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Last year, during Ludachristmas, Jack hissed at his shrewish mother, Colleen (Elaine Stritch), “Your life seems endless.” Well, this year, his subconscious appeared to take matters into its own hands. On his way to a gloriously family-free Rio to tan in the nude and bet on some monkey wrestling, Jack carelessly backed his car over his mother. Was I the only one who half-expected her legs to curl up Wicked Witch of the East-like after Jack found her unconscious in the parking lot?
Rio sounded promising, but Colleen’s broken hip assured some juicy family holiday dysfunction. It was especially welcome because Liz Lemon’s reliably-loving family had finally pulled the plug on their 38-year-old unwed daughter in favor of a couples-only Christmas retreat in Arizona with a “Sexy at 70” theme. That doesn’t explain where Lemon’s brain-injured bro, Mitch (Andy Richter), was spending the holiday, but that’s neither here nor there. Abandoned by her ‘rents, Lemon adopted the Glovers, a less-fortunate African-American family participating in the Letters to Santa charity. Lemon is an enthusiastic giver, as long as she gets credit for it, and her over-the-top generosity promised to make 9-year-old Deshante and 5-year-old Marcus the happiest poor kids since Kenneth and his brother went to the Neverland Ranch.
Colleen’s intrusion on Jack’s New York life was the real gift, though, since it not only gradually made Jack’s hair stand on end, but it inadvertently delivered an episode set at The Girly Show‘s 30 Rock offices. Twofer, my man: How’s tricks? Frank? Long time no read hat. Jenna was buzzed on cheap brandy, and the gang pitched in, in the spirit of the season, to buy Sue a new bra. When a guilt-ridden Jack couldn’t bear his mother anymore at his apartment, he holed himself up at the studio and ordered the staff to quickly produce a Christmas Eve special that would make It’s a Wonderful Life look like Pulp Fiction.
Watching Jack slowly melt down — his tie loosening, his normally-slick hair gravitates upwards — as he unburdened his ghosts of Christmas past on Pete was a delight. Normally, I yawn when Jack loses his composure — see Seinfeldvision — but there’s something about Stritch’s hectoring and the dark history of the Donaghy clan that legitimizes and greatly enhances the character’s unraveling. In this case, Jack’s childhood trauma revolved around his mother’s Christmas relations with an elderly gent: “Every year, the dreadful moment arrived when I would catch Mr. Schwartz caressing my mother’s bony thigh,” groaned Jack. “Then they’d ask me to play ‘White Christmas,’ and it would turn into some boozy burlesque travesty. Every time I hear that song, I get aroused.” Dude, thanks for tainting the song for me, too.
NEXT: Racism + good intentions = Liz’s Christmas spirit