“Where in the World Is Karen Walker?”
Posted by Sarah
Every once in a while, this show will gift us what I like to call a “Karen Walker Feels Things!” moment. Most of the time, she’s everyone’s favorite bonkers socialite with a total lack of boundaries, making for some of the best comedy in the series. But then there are those times when, despite her assertions to the contrary, she does do emotions and shows that she is, in fact, human. And those moments pack some of the biggest punches Will & Grace has to offer. That balance between bonkers and emotions — coupled with Megan Mullally’s insane talents, of course — is what makes Karen one of my favorite characters of all time.
Hoo-boy, did Karen Walker feel a lot of things this week. And I felt a lot of things while she felt a lot of things. Even though she broke it off with Malcolm in last season’s finale, you kind of knew that it wasn’t going to end there. Instead, this episode sets off a major shift in our girl’s life that, after two decades, a couple close calls, and that whole faking death thing, seems like a lock this time. And in the midst of all of that, the rest of our crew is each embarking on a new chapter in their lives that makes them temporarily forget to check in on their friend (whoops). We’ve got a lot to cover within these thirty minutes.
But first, I hear wedding bells.
It’s official: Will and Grace are step-siblings, and our Fab Four has gathered for a celebratory—or necessary, depending on who your ask—drink at the bar after Marilyn and Martin’s nuptials. Jack and Karen are having an absolute ball with all of this, cracking jokes left and right (“Your pa’s inside your ma!” “And nine months later, a dust baby.”). Will and Grace, however, are exceptionally traumatized; it didn’t really help that Grace was the one that caught Marilyn’s garter, either. We really don’t get much more than this when it comes to the wedding, but since this is obviously a continuing story for the season, I don’t think we needed more than this little introductory bit. I am so ready for all of this to unfold, though; I was so intrigued by Marilyn and Martin pairing up at the end of last season, and I legitimately can’t wait to see how their relationship plays out and how it affects Will and Grace.
But for now, we turn our focus to the woman whose name is actually in the title of the episode; once the party disperses, Karen stays behind to get a little advice from Smitty. After requesting a doggie bag for her martini, she asks him if he thinks she did the right thing when she broke up with Malcolm. And somewhere in Smitty’s story about buying his wife a ticket on the Hindenburg (which…holy shit) lies the answer she’s been looking for: as long as she’s got Stan’s ring on her finger, he’s the man for her. So everything’s good now, right?
Yeah…you know how that opening scene didn’t end on a joke, even though basically every other episode’s opening scene does? That’s how a sitcom does ominous. Well…that and a time jump.
Three months after the wedding, big changes are on the horizon. Grace is focused on her campaign, giving interviews in her new oddly cultivated presidential voice. Will’s now teaching law at his alma mater, Columbia, and he’s got a fresh beard to prove it that definitely hasn’t been dyed (sure, Jan). And Jack…well, Jack let Karen get into his head about spending forever with Estefan, and now he’s on the phone with his mom, telling her that he’s taking a break from the relationship. But once they each get a mysterious phone call from the police, they snap out of their own worlds and meet up at apartment 9C to try to figure out what’s going on. I absolutely loved Grace’s freak out here, thinking that the cops are onto the fact that she swiped some Lindt chocolates out of the display bowl at Rite Aid, along with a travel-sized Colgate; it was so true to form, and the genuine fear in her was so brilliantly played. Also, please tell me that they knew about Debra Messing’s new partnership with Colgate when they filmed this, even it if it’s a lie; it only makes it better. But when the detective finally arrives, she gets straight to the point: Karen has been missing for five days, and no one knows where she is.
