Liz has to go to Chicago for jury duty in the second episode of this season's 30 Rock because she wanted to vote in a swing state (and stay on the mailing list for some pizza place), so she never switched her residency. Jack allows it, even going to far as to upgrade her ticket and give her a bottle of pills to help her sleep on the plane. Once he says the side effects include "coma" and "sexual nightmares," I think it's pretty clear where this is going to go. He reminds her to get her staff in order before dismissing her. Naturally this sets up the next scene perfectly, as, if you remember from last week, Tracy is suing Jenna for defamation of character. Liz can't stand their bickering, so she tells them she's going to call HR and get them in mediation (ironic sense of timing, really, since my own company just mandated harassment seminars). Jenna complains that Tracy took care of his "boys" Grizz and Dot-Com, and they were able to buy a boat, and this sends Liz on a "that's because they're men" tangent about how they look out for each other but don't allow women to do anything. Jenna very astutely points out that they think they can do anything, like "how Adrien Brody kissed Halle Berry at the Oscars."
In yet another sly, side dig at 30 Rock's own parent company, Jack tells Liz that an Olympian silver medalist Tyler Brody is threatening to go public that they staged certain events simply to allow the USA to win more medals. His particular event was tetherball, which should have raised some red flags anyway. Kenneth walks in just as Tyler is making the announcement (medal still hanging somewhat suspiciously around his neck, I must point out) and is in awe of the American hero, who admits he is a fraud. Jack offers him the opportunity to be the voice of Knight Rider-- in the movie-- if he'll just keep his mouth shut, and it piques his interest, but it terrifies Kenneth, who will once again have to be the voice of reason and undoubtedly give them a lesson in lying, cheating, and morality.
In mediation, Jenna says they are there because men think they can do anything they want to women, but Tracy counters that "white folk think they can do anything to black folk; it's like how Adrien Broady kissed Halle Berry at the Oscars." She rolls her eyes, and they both ignore the mediator who tries to show them the Aftra book on scale payments, as they argue about which one is more oppressed. The mediator may win this conversation by exclaiming he's an "overweight transgender," but they continue to argue long after leaving the office and decide the only way to settle it is with a "Freaky Friday" moment.
Liz, meanwhile, is dressed as Princess Leia claiming she can read thoughts to be dismissed from her judicial responsibility. Naturally she is, and on the plane ride back to New York, she takes a few of Jack's pills with a glass of champagne. Jack calls her to inform her that Tyler Brody will be appearing on her show this week as part of their deal, and he picks her brain about Kenneth because although he admires everyone, he has told Jack he lost two heroes in finding out about the Olympic scandal. Jack begins to fear he is a giant monster for losing Kenneth's respect-- Kenneth, the guy who "calls Tracy's lizard "sir."" Her pills finally kick in as she is on the phone with Tracy, trying to convince him not to go outside or let Jack see him dressed in white face and a blonde wig. Oprah squeezes by and sits down in the window seat next to Liz, and she knows she's in trouble now.
Liz tries to be nonchalant around Oprah for all of three slurred seconds, and the minute Oprah leans forward to get her bag, Liz leans, too, to smell her hair and all is lost. She then turns to Oprah and unloads about how she's trying to adopt a baby but can't because her work life is all-consuming and rambles about everything from when she lost her virginity to wearing shorts to work to hating her feet. It's a complete "word vomit" moment and only stops when Liz embraces Oprah in a big, handsy hug.
Jack tries to get Kenneth to see his side of things, but he mistakenly claims that it would be hard for Kenneth to understand where he's coming from because he's never been tested. Kenneth points out that that's where he's wrong: he only loves two things, which are television and everybody, but where he lives, no one can afford cable, so he is forced to watch the old-fashioned way (with rabbit ears)... at least until February 2009, when he's probably screwed. Sure, he could steal cable, like so many others, but he doesn't because he knows stealing is wrong.
Oprah advises Liz, who looks on adoringly, that perhaps she says she wants a child, but she isn't taking the right steps. For example, she allows Tracy and Jenna to fill the child-shaped hole in her life, putting up with their immature behavior and coddling the way she'd have to with an infant. She passes Liz some saltwater taffy and says it's one of her favorite things for the year, just like calypso music, paisley tops, and high-heeled flip flops. Uh oh, I'm sensing this is going to take a turn for the worse. When she says that Liz is also one of those things now that they've shared such an uplifting plane trip together and even offers to stop by and talk to Tracy and Jenna for her, I'm convinced: Oprah is simply a figment of Liz' pill-induced nap, and none of this is real, and when Liz wakes up in New York, probably with some drool stains on her sweater, and her glasses askew, there will be no one in the seat next to her (ala The Langoliers) or someone totally random in the seat next to her, that she imagined was her deity, Oprah.
Tracy saunters up to Frank and Toofer in a short jean skirt and pink plaid jacket but still wearing his thick gold chains underneath, which would be the worst image of the episode, except there comes Jenna, in an Afro wig and full-on black face, which sets Toofer off in a "racial stereotype" rant. Liz returns just in time to see both, but unfortunately Jack catches wind of it, too, and begins to monologue that white men actually have it the hardest because of all of the "difficult decisions" they are forced to make, and clean up "messes like this." Kenneth happens by and interjects because he is, too, a white man, and doesn't feel so oppressed, but Jack cuts him off, saying that "socio-economically speaking, [Kenneth] is more like an inner city Latina." Liz tells everyone not to worry because all will be fixed soon enough... when Oprah comes.
In the elevator with Jack and seven other people, Kenneth is confronted with a situation that Jack has provided in order to make him realize that 1) white men do have tough decisions and 2) Jack is a hero. He tells Kenneth he has poisonous gas pumping through the elevator vents, and there are only enough oxygen masks for eight people total; there is a gun for the last person to end his or her own life with dignity before the gas takes over and kills her or him slowly, more painfully, anyway. Kenneth grabs the gun and tries to kill himself, but it's empty, and then the elevator doors open. Jack doesn't quite apologize, but he does tell Kenneth he gives up and that Kenneth is filled with more morality than all of them. He calls Kenneth his hero, and when Kenneth arrives home, he finds a brand new HD flat-screen. He is overwhelmed, but then he realizes it's the kind that's complaint with the February 2009 standards and will not just plug into the wall; he is going to have to steal cable if he wants to see anything. Surely, Jack is puffing a cigar and laughing somewhere in the bowels of his office.
Liz is suddenly the coolest girl in the class, as all of the other women on her staff flock around her to hear about Oprah. She saunters in, dressed head-to-toe in those "favorite things" Oprah mentioned, only to find that her "Oprah" is actually just a teenage girl with big hair who flops down in between Tracy and Jenna and still prepares to "mediate." Once again, I told you so.
Best lines of the night:
Tracy: "I watched Boston Legal nine times before I realized it wasn't a new Star Trek."
Kenneth: "I don't believe in hypothetical situations... that's like lying to your brain."
Jack: "It's okay; in-flight medicine is how I met M. Night Shyamalan, but it turned out to be--" (cocks his head)
Jonathan: "It was the best day of my life!"