Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 4
“Who’s Sorry Now?”
Posted by Sarah
One of the best episodes of the original run of this show is a two-parter called “Lows in the Mid-Eighties” (in fact, it would have taken the number one spot in my top 20 if “Bed, Bath and Beyond” didn’t exist). In that hour, we essentially get Will and Grace’s origin story, finding them at the tail end of their romantic relationship as Will comes out to Grace on Thanksgiving, 1985. We see Grace’s pain, her anger, and her struggle to make sense of it all as her world is turned upside-down. Because for Grace, this moment is very much about what it means for her. There’s just one question throughout all of it, though: what about Will? After all, he had just done something brave and terrifying and life-changing all at once. He was clearly going through so much, his world was also turned upside-down, and yet we never saw his side of things the way we should have. Until this week. “Who’s Sorry Now?” finally explores this pivotal part of Will & Grace history from Will’s side, shining an important light on the pain, the struggle, and the fear he carried with him during his coming out. And after thirty years, Grace gives him the one thing he never thought he’d get. This storyline was vital, and I will always be in awe of this show’s ability to go to these places in such an impactful way.
And then there’s Jack and Karen. Usually with an episode carrying this much emotional weight, there’s a second light-hearted plot that balances everything out (think back to the dead snootch storyline in “Grandpa Jack,” or even that tiny bit of Will/Grace squabbling during “Rosario’s Quinceañera” last season). But what I thought was going to be one of those zany little B-stories Jack and Karen are so good at actually turned out to kick me directly in the feels in its own way (one word: Rosario). This episode just did not let up on the emotions at all. So grab your tissues, kids. We’re going in.
It’s a rainy day in Manhattan, which immediately does two things for this episode: lend a bit to the spooky feel that accents the B-story (which I’ll get to in a bit), and—since I knew a little bit about where this episode was going before it aired—immediately calls to mind the end of “Lows in the Mid-Eighties,” where 1986 Will and Grace AND 2000 Will and Grace reconcile in the pouring rain outside of D’Agostino. So already, we’re going for a mood. Everything’s run of the mill 9C at first: Grace is eating all the almond butter without apologizing for it, Jack is barging in from across the hall to announce his umpteenth life’s calling. But when Grace decides to start cleaning out the closet, she comes across a box filled with all of the letters she and Will wrote each other during their college years, and what’s a better rainy day activity than reading all your awkward love notes out loud? Honestly, I would gladly take thirty minutes of Grace reading the world’s least subtle attempts at giving the green light, because they’re gold:
Grace: “Hey, lover. I hate that our schedules keep conflicting. Will, there’s something that I don’t want anymore, and I want you to take from me. Wink wink, read the back.” (flips the letter over) “I’m talking about my virginity.”
But of course, if you’re going to make Will and Grace reminisce about their time as boyfriend and girlfriend, eventually you’re going to make it to that all-important Thanksgiving. Which is exactly what happens when Grace finds a letter from Will postmarked November 29, 1985, the day after he came out to her. With the letter in her hand, all of the things she felt back then come flooding back to Grace; just thinking about how devastated she was starts to make her sick to her stomach. And even though there’s some hesitation in opening it, they ultimately decide to open the door to this piece of their history. The letter Will reads is short, but heartbreaking: “Grace, I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry.” You can feel so much of what he was going through in those words, that sense of helplessness that comes with wanting so much to make things right with her but also knowing he couldn’t lie to the world, or himself, any longer. And perhaps guided by that desire to make things right with Grace, Will had written a much longer letter to Grace after that initial apology. The only problem is that Grace never even opened it; it has been sitting in that box with its envelope sealed for decades.
Will is pissed, and has every right to be. He clearly poured so much of himself into that letter, crying while he wrote possibly the hardest thing he ever had to write in his life, only to discover that Grace paid it no mind. For her part, Grace is stubbornly standing her ground. She keeps reminding him how devastated she was by that Thanksgiving, how she couldn’t bear to dive into the letter when she received it. She quickly tries to reassure him that everything is fine, because Will eventually apologized to her for that night. And it’s here that Will realizes they have finally gotten to the dark corner of the heart of their dynamic. Will is always apologizing when Grace never does—whether it’s for something small like eating all the almond butter or breaking the Garfield figurine so that it says “I love lasagna” with no context, or for something major like refusing to read the letter—and, in Will’s words, “It’s like I’m always apologizing for the original sin of hurting you. And you never have to apologize, because you’re the victim.” It’s brutal to hear it so clearly spelled out like that. But sometimes, the truth is brutal.
