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’30 Rock’ Review: “Florida”

30 Rock Florida
NBC

It’s the penultimate episode of ‘30 Rock‘ and Jack and Liz are off to Florida, unwisely leaving Tracy and Jenna in charge. Did we mention this is the last episode before the series finale? Let’s hold hands.

Her spontaneity challenged by Tracy, Liz heads off to Florida with Jack, who has to settle Colleen’s estate (Colleen 4Ever!), leaving Tracy and Jenna in charge of TGS in the interim. Both pairs have their own issues to contend with this week — while in Florida, Jack and Liz discover that Colleen’s housekeeper was really her lesbian lover, as evidenced by the Sleep Number bed, an amazing nude painting of the two of them, and, uh, all the vagina pottery. Yes, VAGINA POTTERY.

Meanwhile, Jenna and Tracy are visited by a lawyer (Tim Meadows — where have you been?) representing Hazel Whassername, who is suing the show and Jenna and Tracy for harassment, which she horrifyingly demonstrates on her very own stuffed Hazel doll.

I contend that there are often two kinds of episodes of ’30 Rock’: the overly-wacky episodes (think Liz Lemon in Joker-y old lady make-up in season six) and the clever episodes, filled with rapid-fire wit. And while both types of episodes are wonderful, the best episodes often find a way to marry the two strengths into a super-episode, like this season’s “Mazel Tov, Dummies!”

“Florida” has some wackiness, thanks to Jenna and Tracy’s hijinks back at the office, and it has some clever dialogue, courtesy of Jack and Liz, the two wittiest characters. By splitting and pairing the characters up this way, we see the dichotomy of the humor on the show, while still fulfilling the quotient for both halves.

Plus, the show finally addresses why Jack and Liz have never hooked up, which seems like blatant fan service, but felt inevitable nonetheless. The truth is that it would have been banal and they would never have been a good pairing romantically. A hook-up would have complicated a relationship that needs no complicating, and it would have affected not only the characters, casting a cloud over every interaction between them, but it would have affected the way we view them as well. ’30 Rock’ has defied sitcoms’ incessant need to have every male/female pairing become something romantic, and it’s part of why we love the show. Jack and Liz’s relationship went from strictly business to almost begrudgingly platonic, and I respect the way the show has each one constantly challenging the other to be a better person, which is something relationships — regardless of their degree — are essentially about. Do we really need them making out in order for us to appreciate that relationship?

I know people have been hard on Kristen Schaal as Hazel, and I can understand the complaints that she’s a little over the top and too aggressively nutty, but I think her plot thread works well within the fabric of this season — while everyone is so concerned with accomplishing their long-term goals (Liz wants kids, Jack wants to be CEO, Jenna wants… attention), they don’t notice the snake at their feet. Someone as mentally deranged as Hazel slips by because everyone on the show is equally obsessed, but only Hazel is psychotic. And with people like Jenna and Tracy around, of course no one would think twice about Hazel acting so bonkers.

Still, the conclusion remains shocking, even as it’s delivered in the show’s familiarly flippant style — Jack and Liz happily return — with Jack accepting his mother for who she was and Liz accepting an offer to adopt not one, but two children — and Hank Hooper drops by to cancel TGS due to the Hazel lawsuit, which was brilliantly mishandled by Tracy and Jenna, setting us up for what will most likely be a fantastic series finale and farewell to some of our favorite TV friends.

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