Once they run through her usual haunts—speakeasies, strip clubs, throwing minks at the red paint in Sherwin-Williams, and the like—and come up empty handed, the panic starts to set in. Jack knows that they can breathe a little easier knowing that Karen is, at the very least, still alive; if she wasn’t, he would have gotten an alert on his phone containing her last wishes (honestly, making Jack delete her porn and set fire to Grace’s closet is extremely on brand for her). And now, the goal is to figure out when they last saw their friend. Will’s up first, remembering how Karen nearly walked in on him dyeing his beard in his classroom. She tells Will that she thinks someone tipped Stan off about Malcolm, and she’s scared (which, holy god, when have you ever heard her genuinely say that before?). Will makes an attempt to ease her mind that kind of falls flat, though, so she decides to turn to Grace. But when she walks into the office, all of Grace’s attention is focused on her campaign’s Twitter account and its lack of followers. And while Karen tries to tell Grace that she thinks Stan sent someone to follow her and she’s scared about it, Grace discovers that Mitchell Michael Mitchell (of Mitchell Michael Mitchell Designs, obviously) just tweeted his support for her, and is clearly in her own world about the whole thing. Strike two.
Jack is really the only one who registers the fact that something is truly wrong, even though he doesn’t do too much about it. And I guess it’s not like he can do much about it in the moment, anyway; he’s kind of in the middle of a shower with Estefan. Somewhere in between a shave and getting dehydrated every time Estefan mentions forever, Karen walks in for a final farewell. To his credit, Jack asks what’s happening, but when Karen says there’s no time to explain, he just accepts it, tummy touches her through the glass shower door, and watches her disappear. And I think it really says something that Karen just gave up trying to explain what was wrong once her “I’m scared” didn’t even register for either Will or Grace. It was almost like she was resigned to doing this on her own, and it’s honestly a little upsetting. Why is no one hearing her?
Look, I know that our Fab Four can be a little on the self-centered side at times; that is weirdly part of their charm. But good lord…Karen Walker is not someone who readily shows her emotions. So when she lets her guard down and straight up tells you she’s scared, you take your mind off your beard dye and your eyes off your Twitter account and you listen to her. And when she tells you that you may never see her again and doesn’t tell you why, you realize you just participated in the saddest tummy touch ever, and you follow up on that shit. I don’t really know how I can be surprised about the way they handled it AND not surprised at the same time, but here we are. At least they realized they were in the wrong, though; I’ll give them that. And once they do realize it, the gang starts to theorize what may have happened before Will’s light bulb goes off: Malcolm has to have had something to do with this. After all, he is a member of the CIA with a heart that Karen broke. And just as Jack starts texting him asking if he knows anything about Karen, Malcolm walks through the door, ready to give them another piece to this puzzle.
I know in the past, I’ve said that I’m indifferent towards Malcolm; he had his moments, but he never really stuck out to me as this great love interest for Karen. After this week’s episode, though, I ran right past indifference, straight into the arms of “FUCK THAT GUY.” Because that guy happily accepted a cool $5,000 payday to tell Stan about the affair in an attempt to sabotage the Walkers’ marriage and get back together with Karen. His reasoning? He’s in love with her, and he just had to play the last card he had to win her back. I mean…some people would think that intentionally destroying your love’s world would have the opposite effect, but I guess Malcolm is not most people. Ugh. And now that Stan knows, there’s no telling what he’ll do to Karen, but in Malcolm’s opinion, she’s in big trouble (no thanks to you, sir). So now we know the who, and we know the why; but where in the world is Karen Walker?
Well, I don’t know about Karen Walker, but I do know where Anastasia Beaverhausen is. And I missed her so much.
Crammed into the back row of a tram cruising through the Universal Studios tour, Karen—oh, I’m sorry, Anastasia—is in hiding as a tourist from the Midwest (because with a name like Beaverhausen, that totally makes sense), sipping on a souvenir cup the size of her head and buddying up to her seatmate, Linda. After a few moments of trading pleasantries, Karen starts to dive into her situation, trying to figure out who tipped Stan off about her affair. And leave it to Linda—who’s slowly poisoning her father-in-law, by the way—to provide the logic on all of this; she tells Karen that usually, it’s the ex-lover that does something like that. Armed with this new insight, Karen stops the tram to make her way back to Manhattan. And man, what an entrance she makes when she returns. Clearly, she ran straight into the arms of “FUCK THAT GUY” right along with me.
