Will & Grace Season 1, Episode 6
Posted by Sarah
If I’m being completely honest, I was dreading this episode. I saw the promo photos, I read that interview where Megan Mullally said Karen would be at her most vulnerable and raw, I heard the cast saying how this was going to be an important episode, and I connected the dots. I realized that since Shelley Morrison wouldn’t be returning, they could do just about anything with Rosario at this point, but for some reason, this never crossed my mind until all of the promotional stuff for the episode started coming out. I always assumed she would join the ranks of Stan and not be seen or heard but still be this fully present character (that little bit at the top of “Who’s Your Daddy” gave me hope). I can’t believe we’re here. But, my god…the way this show took something I was absolutely dreading and made it one of their best episodes is astounding. The way they balanced comedy with the weight of the situation is astounding. Megan Mullally is astounding.
But most of all, this farewell to such a big part of the Will & Grace universe was stunning in its beauty and its heartbreak.
I usually talk about the main story before diving into the smaller stories of each episode, but in this case, it doesn’t feel right to end it on the tiny bit of B-story we got. Throughout “Rosario’s Quinceañera,” we learn that Will signed the lease on the empty office space next to Grace Adler Designs so that they could expand, but he didn’t tell Grace until he received a text confirming that the space was his. While logically, this is a really good idea, Grace can’t see anything but a betrayal because he did this without at least talking with her first. Once Will eventually apologizes about not consulting her, he suggests that he run everything by her and she run everything by him. Which, of course, sets off a whole new issue in Grace, because she was under the impression that Will worked for her instead of with her. This issue isn’t resolved in this episode (and really, as they’ve said so many times before continuing with their argument anyway, this is neither the time nor the place), and I’m sure that disagreement is only going to fuel the storyline. Grace Adler Designs has been solely Grace’s for so long that it’s natural for her to have a hard time bringing a partner into the fold, even if it is her best friend. That mixed with the unintentional selfishness that seems to plague her from time to time is definitely the setup for some insane tension and butting of heads in this business venture. But we’ve got the rest of the season to resolve that (or potentially make it worse); this is not why we’re here.
We’re here for Rosario.
Karen got a late start to her work day (so, you know…typical work day) because she spent the better part of the morning trying to figure out where Rosario is. While the group is trying to determine where exactly she would go, Karen gets a call from Rosario that solves the mystery: she’s in the hospital. When they arrive at the hospital, Jack stays in Rosario’s room with her while Will fills Grace in on everything in the waiting room. She suffered a heart attack, but, for the time being, it seems like she’ll pull through. Which leads the group to start to focus on other things: Will and Grace on their newfound business partnership, Jack on Rosario’s cup of Jell-O that she said he could have, and Karen on the quinceañera she’ll throw for Rosario once she’s cleared to leave the hospital, because her parents never threw her one. I have to wonder if Karen’s plan to throw Rosario a quinceañera was because deep down, she was worried about whether or not she would make it. Maybe it was because I figured where this episode was going, but it didn’t strike me as a “we dodged a bullet, let’s celebrate” kind of thing so much as an “if I plan this, she has to pull through” kind of thing. What really fueled this line of thinking for me was Karen’s reactions when the nurse came out, asking to talk to Karen. Karen immediately declines and refuses to look the nurse straight in the eye like she knows what she’s about to hear. The nurse tells her that there were some unexpected complications, and Rosario is gone. Because Karen’s walls are usually so strong, she makes a joke to deflect, but when Grace tries to clarify, Karen snaps at her and storms off.
Two days later, Karen has thrown a quinceañera for Rosario, and the group is now putting together a funeral for her. Everyone is rallying around Karen, but Karen is frustrated to no end that everyone is asking her if she needs anything, because she is of the firm opinion that she needs nothing. And she’s taking her frustrations out on Jack. He’s running around the church to make sure everything is in order — the right picture of Rosario next to the casket, a Bible in every pew — but when the slightest thing is not up to Karen’s standards, she’ll make damn sure it’s rectified, and it’s driving Jack crazy. This is a side of her that no one is used to, and it has Jack wondering if this is what Karen’s really like when she’s sad. But before he can get too deep into that debate, someone ends up crashing the service before it even begins (sidebar: is it too early to call best line of the season? Because damn).
While I will absolutely take Lorraine popping up wherever, I can’t help but feel like her character could have been better used in a different episode. Don’t get me wrong; she was hilarious and the epitome of the Lorraine I know and love and missed so much, and she provided some insane comic relief. Her back and forth with Karen about what constitutes a family is amazing — “You married my father, I slept with your husband, that makes us family” — and her swift jewelry theft made for some excellent visual comedy. But when I heard that she was making a return to the show, I had always pictured a bigger presence in whatever storyline she happened to be in. Petition for Minnie Driver to get another convenient break from Speechless to come play with the Will & Grace crew again. Because I did not get enough Lorraine, and I don’t think it’s right to deprive us.
After Will and Grace have a moment with Rosario, Jack tells them that the priest wants to start the service. He tries to figure out a seating arrangement for the funeral that won’t have him sitting next to Karen, and when he can’t figure out a way to make that work, he loses his damn mind. Oddly enough, Grace is the one to reel him in from this meltdown and remind him of the point of today: they need to get Karen through this. That’s the only thing that matters. Jack concedes, but there’s just one problem…Karen has disappeared. Once they figure out that she’s retreated to the bar next door, Grace offers to be the one to try to get her to come back to the service. After all, she knows exactly what Karen is going through, because she went through it, too.
I was wondering when Bobbi’s death would be mentioned, and I figured it would be earlier in the season rather than later because people would be expecting some sort of tribute. It’s not something that you can just drop in the middle of a random storyline, so to have this be the thing Grace uses to connect to Karen in this moment works so well. Grace’s heartbreak is so real as she tells Karen about her own grief — “On the day of her funeral, my sister had to dress me” — that for a moment you think you’re getting a serious heart-to-heart between two women who just lost someone vital to the life they had always known. But in traditional Grace fashion, it quickly becomes about her, and the fact that she was definitely Bobbi’s favorite daughter, okay? Grace does nail the point of it all — “It doesn’t change how much it hurts” — but you can’t help but laugh at the way she tries to relate to Karen (“I WAS THE LIGHT OF HER LIIIIIIFE”). I’ve read that there will be a tribute to Bobbi in a future episode, but I loved this moment, and I loved how fitting it was to the overall tone of the series…even if it didn’t get Karen to come back to the church.
Back at the church, Jack is giving a eulogy to a packed house, reminiscing about his marriage to Rosario. But since said packed house largely consists of nuns — and they ARE in a church — he’s filling his memories of Rosario with white lies about bickering in the middle of Ikea and thinking about starting a family…you know, the traditional heterosexual marriage they never had. When he tries to pass the torch to Karen, Will lets him know that she’s still not there. Grace comes back from the bar to inform them that Karen’s not coming despite her efforts, and Jack takes his turn at the bat. He’s still super sensitive to Karen’s nitpicking so as not to upset her further, and he tells her that all he wants to do is help. Karen, however, sees this as an opportunity and asks Jack to sing her a little something. And when Jack’s rendition of “Happy” isn’t enough, she starts shouting out dance moves to enhance the performance. This bit is the kind of physical comedy that makes Will & Grace shine, and it makes for a wonderful little reprieve from the heaviness of this storyline. As delightful as it is for us, though, it’s not enough for Karen to return to the funeral. And this is where Will comes in.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Will and Karen are the unsung brOTP of this show. Where Grace and Jack try to get her to feel something, or outwardly make an effort to help, Will knows how Karen operates and he’s not about to contradict that. When he meets her at the bar, he’s not going to tell her how to feel or how to grieve; she thinks she has it handled, and he’s not going to mess with that, because everyone grieves differently. He will, however, let her know that he’s there for her. He’ll hug her even though she keeps saying she doesn’t need anybody. And although she’ll initially play it off, her walls will start to come down with him, because they always come down with him. Where she told Jack not to touch her, she clings to Will when he tries to break the hug. And it’s here where Will tells her the thing she needed to hear the most: “I’m so sorry.” Not an offer of help. Not asking how she’s feeling. Not an attempt to get her to do anything that he thinks may help her. Just an acknowledgement of how truly terrible this situation is. Will tells her that the funeral is over and everyone left. He lets her know that there’s still a chance to say goodbye to Rosario if she wants to, before he adds possibly the most important thing to tell Karen in this moment: “But it’s okay if you can’t.” He is all about letting Karen mourn the way she needs to while letting her know that she’s not alone, and that is the best kind of support to give her.
