Posted by Sarah
We made it to the halfway point! Well…unless you’re just tuning in, in which case you can find episodes 20-11 here.
Going through the episodes I selected—but now also just watching whatever episode comes to mind, because I like staying in the thick of it, thank you very much—it’s amazing to me to see how many brilliant moments Will & Grace gave us that have stayed with me all these years…and it’s only slightly because my DVDs have been in heavy rotation since the show ended. The second I see Patti LuPone in anything now, I hear Jack shouting “SHUT UP, PATTI LUPONE!” in my head. I can’t hear mention of Antiques Roadshow without thinking of Grace doing the face (you know which one I’m talking about). And if you think “Midnight Train to Georgia” hasn’t been permanently altered for me, you are sadly mistaken. Between its massive guest stars and jokes coming from every direction, this show had its finger on the pulse of pop culture for eight seasons; I remember reading about how they stuck a Britney Spears Federline joke into “The Newlydreads” at the last minute, two weeks before that wedding happened, banking on the assumption that the marriage would last at least until the episode aired. I think part of the reason I had 70 episodes in my preliminary list—aside from the fact that those episodes are amazing—is the fact that I kept thinking about all of these moments and going “I NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS.” And as soon as my Will & Grace loving friends found out I was doing a top 20, they chimed in with their favorite moments, some that I didn’t even think about right away but love with all my heart. Suddenly, I’m wishing I had more than twenty spots to play with…
The fact that there are SO many great moments throughout these eight seasons proves the high caliber of this show, and I have faith that the new episodes will give us more of the same. No doubt the revival will tap into the pop culture landscape—past and present—in the same way the original series did, if “Vote Honey” is anything to go by; Grace’s outrage over a butt double in Fifty Shades of Grey was incredibly satisfying because OF COURSE she would be outraged by that. But before I go into all my theories on what Will & Grace is going to look like in 2017, let’s spend some more time exploring what the show looked like back then. We’re in the home stretch now, and we’re about to encounter some truly iconic moments. Think you know what they are? There’s only one way to find out…
Let’s dive in!
10.) Marry Me a Little, Marry Me a Little More (5 x 8-9)
Confession: I was never, and still am not, fully on board with Leo. If I had my way, Grace and Nathan never would have broken up. Because even though Nathan might have pulled a dick move by going away with another woman a few days after their breakup, I’m pretty sure he never would have cheated on Grace overseas and lied about it to her best friend. But…I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to a simpler time, when the show decided to celebrate their 100th episode milestone by having Grace get married a couple of times.
The impulse wedding courtesy of the TODAY show (hi, Katie Couric!) is fun if only because I like imagining that duck catching Grace’s pretzel bouquet. Will, however, is less than enthused, and with good reason; to not be at your best friend’s wedding—to not even have a chance to be at your best friend’s wedding—hurts, especially as connected to each other as they are, having spent so much time contemplating Grace’s future ceremony. (Side note: during this exchange with Leo, Will tells him, “I’m never going to have a wedding of my own, and being a part of Grace’s was important to me,” and I literally clutched my chest when I watched this for notes, because look how far we’ve come in marriage equality.) But have no fear, the lavish reception is here! The gang is absolutely brilliant here, from Jack promoting the McFarland Method as he wishes Grace and Leo well, to Will’s lovely speech about how he and Grace met through fondue, to Grace singing her feelings, to Karen threatening to sic Rosario on Leo if he ever hurt Grace. It isn’t long until the newlyweds realize that after only two months of dating, they don’t really know anything about each other, like birthdays or favorite songs, or Leo’s real name (as much side eye as I give him, “People always call me Leo ‘cause my name’s Marvin” gets me every time and I’m not completely sure why?), causing Grace to freak out, leave the party, and resist Leo’s attempts to play down the situation. And when they run into Katie Couric again and find out their marriage isn’t legitimate, it seems like all hope is lost…for about two minutes. We ARE dealing with a sitcom, after all.
