“30 Rock”, currently in it’s fifth season with NBC, kept the subplots a little tighter than usual this time, focusing on ethical dilemmas posed for the show-within-the-show’s head writer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), her diva lead actress Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), and conservative GE VP and mentor Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). While out shopping for new jeans, Liz and Jenna discover magical jeans at a trendy Brooklyn Without Limits that give Liz the kind of posterior only made feasible with a stand-in (a credit at the end of the show verifies this impression). She immediately buys up ten, thinking that the store’s liberal brand credentials means she’s doing something good both for her image and by her own moral code.
Jack discovers that the planned NBC-Kabletown merger could be squashed by a powerful Rhode Island congresswoman played by Queen Latifah who demanded his network show more diversity in it’s programming, according to an earlier episode. Vowing to get her booted out of office, Jack brings in her sole opponent, an extreme fringe candidate named Steve Austin, played by guest star John Slattery. Despite serious misgivings about the qualifications and sanity of the candidate, Jack decides to throw a fundraiser for him simply because Austin would push through the merger.
Jenna learns that her “TGS” rival and co-star Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) has just filmed the tear-jerker “Hard to Watch”, a potential Golden Globe-earning movie. Realizing this is her chance to cut him off from potential awards she can never win, Jenna doesn’t hesitate to sabotage him. After encouraging him to offer a bribe, Jenna hosts a movie preview destined to fail spectacularly, including having NBC page boy Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) act as a human buffet table, an activity he is disturbingly comfortable participating in.
Liz meets Steve Austin and is horrified by Jack’s bad judgement, but Jack parries her misgivings by pointing out that Liz’s jeans are actually owned by parent company Halliburton and manufactured by sweat shop labor. A little research uncovers that the conspiracy goes “all the way to the top”, showing Dick Cheney in a pair of Liz’s jeans online.
The Golden Globe voters-only event backfires on Jenna as she realizes Tracy’s movie is actually deserving of accolades, as is his acting. In “bathtub drunk tears”, she quickly pulls him aside before he can offer the bribe and admits her ruse, giving him the chance to succeed in his goal. Chastened by her stars actually being honest for a change, Liz gives up her beloved jeans and dons overalls prompting Jack to dub her “lesbian Mario Brothers” in horror. Jack, realizing he can’t go through with his actions either, sets his crazy candidate loose to speak in front of the fundraising crowd, instantly destroying his chance at office, putting his principals before profit.
Jack and Liz console themselves for having done the right thing by eating cake off Kenneth’s back.
“Brooklyn Without Limits” was episode 7 of season 5. “30 Rock” airs Thursdays at 8:30 pm ET on NBC. Episodes can be viewed on Hulu.com.