I really wanted to dislike last night's episode so I could co-opt one of Jack's lines ("Your show last night was ... excruciating."), but it wasn't to be. I enjoyed this week's episode -- it's hard not to like something that opens with Jack Skyping with Mitt Romney's Olympic dressage horse -- though I think last week's premiere was stronger. Our incredibly scientific poll shows HuffPost TV reader reactions to this episode currently listed at: One of the best of all time (17 percent), pretty great (42 percent), not too shabby (28 percent) and meh (6 percent), with the remaining 7 percent wondering why they're still watching "30 Rock." For the other 93 percent, though, who might still be reading ...
Our first Relevant Plot Point was the news that Paul Ryan had dropped out of the race, the reason being that it turned out he was born in Kenya. "... Not a lot we can say about that one." True, Jack. Moving on.
Jack and Liz discussed how their attempts to tank the network were going. Jack was having a lot of success showing only Cleveland Browns NFL games and allowing Jimmy Fallon to speak in his real voice (a pretty good approximation of what a drunk Mickey Mouse might sound like). On the reproductive front, Liz said she and Criss have been "taking the dump truck to the boneyard." You know, like couples do. Someday, some genius is going to collect all the instances of Liz being awkward about sex. And it will be three hours long.
Jack and Liz agreed on no political stuff in "TGS," for fear of the show being good and potentially raising the ratings. Liz was overly confident that it wouldn't be issue, and therefore the audience became equally confident that it would (foreshadowing!), and so ended the cold open and began the theme song, or as my TV's subtitle referred to it, "[exciting jazz music]."
Jenna had a summer dance jam called "Balls," which is essentially her saying the word "balls" over and over set to a club beat (stand down, "Muffin Top") and apparently inspired a spike in summer sex crimes. She was infuriated to discover that she got only $90 in total from royalties, at which point Tracy Jordan stepped in to make a joke about Al Gore inventing the Internet (seriously, guys, this joke has really run its course, can we stop?). Jenna was shocked by what's happened to the music industry since she apparently hasn't been paying any attention whatsoever over the last decade. Actually, maybe that's not that hard to believe.
Criss arrived in the writer's room -- where did your hair go James Marsden?! -- under the pretext of dropping by, but Tracy quickly deduced based on Criss' clean shaven face, pulse and cologne that "this man is here to do it on the desk." And, in fact, he was. He's been tracking Liz's cycles, and in a bid to spice up the whole "dump truck/boneyard" thing, they tried to get it on in her office with little success, even despite their amazing "Mad Men" roleplaying (Liz: "I'm Don Draper and you're Megan! OK, you're Don. Wait! No! You're Glen and I'm Sally.").
Pete interrupted the would-be sexy times to turn on the TV, because Romney's new VP, Governor Bob Dunston, was announced and he looked exactly like Tracy/was a bumbling idiot. Remembering her promise to Jack, Liz tried to fight the urge to do a political sketch on "TGS," but she just couldn't resist the siren call of a testicle joke.
Jenna met Kenneth's mother, Pearline (Catherine O'Hara), and her "friend" Ron (Bryan Cranston), who was blown away at meeting a celeb and had the most adorably goofy smile. Jenna was unimpressed, until Pearline gave Kenneth a gift (a CD of traditional church songs sung by the Stone Mountain Ghost Children's Choir, in case you were wondering) and Jenna realized that they actually still buy music. Ron was unexpectedly endearing -- after all of Kenneth's Ron references over the years ("I know Tracy Jordan like the back of my stepfather Ron's hand," for one), I was anticipating more "angry Hal from 'Malcolm in the Middle'" than the starstruck cheerful guy who just wants Kenneth to like him that we meet in this episode. But it's Bryan Cranston, so it's fine.
Jack and Liz fought over doing a sketch about Bob Dunston, and Jack forbade Liz to write anything about him. Liz's mischievous smile and carefully worded response "I promise I won't write a word," apparently did not tip Jack off, even though you'd think a Six Sigma ninja like him would be able to recognize loophole-laden responses.
