Photo: Ali Goldstein/? NBCUniversal, Inc.
Maybe it’s just the abandon afforded by having the season’s finish line in their sights, but between Jack’s grief delirium and pretty much everything about the wool council, the first part of 30 Rock’s fifth-season finale was weird. Even by this show’s standards, to say nothing of any other network comedy’s.
The opening is classic Dr. Spaceman (“There’s four things I want to do this summer, too, but they’re roommates, so it’s tricky”), and it’s a shame his brother Randy Spaceman is going to jail for the rest of his life, because he seems like a character, too. Liz has cold sores from stress, and can’t wait to get to her summer rental in the Hamptons and unwind from a long season by wearing loose clothing, gardening, and learning Spanish. The writers have sequestered themselves in the office for a final marathon video-game mêlée — Lutz is wearing diapers like a baby would and isn’t afraid to use them — before Toofer goes off to work on a new font with Dave (sorry, David) Eggers.
Jenna is the new celebrity spokesperson for wool (not to be confused with Woolly, the truly horrifying mascot who looks like a softer Toxic Avenger), but the morality clause in her contract could be voided by, really, any single aspect of her life. It’s a step up from Clavique, the French anal rejuvenation clinic endorsement, but having wool honcho Mr. Gremby and his wife U. (for Ugene) Gene over for a totally normal dinner at Paul’s proves challenging. Not only do they need to cancel their sitter, they need to fold up their freak flag, and their leashes and gimp masks.
Continuing the episode’s checklist of odd plot points (which probably can be traced back to a room full of actual comedy writers looking at their watches), Liz’s summer rental house is next door to both Ina Garten and Tracy, so she is fully immersed in the exact thing she’s been trying to get away from. Chaos is her normal. Also: “CAN I BORROW A CUP OF SUGAR? I’M TRYING TO GET A HUMMINGBIRD TO DRINK OUT OF MY PENIS.” I don’t have any particular point to make about that line, but man, did I really want to type it. No regrets.
Jack’s summer is off to a similarly distressing start; he misses the still-captive Avery so much that he’s stopped sleeping and started hallucinating. Kenneth comes by to serve up some of his family’s stew (replacing Union-soldier meat with potatoes), and Jack starts to see the similarities between Kenneth and his missing wife. (“Deer god, thank you for the venison … ”) Alec Baldwin amps up the creepy, but Jack McBrayer’s scolding morning-after impression of Elizabeth Banks doing an impression of Jack McBrayer rivals Baldwin’s manic Tracy riff from a couple of seasons back.
Gavel, gavel, gavel! Liz decides to blow herself up and refuse to pay her fine for committing a hate crime against a Jewish tree before Judge Dredd, thus earning herself twelve weeks of community service and preventing her from going to the Hamptons. On the litter crew in Central Park, she gets to wear loose-fitting clothes, do some gardening, and learn Spanish, all far from Tracy. Until, of course, his errant golf ball lands in a truck on the Long Island Expressway and leads him to her chain gang because he doesn’t take mulligans. And Paul is there walking Jenna, free from the bondage of the morality clause to enjoy actual bondage. And Jack is there walking Liddy. And Kenneth is there watching from afar in an out-of-nowhere Lost reference. But perhaps the strangest moment of this final scene is the “To Be Continued” card — what, exactly, is the cliff-hanging plot point here that needs resolution? This is mayhem, pure and simple, a show that’s doing whatever the hell it wants because no network executive would even know where to begin with notes. And if you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that this is allowed to happen.