This week's '30 Rock' episode: "Standards and Practices" kicked off with some easy-pitch meta shenanigans, but still rushed forward with frantic energy that was hard to connect with. Before the title sequence, we're given nearly a half-episode's worth of exposition, covering Kaylie Hooper's (guest star Chloe Moretz) status as Jack's nemesis, the big show, and another Jenna bid for the public's attention.
The catalyst for the episode arrives in great jump cut to the nightly news proclaiming the show's utter failure, with the great addendum: “Scientists Baffled”. After the theme song, the cause of the debacle becomes clear: the kids starring in the big show had been drinking, and apparently couldn't hold their liquor.
We find out that as a result of the failed show, Kaylie's Grandad has to meet with the FCC, Kenneth got promoted to making T.G.S Standards compliant (completely erasing the point of the last episode in the process), and Jenna has gone to crazy scheme Plan B, revealing that she has six, heretofore unknown, young adult Jenna-spawn.
Jack has a plan of attack to get to the bottom of the catastrophe, and has already detained the two drunk kids, in accordance with the Patriot Act's 'Any white male can arrest any other person' clause. During the interrogation, it becomes clear that Jack's teenage nemesis is the puppet-master. Jack delivers some solid laughs here, especially with 'Kato', hired to attack Jack when he least expects it. Gotta love the classics.
Liz begins to feel restricted by Kenneth's efforts in his new position, as he presents a list of words the cast can no longer say.
As Jack goes to confront Kaylie, it becomes clear that he had come into the game unprepared. She sobs a near unintelligible (for those without teenage girls in the house) story of social woe as her reason for sabotaging the broadcast. As Liz quickly points out, a teenage girl can be vicious and vulnerable at the same time, making it hard for Jack to choose how to proceed.
Kenneth and Liz clash over his censoring of the show's content in an argument that leans toward the bizarre. Kenneth is still having a hard time accepting his authority, and his awkward no-context-needed approach to the conversation is a great gag.
Jenna's whole plot arc this episode is actually easier to describe all in one go, and doesn't really need any support from the rest of the cast. She has a gaggle of spoiled, attractive teenagers (minus one black sheep), she wants to use them to get attention from the public, she shallowly (obviously) kicks the ugly duckling out, shortly before being kicked out herself by the bitchy blonde kids for being too old. She then goes to find the other outcast in order to make amends. The End. Don't get me wrong: a lot of this was well done, funny stuff. At one point, there's a gun! For no reason! Drama! It just doesn't need a lot of analysis. Bitchy blonde kids are funny, Jenna learns lessons.
Meanwhile, Liz has been busy having the worst impromptu-lie conversation in history with Kenneth in the Men's room. Hearing him crying in the next stall, she assumes the identity of Kenneth Toilethole, and tells him to smack that Liz Lemon right in the mouth. Lemon's silent reactions to her escalating failure to make things up on the spot are great. She later admits to Kenneth that she knows the other Kenneth, and that they should all go to dinner sometime, which actually made me involuntarily facepalm in sympathy. Liz Lemon reacting to herself has always been my favorite part of this show.
Liz feels bad about Kenneth's troubles, and has written a Standards-compliant show to make things easier for him, but Tracy is stuck on crazy, and decides to go ahead and just do his completely Rated-R stand up. Kenneth springs into action and live-bleeps Tracy's whole performance.
Impressed, Gaylord Felcher, the head of the network censors, steps in with one of the funniest cameos I've seen in a while. He drops a lot of bleeped language, and even busts out twin flipped birds, also known as “the Double Deuce".
Jack learns that he got played, by his teenaged enemy, but manages to come out ahead. Or even, at any rate.
This episode seemed to be a more coherent and on target than the last one. It reinforced my feeling that the previous week was a rush-job, done to accommodate some real-life schedule issue, or complication. Whatever the truth, this week delivered solid doses of funny, fast-paced gags that felt more like old times.