30 Rock 5.09 “Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish” Review

Some shows, like Lost or Six Feet Under or The Wire, really make you care about their characters’ backgrounds. What makes them tick? Why is David Fisher so uptight? Why does Jack Shepard always need to fix things (or why is he always out of breath? Is he okay?)? Tonight’s 30 Rock tried its best to make its audience care about character backgrounds. To their credit, the bizarre tidbits we learn about Liz, Kenneth and Jack all work brilliantly on a comedic level but the episode’s plot ended up being one of the more forgettable of the season.

Taking Jack’s advice, Liz seeks a therapist that inadvertently being Kenneth. Once Kenneth learns of the origins of Liz’s many emotional issues, he continues the chain reaction of mental anguish by confiding in Jack. Meanwhile, Jenna and her cross-dressing, Jenna Maroney-impersonating boyfriend Paul find themselves in a romantic rut. Paul (SNL‘s Will Forte) would like to move things forward and become a more normal couple while Jenna prefers to continue to being completely insane. Tracy and his “son” also seek Jack’s help in starting a new business.

What 30 Rock nailed this week, as it does every week, was the callbacks. I had completely forgotten about Will Forte’s character. His sudden reintroduction was great for an “oh, that’s right!” laugh. Tracy’s “son” Donald was another highlight. His creepy habit of calling Tracy “daddy” only slightly out-shined his penchant for picking names for his businesses that have already been taken by wildly successful companies.

30 Rock‘s writers have been especially kind to Alec Baldwin, adding wonderful bits of knowledge for Jack to share. For instance, people with curly hair and the need to wear glasses are incapable of handling their own or others’ emotional problems. Unfortunately for me, I fit that exact description.

Unfortunately for 30 Rock, though, all the great little things could not save tonight’s episode.

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