by Samantha Rullo
“30 Rock’s” special hour-long Valentine’s Day episode premiered this week, and while the extended time allowed for some needed plot development, there weren’t quite enough laughs to fill the extra half hour. It was nice to be able to see some of the more minor characters with their own stories, with less of a rush on the individual plots.
The main story of this busy episode is about Liz finally giving Valentine’s Day a chance, thanks to the enthusiasm of her boyfriend Criss (James Marsden). However her excitement quickly fades when she realizes that they must go to Ikea, which is apparently where relationships go to die. Their actual trip to the store includes a scene-stealing Ikea employee who seemed to enjoy seeing couples fight a little too much.
Meanwhile at the TGS office, Tracy and Frank realize that since they are both in relationships, their combined creepy ways to pick up desperate women on Valentine’s Day would go to waste, until they notice that Lutz, “30 Rock’s” saddest character, may be able to use their help. Tracy, who is always used perfectly, shares his crazy techniques for women with low self-esteem, with gems of advice such as “go to a strip club on Father’s Day and shout things like ‘I’m proud of you.’” This eventually leads Lutz to none other than the Ikea parking lot to confess his love to Liz, where she immediately runs home to salvage her relationship with Criss.
Then of course, there’s Jack. Still pining for his kidnapped wife in North Korea, he has to endure a visit from his mother-in-law, Diana (Mary Steenburgen), who went from a nice mother in denial to a possible love interest in the span of one visit to the UN. Their scene with the ambassador from Transylvania was one of the high points of the show, especially when Jack threatened to never let Transylvania see another episode of “Friends”—apparently they’re only on season six over there. Thankfully, the sexual tension and chemistry between the two goes ignored, after Liz acknowledges how completely weird it is, and they instead channel their feeling through some very aggressive golf. Let’s just hope those feelings are never acted upon– Diana may be a more appropriate age for Jack, but she’s still Jack’s mother-in-law.
Jenna, meanwhile, was supposed to give a live performance on her show “America’s Kidz Got Singing,” and Pete was set to produce it, but his primetime dreams faded away as Jenna proved unable to sing. This was probably the least needed plot of the episode. While it’s always amusing to hear tales from Jenna’s white-trash, stage-mom upbringing, there weren’t any especially funny moments and it didn’t have anything to do with the many other, more interesting things occurring.
Finally, Kenneth spends the day showing TGS’s new page Hazel (returning guest Kristen Schaal) how things work around the show. Hazel seems overwhelmed at first, but then something amazing happens–she catches a glimpse of Liz’s seemingly glamorous life and decides she wants it for herself, a la in a creepy “Single White Female” kind of way. Cut to Hazel applying her lipstick to a sleeping Liz and it seems that we might be in for an interesting season, with Schaal finally finding her place within the show.
Samantha Rullo is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.