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“When did gum get so soft, you sons of bitches?”
It isn’t always mandatory for 30 Rock to be five-hundred-foot tall Wacky-Tacky-Travis, the valiant young pop-culture spewing mongoose. Sometimes the show is perfectly capable of reining in the extremities and producing a full-fledged, self-contained story. This wasn’t necessarily the case in “Murphy Brown Lied to Us,” with Stacy Keach’s related, but non-sequitur, All-American Kouch commercials, but for an episode giving focus to Jenna’s on purpose-but-accidental celebrity meldown, this was as close to high drama as we’ll ever see.
While Liz and Criss are doing a bit of spring cleaning (involving slightly uncomfortable jailmate pantomime), Criss finds Liz’s adoption papers from back when Liz kept her adoption papers in a handier spot than one that took less than five seconds to find. (Also nearby was a copy of her mother’s Baby Names book, with “Adolf” circled.) After witnessing the intense hassles of a multi-child single mother, the woman responsible for the titular quote, Liz closed the door on that part of her life, while simultaneously allowing the elevator door to close in that woman’s face. But Criss wants to have a serious conversation about kids. It would make sense for them to have children without getting married, since all the other marriages in this show involve kidnapping and reality shows.
Though Jack has his own to-be-discussed dilemma, he subtly drops a sageness bomb on Liz after she tries gifting him her child-sized Princess Leia costume. He asks her to get coffee with an employee, Kevin. (No good Kevins, Liz? Kevin Garnett helped Jack move. Kevin Costner cooked him dinner after a bad breakup. Kevin Sorbo introduced him to his podiatrist.) Liz and Criss think it’s just a ruse to split them apart, so it’s agreed she’ll go, after receiving Kevin’s email, from one of his four iPads, reading “Avail 4 java mañana per Jack. Deets 2 follow. Kev.”
When she arrives for coffee, she meets Kevin’s 11-year-old daughter Kat, as it’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, which Kat thinks flies in the face of feminism. Liz agrees, and is immediately comfortable telling Kat, who wishes for the nickname Scout, that her own sought-after nickname, Ace, was replaced by Shorts Accident, and eventually SuperVirgin. Criss surprisingly arrives as the doting boyfriend, breathless from running the entire way there, and Kat recognizes his efforts as romantic, while Criss and Liz recognize Kat as a child that doesn’t have to be demonic in nature. This was of course Jack’s plan all along. Though the episode, Jack has witnessed a decline in America as a brand, and decided any amount of Liz Lemon in the world is a good thing. Cue the “Awww” audience sign, sincerely. Though this show will never last so long that we see Liz Lemon mothering her own 11-year-old, it’s comforting that there’s a chance they’ll be friends.
Meanwhile, Jack’s KouchTown commercials and prototype are pleasing to him. That is, until the actual product, made by Real American Workers, comes off the assembly line, and it’s the most uncomfortable piece of lumpy furniture imaginable. (It cuts off leg circulation and spreads the ribcage apart. And it comes in Espresso, Dandelion, Putty, and Lagoon.) In a building where Bazooka Joe gum used a softer version of their gum to make armor piercing rounds in WWII, this kind of American craftsmanship is unacceptable. But all Americans know how to build now is roller coasters and Survivor challenges.
Jack is temporarily convinced a market needs to be developed for people who want uncomfortable couches, until he sits in it at a meeting and divulges personal secrets due to his discomfort. (Secrets include buying candles as gifts and keeping them for himself, and bright red being his normal hair color.) He eventually sells the business off, saying he doesn’t care if they sink them to use as reefs for gay turtles. They are, of course, used by the U.S. government as interrogation devices, forcing one Saudi to admit knowing how to get Avery back into the country. This whole couch season arc did not turn out like I thought it would, in the least. But it gave American manufacturing its most scathing critique in the worker-spoken lines, “Ship in trucks. Ship…in trucks? What? Hahaha.”
And in the “Sigh, Jenna and Tracy, huh?” side of things, Jenna is being Ultra Jenna in doing things that Jenna would probably already be doing, only this time it’s under the guise of “celebrity breakdown,” which is the new celebrity sex tape, which she wished she knew about before releasing the tape of her and the Six Flags guy. (I’d watch it six times.) Her plan here isn’t even just popularity for popularity’s sake, though it’s no less convoluted. It’s to get to the point where all her former lovers come out of the woodwork, and she can thus win Paul back. Who could she possibly go to for advice? Tracy, who tells her to build up to the Big Breakdown (just like C & C Music Factory). Her insanity résumé consists of burning down a Panda Express, drunkenly interrupting a spelling bee, crashing Dick Cavett’s birthday party, kleptomania, and sleep-driving. “Wow, Jenna Maroney has gone crazy,’ says the second guy.”
