Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 10
“Dead Man Texting”
Posted by Sarah
This week, we got to learn a lot about our Fab Four. We learned just how far Will would go to keep a job he’s passionate about. We learned that we should maybe keep the kitchen shears and melon ballers away from Grace in a moment of crisis. We learned that Jack can’t tell time on anything that isn’t a Mickey Mouse watch. And we learned that Karen Walker Feels Things™ (oh wait, we already knew that). Between a disastrous attempt to appeal to the boss, and a disastrous attempt at a calm and classy birthday celebration, there was a lot to laugh about in this episode. So let’s unpack it!
Will and Grace’s misadventures in “Dead Man Texting” could have come straight from the original run; this plot just felt like one of those classic storylines where they dip their toes into some bad life decisions before completely doubling down on those bad decisions. The only difference? Instead of something like “Swimming Pools…Movie Stars,” where friendship with Sandra Bernhard is on the line, this time around, it’s Will’s career at stake. And…you know…at one point, I guess someone’s actual life? When Will finds out the head of his department, Professor Rice, won’t approve him for a full-time teaching position, he’s livid. In Rice’s opinion, Will’s just another uppity corporate lawyer who only started teaching law because it looked good to other people. Of course, Will wouldn’t make a career switch like that just for public perception, but how exactly can he make Rice see that? Well, according to Grace, it’s simple: change Rice’s opinion of him. All Will needs to do is invite him over to dinner, engage in a little conversation that humanizes him, get Rice to see what teaching law really means to him. And—Grace cannot stress this enough—crying will solve everything; sure, the story of Will leaving the door open and accidentally letting his dog run out of the house and get hit by a cement truck when he was seven may not have anything to do with securing a teaching gig, but as long as the tears show Rice a different side of Will, does it really matter?
Cut to the inevitable awkward dinner party, and it’s starting to look like maybe Grace’s idea wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Professor Rice is just not having it; every time Will tries to get on the guy’s good side, Rice finds a way to spin what he says to fit the fancy corporate lawyer image he has of Will. Eventually, Rice excuses himself to answer a text, leaving Will and Grace scrambling to figure out how to fix this mess. But before they can even do that, they’ve suddenly got another mess on their hands: Rice collapses in the middle of their living room, and when Grace goes over to check on him, she tells Will that he’s dead.
Look, when Will and Grace realize they’re in deep, they usually dig themselves deeper into the hole, and it’s a glorious, glorious madness. And this episode is no exception, ESPECIALLY when it comes to Grace. The way she does a total 180 from being grossed out about grabbing Rice’s phone from him so they can call his wife and let her know what happened to making a beeline for the kitchen shears when they realize the phone needs his thumb to be unlocked is the kind of spiraling that feels so in tune with who Grace is. And the fact that Will slowly lets Grace drag him down with her, slowly convinces himself that they’re already screwed so why not just go all the way made for an incredible balance. By the time they realize that Rice’s phone unlocks via retina scan and Will endures prying open his eyelid (you know…the less Hannibal-esque version of Grace’s plan of grabbing the melon baller), they realize that Rice hasn’t officially given his decision on Will’s position yet. And since they’ve already violated about 8,000 moral codes, one more won’t hurt as Grace sends off a text approving Will for the full-time position, as well as a donation to her campaign that I honestly kind of forgot about (whoops?). With that done, all they need to do now is wait for the ambulance to arrive.
Well…that, and recover from the shock of Rice pulling himself up off of the floor.
Turns out, Rice’s blood pressure just dropped for a second, and Grace didn’t really check his pulse when she declared him dead; she just picked up his wrist and pulled off some of her finest SVU acting skills. And any relief Will and Grace might feel over not actually witnessing a death in their apartment quickly disappears when they realize that Rice is going to find out what they did with his phone. When Rice notices the text, he promptly fires Will, which is probably the sanest thing that has happened in this plot so far. But of course, the point where you have nothing more to lose is the point where you finally break through your walls. It’s also the point where Will finally breaks through that fancy corporate lawyer image and tells Rice just how much this position has meant to him: “I fell more in love with the law in these last few months teaching than I did in twenty years as a practicing lawyer.” He’s heartfelt, he’s vulnerable, and by the end of it, he’s tearing up at the joy of teaching and the loss of his position. Will is so incredibly genuine in this moment that you can’t help but feel for him. Rice feels for him, too; despite his better judgment, he’s touched and decides to give Will another chance.
This isn’t the first time that Will’s switched career paths (including the slightest shift from corporate law to the Coalition for Justice at the end of the original run). But it does seem like the first time he’s legitimately passionate about what he’s doing now. We should all be so lucky to feel about our jobs the way Will obviously does when he talks to Rice at the end of this storyline (it’s also striking to me that Grace thinks the tears were fake?). This episode clearly proved that Will would go to great lengths to keep teaching, and even though his actions have been hilariously questionable, I am just so happy that he’s finally found something that makes him so fulfilled.
That’s going to be one awkward as hell work environment, though.