After her talk with Will, Karen musters the strength to head back to the church to see Rosario one last time. Her “Hi, honey” is so casual that that alone is heartbreaking in its own right. She still has a little bit of her wall intact, trying to reason away her inability to attend the funeral, before finally decimating those last few bricks and getting to the heart of her grief:
Every once in a while, there will be a moment from Karen — like taking one last look at the nursery in “Forbidden Fruit” or telling Stan how she doesn’t think she can do this anymore in “A Buncha White Chicks Sittin’ Around Talkin’” — that takes me by complete surprise with its gut punch to my emotions, and will forever be etched in my mind. And out of everything from her farewell to Rosario, the moment where she sees a spot on the casket, picks up the bottle of cleaner from inside and starts to clean it got me the way those other moments did. It got laughs when it happened, but it struck me as an incredibly beautiful full circle moment. For so many years, Karen had Rosario clean up her messes, made her do ridiculous things without much of an outward sense of appreciation most of the time. But she sees that spot on the casket, and even though it will soon be in the ground, Karen will not have her girl resting in anything that isn’t perfect. It’s one last thing she can do for her. I don’t know if they’re going to address Karen coping with this loss, but I do know this: Karen Walker is one hell of a strong woman. And she has her family in her corner no matter what; Will, Grace and Jack are watching the whole thing with tears in their eyes as Jack realizes: “That’s Karen sad.” And while they give Karen her space, they look on as they hold each other a little bit closer.
This episode is exactly why Megan Mullally has had my heart for so many years. Her comedic timing is so on point and unparalleled; it brings so much not only to Will & Grace, but also to every other comedic work she touches. Give her the opportunity, though, and she will turn around and shatter your heart with a brilliant dramatic performance. And because you’re so used to her making you laugh, it hits you that much harder. There were moments peppered throughout the original run where this happened — they make up a decent portion of my top 20 — but there has never been anything like Karen’s goodbye to Rosario. I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that Rosario has passed, but I really don’t think there would have been any other appropriate time to take Karen to this place, because nobody has affected her life the way Rosario has. I have always been so in awe of what Megan does, but she absolutely floored me in this episode. This is, without a doubt, some of her most extraordinary work as an actress.
In anticipation of the revival’s premiere, I had written a celebration of Rosario — everything I loved, and everything I was going to miss about her. I don’t want to repeat myself here, but I do think it’s important to reiterate how much she contributed to the show, and how she truly was the fifth member of our Fab Four. After the episode, Maggie told me that Karen and Rosario are proof that your soulmate doesn’t have to be romantic, and I could not have described their relationship better than that. Long before Jack first waltzed into Grace Adler Designs, before she built this family she has with Jack and Will and Grace, even before she and Stan married, Rosario was there for Karen. She was Karen’s person. She was her constant. I wholeheartedly believe that Rosario knew her better than anyone else in her life, and she fully accepted Karen for the woman that she is. To have a person like that in your life is an incredible gift, and losing that person undoubtedly creates a void that is difficult to overcome. But the impact Rosario had on Karen’s life—and, really, on everyone else as well—is so evident in her mourning that it becomes a powerful tribute to a powerful character. And just as Karen would not have been the same without Rosario, Will & Grace would not have been the same without her. I am devastated that this is Rosario’s fate, but I could not have asked for a more loving and thoughtful farewell.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- “Sorry I’m late, but I got here as soon as I wanted to.” Using it.
- Jack running around the hospital here was essentially like Jack running around the hospital in “The Hospital Show” — not to mention, his freak-out about the Jell-O was essentially Karen’s freak-out over Stan’s pills in that episode — and it made me so happy.
- “I have been on my own since I was nine months old. I breastfed myself.” Highlighting this moment partly for the comedy of it, and partly for this punctuation:
- I am personally outraged we never got a Rosie at Burning Man episode.
- I am so thrilled they brought Smitty back for this. His bits with Karen are always so amazing, but just on a comfort level, I’m sure it was nice for Karen to see a familiar face while she sorted through her feelings.
- Bless you, Lorraine Finster.
- “I have never been so humiliated without specifically asking for it.” Jack, I have questions, do you have answers?
- The sign in the church welcoming everyone to the service had Rosario’s full name as “Rosario Inés Consuelo Yolanda Salazar McFarland,” and the fact that they kept Jack’s last name in there meant so much to me.
- I threw Emmys at Sean Hayes the other week for “Grandpa Jack,” and this week, I really think Megan Mullally is due for her third. Also, let’s throw more dramatic roles her way, because she can do WONDERS with them. And personally, I just want to see her do everything.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of an emotional wreck did “Rosario’s Quinceañera” make you? Let’s chat in the comments. And remember, the show is off for a few weeks because sportz, but I’ll be back for the December 5th Christmas episode, and I can’t wait to get my holiday on.
Featured Image Source: NBC