Posted by Sarah
Dear readers, we all knew this day was coming. Amidst all of the excitement of the revival and all of the clues as to what this new season would bring, this was the one thing I met with a resounding “Do we have to?” I am, of course, talking about the return of Dr. “Everybody calls me Leo ‘cause my name’s Marvin” Markus. Or, as Will likes to call him…
If you followed Will & Grace week here at HOF, you know how I feel about Leo. I do not have good feelings about Leo. Leo can go home and stay home and never go back outside ever again. But at least if we’ve got to have him for an episode, we’ve also got a pretty solid B-story from Jack and Karen to balance it out. And if we have to have him for an episode, at least the storyline gives me hope that this will be his only episode of the revival.
What was supposed to be a run of the mill gynecologist appointment for Grace turns into an unexpected biopsy of her left breast. Thanks to the sedation, she’s pretty chill for being given that kind of news (but give it a second, she’ll go into full-on Grace Adler mode in a bit), so it’s the perfect time to let her know that her emergency contact has arrived to be by her side. Grace is relieved because she’s expecting Will; after all, he’s the one she leans on, the one she lives with, the logical choice to be her emergency contact. But thanks to total inaction on Karen’s part (girl, I love you, but COME ON), this guy walks in:
Welp. Here we go.
Once we get a status update on who’s to blame for the destruction of their marriage—“Who cheated?” “He did.” All the while, Leo’s maintaining that it’s more complicated than that—Grace is cleared to go home to wait for the results of her biopsy, accompanied by her ex-husband. Grace is obviously annoyed by the situation (with good reason) and she’s on the defensive. She picks at Leo during the elevator ride to her apartment, and while Leo recognizes it as Grace’s worry over her biopsy, she firmly asserts that she’s fine and tells him to go. To be fair, part of Grace’s reactions to the situation might have been fueled by the potential of life-changing news, but I’m sure having your ex-husband unexpectedly thrown into your particularly heavy business doesn’t help things. It’s okay, though; once she tells Leo to leave and opens the door to her apartment, Will’s there for her in her hour of need, dropping everything to comfort her. And in turn, Grace is there for Will in his; he spent the day at the Princess Diana gown exhibit at the Met, and he’s just feeling a lot of things right now, okay?
Okay, these are the kind of Leo-isms that snowball for me to the point where I can’t stand him being in literally any scene. He stands in the doorway like a creeper when Grace told him to go, says something that he HAS to know would set Grace off, and then decides to drive her a little crazy by intentionally getting the last word. It’s an infuriating addition to a big mound of “WHY?” And it works; Grace’s mind is completely fixated on Leo saying that Will should have always been her emergency contact. The test results came back negative—I mean, it IS a sitcom, and her name IS in the title of it, so was there ever any doubt?—but Grace is still stress-eating the strawberry part of the Neapolitan ice cream with a chicken satay spoon because Leo got into her head. She’s not even celebrating the fact that she doesn’t have breast cancer because she’s so wrapped up in what happened earlier. When Will walks in on this scene and realizes it isn’t about the test results, Grace doesn’t beat around the bush; she wants to know what Will thinks about what Leo said—are they weirdly close? Did it affect her relationship with her ex-husband?—to which Will offers up a very royal overview on things:
Will: Remember how we both hated Camilla Parker Bowles?
Grace: We were young. We rushed to judgment.
Will: Exactly. Everyone thought she was the villain, because she broke up this storybook romance.
Grace: Do not forget the hats.
Will: I wish I could. But all she really did was help Charles realize the storybook wasn’t true.
So, it makes Leo the Princess Di of the situation—which is really upsetting—but it drives Will’s point home: yes, they’re closer than most people, but it is in no way the reason she couldn’t make her marriage work. By the time she went to Will for support, she already knew the marriage was over, even after all of her efforts. He lets her know that she doesn’t owe Leo an explanation. But come on, it’s Grace. She’s going to go straight to Leo’s office and explain the hell out of it.
Grace states her case—Will is in no way the reason they got divorced again—and Leo surprisingly concedes…before saying that the real reason they split again was Grace. Clearly this is going to make her go on the defensive again, making her bring up his cheating, much to his chagrin. It’s here that Leo makes the distinction: “That was our first marriage, Grace. The second time, I was in it, okay? I tried. But you never let me back in.” That little pseudo-reveal at the gynecologist’s about who cheated fueled me so much in my anti-Leo stance that the real reveal threw me off. I guess I have to (grudgingly) give Leo a little credit for making an effort the second time, going so far as to take up golf for Grace (which…what?). But here’s the thing: the cheating IS a big deal, and Grace is not the kind of person to forgive and forget that kind of thing easily, if at all. She really tried to make it work with Leo again. But once that trust has been broken, there’s always going to be that thought in the back of her head: if it happened once, maybe it’ll happen again. And considering the way Leo handled it back then—telling Will it was just a kiss before actually revealing that he slept with someone else, and then trying to get Will to talk to Grace for him to smooth things out—I can definitely see how that trust between them could never fully mend. Once they talk it out, Grace tries to leave before Leo stops her to tell her, “You took my heart.” Touched, Grace launches into a meaningful and heartfelt reply about how important he was to her, and how they’ll find the people they’re meant to be with, before Leo clarifies that Grace took the heart out of the anatomy model she knocked over a minute ago (PS, I love how no matter which doctor’s office it is, Grace always feels the need to steal something from it). She returns the heart, they share a kiss, and go their separate ways.
But really, though…if you take up golf to save your marriage to Grace Adler, did you ever really know Grace Adler at all?
After Kim and I watched “Emergency Contact” together, she brought up the fact that they had to bring Leo back for an episode. And I have to agree; it’s all about that much-needed closure. Since the series finale isn’t in play anymore, the last time we officially got “closure” was season eight’s “Love Is in the Airplane,” where they run into each other on a red-eye to London (we just have to ignore the pregnancy that resulted from it). And if you take it as it was, without the baby that paved the road to remarriage, it doesn’t really feel like closure; it’s just unexpected plane sex that resolves absolutely nothing. THIS, however, felt like closure to me. They recognized what caused the downfall of their second marriage, they realized they won’t be able to work around it even though they’ve tried, and they left it at that. It felt like their final chapter and it made me hopeful that we’ve closed the storybook on Leo for good this time. And Grace even got the literal last word.
I kind of wish she would have thrown the heart at him, though.
While Grace is occupied in Ex-husbandville, Jack’s at the Bronx Boys and Girls Club for a temp job teaching an after-school drama class. Or, rather, he’s trying to get out of it. See, now that he’s almost landed a regional dog food commercial, it means he doesn’t have to teach anymore, because he’s basically almost an actor now. He’s about to walk away when he gets a text to let him know that the commercial fell through, and (not so) suddenly, he becomes an acting teacher once again. And his methods at the beginning of the class are questionable at best. He just straight up tells the kids he doesn’t want to be here, and he tries to drill into the minds of a bunch of pre-teens that acting is about rejection and nothing else. Such an uplifting message for an after-school program, isn’t it?
Through all of this, Jack focuses his attention on Jordan, a shy kid who wants to be a fireman when he grows up and gets a little stage fright when he has to sing in front of the group. Sure, Jack’s hard on him for no real reason at first, but when he sees that Jordan is scared to perform, his softer side breaks through. He stops his piano accompaniment to give a little encouragement and advice to Jordan: “Everybody gets scared, but you can’t stop trying. When you’re an actor, you gotta believe in yourself, even when you don’t.” Regardless of whether you’re an actor, this is honestly something everyone should take to heart and keep with them always. I, for one, am the worst at putting myself out there without letting self-consciousness get the better of me (although I am getting better at it), and I think I need this embroidered on a throw pillow. It spoke to Jordan, too; before Jack can even start playing the piano again, he starts singing a gorgeous rendition of “Ben” that gave me chills when I heard it. Jack is floored by it as well, although he may not have taken away the right moral of this story: “I am an incredible teacher!” Okay, he gave the advice, but…*sigh* you know what? Good job, Jack.
Meanwhile, Karen blows off work—since Grace is at the gynecologist’s—to sit in on Jack’s lesson and catches the attention of Tasha, the girl sitting by herself on the bleachers. Tasha starts asking questions about where she can find a doctor for herself. Immediately, Karen acts like she wants nothing to do with this. But once she realizes that Tasha’s mother isn’t in the picture and she has no female figure in her life to talk to, she starts to slowly offer her help in that good old-fashioned Karen Walker way: “I got a working relationship with every doctor on Park Avenue.” And while Tasha refuses to put a voice to it, Karen eventually realizes what the situation is: she just got her first period.
You may be thinking that Karen’s the last person to be guiding a young woman on this journey. But you would be mistaken. Karen tells Tasha how to handle it, and when the girl comes out of the bathroom, Karen’s ready to wash her hands of the whole thing…until something inside her tells her to stop and make sure Tasha’s going to be okay after this. And when she fully realizes that Tasha really doesn’t have anyone to talk to about these things, she steps in to give her some comfort by telling her the story of her first period:
Karen: Honey, I know what just happened was a big deal. It isn’t fun, but this day never is. For me, it was the summer of fift…sixt…seventy…nine. I was sitting on my front porch, listening to my transist…my Walkma…my iPod Shuffle. And then it happened. I just wanted to run into my room and hide, but my mom’s idiot boyfriend screamed to the whole neighborhood, “Hey! Lois’s kid just became a woman.” Then my mom celebrated by opening her bottle of good scotch and giving everybody in the neighborhood a drink. Everyone except the anxious twelve-year-old who needed it the most. Look, Tasha, the point is, I survived. And so will you.
Karen’s past is so vague—at different times in the original run, she’s tried to pass of the plots of To Sir, With Love, Norma Rae, and Heidi off as major life events—that every time we get a legitimate story, it’s almost jarring. Because the little bits we do know about her childhood aren’t pleasant; they’re filled with her mother’s scams, moving to a new town after new town after new town, and being forced to give up her first love because of another one of her mom’s cons. But these windows into her life give a depth to her that makes you feel for her so deeply. More importantly, though, this storyline is such a wonderful example of the Karen Walker I hold dear to my heart. She has her walls up most of the time; she’ll hurl snark at you and act like nothing affects her. Once she’s invested in you, though, she’ll start to pull away the bricks one by one—not so much that she’s completely unguarded (although that has happened before…ahem, “I Second That Emotion”), but enough to allow for a genuine connection. Because in spite of all her tricks, she actually cares. She’ll look out for you, she’ll make sure you’re okay, she’ll show you how you can get through it. And then she’ll boop your nose and melt your heart. These moments are few and far between throughout the entirety of Will & Grace, but it has to be that way; if they were any more frequent, they wouldn’t feel genuine, and they wouldn’t hit as hard as they do. But I love when they happen, because they shape her character into far more than a pill-popping socialite.
Karen Walker feels things, and I adore her so much for it.
Honey…What’s this? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- “Honey, I did ayahuasca with Shaman last night. I don’t know if it’s raining or Tuesday.” Never change and never leave me, Karen Walker.
- Seriously…never change:
- “I’m Sheila, your nurse. I used to work at the sperm bank, where you tried to have a gay baby…or the donor was gay. I don’t know, it was super gay.” Nurse Sheila is back! And she hasn’t changed a bit. I love the throwbacks to the original run that have been happening all over the place, and I hope they keep it up.
- Debra Messing’s son Roman made his Will & Grace debut as the kid who’s definitely too young to get Jack’s joke about performance anxiety.
- “If I seem intense, it’s for one reason and one reason only, ‘kay? I don’t wanna be here and I’m really sad.” I’m stealing this for later, thanks. And while I’m at it, I’ll take “Pickles to heck” too. I’m sure I can use that somewhere.
- No for real, what the hell happened to make Will and Vince split?
- I’m kind of upset that this deleted scene didn’t make the cut. Not only does it feature Jack in full-on performer mode, he ends it with what I am taking as a nod to Cher’s infamous “Follow this, you bitches” monologue from the Farewell Tour, and you can’t tell me that it’s not. His diva is my diva too.
What did you think of “Emergency Contact?” Let’s chat in the comments!