Meanwhile, it’s Jack’s birthday, and since Estefan is working an insanely long flight route this week, that means he gets to spend the night with Karen. Which is probably for the best, because Karen and Estefan apparently hate each other now (of course, everything becomes crystal clear by the end of the episode, but for the entire time I knew about this plot, I was trying to figure out how Karen went from being in full support of Jack and Estefan at the beginning of the season to this). Words might have been exchanged, Karen might have called Estefan a sky waitress, Estefan might have called Karen a hag, and now the two can’t even be in the same room together. Which is totally a problem that can be solved after Jack and Karen celebrate, right?
Come on…you know that’s not how sitcoms work.
Karen takes Jack to The Lily Pond for a lovely dinner to celebrate, and it promises to be a pretty smooth evening…until she excuses herself to the restroom and Estefan walks in to surprise his fiancé. What follows is right out of the classic sitcom playbook, with Jack frantically trying to keep Karen and Estefan apart, jumping from one table to another, making ridiculous excuses to do so (I lost it when Jack told Estefan he had to pee and Estefan realized he did have to pee, why is this show so good). Sure, Jack may be exhausted and anxious and hell bent on rushing through this fabulous dinner, but it seems like he’s about to pull it off. That is, until the cake arrives for both tables. When Karen and Estefan see each other, they immediately devolve into name calling again. And it leads Karen to pull a full-on Dynasty and drag Estefan with her into the eponymous lily pond.
Okay, I don’t know if Megan Mullally’s just contractually obligated to do a little water-based physical comedy every season, but between this and the smart shower plot of last season’s “Who’s Your Daddy,” I am so here for whatever shenanigans arise from it; Karen and Estefan fighting is brilliant, only topped by the fact that Jack is pushed into the pond by the bitter waiter he didn’t remember dating. Once they get out of the pond and Karen pays the restaurant off so they don’t sue, the three of them end up outside of Jack’s apartment, still unable to come to a resolution. Estefan goes into 9A to give Jack and Karen a moment alone, but when Jack tries to get to the bottom of Karen’s feelings, Karen’s got her walls up as usual. And it isn’t until Jack is about to give up on figuring her out that Karen finally lets him in.
Say it with me, people…KAREN WALKER FEELS THINGS.
Listen, I still haven’t fully recovered from Megan’s performance last week, so maybe that fueled my reaction a little bit. But good god, the way Karen says “I need you in my life” so softly broke my goddamn heart. I’ve been breaking it down all season, but clearly this divorce is putting my girl through the wringer. And of course, when your best friend is getting married, there’s that lingering thought in the back of your mind that everything is going to change now that there’s a new person in the mix (I know when my best friend got married almost four years ago, it was a definite thought in my head that thankfully didn’t come to pass). So that mix of the two has to be a lot to deal with. But Jack’s got a heart of gold. Jack would never abandon his best friend of twenty years like that. He promises Karen that his marriage won’t change anything between them, and he does it in the best way: “You’re not losing a homo; you’re gaining a homo.” It’s exactly what Karen needs to hear, and exactly what was needed to mend the relationship between Karen and Estefan.
There is nothing that could ever truly come between Jack McFarland and Karen Walker; as soon as Jack walked into Grace Adler Designs and set his sights on that kitten with a whip, they were bonded for life. And sure, their antics make for some of the best comedy I have ever seen in my life. But to give them a moment like this one from time to time is essential. It shows just how deep that bond goes, how they’re more than just the zany sidekicks of the show. There is so much love between them. And I am so glad they get to show that off.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- Here’s a fun fact no one asked for, but it makes me really happy so I’m going to tell you anyway: the last time Jack’s birthday was the subject of an episode was “Big Brother Is Coming” from the first season of the original run, which just happened to air around the same time in 1999 that “Dead Man Texting” did now. I’m sure they didn’t try that, but that kind of unintentional continuity makes my heart soar.
- I don’t know about you, but I could really use a unicorn massage chair in my life. Bonus points if it talks.
- “Everything alright? You’re usually so much smarter than a toddler.”
- So are we just never going to go in depth about Grace’s campaign, or…?
- “After we split up, I got all the restaurants with a Michelin star, and he got all the ones with the word ‘bucket’ in it.” Yes, this is exactly how I expected the Walker divorce to go.
- First of all, Estefan rattling off all the cities on his route was amazing. Second of all, why isn’t Debra Messing live tweeting this show all the time?
- “You Belvedere’d him” made me laugh harder than it probably should have.
- Karen teaching Jack to tell time and Jack not being able to do it without Mickey’s gloves as the hands is the purest thing in the world, and no one can convince me otherwise.
- “Every birthday, I set a plate for Cher. One day, she will come back to me.” I am Jack, Jack is me. Also, you have no idea how much I missed his terrible Cher impression. ALSO, when the hell is Cher coming back?
- Madeleine Albright is the only person allowed to call Karen a hag, and I have so many questions about this.
- “Aren’t you glad we didn’t melon ball his eyes out?” is a legitimate question Grace asked in this episode, and good lord, I love this show so much.
What did you think of “Dead Man Texting?” Let’s talk in the comments.