Spoilers for tonight's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I commit some sleep crime...
My sides, they ache. I first saw "Believe in the Stars" nearly a month ago, and yet I'm still laughing at things like Tracy's monster claw, or Liz's voice during the Princess Leia/jury gag ("I really don't think it's fair that I'm on a jury because I can read thoughts!"), or women's soccer being lumped in with beer pong and jazzercise as fake Olympic sports. So, so, so much to love in this one, even beyond Tina Fey's usual Oprah fixation.
(Between the Grant Park rally and now this episode, Oprah's been quite the primetime fixture this week, hasn't she?)
Where I felt like the season premiere labored at times to get Jack back into his office, "Believe in the Stars" had no outside plot agenda, and could therefore just focus on the elaborate, strange, hilarious farce this show does so well. Even stories that would be awful on a traditional sitcom, like Tracy and Jenna in trans-racial drag(*), work because the (slightly) sane characters like Jack and Liz are there to comment on how stupid it is. (And Jack killed with the callback to the earlier joke about Liz once wearing her shorts to the office.)
(*) God help me, I'm reasonably confident this was a subplot on an episode of "The Single Guy," possibly minus the racial angle. All I know is that my dreams are occasionally haunted by a memory of Dan Cortese in a dress -- and that, boys and girls, is why being paid to watch TV ain't always what it's cracked up to be.
I think the Jack/Kenneth plot tailed off after a while, but even it offered highlights late into the episode, like Kenneth slipping out of his page's jacket and into a sweater like the latter-day Mr. Rogers he so obviously is.
But this episode definitely belonged to Fey, who has grown by leaps and bounds as an actress over the past few years. The Princess Leia voice, her drunken panic on the plane at "snitting next to Borpoh" and the religious fervor at the knowledge that Oprah would be coming to the studio were all hilarious, and played with the sort of confidence I don't know that she would have had at the start of the series.
Some other thoughts:
• Having spent an inordinate amount of time at area Chuck E. Cheese's lately doing the five-year-old birthday party circuit, I can say with confidence that the franchise no longer features ball pits. They did when I was a kid (I think), but not now.
• Another brilliant thing about the Princess Leia gag: the immediate cut to Liz relaxing in her first class seat on the plane. Perfect editing.
• Frank was attracted to white female (and monster-clawed) Tracy? Gross.
• Loved Kenneth instructing the guy in the elevator about strangling him ("I will fight back").
• Question from the fashion ignorant: is there actually such a thing as a sweater-cape? Or, like "Sleep crime," is it just a funny-sounding phrase?
What did everybody else think?