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30 Rock Recap: Powerwagging

If last week’s tour de force reality-show takedown didn’t get the point across, Tina Fey even drags out her onetime nemesis this week to help convey her show’s, and, really, her entire career’s, central thesis: Yay writing!

Jack’s plan to enrich the Kabletown empire by acquiring an all-gay cable network (TWINKS) is backfiring badly, and with Tracy still in Africa, there’s no way to keep TGS going any longer without him. “I’d like to help,” says Jack, “but I’m Afraid My Hands Are Tied … is the only show people are watching on TWINKS.” Liz breaks the news to the staff that the show is on forced hiatus, and while she’s optimistic that this is just temporary, everyone else knows the show is over and resorts to Plan B. For Frank, that’s stand-up at the nation’s black women’s colleges; for Sue, it’s back to her police psychic gig in Holland; Pete always has substitute teaching; and Jenna has these weird dolls she’s selling. Everyone’s got a fallback plan except Liz, who just wants a writing job somewhere.

Jack’s plan to revive TWINKS is to hire his archenemy Devin Banks, now drummed out of his spot in the Obama administration and playing househusband in Brooklyn to his three mixed-race gaybies with his shiny black husband, Cashmere. (“He’s on LinkedIn, he might as well be dead!”) Banks, for once, is no threat to Jack, since Hank Hooper will no doubt hate his deviant ways. But Banks is ready for the challenge: Who’s ready for some num-nums?

Liz gets a meeting with Nick Lachey for The Sing-Off, and finds recent Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin waiting as well, leading to what has to be the most meta moment in this meta show’s long, glorious meta history as Sorkin delivers his patented hyperverbal walk-and-talk testament to the plight of the modern screenwriter, rattling off his credits with one notable exception: “Studio 60?” “Shut up.” Hard to imagine that Fey and Sorkin were once rivals, debuting the same season five years ago with very different fictionalized takes on the show that only one of them had worked on. (“Listen, lady, a gender I write very well if the genre calls for it.”) Kudos to Sorkin, who has never particularly come off as someone with a sense of humor about himself or, really, anything. And beyond that quick gag, there’s a real point that, without any place in the culture for quality scripted programming, even winning a screenwriting Oscar isn’t going to keep you from, if you’re lucky, buttering up Nick Lachey by telling him you own all his albums.

Kenneth hatches a scheme to rally fan support for TGS, having them send sugar cubes to the NBC offices, which look a lot like anthrax. Banks keeps Jack and Hank waiting an hour for their first meeting, and although Hank figures the delay is just because Banks is stopping to do good deeds along the way, Jack knows it’s a textbook power play. His suspicions are more than confirmed when Banks arrives with little Mykonos in bjorn, apologetic and covered in puke. Hooper is immediately impressed by this commitment to family, while Jack, whose own daughter now refers to him by the Trinidadian term for “stranger,” realizes he’s been outwitted again.

While a small child asks his mother what a newspaper box is, Liz is summoned to accept her fate of obsolescence by a travel agent, an auto worker, and a guy who used to play dynamite saxophone solos in rock-and-roll songs. They live under the subways with the CEO of Friendster now.

Just one day later, Banks has already been promoted to head of operations in Europe. “I was trapped in a world of wet wipes and rectal thermometers, then the babies changed everything. But you set me free, Jack.” But ultimately, Banks’s commitment to his gaybies actually outweighs his ambition, and Jack doesn’t even have to resort to his Trading Places plan. Banks returns to Brooklyn.

Liz is all ready to relaunch TGS as a magazine, then finally pieces it together that Tracy is actually still within the delivery zone of Federici’s Pizza, thus saving her from a fate as the world’s worst hooker. And while this doesn’t exactly feel like a victory for those who still dream of a career doing actual writing — or, as the case may be, a career writing about other people’s writing — there are certainly worse champions for the cause.

Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC