Will & Grace Season 1, Episode 11
“Staten Island Fairy”
Posted by Sarah
This week gifted me a number of things I never thought I would see from our Fab Four. I never thought I’d see Jack willingly go to Staten Island for a guy. I never thought I’d see Will and Grace venture into the home shopping arena. And I NEVER in a million years thought I would see Karen as a child. Not to mention, it isn’t often that Jack and Karen get the A-story. There’s a lot here to tide us over during the month-long break for the Winter Olympics—a burgeoning relationship, a couple of hard truth flashbacks, and a QVC producer I desperately need to appear every week for the rest of this series—so let’s break it down!
What was supposed to be a one-time wedding hookup for Jack has turned into a relationship that has just reached its one-month anniversary. And it’s going pretty well by Jack’s standards. Sure, Drew is still closeted and hasn’t left his wife Angela, who thinks that Jack is straight and married to Karen. But Jack sees that as a plus; as long as Drew doesn’t come out, he doesn’t have to commit. It’s the perfect situation to keep those intimacy issues he’s so comfortable with alive and well. Will calls him out on this exact thing, but Jack isn’t fazed; he’s of the opinion that “There’s nothing better than being with a closeted married man.” (“Spoken like a true Scientologist…”) As much as I want Jack to find someone he wants to spend his life with, old habits die hard, and you know he’s not about to give up his ways just yet. And with that, he’s on his way to Drew’s home in Staten Island, with Karen along for the ride.
Jack’s secret date with Drew starts out nice enough; they’re watching one of the Real Housewives, taking adorable selfies, and having involved conversations about assless chaps. Once Angela makes her way downstairs with a load of laundry, though, it’s all over. They immediately fly to opposite ends of the couch, just two bros channel surfing after a blowout game between the Jets and the Sharks (bless you for trying, Jack McFarland). It’s a close call, and when Jack sends Angela off to make pizza rolls, Drew finally realizes how pointless all the stress and effort that comes along with living a lie is. And he wants to come out to Angela, sending Jack into overdrive trying to diffuse the situation. He keeps telling Drew about how awful being out is (which he knows damn well is a lie, and it actually kind of hurts to see him do this when he was all about his grandson living his truth a few months ago?). While Jack is trying to keep Drew from telling the truth, Angela and Karen make their way downstairs to check on their guys. In an effort to keep up appearances, Jack and Karen make out in that exaggerated way they always do, and while I’m flashing back to that time they made out in front of Neil Patrick Harris, Karen sees a cat clock on the wall that instantly takes her back to her childhood home, and a questionable conversation she once had with her mother.
Okay, we need to talk about Little Karen. If you know my feelings about Will & Grace, you know that Karen’s my girl. I love whenever they delve into her history, whether it’s Karen’s own contradictory stories or…you know…things that actually happened to her. So a few weeks back, when I read that they were going to dive into Karen’s past again, I was hungry for it. We don’t know much about her childhood (or almost any part of her life that happened before Fall 1998), and most of what we do know comes from Jack’s distracted paraphrasing of the conversation he had with Karen’s mother in season four’s “Someone Old, Someplace New”:
Jack: It turns out Karen’s father died when she was seven. Oh, my god, can you imagine what Karen looked like when she was seven years old? Cute little pumps, cute little martini, cute little pills? Anyway, from then on, they moved around a lot until Lois met a man, a ne’er-do-well named Bernie. Or was it Todd? I don’t know. I can’t remember, ‘cause at that point I zoned out ‘cause some real hot fireman came into the bar. Oh, HIS name was Todd. That’s right. Hot Toddy, Hot Toddy, Hot Toddy. Anyway, what did I do with his number? Actually, when Karen was sixteen, her and her mother had some big falling out, and Lois wouldn’t tell me what it was, but I have a feeling Karen killed a man with her bare breasts.
(I’m only including that last part because I kind of want Jack’s theory to be canon? With Karen, anything is possible.)
When she flashes back to her youth, it looks like Jack was right on the money in terms of what Karen Delaney looked like as a kid. She’s a mini-Karen Walker, right down to her patented hair piece (I get that it’s for the sight gag, but still). And it looks as though Lois was being Classic Lois™. When Karen asked why her mother was “wrestling” with a strange man, Lois pulled no punches and let her daughter know that she’s been cheating on Karen’s dad, and Karen is not to tell him under any circumstances. Karen reminded her that she hates to keep secrets, and in turn, Lois poured her daughter a glass of whiskey, toasted, and told her that now they both have secrets. The whole thing is treated with humor, but it’s definitely in line with the perception of Lois that Karen has by the time we reach the fourth season of the original run, and it’s definitely one in a long line of things that would make Karen want to lie and say her mom was either dead or committed to an asylum, so she wouldn’t have to talk about her.
You have to hand it to Lois, though; for not being a very competent parent, she did have an impressively ass-backwards way of teaching Karen some important life lessons. Essentially, look at what Lois did and then do the exact opposite (like, let’s try to live our lives without scamming the people we get close to, okay you guys?). Present-day Karen knows that secrets ruin lives, and decides to give Jack and Drew a major push in the right direction by putting it all out there for Angela: “He’s gay, he’s gayer, they’re gay together. And honey, you don’t want to be married to a big ‘mo…or, in this case…a little ‘mo.” Jack is stunned, he’s hungry (make with the pizza rolls already), and most of all, he’s straight up pissed at Karen. The next time they see each other in the office, he refuses to call her by a cute nickname when she apologizes to her Poodle, and angrily relays the aftermath of her sudden need for everyone to do the right thing. Turns out, Angela suspected all along that Drew was gay, and only wants him to live his truth. Drew, in turn, told Angela he could help out with her OKCupid profile and was pleasantly surprised by a coming out party to be thrown by his mom and co-workers. And while it should be a happy time for all, Jack can’t handle the fact that his safe, commitment-less connection with Drew has now gone up in smoke. Karen can’t stand that she upset him, and tries to make it better with a good old-fashioned one-sided slap fight. But Jack’s attention is focused elsewhere; Drew is on his way up to talk things out.
When Drew arrives, he’s got the cat clock in tow to give to Karen, who immediately gets another whiff of childhood. She flashes back to an intoxicated Lois telling her that they’re leaving home after Karen’s stepdad fell victim to a “shaving accident” and dropping what she believes is sage advice before falling to the floor: “You wanna be happy, kid? Don’t fall in love. I never did, and look how happy I am.” (Oh man, you just know that’s going to end up in someone’s fic soon. It may or may not be my fic.) But Karen saw right through her mother’s inebriated assertions: “She wasn’t happy. She lied to herself and everyone else.” It’s not often that Karen gets to give you the hard truth, but when she does, it packs a heavy punch. It happened a couple times during the original run, but I immediately thought of “Blanket Apology” in the last season of the original run, where she puts her foot down about the audition that Jack’s life depends on (go find that speech immediately, because it really is something special). Looking back on her mother’s lonely life—and lonely death—Karen loves Jack far too much to watch him meet the same fate, and she tells him, “If you don’t take a chance on love, you could end up just like my mom: sad and alone.” And while Jack insists he has HOMOFOMO (fear of missing out on another ‘mo), Karen clarifies that it’s actually SLOWLOMO (slowly turning into a lonely ‘mo. There’s your vocabulary lesson for the day, kids) and leaves Jack and Drew alone to “kiss it out, or punch it out, or…rub your butts together.”
Once he’s alone with Drew, Jack starts talking out his situation. He really does like Drew (seriously, you really think Jack McFarland would go to Staten Island for a once-and-done thing? I don’t think so), but he’s never really been in a long-term, committed relationship before—there was Stuart during the sixth season, but as we learned in “FYI: I Hurt, Too,” Jack cheated on him. It’s a really big risk for someone who jumps from one relationship to another with relative ease. But, as Drew points out, it’s not like he doesn’t know a thing or two about big risks; he just left his wife so he could live the life he was meant to live. It’s a good risk, but a major one. And he knows Jack’s hang ups, and he’s not asking to spend the rest of their lives together; all he wants is one night, to see how it goes. And Jack agrees to one single night…unless it leads to brunch in the morning…and that brunch leads to binge watching Riverdale…and, you know what? I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing more of Drew in the future. And I have a feeling Jack’s ideas about relationships are going to finally be challenged for the better.
Meanwhile, Grace has some big news for Will (no, it’s not an STD, thanks for playing, Karen): QVC is going to let them sell Grace by Grace Adler Design bed linens, and already I’m cheering because this is the kind of storyline that has the potential to be the best kind of disaster for our title characters. And it’s off to a great start, because they immediately get into an argument about who should be the spokesperson for their brand. Will thinks he’s the better person for the job because of all the research he’s done to make sure they embrace the QVC demographic and boost their sales. Besides, they need someone who can roll with the punches that come with live TV, and Grace couldn’t even roll with the punches that came with her college improv group. But Grace insists on being the one to showcase their products; after all, her name is all over it, and she’s been selling her designs for her entire career. She could easily take the binder of research that Will put together and just do the damn thing. Come on, it’s home shopping…how hard can it be?
