’30 Rock’ Recap: ‘Grandmentor’

30 Rock’s 13th episode this season places the Avery Jessup storyline back in the forefront, and new page Hazel gets some well deserved screen time.

Kicking things off, Liz is upset that she has to read viewer essay—one of which is “typed on the inside of a bloody halter top”—for an NBC contest to star in a walk-on role on TGS. After last year’s debacle, in which the winner uttered “Keep the White House white” mid-skit, Liz thought she was scot free from another contest. However, Jack found that “if someone is actually on NBC, they’re 4 percent more likely to watch it.”

Anyway, Jack is preoccupied trying to get more media attention for his wife, Avery Jessup, who was kidnapped in North Korea and forced to marry Kim Jong-un. The U.N. was of no help, and it turns out “Amnesty International is nothing but a company that makes and sells candles,” which explains all the vigils. Jack is left with no choice but to attend a concert by Matt Lauer’s blues rock band, Rhythm and News, to get time on the Today show.

Despite sitting through the four-hour show, Lauer informs Jack he was bumped. “Why,” Jack asks, “are you doing another hard-hitting segment on how to plan a staycation with your cyber bully?” It’s actually because a Chinese mine collapsed, trapping dozens of infants (to keep down labor costs, the Chinese only hire babies to mine; they get paid in yogurt) underground; and adult dogs don’t fit in the small, baby-sized mines, so they have to lower down rescue puppies.

Meanwhile, Kenneth is doing well in his new job. In fact, his boss, the curse machine Gaylord Felcher, just gave Kenneth a promotion: “Employee of the F**king Week in the M*****f**king Standards and Practices Department.” Yet, Kenneth still stops by Tracy’s dressing room to check up on his best friend.

But remember, Hazel is a psycho-eyed and will have her way –even if it means breaking into Liz’s apartment in the middle of the night to watch her sleep. Hazel doesn’t like Kenneth stepping in on her territory, and asks him, “What’s wrong with you?” Kenneth begins to reply, “Well, my parents were technically brothers…”

As Lemon instructs the TGS writers to make this year’s winner’s role a non-speaking part, Hazel asks her for advice on dealing with Kenneth. While embellishing the truth a bit—saying Kenneth laughed at her condescendingly and then undressed her with his eyes—Liz agrees to help Hazel; even agreeing to be her… mentor.

***

Meanwhile, Jack finally gets a little help with his Avery dilemma through a non-traditional source: Jenna. Jenna suggests creating a TV movie around Avery’s situation, and Jenna knows about TV movies—she played “’Italian Party Whore’ in the Amanda Knox story.” Though Jack thinks this technique a bit crass, Jenna adds, “Every kidnapped woman I’ve ever played has been released.”

***

Kenneth again steps in when he sees Hazel blending a hamburger and peanut M&Ms for Tracy, whose jaw is tired from pretending to be Pac-Man. Kenneth is concerned for Tracy’s health, but Hazel isn’t taking Kenneth’s backwoods advice anymore: “Get off my ass Parcell—I’m doing my job. You think you can push me around just because you have a penis?… I’m not delicate, I’ve been in tons of car wrecks.”

But as you’ll remember, Kenneth has also recently grown a back bone (though it ended with him crying on the toilet), so he insists on taking over for Tracy’s care. Yet, when Hazel asks Tracy who he wants taking care of him, “This trailer park Hitler?” or herself, Tracy chooses Hazel. Mostly because she bribed him with a piñata.

Hazel and Kenneth are like feuding post-divorcees, and Hazel is quickly assuming the role of the pathetic dad, bribing love out of his child with candy, ice cream dinners, and weapons.

Kenneth tries to get some advice out of Liz, but as Hazel’s new mentor, she sides with her mentee. And the mentee is trying to get everything she can out of her new professional relationship; even (strangely) asking Liz for sexxxy advice. “Bedroom tip:” Liz says, “Put a bag of popcorn in the microwave before hand… that way, when you’re done, you have a treat.” But Hazel needs more—see, her relationship with Rozmeg, a sleazebag with a fuzzy Russian/Eastern European accent, has hit a rough patch: when Hazel went home the other day, she found Rozmeg banging “the fattest woman” Hazel has ever seen. And Hazel used to weigh 800 pounds.

Liz tells Hazel to break up with Rozmeg, but this advice isn’t good enough. Hazel wanted to know how to spice up her relationship, not end it. Saying she’s disappointed, Hazel adds, “If this was two years ago, I’d sit on you until you died.”