We all know Grace can be a little on the selfish side. Obviously, she was going through a lot once Will came out to her. But her own pain completely shut out any possibility that Will was going through the wringer as well, and her attitude towards the situation now makes it seem like the memory of that pain still shuts that possibility out; when Will says he was crying while writing the letter she never read, Grace incredulously replies, “You cried? I think we know who was crying” like she was the only one allowed to feel any grief, and it’s just so telling of how she’s always seen that Thanksgiving. Grace agrees to read the letter, but at this point, it still feels like she doesn’t fully get it, doesn’t completely understand why Will’s so upset right now; it feels like she just figures she’ll read it to make all of this go away, so they can go on with their day. Will senses this, too, and he refuses to give it to her, eventually throwing it off their balcony into the rain, sending Grace running up and down the block in a desperate search for it.
When Grace returns to the apartment empty handed, she finds Mrs. Timmer at the door; the letter landed on her terrace, and she wanted to return it (after reading the letter in its entirety, of course). After Mrs. Timmer urges her to read it, Grace takes a seat on the bench in the hallway and finally does the thing she should have done thirty years ago. Now, she finally sees what she was blinded to for so long. Now, she finally gets it. And when Will finds her in the hallway, she’s sobbing over the pages, calling herself the worst person in the world for refusing to read this. He brings her inside, initially telling her they don’t need to talk about it, but Grace is insistent; she needs to make this right. Because now, she knows what he was going through. Now, she knows how he used to wish that he wasn’t gay, that he was at one point thinking about hurting himself. Now, she realizes she’s been seeing this in the way that the gay guy/straight girl story is consistently presented: “He broke her heart. Poor her. But you were just being who you are. And you were scared to death that the world was gonna find out and hate you for it.” You can tell by the way Will is staring like he’s not really focused on Grace that everything he felt back then is racing back to him, and it’s devastating to watch. And even though he tries to brush it off (“That was a long time ago”), Grace is set on showing up for her best friend.
Grace’s realization works in a couple different ways here. For the show itself, it’s like they’re acknowledging the way they handled this during “Lows” all those years ago as they work to fix it. For Grace, she acknowledges that Will completely nailed why she never apologizes, and she’s going to make a change. She finally tells Will she’s sorry for everything she did—and everything she didn’t do—after he came out, before telling him something he absolutely needed to hear: “The fact that you are a gay man did not ruin my life. It made it so much better.” I will always be blown away by this show during episodes like “Who’s Sorry Now?” This storyline was so necessary—especially in light of “Lows in the Mid-Eighties”—and while you’ve probably gotten tired of me saying this constantly, I have to do it again: the way Will & Grace navigates these important stories, especially when it hasn’t really been done before, is extraordinary. Yes, this is a sitcom, and yes, it’s supposed to make you laugh as much as it possibly can. But it also has the ability to serve as a lifeline for those who need one. And the fact that the show recognizes that and rises to the occasion every time is why it has always been my true TV love.
While Will and Grace are working to heal thirty-year-old wounds, Karen’s storing a few of her things at Grace Adler Designs while she goes through the process of selling the manse (but last week, Beverley said Stan kicked her out?); between the divorce and Rosario’s passing, there are just way too many memories to live with in that space. And that umpteenth life’s calling of Jack’s I was talking about earlier? That comes in the form of being a newly-certified psychic. And while they start going through Karen’s things at the office, Jack claims to be getting some insane vibrations from the boxes. Karen, however, is skeptical as hell. She thinks the whole psychic thing is just one giant con, and she should know; Lois was a grifter, and her father was “a flim-flam man…when he wasn’t governor of Oklahoma.” According to Karen, “The only thing a fake psychic needs is to find out what their mark wants to hear, and then give it to ‘em.”
Well, if that’s not a challenge to Jack’s newfound ability, I don’t know what is.
