Will and Grace Season 1, Episode 15
Posted by Sarah
We all knew this was coming. We saw the picture on Will and Grace’s bookshelf, and the portrait in Fanny and Billem’s home in “A Gay Olde Christmas.” We heard Grace trying to relate to Karen during Rosario’s funeral by sharing her own experience with the death of a loved one. But Bobbi Adler deserves a full episode in her honor, and a beautifully bittersweet one at that. Debbie Reynolds left such a massive impact on the Will & Grace universe with the handful of episodes she was in over the first eight seasons. We’ve seen characters played by two separate actors from time to time—Will’s brother Sam in the final season of the original run, Martin and Janet in this week’s installment—but no one could ever match the spirit or the energy Debbie exuded as Bobbi every time, without fail. She could never be replaced. Her death could not go unacknowledged. Her legacy had to be honored. And part one of the season finale did exactly that, in a very Bobbi way.
But before we get to that, let’s run down through the bit of B-story we got with “One Job,” because this episode is not going to go easy on any of our Fab Four.
Jack decides to pay Drew a visit at work for an important talk. Never mind that Drew is currently securing a crime scene involving a piano crushing a street performer dressed like a robot; he is so inspired by Karen that he can’t wait to make this next move. He’s been thinking about how Karen and Stan are off on a romantic hotel weekend, and he’s in awe of the fact that even after being married for so many years, they still find ways to keep their relationship new and exciting. It makes Jack realize that he wants that with Drew. This season, he’s shown us and himself that he’s no longer afraid of monogamy, that he actually embraces it. And he wants to take the next step, asking Drew to move in with him. Drew is less than thrilled by Jack’s proposal. And it’s here that Jack goes through Will went through in the original run, when he started dating Karen’s cousin, Barry. Drew just came out, and while he’s fond of Jack, he also wants to see other people. He wants to explore, he wants to experience the life he missed out on during all of those years in the closet, and he doesn’t think he can do that and still be committed to Jack. Jack’s obviously heartbroken—and I’m heartbroken for him—so what does he do for comfort?
Why, he crashes Karen’s sex weekend, of course.
Karen’s got a pretty sweet setup in this hotel. A gorgeous room, Smitty tending to her, Stan about to join her so they can start their passionate weekend; for all intents and purposes, it’s the perfect getaway. The only thing she needs is for Stan to come out of the bathroom to get this weekend started. She gives him the green light, and let me tell you something, the ramp up to this reveal is inspired. You’ve got Karen’s loving remarks: “It’s funny. I know your face so well, and yet I feel as though I’m about to see it for the very first time.” You’ve got the door opening without revealing anyone just yet. You’ve got the shadow that appears from time to time when Karen’s interacting with her husband. And when he finally walks out of the bathroom, we see…Malcolm Widmark?
Look, this fake out would have been SO PERFECT if they hadn’t plugged the shit out of Alec Baldwin’s return for the last couple of weeks. You know that they’re never going to show Stan’s face, because the whole joke lies in the fact that we never see him. But if Malcolm’s return had been kept a secret, I am positive there would have been a fleeting second where I would have thought they might actually go there. And for it to be Malcolm on the other side of the door is…fine? I guess? He wasn’t the most memorable of Karen’s lovers for me, so I’m not entirely sure why we needed to reunite them. But right now, we’re left with two things: 1.) Karen told Jack she was on a hotel getaway with Stan. 2.) That is definitely not Stan. Karen and Malcolm’s weekend commences, and they’re just about to go for round two when there’s a knock on the door, and an emotionally frantic Jack crying out for Karen.
Malcolm is already prepared for something like this, camouflaging himself by matching his pajamas to the curtains of the hotel room so that Karen can open the door to Jack without being caught. Even though Jack’s telling her about the breakup, Karen is doing everything she can to get Jack out the door NOW. But Jack doesn’t want to be alone, and after a pretty decent sight gag with the window, and the smell of Malcolm’s grooming cream making him sneeze, he discovers Karen’s secret agent ex-boyfriend where her husband should be. He learns that Karen has been sneaking around behind Stan’s back, that she and Malcolm have been meeting on the same weekend every year for sex, and even though Karen is trying to rationalize what she’s doing, Jack isn’t buying it. His example of true love has been shattered at a time where he needed it most (my thoughts on Karen and Stan being his example of true love could fill up their own separate post, but let’s just say they’re complicated), and he leaves the hotel defeated, saying that he needs to grow up: “I was naïve to think that there was such a thing as happily ever after.”
