“Friends and Lover”
Posted by Sarah
Grace: Things change. I mean, you’re gonna get a boyfriend. I’m gonna get a boyfriend.
Will: Hopefully not the same boyfriend.
-“An Old-Fashioned Piano Party,” 2001
Huh…funny what seventeen years and a polyamorous Ron Swanson can do to a friendship.
In the first season of the original run, there lives a little episode called “Yours, Mine or Ours,” where both Will and Grace are interested in the new guy in their building, and end up trying to figure out if he’s gay through some hard-core flirting at an awkward dinner party. It’s enough to ruin the dinner party, turn the guy off of both roommates, leave that question of his sexuality unanswered and hanging over Will and Grace’s heads, and the two making a declaration that they would never go after the same guy again unless it’s George Clooney (“In which case, we share”). There are a million possible reasons that the storyline didn’t go beyond flirting back then. It was the show’s first season, and they were still trying to build an audience. We were still getting to know the characters, and taking it to that place so early might have felt weird. The season fell on the heels of the downfall from Ellen and “The Puppy Episode.” But now? Now, it’s 2018, we know these characters like the backs of our hands, and we can explore places we haven’t before. And the fact that it’s Nick Offerman who’s the object of Will and Grace’s affection makes it that much better; I was hoping so much for him to make a triumphant return to Will & Grace (and to have a slightly bigger part than his last turn as the hunky plumber Karen almost cheated on Stan with in “Moveable Feast”), and he did not disappoint in the slightest. Not to mention, there’s enough references to bread to keep Oprah happy. We’ve got a top-notch episode on our hands (and I haven’t even gotten to the Jack/Karen story yet), so let’s get to it!
Another night of “Netflix and chillingly boring” in pajamas is in the works for Will and Grace. While it honestly looks like a pretty good night to me, between the struggle to actually type what they want to watch in the search engine and Jack’s critiques when he barges into the apartment, Grace realizes that she and Will have fallen into a rut. They never go out anymore, they don’t do the things they used to do when they were younger (although Grace refuses to let age be a reason). Something’s got to change. But instead of changing into real clothes and thrusting themselves into a more adventurous night, they decide to take Manhattan by storm some other time, signing up for a baking class with a special guest instructor.
Enter Jackson Boudreaux. He’s the star of Extreme Bread, equates bread making with lovemaking, and has literally everyone in a frenzy the second he walks into his Art of Bread class (clearly I’m trying to see how many times I can fit the word “bread” into a single sentence). What was surely meant to be a fun little change to Will and Grace’s routine instantly becomes a competition for Jackson’s attention, as Grace takes her bread bowl up to the head of the class to make sure she has a few minutes alone with Teacher before Will can get to him. And her plan works. After some unsubtle flirting, Jackson tells Grace that he wants to spend some time alone with her, under one condition: because of his celebrity status, he would appreciate that Grace keep quiet about their affair, to which Grace happily obliges. She goes off to bake her bread bowl, and Jackson makes his way over to Will and his challah. Jackson lays on the charm, getting Will to agree to go out with him, asking him to keep it quiet the same way he asked Grace. And even though Will tells Jack and Grace tells Karen, they’re surprisingly good at keeping it a secret from each other. They’re even able to invite Jackson back to their apartment for a night of passion without the other having any clue what’s going on.
That sequence of Jackson’s exploits with Will and Grace is a work of art. The music, the wardrobe (I will never get over Grace’s sexy time nightgown, what is going on), Will’s confusion over the disappearing liquor, Jackson running naked to the kitchen every night to grab the whipped cream. Everything about that progression was so well done and a shining example of why this show is so damn enjoyable. All is well in Will and Grace Land until the morning after Will’s night with Jackson, when Will refuses to give up the second cup of coffee in his hand to Grace and refuses to give a straight answer. Which is fine…Jackson comes out of Will’s room at exactly the right time, and our favorite roommates finally put the pieces together. While Will and Grace are still recovering from the shock, Jackson doesn’t understand the reaction; while he asked them to keep their affairs private, he assumed that since they were living together, they would obviously figure out that he was sleeping with both of them. But now that they know, they can continue their relationship in perfect harmony. Right?
After Jackson leaves, Will and Grace try to wrap their heads around their situation, something that in nearly 33 years of friendship, I don’t think they ever figured they’d have to go through. Will reasons that “We did say we wanted to do crazy things,” but this is clearly something so far out of their comfort zone that they maybe shouldn’t pursue it further. But of course they do. They get invited to a party at Jackson’s loft that starts at 2am. Personally, that would be an automatic deal breaker, since the reason I’m usually up at 2am is to put myself to bed after having accidentally fallen asleep on the couch during Murder, She Wrote reruns, and I swear I’m 27, I swear it. Will and Grace, however accept the challenge and plan to face off once and for all. When they arrive at Jackson’s place, they realize that they’re the first ones there. After Jackson feeds them each a helping of bread with a touch of snake venom for flavor (that was literally the only time I’ve ever seen Grace spit out food. Even the time she accidentally ate the dreaded carrot cake in “Wedding Balls,” she took a bullet for the team), Jackson informs them that this party will only be a party of three. He has one purpose in mind, what he sees as the natural progression of his relationship with Will and Grace: all three of them, in the bedroom, right now.