Apparently, if you’re Grace Adler, it’s virtually impossible.
While Will’s already at the studio preparing for their big home shopping debut and trying to build a good rapport with Cheryl, the network’s no-nonsense producer who does not have time for your misogyny, thank you very much (I love her, I love her so much, can we keep her?), Grace rushes onto the set late, and without Will’s binder full of answers. But it’s not like she didn’t bring it with her…she just accidentally left it on the subway before she could memorize even two words of it (I mean, it’s Grace, she probably wasn’t going to try to memorize it anyway). No worries, though; there’s still half an hour set aside for Lisa Rinna’s malachite pendants and adult diapers that they can use to prepare, right? Wrong. Because Lisa Rinna booked some Hallmark movie where she plays a witch trying to raise her daughter in a small town, and has to give up her QVC time. So that thirty-minute prep they were hoping for has now dwindled down to forty seconds, forcing Grace to just wing it. After Will provides a rundown of the talking points, tells her not to smile like Pennywise, and asks for an earpiece so he can talk to her while she’s on the air, Grace is on camera for no more than fifteen seconds before she breaks about eight thousand cardinal rules of live broadcast (“Do you love your linens? Because moist people don’t!”). And okay, I love these characters more than I love most things, but this was the start of a deliciously disastrous home shopping segment that I was so here for.
Will knows she’s bombing and can’t stop feeding her advice through the earpiece. Of course, the insistent little voice in Grace’s head quickly gets to be too much to bear, and she rips it out of her ear. But remember how we touched on that controlling side of Will that doesn’t let him rest until he knows things are his version of perfect in the last episode? Guess what creeps up again, and guess what makes him crash the broadcast? It’s a classic Will and Grace argument, where Grace thinks she’s got things handled and Will refuses to let her delude herself. Except this time, it’s got an audience full of people looking for luxury linens at a good price. Needless to say, Cheryl’s convinced that this segment is a bust and decides to kill it to make way for Ruben Studdard’s Big and Bold Collection.
After Cheryl kills the segment, her boss/husband frantically races out to the set to tell her to get things back up and running. Turns out the lovely duvet-buying people of America finds as much entertainment in Will and Grace’s drama as I do, and they’re demanding more. With that, the Grace by Grace Adler Design set spins back, front and center, for the height of the argument, and the inevitable apologies. Will and Grace eventually make up as they lay together on the model bed, realizing they probably just blew their only shot at this, but at least their friendship is still intact. It isn’t until they hear Cheryl yell cut that they realize their whole spiel has been televised, that they not only sold everything but it’s also on backorder, that the rave reviews have been pouring in and their drama was the thing that moved everyone to buy some sheets. It feels so right for them to accidentally fall into success like this. And now that Will and Grace know they can turn a profit on a national home shopping stage, maybe they should polish up their segment for the next time around.
But then again, maybe they shouldn’t. If QVC were like that all the time, it would be the only channel I’d watch.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- “You seem oddly happy. Have you been watching videos of girls burning off their bangs with flat irons?”
- Apparently, this is going to be the season where I keep getting sidetracked by Karen’s outerwear. For your consideration:
- Related to the above: I need to try out Air Earmuffs sometime.
- “I know I kept saying, ‘It’s not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen.’ But that’s what I said about election night, and look what happened there.” Will, I love you, but come on man, that was too real.
- “All chaps are assless. That’s why they’re awesome.”
- *Angry fists* “SOCIETY!” is honestly my reaction to a lot of things lately.
- If I was channel surfing, and I happened upon it…and it was a real thing…I’d probably watch Lisa Rinna’s Hallmark movie.
- “Cheryl, my penis has done nothing to hurt you.”
- “This is QVC, dude, we ARE the commercial.”
- Please tell me I’m not the only one who thought “Pocket Gay” when Karen called Drew a little ‘mo.
- After the episode, the show’s social media accounts posted a phone number tied to Grace by Grace Adler Design linens. If you called 626-838-3345, you heard a fun message from Will and Grace and were able to leave a voicemail (the Twitter account was calling some of them out as a way to respond to them). You could also send a text to the number—which I did—and they would text you back. As of this writing, you can still call and text the number, so if you didn’t get a chance on Thursday, get to it! It was such a fun surprise after the episode, and one more thing to add to the giant pile of reasons why I have always loved and will always love this fandom.
What did you think of “Staten Island Fairy?” Let’s talk in the comments! See you after the Olympics, kids.