Will & Grace Season 1, Episode 14
“The Beefcake and the Cake Beef”
Posted by Sarah
Kids, you do not realize how long it took for me to form literally any other words about this episode than that. This very well could have been the shortest recap in the history of recaps, because “The Beefcake and the Cake Beef” did not come to play, and I was NOT prepared. I knew that things were going to get incredibly real when they brought Michael back into the fold. But silly me, when I realized things were going to get real, I kind of assumed they would get real for Will and Michael. Instead, I was strapped into a straight up rollercoaster courtesy of Will and Jack. The thing about the core friendships within this show is that when they’re REALLY tested—think Will and Grace in “The Kid Stays Out of the Picture”—it knocks the wind out of you with a powerful gut punch, because the little things that tend to be brushed off for the sake of moving forward snowball into something that will only crush you. Not to mention, this particular snowball surely made every single Will/Jack shipper explode in their seats on Thursday night. And this is only the A-story! We’ve also got Grace and Karen doing a deep dive into the First Amendment in yet another “Here’s how to structure your recap, Sarah”-titled episode, so let’s get down to business.
Michael clearly answered Will’s call from the last episode, because they are now two weeks into a rekindled romance. While Will couldn’t be happier, Grace and Jack have some reservations. Aside from all the annoying things that they remember from the first time Michael was in their lives—enabling Will’s George Michael phase, overusing the phrase “vis-à-vis,” etcetera etcetera—Jack also has the nagging suspicion that Michael is using Will. Grace encourages him to speak up; if something seems off about Michael, it’s only fair that Will knows about it before the relationship goes much further. The thing is, because Will and Michael already know each other pretty well, the relationship is going WAY too fast; two weeks in, and Will has already booked a cruise for the two of them. While Will prepares for the trip, Jack’s seeing his excitement and fidgeting with all of the things he’s been keeping inside. Will eventually realizes how uncomfortable Jack is and asks him what’s on his mind. With trepidation, Jack finally lets it out: “I worry that you and Michael are rushing into things, and I think you should take a look at that.” To his credit, Will acknowledges that thing are moving super fast with Michael—yeah, they know each other, but there was a twenty year gap in between relationships—and he tells Jack he’ll think about it. And by “think about it,” he really means letting it fester in his mind until he tries to bring it up with Michael.
When Will sees Michael after his talk with Jack, he meets him in the gym that Michael is working on opening. Michael tells Will that he has something big he wants to talk about, but he wants to do it somewhere a little bit more appropriate. IMMEDIATELY the sirens in my head are wailing because something big to be talked about in an appropriate place sounds like one thing and one thing only, and no one is going to propose in a barely constructed gym. The thought must have crossed Will’s mind too, because he starts to tell Michael about Jack’s concerns. It’s then that Michael gives Will his perception of Jack: he thinks that Jack is in love with Will, and that he always has been. Which is the only reason why Jack disapproves of their relationship and the speed at which they’re moving.
Are you buckled up yet? Because we’re about to go on a ride.
Back at 9C, Will tells Jack how Michael responded to Jack’s insight, and Jack immediately laughs it off. He expected Will to tell Michael that it was a crazy notion, but Will’s not entirely convinced. Since Michael has been in his ear about all of this, Will is starting to think that it makes sense, that it explains a lot of things about their friendship. And Jack rightfully snaps, setting the record straight. It isn’t the idea of Jack being in love with Will that makes sense, but the reason why Will is so willing to believe this about Jack. He goes into a tirade that has the bite of Will and Grace’s argument once he discovers that she’s been seeing Leo behind his back:
Jack: The entire basis of our friendship is that you think I’m just your silly, ridiculous, loser friend who you’ll always feel superior to. And me being in love with you makes me just the perfect combination of sad and pathetic to keep you above me forever.
It hurts so much to hear this from Jack, but if you take a step back and look at all of his interactions with Will, he makes a valid point. I am sure Will doesn’t intend his quips to be malicious, but he does have a tendency to poke fun at him. A lot. And regardless of how great and loving the overall friendship is, I can only imagine how those remarks add up. I’m surprised it took Jack this long to confront Will about it, but this is probably the most valid breaking point out of all potential valid breaking points. It’s heartbreaking, but it allows Jack to be bold enough not to sugarcoat his assessment of Michael: that he is a user and always has been, he’s after Will’s money, and the day Will finally figures that out is the day Jack will be able to laugh in his face. Jack storms back to his own apartment, and on cue, Michael steps off the elevator.
