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’30 Rock’ Review: “Mazel Tov, Dummies!”

NBC

30 Rock‘ returns this week to celebrate the marriage of Liz and Criss in what is unquestionably the best episode of the season, and maybe even the series.

Yeah, that intro reeks of hyperbole, but you know what, dummies? I don’t care. Watching Liz Lemon marry Criss Cross, as dorky and tacky as the whole affair was, brought tears of joy to my eyes. Liz has never been the marrying kind, but since married couples take priority over unwed ones, her desire for a baby trumps her resistance to the concept of marriage.

And so Liz goes on and on about how much she hates marriage and how it’s a conceit designed to make money and make women psychotic — but of course she secretly wants her wedding to be a special day instead of showing up to the courthouse in sweatpants. Tina Fey excels when she’s presenting an opinion that her demographic relates really relates to, and just like the other highlight of this season, “Stride of Pride,” Liz presents the very liberal notion that marriage is a crock before explaining that you can have your cake and eat it too. You don’t have to wear a big, expensive white gown and pour your entire savings into an extravagant affair; we’re all different, and a special day can mean any number of things to any number of people. Besides, that wedding dress she bought a few seasons back and used as an expensive ham napkin (in a callback to one of my personal favorite moments) wound up re-purposed as toilet paper when she forgot to buy some before a storm.

The wedding of Liz and Criss also allows for the return of Liz’s most notable ex: Dennis, who married the woman from St. Patrick’s day and adopted a black kid named “Black Dennis” because of course he did. And Dennis is dropping all sorts of gems, like when Liz uses the term “ergo,” to which Dennis replies, “Ergo. Affleck’s finally gonna get that Oscar.” We’ve missed you, Dennis Duffy.

Meanwhile, Tracy has to deal with the news from Dr. Spaceman that he’s incredibly healthy, and now has to live every day like there’s a tomorrow, which means taking care of his health and drinking eight glasses a day of “clear bathtub juice.” This also leads him to take his search for the next movie he’ll produce more seriously, and he’s got scripts from just about everyone in the office, though I’m quite fond of Kenneth’s idea: “In a world with too much freedom, one young man dared to be different. Hitler, colon, the Boy Who Dreamed of Stars.” And with that, Kenneth once again proves his usefulness when used sparingly — the fewer lines he has, the funnier he always seems to be.

But when Tracy’s hit by a car and Jack appears to him as Harriet Tubman (or, “Harriet Truman”) and sexily eats some corn on the cob, Tracy learns that he maybe doesn’t need to take life that seriously.

Jenna’s big problem this week appears in the form of John Hodgman, a guy who won the rights to own Jenna by collecting points from cans of Surge — you know, that radioactive-colored soda from the 90s. But then Jack talks the guy down by convincing him that Jenna is only really worth $2,000 (“In Arizona, two grand will buy me a castle and a pillowcase full of meth!”), which bruises Jenna’s ego until Jack admits that he’s not worth as much as she is, seeing as he’s consoling a washed-up actress who’s crying into her bowl of tomato soup and vodka.

But back to that wedding! Liz ends up wearing her Princess Leia dress because it’s the only white one she has, and if Liz is going to have to be a princess on her wedding day, of course she’ll be Princess Leia. Criss picks up the knuckle ring off a drug dealer named Tito from a police auction because the dealer was arrested where he and Liz met. Tony Bennett shows up to sing (as a favor to Jack, who saved his life once). And Dennis manages to bring all the flowers. Obviously this is how Liz Lemon’s wedding would be, and it’s just so authentic to her character and respectful to fans of the show that you can’t help but be moved when Liz shoves a gold grill in Criss’ mouth.

The writing this week is on fire, from the Harriet Tubman gag to the scripts the guys pitch to Tracy, to Jack telling Liz that Tony Bennett thinks she’s Italian and might call her Tina, which elicits a big snicker from Jack before he hangs up the phone — and I swear that Alex Baldwin genuinely broke character because that moment did not feel scripted at all, and as such it was even more fantastic.

After a few bumps this season, it looks like ’30 Rock’ is bringing us into the final episodes of the series on its highest note to date.

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