Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 5
Posted by Sarah
We’re only five episodes into the new season, and it is very obvious that Will & Grace did not come to play this year. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting an episode like this from my show, especially when we’re in the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, but I am so glad they decided to go there. Telling a story like Grace’s on a sitcom stage is an interesting thing. If it’s done right, it can be one of the most affecting things to see something so hard-hitting and impactful come through in an environment that’s known for silly antics. And luckily, Will & Grace knocked this one out of the park. The writers knocked this one out of the park. Most importantly, Debra Messing knocked this one out of the park. And while we’ve got the silly antics part alive and well in the B-story, I think it’s safe to say that “Grace’s Secret” will go down as one of the most vital episodes of this series.
Grace’s dad wants her to go on a road trip to Schenectady with him, and she is not having it. Martin isn’t exactly a big talker, and the thought of spending all that time in such a confined space with her father isn’t the most thrilling thing in the world. And when she tries to get Will to help her bow out once Martin arrives, he does no such thing. He would give anything to be able to have that again with his dad, and he thinks Grace has been given a gift that he refuses to let her squander. He tells Grace to try to spark some deep conversation on the way to Schenectady, but she knows how Martin handles deep conversation; he shies away from it the second it starts to get too real, and Grace has never seen him cry in her entire life. Out of ideas on how to bail, Grace joins Martin as he tells her that they’ll visit Bobbi’s resting place. But when Martin also mentions how he wants to visit the grave of his best friend, Harry, Grace immediately tries to shut that idea down for reasons Martin doesn’t completely understand yet.
After an awkward car trip, Grace and Martin end up in Martin’s favorite diner for a pit stop before visiting Bobbi, which, for all intents and purposes, should have been innocuous. But since Martin’s way of thinking is old school, he keeps flirting with the waitress thinking that it does no harm, and Grace is not here for it. She calls him out, but Martin’s of the mind that people are too sensitive nowadays, that ever since the #MeToo movement, “men can’t be men.” And when Grace realizes she’s going to get nowhere with him, she tries to shut down the conversation, hoping that they can just eat and be on their way to visit Bobbi. But Martin’s insistent on visiting Harry, and decides now is the perfect time to delve into the memory of when Grace worked for Harry the summer she was fifteen. To hear Martin tell it, he got her this wonderful job, and she repaid him by stealing money from the register. You know there’s more to it than that, even before Grace tells him that’s not what happened, and the way he keeps harping on the embarrassment that he felt and the disappointment over the fact that she never apologized is infuriating. And when Grace has had enough of Martin’s opinions on a matter he knows nothing about, she tells him what really happened that summer: Harry sexually assaulted her in his office.
The above clip is certainly difficult to watch, but it is so extremely important, and I will never be able to say enough about how powerful and thoughtful Debra Messing’s performance is in this episode. You feel everything Grace is feeling so vividly in this moment. You feel all of the frustration and anger when Martin tells her to calm down, that Harry was a good guy and that maybe she was misremembering what happened (honestly, my blood was boiling at that point). You feel her bravery as she recounts that day, the heaviness that comes with remembering every single detail, down to the earrings she borrowed from Bobbi that made her feel grown up. And by the time she tells Martin that the reason she stole money from the register was so that she could take a cab home, it’s obvious that Martin feels it, too. He asks why she never said anything to him about it, and Grace is completely honest: “What if you didn’t believe me? What if nobody believed me?” Because unfortunately, that is still a huge question that comes along with coming forward, and it’s sickening that there are still people whose default reaction is that survivors are lying. Yes, Martin is her father and is supposed to protect her and do right by her. But even the things he said about Harry before he had all the facts — that he had his faults, but he was still a good guy — were huge red flags. And some people think that the solution to being challenged by something that seems out of character for someone you thought you knew so well is just to dismiss it. How could Grace have been sure that that wouldn’t have been the case back then? In that moment, she needed to feel as safe as she possibly could, and that just did not come in the form of telling her father.
To Martin’s credit, though, his trajectory throughout this episode makes a pretty good recovery. The second he learns what Harry did to his daughter, the guilt he feels over not hearing Grace every time she said Harry was being creepy is overwhelming, and he apologizes for not seeing how horrible his best friend truly was. He goes from unwanted flirting with the waitress to crying in front of Grace for the first time in his life because of what his daughter went through. And when Grace tries to tell him that it’s okay, he is so adamant that it’s not. He asks questions; he wants to understand. He asks his daughter how she was able to get through it, and Grace gives him an incredibly real answer:
Grace: Well, you just kind of split yourself into two people: the person it happened to, and the one who gets through the day. And then you grow up, and your life gets bigger, and that stuff gets smaller.
And in that moment, her strength and the strength of every survivor shines through so brightly.
Grace tells her dad that she only ever told one person that it happened, and even when Martin assumed that it was a best friend, I knew the second she said it that it was Bobbi. I love that for all the times we had seen Bobbi criticize and nitpick when it came to her daughter, Grace still felt safe to tell her what Harry did. And when Grace finally arrives at Bobbi’s grave and has a moment alone with her, she fills her mom in on what happened at the diner, tells her that contrary to how Bobbi thought Martin would react, he did okay and she would be proud. She tells her that he apologized. Most importantly, Grace tells her that that apology helped her start to feel better. It’s such a beautiful moment to end the storyline on, and it punctuates the importance of this episode so well.
