'30 Rock' Review: "Unwindulax"

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'30 Rock' avoids the pumpkin patch this week and goes straight for the political with a slew of special guests and a very uncharacteristic turn for Jenna Maroney in "Unwindulax," which is exactly what you think it is.

They've placed Jack's plans to tank the network on the back-burner this week in favor of politicking, as Jack invites Liz to a Republican fundraising dinner in place of his absent girlfriend. With promises of as much free shrimp as she can stomach, Liz assures Jack she'll keep her liberal opinions to herself, but when the conservative talk gets too bonkers (special shout-out to the overly inbred WASP and whatever the hell he said), Liz administrates a democratic speech with facts she can barely remember (that thing the Board of Education in Texas did -- whatever it was). Part of what makes '30 Rock' work so well, comedically, is the way that they can switch the mechanics of a relationship week to week and still find fresh material. For a few weeks now we've watched as Jack and Liz have worked together to destroy the network or sought each other out for advice, but this week turns them against each other for the sake of mining the humor from their opposing political beliefs.

And here's the thing -- we all know Jack's conservative, money-minded motivations, but it never gets old seeing him come up with elaborately absurd new schemes that could only work in this particularly wacky environment, like getting Don Cheadle to appear as himself in a black people for Mitt Romney ad. While Jack struggles to figure out how to ensure Romney gets elected, Liz tries to get her liberal agenda out there with the help of TGS and Lutz's great grand-nephew, Kellan Lutz, who has a very simple-minded demeanor and a silly love of warm marshmallows.

Meanwhile, Jenna's found a new ocean of fans thanks to her Jimmy Buffett rip-off music about catching crabs, attracting her Floridian beach bum followers (including Gary Cole and Amy Sedaris) to set up camp outside the studio, driving Frank, Lutz, and Toofer insane. We've had two weeks where Jenna's plotlines have been minimized, but this week brings her back in a big way, as '30 Rock' orchestrates an undeniably graceful plot line marriage between Liz, Jack, and Jenna -- see, Florida is the key to winning the election for either president, which means Jenna, as she speaks to a crowd of sun-drenched morons, is the only hope for either Liz or Jack to get their point across, and now it becomes a race to see who can get her to manipulate the crowd first.

It's part one of a two-parter (of which we'll see the conclusion next week, presumably), which comes as a bit of a delightful surprise, but timely given the impending presidential election. I love that they've placed this much value on someone like Jenna, who's now been unwittingly saddled with the weight of the nation, but the satire is sort of brilliant -- Jenna is the kind of person this election depends on. She represents so many of America's worst qualities, and while it seems wacky and absurd in that signature '30 Rock' way, it's also smart in a way that almost feels sneaky. But Jenna doesn't just have a choice between two presidential candidates -- she also has the most important public figure to consider: herself. And I don't think Jenna is going to be easily swayed by either Jack or Liz unless endorsing a candidate is beneficial for her.

Filed Under: 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin, NBC, Tina Fey
Categories: TV News, TV Reviews
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