With a hearty slap and a “YOUSONOFABITCH” (all one word, of course) that may or may not have turned Malcolm on, Karen rightfully tells him to get out of her life for good. And when he’s gone, she realizes that she still needs to get out of town, because she knows that Stan still has someone following her, and she’s afraid of what that person will do. But before she can make a run for it, the detective shows up once again. Karen recognizes her as the person who’s been trailing her, and it’s here that the detective comes clean: she’s not with the police at all. She’s a process server who has been following Karen around so that she could serve the divorce papers Stan filed.
I know that Karen is not faultless here. I know that. But can we just take a look at the hefty résumé Stan has racked up over the twenty-plus years that they’ve been married? He went to prison for tax evasion, told Karen it was totally cool to cheat on him while he was in the slammer, decided to do some insider trading during his library time and got himself an extended sentence, cheated on Karen with Lorraine, moved Lorraine into the manse after he got out of prison, played dirty during their divorce proceedings at first (remember how he froze all her assets and made her live in her limo for a hot second?), and oh yeah, FAKED HIS OWN DEATH, leaving Karen to be the last to know that he was still alive. After all of that, they stuck it out. And somehow, Karen’s once-a-year fling with Malcolm is Stan’s breaking point? It’s stunning to me that after all that Karen has apparently forgiven in the time they’ve been married, Stan isn’t even willing to confront her on this; he simply hands that task off to a complete stranger. It just seems like Karen deserves better than this.
Karen and Stan’s marriage has always been complicated and weird; let’s not forget that Karen was contemplating divorce in the VERY FIRST SEASON OF THIS SHOW, leading to Will and Karen’s first bonding moment of the series. But after everything, Karen does have an immense amount of love for her husband, and my heart breaks for her here; the way she said “Divorce papers” like the wind had been knocked out of her was devastating, and it has honestly been popping into my head on and off since the episode aired. And once she finds out that Jack broke it off with Estefan, she sincerely tells him to stop being so afraid and get back together with him if the love is there, which somehow makes this whole situation even sadder? She knows what she had with Stan, and even though she won’t have that anymore, she doesn’t want her best friend missing out. And yet…my gut feeling on this is that she’ll be better off? There’s obviously going to be an adjustment period—and it’s obviously going to play out this season, right?—but I have to believe that my girl will eventually get through this like a champ. And Will, Grace, and Jack will make sure that happens, being there for her every step of the way. As Will puts it, “You’ve got the world’s best safety net,” and even though they started this episode on the selfish side, I can’t help but agree. That is one solid family, and one hell of a safety net.
And you know, I may be shouting into the void on this one, but, I mean, Karen’s bisexuality is canon…this season would be a lovely time to finally give her a female love interest. Seriously. That would be great. Just think about it, okay?
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- In which Karen Walker targets my weakness for women in suits:
- The bees are dying and no one knows why.
- MAKE JUDITH MCFARLAND VISIT HER SON 2K18.
- Can I just say how much I appreciate the fact that they dressed Anastasia Beaverhausen in the head scarf Karen wore when she took Grace to spy on Helena Barnes at Taco Time all those years ago? Good on this show for recognizing how iconic that look is.
- “Everyone knows I’m dyeing my beard?” “What are you talking about? Nobody thinks that Grace is a natural redhead!” Look, a beard joke had to happen at some point, and we are just so blessed that Karen took the lead on that one.
- Related to the above: Karen fixing the scratch in her purse with some of Will’s beard dye was inspired, and you can’t tell me otherwise.
- “Michi-sota-pennsyl-consin: home of the Fightin’ Caucasians.” Having been born and raised in the “Pennsyl-” part of that equation, I ask you: where’s the lie?
- “Oh my god, I fed her snake to her hamster.” I just…how do you even do that?
- “One time, I took a drink that said ‘Lisa’ on it from my coffee place. I know my name’s not Lisa.” You guys, I think I’m really going to miss Linda?
- Did you see Will’s excited little bounce when Karen said that she’d miss two of them, but not the two they think? Yeah. Unsung brOTP. Fight me on that.
What did you think of “Where in the World Is Karen Walker?” Let’s talk in the comments!
Featured Image Source: NBC