30 Rock 3.12: I Love States’ Rights! Monday, April 21, 2008Posted by The Bad One in the balls.
Tags: 30 rock, Hockey, nbc, The Bad One
As we open, Jack’s trying to get Liz to show up to his McCain fundraiser to avert the pending sausage-fest. He’s also working on the cool Republican celebrities, but he had a falling-out with Chuck Norris. He also demands that Liz book the Subway Hero on TGS. Said hero (based on the Wesley Autrey incident) saved a man’s life by pulling a guy who’d fallen onto the tracks between the rails as a train went over their heads…and happens to be Dennis “The Beeper King” Duffy, Liz’s ex and To Catch A Predator alumnus. Jack reveals his identity by flipping on the TV as Dennis receives a bronze medal from Mayor Bloomberg. Liz gasps. Dennis thanks “Mayor Bloomberger”. “I accept this honor on behalf of every– Stern rules! Bababooey! WOO!”
(Aside: The fake MSNBC is a great visual joke. The Dow is down 526.25 points, and the crawl reads “…UPCOMING DEPRESSION. NORAD PUTS CYBORGS IN CHARGE OF SKYNET. ZOMBIE SPOKESMAN WEL-… COMPLICATED THING HAPPENING IN AFRICA. BABY BOTTLE FOUND ON MARS.)
After the credits, Dennis is using giant novelty scissors at a 99-cent store grand re-opening. “Hey dummy,” he says when he spots Liz. He thinks it’s fate that has brought them together again. He poses for pictures with fans and compares them to Ross and Rachel, only “not gay.” Dennis always knew he would be somebody, he’s just surprised it was this and not because of his band. Cut to Dennis butchering “Fly” in some bar. Yes, he’s so bad that “butchering” can be applied to a Sugar Ray song. Dennis tries to explain away his Dateline appearance, and ultimately accepts her offer.
Jack walks into his office, only to see an older man (Tim Conway) admiring Jack’s photo with Kim Jong Il. Jonathan introduces him as Bucky Bright, TV star of the ’40’s, ’50’s, and the fall of 1972. He’s Jack’s celebrity for the McCain dinner. Jack’s disappointed in the low wattage of this star, but Bruce Willis and Jim Belushi both insisted on singing. In walks Kenneth, thrilled to see one of his heroes. Jack asks him, “If Mr. Bright here told you to vote Republican, would you do it?” Kenneth: “Oh no, sir. I don’t vote Republican or Democrat. Choosing is a sin, so I just usually write in the Lord’s name.” Jack: “That’s Republican. We count that.”
Jack hurries Bucky out of his office, but Kenneth wants to here his stories of the good ol’ days. Things were classy back then, Bucky says. No t-shirts with words on ’em or dungarees. And inside your monogrammed pocket you had a place for your switchblade and opium pipe.
Liz enters the writers’ room eating “Sabor de Soledad” off-brand Cheez Doodles. Jack announces Dennis, as he enters with the Stanley Cup. Holy hell, this is a beautiful collision between two of the awesomest things out there. I saw the Cup in person in the summer of ’97, when I got my picture taken with it and Darren McCarty. I don’t know which was the more intimidating presence. Anyway. Dennis and the Cup are teaming up to fight illiteracy!
Jack asks him what it was like in the moment. All Dennis could think about was Derek Jeter. “It was like, ‘Check this out, Jeter. You think you’re better than me?'” Is Dennis a Met fan or just belligerent?
Liz retreats to her office, pursued by Jenna. Liz protests that Dennis is around only because Jack is forcing her. Jenna is skeptical, comparing Dennis to Liz’s Mexican Cheetos; convenient, but not good for her. Outside Dennis is getting the staffers to cheer “Subway Hero! [clap clap clapclapclap].”
Jack works on Tracy, trying to get him to become a Republican by naming off issues Tracy agrees with them on.
|Jack:||Do you like lower taxes?|
|Tracy:||If I paid taxes, I sure would.|
|Jack:||How about gun ownership?|
|Tracy:||I love states’ rights!|
Jack rolls out the “party of Lincoln” line, which is news to Tracy, but Dotcom jumps in. “Actually, today’s Republican party would be unrecognizable to Lincoln. He fought a war to preserve federal authority over the states. That’s not exactly small government.” Jack: “Dotcom, this need you have to be the smartest guy in the room is…off-putting.” Dotcom: “I guess that’s why I’m still single.” Preach it, Dotcom.
Bucky and Kenneth continue on the 30 Rock tour. Bucky: “Back then, we didn’t have pages, you know. We had what we called ‘sandwich girls’.” This was not because they’d fetch sandwiches.
Dennis is a hit in the writers’ room. He starts making fun of Toofer for ordering a salad from a burger joint, and Liz jumps in on it. Bucky pops in: “We used to call this the Jew Room.” He moves on. Dennis keeps on insulting a clearly not-into-it Toofer. “Are you gonna cry?”, taunts Liz. The camera zooms in as her eyes pop, realizing what she’s slipping into.
The next day, Jenna accusatorially addresses “Elizabeth Conworthy Lemon” (Liz: “OK, that’s not my real name”) in the hall. She has a newspaper story in her hands about Liz (identified as “actress Sally Field” and Dennis out on the town. Liz defends it as merely entertaining a guest of the show, not a date.
Bucky has been roaming the halls all night, never meeting a single soul, except one giant lesbian. “Who is Conan O’Brien, and why is she so sad?”
Tracy is dancing in his dressing room to “We Didn’t Start The Fire” when his CD player starts skipping on “Nixon”. A short circuit lands him in a dream sequence, where Alec/Jack/Nixon meets him in Purgatory. Tracy is sad to be dead so soon. “There was so much left on my bucket list. So many different kind of buckets I wanted to own.” Nobody better be stealin’ his bukket. Nixon says Tracy can’t die now; the Republican Party needs him to repair the damage left by the Bush administration. Tracy: “And Watergate.” Nixon: “Bup bup bup! I’m trying to keep that on the DL around here.” Sammy Davis, Jr./Toofer urges him to take the party back to its groovy roots. He wakes up, a man on a mission.
Jack asks Dennis to endorse the GOP, but Dennis can’t support a Navy man like McCain, seeing as how he almost joined the Marines once. Liz admits to Jenna that dinner with Dennis was fun, and that he makes her laugh. Dennis tells Jack that you have to be a man of action; you can’t overthink stuff. Jack: “I agree. Not thinking is what makes America great.” Dennis reject’s wardrobe’s selections for his photo shoot, demanding a leather jacket, a glow-in-the-dark skull t-shirt, and a porkpie hat. Dennis is a wonderfully-drawn portrait of a specific kind of guy. He’s also zeroed in on Liz as what he wants, and he thinks he’s in. “When I grab on, I do not let go. Like a killer whale goin’ nuts on its trainer at Sea World.” He may be right. Liz is defending the relationship to Jenna. “Everything in my life is work, but not Dennis Duffy. I don’t have to shave, I don’t have to bathe. I don’t have to be clever, or nice. I can just be myself. Isn’t that what love really is?” Jenna rejects this interpretation. Love is all about hiding who you are at all times. It’s like competing Shakespeares sonnets in here, it really is. Liz: “Being with Dennis is easy. If you give into it, you just start to kinda feel numb and warm and then you just get sleepy.” Jenna: “That’s exactly what they say it’s like when you freeze to death.” Liz’s thoughts on love remind me of Jaye Tyler‘s on fate.
Bucky spots a picture of himself on a WWII PT boat. A little research shows it as a photo from McHale’s Navy, which Tim Conway co-starred on in real life. Bucky: “Men were men back then, I’ll tell ya. If you wanted to do something private with another man, it wasn’t gay, you know. It was just two men…celebrating each other’s strength.” He gives a wonderfully dopey salute.
Tracy tells Jack he’s in for the promos, but first he has to get his wallet out of the toaster. He holds up a big screwdriver.
Outside, Dennis poses in his chosen ensemble, giving a big double thumbs-up to all the onlookers. He tells Liz all about his new man-of-action mindset. He then drops down on one knee. Dennis: “Elizabeth Sarah Lemon?” Liz: “That’s not my middle name.” Dennis: “Will you marry me?” We jump into Liz’s mind. She’s alone, kneeling in the snow, holding onto a match that immediately blows out. She falls over and passes out with a small smile on her face as her eyes roll back in her head. It looks like a Bjork video I’ve never seen, only more sane. Dennis: “Wake up, dummy!” She snaps out of it. She firmly, loudly turns him down, drawing the crowd’s disapproval. Fortunately, Dennis is still there, so he manages to quickly turn them against him instead. We do learn that he’s an Islanders fan, though.
Tracy is shooting his GOP A-OK ad. “My fellow Black Americans, Dr. King once had a dream. A dream that we all share. To build a 200-foot-high wall to keep Mexico out. And he also hated the estate tax.” Grizz and Dotcom look on disapprovingly. Tracy tells Jack he doesn’t think it’s going to work. “I get it. The Republican Party means less taxes, more guns, and the end of the gun tax.” But not all people have the understanding that he does. Black America is always going to vote Democrat. Jack: “Unless…” Cut to Tracy’s new promo: “Black people! Don’t vote! Just don’t do it! In the amount of time that it takes you to vote, you could play three games of pool! Now that’s fresh.” Paid for by the Committee to Re-Invade Vietnam.
Liz marches in, demanding that Dennis be taken off the show, but Jack’s already done it. He’s booked a hero parrot that dialed 911 and said “Fire!” because it didn’t know the word for “rape.” When she asks if this was for her benefit, Jack mocks her by saying GE will also be introducing a pocket deep-fryer. Liz: “That would sell.”
Kenneth is distressed by Bucky’s stories, which are ruining television for him. Bucky defends himself, telling Kenneth that if you’re going to make something beautiful, you have to make a mess of it first, and that things are going to get weird. Kenneth informs Bucky that the biz has changed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to visit Chinatown to pick up some Human Growth Hormone so Mr. Jordan’s tigers don’t realize that he’s aging and– Ohh…”
Dennis is pissed that he’s been bumped, and that he’s a loser just like Liz said. Dennis: “My mall appearance got cancelled, the Mighty Ducks are mad at me because I left the Stanley Cup on a water taxi.” I’m convinced that Dennis referring to them as the “Mighty Ducks” is a character thing, not a mistake.
On the subway platform, Dennis laments that he got a chance to see what his life could have been like if the beeper business had taken off, or if he hadn’t failed the firefighter exam (“It’s totally biased against the Irish”). He wishes he could get Liz or his hero status back, and spots a train coming and Liz figures out what he wants to do. She vows “Never again!” and stomps off. “You’ll be back, dummy,” closes Dennis.
I loved this episode. For one thing, Dennis is one of my favorite recurring characters, and Dean Winters nails the part. For another, Stanley Cup. But most importantly, we had good A, B, and C plots and a huge number of awesomely quotable lines. I’ve watched it about four times since it aired, and I’m nowhere near tired of it. And if you want to watch it again, here it is on Hulu.