It turned out that Criss got Liz's visit from her actual Aunt Flow confused with her "monthly gift" (so many period euphemisms within 30 seconds), so his ovulation chart was off, meaning they had sex for no reason, no reason at all, says Liz. Liz + Criss = frowny face, because, as Criss said, "We both want this but it won't work if it's a chore."
The next day, Jack was angry with Liz for doing a bit about new VP-hopeful Bob Dunston on "TGS" that was quite popular. Liz gleefully said she still kept her promise: They didn't write anything, they just had Tracy repeat what Governor Dunston said verbatim (shout-out to what Tina Fey herself did as Sarah Palin), and she plans to continue. "I'm sorry Jack. This is bigger than both of us," said Liz, as they watched Governor Dunston throw up chili into his hat on TV.
Kenneth was all sorts of sassy in this episode, with Kenneth-y sarcastic one-liners directed at Ron ("Great story, Ron!"). His dislike of Ron was palpable, especially when Ron accidentally let slip that he and Kenneth's mom have actually been married for seven years.
The success of the Dunston sketch on "TGS" led NBC to schedule episodes every night, which left Liz wondering when she would have time to be the Sally to Criss' Glen. Also, there's a token "Honey Boo Boo" reference. I accept I am the only human being left on Earth who hasn't watched that show at this point.
Liz discovered that what's been missing from her sex life was a complicated organization scheme. Color-coding her schedule and cross-referencing it with her menstruation got her all hot and bothered, and the realization that she could turn it into a spreadsheet sent her over the top and to her apartment, where she ripped Criss' clothes off.
Matthew Broderick as Cooter Burger made a triumphant return with a woefully short appearance, though he did make the most of his minute or two on screen. Looking for a drink idea tonight? Try an Old Spanish, which is red wine, tonic water and olives, a fake drink that Cooter's coworkers made up to mess with him. In between other Cooter-ish wisdom ("If you wear a red vest, sometimes people think you're a valet and you can take a nap in their car."), he managed to move the plot forward too. As a member of the media relations team for Romney/Dunston, he asked Jack to continue mocking Governor Dunston on "TGS" because it made him seem more likeable to voters. Jack was conflicted. What was more important--helping the GOP win, or tanking NBC and saving his career?
At Jenna's insistence, Ron performed a song he wrote for Kenneth (which includes the lyrics "Without a daddy he's in danger/He needs an older male stranger"). After hearing Jenna insult Ron, Kenneth jumped to his defense, since only family is allowed to say that about him -- cue the epiphany that Kenneth actually does consider Ron family. "That's what family is, Kenneth. People you badmouth all the time behind their back," said Pearline, who went on to list the things she's called Kenneth, including, but not limited to: A bowling pin with a face drawn on it, albino lesbian, a finger with teeth.
It was decision time for Liz at the end, though. Option 1: Keep the Bob Dunston sketches, and she can keep her strictly organized, Dusseldorf bus schedule-esque life (and short, scheduled sex), but she hurts Obama's chances and helps NBC. Option 2: Take out the Bob Dunston sketches and she helps Obama and helps tank NBC, but will now a have a sex life that runs like the Paris metro -- "Long sessions of afternoon lovemaking, following by talking and making circles with your finger in Criss' chest hair," as Jack puts it. It's a win-lose. In the end, Liz went with her Dusseldorf bus schedule life, tanking their grand plan to tank NBC.
Some of the highlights of the episode include the return of the Sally Field jokes when Jenna insulted Liz by saying "You look like someone's been slowly poisoning Sally Field," Jenna's new song idea called "Rum-Soaked Tampon," the line "What if Jenna did her DVD commentary while she was getting vajazzled?" both Jack and Liz referring to Criss as an elf prince, Liz and Criss getting frisky in an office supply store, and "Pears?! WHY?!" (I could provide context on that last one, but I prefer to let it stand alone.)
Eleven episodes remaining!