30 Rock, “Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land”: I once saw a baby give another baby a tatoo!

I haven’t been incredibly happy with the way 30 Rock has handled the three men in Liz’s life this season. Jon Hamm, Dean Winters and Jason Sudeikis are all good actors and have been used very well on the show in the past, but with the exception of Floyd a few episodes back, I feel like their appearances have been largely wasted with the quick, throw-away scenes we’ve seen this year. In a way, their appearances in last night’s episode reminded me of the season overall. Peaks of greatness that too quickly descended into mediocrity, although “Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaurland” was probably one of the season’s stronger outings.

If the episode suffered from anything, it was that it was trying to do too much with too little time. Really, the entire night could have been spent with Liz visiting her former flames before going to Floyd’s wedding. But we still had Jack’s relationship with Nancy and Avery to contend with, as well as Tracy’s attempt to reconnect with his youth for an upcoming movie role.

Slightly overloading an episode can sometimes work in its favor, depending on how the various plot threads come together and their thematic relevance to one another. Now, there’s no unwritten rule that an episode’s A, B and C stories all need to relate to each other, although I think it can sometimes help things flow a little better. Although Tracy’s visit to his old neighborhood offered up a lot of laughs – even though the bulk of it boiled down to different riffs on the same joke – I thought it really took the focus off of what the episode was all about: love and relationships.

I was glad to see Wesley, back from England, and a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t take the show more seriously when he told Liz a few months back, “I’ll see you in May, for Sweeps. It’s what we call Spring Cleaning in England.” I also thought that his character was much funnier this time around. And for someone who spent all of last week coming to the realization that the expectations had been set too high and that she just needed to settle for someone, I was surprised at how quickly Liz threw that lesson out the window. Although Wesley asking her how he lined up with the other men in her life seemed to put things into perspective somewhat.

It seems like Jack’s relationship problems may be coming to an end. I always saw him as someone who would never be able to let go of the fast-paced corporate lifestyle, so a woman like Avery always seemed like a natural fit for him. But still, there’s a piece of Jack that just wants to settle down and take things slow. We’ve seen that far-away look in his eye while he contemplated moving to Pennsylvania with Edie Falco in “Episode 210,” and taking over Larry Braverman’s identity in “Reunion.” Normally, I’d expect him to choose Avery (although there’s always a chance…), but realistically, unless they pull an Angie, making references to her while only bringing her out once or twice a season, expect Jack to screw things up with both women.

Tracy reconnecting with his past definitely had some funny beats, although it seemed like the episode’s commercial break, periodically taking us away from Liz and Jack’s relationship problems. Him naming off all the horrible things he had seen growing up in the ghetto reminded me of all the cut footage from movies like Best in Show and Anchorman. And maybe the whole experience will help him to finally win that Oscar.

“Dinosaurland” was part 1 of 2, and from the teaser it looks like what overall has been a fairly mediocre season will at least be able to finish strongly. I mean, it’s got Matt Damon, so things are already looking up.

Things I liked:

  • Garfield 3: Feline Groovy
  • “You sound like me at the Olympic Village.”
  • If Chums were an actual show, I’d watch it.
  • Hard to Watch, based on the book, “Stone Cold Bummer” by Manipulate
  • Jon Hamm’s hook hands had a very Buster Bluth feel to them. “I’m a monster!”
  • You know that somewhere out there, there’s a group of Plushies.
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