Will & Grace Season 1, Episode 2
“Who’s Your Daddy”
Grace wrapped up last week’s episode by saying, “We should just be what we’ve always been.” And for those who were still doubting it after the premiere, I feel like “Who’s Your Daddy” clears it right up: THIS is what Will & Grace has always been. I honestly don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in a long time. If last week made me realize how much I missed the show in general, this week made me realize how much I missed and craved the things that made Will & Grace shine. “Who’s Your Daddy” had so much going for it: physical comedy, throwbacks to a couple classic sitcoms, and a moment from Will that literally made me the Meryl Streep of this scenario:
I can’t wait to unpack this episode, so let’s get to it!
Whereas “11 Years Later” dealt with the way the political climate changed during the show’s extended hiatus, “Who’s Your Daddy” deals with another element that’s inevitably changed: age. They had to address the fact that the gang is a little older early on in the revival, and they navigated this issue so wonderfully. A night at the Cockpit garners mixed results for the boys of the group (PS, all bars should play things like Designing Women on a loop on their TVs). On one hand, Will scores a date with Blake, a 23-year-old who thinks Will looks like a hot anchorman, and immediately I’m kicking myself for never realizing how much he DOES look like an anchorman. On the other hand, one of the younger guys in the bar calls Jack a daddy, and it sends him into a tailspin. Because like it or not, he’s in his late forties now, and that does not sit well with him. I really love the way Will and Jack handle their night at the club differently. Will never struck me as the type to be overly concerned about his own age, but he’s definitely the type that, once he takes a step back, really starts to analyze the situation. And he’s absolutely susceptible to flattery when it’s smooth, so that combination works so well for the storyline. Jack played his hand exactly as I expected him to; remember the first season of the original run when it was an all hands on deck crisis when he realized he was thirty? Of course he’s freaking out about getting older. So while Will prepares for his dinner date with Blake, Jack makes an attempt to freeze time, and enlists the help of the one person who knows a thing or two about the subject.
Karen’s got everything Jack needs to make sure time is on his side. While he decides against the Scrotox she offers because “They won’t be able to look surprised,” he does borrow some high powered magnets to tighten up his skin, as well as a full-body compression garment. With those things at his disposal, Jack is ready to get back out on the scene, and makes a return to the bar. Sean Hayes is a physical comedy genius, and you know I’m right. The way he falls into the guy he actually manages to pick up and turns it into a line, the way he “sits down” on that couch while trying to make it look totally natural. AND THE MAGNETS. Bless those magnets. This is Will & Grace slapstick at its finest, and I could not be happier. Eventually, Jack invites a guy back to his place, and when he realizes that he lied about his age and it was pretty dark at the bar, he *might* need a little assistance from a hint of makeup. That reveal was fantastic, his face alternated between hilarious and potentially haunting my dreams, and he caused his date to flee in the night:
Meanwhile, during his dinner with Blake, Will is starting to have serious second thoughts about him as the differences between them become increasingly obvious; Blake FaceTimes his best friend during the date, marvels at the fact that Will cooks, and thinks Madonna is a little tired. But it isn’t until Will discovers how little Blake knows about gay history — and as a result, how he takes the easy, happy life he knows for granted — that he realizes how mismatched they are. Ben Platt was so great as Blake, and I legitimately went through a range of feelings about him throughout the episode. At the top, he was adorable, high-energy and randomly musical, and I was so here for it. But by the time we get to the date, I physically cringed when he called Stonewall “Stonehenge.” It’s this, and Blake’s dismissal of the fact that “the happy life you have is because we made a big deal about things,” that leads Will to his extremely real and extremely poignant Julia Sugarbaker moment:
Will: It’s great that you have no shame. I mean, you missed the joy of signing up for football to fool your parents. But you guys can never forget the struggle that came before you, the people that fought and loved and died so that you could walk down the street in skinny jeans with rights you never even knew you never had. The minute we forget what we went through to get here is the minute it could all be taken away. And that. Will be the night. The lights. Go out. In Georgia.
Cue that Meryl Streep YES a million times over. I literally cheered after Will’s speech, because HISTORY. IS. VERY. IMPORTANT. (I need an option where I can underline that three thousand times, let’s work on that, Internet.) Things are a lot better now than they have been, but they are in no way perfect; there’s still work to be done, and especially under this administration, we can’t slack off. History is vital, for the appreciation of the way things are now, and for the motivation to fight for things to be even better for the next generation. The episode really highlights the importance of never forgetting and never stopping the fight. Will put it so beautifully here, and I feel like we need to shout this speech from the rooftops on the regular.
After the debris of their dates settles, Will and Jack commiserate over their experiences, and in turn realize they’re better off dating men closer to their own ages. They both agree that they want to be with someone with whom they share a history, someone they can have a shorthand with, and through this conversation, they demonstrate that they already have this with each other. It’s such a “NOW KISS” moment that it almost threw me off. I’ve always seen Will and Jack more as brothers and less as potential lovers; yeah, they share a history, but that history is so deeply ingrained in friendship for me that I can’t see it any other way. We’ve been down this road before; see “Gypsies, Tramps and Weed” and “Birds of a Feather Boa” from the original run for examples. They hint at the possibility of a relationship, they explore it for half a second, and then move on as though nothing happened, let’s never speak of it again, thanks, bye. I don’t expect them to really go any further with this, because they’ve never gone further with it in the past. But, they could surprise me. I’m not sure it would feel natural to the Will & Grace universe, but for all I know, they could manage it. Either way, it was a really sweet moment for the Jack/Will shippers of the world.
