Spoilers for the latest episode of "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I buy some buckets...
I saw "Subway Hero" a while back, and as I wrote in my column last week, my reaction to it was roughly the same as it was to "MILF Island": a number of very funny individual moments, but an episode that was less than the sum of its parts.
And yet, as I was going over my notes from the episode to write this blog entry, I found myself laughing at certain jokes (say, Dennis explaining that he saved the woman to prove he was better than Derek Jeter) more than I did at the time, while whatever flaws I perceived at the time didn't seem as obvious anymore. Ask me what was wrong with "MILF Island," and I can tell you plainly: the pace was too slow for what was intended as a farce, and the Pete subplot was there either because they were on a deadline or because they needed some way to shoehorn in a plug for that soy candy bar. With "Subway Hero," I'm having a harder time putting my finger on what left me slightly dissatisfied.
Okay, one problem is clear: the Bucky Bright subplot didn't work. Now, I like Tim Conway, and think he can be amazingly funny with the right material (or, even better, when improvising with the right partner), but this part wasn't a good fit for him. On paper, I suppose there was some shock value in having Conway talking about opium pipes and "The Jew Room," but in practice most of those lines fell flat. I think another actor might have worked in the part, maybe a more stiff-upper-lip leading man type, but it wasn't Conway's bag. (Okay, one exception: The sandwich girls line? Genius.)
As for the rest of it, I continue to love the way that Fey and company write Dennis as such a classic example of That Guy, oblivious to how the rest of the world perceives him as an obnoxious tool (because he is, of course, an obnoxious tool), whether it was the Jeter comment, the Stern shout-out during the press conference, him declaring himself to be socially conservative but fiscally liberal (does that combination apply to anyone in real life?), calling out the Butterfaces in the crowd, etc. I don't know that they can do another "Liz takes Dennis back" story after this, but I really enjoy the character and how Liz keeps letting herself get trapped in his orbit.
So maybe, in retrospect, my problem was with the story about Jack trying to use Tracy to recruit new Republicans. Even there, there were many funny things -- The Committee to Reinvade Vietnam, Tracy's love of state's rights, Dot Com's need to always be the smartest guy in the room, Kenneth choosing God (and that counting as a Republican vote) -- but I don't feel like the pieces came together well enough, or that they intersected well with the Dennis storyline.
I don't know. Maybe I was just grouchy that day, but considering how psyched I was to have new "30 Rock" at my disposal, I don't think so. I think they're still getting back on their feet, though this one was more assured than last week's.
What did everybody else think?