powerless against her cold stare and Clementine-peeling, and he violates all of his long-ingrained negotiating tactics. He even offers her shark meat from the fridge for one of her sandwiches. The problem is that she has leverage: eight pounds of toothless, screaming, soft-skulled leverage, and he is being reamed by a woman wearing Winnie the Pooh hospital pants. By adopting her tactics, Jack nails his meeting and celebrates with Liz over some Scotch from that week NBC came in third place.

Liz is starting to suspect that her one-night stand occurred a little too conveniently: the food-poisoned editor, the lost license that she keeps in her mini-fridge along with her tampons and ibuprofen, the brawl, everything about Anders. Jack encourages her to just accept the wonder of it all, like in that Internet video he once saw of a mouse and a bird … that are friends. Inspired by her partial reading of Murder On the Orient Express, the first selection from her seniors book club, she gets her Miss Marple on and rounds up her staff (including Grizz and Dot-Com, who aren’t with Tracy in “Africa,” for some likely contract-related reason), and spells out her vast conspiracy theory involving multiple agents, certainly not including a Swiss prostitute recommended by Martha Stewart. But in order for such a complex scheme to work, so many people would have to know her and care about her so much that no one would ever believe it. So the simplest explanation must be it: She went to a midtown hotel and got some. It’s a pretty masterful twist, especially for a show that’s often content to rely on its character gags and zingers over intricate plotting, but every moment in this episode pays off, even adding a little bit of sentimentality for excellent measure. Maybe Tina’s been watching Parks and Rec, too?

Important note: By my highly unscientific count, this is only the second time Frank Rositano has appeared on 30 Rock sans customized trucker cap, and thus again quashing the rumor that Judah Friedlander was born without the top of his skull. And how is there not a band called Soundmound?

Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC