I watch Grey's Anatomy during the Thursday 9pm slot (and perhaps one day I'll get around to defending Apparition Denny's storyline), so normally I read Alan Sepinwall's 30 Rock recaps before I watch the episode. I tend to rather agree with him, so imagine my surprise when I discovered I disagreed with his disappoint in the episode "Gavin Volure." Was Steve Martin underused? Absolutely -- but he's been underused since the mid-90s. Is the show stronger when they focus on the variety sitcom or inner workings of the business? I certainly think so. But unlike last week, this episode didn't have recycled material. Gavin Volure isn't an agoraphobe -- like the most recent guest star on House (how awkward would that have been?) -- but a man on house arrest for embezzlement and... arson. Also unlike last week, this week's guest star, Steve Martin, did not overtake the episode. But like last week, this episode really downplayed Alec Baldwin, and that's always a shame.
The unfortunate thing about this episode is that the storylines were disjointed. Liz and Gavin's romance had nothing to do with Tracy's patricide paranoia (I loved the line "Stop patriciding!" -- as if patricide could be a verb), and Kenneth's family financial issues were only a catalyst for Jack investing and then finding out Gavin's secret. But despite this, the individual scenes were quite wonderful, and this episode had a lot of throw away gems (my favorite kind of comedy). The two stand-out moments include (1) Kenneth talking about his family's meals, indicating that squirrel tails and rock soup were part of the family's wealthier dinners, and (2) Gavin mentioning that he spent all of Jack's money on disguises -- only to appear later in the episode disguised as a set painter, complete with hat and sunglasses. (Where'd the other thousands of dollars go?)
The show opened poorly, but it did allow for new information about Jack. When Liz asks him about writing historical fiction, his completely serious response is "What if the Germans had won the war, Lemon?" But the show ends hysterically with a parody of the More You Know commercials -- and it involves Tracy's Japanese sex doll.
Jack: (giving advice about Liz's date with Gavin) You're going to go to Gavin's and work this thing like a Chinese gymnast -- wear something tight, force a smile, and lie about your age.
(Possibly one of my favorite scenes from the show -- Tracy's Japanese sex doll is sitting in a chair)
Liz: Tracy, get out of the hallway!
Tracy: (pops out of his dressing room) Or am I?
Liz: Oh, no. Not this dream again.
Tracy: That's not me. That's the Tracy Jordan Japanese sex doll. You can tell us apart because it's not suffering from a vitamin deficiency.
Jack: Other than the natural inclination to make love to yourself, why did you get this?
Gavin: (talking about where Jack's investment money has gone) I spent it... on disguises.
Jack: What about Sunstream?
Gavin: It's not a real company. If you ever watched our commercials, we never said what we did.
(Cut to a commercial displaying the words Innovation, Tomorrow, America, Sunstream with images of an eagle, a bulls eye, and a building)
Gavin: Toronto is just like New York... except without all the stuff.