'30 Rock': Puppets, puking and Tracy in space

Tinafey_30rock_s3_240 After a good-but-not-especially-funny episode of "The Office" tonight, facing a non-stop barrage of jokes on "30 Rock" nearly had me in tears. You could even say I almost Lizzed.

Spoilers coming as soon as I finish this set of space situps.

How did I love this episode of "30 Rock"? Let me count the ways.

Dennis Duffy is back! The anti-chemistry he and Liz have has been brilliant just about every time Dean Winters has appeared on the show, and tonight was no different as Dennis, recently self-diagnosed as a sex addict, made his way 'round to Liz's apartment to work on his steps and atone: "Former sexual partner, I'm sorry my disease made you a victim of my sexual charisma. I'm sorry I ruined you for other men."

One problem (not related to where to get coffee): Dennis has also slept with Jenna, as Liz discovers when she answers Jenna's phone and Dennis gives exactly the same speech. Liz vows not to let it affect their friendship, but watching her do a slow boil when she and Jenna confront Dennis and they explain what happened ("We were both torn up about Hurricane Katrina," Jenna explains. "What those people were doing to the Superdome," Dennis chimes in. Yeah, he's that guy.) And of course, Liz does let him get the better of her later, when she sees Jenna's rig for a Peter Pan sketch isn't set and lets Jenna fall anyway. Don't worry, Jenna gets back at her (more on that shortly).

Puppets. It makes perfect sense that Kenneth would see everyone around him as a Muppet, does it not? And I think the fact that it does made the puppet sequences -- I'm not sure what I liked better, singing puppet Jack or human Liz continuing her Muppet-like walk after we got back to normal vision -- even funnier. As did the fact that we also got to see how Tracy (everyone's Tracy) and Jack (everything has a dollar value; Kenneth's worth $7) view things.

Alecbaldwin_30rock_s2_240 Jack's birthday. He's turning 50 and planning a big gala to celebrate how much he's accomplished since making a list in fifth grade of the things he wanted to do by 50 (live in a house with stairs, visit Disneyland, beat up a Russian, hit his mom with a car). But a bunch of old home movies his mom sent to him have made him wistful for a time when a present made him so happy that he puked.

He's determined to get that feeling again, despite Liz's warnings that he can't recapture his childhood. "I disagree," he says. "I'm going to find out what was in the box, buy it with money, and it's going to make me happy. And if that doesn't work, I'm going to Benjamin Button myself." It's a replica of the Apollo capsule, but that doesn't work. Fortunately, though, he finds something else. Which brings me to my last point.

A strong ending. Feeling bad about letting Jenna fall, Liz makes amends by letting her show the writers the one commercial she booked during her brief time as an actress -- for a phone sex line in Chicago (1-900-OKFACE). I wasn't laughing quite as hard as the writers, but it was close. And yeah, it seemed inevitable that the scene would end with Jack vomiting -- but that didn't make it less funny, especially when you take into account the terrified reactions from the writers (Frank: "My god, He's mortal!" Lutz: "What just happened!?!"). Brilliant.

Other good stuff from "Apollo, Apollo":

  • The Tracy-in-space subplot got short shrift tonight, but it was fodder for several great throwaway jokes, such as Tracy's desire to kill Ewoks, the "Right Stuff" walk and Tracy's overpreparedness for the meeting with Jack and Liz (Robert Browning is either rolling over in his grave or cracking up). And the fact that Jack has a Google alert for "Tracy Jordan ridiculous disaster."

  • When Liz answers Jenna's phone, she does a Jenna impression with an English accent -- which, according to Jenna, is OK: "The reason I have some English inflection is because I lost my virginity to the 'My Fair Lady' soundtrack." OK then.
  • Grizz is not just Tracy's assistant; he's also Adam West's agent.
  • Tracy: "What is this, Horseville? Because I'm surrounded by naysayers. Wordplay!" Liz, admiringly: "That is solid."
  • A little bit of Pete back story: His dad was a congressman, and he had planned to follow in his father's footsteps, but for "that one DUI in high school."
  • Liz first tries to placate Jenna by letting her do a song on the show that she wasn't allowed to do at the presidential inauguration. "No," Jenna sniffs, "'Chocolate Rainbow' is too good for 'TGS.'"

Tell the truth -- have you ever Lizzed? Maybe just a little? How'd you like this week's "30 Rock"?