30 Rock Recap: “The Beginning of the End”–Tank It

“You’re my oldest friend. And also I’ve known you for a long time.”

This is it. “The Beginning of the End.” Do you think this year they’ll finally escape The Island (Kabletown)? Was the first scene a flash-forward? Will Liz have it all?

The premiere of the final season of 30 Rock set up more questions than it answered, so let’s start with the most pressing: what puzzles did Liz complete over break?

Venice, solar system, unicorn, the cast of L.A. Law. Well done, Liz.

In other news, Liz and Criss are officially trying to have a baby with “the one” position, Lydie went to the Baby Olympics and is now the proud owner of a bronze medal in Horsey Jumpy, Jack golfed his way into an annulled marriage, and Jonathan’s back. He still doesn’t like Liz.

Jack has so much power at NBC that everyone around him might as well be Jonathan, fawning over his terrible ideas and letting him quite literally play God. The extent to which Jack needs his ideas greenlit is the extent to which he asks Jonathan to bring him a green light. He’s turned Thursday into an endless hotel information channel—a clever dig at the impending demise of NBC’s Thursday night comedy block—and created such winning game shows as Homonym (although, to be honest, I would watch the heck out of that). He’s even taking ideas from Lutz. Lutz!

Liz finally figures out her boss’s endgame: Jack is tanking NBC so Hank will sell the network. This explains the past seven years eight years six weeks of mediocrity! If all goes well, Liz and Jack could be enjoying Taco Tuesdays by the end of the year. Lemon isn’t crazy about the idea, but she comes around to it when Jenna, self-appointed bridezilla and killer of doves, forces Liz to be her maid of honor. The duties start piling up: wear a neon gymnastics leotard as a bridesmaid dress. Care for the ring bearer (a hairless 18-year-old German Shepherd on insanity medication). Eat a tasteless foam cake. Because Liz is Liz, that last one is the last straw. It’s time to tank a bachelorette party.

Taking advantage of her terrible party-throwing abilities, Liz invites a clown, her neighbors, and absolutely no international strippers. Furious, Jenna chases her “oldest friend” around the apartment, smashing lamps and yelling that she only wanted Liz to be her maid of honor because she wouldn’t steal the spotlight. Liz is nobody! This gives Liz an idea: nobody should be Jenna’s maid of honor. Jenna should do everything herself—if she’s her own maid of honor, she gets twice the spotlight. Ms. Maroney approves, as long as the maid of honor gets to sing at her wedding.

Meanwhile, in tonight’s awkward C-plot, Kenneth doesn’t know how to keep Hazel satisfied. So apparently that’s still happening. Every time Hazel is onscreen, I feel like I’m watching the pilot for a show that will never get a full season order (or will, on Jack’s version of NBC). She’s socially repellent in a way that’s not at all funny, and in a cast of such established characters, it feels wrong to waste much time on her. Still, if Hazel is nothing more than an excuse to bring Tracy and Kenneth together, at least she’s given us that.

Ken and Hazel have been to second base, aka sharing a yogurt, but neither wants more—Hazel because eww, Kenneth, and Kenneth because eww, sex. Our favorite NBC page goes to Tracy for relationship advice. Lo and behold, Tracy Jordan is now the most stable adult in the building. Tracy explains that women must be treated like queens and also his wife has been in the hospital for a week, could Kenneth please find out why?

To honor his queen, Kenneth has to humor her. Hazel wants nothing more than stardom, and Tracy (“the black Tyler Perry”) is her best shot, so Ken agrees to invite Tracy over for dinner. Which is great, because nobody here is cut out to host or attend a dinner party. Their home is the condemned site of the Candy Man murders, Tracy brings a snake, Hazel looks like she’s ready for junior prom, and Kenneth’s shirt is what I imagine the actual Candy Man murderer probably wore.

What follows is a lesson in how not to seduce. Hazel’s Cockney accent is terrible. Terrible. I think it insults every nationality.  She’s also apparently married. Tracy tells Kenneth everything, and it looks for one shining moment like Ken might dump her, but instead he rationalizes everyone’s actions and gathers Tracy and Hazel into a largely unwilling group hug. I think the phrase “largely unwilling group hug” could probably define 30 Rock as a whole, yes? I’m going to miss this show.

I want to go to these moments:

“She wants her ‘something borrowed’ to be Jessica Biel’s youth. I don’t know how to get that.”

“Aw, how nice to meet a woman who speaks the language of the Nazis’ most enthusiastic collaborators.”

“Shall we conversation?”

“Sometimes your only choice is to blow everything up and build something better out of the rubble. Look at Sherman’s March to the Sea, or what my good friend Bane tried to do to Gotham.”

Tongue battle!

This episode shares its title with the Lost season four premiere, which just makes Kenneth’s Dharma ice cream even more entertaining. That kid is probably going to destroy us all, which is exactly what Jack said in season one: “In five years we’re all either going to be working for him…or be dead by his hand.” So which is it going to be? Will all this tanking succeed, or will it, well, tank? I want to hear your thoughts. But please share them in dated urban slang, so that I’ll understand you.

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