“As they say in Italy: all you have to worry about is farting.”
Last week’s “Leap Day” was successful in lots of ways, one being the all-inclusive title that was relevant to the entire show. This week’s “Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky” failed in that respect. The three different storylines steered wide berths around one another, and the actual “case,” not the strongest plotline even in the weakest episode, was solved by the halfway point. The Jack/Kenneth story easily stood out, and included my favorite part: guest star Stanley Tucci not beating the audience over the head with guest star Stanley Tucci. Can’t say the same for Susan Sarandon, though Patti LuPone’s return as Sylvia Rossitano was welcomed. Three guest stars, and the dumbass Goodlooking pun makes it into the title.
Let’s start with Sylvia, who found a love letter, signed “L,” in Frank’s porn stash. (Porn reference #1.) Instead of admitting to dating Sarandon’s jail-free ex-teacher Lynn, Frank says he’s dating Liz. “Do you like ox, Liz?” Initially disgusted, Liz is won over by Sylvia’s Italian feast, complete with wine and cheese tray, going so far as to eat food from Frank’s mouth, in a gross Lady and the Tramp kind of way.
Frank chooses that moment to confess he’s dating Lynn, and Sylvia kicks Liz out of her apartment to talk to Frank about this. We’re shown Frank later broke up with Lynn and they had break-up sex, presumably in Liz’s bed. Frank pretends he’s happy with his decision, bringing Liz meatballs as a good will gesture. Liz uses her Cibopath-like skills (a nerdy, misguided reference to the wonderful comic Chew) to detect Frank’s tears in the meatballs, meaning he was sad when cooking them. Lynn herself is getting an uncreative “I’m sad” tattoo when Liz derisively gets everyone together under false pretenses. It’s outed that the Lynn/Frank creep factor isn’t an age thing, it’s because Lynn is just like Sylvia, and Frank wants to be with someone like his Mom, because she’s the best. Hmm.
Have we stumbled into All in the Family, both in terms of unapologetic sitcom subject matter, and incestuous metaphors? It sure is convenient that Criss was in Canada this week, because that would have stunted this story’s menial growth. Seriously, how did Liz get roped into such a B-story? James Marsden’s sporadic appearances weaken her already weak relationship aspect, and she doesn’t spend nearly enough time in Jack’s office anymore. How has Kenneth gradually become the show’s most fleshed-out character? More on him later.
Meanwhile, somebody’s trying to fuck up the Hornberger Hang, drinking Pete’s birthday scotch without him. Probably a janitor, or some black…(notices Tracy)…hearted person, probably a white guy. Slanted close-up on Jenna, who starred as Det. Alexis Goodlooking in a pilot about a cop known for being good looking and good at looking for clues. (Sample line: “I should call my husband and tell him I'm going to be late tonight. No wait, I can't. He's dead.”) Obviously she takes the case, with Tracy as her black sidekick who’s good at getting reluctant white people to do things. After all, his uncle was a cop…in a porno. (Porn reference #2.)
They question Lutz, who denies everything, but Jenna uses those detective skills to call him out on his lie. This, after Tracy hands Lutz a phone to use as a reminder to call Tracy in case he thinks of something, but Tracy might not answer, because he lost his phone just now. Turns out nobody wants to hang out with Pete, because he just sings songs and has only one story about seeing Phil Donahue at a mall. (It was definitely him, and not his cousin.) The writers have been using TGS funds to pay for frivolous personal items, such as video games, Nerf rifles, and a porn version of Temple Grandin called Ten Poles Rammed In (Porn reference #3). Jenna threatens to rat them out unless they hang out with Pete and give him his just celebration, which includes a rousing parody of “Piano Man” in which Pete envisions Phil Donahue wanting to be like Pete.
It was refreshing to see Jenna’s ego focused on something else besides her voice or her appearance, beyond the Goodlooking thing and her first joke about sleeping with someone to sing. The camera angles were fun, but the pilot scenes lacked the satirical precision of other show diversions, even last week’s Leap Dave Williams. I expected the mystery to be more convoluted, instead of merely evoking sympathy for Pete. Who the fuck is truly sympathetic for Pete? But boy did he look happy singing that song. Oh, Pete…(Wistful stare into the computer screen.)
Jack is having trouble finding a good spot for Kenneth outside of the page program; in fact, it’s harder than making it through the ‘80s without having sex with Belinda Carlisle. (Funnier name drop than Donahue, to me.) He sticks Kenneth in Standards and Practices, alongside ruthless promotion-hound Bradley, who tries to win Jack over saying he’d gone to Jack’s completely silent presentation on the power of eye contact, titled “….” This alerts Jack to Bradley’s devious ways, and he tells Kenneth as much, saying there are no friends in business. It’s all about gaining the upper hand and crushing the enemy. Kenneth never crushed anyone, except accused witches. As an example, Jack talks about Henry Warren (a bespectacled Tucci), his first business-nemesis. (To celebrate Henry giving Jack credit for New Coke, Jack takes out a bowling bag of cocaine.) Kenneth soon realizes Bradley is indeed a job saboteur. Jack gives him paperwork proving Bradley never officially graduated from Syracuse, and Kenneth now has a dilemma. Screw someone or get screwed by someone.
