Will & Grace Season 1, Episode 12
“Three Wise Men”
Posted by Sarah
Sometimes, you wish for a certain kind of storyline, and then you wait. You realize the default pairings come first, as well they should. You see the girls getting stuck in smart showers and discussing dead snootches, and the guys facing their age and dismantling conversion camps, and you feel a glimmer of hope. You get a couple episodes where the gang’s all together, which you wholeheartedly appreciate. But by the time you’re eleven episodes in, you’re wondering if it’s coming up any time soon, if you have to wait until next season, if it’s even going to happen at all. And then, in a triumphant return after two weeks of Olympic coverage, it happens.
You finally get your Will and Karen episode. And it is one hell of an episode.
Listen, you know how I feel about the best secret friendship in the history of television. Give me any storyline that puts Will and Karen together, and I will eat it up. Their adventures in “Three Wise Men” gave me everything I loved about their turn as bookworms in “Wedding Balls,” except instead of The Marriage of Equals, they’re hooked on some juicy manse staff drama. It was classic Will and Karen, and it was so worth the wait. But before we get to one of my favorite bonding moments ever, we must first dive into this episode’s namesake…and, incidentally, the tangle of delightfully awkward coincidences that make up the current state of Grace’s love life.
By all accounts, Grace Adler is doing great right now, thank you very much. She just had a date with a nice guy that, from the looks of the full-on make out by the elevator, went well. And she’s got Will and Jack waiting up for her ready to grill her about her the essential stuff; his name, where they met, which Real Housewife is his favorite (Oh, Jack). Grace is happy to fill them in; she met James in the laundry room downstairs (this seems to happen to her a lot? I miss you, Nathan), and even though they live in the same building, there’s definitely no reason in Grace’s mind for it to get weird. Honestly, it’s pretty perfect for her; it requires minimal effort to see him, which is basically Grace’s dream come true. But sometimes dreams get shattered by phone calls from your close proximity beau saying that he thinks their situation is too complicated and they should break it off.
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Never fear, though, because now that Jack’s in a monogamous relationship with Drew (which totally screws up his mom’s plan of the two of them retiring together, but whatever, slow your roll, Judith), he can focus on helping Grace rebound from James. He takes her to a bar in the middle of the day, and I need Jack to serve as wingman for all of the single people on this show. He’s totally in the zone, set on fixing Grace up with just about anybody, but Grace is apprehensive; she’s not the random hookup type. But that doesn’t mean she’s Prudence McPrude, the Mayoress of Prudie Town, either (I can’t help that I watched “Love Plus One” the day before. Coincidences happen sometimes). To prove her point, she just happens to run into her old college professor, Jerry Wise. After the polite back and forth that normally comes about between a former student and a revered professor, Grace fills Jack in on how well she really knows Jerry. But even the revelation that she slept with her professor doesn’t deter Jack from his mission; frustrated that Grace isn’t getting her flirt on, he decides to take matters into his own hands and throw peanuts at the waiter who has his back turned to them. But the waiter is totally into it. And Grace is totally into him.
Back at home, while Jack’s dealing with yet another phone call from his mom, Grace is absolutely feeling herself. She’s bounced back from her breakup and is no longer thinking about James…until he’s standing at her front door with the romantic gesture apology thing on lock. He’s got a bouquet of flowers in his hand, asking her to watch the moon with him, wanting a second chance. He tells her that he panicked because he’s fresh off his divorce (a feeling Grace knows all too well), and the fact that they live in the same building made him hesitate. But he realizes that they had a good thing going, and he’s not ready to let go of that yet. Grace is thrilled and assures him that everything will be fine. There is absolutely nothing at all complicated about their relationship.
Until there is.
With perfect sitcom timing, the elevator doors open to let someone off on the ninth floor, revealing James’ son J.J., on his way to pick up Knicks tickets from his dad. The only problem? He also happens to be the waiter Grace rebounded with in the ladies’ room a few hours earlier. And even though J.J. knows that Grace is seeing his dad, once she tells James to break out the wine so they can look at the moon, he makes it very clear that he doesn’t care in the slightest. Grace ends up agreeing to a coffee date to get him to leave, and she’s almost successful until James invites J.J. to join them for wine. Grace tries to hurry J.J. out of her apartment, handing him a child-sized glass of Pinot Noir while he tells his dad about the older woman he met today. It’s got her understandably squirming, but she’s not out of the woods yet; once she finally convinces J.J. that it’s time to go, he lets everyone know that his grandfather is meeting him here to go to the game, and…oh yeah, his grandfather? It’s Professor Jerry Wise. Because of course it is.
The rest basically writes itself. Jerry is this close to telling his son and grandson that he slept with Grace years ago when all Grace is trying to do is avoid complications, and can’t a girl just look at the damn moon without conflict? She gets Jerry alone, begs him not to spill the beans, sets up a coffee date for next week as an incentive (girl, I hope you REALLY like biscotti). And despite doing just about everything she can do to keep her intimate moments private, the men’s conversation about the pretty girl they’re into quickly devolves into an argument about which one is with the prettiest girl (because dudes are weird about masculinity sometimes?), and it’s more than Grace can take. She puts an end to it, once and for all.
She comes clean, tells them that she slept with Jerry because she was working out a dad issue, and she slept with J.J. to rebound from James. And once James puts it all together and finds out that Grace set up dates with his son and his father, their relationship has passed the point of repair. Grace tries to salvage it, but as soon as she realizes it’s hopeless, she’s working out a laundry room schedule with James to make sure they don’t run into each other. The Wise men roll out of apartment 9C one by one at the same time Jack’s coming home. And considering Grace was so hesitant to hook up at the bar, it’s safe to say that he is stunned. Grace gives him the shorthand version, and in turn, Jack has a newfound appreciation for his friend.
So maybe it didn’t work out with James. Or J.J. Or Jerry. But hey, if this is opens the door to another round of Jack throwing nuts at guys to get them to date Grace, I’m all for it. Now, onto the reason my heart exploded on Thursday night.
Look, I’m the first to admit that Will and Karen’s relationship isn’t always the smoothest. Since they’re working together now (or, perhaps more accurately, Will’s working and Karen’s just doing her own thing in the vicinity), it makes it easier for them to get on each other’s nerves. Suddenly, Karen has nowhere to go when Will goes into elaborate stories about how he can work pressed juice into his day if he hits the tennis courts for an extra workout, and she is having none of it. All she wants is to get back to watching her telenovela, a telenovela that piques Will’s interest, a telenovela that happens to take place within the Walker manse. Karen’s watching surveillance from the kitchen while being able to control everything from alarms to music to the temperature with her phone. Will is completely disgusted by it at first…until he sees Karen’s hot cook and her hot pastry chef share a smoldering glance. (I guess the pastry chef that the two of them slept with is no longer on the payroll?) Suddenly, there’s a sexual tension that he can’t look away from, one that requires the larger screen of his computer to enjoy to its fullest extent. Cue the drinks, cue the drama, and cue the most delightful viewing party ever.
I know it’s such a small detail, but the fact that Will has a martini in his hand while they watch is EVERYTHING. It’s the perfect symbol of his bonding with Karen, and it makes is explicitly clear that he is fully invested in this. Gathered around Will’s desk, they are neck deep in a serious will they/won’t they situation between Pastry Chef and Cook, and it’s here where it feels like the show truly understands me. Just like their story in “Wedding Balls” got everything I’m about as a bookworm, their story in “Three Wise Men” gets everything I’m about when it comes to TV. I am absolute will they/won’t they trash. And if my phone could help persuade my OTP to get there a little bit faster, you better believe I’d be pushing all the buttons. Because neither Will or Karen speaks Spanish, they’re basically winging it when they try to make things happen. Karen’s doing everything she can to get to the good stuff, turning the temperature up as high as it can go so Cook and Pastry Chef have to take their clothes off, queueing up the right kind of porno music to get them in the mood. Nothing seems to be working, though. But just when Karen is about to switch to a different camera, a familiar face and potential solution to their telenovela problem interrupts the proceedings.
Some of these returning characters have been surprising, and my feelings about them have definitely run the gamut. On one hand, I wasn’t expecting Val to come around again, and I was so thrilled that she did. On the other hand, I still have no idea why the hell we need to bring Malcolm back…like, at all…but I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks. Neil’s return was one that I was confused by when I first heard about it. He was funny enough in “The Hospital Show,” but I didn’t really think it was enough to warrant another appearance. I have to say, though, I was fully on board with his return when he quite literally popped up on my screen. His video chat interrupts Will and Karen’s good time as he tries to finally confirm the second date that Will has been rescheduling for years (you’d think that after like a decade and a half, the hint would have been taken…), and just when Will is about to avoid getting Neiled yet again, Neil says something in Spanish to his mom off-camera, and the lightbulb in Will’s mind begins shining brightly. Because Neil’s mom is from Argentina, he is fluent in Spanish, and can translate everything Pastry Chef and Cook say to each other. With that, Will invites Neil over to the office.
Now that they have a translator, they can finally influence the drama in the way they’ve always wanted to. Neil informs Will and Karen that Pastry Chef asked Cook to Atlantic City for the weekend, but Cook turns him down, saying he’s got a thing. Immediately, Will feels vindicated for pinpointing the issue; even though Cook likes Pastry Chef, he is totally stringing him along because he thinks he can do better. So what do you do when you need your will they/won’t they to cut the crap and just admit their feelings? You throw another love interest into the mix. (I can confirm this works…why do you think Frasier was dropped into Cheers in the middle of Diane’s tenure there? To light a fire under Sam’s ass and destroy every single one of my emotions.)
*Clears throat* Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the part of Jorge the tennis instructor will be played by Will Truman.
Will drops by Karen’s place in his tennis outfit with a motive: as Jorge, he informs Cook and Pastry Chef that Mrs. Walker asked him to give one member of the kitchen staff free lessons. Will sets his sights on Pastry Chef, coming onto him, provocatively showing him how to handle a tennis racquet. It’s too much for Cook to bear; he tries to get Will to stop touching Pastry Chef, and that’s when the truth comes out: Cook is completely jealous because of his unresolved feelings, and even though he was waiting for something better, he realized that Pastry Chef is the one he truly wants. While Cook and Pastry Chef kiss, Will’s celebration is cut short by Karen turning on the porno music, and he gets his cue to exit.
Back at Grace Adler Designs, Will and Karen celebrate their victory, and they both acknowledge that maybe working together won’t be the torture they thought it would be. But come on, you know that feeling isn’t going to last too long; the whole point of a secret friendship is that you don’t blow the cover you’ve established. Once Will starts raving about Pastry Chef’s pirouettes, Karen’s checked out of yet another unnecessarily elaborate story, and leaves the office. But it isn’t a true Will and Karen episode without that end moment that proves they’ve affected each other, that their friendship is real. Will realizes Karen left her phone behind, but before he can get it to her, he can’t help himself. He sees that the surveillance on Karen’s kitchen is still up on her laptop, and even though he once thought it immoral, he just has to set off the alarm to make the maid drop one more tray of glasses.
I could not have asked for a better Will and Karen storyline. It feels so good to watch something like this and know that the writers completely understand the wealth of material and the depth of the friendship that comes when you pair these two up. We got a sense of it earlier in the season, when Will offered his own brand of support and comfort to Karen during Rosario’s funeral; when she clung to his arm so he wouldn’t break his hug, you knew exactly how they felt about each other. But this? This shows off the fun side of them, the side that geeks out to the nth degree over something they both love. I just adore seeing them let loose together. It shows how much there truly is underneath the sarcasm and the insults.
Will Truman and Karen Walker love each other. Even if they don’t want anyone else to know they do.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
Honestly, this script had no right to be so consistently fire, and my notes are drowning in my favorite lines of the episode, so please enjoy this curated collection of A+ moments from this week’s offering:
- The gum chewing makes this so much better:
- “Okay, you know the drill. We’ll open wine, I’ll find sugar. There’s frozen pie crust, do you want me to thaw it or do you want to just go at it as it is? It’s your call.”
- “Oh my god, I didn’t know this was gonna be a story about juice. You know what? Back it up, start from the beginning, and really drag it out this time.”
- “That’s sexual tension. It’s the same look Lindsey Graham gives John McCain.”
- “He looks straight. You’re into that now, right?”
- “Please, I fooled around with so many professors in college, and they all magna came loudly.”
- “A good gay porno needs the right kind of music…or so I’ve read in academic journals.”
- “I’m switching over to My Limo. When we last left Driver, he was upside down in a ditch.”
- “You would be such a great mom. You really know how to handle my son.” “She does.”
- “Back it up, start from the beginning…but wait until I leave.”
- I’ll leave you with this: Make Judith McFarland Visit Her Son 2k18. Seriously…I miss her.
What did you think of “Three Wise Men?” Let’s talk in the comments!