30 Rock Recap: Take Off

30 Rock

Double-Edged Sword
Season 5 Episode 14

Just as Canadians have become indispensable to modern comedy, so have jokes about Canadians. And 30 Rock is a master of the art form. (See: Danny, if he’s ever on again — for a show that does a lot with character nuance, pretty much the only thing we know about him is that he’s super nice because he’s from Canada, as opposed to Kenneth being super nice because he’s from Georgia.) But “Double-Edged Sword” isn’t just a clearinghouse for high-quality Canucks-are-slow-but-sweet gags, it uses the country as a metaphor for the perils of stubbornness in relationships. Sort of!

Jack and Avery are flying to Toronto to attend the highly erotic G8 economic summit, but he won’t sleep on the plane, as he doesn’t want to be incepted. And as anyone who has ever watched a movie in which a woman late in her third trimester travels from home can attest, Avery begins going into labor as soon as they check into their hotel. But they can’t just go to a hospital — if their daughter is born in Canada, she will be a Canadian, and thus ineligible to become president. (It’d be different if she were born in Kenya, obvs.) The sensible, logical thing to do would be to be resigned to this fate, regret ignoring the advice of pretty much every obstetrician on earth, and prepare to give birth. But Jack and Avery are bonded by their mutual obsessions and frustrations, so they do what works for them: Try and book a flight home using Jack’s AmEx invisible card, then when that fails, hitchhike through the snow to Buffalo until they’re picked up by a Winnebago meth lab.

Liz and Carol have their own tenacity issues. She’s hopping one of Carol’s Airbike flights to Raleigh so they can have a weekend together in the appropriately named Nag’s Head — here’s a note I wrote that says I knew you knew I was going to make a Nag’s Head joke — but the plane will be delayed a half an hour at the gate. Carol reveals to Liz that “half an hour” is pilot code for, “We don’t really have any idea when this flight is taking off, but we don’t want everyone to freak out.” Once the appeal of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole wears thin, Liz offers to be the passengers’ liaison with the flight crew, negotiating for bags of potato chips and air conditioning, but this soon leads to a standoff: Carol refuses to apologize for doing his job, and Liz refuses to apologize for insulting him. The entire plane descends into chaos and shirtlessness, no one more unhinged than the guy across the aisle from Liz, who definitely isn’t an armed air marshal.

In what looks to be Matt Damon’s last appearance for the foreseeable future, he’s never better than when he’s absently mouthing the dialogue to Legends of the Guardians, and he nails what a perfectly suited mate for Liz Lemon would be like. But again, as predicted in the show’s opening scene with Jack and Liz, couples that are too alike are eventually doomed by their mutual character flaws, and their meltdown culminates in Carol pointing the marshal’s gun at Liz in the plane’s cabin. Everyone knows it’s hard for a relationship to bounce back from that.

Meanwhile, the C-story line finds newly minted Oscar winner Tracy Jordan completing his unlikely EGOT cycle, and as such is now expected to be a pillar of society, doing good works for the community and wearing suits even though he hasn’t finished memorizing his Torah passage. (To reiterate: If the Oscars are February 27 and Avery is due “in March,” she has no business flying. Come on, people.) To get away from his new, boring responsibilities, Tracy pulls a Chappelle and flees to Africa, which is, in fact, merely the TGS soundstage, and it has a cot. This does feel like somewhat anticlimactic culmination of a subplot that’s run over several seasons, although the nod to Brando’s Native-American acceptance speech is worth it. It’s not out of line with 30 Rock’s MO as far as dispensing with story lines they tire of, but still: Tracy won an Oscar! That’s kind of insane!

Lorne (get it?), the genial Quebecois meth manufacturer played by John “Harold” Cho — Avery’s right, we don’t make anything ourselves in the U.S. anymore — becomes the Walter White–like voice of reason, incredulous at the lengths to which Jack and Avery are going to avoid having their child born in Canada, and suggests they call 272, the Canadian 911. But Jack does relent, or “quit,” by Avery’s terms, and even though their daughter is a Canadian-American, Jack vows to try to treat her just like a human baby. But the final straw is when the socialist hospital refuses payment — Jack, Avery, and child flee, demanding to find a Canadian who will take their money. Cue: Lorne Michaels’s executive producer title card.

30 Rock Recap: Take Off