After three years on air, 30 Rock
, and their show within-a-show-TGS, has only just now hit the fifty-episode mark, and Jack decides to celebrate by giving them all empty wine bottles in this week's episode, aptly titled "Cutbacks." Just another show to deal in the recent economic downturn, and even Jonathan was not safe (presumably because he has to go co-star in another season of Weeds
, though, and once things pick back up for Sheinhardt, he and his BlueTooth will be back kissing Jack's feet in no time. Liz will have to deliver a presentation to justify her budget at the end of the week, but considering the past three years at TGS has aired three hundred sketches (and who knows how many were written that were cut out), she thinks this will be a piece of cake. And as Liz is probably dreaming of just what kind of cake, loyal viewers know this is setting up a series of completely unimaginable disasters that will unfold before us slowly, one by one-- and then gradually a little faster-- within the next twenty minutes. Economic strife has never sounded so fun!
Jack asks Kenneth to fill in as Jack's assistant during this "very difficult time," pulling double duty, as he will still have to fulfill his page responsibilities, as well. Jack assures him that as long as he follows the 3 D's: "discretion, dosility, and Don't Use My Bathroom," they will be just fine. Kenneth promptly proves him wrong by not understanding what he should say when a man from aviation calls, and Jack says he's not here. "But you are here; I can see you," Kenneth replies. It's going to be a long assignment.
Kenneth is worried about not having time to go home and feed his bird while he is working both jobs, so he asks Tracy if he would mind stopping by his apartment. As he hands over the keys, though, Kenneth warns Tracy that whatever he does, he is to not go into his bedroom. Needless to say, Tracy is intrigued...and perhaps a bit scared.
At Kenneth's, even the bird warns Tracy not to go in the bedroom, and he gets so freaked out, he actually asks Jenna for her help. She tells him she had to study serial killers for some Lifetime Original movie she did, and she lists the three characteristics all serial killers share. Tracy finds ways to connect all three to traits of Kenneth's personality or past. They decide to go tell Jack so they will be seen as heroes.
Roger Bart is the consultant hired to analyze the budgets, and Liz decides to pull out her inner Steve Jobs for the presentation. Using a white curtain hung up on her soundstage, she delivers a multimedia presentation that goes off without a hitch, describing the cultural importance of her television show-- which is really like three television shows all rolled neatly into one, which basically means they are saving money! The clips of TGS are worthy of any up-front, but Roger Bart is not amused.
Liz has to cut her budget by twenty-five percent-- and she needs to turn in the revision by the end of the day or else Roger Bart will take care of it for her, and in his own words, he "doesn't give a crap about anyone here"-- so she and Pete wander around the studio, trying to figure out how they can do that. In a slightly retrospective way, they point out just why everyone is so integral through clips-- both those moments we have seen in past episodes and brand new ones. Liz nixes firing anyone, taking money away from Craft Services, and even stopping the purchase and use of straws.
Jack is spending the day firing those he deems useless, some of whom have worked for the company for two and a half decades, and others who are willing to sleep with him in order to change his mind. Liz asks him for advice on what to do, and surprisingly, he doesn't tell her to cook the books but instead to just make the hard choice and live to see another day.
Roger Bart takes the initiative to make the cuts himself, and he does all of the things Liz didn't want him to: fire the really old announcer guy and take away her snacks. She realizes (because Pete and Frank flat-out say as much) she is their only hope, and she decides to take one for the team. She tells Roger Bart he looks "hot in those trousers" and asks him out. She could do (and has done!) worse.
The next morning, Jack tells Kenneth that although there is a learning curve, he must really think before he speaks, and it takes Kenneth about three minutes to answer that he does, in fact, understand. Kenneth is uber-cryptic with Tracy and Jenna, and they decide to break in (well, not really, considering he gave Tracy his keys). They ignore Kenneth's one demand and end up finding just a can of bug bomb in the center of his dark and practically empty room before they scream and run out once again. The bug bomb kills his beloved bird-- but Kenneth is much more upset that they didn't trust him than the fact that they killed his friend. He tells them off in an angry, un-Kenneth-like way that would suggest he is ready to snap in the way they seem to have unjustly assumed he has in the past.
Liz gets "made up" by the "sluttier of the two make-up artists" and heads out for a night of sushi with Roger Bart. She tells him that they both know why she's there, so they should just cut to the chase, and she begins to bargain with him, offering him thirty minutes, and he can make dirty sounds. "The top part of my body is now in play," she adds reluctantly. And they have a deal.
Except the deal is as sour as a lemon (get it??) because he turns her writer's room into the Telemundo headquarters for soccer news. "You got your quid; where's my quo!?" Liz yells at Roger Bart, who only then realizes that the previous night had only been about business, and the "ear play" she gave him was not because she found him dreamy. For Liz, it may have just been a transaction, but for him it was oh so much more: it was the first time he was with a woman since his wife died. "Oh snap," Liz mutters. "Of course," loyal viewers do.
Roger Bart brings Liz up to human resources for trying to barter using sexual favors, which the HR guy calls "being a dirty, dirty prostitute." Jack is amused, claiming this outburst must have been brought on by Liz' menopause. She will be suspended for two weeks without pay. Hey, there's a way to save some money! Good thinking, kiddo; you did it after all! Roger Bart has been reassigned, and the budget review will start over under Jack's guise. Kenneth bursts in to announce that there's a spider on the printer, and Jack decides it is time to let him go. But thankfully, only as his assistant.
Kenneth's day only gets better from there, as now he can focus on just the duties he truly loves as a page. Tracy and Jenna fill his apartment with a wide variety of new birds-- doves, pigeons, parakeets, etc-- as a way to make their crazy behavior up to him.
Best lines of the night:
"Birds are like little dinosaurs, so what I'll be doing is actually pretty cool-- and brave!"
"I don't want to fire anyone, and I don't want to take anything away from my crew, and I want to keep making long distance prank calls to people like Seattle's Richard Sackmuncher, and I think that's reasonable!"
"This budget stuff? Don't worry about it, Tracy, it's just going to affect the "non-specials."
30 Rock Cast: Tina Fey
, Alec Baldwin
, Tracy Morgan
, Jane Krakowski
, Scott Adsit
, Jack McBrayer
, Judah Friedlander
, Chris Parnell
, Maulik Pancholy
, Lonny Ross
, Keith Powell
, Katrina Bowden
Story by Danielle Turchiano
Starpulse contributing writer