Jack finds a bottle of perfume in one of the boxes, and it instantly makes Karen reminisce. Rosario had given it to her because she thought it would bring Karen true love, and when Karen wore it for the first time, she met Stan (okay, I know “Lows in the Mid-Eighties” completely contradicts this, since in that episode Karen was with Stan and had just found out that he’s married when she meets Rosario. But since this is Karen we’re dealing with, and we’ve heard about eight thousand different ways she met Rosario throughout the series, I’m letting this one slide because it’s really endearing, and I want to live in a world where this is canon). But Karen cuts her reminiscing short and tells Jack to throw the perfume away, because she’s through with love; aside from getting her sexual needs met (I lost my damn mind at “Back alley bean twiddle,” holy god), she’s certain she will never fall for anyone again. Look, my girl has been through a lot so far this season; I get it. But it’s just sad to see her close herself off like that. Jack thinks so, too, and wants to do what he and his psychic visions can to change Karen’s mind. And it isn’t until he finds Rosario’s jacket and puts it on that Karen gets a visit from the other side.
If you go back to the original run, there’s an episode in season six called “East Side Story,” where Karen doesn’t want to marry Lyle until she has Stan’s blessing (and Stan, at the time, was “dead,” although we all know how that one turned out…). It’s criminal that I can’t find a clip online of Jack “channeling” Stan through the intercom system of the manse, but I implore you to go back to this episode, because it’s hilarious. The way he channels Rosario definitely fares better than that outing, and Karen starts to buy into it. But when Jack tries to relay Rosario’s message that Karen will find love again, Karen immediately goes back to thinking it’s crap; in her mind, she’s Jack’s mark, and he just figured out what she wanted to hear. Of course, Rosario won’t rest until Karen hears what she has to say, namely that Karen’s a quitter who needs to get back out there. Which is the thing that sets Karen off into one of the most classic Will & Grace bits of all time.
It didn’t really hit me just how much I miss Rosario in the revival until Karen starts engaging in one of those brilliant overlapping arguments with Jack. The way they each rage at the other, the way one of them manages to get the last word in anyway, the eventual 180 into absolute love and apologies. It’s all so brilliant. And this time, it’s got that extra kick of emotion when Jack-as-Rosario gets the last word of “There’s someone for you” in there, when Karen does that 180 and starts to believe it, when they kiss before Rosario’s spirit is gone. Afterwards, Jack asks Karen if he’ll take the advice she was given. Karen isn’t sure; after everything, she’s still skeptical, still convinced that she’s Jack’s mark. Frustrated, Jack leaves the office, leaving Karen alone to toss the bottle of perfume in the trash. But when she tries, there’s a crash of thunder and lightning, a flicker of the lights, and the image of Rosario appearing before her for a fleeting moment, until the office regains power. And with Jack no longer there to blame, she finally believes the spirit of Rosario reached her to persuade her to not give up, and she vows not to.
I wasn’t entirely sure how this plot was going to play out when it started. It seemed like something that could very easily devolve into silliness and end up being kind of detrimental to Rosario’s memory. But I loved this storyline so much. The comedy was incredibly on point, and you could feel Rosario so much throughout the whole thing. The fact that I was able to feel so many things in between the laughs just highlights why I love this show the way I do. And to end it on a hopeful Karen putting on the perfume and dancing her way through the office? My heart swells.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- I very much need to add “Queervoyant” to my vocabulary.
- I’m just going to leave this here…
- 10/10 would read Homo with a Pie before failing miserably at the recipes in the back.
- “I wish I was in bed making love with Grace with a capital G, that rhymes with C, and that stands for ‘Coitus.’” I mean, if that doesn’t get you going, what will?
- “This will cover up the stink of the alcohol, and then maybe you can trick a man into tolerating you.” I really miss Rosario, you guys.
- “I know you go commando when it’s raining.” I am not at all surprised to learn this about Karen, but at the same time, oh my god.
- Karen jumping to catch Rosario after she left Jack’s body was somehow funny and crushing at the same time?
- The fact that Will and Grace’s song was “Dancing Queen” makes an unbelievable amount of sense to me and I love it so much.
- You know how I mentioned “East Side Story” as a precursor to the Jack/Karen storyline? There’s also this parallel:
- This show has always nailed its music placement, and this episode is no exception. I’ve had Louis Prima and Keely Smith’s version of “That Old Black Magic” in heavy rotation all weekend, and I want to see Karen dancing to it all the time.
- “Grace, if we never let horrible people into our apartment, we’d never see Karen.”
- Finally (and most importantly), Will’s letter to Grace may have been triggering. If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, The Trevor Project provides multiple ways of reaching out for help, including the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386, and TrevorText by texting ‘START’ to 678678.
Did “Who’s Sorry Now?” wreck you like it wrecked me? Let’s chat in the comments.