Episode: “Sun Tea” (Season Four, Episode 6)
Synopsis: Jack, disgusted at a rift in the Geiss family, vows to get a vasectomy so as to never have kids and convinces Tracy, who’s frustrated at his son Tracy Jr. (Bobb’e Thompson), to do the same. Liz wants to purchase the bigger, two-bedroom apartment above her when rent in her building goes up, but must first drive out the affable tenant who’s firmly entrenched there. In honor of green week, Kenneth is given the task to reduce TGS’s carbon footprint by 5%.
Review: I remember reading an article a little over a year ago entitled “30 Ways to Fix 30 Rock.“ The fact that there was an article presupposing that something about the Emmy, WGA and SAG-award winning comedy was broken struck me as absurd, but it did manage to touch on one point with which I had to concur: the show couldn’t always rely on Jack Donaghy to be its saving grace. Despite some ups and downs in season three, it seems like the minds behind the show have finally worked out that one albeit small kink and made up for it in spades here in season four, which is shaping up to be the best season of them all so far.
“Sun Tea” is a prime example. For most of the episode, Jack is relegated to the sidelines as his fellow TGS players run around causing shenanigans thanks to a fairly like inciting incident into his decision to get a vasectomy. The Geiss family squabbles are just a Macguffin and are deservedly not given much attention, but it seems like there could’ve been a more creative way to get Jack to come to a life-altering decision of getting his rocks fellered.
Still, whatever flaws may be found are more than made up for once he brings Tracy on board with the idea of getting a vasectomy. Tracy shone on last week’s “The Problem Solvers” and comes through once again as gut-busting. On top of his trademark obliviousness (“But I can’t tell you because of this little d-bag here.” “I know what they means.” “And yet you don’t tell me”) and some effective jabs at the sanitary comedy of the Cosbys (“I thought having a family was going to be like The Cosby Show: ‘oh no, Vanessa’s going to a concert!’ ‘Rudy and I are making a sandwhich for 25 minutes.’ The Cosby Show was a lie!”), he also manages to bring some heart to the episode in the relationship with Tracy Jr. Bobb’e Thompson isn’t as cute as he was in the episodes “Gavin Volure” or “The Bubble,” but in aging a year or two since then he’s seemed to have toned down just enough where it’s not far fetched when he comes off as the voice of reason. It’s touching to see Tracy Jr. making the acrostic about his father for a school project and it’s also great to see Jack shed a tear and storm out of the room with a stifled “damn you, Tracy Jr.” in response. Additionally, the vasectomy plot line ultimately leads to a visit with Dr. Spaceman (Chris Parnell) who is always – and I mean ALWAYS – hilarious anytime he’s on the show: “we all see the little black boy in the corner, right?”
Tracy’s partner in crime Jenna isn’t given as much screen time, but she delivers the goods, especially in an interaction with Liz where she admits “that sounds like something I’d come up with if I were smart.” Similarly, Kenneth does very little worth remembering in the episode, but nothing really that detracts from it either especially when it featured such a strong performance by Tina Fey. I nearly wet myself at the lustful look she had in her eye when her upstairs neighbor – the gay, hipster, police officer – told her how the flue in the fireplace makes his apartment constantly smell like Burger King during the day and Cinnabun at night and at the incredulous tone in her voice when he tells her about the second bedroom (“there’s two of them??”).
Ultimately, she can’t force him out by bribing him, frightening him off with feminine drama or intimidating with a black boyfriend (Dot Com) so she grosses him out by using Frank’s disgusting yet environmentally friendly gardening secret: urinating on the plants. This helps bring a bit of respectability to Frank’s character for the episode – it’s revealed he’s the most green-friendly TGS employee – and helps establish some credibilty to NBC’s mandated environmental message. On a show that has shown no qualms with poking at its parent company – a trend they continue with the “green peacock” comment – pushing an environmental agenda could’ve been embarrassingly pandering, but it never comes off as either preachy or degrading. Until Al Gore shows up. Gore, on the other hand, is not funny and really pushes the agenda down viewers’ throats before once again rushing off to save a whale as he did at the end of season two’s “Greenzo.” Thanks for killing the mood, Al.
Grade: B. Get rid of Gore and you get rid of the B.
[Tracy] – “I mean that’s a big decision. Having a family is also the best thing a man could…[looks over]…good, he’s gone. So, my story: I’m a strip club with Charles Barkley and one of the hobbits…”
[Tracy Jr.] – [walking in] “Hey daddy.”
[Tracy] – “DAMNIT! I can’t live like this! I’m getting a vasectomy too!”