Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 1
“The West Side Curmudgeon”
Posted by Sarah
We’re back, kids! We are officially into the second season of this revival, and I am happy to report that the promise of new episodes is still as exciting as it was this time last year. And I’m even happier to report that this show still goes above and beyond to deliver on that promise.
When we last left our Fab Four, Will and Grace were two seconds away from becoming siblings, Jack got engaged to the guy he brought back from vacation, and Karen reluctantly ended her affair with Malcolm to resume a faithful married life with Stan. And all of that is…100% not addressed in the season premiere (no worries, though: according to the creators, those loose ends will be tended to in the next episode). But that doesn’t mean this season didn’t start off with a bang. This week, we got a new potential love interest for Grace that (ominously?) reminds me of one of the great loves of her life, a mini Will/Karen plot revolving around Karen’s…ahem…assets, and a new reason to throw all of the awards at comedic genius Sean Hayes. I was impatiently counting down the days to the premiere with the rest of them, but goddamn, did this episode make me realize just how much I missed these lovable fools over the summer. This was such a lovely break from all the madness happening in the real world right now, and I was so here for it.
Season two is coming in HOT, so let’s dig in!
Grace is in the middle of her campaign for president of the New York Society of Interior Designers, and she’s trying to play any angle she can to drum up the votes. She takes advantage of the fact that she just redecorated the lobby of her apartment building to hold an event there, which is such a great idea…if only she could put a name to any of these faces (just because you took her to Urgent Care after a spider bit her doesn’t mean she’s going to remember who you are, Mrs. Timmer). That’s okay, though, because she’s got a backup plan. Thanks to a shiny prize of free yoga classes, Grace convinces Jack to blend into the crowd, pretending to be an interior designer to generate some buzz. But when have you ever known Jack McFarland to blend in? Clad in a rainbow flag crop top and yoga pants that accentuate the outline of his Lululemons, Jack bursts out of the elevator and makes an exaggerated scene that probably does more harm than good (“Grace Adler, you say? She sounds single and ready to try too hard!”). So plan A is sinking fast, and plan B is a total bust. What’s a decorator with political aspirations to do?
Have no fear, the West Side Curmudgeon is here (hi, David Schwimmer!).
And when I say curmudgeon, I mean like if the dictionary entry for the word took the form of a human man named Noah, a former author whose tomes are now relegated to 280 characters or less, shouting at some guy not five seconds into his intro because he didn’t say thank you when the door was held for him. David Schwimmer leaned ALL the way in on this character, and it works so well. Thinking that a crowd clearly equates to free appetizers (okay, how safe of a bet is that really? Asking for a friend…who happens to be me), Noah walks into 155 Riverside Drive to the total delight of Will and Grace, who are huge fans of his West Side Curmudgeon Twitter account. While Grace starts fangirling all over Noah, plan C suddenly comes to fruition. See, the West Side Curmudgeon has a bunch of followers; if Grace can get Noah to plug her campaign on his account, she’ll gain one hell of a signal boost. Noah takes one of her pamphlets before filling his tote with deviled eggs and leaving, and Grace is over the moon. She’s gushing to Will about how well her encounter went…until Will whips out his phone and shows her that the West Side Curmudgeon already mocked her on Twitter (“Hi, I’m Grace Adler and I’m running for President of the dumbest thing in New York.”).
Armed with determination and Google, Grace tracks Noah down at a diner, crashing his alone time to demand that he take down the tweet. She thinks it’s hurtful, and since she swears he was flirting with her at her event, the tweet is completely uncalled for. Noah stands his crusty, cynical ground, refusing not only to delete the tweet, but also to acknowledge that their talk at the event in any way resembled flirting. Frustrated that she’s getting nowhere with this guy, Grace exits the diner—you know…once she actually finds the exit—leaving Noah to think that will be the end of it.
Clearly, he does not yet know how Grace Adler operates.
Never one to let something like this go, Grace keeps coming back to the diner, sliding into Noah’s booth to give him a piece of her mind. She tries to plead her case, saying that the whole reason she’s running this campaign is to contribute to the beautification of New York, which is obviously the wrong track to take with a guy like Noah. Because Noah’s one of those guys who misses the good old gritty days of Manhattan, when porno theaters outnumbered cupcake stores, and you would just drink around the drowning mouse in your soda at Little Mike’s. He tells Grace that people like her are ruining the city, and it’s here that Grace refuses to hold back any longer. She tells it like it is, telling Noah that he’s miserable and cynical because he’s alone. And when Noah comes back with a few shots at her own divorce, insinuating that this couldn’t possibly be how she pictured her life to turn out, he wins their second round as Grace makes her exit. Again.
Of course, there’s something about this dude that won’t leave Grace alone. She’s involved now, and she won’t quit until she gets what she wants. She returns one final time, complete with a speech she wrote on some toilet paper while she was in the bathroom (god, that is such a Grace thing to do, though). And she lays it all down for him:
Grace: You’re a coward. You’re afraid of failure, so you never wrote another book again. You flirt with me, but then you deny it so you don’t have to be exposed. You lob little insults at the world, and it’s all so safe. I know you think what I do is lame, but at least I try. I take something bad, and I try to make it better. Without that, without the possibility for a little joy or beauty in your life, what’s the point?
