As a general rule, flashbacks on 30 Rock are nearly always hilarious. Case in point: the biggest laugh to be found in “Retreat to Move Forward” was the flashback to Liz and Jenna’s improv comedy days when the audience would shout out Sling Blade and Oprah as suggestions for characters for the two. Liz gamely launched into a Sling Blade impression, but poor clueless Jenna thought she did Oprah.
It’s been funny to see Jack and Liz switch personas, or the manatee become the mento, if you will. Jack takes Liz as his crutch to a corporate retreat because he’s afraid his business cronies will look down on him after his series of unfortunate events (which includes that stint in the Bush administration). There, Liz is confident and domineering, not unlike Jack in his glory days. Jack, however, is shaken and resorts to given himself pep talks in the mirror to psych himself up for his speeches and public interaction. (Incidentally, another big laugh was the flashback to Liz’s similar but much more vulgar mirror self-pep talks.)
Right before his big speech, Jack runs off to the men’s room for one of his said pep talks, unaware his microphone was turned on. Liz, being the caring woman she is, comes to his rescue with a Sling Blade impression and sort-of strip tease that earns her the moniker “crazy bra lady.” Lately, she’s been showing more chutzpah than Jack. Maybe Salma Hayek’s character is the woman to restore his confidence (who was entirely absent in this episode).
Meanwhile, Poor Jenna (I’m just going to refer to her as Poor Jenna from now one, because this woman seriously makes one tragic mistake after another) had another prank pulled on her by Frank. He tells her to study Janis Joplin’s Wikipedia page to help her get in character for her upcoming biopic movie, the role she thinks will land her an Oscar. Since Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, this leads to some speed walking and excessive tequila shots. In an odd, vaguely disgusting turn-of-events, Jenna and Frank end up sleeping together, which is bad news for Frank’s plethora of sugar mamas in the hair and makeup department.
The show wouldn’t be quite complete without a dose of crazy the likes of which only Tracy Jordan can provide. After Dr. Spaceman tells him he’s on the path to diabetes, Kenneth makes it his personal mission to get him to eat better. Even if the subplot wasn’t entirely funny, it did lead to one of Tracy’s great pseudo-intellectual quotes: “There’s no link between diabetes and diet! That’s a white myth, like Larry Bird, or Colorado!” Funny stuff.
“Retreat to Move Forward” had some amusing moments, but it’s a bit unmemorable in retrospect. I’m still waiting for a true classic 30 Rock episode this season (“Believe in the Stars” and “Senor Macho Solo” were close). But then again, 30 Rock looked like aces last night compared to the absolutely dismal episode of The Office. An entire subplot over whether Hilary Swank is hot or just attractive? Come on!