Let’s talk about Michael for a second. I absolutely adore Cheyenne Jackson and I think he did so well as this version of Michael. But…this didn’t really feel like the guy I always assumed Michael to be? Granted, we didn’t know much about him other than the bits and pieces we learned early on in the series, but when Chris Potter guested as Michael back in season two of the original run, it made so much sense to me that this was a guy Will spent seven years of his life with, a guy that he wanted to get back together with. And I get that sometimes you look back on the good times of a past relationship while completely blocking out the bad, and a person can change A LOT in twenty years, but I spent most of this episode being like, “How did Will spend so much of his life with this guy?” And his actions after Will and Jack’s blowup pretty much confirmed my opinions of him.
Turns out, Michael is an expert at the cat and mouse game. He tells Will that he knows that it seems fast, that they’ve only been together for a short time, but he needs to ask him something. He cups Will’s face in his hands, and you can just see in Will’s eyes that he thinks Michael is about to propose. And Michael does have a proposal…just not the one Will thinks he has: Michael asks Will to invest in his gym. As Will tries his hardest to hide his disappointment, he tells Michael he’ll think about it and sends him on his way. Defeated, Will sits down on the bench in the hallway and shouts to Jack that he knows Jack was eavesdropping, and he now has every right to laugh in his face. But that’s the funny thing about family, blood or chosen: you can be angry with them and still be there for them in their hour of need because your heart tells you it’s right. And instead of rubbing salt in Will’s wounds, Jack comes out of his apartment, sits down next to his friend, and offers up his comfort. I’m not crying, you are.
The guys go back inside Will’s apartment to decompress with a couple of drinks. Will apologizes to Jack, and he gets real about how he’s felt about Jack over the years: “I knew that you could either be a guy I dated for a while, or a friend for life. But not both.” And he tells Jack about the time he considered something beyond a friendship for a fleeting moment. I knew, even before Will brought it up, that they were going to loop back to Jack freaking out about coming out to his mom in “Homo for the Holidays.” And Will nails the reason why; there was such vulnerability in Jack at that moment, more than we ever saw in him up until that point and—aside from his Broadway audition in “A Buncha White Chicks Sittin’ Around Talkin’”—more than we’ve seen in him after that point. Will could see it in his face then, and it was enough for him to think, “That’s a face I could love.” Jack, on the other hand, claims that there was never a time where he felt that way about Will. And if you’re thinking, “But what about that confession in D’Agostino, Thanksgiving ’86, Sarah?” I say, “I KNOW AND I CALL BULLSHIT.” Will’s thinking it too, alluding to that time in college, and although Jack plays it off, all I have to say is this: watch “Lows in the Mid-Eighties.” There is no way Jack’s confession was just an act.
If you remember back to my recap on “Who’s Your Daddy” at the beginning of this season, you might recall that I have very conflicted feelings about the Will/Jack ship. I’m still not at the point where I can see them as something other than brothers, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be on board if they turn out to be endgame. To have them cross over into boyfriend territory now would be to completely change the dynamic of the show, and I know the writers know that. But I have to say, they have been leaning heavier on the Will/Jack moments this season than I remember them ever doing in the entirety of the original run. Realizing they want to be with someone they share a history with, all of the revelations of this episode. Even waiting up for Grace together at the beginning of “Three Wise Men” felt like a cutesy couple thing (although one of my hobbies tends to be reading too much into things?). I seriously thought they were going to take it to that place for most of this episode, and my brain was short-circuiting because I was not ready. Will and Jack said throughout their heart to heart that they could never be anything more than friends, but at this point? I’m not sure I’m buying it. It feels like they’re preparing us for a relationship over three decades in the making. And depending on when they decide to do this (if they decide to do this), it may not be the worst thing in the world.
But if Will and Jack do end up being endgame, we’re probably going to have to wait a little while to get there; next season’s episode order just got bumped up from thirteen to eighteen AND the show was renewed for a third season before the first one even ended, and I don’t think that dynamic shift can happen just yet.
The Cake Beef
Before I dive into this half of the episode, I just want to reiterate this sentiment, because I saw this week’s installment being trashed on the official Facebook page for this specific reason, and I guess the people who vowed never to watch the show again after the premiere completely forgot their vow: Will & Grace has always been an inherently political show. ALWAYS. We are currently living in a time where it is CRUCIAL to talk about how much of a shitshow said time is. And the whole reason this revival exists in the first place is because of a ten-minute viral video trying to get people to vote in the last presidential election. Plotlines like these should not come as a surprise anymore.