Damn, girl. Of course, Noah does try to slide a snarky remark in there. But when he offers up his rebuttal, he accidentally lets it slip that he Googled Grace, that he actually is interested in her despite any outward expression to the contrary. Once that revelation is out there, it trips him up and makes him tongue tied, much to Grace’s delight. And it’s here that Noah really stops to take a moment to study the woman that’s been hounding him all day. Suddenly, he sees Grace in a new light, and tells her he’ll take down the tweet. Satisfied, Grace starts to leave, until Noah stops her with a peace offering of rice pudding. She could have said no. She could have left things at the promise of the deleted tweet. But you know she’s starting to see Noah in the way Noah is starting to see her, and she accepts, settling back in while Noah gives a little warning:
Noah: Might be a while. The service is terrible.
Grace: I’m not in a hurry.
Ohhhh, crap. I think I’m invested in their story.
I am so here for David Schwimmer in this role, and I wasn’t sure I would be. I was honestly a little on the fence when I heard about the casting—mainly because most of the time, I think Ross Geller is the worst, and I thought it would be hard for me to separate the two—but his chemistry with Debra Messing is incredible, and I am very into the dynamic they’ve established here. But I can’t help but draw comparisons to Grace’s relationship with Nathan here, because she and Nathan basically started out the same way. If you go back to “The Young and the Tactless” from season three of the original run, you’ll see the way Nathan totally gets under Grace’s skin. It’s obvious that she’s irked by him, but there’s still something there that completely intrigues her, that makes her keep running up to his apartment to argue with him some more until they finally agree to go on a date. Which, more or less, is what happens with Noah. Grace is furious that Noah won’t take down the tweet, storms out of the diner only to come back again and again to try to best him, eventually realizing that they’re starting to like each other in spite of themselves. I love this setup, because I think it paves the way for something spectacular. I’m just nervous about the fate of their connection if it reminds me of Nathan THIS MUCH so early into the game.
If you’ve been following all my ramblings about my dear, beloved show, you know how I feel about Nathan. And if you haven’t, let me give you the shorthand: I think Nathan was the best boyfriend Grace ever had. I know the creators have said they are open to David Schwimmer doing more episodes, but for now, we’ve only got five confirmed episodes for Noah this season. If he ends up going the way of Nathan—i.e.: I get attached, and then they break up, and then I get sad and shouty — I’m just warning you now that future recaps may involve a 500% increase in keyboard smashing. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
For now, let’s check in on everyone’s favorite secret best friendship.
Listen, I know I’m biased because she’s my girl, but the only real issue I had with this episode was the severe lack of Karen. What we did get from her, though, was gold. How did it take us until the tenth overall season of this show to get a storyline about the self-proclaimed hoot-and-a-half with a killer rack’s killer rack? Karen bursts into apartment 9C, furious because “I just saw my boobs walking down Madison Avenue.” No, Will, it’s not a medicinal hallucination; she just ran into a woman on her way to Bergdorf’s whose breasts look strikingly similar to Karen’s, and once they got to talking, Karen found out that some plastic surgeon has been giving his patients her boobs and aptly calling them Karen Walkers. And even though Will doesn’t practice law anymore, Karen still thinks of him as her lawyer and presses him to stop this guy.
When Will finally gets a hold of the doctor, he gets him to agree to take Karen’s name out of the equation. It should make Karen ecstatic, but instead, she’s still troubled that there are young women walking around with what she considers her best asset, and it makes her surprisingly introspective about her age. For someone who refuses to reveal how old she really is and continually claims she made a deal with a devil to live forever, it definitely took me aback to hear her talk about how she and Will are only getting older. And even though she shakes it off with a casual jab at Will, Will can see that Karen’s still bothered. Which leads to one of the most heartwarming moments of the night.
That sound you heard on Thursday night was me shouting lovingly at the television at the same time my heart exploded. I just love these two and their relationship so much. The fact that Will said “and” instead of “but” makes all the difference here. He knows Karen makes questionable remarks, does questionable things, and has questionable beliefs. He’s known that for twenty years, and he 100% loves her. And the warmth in Karen’s voice when she tells him, “I know that about you” makes it so obvious that she feels the same way about him, no matter what they might say to each other that would make others question whether or not they were actually friends. THAT’S what makes their connection insanely fun to love. That’s what makes them the unsung brOTP of this show.