As Jackson heads into the bedroom to wait for them, Will and Grace inch towards the bed in their traditional stubborn fashion. Each tries to convince the other to leave, but when they realize that no one’s budging, it truly starts to sink in that they’re about to go through with this. Of course, that traditional Will and Grace fashion means they take their precious time, trying and failing to psyche themselves up, still hoping against hope that the other will suddenly tap out. Finally, they make it inside Jackson’s bedroom, about to take their friendship to a place they never wanted to take it. It seems as though they’re actually going to go there, but deep down, I knew the writers were not going to take Will and Grace to that level. And they didn’t (thank god); as soon as Jackson suggests that Will and Grace get started without him, they high tail it out of there. It’s definitely for the best…that’s a bridge that really doesn’t need to be crossed. And I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more Netflix nights in their foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, Jack got more than he bargained for when he journeyed across the hall to steal from Will and Grace’s fridge. As he’s rummaging for a decent party platter for his guests in 9A, Grace finally gives up on Netflix and switches over to regular TV, instantly regretting it when the Trucks 4 Tykes jingle starts playing. And it’s here that I ask what I ever did to this show except love it, because the Trucks 4 Tykes jingle is an annoyingly catchy-for-all-the-wrong-reasons tune that was so clearly inspired by Kars4Kids that both of those songs became lodged in my brain in some kind of diabolical mashup. Don’t know what Kars4Kids is? Let me invite you to my little corner of hell, where you’re not quite sure what your car has to do with helping children, but it really doesn’t matter so long as you can just GET THE VOICES TO STOP (which they do whenever I’m in my hometown in Pennsylvania, so is this just a New York thing or an everywhere thing? Please advise in the comments). Jack doesn’t really understand Will and Grace’s reaction to the commercial; it seems like a completely innocuous ad, and really, what harm could a song possibly do? Soon enough, he’s on his way with a decent spread and a fun new tune to hum to himself. But the next day, Karen’s taking Jack to work, and Jack is still singing the jingle, bringing Karen down with him as she starts to sing along.
Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you see me?
Papa, can you give a darn and give a truck?
Well…the reprieve was nice while it lasted?
Meanwhile, Karen’s at Starbucks with Grace and is faring no better than Jack is. As she’s pouring sugar into her coffee, she’s bouncing and singing the Trucks 4 Tykes jingle before taking a swig off of her flask and heading to her table sans coffee (although, I like to think that it wasn’t the jingle that made her forget to take the coffee with her, but the fact that she just decided to drop all pretenses and keep the flask out). There’s no relief for her, or for Jack; they haven’t slept in days because the song won’t leave their head. As Jack says, “Everything triggers it: trucks, tykes, first names.” Desperate to rid themselves of this earworm, they realize what it’s going to take for that to happen: a good old-fashioned slap fight in the elevator.
Guys, I don’t think you understand how much I missed the slapping. Whether it’s fully choreographed a la “Coffee and Commitment,” or just a good old-fashioned, “I’m too tired to slap you, bash your face against my palm” a la “Cheatin’ Trouble Blues,” something about it just warms my heart. And Jack and Karen’s latest was quite beautiful. Unfortunately, slapping the song away doesn’t help either of them; as they land in their respective corners of the elevator, they quickly revert back to singing in their slap-happy, sleepless delirium. All out of options, they head to the nicest emergency room I’ve ever seen (ah, TV magic) to seek professional help. During their long wait, Jack spots Jackson waiting to be admitted to the ER for ingesting snake venom (who would have guessed?) and immediately fills Karen in on Will’s secret. Karen perks up because “I knew there was something I wasn’t supposed to tell you,” and lets Jack know that Grace is totally sleeping with Jackson, too. They’re so absorbed in the fact that Will and Grace are involved with the same guy, that the impossible finally becomes possible: the Trucks 4 Tykes song has disappeared. They rest easy, understanding that “Maybe the idea of Will and Grace being one penis away from actually having sex with each other cured it.” And Karen is free to reject Jackson’s come-on in the moment I was waiting for the entire episode, because you couldn’t have Nick Offerman guest star without some sort of interaction with Megan Mullally’s alter ego:
Annoying as hell jingle inspired by another annoying as hell jingle notwithstanding, this storyline was an instant classic in my book. It was silly in the best way, in that patented Jack and Karen way. It was trying to kick a coffee addiction. It was convincing Candy Pruitt to get shoulder implants. It was holding auditions for a nonexistent play for their own enjoyment. It was desperately looking for a new TV show to love while holding Bebe Neuwirth semi-hostage and lamenting over the end of Frasier. It didn’t necessarily add anything to their continuing stories, but it really didn’t need to; as much as I love the deeper sides of Jack and Karen that come out in episodes like “Grandpa Jack” and “Rosario’s Quinceañera,” sometimes the pure shenanigans they’re so flawless at are exactly what you need. It was such a satisfying B-story. And with that, we can wait quietly for what the next episode will bring.
*under breath*…So give a darn and give a truck…
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- “Once I’ve taken my bra off, it’s all over.” And in that moment, Grace Adler was every single woman in the history of ever.
- “You won’t tell anyone?” “I don’t know anyone.” Will Truman, I love you.
- “Well, squirt me into a donut, because I’m officially jelly.”
- The fact that Riverdale is Jack’s new Dawson’s Creek makes my heart so full. It’s such a perfect match.
- Say what you want about Karen Walker, but at least the woman is honest:
- If you look in the background while Karen’s singing the Trucks 4 Tykes jingle at Starbucks, you can see Debra Messing trying so hard not to laugh, and it makes the whole thing so much better. Also, I need to see the bloopers for that scene, because you know they exist and you know they have to be amazing.
- Sleep deprived Karen has zero control over the volume of her voice, and for some reason I think it’s hilarious.
- If nothing else, now I know what an eskimo sister is.
What did you think of “Friends and Lover?” Let’s chat in the comments!