30 Rock – “St. Valentines Day”

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“St. Valentine’s Day”

February 12th, 2009

After what I thought was a really fun little romp in “Generalissimo,” introducing us to Dr. Drew Baird (Jon Hamm) as Liz’s new love interest, the show continues to rush forward as more or less a romantic comedy. Centering around the most romantic (and commercial) of holidays, the episode investigates what happens when a relationship moves much, much too quickly, or when it is built on false pretenses, or worst of all when even McFlurries can’t keep people together.

It’s nowhere near the quality of last week, somewhat more meandering in its focus, but when it scores it scores: particularly with the amazing work of Tina Fey and Jon Hamm in creating a relationship that manages to become even more bizarre this week while at the same time actually becoming quite believable and engagingLiz agrees to a Valentine’s date. The rest of it felt more than a bit one note by comparison, a problem for the show at the best of times, but it felt connected enough to the idea of the differences between Valentine’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day.

And the dangers of moving from Date 4 to Date 20 (or date Never) too quickly.

How great is Jon Hamm, precisely? While last week he was a straight man who was drugged into Liz’s big ol’ bag of crazy, here he got to play something much more broadly comic and he totally nailed it. We begin to learn slowly but surely that Drew does not have the most stable of lives: a teenage daughter who collects Jelly bracelets and burns things, an ex-wife who keys his car, a Sister who is really his Mother, and a Mother who is really his Grandmother and on her death bed. The good Doctor, more or less, is even more of a wreck than Liz is, although his awkward is more inherent to his life than it is a result of sheer klutziness.

It kind of makes them the perfect couple, as Liz can’t help but fail miserably at every turn in this instance. Whether it’s setting the date for Valentine’s Day to begin with, which sets things on the wrong path, she makes stew (Jack’s advice goes unheeded), lets her boob fall out of her blouse (“not the good one”), gets caught on the toilet, lets his teenage daughter drink wine, etc. But all of it, quite fittingly, only brings them closer together – where this felt like it was going to be one of those scenarios where the sheer zaniness ruins everything it actually resulted in one of those klutzy shared experiences. We know that Hamm won’t be around forever, so the writing is on the wall for these two, but there’s such an easy-going casualness about them. Even when in this scenario, Drew remains very affable while Liz is as charming as ever: I’d watch these two go through the most awkward first date ever as many times as the show decides it wants me to.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode can’t rise to the same level. I’m sorry, Salma Hayek, but I just don’t buy this role or this character enough to believe that even the cosmic power of the McFlurry could bring this couple together. Jack’s relationships always work best when they are either total opposites or kindred spirits: CiCi worked because she was a Democrat when he was a Republican, sharing his political passion if not his politics. But Elisa doesn’t share anything: pitting Jack against religion, albeit resulting in the rather nice callback to Season 2’s “Gay Bomb” from the finale, never really achieved anything for their relationship, and I feel as if the end conclusion for their characters was “we’re different, let’s celebrate our love of the McFlurry that brings us together!” And while the show’s use of project placement is always cute, and I really want a McFlurry right now, I don’t know if that’s enough to make me care about this storyline that was on life support to begin with. Although, to be entirely honest, I thought this was Hayek’s best episode yet, comically speaking.

As for the C-Plot, Kenneth’s nervous interactions with a blind girl that become even more awkward when Tracy becomes Kenneth’s voice, it’s a total mixed bag. On the one hand, the plot never really had a punchline when it was clear what was about to happen the entire time, and the end moment (where I’m presuming that the blind girl decided that they were in some way related, unless she was just checking her own face to make sure she was hot) never really made it work. On the other hand, though, Tracy’s “I found it at my favourite website: StopShowingOffDotCom” made me laugh harder than anything else in the episode, and was such a beautifully simple joke that completely hit me hard enough.

At the very least, “St. Valentine’s Day” is an episode that doesn’t send up any signals of the show losing any momentum: Liz and our good friend Dr. Drew are moving at the right pace right now, and that’s really the center of the show. I don’t know if pairing it with the Elisa story is doing them any favours, but as long as Hamm sticks around methinks it will balance out.

Cultural Observations

  • I enjoy that both Jack and Liz’s first impression of Dr. Drew was “Bundy-esque serial killer,” and that Jack is still hung up on the idea when he sees them at episode’s end.
  • Seriously? I am so getting a McFlurry tomorrow – they’ve always been my favoured ice cream snack treat, but now? I need one.
  • The dessert at Plunder, the “Lovers’ Delight” sounded absolutely disgusting, complete with its edible gold leaf: when we eventually got a look at it, I don’t think anyone would have bought it other than the most devoted of capitalists.
  • Jack Donaghy only believes in things that he can buy, see or deregulate, and should really watch his mouth around St. Lucia, the patron saint of judgmental statues.
  • FYI: “Stopshowingoff.com” does go to NBC’s 30 Rock page, in case you were wondering.

4 Comments

Filed under 30 Rock

4 responses to “30 Rock – “St. Valentines Day”

  1. The “Lovers’ Delight” is obviously modeled after a real menu item at NY tourist hotspot Serendipity 3, in case you were wondering:

    http://www.luxist.com/2007/11/08/serendipity-3-creates-the-worlds-most-expensive-dessert/

    No clear truffles though. Was it truffles? I just remember Jack says something like “It has black truffles, white truffles, clear truffles…” Hahah.

  2. Dan

    The McFlurry is the poor man’s Dairy Queen Blizzard.

  3. Spencer

    I loved the Malice reference with “I once claimed to be God in the middle of a deposition.”

  4. Priceless moment for me was Lemon’s face at the beginning of the episode in Jack’s office after he says “I certainly do not mean, STEW.”

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