Hello, 30 Rock fans! Nathan Rabin is off engaging in some sort of tomfoolery, the nature of which will be revealed when we all read it in his next best-selling book. So I've stepped in to recap tonight's episode of the show I like to call Les Aventures du Femme de Citron. Though goodness knows why, since we here at the A.V. Club have collectively decided that the show is now terrible and we all hope it goes off the air immediately and everyone who works on it becomes unemployed and homeless.
Anyway, tonight has a bit of a risky premise: "Stone Mountain" takes us off-set and straight outta New York, as Liz visits Stone Mountain, GA (home town of Kenneth the Page and Jake the Snake) to scout out new talent. Going on location is always a bit of a gamble for a sitcom, especially one that's running a workplace jawn. They put a cute lampshade on it with the "We're going to Stone Mountain!" "...after these messages?" gag, but it turned into a string of Liz Lemon fart jokes capped off by a Jack-underestimates-middle-America ending that landed with a thud. (As did the everyone-looks-like-Kenneth bit.) Even an altogether too kind appearance by Jeff Dunham couldn't salvage much of the main plot this time around, which had too few good jokes and too much padding. Maybe if it had featured Dunham being decapitated instead of his dummy.
The B plot initially seemed to me as if it was going to go astray as well; at first it didn't seem like it knew what it was going to be, mutating from Jenna trying to bribe the writers into giving her good material to the writers trying to prank Jenna into leaving her alone to the writers trying to suck up to Jenna in order to go to a gay Halloween party. Once it finally arrived there, though, there were some great laughs, especially since it featured the return of bitchy Sacha, one of Jenna's gay entourage. It took a while to get going, but even in the exposition-heavy early goings, it featured the terrific gag of Jenna staring down Kenneth and daring him to challenge her assertion that she's too young to remember the Brady Bunch.
The C plot -- yes, there was a C plot, which is what 30 Rock has been giving us lately instead of character development -- involved Tracy getting paranoid, following the death of a famous clog dancer/HuffPo blogger and the fat guy they based Pac-Man on, that he would be the next digit in the 'death comes in threes' tradition. In attempt to ward off his own demise, he starts plotting the death of everyone even remotely famous he encounters; this leads to some fun scenes with Betty White (angry Betty White is alway fun), but they're going to play pretty tasteles when Betty finally kicks the bucket. Or, I guess, when Tracy Morgan ODs on sizzurp.
Not to echo the much-reviled comments of my comrade Todd VanDerWerff or anything, but this episode pretty much exactly mirrored the reasons he (and a lot of other people) have worried 30 Rock is sliding into a rut: character development sacrificed for a hit-and-miss series of wacky gags, solid plots taking a back seat to celebrity cameos (albeit, this time, pretty decent ones), and too many subplots getting in the way of making an overarching story that's more solid. It wasn't a terrible episode -- there were some swell laugh-lines, and Jenna had a little bit more to do than usual (Pete getting the usual straight-man lines in her place) -- but this is a show that should be giving us more every week than "wasn't a terrible episode". It ended with Tracy shirtless, and that's never a bad thing, but three episodes in, the show needs to give us something fast to get rid of the worst-season-ever stink that's starting to gather.
- Liz using a scented candle as deodorant was a marvelous little comedic bit, but maybe even better was her institutional beige bra.
- Is it just me, or was the direction in this episode really sloppy? The timing seemed off, and some of the shots hung on too long or just seemed poorly planned out.
- "This is gonna be the scariest Prison Parents Weekend ever!"
- "Keep refreshing! Maybe Andy Dick has died in the last 20 seconds."
- "God, are you doing this to me because I stole that blind guy's hot dog?"
- "I assisted in the birth of a foal. They named it Jack. And it was delicious."
- "Don't look at me like I'm a football game."
- I don't know about you, but I wish they'd open a Fatty Fat's Sandwich Shack where I live.