Out of every questionable thing that Karen has done throughout the run of this show, this is the only time I can remember where it overwhelmingly feels like Jack is disappointed in her. Even during those occasional arguments where they stopped speaking to each other for a few days, I only ever got anger and stubbornness from them at most. And I don’t know if it’s the one-two punch of being dumped and finding out your best friend is cheating on her husband, but this felt different, and it was not a good feeling. And apparently, it doesn’t sit well with Malcolm, either. He takes a note from Jack, tells Karen that they also have to grow up, and that she needs to leave Stan for him. Karen tells him that she couldn’t make that decision—she still loves Stan, after all—but Malcolm can’t keep going like this. Karen must make up her mind, and he’ll be hiding in the curtains until she does. If we go off of show history alone, Karen might stick with Stan, because she always eventually comes back to him. But I’m not about to make any assumptions; maybe they’re about to open the door for an arc to be explored next season. I’m interested to see where this story goes next week.
But for now, we turn our focus to Bobbi Adler.
Grace has got Will right where she wants him; she was able to get him into the car by letting him think they were going on a spur of the moment weekend trip to Vermont. But when he points out that she missed the exit they need, she stops the car and fills him in on their actual plan of action, which includes driving up to Schenectady to celebrate Bobbi’s birthday with her father and sisters. Will isn’t exactly excited about the prospect of spending the day with the Adlers, but Grace is insistent; it was one of Bobbi’s dying wishes, and she needs Will’s support to get her through. She gives him one job: to back her up and agree with everything she says. But with Grace’s family dynamic, it’s a pretty tall order.
When Will and Grace arrive in Schenectady, it seems as though the Adler family hasn’t changed much as people. Martin is still preoccupied with golf, not taking his eyes off of the tournament on his TV, prompting Will to try to bond with him by talking about how his own dad tried to get him into the sport. Joyce is still unabashedly hot for Will, and I swear to god it looks like they found a duplicate of the outfit Janet #1 wore back the sixth season of the original run and put it on New Janet (I missed Geena Davis, but Mary McCormack 100% held her own here). While Will is getting a crash course in how to putt, courtesy of Martin, the girls have a little sister time in the kitchen. Grace is hopeful that they can get along and get through this celebration, but Joyce and Janet squash that hope pretty quickly. They’re determined to get their dad to sell the house, and they’re determined to get Grace to break the news to her father (maybe, just maybe, this should have been handled after celebrating Bobbi’s birthday, but what do I know). Grace is absolutely against it; selling this house would be akin to selling her childhood, and she is not ready to hand her memories off to a complete stranger. But Janet and Joyce stand their ground and give their sister an ultimatum: either she tells Martin that he needs to sell the house, or they spill all of Grace’s secrets.
Before anybody can tell Martin anything, though, the Adler patriarch gets Bobbi’s birthday celebration going, with a letter that Bobbi wrote before her death, to be read on this very occasion. The letter is pure Bobbi in the best way, with that balance of over the top and sentimental that made her truly shine in the original run. In it, she proclaims this to be what would have been her 55th birthday—interrupting her own thoughts to tell Grace not to make cracks at her age, Janet to stop slouching, and Joyce to put on a bra—before going straight for the heartstrings, saying how proud she was of the warm and loving house they kept while she was alive. As soon as the house is mentioned, Janet thinks it’s the perfect time for Grace to fill Martin in on the plan (again, maybe don’t interrupt your mother’s birthday letter to do this?). And when Grace deflects, no secret is safe. We get rapid-fire revelations from the Adler sisters: Grace slept with Vice Principal Gordon when she was 22, Janet sold Grace the pot she smoked at Joyce’s bat mitzvah, no one fasts on Yom Kippur, Janet kissed the drifter that they found in their house after that one time they went on vacation. It’s too much, too fast, for no reason that Martin can think of, and he puts an end to it, trying to go on with the letter, but ultimately handing it off to Will to finish the last bit:
“Martin, you know how I feel about you. And girls, I love you more than I could ever express in my own words. So instead, I’ll use those of the song I sang at all of your birthday parties. You won’t do it as well as me, but darlings, who could?”
