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30 Rock Recap: Raising Hazel Wassername

30 ROCK -- "Grandmentor" Episode 613 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jack McBrayer as Kenneth Parcell, Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, Kristen Schaal as Hazel -- (Photo by: Ali Goldstein/NBC)

How do you solve a problem like Hazel Wassername? 30 Rock’s newest recurring character is reliably wacky but otherwise unreliable. She doesn’t care much about NBC; she’s just working as a page because she thinks it will help her become famous. Last week, she outlined her Plan B in life: Set a house on fire, rescue everyone in it, become a hero, and appear in Playboy.

Obviously, she drives Kenneth crazy.

It’s a little odd that Liz Lemon, who complains about nearly everyone, would find Hazel tolerable. But 30 Rock loves making fun of Liz’s fuzzy politics, and last night’s show got a lot of mileage out of the way Liz’s commitment to not-fully-thought-out feminism keeps blinding her to Hazel’s core incompetence.

Hazel is disgruntled because Kenneth won’t leave her alone. He’s doing well at Standards and Practices — he just won the Employee of the M************** Week Award — but that doesn’t stop him from showing up in Tracy Jordan’s dressing room and declaring he’ll always be a page. Hazel drags him out into the hallway and demands, “What’s your problem?” Kenneth takes the question literally: “Well, my parents were technically brothers.” Tracy will always have a special place in his heart, he explains. Just like Nana Parcell, his heartworm.

So Hazel goes to Liz, appealing to her sense of female solidarity. She complains that Kenneth is trying take over her job. Also, he undressed her with his eyes. And had his way with her. With his eyes. Despite the fact that this really doesn’t sound like Kenneth, Liz commiserates: “Ugh, the male gaze.” Agrees Hazel, “They’re all a bunch of gays.” Liz tells her to be like the Karate Kid — Hillary Swank, in Karate Kid Four. Hazel is so moved that she asks Liz to be her mentor.

As for Liz’s own mentor, he’s still trying to rescue Avery from North Korea. The U.N. is useless, and as it turns out, Amnesty International is nothing but a company that makes and sells candles. (Liz: “That explains all the vigils!”) Jack is so desperate that he’s willing to sit through four hours of Rhythm and News, Matt Lauer’s band, in order to get a spot on the Today show. But when the time comes for his segment, he’s bumped owing to a disaster in one of China’s baby mines. The mines are so small that full-size dogs won’t fit, so the rescue crew is sending supplies via puppy.

Jack finally confides in Jenna, who hits on an idea for getting Avery back on TV: “Blondness. Kidnapping. A villain with an accent. It’s the perfect TV movie. I should know. I played an Italian party whore in the Amanda Knox story.” She wants to star, obviously, but Jack has other ideas, as Jenna discovers because she and Donna in casting are friends — “well, not so much friends as I own a magnet that can scramble her pacemaker.” Jack says Jenna doesn’t have Avery’s essence, but Jenna counters that she once posed bottomless in Essence.

Meanwhile, Hazel is proving terrible for Tracy. She makes him candy smoothies, buys him a crossbow and a motorcycle ramp, and lets him go off his medicine so he can drink. After Tracy pees cotton candy, Kenneth tells him that he’s in dire need of a getting-your-act-together montage. But Tracy is inclined to side with Hazel, since she bought him a piñata.

Liz seems oblivious to Hazel’s work problems, and she doesn’t want to listen when Kenneth complains. “You can’t handle the fact that a woman is doing your old job,” she tells him. “What a world. I bet even Hillary Clinton has to put up with this crap from whoever was Secretary of State before her.” She shuts Kenneth up before he can point out that she’s talking about Condoleezza Rice.

But when Hazel comes to her with life problems, Liz feels like she has to offer some tough love. Hazel used to weigh 800 pounds, and now her boyfriend, Rosmig, is cheating on her with “the fattest chick [she’s] ever seen.” Liz tells her she has to dump him, but Hazel doesn’t want to hear it. She announces that she’s very disappointed in Liz’s mentorship. Jack, when he hears about this, says it’s important to let your mentee fail once in a while. It’s the only way they’ll learn. That’s why he didn’t warn Liz against bringing her “Lemonem” act to the Apollo.

Good thing Jenna is around to solve nearly everybody’s problems. Kenneth asks her how to get close to Tracy Jordan without going through Hazel, and she replies that all the world’s a stage. This bit of actorly wisdom inspires him to enter a contest for a walk-on part as a TGS extra. NBC employees aren’t eligible to win, so he quits his job at Standards and Practices — that’s how important Tracy is to him. Liz gives him the part because she doesn’t want to read all the other entrance essays. Onstage, Kenneth makes a passionate speech and succeeds in getting Tracy to take his medicine.

Upstairs in his office, Jack gets a phone call from someone “at the U.N.” who is “dropping Avery off.” Then Jenna appears in the darkened doorway, hoping that her Avery impression will convince him to give her the part. This is the second cruelest thing anyone has ever done to Jack. The first cruelest: “Avery had me checked into a mental hospital so that she and her college roommate could use my Yankees tickets.” Once he realizes that Jenna is just as ruthlessly self-serving as his wife, Jack agrees that she should star in the TV movie.

The episode ends with Liz finally introducing Hazel to Jack. “I’m your grandmentor,” he says. “Liz, she’s beautiful.” They hug.

But wouldn’t Jack detest Hazel? And is this really a satisfying conclusion? Hazel doesn’t feel like a real person; she’s more of a collection of tics. Kristen Schaal is usually great, and she’s not a bad foil for Tina Fey, but it would be nice if her character had a consistent personality to go along with all the random one-liners. Otherwise, it’s hard to root for her to learn anything, and the mentorship rings a little hollow.

Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC