In the last episode of 30 Rock, Jack decided to make a made-for-TV movie about his and Avery’s love affair and her consequential kidnapping by the North Koreans. Now the actors are all lined up and the first script is ready for Kidnapped by Danger: The Avery Jessup movie, brought to you with limited interruptions by Pride bladder control pads. Pride: make every room a bathroom. This is the full name of the movie. Like the “ESPN Classic” SNL clips that are “sponsored” by Summer’s Eve douches (“When something’s gone wrong and it’s the smell of your thong,” “when your man is in a coma from your panty aroma,” etc), the Pride pad taglines become a running joke throughout this episode.
Jenna is hyped up—she’s not only playing Avery in the movie, but she also created the soundtrack’s titular song, “Kidnapped.” Already mentally preparing for her surely eventual award nomination, Jenna shows the TGS writers the music video for “Kidnapped…” only to find out Weird Al Yankovic parodied it (“Knapsack”). Jenna is furious Weird Al made light of her serious song, and is determined to call a lawyer, despite Liz’s assurances that a Weird Al parody is “a huge honor; like when people want to see your boobs at Mardi Gras.”
Meanwhile, Kenneth is back at 30 Rock and all dressed in a tux. “My father wore this to his high school prom. The theme was ‘Enchantment Under the Jim Crow Laws.’” Unfortunately, Liz doesn’t have any openings, leaving Kenneth to inquire for work from the man cleaning out TGS’s waste bins: “We’re always looking for the next generation of janitors. Throw your resume away on the fourth floor and we’ll be in touch.” The next we see of Kenneth, he’s violently plunging a toilet—he got the job! Despite going to the interview in said tux, ala Will Ferrell in Step Brothers.
The time has come for the table read-through of Kidnapped by Danger: The Avery Jessup movie, brought to you with limited commercial interruptions by Pride bladder control pads. Pride: the world is your toilet, written by Elizabeth Diablo Lemon. Cynthia Nixon is there, as herself, playing the role of Nancy Donovan, in a Boston accent thicker than the Great Molasses Flood, as is—in another great instance of 30 Rock self awareness—Billy Baldwin, brother to Jack actor Alec Baldwin, as Lance Drake Mandrel, the actor playing Jack (it’s like layers within layers).
However, Jack quickly grows upset at the script, because it holds no punches in Jack’s less-than-fairytale romance of Avery: it mentions how Jack was dating—and sleeping with—Avery and Nancy at the same time. It even has the scene where he proposes to Nancy, who rejects him because she knows his other girlfriend, Avery, is pregnant with his child. (It, however, does not mention how Nancy divorced her husband to be with Jack.)
Instead of facing the messy facts of his love story, Jack takes his anger out on Liz, who he accuses of being a bad writer. Liz fires back: “You wouldn’t say that if you read my Mythbusters fan fiction—it is sexy.”
Yet more fat (or more like, bones) is thrown on the fire when another one of Jack’s romantic entanglements walks in: Diana, Avery’s mother. She is the skinnier, WASPier, more age appropriate version of Jack, which is evident in her first line walking through the door, at Liz: “I’m glad you see the end game of feminism as women dressing like Dennis the Menace at work.”
Diana is also not happy over the proposed film about her daughter: “It’s crass, like personalized wedding vows or standing up in a pool.” She’s even more upset about how she heard about the movie: her maid saw a Spanish-language news anchor announcing that Jenna Maroney, “former girlfriend of Pablo Escobar,” and “topless Nickelodeon presenter,” will be playing the lead role in Kidnapped by Danger: the Avery Jessup move, brought to you with limited interruptions by Pride bladder control pads. Pride: have a private sewer in your pants.
It’s obvious that Diana and Jack have naughty times on their mind—despite it being strictly verboten, since Diana is Jack’s mother-in-law—when Diana goes to the bathroom to “freshen up” because “the train was disgusting. I flew here but I saw a train from the window.”
Lady wingman Liz knows she must prevent Jack and Diana’s “bathing suit parts” from “getting a workout,” so she exercises her very special skill: “All my life I’ve been the third wheel that prevents people from having sex. In college they called me The Blocker.”
Liz quickly gets to work. When Diana steps out of the bathroom, Diana says dejectedly, “Oh, you’re still here.” “That’s what they all say,” Liz mutters, eerily happy.
Becoming even more conniving, Liz starts pushing Diana Lance’s way, who is following Jack around in a suit, method acting. The trick works, as Diana is aroused by this ok-to-boink Jack impersonator. She corners him in his dressing room: “Say something negative about Obama,” Diana pleads, lustfully, following that up by asking his opinion on hybrid cards. “Prius is the Latin word for impotence,” Lance/Jack replies. She begs him to stay in character, and the two eventually go on a date. Although this upsets Jack, it’s like Lance said: “It’s impossible not to have a great time at Planet Hollywood.”
Livid with seeing his impersonator—who doesn’t even know that only Nancy called Ronald Reagan by his full name—Jack again turns to Liz. “You’re living in a dream world,” she tells Jack after he fires her—everything was not perfect with Avery before the kidnapping.
Meanwhile, Kenneth has a heartbreaking moment as he’s collecting garbage at 30 Rock in his new janitor position. His old colleagues don’t even acknowledge his presence, and while emptying out a trashcan, he finds his old sandwich from just a few days ago. Kenneth thinks back to that other world, that other time, and what he said as he threw away that half-eaten sandwich: “I hate to waste food but I’ll probably get free executive sandwiches like this forever. Nothing can stop me now.” A high-pitched noise escapes from between his lips, like the noise of a kettle about to blow. Kenneth is suffering, but he’s doing everything not to let it show—pushing those emotions down and slapping a smile on.
While Kenneth used to be the easily happy-go-lucky, nothing-can-get-me-down character, he has progressed exponentially this season, even undergoing a major transformation just a few episodes ago. The Kenneth we knew the first few seasons is gone; this Kenneth is a man, and this Kenneth suffers.
It is only later that the real Kenneth truly emerges, when Jack finds him in his janitor’s outfit. Kenneth insists he’s only had a few setbacks in his dreams to run a television company, and he’ll soon be back on the career ladder, but Jack wants to know how Kenneth can tolerate his life: “Look at you—you’re not back at where you started, you’re doing worse… You always stay positive… How do you do it?” Something dark in Kenneth’s eyes flickers, and he lowers his voice and growls out in a desperate whisper:
“I lie to myself. Every morning when I wake up, I say everything’s going to be OK. But I’m lying…” Jack tries to get up, but Kenneth shoves him back down in his seat, and continues, “And I don’t know how much longer I can do it.” Then, that high pitch noise escapes again from the bowels of his very being… and just as quickly, that plastic smile is slapped on his face again, and Kenneth exits…
Kenneth is quickly becoming the personification of the recession generation. Chipper, optimistic, and constantly carrying a hobo knapsack full of dreams, those hit harshly by the recession may be in a worse position than where they started, yet they continue to smile… but that smile can only last so long, as is evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement. There’s a grumbling of discontent in even the middle classes, and if they’re not thrown a bone soon, well… there’s only so much kicking a dog can take, before it bites.
It seems Jack takes Kenneth’s advice to heart, because he turns back to Liz and admits his life with Avery was a lie, and they both agree there’s only way to fix the script: lie. Lie like a Manhattan real estate agent. Lie like a 23-year-old model. Lie until the Avery Jessup story involves North Koreans kidnapping her from the top of the Empire State Building using a helicopter, while Jack is frozen in place using Korean voodoo.
Also, Jenna backs down from suing Weird Al, after Tracy tells her all Weird Al will do is continue to parody her. Saying she’s not afraid of anyone in show business, after all, she “turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions—out of five,” they set out to make an un-parody-able song. When that venture fails, they decide they have to out-parody Weird Al himself, and Jenna debuts her new song, about burritos and pizzas and farts, to a very confused Jimmy Fallon audience.
Weird Al turns the tables back around on Jenna, by making a serious song about his father and veterans. The moral? There’s no beating Weird Al Yankovic.
This article was originally published on AllMediaNY.com