You can give Debra Messing the Emmy now, because it’s rightfully hers.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there were dudes in the comments of the show’s official Facebook group that trashed this plot. Part of me automatically assumed that all fans of this show would be sensitive to issues like this, because the people I’ve come to know and love through this fandom are. But of course there were men out there who thought it was “unrealistic” that Grace waited so long to tell Martin, that she only told Bobbi and never reported it. It’s stunning to me that there are still people who think recounting one of the most horrific and traumatizing moments of your life is easy, but there are, and they’re doing things like voting sexual predators into the Supreme Court. And that is exactly why stories like Grace’s need to be told. I think one of the more affecting things about “Grace’s Secret” is that we, as an audience, have had Grace in our lives for ten seasons; we’ve invited her into our homes every week for 200+ episodes over twenty years, and we feel like we know her so well because of that. So when she reveals her secret, we’re shaken by it for more than the obvious reasons. And that just might be the key to getting through to certain viewers. It’s a little disappointing that it took the discovery of what happened to his daughter for Martin to start to change his views on this, but he got there. Which means that other people can get there, too. But that’s not going to happen if we let these stories fall into the shadows. Will & Grace did an incredibly brave thing in using a sitcom platform to tell a story that is so heavy and necessary, and I am amazed by the way they shined a light on this. And I am so insanely proud to be a fan of this show.
Meanwhile, the thing that Grace could have used to get out of the road trip with Martin is in full swing. Jack, Karen, and Will are celebrating Jack’s engagement with brunch at Miss Coco’s (as in Coco Peru, and thank the casting gods they brought her back to this show—see season four’s “Moveable Feast” for her amazing contribution to the mess of phone calls that open the episode—because she’s a legend and I love her so much). When Coco brings the bill over and Will and Karen start fighting over who gets to pay, the solution seems simple: whoever has the honor of being Jack’s best man also has the honor of picking up the check. The only problem? Jack told both Will and Karen that they could be his best man so he wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. And with such a dilemma, there’s really only one way to settle it once and for all: spin the wheel of iconic monologues and battle against each other in a lip sync Bitch Royale, and whoever the audience declares the winner gets to be Jack’s best man.
*Clears throat, prepares best RuPaul impression* Good luck, and DON’T…fuck it up.
Honestly, can we get a side show that’s just this? Because holy god, everything about it was brilliant. Will lip syncing the “Leave Britney alone!” speech was everything I never knew I needed; he goes all the way out on this one, and it’s only partially because it used to be his go-to first date move. But Karen holds her own, too, fully deserving that broom drop when she crushes the “I’ll get you, my pretty” bit from The Wizard of Oz. They’re both way too good at this; the audience votes them into a tie, which leads Coco to suggest a trivia contest to see who knows Jack better. Of course, that’s a dead end, too; Will and Karen know their friend so well (Karen knowing how big he is in Red Vines is a level of friendship I don’t think I’ll ever achieve) that they tie again and devolve into fighting about what Jack’s biggest fear is, making the groom-to-be stop everything with an iconic monologue of his own.
Let me just say that Impassioned Jack™ is such a satisfying Jack. He is completely fed up with a practice that started as “some weird thing straight guys came up with as a way to own a woman,” because he is 100% not in that demographic. So why should those traditions be something he has to follow? Or anybody in that bar, for that matter? In Jack’s words, “We are gay men. We make our own rules!” And his rules include enlisting both Karen and Will as his best men. Seriously though, could it have been any other way? Sure, Will has known him longer, but Karen is Karen; any scenario where one of them isn’t standing next to Jack on the biggest day of his life would have been a huge let down. And by the time he finishes his speech, he’s got the whole crowd at Miss Coco’s rallying together to make marriage gay. It’s so great, in fact, that his monologue IMMEDIATELY finds a place on Coco’s wheel of monologues for any future epic Bitch Royales to come.
Last week, I mentioned how Will & Grace is usually great at providing zany B-stories to balance out the weight of a particularly emotional main plot, and this is another shining example of that. Every time we came back to Miss Coco’s, it was pure fun, and it just felt like everyone involved in this storyline was having the time of their lives; I’m not kidding when I say I need to see Eric McCormack lip sync all the iconic things with that level of enthusiasm. But one of the things I loved most about “Grace’s Secret” was that these two stories put together really show you the spectrum of what Will & Grace is capable of. It can bring a voice to important, sometimes difficult stories that need to be told in one moment, turn around to bring absolute bonkers humor the next, and it knows exactly when and how to employ either without diminishing any vital messages in the process. That’s how you know you’ve got something incredible on your hands. And that’s exactly what my beloved show is: incredible.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- More of Coco Peru’s very obvious thirst for Will, please.
- “Have you ever had a gay experience?” “Does breakfast with Will count?”
- During rewatches and scouring the show’s Instagram page like I do, I saw some of the other options on the wheel of monologues, and one of them was “No wire hangers.” And aside from needing a rewatch of the movie immediately, I CAN NOT BELIEVE that we didn’t get to see Karen get all Mommie Dearest up in that bar, because you all know she would have KILLED IT.
- Shout out to Patty the waitress for that brilliant bit with memorizing the specials and generally deadpanning a little comic relief throughout the main storyline. I love her and I really need her to come back soon. Someone figure those logistics out.
- The fact that Jack had to explain what “Leave Britney Alone” is because there were probably people watching who didn’t know made me a little sad inside? I mean…am I old now? Is that what this is?
- “He’s dead to me.” “Well, he’s dead to everybody, Dad.”
- Where is my flashback episode where Jack sneaks into Cher’s trailer to try on her wig?
- “Are you telling me he doesn’t look more and more like Angela Lansbury every single day?” I would very much like to see that reboot of Murder, She Wrote please.
- What I absolutely adore about Debra Messing — aside from this stellar performance, of course — is that while so many people (myself included) were giving her so much love for this episode on Thursday night, she took time to give it right back to us. She put herself out there in this episode, and she deserves every good word about it.
My heart is full. Thank you. https://t.co/KsIM4yiRXC
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) November 2, 2018
What did you think of “Grace’s Secret?” Let’s talk in the comments.
Featured Image Source: NBC
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