Kenneth gets in touch with Henry Warren, who then visits Jack, to see if his life was good after his career was ruined. He says life is great. He’s actually Henry Warren Chang now, after marrying a bossy Chinese woman. He sells encyclopedias, leases a certified pre-owned Lexus, and both his sons are magicians. To compare, Jack tells him the sofa he’s sitting on is made of Seabiscuit. Henry is shocked by Jack’s admission that he never considered him as a friend, only as competition. This, in turn, forces Jack to reassess how Kenneth should handle his own situation. Jack tells him, as a friend, not to turn the papers over to their supervisor, A. Pfister, but Kenneth sees through this, recalling Jack’s earlier words that there are no friends in business. And he does indeed slip the paper under the supervisor’s door.
In paragraph numbers alone, it’s easy to see why this was the best plotline of the show. If one chooses to read into it further, one can make the assumption that Jack felt no remorse, and was actually using reverse psychology to confuse Kenneth’s feeble brain (“Kenneth, a word.” “Balloon!”) into doing what he advised him of in the first place. That’s what I choose to think, because I don’t see Jack regretting anything he’s done to get ahead in life. To be fair, it was kind of stupid for the super-fundamentalist Kenneth to be put into Standards, but it allowed them to say “dick wolf,” which can’t be said on television.
This episode definitely proves how empty 30 Rock would have been without Alec Baldwin to anchor the corporate satire that the show has drifted further away from in the last few years. It’s another week where Tracy is again thrown into someone else’s story without it being necessary. And because I was keeping count, there was also a mention of Playboy (Prayboy, with Rindsey Rohan) and yet another porn reference that I didn’t write in my notes. I think the porno-gag well is dry, guys. Maybe move on to snuff film jokes next week.
Create Your Own Show Reference For This Section Where I Just List Stuff
My favorite joke was Kenneth’s late father, whose suits Kenneth now owns, was apparently D. B. Cooper. Or at least someone actually named D. B. Cooper, as I’m sure the real hijacker wouldn’t stitch this alias into a suit jacket. Kenneth’s “That’s weird,” comment and smile just makes it all the more strange and fascinating to me.
Whatever happened to Kristen Schall? If I can wager a guess, it would be that Tracy Morgan ate her. His stomach is fucking huge.
This Week In Frank's Hat: Cryptid. Be Cool Liz. Suplex.
For all that I don’t really enjoy Susan Sarandon as Lynn, she gave two great lines. One being she prefers the term “adultophobe” over “pedophile.” And the Johnny Carson saying she was looking at twenty years in prison, but she’d be more attracted to twelve. It is a shame, though, to see Carson’s name getting thrown around with those other non-time-honored celebrities.
Parasite or no parasite, I’m eating sushi wherever I see it. Amtrak, here I come!
“Son, if you want to get ahead in this world – oh God, this hurts – tell your mother I’m gay.” Are we supposed to believe D. B. Cooper said this, too?
Kenneth and Bradley are told they can no longer use the words “hit, great show, fun, or broadcast television.” I get the joke, but part of me still wants to ask what it means.
Bradley uses Susan as a nickname for Kenneth, like Lazy Susan, because he’s lazy and effeminate. Bradley’s no Dr. Cox. He hasn’t earned this.
Jaleel White makes Stefan Urquelle look like Steve Urkel. Fuck me for laughing at that. I hate Family Matters.
The thought of sleeping under a blanket of mice is horrifying.
I am thisclose to Googling “two centaurs kissing,” but it will probably only bring up other 30 Rock recaps.
Finally, because it’s worth it, here is everything Tracy said as a white-wigged old-timer talking to a young white boy, in front of a backdrop of the (assumed) color of Kathy Griffin’s pubes:
"I'm just an old fool of course, and I don't know much about politics and the like. But I do know America is kinda like this here crabapple tree, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.” “Well maybe I never did go to college or travel around the worlds. I don’t know much about worldly things like taco meat or having all your fingers.” “Lord knows some of my friends are just shrubs I put hats on and got high with.” “My wife had two of the president’s babies, and you’re one of them.” “I can tell you one thing. I’m gonna kill all y’all in y’all sleep.” “Now I don’t know nothing ‘bout no lit’rature or history, but I’ll tell you what I do know. This movie was written by white nerds.”