While he has been a regular character since the very beginning of the show, we have never really gotten to know TGS producer Pete Hornberger. We know that he is married with children and is altogether a rather ineffectual and non-threatening individual. However, in this episode, the true extent of Pete’s fall from grace finally becomes apparent.
After every TGS staff member fills out self-evaluations, Jack takes special notice of Pete’s answer to the question of where he sees himself in five years. Appalled that Pete would see himself in the exact same place as he is now, Jack becomes motivated to help Pete rediscover his mojo. It turns out that Pete was actually a very high achiever in his youth, graduating as valedictorian from a prestigious prep school, participating in Olympic archery, and being the fourth guitarist in Loverboy.
Jack takes Pete to his athletic club to box, but Pete winds up being defeated by the dummy. Jack realizes how hopeless Pete is when trying to tell him that he has nothing left to lose, so he tells Pete to shave off his ring of hair. The result: Pete has a birthmark on the back of his head that looks like a swastika made of penises, which only depresses him further.
Elsewhere around the TGS studios, the self-evaluations have different consequences. Jenna filled hers out while on drugs and crafts the only honest evaluation of the entire staff. Her horror at this development leads her to enter into an emotionally fragile state, which is magnified when she is tricked into dressing up like Smurfette by Frank pretending to be Christopher Nolan offering her a role in his next film.
After discovering she has been duped, Jenna vows revenge against Frank and Toofer, but not Lutz, who feels sad for being left out. She goes through the trash and finds a Taylor Swift concert ticket purchased by Frank and risque boudoir photography of Toofer. Later, Jenna discovers Lutz in front of a mirror crying about feeling left out of her revenge. It turns out that it was a ruse by Frank and Toofer to get Jenna to look through garbage. They filmed her in the act and posted the video on a garbage fetish website.
Meanwhile, in the most amusing storyline of the episode, Tracy discovers that he has no sense of smell, so he goes to Doctor Spaceman to find what the problem is. It turns out Tracy has a decoder ring stuck up his nose that he hid in there when he was a child so his mother wouldn’t take it away. When the ring is removed, his sense of smell returns with a vengeance, and when he smells Liz, he starts treating her like his father.
This drastically increases Tracy’s productivity, but does so at the expense of his family, whom he discovers smells awful, so he decides to stay in his dressing room from now on. Liz faces a dilemma: whether to accept his newfound productivity or steer him back toward his family. After much deliberation and business mumbling with Jack, she decides to do the latter and takes Tracy back to the doctor to have the ring reinserted into his nose and remove his sense of smell once more.
“Nothing Left to Lose” was a comedic return to form after last week’s painfully smug and self-satisfied episode. After attempting to draw attention to its own formula in the most indulgent way possible, the show returned to the zany storylines it does so well. Each plotline involved moments of one-upsmanship that always make for great comedy, and as a show that revels in absurdity, 30 Rock makes better use of this tactic than most show on television.
Things we learned in this episode:
-Jenna has a Free Lyle Menendez tattoo.
-Liz has a major crush on ALex Trebek if her trash is any indication.
-Jenna did a reality show with famed penis-chopper Lorena Bobbitt called Celebrity Outhouse.
-Lutz’s great nephew is Twilight actor Kellan Lutz.
-Now we know what really caused the Italian cruise ship to crash: it was Jenna’s fault.
-Line of the night, courtesy of an unlikely source: Kenneth. “Look at us two laughing together, like a couple of Jews watching The Daily Show.”