It’s a testament to how brilliant Debbie Reynolds was as Bobbi that I could just hear her voice in my head during the entire reading of the letter. Bobbi was such a dynamic, one of a kind character, that even as Martin and Will were reading it—in no way using the inflections she would have if she were here to read it herself—she shined through immediately. And to top it all off with a nod to Singin’ in the Rain? It hits all the right points for me, and it brings the Adler sisters together, putting their argument to the side. But when Martin asks why Janet is apologizing to Grace, everything comes out. Grace is still set on keeping the house, and asks Will to back her up. Will, however, has been keeping Martin company all day. He knows that Martin isn’t happy, and thinks selling would be a good idea so that he can get on with his life. It’s here that Martin finally snaps—“Get on with my life? I have no life. She was my life.”—and effectively puts an end to Bobbi’s birthday celebration.
By the time they get to the kitchen, Grace is furious with Will. It’s still hard for her to think of selling the house because of the memories that live here. The kitchen alone has tons of them: Will coming out to her, Bobbi telling Martin that she was pregnant with Joyce. It’s too hard to let go, too hard to think of her dad letting go. Of course, Will knows Grace extremely well; it comes with the territory of a 30-year friendship. Of course, he gets to the root of Grace’s refusal to sell. And it has less to do with her father than it does with herself. If Martin stays in this house, if he continues to live the way he has since Bobbi’s passing, Grace can pretend that Bobbi is still there. She can pretend that nothing has changed. And even though she hates to admit it, Grace knows he’s right.
Unbeknownst to Will and Grace, Martin has been listening in on their conversation from the stairs, and let’s Grace know that Will is right on the money. He makes the decision to sell, with the biggest, most valid argument: “It’s a house. It’s not her.” I know how hard it is to separate the memories from the places they were made; my great-grandmother was an anchor for my family, and packing up and selling her house after her passing nine years ago was easily one of the most emotionally difficult things to go through. There are times when we still actively avoid that neighborhood any time we drive close to it, because we know it’s going to make us too sad. But even though the house is sold, the memories are still here. Her impact on the family is still here. Just like Bobbi’s impact will still be with the Adlers, house or no house. And as much as Grace misses her mother, it’s clear that the Adler family won’t be able to get through this by clinging to things that aren’t part of her legacy’s makeup. Martin decides to sell the house; all he needs is somewhere to stay until he finds a new place. And where better to lay down his head than the two-bedroom apartment of his city-dwelling daughter and her best friend?
How will Grace deal with her father moving into apartment 9C? How will Jack deal with the demise of pretty much his only monogamous relationship? Will Karen choose her hundred-year marriage over Malcolm (or will she go a completely different route that hasn’t even been mentioned yet)? And will anyone ever realize that Will was never meant for golf?
To be continued, kids.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- Debbie Reynolds’ birthday was April 1st—the Sunday after this episode aired—and I wonder if that played a part in the decision to put her tribute towards the end of this season.
- If you were surprised by Jack McFarland playing that piano like it didn’t just crush a guy, did you ever really know Jack McFarland at all?
- GIVE KAREN WALKER A FEMALE LOVE INTEREST (she shouts while neck deep in writing her own Karen/Grace femslash). But seriously, you’ve got a canon bisexual character on your hands. It would be nice if once in a while, it could go beyond Martina Navratilova saying she was straight before she met Karen. ESPECIALLY if you’re going to throw a storyline like this her way.
- “He calls me Pancake, ‘cause the first one is always a mistake.” Janet Adler, everyone.
- Also: Joyce Adler, everyone:
- “I’m Khaleesi, and you’re one of those soldiers with no balls.” “That is disturbingly accurate.” I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, but also I lived for this?
- “The blue is lava, so you can’t touch it.” Jack McFarland, never ever let anyone change you.
- “Freshman year, I hosted Wednesday night Dynasty parties.” This actually sounds kind of amazing.
- You didn’t think I would let you finish reading this recap without watching Debbie Reynolds singing “All I Do Is Dream of You,” did you?
What did you think of “One Job?” What do you think will happen in the second part of the finale? Let’s chat in the comments!