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’30 Rock’ Review: “The Return of Avery Jessup”

30 Rock
NBC

It’s been a long time coming, but this week’s ‘30 Rock‘ finally delivers the return of Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks) from North Korea!

This week Jenna is trying to find a sponsor for her wedding with Paul, since all big celebs have sponsored weddings. She has a deal with a southern travel guide, but Tracy and Kenneth assure her that her voice isn’t as hick-ish as she believes. Her over-enunciation when asserting that she has a natural country accent is totally classic Jenna. Tracy and Kenneth spend the episode trying to make Jenna un-learn her proper qualities and embrace the yokel within, which results in some pretty funny slip-ups once her inner trashy side rears its head.

Avery is back, and she’s returned with a fellow male hostage whom Jack suspects she’s had an affair with. Eager to return to normalcy, Jack engages Avery in psycho-sexual warfare, trying to guilt her into revealing her assumed affair by slowly admitting his own transgressions. Avery is a stone wall, though, and bounces back every time with “I forgive you.”

This week we also re-tread familiar territory as Liz considers Chris’ lower income and his ability to provide — particularly in the context of possibly having a baby together. Chris feels emasculated because he wants to be able to support them should Liz lose her job or NBC become a “website that sells used office supplies,” and Liz realizes that perhaps established gender roles have influenced her more than she’d like. It’s a totally recycled conflict that we’ve seen already this season, and frankly, it feels like fluff.

Speaking of fluff, there just hasn’t been enough of Frank, Lutz, and Toofer lately. Those guys seem to exist mostly to stand around in the background and provide the occasional one-liner. Where are our episodes about the writers? Lately everything has had a melodramatic lilt as Liz confronts her ideas of settling down and being an adult and Jack deals with his feelings. Tracy and Jenna still provide the wacky comedy, but even Jenna — with her impending marriage to Paul — is getting soapier than normal.

In the end, Jenna realizes that she’s just like her Christine LaButton shoes, a knock-off of Christian Loboutin. On the outside she’s pretty, but on the inside she’s still a trashy girl. She makes a deal with a knock-off shoe company for the end-credits gag where she promotes Johnny Choon, Dolce and Banana, Gukki, and Jessica Simpson brand shoes. Jane Krakowski kills it this week with her commitment to the over-the-top hick gags.

Liz also has her moments, too, like an hour-long presentation to get Avery caught up on what’s been happening in America for the last year… in rap form. Unfortunately, Jack and Avery cut her off less than a minute in, but an hour-l0ng pop culture rap from Liz Lemon sounds priceless.

’30 Rock’ was renewed this week for a final, 13 episode season, and the timing couldn’t be better. We’ve been teased with Alec Baldwin’s exit for some time now, and a show without Jack Donaghy just wouldn’t be the same. Thankfully it seems Tina Fey — unlike the show runners over at ‘The Office’ — realizes this, and next season will be our farewell to the gang at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Quotable:

“Their meat is just deflated kickballs.”

“I heard her ask her bear who the dye job is.”

“There’s an iPad 3 and a Mitt Romney 4. They worked all the bugs out. He’s not killing hobos at night anymore.”

“Feminism promised us two things: fatter dolls and an end to traditional gender roles.”

“She’s still mad at Al Gore for stealing George Bush’s idea to have an internet.”

“And my wedding will be just another panel on my mother’s family history back tattoo.”

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