Which brings us to the second, meticulously planned out wedding,, and the stand-out half of the episode, mainly for the interactions between Will and Grace. Will keeps it together for as long as he can, channeling all of his emotions into making sure this whole production runs smoothly, but once Grace tells him she needs him to walk her down the aisle, he can’t keep his cool anymore. The way he initially turns her down pulls at your heart: “Look, Grace, I’ll do a lot of things for you. I’ll plan your wedding, I’ll pick the florist, I’ll even let you have input on your dress. But to actually be the one that…that hands you off to another guy…that I can’t do.” If you weren’t aware that their dynamic was about to change in a big way, Will made sure you knew it with that explanation. Eric McCormack and Debra Messing nailed it in this episode, deftly maneuvering around the weight of such a long-term relationship heading into uncertain territory. My favorite part of all of this, though, is when Grace brings him to the rooftop where they ACTUALLY first met, at a college friend’s party:
Grace: I thought you were the cutest guy I had ever seen. So I came up to you, and I asked for a drink. And you were so sweet, the way you held that funnel for me. And then I stumbled back to Nancy and I said, “That’s the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.”
Will: Well, we say things when we’re young. I said Human League would be bigger than the Beatles.
Grace: Will, I may be getting married today, but when I said I was going to spend the rest of my life with you, I wasn’t wrong.
Will: Well, except…
Grace: No. I wasn’t wrong. Now let’s jump.
Grace: Let’s keep goin’, Thelma.
That whole exchange mixed with Will secretly getting the first dance before he walks her down the aisle? This show knows how to wreck my emotions in all the right ways.
Grace: I’m doing the right thing, right?
Will: Nothing. No, I just—I’m just saying, as a friend, I want you to know that if you were thinking of calling it off, don’t worry about the people out there, and don’t worry about all those gifts. You do what your heart tells you is right.
Grace: …Are you freaking kidding me with this?!
Will: “If!” I said “If!”
Grace: The question was rhetorical, that means you’re supposed to say “yes.”
Will: That’s not what rhetorical means.
Grace: Are we talking about what rhetorical means, or about how you are freaking me out right now?
Will: Am I supposed to answer that, or is that rhetorical too?
9.) Last Ex to Brooklyn (6 x 2)
This episode could have gone so wrong in so many ways. Introducing an integral character in Will’s coming out story into the fold, who up until this point we knew nothing about other than the fact that she’s the only girl Will ever slept with (hi, Mira Sorvino!) is a risky move, especially since the last time she was mentioned was about three seasons ago. It’s even riskier to connect her to the OTHER most important man in Grace’s life. But damn, did they knock this one out of the park. Grace and Leo organize a dinner party for the rest of the gang, as well as Leo’s ex-girlfriend. Grace and Diane get on like gangbusters…until Will walks in and realizes who Leo’s ex really is. It makes sense that Grace would flip out over Diane’s connection to Will more than she would over Diane’s connection to Leo, even if Leo can’t really see that (but seriously, I have no patience for him in this episode. He’s definitely been married to Grace long enough to know her background with Will…come on, dude). As we all know from “Lows in the Mid-Eighties,” the fact that Will not only slept with Diane right after coming out to Grace, but also kept it from her for fifteen years is a huge deal. And while they generally put it behind them, I wouldn’t be surprised if Grace still hadn’t gotten completely over it by this point. So to suddenly come face to face with one of the biggest obstacles in her relationship with Will? It’s totally natural to get a little nuts, and Grace trying to keep her head above water is hilarious:
Grace: I’m not mad. And I’ll tell you why I’m mad. Because I’m not mad.
Will: You’re not making any sense.
Grace: Oh, and all of the sudden, you’re the vice president of things that make sense?!
Will: Why vice president?
Grace: Because Leo’s president, DEAL WITH IT.
The amazing thing about this episode is how they were able to take a single storyline that put a strong emphasis on Will and Grace, and still give the supporting players moments to shine. Jack and Karen are on point for the whole episode, and it helps that they have the world’s smallest dog with them to help balance everything out. I just love that Karen is hitting on Diane literally the entire time she’s there. It’s insanely direct, and so like Karen to just get to the point: “I like you…wanna make out?” (Tangent time! I always wanted to know how the show would have handled a substantial female love interest for Karen, during one of those stretches when she was either separated from Stan or under the assumption that he was dead. It wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility; after all, in addition to this and all the other times something like this happened, she was at one point linked to Martina Navratilova—which I’ll come back to later—and, you know, bisexuality exists. I’m just saying…) And Jack and Karen make the perfect color commentators at the dinner table when everything comes out in the open:
Finally, I’d like to submit Chompers the Earl of Puppydom for best pet name ever, please and thank you.
