Last night’s 30 Rock focused on the two least likeable characters in the entire show – clever-slogan-hat-wearing human Sasquatch Frank and neurotic, delusional buzz kill Pete, as well as a third story line following the job-searching Kenneth.  All three are dying for companionship and acceptance, and not one has the wherewithal to achieve either on their own.  Luckily, Frank has Liz come to his rescue, while Pete (unbeknownst to him) benefits from Tracy and Jenna’s turn as (bum-bum) Law and Order detectives.  Is Jack’s acceptance of who Kenneth is enough to stop Kenneth from losing his loveable goony-ness?

The episode begins with Frank’s mom showing up and surprising Liz – it turns out Frank told his mom he’s been dating Liz because he can’t tell her the truth – he has rekindled his relationship with his ex-con former teacher Lynn (played by Susan Sarandon).  Lynn is much older than Frank, but she is wise – during her prison stint for pedophilia she learned how to make wine in a toilet, for example.

Meanwhile, Kenneth is in a D.B. Cooper suit in Jack’s office, where it turns out finding him a non-page job at NBC is harder than either thought.  They tried advertising but Kenneth morally objected – too many ads from companies trying to make housework easier for women.  Jack decides Kenneth is best suited for standards and practices where dishing out rash morality is a talent, but Kenneth is not so sure.

Back to the scene of the crime, the writers are working on new ideas when Pete comes in furious – someone has stolen a bottle of whiskey from his office that he was saving for his birthday.  He declares that the “Hornberger hang” is cancelled until someone fesses up.  No one steps forward, which is when Jenna and Tracy snap into action.  Both believe they have crime-solving experience: Tracy has played several “black cops who get white people to do things” and Jenna’s expertise stems from her role in the movie Good Looking, where she played “Alexis Goodlooking, who is both good looking and has the special cop ability of being good at looking.”  First stop, the writer’s room, where Jenna channels her inner Ms. Goodlooking to look closely at Lutz’s trashcan which is full of red solo cups.  Lutz admits they drank the whiskey, but pleads his case – they wanted to drink but not with Pete – who plays guitar and only has one story – the time he saw Phil Donahue.  Pete just wants to be accepted by the rest of the guys but he’s too unaware to realize he’s boring and annoying.

Jack checks up on Kenneth under the guise of a standard’s censorship issue – apparently NBC is not allowed to air the following words: hit, great show, fun, or broadcast journalism (surprisingly the only dig at the network all night).  However, what Jack gets when he arrives is an earful of Bradley, a guy who works next to Kenneth and is clearly gunning for a promotion and therefore the destruction of Kenneth, his competition.  Bradley immediately begins to suck up to Jack by mentioning that he was at Jack’s silent lecture entitled “The Power of Eye Contact.”  Jack asks for a word, and Kenneth says, “balloon.”  This is when Jack realizes Kenneth has a lot to learn about business.  He points out Bradley’s competitive nature, but Kenneth doesn’t see it.  To Ken, Bradley is both his best friend (tied with everyone else) and the guy who gave him his nickname “Susan,” as in “Lazy Susan.”  At this point Jack tells Ken a personal story about his first nemesis: A man named Warren he started at GE with in the 80’s (played by the always fantastic Stanley Tucci).  Jack explains that to be a business man you have to be paranoid, “ ‘para’ from Latin, meaning ‘beside’ and ‘noid,’ some sort of pizza demon.”

When Liz goes home that night, she finds her apartment has been broken into by Frank and his mom.  She’s upset at first until she finds out Frank’s mom has been cooking meatballs.  The food is amazing and Liz is to busy eating to reveal Frank’s taboo relationship with a woman his mother’s age.  However, Frank can lie no longer, and when Lynn Augmen (Sarandon) is revealed as his lover Liz is kicked out of her own apartment.  Frank just wants his mother’s approval but it won’t be that easy.

The next day, Kenneth’s office nemesis Bradley makes it clear that he used Kenneth’s signature to forge documents and frame him.  Jack shows up in the nick of time to give Kenneth council – he’s done some homework and found out Bradley never graduated from Syracuse; he finished four credits short of a degree in Brostudies.  Jack tells Kenneth that he must be selfish, for “company and country.” These are Ken’s two favorite kinds of music, and he begins to lean toward the dark side.  Later Jack walks to his office where Henry Warren Chang is waiting for him – it seems he received a phone call from Kenneth to make sure Jack didn’t ruin him all those years ago.  Henry insists he’s doing fine: not only is he an encyclopedia salesman, both his sons are magicians.  Jack turned out the opposite: he’s so rich his “sofa was made from Seabiscuit.”  He begins to feel guilty (Henry saw Jack as a friend whereas Jack thought they were “pretending to learn and exploit each other’s weaknesses) and eventually tries to renege his advice to Kenneth, but it may be too late: Kenneth thinks maybe Jack is paranoid that eventually he’ll take Jack’s job – a level of paranoia Jack compares to Hitler and Willy Wonka, and at the end of the episode Kenneth indeed slips the damaging info under the door of Bradley’s boss.  Is this the end of morally pure Kenneth Parcell?

Meanwhile, Jenna is wrestling with whether or not to tell Pete who drank his whiskey.  She decides not to because it will hurt his feelings, and after realizing Pete just wants to be accepted and listened to, she and Tracy “go rogue” and blackmail the staff into hanging out with Pete…otherwise Jenna will reveal the items the writers have been expensing, including Nerf rifles, video games, and an adult film that spoofs “Temple Grandin” entitled “Ten Poles Crammed In” (by far my biggest laugh of the night).  Once Tracy says that the sight of the writers “plus the crayons [he] ate earlier” make him sick, the writers acquiesce, and the storyline closes with the bored-out-of-their-mind writers semi-politely listening to Pete’s guitar version of “Piano Man,” complete with Pete-themed lyrics about his sighting of, you guessed it, Phil Donahue.  Most importantly, Pete doesn’t notice for a second that they’re not into it, and as a result he is popular, and blissfully unaware of the measures taken to achieve that feeling of popularity.

Because they’ve wrapped this mystery, the dynamic duo ask Liz if she has any mysteries that need solving – “like who attacked you and gave you that haircut” –  and Liz realizes she does – she can’t place the hidden ingredient in the “thank you” meatballs Frank cooked for her.  Tracy wants to help but Jenna holds him bank because, to paraphrase Roman Polanski, “it’s Midtown, Tracy.”

Liz, no longer blissfully unaware, is actually able to solve the mystery herself – the secret ingredient is tears, which she places in a flashback to the time she watched P.S. I Love You and ingested her own spent saltwater.  She realizes that this means Frank is miserable without Lynn even though he acts like he isn’t.  Liz decides to hold Frank late under the guise of working on the show, and invites both his mother and his lover to hash it out in person.  Frank eventually realizes the two (mother and lover) are actually the same, and rather than be turned of by his oedipal instinct, the three embrace in loving acknowledgement of their weirdness (perhaps another nod to Polanski).

Jack’s guilt-laden acceptance of Kenneth’s purity, the writers’ begrudging acceptance of Pete, and Frank’s mom’s creepy acceptance of her son’s carnal feelings for her.  Just another 24 minutes of tolerance on the set of a TV show based on a comic renowned for his tolerance: Tracy Morgan.