Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never watched a tv show more closely than this one (for the sake of these recaps), maybe it’s because I’m under the weather, but last night’s 30 Rock, entitled “Today You Are a Man,” was the first lukewarm episode of the season for me.  The bar had been set unquestionably high by the way season 6 shot out of the gate, and therefore perhaps I’m being a bit harsh.  Judge for yourself:

The episode began with Liz receiving a package.  She’s excited because she thinks it’s the popcorn trio she ordered, but instead it’s her agent Simon who pops out of the box in order to tell her it’s negotiating time: her contract at TGS is up.  This sets the groundwork for the A-story line.  Because Simon is useless, Liz is forced to negotiate herself.  It seems like a lost cause until she comes across a series of tapes at the library.  The subject: the art of negotiating.  The writer?  One Jack Donaghy, and Liz is immediately empowered and ready to go to the mattresses, using negotiating strategies like, “make a second first impression,” and “never speak first.”  Jack eventually catches on, realizes that he is “playing with himself,” and is excited by the possibility of a “Jack-off.”  Eventually Lemon-Jack wins, and Liz gets the contract she was hoping for, including 5% of the gross merchandise from TGS.  Yay!

The B-line involved Kenneth feeling slighted that no one noticed he was gone the previous day, a carry-over from last week’s episode (30 Rock rarely carries over story lines so this was surprising to me).  He feels so unappreciated (they also don’t know when his birthday is) that he asks for a transfer and trades places with another page, Hazel, and goes to work on the Suzie Orman show.  This allows Suzie Orman to make a cameo and deliver some of the worst-acted lines in the history of cameos.  She helps Kenneth realize that to be respected by the likes of Jenna and Tracy he has to make as much money as they do.  Horrible advice from a horrible actress.  At the end of the episode, Ken comes back to TGS only to quit the page program altogether, leaving a cliffhanger for next week and giving us the funniest line of the night: Liz, commenting on Kenneth’s lack of experience: “He’s got no skills!” To which Jack replies, “He’s a white male with hair…sky’s the limit.”

The C-story line (as always, apparently) involves Tracy and Jenna taking a Bar Mitzvah appearance fee, only to be slammed by young Adam and forced into crude refrigerator boxes and roles as transformers.  Tracy, in yet another epiphany this season, realizes that when he over-reacts, the thing that causes his overreaction is rarely the  thing that is actually bothering him.  He and Jenna use this realization to ask Adam why he’s really upset, and Adam acknowledges he’s acting out because he’s afraid of dancing with a girl.  Jenna reassures him that he’ll have no problem finding a girl: “You’re rich and fat so you’ll die soon – women love that!”

And that pretty much raps up the weakest episode in season 6 thus far.  As always, there were a few lines that stood out:

-Liz’s email address is tatertotfreak@hotmail.com

-Kenneth, incredulous that Jenna didn’t realize he was gone because he “pre-chews her food.”

-Jack is such a skilled negotiator that he once closed a dog-cat partnership (complete with oil painting).

-Liz wanting a hospital bed in her office as a part of her new contract.

-Liz wanting a cut of the merchandise because she coined the phrase, “this smells!”

-Liz holding the negotiating session somewhere she’s comfortable (an ice cream parlor) only to walk in and see Jack has converted half of it to an office setting.

-Tracy, worried that if they don’t go through with the Bar Mitzvah, the IRS will find out that, “My house isn’t a church, although I do serve children wine there.”

-Jenna, concerned for the same reason because she doesn’t want the government to find out that her 9 dependants are actually instruments that vibrate.