So what’s up with Jack during all of this? Well, he’s got his own problems. After finding pictures of Estefan’s former boyfriends and seeing how gorgeous they all are, he’s suddenly freaking out over the video call he’s about to have with Estefan’s parents. He insists that Will and Karen take him to the plastic surgeon that’s giving everyone a pair of Karen Walkers so that he can feel better about his looks before he meets his future in-laws. In preparation for the procedure, Jack must apply numbing cream to his face an hour before he meets the doctor, and honey, he is LIBERAL with that cream. It is all over his face and his hands, he’s licking it off his lips like it’s nothing, and in an instant, everything that cream touches loses all feeling. Add that to the fact that Jack couldn’t figure out the time difference between New York and Spain and the call he thought was supposed to happen at seven p.m. is about to happen now, and he’s desperate to find a way to make the numbness disappear.
Which Will, of course, sees as an opportunity to mess with him a little bit.
You guys, we are not worthy of the blessing that is Sean Hayes’ comedic chops. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard I started crying, but Jack trying to eat a banana while literally everything he needs to eat said banana is numb did the trick. The physical comedy on this show has always been aces, but I legitimately think this takes the cake, and I can only imagine how many times they had to shoot this, because I would not have been able to keep a straight face. After he’s mashed that banana beyond recognition, he finally realizes that Will was messing with him, and he must work through the numbness while he meets Estefan’s parents.
Yeah…easier said than done. Because when Jack finally gets a hold of his fiancé (how he was able to dial correctly with just his face, I will never understand), Estefan informs him that his father just had a stroke and would really appreciate it if Jack didn’t draw attention to it. Of course, when Jack tries to introduce himself, Estefan is shocked, unable to believe how Jack’s humor went from John Mulaney to Daniel Tosh so quickly. But once Jack is able to explain himself through insanely numbed lips, Estefan understands immediately and tries to put all of Jack’s fears to rest. He tells Jack that he doesn’t need to do this to himself to maintain the relationship, because he’s already beautiful; most of all, Estefan makes sure that Jack knows how much he loves him.
When Jack got engaged to Estefan at the end of last season, I immediately thought it was a knee jerk reaction to getting dumped by Drew, and I was convinced that it wasn’t going to last. But now, watching Estefan lovingly reassure Jack that he doesn’t need to go to these measures to be beautiful, because he’s always been beautiful in his eyes (“You’re Peter Pan, but you look even better in tights”), I’ve done a total 180. We’ve seen this relationship go a little bit further than the first introduction, and now that we have, I really want them to make it. I think they’re adorable together, and there’s a genuine connection there, regardless of how fast they’re moving. And while I really did like Drew, it’s just so heartwarming to see Jack happy in a relationship that he intends to stay in for the long haul, after years of jumping from one guy to the next with next to no emotional connection. I absolutely cannot wait to see more from these two.
And after this strong of a return, I absolutely cannot wait to see more of what this season has to offer.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- At the top of the episode, Mrs. Timmer said she lived directly below Will and Grace for nineteen years, to which my friend promptly turned to me while we were watching and said “WHAT ABOUT THE VENT EPISODE?” In the first season of the original run, “The Big Vent” saw Will and Grace eavesdropping on Judy, the neighbor below them who was cheating on her husband with her husband’s brother. I guess technically this happened early enough in the season that Judy could have made a hasty exit to make way for Mrs. Timmer. But still.
- “It’s not a secret, so you can stop talking like a drug dealer on a kid’s show.”
- “I was in AA for the donuts, but I left because of the camaraderie.” “Are we the same person?” I mean, the free donuts and coffee were the reason you decided AA was better than paying for post-divorce therapy during the original run, Grace.
- We’re only one episode into the season, and I already know that they’re actively trying to destroy me with Karen’s wardrobe this year (I mean…you HAVE seen the catsuit Megan Mullally posted on her Instagram, right?!). For the love of god, how dare she slay so hard in this dress?
- Officially adopting this into my lexicon:
- I’m not entirely sure why, but Jack’s delivery of his impression of Karen telling him, “Honey, you’ve got a PROBLEM” made me lose it?
- “You wrote one big novel fifteen years ago that I pretended to read, because the print was much smaller than the cover suggested.” Look, as an avid bookworm, I don’t want to say that I’ve totally judged and dismissed books for that reason, but…I’ve totally judged and dismissed books for that reason. I’m a bit of a monster.
- “’Contact with fingers and other sensitive areas may cause an unwanted reaction.’ That’s good advice for your love life, too.” Listen to Will, people. Listen to Will.
- “How did you know I went to NYU?” I’d also like to know that, Grace, because the last time I checked, you and Will went to Columbia?
- Excuse me, but when did Grace Adler and I become the same person?
- You can actually follow the West Side Curmudgeon on Twitter! And the only person that account follows is Debra Messing, which is so perfect. Who knows if this account will be active once Noah’s arc ends (or even past this episode), but I am just so impressed with this show’s presence since the revival premiered? Between this, actually being able to call or text the number for Grace’s QVC bed linens last season AND GETTING A RESPONSE TO YOUR MESSAGE, and all the behind the scenes stuff on their Instagram story, it’s just incredible to me. They treat their fans so well, you guys. Can you even imagine what it would have been like if we had all this social media during the original run?
What did you think of “The West Side Curmudgeon?” Let’s chat in the comments!
Featured Image Source: NBC