"Stride of Pride" puts a new twist on some old storylines. So far, 30 Rock's final season has done a fantastic job with moving characters forward without compromising the traits that make them unique. In this episode, Jack and Jenna both struggle to come to terms with their age, and in the process find that its perks include soup and stair chairs.
Liz discovers Jack, recently divorced and returning to the lifestyle of a silverback gorilla, while he is on a walk of shame after a night with the Sbarro calzone heiress, Zarina. He explains that she is but one of many women he is currently seeing after realizing that it is "not fair to the ladies that I am the complete package." Inspired by a late-night showing of The Great Escape, he divides his interests among several women - Zarina for black tie events, Ann to discuss politics and Mindy as his "sex idiot." His plan, however, backfires in an even more complicated manner than he could have thought possible. Zarina catches him with Mindy, but understanding his philosophy (which she dubs "Pokemoning - gotta catch 'em all!"), also flaunts her own sex idiot, Ryan Lochte, in Jack's face.
Meanwhile, Liz deals with the threat of a Code Orange Jenna Meltdown when a magazine prints that Jenna is "looking great at 56." Liz employs Kenneth to seduce and distract Jenna while they burn all the magazine copies, leading to perhaps the best cleaning fantasy ever imagined: "You be the janitor. I'll be the piece of gum on the floor you just can't chisel off." Jenna, on the contrary, is infuriated by the insinuation she parties like "Amanda Byne-ess" (as Kenneth attempts to pronounce). The twist is that she had planted the original article to skip the awkward middle-aged battle with Julie Bowen, and instead fast-forwarding to her fifties, lugging around Sweet 'n Lows and scoring endorsement deals for Gerald Chair's Stair Chairs.
In between offering advice to Jack to "not engage" with his romantic problems and being threatened by Jenna to have her ribs removed, Liz is also trying to assemble a group of lady friends to have a "sex talk brunch." Her efforts are sidelined by Tracy's insulting tweet (@therealstephenhawking) that women are not funny, and possibly less funny than a monkey dressed up in a suit with the name Professor Wigglebottom. After getting riled up by Tracy's escalating ignorance, she drags Jenna to a mandatory revived performance of their two-woman comedy show, ultimately proving that Liz Lemon is hilarious and so are women.
The episode tied things up by intersecting all of these storylines, making it much more cohesive overall. Jenna's ominous promise to perform in Liz's show solidifies her Gerald Chair Stair Chair endorsement campaign. Celebrating this victory, she goes to Jack's office to flash the Empire State Building but ends up offering advice that actually proves helpful, encouraging him to accept his status as an "aging Squirtle" in Zarina's circle of sex idiots just as she has. Liz's final sign-off and voiceover on her failed sex talk brunch posed some of the looming questions for the episode and most likely for the rest of the season. Is accepting who you are the secret to getting what you want? Do men and women see the world so differently?
This episode has been the season's best so far, with a much-needed return to the basis of TGS as a comedy show and the issue of funny women (especially since Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be co-hosting the Golden Globes this year). Rather than bitching Tracy out in a rather Lemon-like fashion, I love that the writers took a different route and refused to "answer this question with a list" because "it's insulting." instead returning to Liz and Jenna's friendship to show rather than tell the facts. Yes, women are funny - monkey funny, even.
What made this episode also particularly different was how self-aware it was, incorporating Liz's voiceover of all these characters accepting the realities they used to fight against so strongly in earlier seasons. Tonight's takeaway? Just be the older person. You get to say racist stuff whenever you want and people bring you soup. Just ENGAAAAGE. Turn that metaphorical or literal walk of shame into a stride of pride.
Moments that had me Lizzing (that's a combination of laughing and whizzing):
- Another Lemonism to add to the list: BLARF. Put that after "blerg" and before "by the hammer of Thor!"
- Kenneth seducing Jenna with his mop, "My lips are so dry. I better wet them with this mop. Now my undershirt is wet with mop juice."
- I'm not surprised that Jack and Zarina have to lure their sex idiots back with key jingling (yay, Northwestern) and stare-downs. Ryan Lochte is attracted to shiny things.
- According to Tracy Jordan, "Male nipples – funny. Monkey nipples – funny. Female nipples – USELESS!"
- Frank voices the concern all of us have had for years regarding Liz's writing career by asking "That was actually funny so why does TGS suck so much?"
- Jack Donaghy is flawless in this episode, acting as a teenage girl analyzing the meaning of "sweetie" versus "Jackie bear" in texts and asking Cerie how to copy all of the email addresses and paste them into a new email.
- Is Pokemoning a thing? I think it should be a thing.