30 Rock Recap: Batman & Lemon

Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC
30 Rock
Episode Title
The Tuxedo Begins

As a character, Jack Donaghy is funniest when the writers use him to riff on rich-white-guy privilege. But this season, Alec Baldwin hasn’t gotten much of a chance to put on his tux and behave like an alpha dog. With his wife still trapped in North Korea, Jack has every right to be depressed, but there’s nothing fun about watching him mope and question himself like a post-divorce Don Draper.

Luckily, just when it seems like he’s about to take up swimming, a distraction appears: He gets mugged. And not only does he get mugged, but the mugger steals his cuff links, forcing him to break out a more formal replacement pair. Of course, you can’t wear black-tie cuff links without putting on a tuxedo, and as soon as the tux goes on, the old, insensitive, one-percenter parody Jack Donaghy is back.

Jack believes he was a victim of class warfare because his mugger was a middle-aged white guy wearing a button-down shirt. He explains his logic to Liz and Tracy in his office: “The lower classes are getting cranky about the rich earning all of their money away from them. Can’t they see this is in their best interest? How could we pay their salaries without using their money?” The mugging, he thinks, is a call to arms. It’s the city telling him to rise up and defend himself. Sort of like the original Ghostbusters.

Liz, on the other hand, thinks the appropriate movie to reference is Ghostbusters II, because New York is a selfish filth monster. It’s just like Jay-Z said in “Empire State of Mind”: “Concrete bunghole where dreams are made up/There’s nothing you can do.” She’s upset because a stranger gratuitously sneezed on her on the subway, reminding her that she might be the last person in the city who follows basic social rules. (She’s also getting sick, although on the bright side, she did sneeze a Jesus image onto her arm.)

Back on the TGS floor, she’s bickering with Pete when Kenneth interrupts to deliver her sports bag, which has been sent back from her gym because it was attracting bugs that were attracting bats that were attracting bat hawks. “When I get a new job, I’m sure going to miss you two and your whole Sam and Diane thing,” he says, clarifying, “Sam and Diane are the lesbian couple in my building who murdered each other.”

Pete needs Jenna to wear an old lady costume for the “before” half of a sketch, but she refuses because she’ll only play blondes, non-Irish redheads, and bald sex robots, so Liz volunteers instead. Later that night, she winds up wearing it home on the subway, where there are no available seats. Taking advantage of her getup, she hisses at a seated man, “I’m pregnant with a kitty cat. Those are my Popsicles!” Suddenly, she has a whole row to herself.

Jack’s crusade isn’t going so well. He’s buddies with Commissioner Kelly because they have competing columns in Irish Arguments Weekly, America’s only all-caps magazine. But Jack can’t reach him, so he calls in private investigator Lenny Wosniak (played by Steve Buscemi) and asks for help getting a cop on every corner. Not only is Wosniak incapable of helping, but he shops at Ann Taylor Loft. In other words, he’s not rich. He has no incentive to help a rich guy.

Jack tries turning to his powerful friends to create a highly paid private police force, but that doesn’t work. Finally he realizes that the best thing he can do is run for mayor to personally bring the city back to its former glory. Says Tracy, who’s acting as his sidekick in his adventure: “Yes! A Native American paradise!” (Weirdly, nobody in this episode ever mentions the actual billionaire mayor of New York.)

Meanwhile, Jenna’s boyfriend Paul is finally coming home from his drag cruise. Jenna waits for him in an edible nightgown — the flavor is breadsticks and it comes with a dipping sauce — but Paul arrives at the apartment exhausted. They wind up falling asleep before he can give her all the new Thai STDs he got, or even unpack his new Jakartan sex monkey. When they wake up, they’re appalled. Did they mix up their days and accidentally both roofie each other? But then they realize they’ve discovered a brand-new fetish: normalling. “Last night I napped on you,” says Paul. “And you liked it, you sick bitch.” They immediately decide to make things kinkier by going to Bed Bath & Beyond.

While Jenna is off getting her kicks by pretending to be part of a vanilla couple, Liz’s scheme has descended into madness. She’s realized that by acting like the scariest person in the room, she can get whatever she wants. Instead of enforcing the rules, she’s breaking them. And now, if you’ll excuse her, she has to go to a screening of The Hunger Games wearing the coat that Tracy’s dog gave birth on.

Jack isn’t doing much better; he hasn’t left the building since he was mugged. When Tracy confronts him, Jack explains that it’s okay because Liddy is at a baby leadership conference. Tracy says he understands. After the first time he was mugged, he spent a week at home wearing a Chewbacca costume made out of used hair extensions.

Up on the roof of 30 Rock, Jack is gazing out over the skyline like Batman when Liz emerges from the darkness wearing a crazy-person outfit that makes her look like the Joker, or at least like a salesperson at Comme des Garçons. She’s wielding her gym bag like it’s a sack of poison gas. “There’s a war going on out there,” Jack growls at her. “And you’re going to have to pick a side. I’ve always wanted to say that, and I can’t believe I wasted it on you.”

When Jenna starts bragging about her new next-level perversion at work, Pete informs her that she’s not actually being scandalous; she’s just being part of a couple. Paul has the same conversation with one of his co-workers at the drag bar. They need a solution to their creeping domesticity, so they simultaneously agree to go on a sexual walkabout where they experiment with other people for three months. Then, if they miss each other, they’ll get back together.

Out in the gritty New York night, Liz is on her way to eat steamed broccoli in a movie theater when she realizes she’s out of cash. She startles Jack by asking him for money, and he judo flips her into a pile of garbage, much to the delight of everyone nearby. Seeing how pleased they are that Jack restored order, Liz realizes that New Yorkers really do care about rules. As for Jack, he’s solved the city’s crime problem, or at least its Liz problem. Maybe he doesn’t have to run for mayor after all.