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30 Rock Watch: Season 6, Episode 9 - Leap Day

(Before watching this episode, raid the liquor shelves and invent a Leap Day-inspired cocktail. Fill your largest glass and take a sip anytime someone on the show mentions Leap Day or Leap Day William. If you’re feeling brave, drink every time L.D.W. is shown. By the end, you will legally become a brand of alcohol instead of a human being. And you might find at least one thing in this review amusing.)

“Nothing that happens on Leap Day counts. Real life is for March.” I certainly hope that doesn’t mean this episode, as solid as 30 Rock comes nowadays, is just a fluke. It’s amazing how this show can shit negatives all over “real” holidays like Valentine’s Day, and make a contrived holiday like Leap Day feel genuine within the canon of American tradition. There are no preconceived notions about how the day should turn out for any of these characters, and there’s a lot more smiling than usual. And even though the big joke is on Liz for being completely oblivious to the celebrations, she doesn’t defiantly rail against it. She succumbs to the tetherless free-for-all and, though we all knew she wouldn’t, almost has sex with Steve Little for $20 million in the process. Echoing and paraphrasing Criss: I’d fuck Steve Little for $20 million. Shit, Lutz could watch.

Here’s some background for Leap Day, on which you must wear yellow and blue, unless you want to get poked in the eye. (In Boston, Jack says they stomp your foot and kick you in the knee. “Yankees suck. Go Pats!”) Leap Day William is the charitable top hat wearing old man character that comes out of the Mariana Trench every four years and trades candy for children’s tears. I’m not sure why kids are crying on Leap Day in the first place, or why his candy isn’t water-logged, but oh well. Rhubarb is one of the day’s celebrated foods. Threaded through the episode, there’s even a brilliantly conceived Santa Clause-ish film, Leap Dave Williams, where Jim Carrey plays a lawyer who slowly starts turning into the “real” Leap Day William, with hilarious results. (Carrey does a fine job of making fun of himself, and Andie MacDowell…looks good for 53 years old.) The point of the day, which doesn’t follow from L.D.W.’s existence, is to take risks and do things you wouldn’t do any other day. It’s an antithetical approach to staid and time-honored holiday behavior, and I’m pleased the writers showed restraint in this respect

Christmas is definitely the day getting skewered here. After jack bombs a press conference for Xaro, a 3-D internet company, he is forced to reconsider his views of Leap Day existing as a bonus day for extra commerce. (Incidentally, he bombed by having three K’s, for Kabletown, burst out of a large fake computer screen. Probably the weakest sight gag in the episode.) He inadvertently poisons himself by eating too many rhubarb leaves. (“Rhubarb red: eat away. Rhubarb green: don’t eat them.”)

While unconscious, Jack is visited by Kenneth as the Spirit of Leap Days Past, where he’s reminded of his cigarette girl mother jokingly denying child-Jack a parade trip, only to laughingly give in and throw candy and cigarettes at him. (It’s the liberal war on Leap Day that’s stopping people from throwing cigarettes at kids.) The Present Spirit takes him to young Libby being told Jack is working late again that night. Future Spirit shows Libby, due to Jack’s constant absence, has experimented with liberalism and is volunteering with Habitats For Humanity, much to Jack’s disgust. He wakes up feeling better, and rushes home to hug his daughter. Awwww.

So yeah, Steve Little. He plays Sad Thad the Skin Tag Lad (but no nickname to his face), a Steve Little-looking billionaire who has been infatuated with Liz since their college days together. (Where she played a young Nazi boy in an unlicensed version of The Sound of Music.) He sold Xaro, his company, to Kabletown just so he could see Liz again. She and Jenna go to a fairly lame party at his mega mansion with tables that rise from the floor, so long as you tell the floor to rise first. He eventually offers her the aforementioned $20 million to take his virginity. She and Jenna get into a slut-off, which is much tamer than it sounds. Taking serious consideration in the offer, particularly after Criss blindly tells her to do whatever she wants on Leap Day, the get-together is thwarted by a mob of sexy golddigging bitches, led by Karolina Kurkova. “This time, the male will be in the Czech,” is the kind of joke that creates a cameo just by existing.