Will: I made these kabobs for Grace once. She totally fell in love with the recipe.
Grace: Liar! How could I fall in love with your kabobs? I’ve never had them. Diane had your kabobs. But apparently I wasn’t good enough for your kabobs.
Leo: Wait. Why do you care that Diane’s had Will’s kabobs, but you don’t care that she’s had mine and I’ve had hers?
Jack: Silly! Diane is a girl. She doesn’t have kabobs, she has a kagina.
Karen: And nice katits.
8.) Gypsies, Tramps and Weed (3 x 7)
Surprise! I’m going to be completely predictable and talk about Cher for a minute. Because just as she is my queen diva, she’s also Jack’s queen diva. What can I say? The guy knows how to pick his icons. Once he’s in possession of a Cher doll (which he initially gave to Will as a birthday gift just so it could be returned to him, because of course), he takes it everywhere with him, speaking through it with the best worst Cher impression I have ever heard in my life, asking for an extra chair and a booster seat for it when he goes out to dinner. But it’s when the queen diva herself approaches him that really pushes this episode into the top ten. Personally, if I ever unexpectedly encountered Cher, I’d probably take the Community, Troy Barnes meets LeVar Burton route. Jack, however, decides to take the “That’s not Cher, that’s definitely a drag queen” route, and ends up challenging her to a Cher-off. I know it’s fueled by mistaken identity, but Jack’s boldness here is so rich, and his confidence that he’s the better Cher is so misguidedly epic that it leaves me doubled over laughing every time. And I love that Cher starts to leave and could simply write him off as a loon, but she’s weirdly invested now and comes back to try to convince him once more with a little “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Of course, Jack’s still completely in the dark and tries to one-up her again (and now I find myself singing “TIOOOMMMEEE” to that song more often than I care to admit), until she finally goes full-on Moonstruck on him. It’s honestly all I could have ever wanted in a Cher guest appearance…that is, until they just straight-up made her God in the next season.
Grace’s gift to Will leads him to a session with Psychic Sue (hi, Camryn Manheim!), where he originally dismisses her as being full of it. But when the stuff she tells him starts coming true, he rushes back to her to get the scoop on his love life, where she reveals to him that Jack is the one he’ll spend his life with. “Gypsies, Tramps and Weed” excels in exploring a “What if?” that I’m sure crossed a few minds at one point or another, without dwelling on it for too long; anything more than this would have been overkill and so not the point of this show. Will’s spiraling here is everything, from his freak out over Jack’s little squeezes to that glorious vision of Jack in a wedding dress holding a Cher doll bouquet. And when they finally do contemplate what a romantic relationship would be, the fact that they end up describing their current situation is the best way to end that story; their dynamic is great just the way it is.
But wait, there’s more! Just in case that wasn’t enough story for you, Grace manages to get the terrible waiter who served them at Will’s birthday dinner fired, and she feels so bad about it that she hires him as her new office assistant. As soon as she’s starting to feel good about the situation, though, she discovers that the new clients he’s been sending her way are actually there to buy weed from him (I love how the code word Lenny puts in place makes everyone seem so fixated on some random piece of furniture; “Can the four of us split an ottoman?”). The best, though, is how Karen was so against him working at Grace Adler Designs the whole time, right up until she hears why Grace fired him—“What?! Grace, I can’t believe it! I loved him!”—and runs out the door to catch him. That’s my girl.
Jack: I feel like nesting. Let’s stay home and rent Silkwood. (Cher impression, waving the doll around) “I’m a lesbian who’s been exposed to nuclear waste, hohhhh!”
