30 ROCK 5.23 ‘Respawn’

Season 5 comes to a close with a cliffhanger, a Kim Jong Il kidnapping plot and some seriously kinky action...  

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

 

With the fifth season of “TGS” over, everyone at the office is gearing up for their anticipated Summer vacation away from one another. And naturally, nothing quite goes as planned in this strange season closer for NBC's most consistent laughmaker, but it all came together after 22 minutes of whip-crack wit laced with delicious absurdity.

 

Jack misses Avery dearly, and there's very little hope of her release after she's married off to Kim Jon Il's son in a televised ceremony. Very clever of the writers to incapacitate her as such, while leaving the door open for bizarre future narratives involving Jack's stolen wife.

 

"I'm not sleeping," he mourns, clearly a mess without the mother of his child present to, well, take the kid off his hands. But he's truly heartbroken that she's gone: "Last night I sat in front of the TV and ate an entire carton of foie gras… I could hardly drink my morning shower scotch…"

 

Things take a turn for the horribly awkward when Jack fantasizes that the visiting Kenneth is Avery, reminiscing as he forces the underling to pretend to be his kidnapped wife and spoon with him. It's still not enough, however, as Jack ponders, "God, are you punishing because my hair is better than yours?" In the pivotal moment of awakening, Kenneth's impersonation of Avery is downright astonishing, in total contrast to his character. It's just what Jack needed, and just what we needed to lock the scene down beyond the obvious role playing gag.

 

Speaking of role playing, Jenna's new theme song for wool involves brains and rabies references, but it wins her a second opinion by way of a dinner meeting with the Wool Council CEO and his wife. This means her cross-dressing lover Paul must get out of drag for the first time in memory, and act "normal". Although it's hard for Paul to hide who he is, the meal goes well… until Jenna’s “sitter” shows up (a fetish-for-hire dwarf the couple pays to sit on them) and he's forced to pretend that his own sexual fetishes disgust him. It's crushing, and a tipping point for Jenna.

 

The next day on set, the head of the Wool Council appears to be making the moves on a back-facing Jenna, which is actually Paul. He turns to confront the sleazy CEO, and as Jenna steps forward and joins him in solidarity, I lost my mind laughing:

 

 

The office guys Lutz, Toofer and Frank, spend the whole episode – and the entire Summer – playing video games, killing themselves and “respawning” every time someone is close to killing them – so nobody ever wins. They had very little dialogue, and there was no explanation of Pete's absence. What's up with that?

 

Meanwhile, Liz's Hamptons vacation with boxed white wine and Italian lessons on tape at a beachside house are interrupted by Tracy, who's bought up all the surrounding property and is in full party-king mode 24/7. During one calm-shattering interruption, Tracy asks the exasperated Liz, "Can I borrow a cup of sugar? I'm trying to get a hummingbird to drink out of my penis." 

 

Hilarious as that is, it's the breaking point for Liz, who can't get any peace and quiet during the first days of her vacation:

 

 

In the end we do finally see Liz getting the Summer she wanted, and she seems entirely undisturbed by the fact that her outdoor time consists of community service. After all, she did it on purpose to get away from Tracy, and the courtroom scene is a spectacular one – including quotes from A Few Good Men and Scent of a Woman. "Granade, respawn!"

 

Then, completely out of nowhere, our season finale offered up a "Lost" homage cliffhanger in the implication is that Kenneth is grappling with… God? "Jacob"?…to get to stay on Earth. It's been implied throughout the show's run that Kenneth is much, much older than his looks belie. Perhaps this fact will come to light even further next season.

 

Jack finally manned up and bonded with his daughter, Jenna & Paul refused to hide their kinky interests, and Liz got her happy-space vacation after all. Not a bad way to end the fifth season of "30 Rock," an odd-bird stage that spawned several unexpected high points for the show. Multi-episode arcs featuring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Elizabeth Banks helped compensate for Tracy Morgan's medical leave (“Hey guys. It’s me Tracy, the black guy from work!”), and gave TV's most razor-witted series an array of new flavors.

 

We'll see if the up this heavyweight comedy series can push the absurd any further for Season Six… see you in three months!