Oddly enough, the Tracy storyline is self-contained and showcases the majority of the heart this character has to offer. Under Tracy’s dressing room couch, Kenneth finds a $50,000 gift card to Japanese restaurant Benihana, paid to Tracy for shooting an unaired commercial. (It didn’t air due to Tracy’s repeated burn accidents.) Since the car expires In March, he has this last day to use it, so he takes the writing staff, Grizz, Dot Com, Kenneth, and Cerie to dinner.

With everyone stuffed and only a small percentage of the money used (the restaurant’s finest bottle of wine cost $12!), Tracy looks beyond the commercial aspects of Leap Day, and back to his youth, where he crossed a frozen river carrying a load of bricks, just because he could. He used to believe in L.D.W., and he runs into an inspirational old guy dressed in much the same way as Kenneth’s harrowingly haunting representation of L.D.W. He tells Tracy he’s in all of us, and Tracy wonders if the blood he’s always coughing up could be L.D.W. trying to get out. To arrive at a justified solution, Tracy must remember where he came from, which leads to a fun barrage of word association, as he stands next to a Soup Kitchen, along with Hannibal Burress, one of the funniest comics that came up in the past few years without getting his own TV show. Allow me to paraphrase.

Where I come from. We all come from the sea. C is a letter of the alphabet. Alphabet soup. Soup kitchen. (And just when you think he’s got it…) Kitchen Debate with Richard Nixon. Richard M. Nixon. M Train. Soul Train. Chicken Soup for the Soul. Chicken Soup. Soup kitchen!

And so Tracy gets a bunch of hungry people Japanese food. There are carolers singing behind everything else in the episode capping off. It’s a really sweet, and not bittersweet, ending. I hate sappy holiday fare, so this anti-holiday with possible adultery for cash fits snugly in the grey area I truly enjoy. Top that off with an ending that mirrors the creepy Valentine’s Day credits tag, and I couldn’t be more content. Happy Leap Day, everyone. Make it count.

Create Your Own Show Reference For This Section Where I Just List Stuff

“If you ever see an old man in a blue suit busting out of the middle of the ocean, take the time to say howdy. It might just be worth your while." This nice little speech ends with the “real” Leap Day William coming at the screen with an evil face full of fangs. I hate the way NBC ends shows so abruptly. I wish that image could have stayed on the screen for a few seconds longer, to drive in the horror. John Cullum has been in a billion TV shows but this takes up more of my brainspace now than ER and Northern Exposure. I’m a sucker for fangs. (Pun bloody intended.)

Interestingly, IMDB lists this show as Episode 6.9, while last week’s “The Tuxedo Begins” is listed at 6.7. I thought this might be a clever play on Leap Day, despite the fact that Leap Years add a day instead of bypassing one. But both Wikipedia and the NBC website, vaguely reliable websites they are, but have the second half of the Valentine’s Day episode counting for 6.7, and last week’s was 6.8. Way to take a concept that didn’t exist in the first place and use a mistake to confuse me into believing in it.

This Week in Frank’s Hat: Thick.

Jenna just doesn’t see people that look like Steve Little. Until she finds out he’s a billionaire. I wonder how she’d feel about Kenny Fucking Powers.

“He did an Internet and computers like him and Wall Street is Google.”

As God-awful as Liz’s shirt was for Thad’s party, I kinda liked her humongous blue school bus underwear. I’m pretty sure I could fit in them with her. And then the lawsuit and all.

Seriously, Kenneth’s L.D.W. costume will give me nightmares. And McBrayer knows this, with all of his knowing smiles and mustache movements. He’s right behind me!!

“Take off the bald cap, and not put on a wig.” He will become a repressed memory now.

It was pretty stupid for Tracy to keep saying Dot Com was invisible, but I did laugh when he assumed no one knew who pulled him out of the river. I’m not sure if I would save Tracy Jordan from drowning in a freezing river. No wait. I have my answer.

Even though he wasn’t in costume, Kenneth saying he’s “dug too many graves” just made me think of him saying it in costume. Seriously, I have a problem, people.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.