Karen stops by a downtown bakery on her way to work, because she needs a special cake. She’s preparing for a party, and said party happens to be for the president, which is why the cake needs to say “MAGA” across it in giant red letters (you know, sometimes I can almost forget that my girl voted for that guy, but this week, my girl was like, “Time for a reminder, honey.” Sigh). She gives her order to Amy, one of the bakers at the shop, but Amy is not only appalled at Karen’s order, she refuses to make it because of what it stands for. But Karen’s not about to give up without a fight; she calls the office, tells Tony why she’s being held up, and continues to stand her ground.
When Tony tries to relay the information to Grace, she immediately jumps to conclusions. She’s furious because this is like the case in Colorado, where a bakery refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, and is ready to march herself to the bakery to give them a piece of her mind. Once she hears what kind of cake Karen was trying to order, however, she stops herself, plenty okay with letting Karen fend for herself. I love Tony being the voice of reason here and pointing out the hypocrisy that Grace and a lot of people—myself included—have been guilty of from time to time. He straight up confronts Grace about her double standard: “It’s cool for a bakery to refuse to make a MAGA cake, but not a gay cake?” And it’s so incredibly valid; if you’re going to defend your own free speech, it means defending everyone else’s as well. As Tony puts it, “If Mrs. Walker can get turned away, anyone can get turned away.” That, mixed with the fact that the bakery in question is the one that gives out free cookie pizza samples, leads Grace to go down to the bakery and help Karen out.
Grace makes it to the bakery, and she is doing her best to defend Karen’s right to get the cake she ordered while also making damn sure people don’t lump her into the group of people who voted for 45. It basically goes as well as you would expect that to. Even though Grace tells Amy she understands where the refusal is coming from, it’s still wrong because “Refusing her is the same as refusing marginalized people.” That doesn’t go over too well, with Amy or anyone else in the bakery. With the way 45 has treated the Latino community, the disabled, the LGBTQ+ community, pretty much anyone who’s not a straight cis white dude, no one in that room is entertaining Grace’s defense of Karen. They all believe that Grace’s actions speak louder than her words. But even though it makes her feel horrible, Grace threatens to call the ACLU if Amy doesn’t make the cake Karen asked for. Even though Amy is stunned that Grace would actually do that, she concedes. When the cake is ready, Karen is eager to see what it looks like. And you know what? Technically, it does say “MAGA” on it. Technically. There’s just one slight alteration to the order.
Honestly, it’s pretty fantastic, but it does fly in the face of the original order. Grace tries to get Amy to change it, and when Amy refuses, she tries to grab the icing to make alterations. Amy is having none of it, struggling with Grace until Grace faceplants into the cake. Because if you thought Grace was going to go through an entire cake-based plotline without getting covered in the stuff, you do not know our leading lady. The next day, Amy has a change of heart and remakes Karen’s cake the way it was ordered in the first place, acknowledging that it’s about the principle and not the message. Plus, she’s getting a ton of new business from people on the MAGA side of the fence.
So yes, Will & Grace got a little extra political this week. And no, it’s not the end of the world that they did. If you can bring up a few fair points while still making it funny, I think that’s an amazing feat. Nothing going on with this country is funny right now, so the fact that this episode was able to mix a little humor into this mess? That’s my show.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- “What does ‘vis-à-vis’ mean again?” “‘As it pertains to…’” “…This conversation? You have to focus, Grace.”
- Never stop with the Riverdale references, Jack.
- Grace eating Entenmann’s during this episode is only made better by the fact that Debra Messing requested it.
- “People like me don’t care about the problems of the white working class. That was just to win the election.” Is this why Karen was dressed like a stunning as hell bee? Because she was going to sting in this episode?
- “It’s the Mumu with the GPS on the top.” I love that Karen has Tony reluctantly critiquing Grace’s wardrobe with her.
- Okay, but for real…what happened to Guapo?
- Go-Gurt is a solid part of Jack’s grocery list, and this warms my heart for some reason?
- “She acts like this is the first time we’ve seen her covered in cake.”
- “Why are the hot ones always gay or Nazis?”
- And now for something completely sentimental: according to willandgrace.tv, this is the 200th episode of the show (although I think it depends on how you count the two-parters?), and regardless of whether or not that calculation is correct, I can’t believe that only a little while ago, I was regularly lamenting the fact that they were THIS CLOSE to hitting that milestone the first time. And now we’re getting at least two more seasons of this glorious, glorious show.
Have you recovered from “The Beefcake & the Cake Beef” yet? Let it all out in the comments.