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30 Rock: Episode 210

Well, my TV Club babies, tonight marked the triumphant return of 30 Rock and it couldn't come a second too soon. I was fiending, yes fiending, for another fix of 30 Rock like a crackhead in rehab. It was getting so bad I seriously contemplated breaking into my colleague Scott Tobias' apartment so I could take back the 30 Rock first season DVD I lent him. Of course I could just politely ask for it back or buy another DVD but how dramatic would that have been?

I know it's only been a matter of months, or even weeks, or possibly even just hours, since our beloved collective TV mommy took all the new televisual goodness away (in my TV-deprived delirium I've lost all sense of time and space) until The Man finally pays humble scribes what they're worth but it feels like years. In that respect tonight's new episode of 30 Rock was an exquisite tease, tempting us all with a full-blast assault of hilariosity, then sinking back into hibernation until this whole unfortunate labor farrago destroying society one American Gladiators episode at a time is finally resolved, possibly via bloodshed and/or some form of casualty-intensive Civil War.

I don't want to live in a world with plenty of Nitro and Aggro but no Liz Lemon, Tracy Jordan or Jack Donaghy. Thankfully tonight 30 Rock was back and in top form. I was laughing so loud I barely had time to transcribe every quotable line. The tenth episode of the show's strike-plagued second season was all about love, loss, substitution and the struggle between career and romance.

In the C-story Kenneth The Page is introduced to the nightmare world of highly caffeinated coffee-like beverages and goes on an amped-up, jittery bender, Cajun-style. He eats a "Jewish donut", goes to an PG-13 movie, "rolls the brown serpent" (a wonderfully evocative, ragingly homoerotic phrase) and gets "Sodomized" (an even more evocative, ragingly homoerotic phrase).

Meanwhile Jack Donahy and star-crossed lover Edie Falco met each other halfway (literally) by spending a decadent weekend together in the heart of mining country. 30 Rock's conception of life in the flyover states subscribes to every reactionary stereotype about life in the sticks but I love it anyway. It's a testament to the show's genius that it was able to garner considerable pathos as well as wistful comedy out of Jack Donaghy answering his boss' call while still on the phone with his Whale-loving liberal lady love. Rip Torn, as the boss of bosses, managed to be a major element of tonight's show without ever actually appearing. That is some serious iconic presence right there.

In the other major plot-line good old Liz Lemon goes through all the stages of courtship, romance, serial drunk dialing and estrangement with a co-op board when she decides to spend her money like an adult and buy real estate. As the most vocal member of the co-op board the always tip-top Ed Hermann had some priceless reaction shots to Lemon's mounting madness.

Tonight was such a great episode that it was able to weather a very tricky, very dangerous detour into oppressively quirky, precious Ally McBeal territory when the entire cast broke into an ecstatic rendition of "Midnight Train To Georgia". This easily could have been an excruciating, even shark-jumping moment but the cast pulled it off with aplomb. Holy fuck, am I going to miss this show now that it's slipping back into indefinite hibernation. Can't we all just get along? You know, for the sake of the children?

Grade: A Stray Observations: (nearly all-quotes edition) –"The floating city of New Chicago" –"I'm terribly sorry. The lesbian took forever" –"C'mon robot, play my movie!"'–Did anyone catch exactly what was going on with Tracy's dream? I know a robot and/or pirate was involved. –I liked how lasciviously Liz Lemon said "I would walk all around inside of that". It really drove home the house-buying-as-woefully-dysfunctional relationship metaphor –"I'm leasing it back to the government as a prison. Ca-ching!" –"The founding fathers never intended for the poor to live into their forties." –"So many different kinds of sparrows" –"That's why my wife and I don't use a safe word any more." –"Coffee's not like alcohol. It's pretty addictive." Hey did anyone see the recent Tracy Morgan profile in The New York Times? It only reinforced the widespread notion that Tracy Morgan is Tracy Jordan –Children drinking is almost always funny. At least in real life it is. –"I will be king of the assistants!" –Genius exchange: "I've never been to a place before where they kill the pig in front of you." "It's weird that they didn't serve us any pork." –Does anyone else think Lemon's catchphrase of Bloo-argg! is a Mad Magazine homage? I seem to recall that being one of the magazine's pet weird non-verbal utterances. –Why won't somebody speak up in favor of legalizing recreational whale torture? Fucking political correctness. The next thing you know they'll outlaw bear-baiting. –"Our belief that sex is a competition." –"Oh Grizz, I'll miss you most of all"

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