Last night’s episode was about power, about how it can shift, and about how hard it is to judge one’s own allotment. It was also about Liz pretending to be a man named Kenneth Toilethole. But it was also about power.
Jack wants power over his teen nemesis Kaylie, granddaughter of his boss Hank Hooper. Kaylie, like all teenagers, wants power over her own life. Jenna blithely assumes she’ll be in charge of her army of blonde Stepford children, but her desperate fear of aging means they actually control her. Kenneth wants Liz to recognize that he’s now in a position of authority. And Liz has no idea her personal esteem has so much power over Kenneth.
Let’s tackle the Jack-Kaylie feud first. Kaylie (the terrific Chloë Moretz) sabotages what was supposed to be the triumphant finale of America’s Kidz Got Singing by getting the last two contestants drunk. “I’m tall enough now that there’s no roller coaster I can’t go on,” she says, impressing little Brock and Eva before offering them beers.
When Jack figures out she’s the culprit, Kaylie bursts into tears, telling him a long and complicated story about Vicky and Fat Vicky and the King of Prussia mall. It appears that Kaylie posted mean photos on U-Face, the Facebook of the 30 Rock universe, and now she might get expelled. With her mom away at her charity sweatshop in Indonesia and her dad driving a Model T with a Porsche engine to Mardi Gras, she has nobody to escort her to the parent-teacher conference besides her grandfather. Poppop was just going to make the situation worse, she explains to Jack, so she sabotaged Kidz to make sure he was too busy to take her.
Jack should be wary, since he already engaged in one round of battle with Kaylie last season. Just because she’s a schoolgirl doesn’t mean she can’t be his nemesis. After all, as he tells Liz, a nemesis can be anyone — or anything. (Liz’s nemesis is autocorrect. She was trying to say pen organizer!) But of course Jack’s gentler instincts win out, and he agrees to take Kaylie to her conference.
At the student-teacher conference, Kaylie has a hard time keeping her story straight. Jack smells menthol and realizes she’s borrowed the rub Jenna uses to make herself cry. Furious, he exposes her as a fraud, getting her expelled.
Kaylie always has plans within her plans, though. Turns out she was playing Jack! She wanted to get kicked out of school to get sent to Beekman Academy in Manhattan so she could be near her boyfriend, who’s going to NYU to study acting. But Jack wins in the end, because he noticed Kaylie’s lacrosse ball. He’ll keep her off Central Park’s fields forever.
Tina Fey’s always been particularly interested in the ways teen girls manipulate and control other people — there’s a reason she wrote Mean Girls, after all — but she doesn’t get much of a chance to explore the subject on 30 Rock. Maybe that’s why she created Kaylie. “If I could just tell whether she’s vicious or vulnerable!” Jack laments of Kaylie at one point. “That’s the problem,” says Liz. “She’s a teenaged girl. She’s vicious and vulnerable.” That moment of supreme wisdom accomplished, she delivers a speech about getting her period at a petting zoo.
Being both vicious and vulnerable herself, Jenna’s about the closest thing the show has to a recurring teen-girl character. But now she’s got six teenagers of her own. Deciding motherhood might be good for publicity, she tracked down the results of all her youthful trips to the Calumet City Egg Donation Center and House of Blues. Five of the kids are blond and superficial, but the sixth, Judy, has brown hair and a weak chin and just wants to have a cup of coffee with her mom.
It’s not long before Jenna kicks Judy out of the group before an appearance on Barbara Walters’s “10 Most Overexposed People” — and not much longer before she gets her comeuppance. She wants to do a reality show with her brood, but they inform her that she’s too old. Any reality show she’s a part of would be like The Girls Next Door, with her playing that old boat captain who shows up sometimes. “That’s Hugh Hefner, Jessica!” Jenna says. But the kids have no idea who that is, and they think Jenna’s just proving their point.
Meanwhile, the America’s Kidz Got Singing singing cluster-whoops has gotten Kenneth promoted. He’s now in charge of late-night standards, with spiffy new business cards in which the NBC peacock’s crotch has been blurred out. And he has some new rules for TGS that are pretty much going to kill the “Fart Doctor” sketch. (Even “doctor” is toeing the line, since it’s awfully close to “gynecologist,” which is disgusting.) Liz refuses to take his rules seriously despite his amazing new professional wardrobe. That three-piece denim suit! The costume designer really did a great job there, as did whoever decided Jenna needed tragic violin music to follow her wherever she goes.
Because she’s pissed, Liz tries to goad Tracy into performing some of his famously dirty stand-up comedy life during the show. But Tracy’s on day two of a pre-colonoscopy fast (the first day he misread his calendar; he actually had an appointment with Colin O’Scopy.) He’s too hungry to understand Liz’s hints.
Later, Liz Lemon is in the men’s room when she hears Kenneth crying in the next stall. It was hard enough having his own wastebasket that he had to fill every day, he says, but now he needs to work with Liz Lemon and she won’t listen to him. Feeling guilty, Liz panics and pretends to be a man named Kenneth Toilethole who advises, “Smack that Liz in the mouth.” It’s a great ruse, until Liz runs into Kenneth in the hall and suggests they both go get dinner with Mr. Toilethole.
By the time the show rolls around, Liz has rewritten all of it to suit Kenneth’s standards. And Jenna has figured out how mean she was to her brown-haired daughter: “Judy was nice and sweet and wanted to get a coffee enema or something. And I treated her like garbage!” When Judy wants to say good-bye, Jenna apologizes to her, and the two go out for that coffee after all.
As for Tracy, he’s been fasting for so long that his mind is clear. He finally understands the ending of The Sixth Sense: Those were the names of people who worked on the movie! Also, he finally gets what Liz was hinting at when she mentioned his stand-up act. Realizing Tracy’s about to unleash on the air, Kenneth knows what he has to do. It’s time for a live-bleeping. He’s so determined that the camera zooms in and squishes his nose.
Kenneth bleeps like nobody’s ever bleeped before. His performance is so heroic, it gets him promoted by the foul-mouthed head of standards, Gaylord Felcher. “Who among you has the power to censor the censor?” Felcher asks when Liz reprimands him for his language. Then he gives everyone the finger.