7.) Moveable Feast (4 x 9)
I can’t help it; I’m a sucker for a Will & Grace Thanksgiving episode. But I’m even more of a sucker for it when it crams four Thanksgivings into one. This episode is a gem right off the bat, starting with the opening phone call sequence. The back and forth between all of them is so well-choreographed, I could honestly spend this entire segment raving about it. Between hanging up on each other, putting each other on hold for a little too long, and somehow getting roped into a never-ending stream of Thanksgiving dinners? Priceless. Meanwhile, the guy Jack indefinitely put on hold manages to get into full drag by the time the gang’s Thanksgiving plans are all sorted out, and by the time you’re made to focus on his square, it’s the perfect ending (hi, Coco Peru!).
The rules are simple: everyone gets one hour at their family’s gathering. As soon as the timer goes off, they high-tail it out of there to move on to the next one, racing through the day so they can enjoy their own festivities in apartment 9C. First up: Karen visits Stan in prison, equipped with a chicken stuffed inside a turkey (that’s one way to do it…), and is blindsided by Stan telling her to sleep with other people while he’s in prison. She’s rightfully consumed with anger and confusion and “What ifs” for the rest of the episode, leading to one of my all time favorite scenes of the series…but I’ll get to that in a second. I actually debated whether or not to add this to the Karen Walker Feels Things! Tally. She’s obviously upset by her husband being okay with her hypothetical cheating, but doesn’t show it in the ways we’ve seen before on this list. Maybe this one gets half credit?
Karen Walker Feels Things! Tally: 3.5
Grace’s visit to her Aunt Honey’s place (hi, Lainie Kazan!) leads to Jack spilling the secret of her breakup with Nathan to her mom (hi, Debbie Reynolds, I miss you) and a prime Grace/Bobbi fight with Bobbi trying so hard to get the “Told Ya So” dance in, and Grace trashing her mother’s acting abilities. Jack picks up Elliot and takes the group to his stepfather’s hotel room (hi, Beau Bridges!), and for all of Jack’s warnings about what a hardass he is, he warmly opens up his temporary space to everyone and makes an effort to connect with Elliot. Which inevitably pisses Jack off because the guy was never like that when he was growing up. Then we get to Will’s mom’s celebration (hi, Blythe Danner!), filled with code words for his dad’s affair, a homophobic older brother he fights with to be the one who gets to leave early—Marilyn eventually breaks the tie and tells Will to go, leaving him confused and hurt—and an uncle whose medication makes people look like balloons to him (I love when Jack looks all wide-eyed and says, “Will, I’m a-scared,” because you hear that and think, “Yeah, that sounds about right”).
Oh yeah, and then there’s my favorite casting decision ever: the plumber (HI, NICK OFFERMAN!). I don’t need to explain to you how amazing Nick and Megan are on-screen together; we have all those Parks and Rec episodes to do that. It’s just so much fun to see a scene like this, long before Ron Swanson and Tammy 2 were even a thing. Also, just a really adorable side note: in the Will & Grace: Fabulously Uncensored book, Megan says, “It’s kind of fitting that the first time my character ever kissed a guy who wasn’t Stan, it was with the plumber—played by my husband.” Is your heart swelling yet?
All of these visits leave a bad taste in their mouths, so just before they sit down to their own holiday feast, they make the rounds one final time to make amends. Karen makes sure Stan knows she would never stray outside the marriage, Grace apologizes to her mother, Jack agrees to get to know his stepdad a little better, and Marilyn assures Will that her picking Paul to stay wasn’t a slight against him, wonderfully acknowledging the fact that Will’s friends are his family. This episode is the perfect representation of how the holidays can suck, but also how they can be salvaged.
And as if all of this wasn’t enough, while all of this is happening, Rosario is slowly devouring an entire turkey, and I love you, Shelley Morrison. I really do.
Grace: I hope you don’t mind, Will. I had some of your water.
Will: I didn’t have a water.
(Grace looks at Jack)
Jack: Not mine.
Grace: And Karen doesn’t drink water. Oh my god! Rental car stranger water! Oh my god! How do I know this was water?! You know, when boys go on road trips, they don’t make pee stops! They just use a water bottle! Oh my god!
Will: Grace…don’t you think you would have noticed if you were drinking pee?