After jumping through a window on the Today show, she’s hospitalized. There, Tracy tells her he used Twitter, a media-savvy crackhead he knows, to tell the public that she’s being treated for exhaustion, thank you to all her fans, and that Tracy Jordan has done eleven push-ups. (I usually get one laugh from Tracy an episode, and that push-up line was definitely it.) So when her old flames come to visit, including (not really) David Blaine floating in on a skateboard, Frank, her old gym teacher whose wife Jenna shot, and Tracy with a bug-infested array of flowers, she’s disappointed that Paul isn’t among them. She feels she’s done all this crazy shit for nothing. But, as Tracy points out, since everything her fake meltdown consisted of was done just to win back Paul, it became a legitimate meltdown. So many layers! And it turns out Paul was in the hospital all along, dressed as a nurse. They make up and make out, and when Tracy tries to leave, Paul handcuffs him to make him stay. Why I’d rather watch Jenna have sex with the Six Flags guy and not Paul, well that’s for the headshrinkers to ponder.
Taken in or out of context, this was a pretty solid episode. But ice is pretty solid, and is a rather bland excuse for a snack. The lack of stakes erases any real feeling I have for these characters and their mindless plights. But being a father of an adorable and wonderful 14-month-old, I find myself more into the “Liz Lemon having a baby” plotline than I did a few seasons ago. It seems I have become everything I used to hate in that respect. In fact, it was downright heartwarming (or possibly reflux-forming) when the episode ended on Liz opening up a bottle of wine, exclaiming, “Life is happening!” It made me want to buy a Liz Lemon foam finger and raise it up high, all while opening that puzzle and making some stew. See you next week for the second-ever live episode. May the gimmick be with you.
The Highway to KouchTown
“Clean up, clean up. Do your own housework you little crackers.” A jingle courtesy of Liz’s ex-Black Panther kindergarten teacher.
Kat: “The romance has died since my boyfriend left for college.” I actually thought they were going to let this joke go as is, without retraction, and I’m actually glad they didn’t. This Week In Frank’s Hat: Bad Ranch.
“You look like a substitute teacher who’s just gotten her one year AA chip.” And this was Jack’s compliment. I suppose having a job and reaching a goal are both good things to credit someone for.
Kevin wears a rope bracelet that was not given to him by Kat. Don’t believe the hype. And he’d previously invited Jack onboard a Halloween Party Bus. I think getting fired would be the best possible outcome for this guy. A Frank/Lutz sandwich would be more applicable.
Criss wants Jack to realize how good he is for Liz, so that he can finally feel the acceptance every 39 year old man craves from their girlfriend's boss. It’s a sentence that sums up a lot of the weird, fatherly mode Jack has been in where Criss is involved. At least Liz isn’t going in for any more kisses.
Jack’s couch factory was also a place where single mothers were trained to teach illegal immigrants to fill out unemployment forms. The building seemed a little small for that kind of massive undertaking.
“Being comfortable isn’t what America is all about.” (Spit into the camera.) I’d take Keach’s spit over Denis Leary’s Dodge commercials any day. Or whoever has something to do with Dodge now.
Kenneth would buy a shitty couch if Jack accepted dancing as money. For this to be Kenneth’s biggest moment in the show was disappointing. But since Pete didn’t get any lines, I guess it will have to do.
I will be shocked if Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters don’t appear on the show soon, since Liz name drops the show in a sexual manner on a weekly basis. My guess is it would have something to do with something crazy Tracy has claimed to have done. Of course, if this is the case, Mickey Rourke would have been on a dozen times by now.
“I’ve never made a mistake, so I don’t totally understand. But I’m here for you, Jane.” Tracy got me with two laughs this week, and this one was extremely understated. Inflation.
"You mean our grave, where we're lying on top of each other in one coffin, pelvis to face, for eternity.” As wrong as that statement is in a general sense, it’s even more incorrect when one thinks about coffin sizes, and how long this one would have to be.
More Stacy Keach! More Murphy Brown!