30 Rock Recap: Think of the Children

Photo: NBC
30 Rock
Episode Title
There's No I in America
Editor’s Rating

Well, well, well, well, well, well ... well.
Was that one too many? Should I go out and come back in?
Tonight’s recap will be extra recappy, based on the assumption that many of you (a) were out celebrating Halloween (hang in there, New Jersey!) and/or (b) have no power and/or (c) got totally screwed by your DVR, because instead of recording 30 Rock, it was innocently ignoring Animal Practice, just like it did for the entirety of that show’s short life.

Never fear: Even though the wizards at NBC moved Liz Lemon, et al., to Wednesday night this week but forgot to tell the people who program the electronics — conspiracy or retaliation? you be the judge! — I am here to reassure you that you’re gonna be okay. The waters will recede, Hulu will have the ep, and anyway, we got a happy ending: Motorized Intelligent Technodrome Termin — er, Mitt Romney was most likely not elected president of 30 Rock America.

Last week’s cliffhanger left us dangling with the unsettling revelation that Jenna Maroney, a woman People magazine once called an unnamed friend of the deceased, might decide the election. This information hit Jack and Liz simultaneously, and they raced through the TGS studio to find the head Crab Catcher and swing her over to their side — Liz avoiding obstacles along the way, like a pane of glass, spilled marbles, a fake highway, and Cheyenne Jackson, who suddenly, now, had a thing. “A Romney win will be historic!” Jack crowed when they reached her. “The first really, really rich president.” Meanwhile, Liz tried to convince Jenna that this country needs four more years of the stuff Obama’s been doing, none of which she could really think of right then. Jenna Maroney was not impressed. “There’s no ‘I’ or ‘me’ in America,” she said, right before declaring she was only going to get political if it meant a better country for her.
In a nutshell, here’s who Jack and Liz were dealing with: Someone who respects the human fetus for its value as a hair volumizer and who finds the idea of old men behind closed doors deciding what she can and can’t do with her body kinda kinky. They had 24 hours to prepare their cases.
Sadly, like any campaign, this one went negative, fast. Jack released an attack ad: “Liz Lemon: Wrong on cuteness, wrong on other bitches, wrong for Jenna.” Blerg. From the start, it appeared that Jack, not Liz, had the better line on how to manipulate our favorite self-absorbed blonde. In the debate itself, he took each of Lemon’s arguments and turned them against her: Romney would cut arts funding for the nice little Florida seventh-grader named Shauna that Liz had planted in the audience? Then Jenna will have no competition for roles. Obama is cooler because he listens to hip-hop rappings and hangs out with ScarJo? Surely Jenna would rather be photographed next to Charlton Heston’s skull. When Jack’s closing statement — a recitation of candidate-y-sounding words and phrases like “prosperity,” “spirit,” “values,” and “I’ve met people” — garnered him a standing ovation, Liz could do nothing but stand there and sweat.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the DeBarge debate itself, but I think the prior scene in Jack’s office more than made up for it. That’s where we got into the real meat of tonight’s political satire:
LIZ: You know Jenna’s a liberal, Jack. She’s a slutmonster and one of Gay America’s top hags. But this is what you do, you trick people into voting against their own interests, and then you sell them out at the drop of a hat.
JACK: First of all, I have never dropped a hat in my life. And don’t be so sure about Jenna’s politics. She’s aging, mean, and rich. That sounds Republican to me.
LIZ: Jenna is overly sensitive, prone to hysteria, and, having been shot and left for dead in three different deserts, pro-gun control. She is one of us.
Even better, this argument quickly devolved into what it was really about: Jack versus Liz, the mentor versus his obstinate student, the affection between these characters (and actors) overflowing. I wish it had gone on forever. But then Liz got a call from her ob-gyn's office, where she might have left a bag of Burger King, and had to take off. Oh well.
Postdebate, Liz knew she’d lost. “Think of the children!” she begged Jack, even flashing back to him as a little boy in Boston, her accent making me miss Julianne Moore. But Jack remained unmoved by her emotional appeal. Despite the fact that he doesn’t even like Mitt Romney (“The man doesn’t drink. How does he let a moment land?”) and didn’t cry at Field of Dreams even when the bank failed to recoup their investment in the farm, sentimental nonsense wasn’t going to work. Mitt Romney would be the next president. Liz stormed out, yelling about moving to France except for how you can’t get a decent iced tea there. All hope seemed lost.
Long story short, fate — and the children — intervened. As Liz was enlisting Tracy to send a super-offensive tweet about a recently dead celebrity from Jenna’s account in hopes of getting it shut down, Jenna was too wrapped up in her Twitter war with a Viagra spambot to listen to Jack’s instructions. That’s when little Shauna from Florida walked up with an armload of headshots she wanted Jenna to sign — not because she considered Jenna her role model (that would be the inventor of Spanx, a.k.a. “just kids’ bike shorts for fatties”), but because she was gonna sell them on eBay. Jack looked as if he really was seeing himself as a little boy in Boston, selling his urine at Fenway for fans to throw at Mickey Mantle, but then things took a terrible turn: He explained to young Shauna that important celebrities like Jenna pick the president, not voters, and as she announced her new plan to forgo business school for breast implants, you could see his heart melt.
Back in his office, Liz proudly confronted him with her cyber-crime plan, and he just smiled. He’d finally turned his obstinate student into the master, sure, but her treachery was unnecessary: Jack wound up not telling Jenna to do anything at all. “No one should grow up in Jenna Maroney’s America,” he said. And there was that affection again, as the roles reversed. “Typical Donaghy. You sentimental, self-righteous, badger-faced shrew,” said Liz. “Typical Lemon. You cynical, manipulative, cold-blooded Adonis,” said Jack. Then they each tossed back the other's drink to let the moment land, and immediately gagged. Perfect.
Odds and Ends

  • You may notice I have ignored the story line about Kenneth’s absentee ballot voting indecision, as well as Pete’s hysteria about hope, change, and kissing Maria the hot security guard like he did on Election Night 2008. Those subplots had their own hilarious and special moments, but this is my recap, and they were not issues that mattered to the vast majority of Whitney. Today, finally, it is truly all about me.
  • That said, Brian Williams, you may come over here with your gymnastics any time.
  • Also, I might be ignoring at least one of those subplots so I don’t have to bring up the fact that a good portion of Tracy’s speech about America seemed to be stolen from Louis C.K.
  • “Miss Lemon, I know Scottie Pippen, I own a Fuddruckers with Scottie Pippen, and you, sir, look like Scottie Pippen.” —Jack
  • Parkour! Guess Liz Lemon is surviving the zombie apocalypse. Joss Whedon would be so pleased. 
  • “Oh, Tracy, no.” “I can say that word; I’m black.”“But Dick Clark wasn’t!”
  • "Deviousness? I guess two can play at that game. Just like most games.” —Liz

Until next time, friends. Good luck on real Election Day. Keep hope alive! And beware the load-bearing balloons ...