There were a few factors that made When Harry Met Sally such a great rom-com classic back in 1989, but two stand out the strongest: first, the two main characters were profoundly critical of one another, reluctantly drawn to the other’s irresistible charm and jigsaw-alignment with their own needs. Secondly, they were simply a riot to watch ricocheting off one another. The depth of gravity and color to the character created a kinship that created something uniquely special.
That’s precisely what was laid bare and finally recognized on the return episode of NBC’s "30 Rock" on Thursday night. Jack and Liz are married through a lost-in-translation technical error, thanks to Jack’s choice of a rambling drunken French sea captain to officiate the union of he and baby-on-board Avery. Naturally, both are horrified by the error, and Jack is desperate for an annulment before Avery finds out. But when Pete suggests that Liz use her newfound leverage as Jack’s wife to bring back some of the strapped TGS budget, the stage is set for a blackmail showdown of hilariously dangerous proportions…
Jack sees the game Lemon is embarking on and quickly raises the stakes by enlisting Angie Jordan (Tracy’s insufferable wife) to work as Liz’s intern. Tracy’s discovered he has health problems from Dr. Spaceman, and he and Angie ask Jack for help in securing their family’s future after Tracy’s inevitable death.
Liz refuses the arrangement, though not before stumbling down the worst case of accidental racism I’ve seen in a very long time. Upping the ante, Jack then chooses to give Angie her own reality show, to be aired during TGS’s timeslot – which effectively means that the core of Liz’s existence is rendered flaccid. How does she respond? If you guessed "pledge a massive amount of her newly-acquired half of Jack’s estate to various arts programs around New York," you’d be right on the money. Naturally, for the Reagan apostle, the act was enough to stop his heart.
Meanwhile, Jenna is forced to share a dressing room with the quite clearly gay Danny, and they quickly start acting like an old married couple. Kenneth is somewhat willingly forced to pretend to be their son to stop their arguments, but it all unfolds very strangely, and eventually saps a good deal of energy out of the show. It’s a dead-end sub-plot that’s simply useless.
The destruction continues between Liz and Jack until their bickering threatens the very fibers of the network’s stability, when the two finally find themselves in counselor Jeffrey Wienerslav’s office. A specifically-worded HR survey about workplace relationships gives both wrecking balls pause, realizing their remarkable congruences and workplace codependence. It’s here that the When Harry Met Sally recollection comes into play, given that the relationship between Lemon and Donaghy has been the emotional foundation of the show from the very get-go. The chemistry between Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin is uniquely special, both affectionately antagonistic and creepily parental at times.
After mutual apologies, Liz agrees to sign the divorce papers and Jack promises to restore the TGS budget. They very much belong together, but certainly not romantically, and the writers’ ability to recognize this without diving too seriously into the "will they or won’t they?" carrot on a stick is a true testament to the self-restraint and greatness of the show.
CraveOnline’s Rating: 7 out of 10