But enough about the boys; let’s check in with my non-canon ship (seriously, they make it WAY too easy sometimes…where is my fic based on this storyline?).
I honestly could not ask anything more from a B-story. While she’s testing out the new smart shower Grace installed for her, Karen’s approached by her maid Bridget in the hopes of getting a raise for the manse’s staff. After a convincing argument about how a raise shows appreciation and validates the work being done, Karen not only agrees to a bump in her staff’s pay, she’s also inspired to ask the same from Grace. Which obviously wasn’t going to go well; we all know Karen’s not the most conventional office assistant, and the deal is that Karen doesn’t do any work and therefore does not get a traditional salary. So to ask for more money for the same amount of nonexistent work? Good luck with that. Karen makes her case to Grace, essentially paraphrasing Bridget’s case to her, but Grace isn’t willing to give that easily…because Grace is of the firm belief that Karen doesn’t do anything.
Here, we go from Designing Women to The Lucy Show in one fell swoop, giving us a “Lucy and Viv Put in a Shower” for the 21st century. I grew up idolizing Lucille Ball (still do, by the way), and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve thought Debra Messing embodied the essence of Lucy during the first run of Will & Grace, so I was ridiculously happy to see this homage as Grace’s storyline. Karen was left unattended when she programmed the smart shower, so when she gets into it with Grace as Grace says she doesn’t need her (a damnable lie, but proceed), their argument triggers the lock on the shower door. And the drain plug. And the water. And the shut off code is the safe word Karen has with Stan that she can’t remember. Oops.
The frantic attempts to shut the shower off are amazing, from Karen’s frank admissions about her sex life with Stan, to Grace literally trying to keep her head above water while guessing Karen’s safe word (“Hillary Clinton!” “Oh, that’s actually kind of a turn-on.”). Because of Grace’s claustrophobia, she panics like there’s no tomorrow. Karen, however, is fully aware of how this is going to go, because she’s had experience with a panicked Grace…albeit in drier situations. Despite any appearances to the contrary, Karen knows Grace well. Karen pays attention. Karen sees how Grace catastrophizes everything, and she’s there to keep her world from caving in (like how she calmed Grace down during the design showcase of 1999 in a wonderfully unexpected little callback to the first run’s “My Fair Maid-y”). She’s the one to ease Grace’s mind when Grace doesn’t even realize it, even when they’re neck deep in water and Karen’s distracting her with insults and alternative lullabies. It’s then that Grace realizes just how much Karen does for her, apologizes, and agrees to the raise:
Grace: I am so sorry, Karen. I couldn’t do what I do without you. And more importantly, I wouldn’t want to do it without you. Of course you have value to me, and you deserve a raise.
Karen: Thanks, honey. I guess your validation was more important than I realized.
Grace: Well, you have it. I love you, Karen Walker.
Karen: Right back at you, Grace Adler.
DING DING DING, we have our safe word, people. The shower shuts off at the sound of Grace’s name, and I know it looks bad, but let’s just focus on that beautiful moment they had a second ago, shall we? And thus, a top-notch episode is in the books.
…I’m not kidding about that smart shower fic, though. Chop chop.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- I just want to be able to watch Will and Grace watch Designing Women.
- Does Bridget look familiar to you? You might remember her as Crazy Sally from the second season of the original run. In “Acting Out,” she was the one at NBC protesting to get Carson back, and in “Sweet and Sour Charity,” she was the homeless woman Karen was bargaining with to get back the Chanel slingbacks that Jack accidentally donated to charity, before Karen showed her heart and gave her a few hundred dollars.
- “Did she call me the A-word, the B-word, or the C-word?” “Yes, mum.” It’s good to know Rosario still has that unapologetically blunt presence, even when she’s not seen or heard (I still miss her, though).
- “We live together now, but how long is that gonna last?” “You’d be surprised.”
- Grace talks about a summer camp horror story in which Janet Eisenberg refused to help Grace escape from under a canoe. Janet Eisenberg also happens to be co-creator Max Mutchnick’s friend, and the real-life inspiration for the character of Grace.
- “Actually, I have a whole bedroom.” “To yourself?!” Guys, my entire adult life has been nothing but dorm rooms and studio apartments, you have no idea how hard I related to Blake’s wide-eyed wonder.
- “We rightly took Halloween back from the children.”
- Look closely and you’ll see that some of Jack’s dance moves at the end of the episode are a throwback to the ones he did in the Janet Jackson episode, season seven’s “Back Up, Dancer.”
- Megan Mullally revealed on Instagram that the final moment in the shower—where Karen pushes Grace back underwater and says “It’s better this way” — was ad-libbed. They also didn’t rehearse the shower stuff prior to taping for obvious water-based reasons. These women are goddamn champions.
What did you think about “Who’s Your Daddy?” Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Source: NBC