'30 Rock': I want to go to there

Tinafey2_30rock_s2_240All the super-capital-A-list guest stars probably helped 30 Rock attract a little attention in its first few episodes this fall. But in getting back to the show's core cast this week, the show gave us probably the best episode of the season.

These spoilers work for me, as long as it doesn't get too humid.

What was great about "Reunion" was not just that it offered up the most sustained Liz-Jack interaction we've seen all season, although that was fantastic. What put it over the top is that it took a hackneyed idea -- successful but still-insecure high-school outcast attends her reunion -- and made it fresh by playing against our preordained sympathies.

So: Don Geiss has awakened from his coma, news that makes Jack so giddy -- he's certain his path to the CEO's office is clear now -- he kisses Liz on the forehead ("What's that flavor?" "It's Dove age-fighting acne cream"). Liz, meanwhile, is wishy-washy about attending her high school reunion, figuring that the pretty, popular people will all be there and still pick on her like when she was the lonely nerd 20 years ago.

Jack rightly points out that Liz has a good amount to throw in people's faces, with her cool job, famous friends and "hairstyle that works for as long as it's not too humid." And, she can take the GE corporate jet, which has popcorn on it.

Alecbaldwin2_30rock_s2_240 Except: Jack's not the new CEO, as Geiss is staying put in the job, thanks to a message from an energy beam while he was comatose. The despondent Donaghy rents a plane anyway, offering to drop Liz off in suburban Philly on his way to Miami. A storm strands him there, of course, and he ends up at the reunion, drowning his sorrows (how there's a bar at a reunion in a dry county, I don't quite understand, but whatever).

Liz, meanwhile, is learning to her horror that she was a high-school untouchable not because she was the geeky, picked-on girl, but because she was, not to put too fine a point on it, evil. (Obligatory Mean Girls reference here.) People shunned Liz, it turns out, because she said really, really awful things to them whenever they did try to engage her.

That's brilliant on a couple of levels, and not just because it's a novel way of telling a reunion story. It also feels like a fairly plausible back story for a comedy writer, and it also -- to me, anyway -- feels like a dig at the now-standard bit of celebrity image-making when a beautiful and successful person insists he or she was really a giant dork in high school.

And, man, did the great lines flow fast and furious tonight. We'll lead off the bullet points with a few of them:

  • Liz's panicky, midair confessions: "I once watched a blind guy eat spaghetti and laughed. I pee in the shower sometimes if I'm really tired. And I saw my grandparents making love once and didn't leave right away."
  • "A Manhattan, please." "What kind of bourbon?" "A white wine spritzer, please."
  • Jack: "Wish I had a Princeton reunion right now. I'd wipe that smug smile off Michelle Obama's face."
  • While Liz was dealing with her unfortunate revelation, Jack was having a ball as Larry Braverman, an apparently legendary classmate who had a Camaro back when. But it did seem a little bit obvious that Donna Moss was so glad to see him because he was the father of her child, didn't it?
  • Oh, and as Jack explains, here's how he was able to blend in at the reunion despite being significantly older than everyone in the room: "Rich 50 is middle-class 38, OK?"
  • In addition to Janel Moloney playing Larry's old flame, the guest cast also included '80s kid actress Robyn Lively and former Law & Order: SVU prosecutor Diane Neal as the two popular girls Liz traumatized in high school.
  • The B-story, with Tracy and Jenna feeling insecure after Kenneth upstages them in the elevator, was a slight one, but it still gave us this sparkling exchange between Tracy and Dotcom. Tracy: "Your job is to protect me from embarrassment." Dotcom: "Grizz had to go to the optometrist." Tracy: "Making up words won't save you!"

There are lots of others, but I'll yield the floor to you. What were your favorite moments from this week's 30 Rock? Nice to have the focus back on the regulars, right?