***

Now Jack is casting for parts in the movie, and in a fantastic instance of 30 Rock becoming self-aware, Jack’s new assistant throws in a headshot of himself into the pile of wannabe Jacks. “You’re not a lead, Gabe,” Jack says, “at best you’re a featured extra with no lines,” hinting at the lessened role of Jack’s assistants since the departure of Maulik Pancholy, who used to play the hilarious and Jack-obsessed Jonathan. Maulik went on to play a regular role in Whitney.

Liz walks in and is immediately propositioned to write the screenplay for the Avery movie; but she’s there looking for advice herself. See, Jack is Liz’s mentor; and now that the mentee has a mentee herself, Jack is now a grandmentor. For the first time, Jack gives Liz advice not on how to run her life, but how to run someone else’s: let Hazel fail. Just like Jack let Liz fail when she got cornrows and went onstage at the Apollo as “Lemonem” (the enraged crowd chased Liz into a river).

It’s a few hours until the next TGS taping and Tracy has fallen off the wagon and into the deep end. Hazel is letting him do everything Kenneth wouldn’t (because Kenneth actually cared for Tracy’s health): he bought a crossbow, a motorcycle, got drunk, stayed up all night, and got off his meds. Kenneth is concerned; Tracy goes crazy with less than 14 hours of sleep and no medication. “We’re in a show within a show. My real name is Tracy Morgan!” Tracy screams from his dressing room, in another great instance of self-awareness.

But Hazel won’t let Kenneth near Tracy, because she’s loving the power and the exposure from access to Tracy Jordan/Morgan: “Did you see Page Six today? Those are my toes he’s sucking on… and he did not want to.”

Pete is also pressuring Liz to pick a contestant winner already. Picking an essay out at random, Liz settles on Joran van der Sloot. “We can’t fly someone from Peru now,” Pete cries, “there’s no time!”

After getting some weird advice from Jenna, Kenneth knows what he must do to get Tracy’s attention: be the walk-on guest on TGS. Knowing the contest isn’t open to NBC employees, Kenneth quits his job at Standards and Practices, and sure that nothing will go wrong, Liz puts Kenneth into the skit.

Liz makes yet another mistake when Hazel walks by and informs Liz of her plans to take Tracy to Las Vegas (despite Tracy’s debilitating fear of magic), along with Rozmeg, who happens to be in the studio. Upon meeting Rozmeg, who immediately asks Liz where the “bathroom bucket” is because he needs to “make mud,” Liz orders Hazel to break up wit him. Hazel balks, and Liz remembers Jack’s words: let her fail. She gives Hazel her blessing.

***

Meanwhile, Jenna is angry when Jack deems her not worldly and smart enough to play the role of Avery in the TV movie. “You think I’m stupid just because my college got tipped over by those Miami Heat fans,” Jenna accuses. Desperate to get Jack’s attention, she dresses herself up as Avery and approaches Jack in his office at night. Earlier, Jack revealed how he fantasizes about his wife just walking in through his office doors… with the lights off, Jenna thinks she can pull the trick off.

Jack doesn’t believe it for one second, but takes her to task for her baseness and selfishness in playing with a man’s emotions in such a nasty way: “You are a monster! What you have done here today is the second cruelest thing that anyone’s ever done to me.” The first being the time Avery had him committed so that she and her college roommate could use his Yankees tickets on opening day.

Yet, the trick works. Jenna’s merciless pursuit of self-interest is the essence of capitalism; the essence of Avery. And Jenna should know about essence—she posed bottomless in Essence. Jenna gets the part.

On the opening sketch of TGS, Tracy’s wild nights are catching up to him: he’s slurring his words and he’s incredibly ill. Before his part is up, Kenneth walks onto the set to talk to Tracy directly: Kenneth is not going to sit by and watch Tracy destroy himself. Tracy starts crying, they hug, and Liz tries to cut to commercial but Pete says they’re not allowed to do that anymore.

***

Back at her office, Liz is trying to live down the horrible taping when Jack walks in. He commends Liz for taking his advice: “You let her fail—that’s how the banking industry learned its lesson, and now they’re doing amazing and everyone’s honest.” Although originally unconvinced Jack’s advice was right, Liz is won over when Hazel walks into her office and informs Liz she’s seen the errors of her ways: “I was watching the show fall apart while Rozmeg was giving me a prison tattoo of his face… You were right all along.”

This article was originally published on AllMediaNY.com

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