’30 Rock’ Review: “My Whole Life is Thunder”
Jack’s mom is back and Liz and Jenna feud on a very special Christmas episode of ‘30 Rock,’ where we’re also treated to appearances by Florence Henderson and Kermit the Frog!
Well, wedding bliss didn’t last too long for Liz Lemon, did it? Even though Jenna proclaims her “whole life is thunder,” Liz stole enough of it to kick Jenna into revenge-mode. Liz shouldn’t have gotten married first and she shouldn’t be getting awards — those things are in Jenna territory. But something struck me this week with their bickering at the Women in Media awards dinner (hosted by special guest Andrea Martin): Jenna represents the worst parts of someone like Liz, as well as the kind of person she fears becoming. Liz is an intelligent feminist and Jenna is a superficial diva, and while their ‘Odd Couple’ pairing has been obvious from the start, I found myself wondering this week in particular if Jenna was written to be the dark side of Liz Lemon — the part of herself she fights with constantly, the part of her that was egotistical enough to get her where she is now, and that little voice in her head that tells her that she’s not good enough. Jenna is the embodiment of all of those things, and maybe Liz is the good part of Jenna, too. Neither feels as though she can live without the other, flaws and all, and that’s friendship, right?
Kenneth is dealing with some vengeful feelings of his own toward Liz for firing Hazel, who promptly dumped him after her dismissal. Tracy spends the entire episode trying to teach Kenneth lessons using his favorite medium: television. And so we get a wacky cameo from Florence Henderson, who tries to teach him a lesson (well, Tracy tries to make her teach Kenneth a lesson) the same way special guest Gayle King (aka Oprah’s BFF) tries to teach Liz a lesson. But their approach doesn’t work because both Kenneth and Liz need to learn things their own way.
And Jack is learning the same lesson — you see, Liz couldn’t be who she is without Jenna, and Jenna couldn’t be who she is without Liz, and Kenneth resists television for making all these bad things happen in his life, but he can’t be who he is without it; this week is about learning to embrace that important person (or thing, in Kenneth’s case) in your life — the thing that means more to you than anything else in the world. But the things that are important to us often hurt us and just because you love something, that doesn’t mean things will always go perfectly.
So that lesson Jack is learning is about his mother, Colleen. Try as he might to manipulate her and keep her from being a pain in the ass, she’ll still find a way (because that’s what moms do), and though he resists her and the way she constantly criticizes himself, the truth is that Jack is so egotistical that he needs someone to keep him in check, just like Liz and Jenna need each other. Unfortunately, it takes the death of Colleen for Jack to realize that he needed her all along, and for an episode that’s delightful, though isn’t quite as funny and on fire as last week’s “Mazel Tov, Dummies,” Colleen’s death is just damn sad. Watching Elaine Stritch pop up on the show over the last seven seasons has always been a blast — her sarcasm, quick wit, and tough-as-nails line delivery has made Colleen Donaghy a favorite, and it’s incredible how poignant her death can be even in the midst of the wacky hijinks on ’30 Rock.’ RIP, Colleen Donaghy, you (and your hats) will be sorely missed.
It’s not all sad, though! Will Forte returns as Paul, and while his scenes are very brief, the visual gags are perhaps the most hilarious moments this week, and he and Jenna eventually tie the knot Jenna’s way — by stealing the thunder at Colleen’s funeral, where Paul has disguised himself as a stone angel and a gimp has been hired to officiate the nuptials. And since Colleen would hate it so much, Jack’s okay with it.