Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 9
Posted by Sarah
Welcome back, kids! You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you’ve missed something until you get it back? This week, it was like everyone at Will & Grace recognized that feeling and decided to take it up about 5,000 notches. Good lord, this episode did not let up, whether it was making me scream with laughter at Will and Jack riding out their crazy high or Grace grappling with her sister’s sudden interest in women, or making me cry myself into a puddle because Karen Walker Feels Things™ and throws them into a stunning torch song. Honestly, I didn’t expect to be alternating between screaming laughter and full-on crying because of a random bottle of spiked chocolate milk, but here we are. My show did that. And it did that flawlessly.
We’ve got a legitimate rollercoaster of emotions packed in what is quite possibly my favorite episode of the season (and I am fully aware that we still have half the season to go), so let’s get to it!
Grace is busy preparing for a big new client, and she can’t have anything messing that up. So of course, now would be the perfect time to discover that her older sister Janet has been crashing in Grace’s private office (I really want to know how the hell Grace didn’t notice, but okay). It shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though; as long as Janet lays low during the meeting, it’ll be smooth sailing. When Donna Zimmer (hi, Chelsea Handler!) shows up, it seems like Grace might actually be able to pull it off; Donna very much wants to get to the point so she can get out of there, leaving little room for Janet to barge in and crash the party. Except for the 30 seconds Grace takes to grab her designs from her office, that is. And it turns out, 30 seconds is all Janet needs.
Because the next time Grace sees Donna, she’s trying to show off her fabrics when Donna decides she wants her new girlfriend’s opinion. And guess who that new girlfriend just happens to be?
I am so here for the dynamic between Janet and Donna. They each have such bold personalities, and watching them play off each other is so satisfying. Not to mention, all of the jokes that kept popping up as Grace was trying to process this new development in her sister’s life made me feel so alive (“Janet, what are you doing here?” “Her.”). I just wish there would have been more time to explore this a little further; the episode had so much going on—and seriously, I have no complaints about that, because everything that was going on was gold—that something had to take a backseat, and I guess this was it. It’s a bummer, because I feel like exploring Donna’s character a little more would have been a lot of fun. But what we did get from this storyline was a much needed moment of understanding between the Adler sisters.
We all know Grace can be a little bit on the selfish side. So when she’s confronted with her sister’s new relationship, she’s freaking out, and it seems to stem more from the assumption that Janet is about to screw everything up for her than from the fact that Janet’s involved with a woman for the first time…even though she does keep insisting that Janet’s not a lesbian (girl, come on, no). And when Donna leaves the room to answer the door (“That must be my intervention I keep rescheduling.”), the issues in their relationship finally get a voice. Grace is so ready to assume that Janet will screw up this job for her because “It’s what you do.” It’s no secret that Grace has always felt this way; think back to “The Accidental Tsuris” from season six of the original run for evidence. But what’s surprising is that Janet actually owns up to being a terrible big sister, and lets Grace know how much she hates that she was never there for her little sister the way she should have been. It’s such an earnest turn for a character that can usually be counted on to provide some of the best jokes of any episode she’s in. And what makes it that much more impactful is the fact that Janet eventually brings it all back to Bobbi.
Recalling the day Grace was born, Janet tells her sister that Bobbi put her in her arms and said, “That’s your baby. Take care of her.” And you can tell that Janet wishes she would have been able to do that; the love is so strong here, and Mary McCormack plays it so powerfully. To Grace’s credit, she acknowledges that she hasn’t been the best sister, either; she remembers how Bobbi used to tell her, “Life is harder for Janet. Be kind to her,” and she knows that she hasn’t been kind. I absolutely love how much of a presence Bobbi still has in this show, how she’s able to provide the foundation for some of the more powerful moments of the show to stand on. And this is no exception. With everything out in the open, Grace warms up to her sister, and tells her that if she’s a lesbian, she will support her wholeheartedly (that’s my girl). Janet tells her that she’s not entirely sure if she’s gay or not (super valid), but she knows she likes Donna. And after some Mumford and Sons ruining innuendo, Janet and Grace resolve to look out for each other from here on out. All in all, it was a beautiful note to end this storyline on.
Look, I’m usually pretty critical whenever they recast a recurring character; I stand firm in the belief that John Slattery is the better Sam, and that Chris Potter is the better Michael (or, at the very least, the Michael that actually made sense for Will to have spent seven years of his life with). But when it comes to the Adler family, the recasts have been pretty solid (just look at how great a fit Robert Klein is for Martin). I remember really liking Geena Davis as Janet during the original run, but damn…Mary McCormack just completely owns this role. She gives off such a distinct vibe that I didn’t necessarily get in “The Accidental Tsuris” but immediately felt like Janet the first time we saw her in the revival (part of it’s got to be the vape pen, right?), and she refuses to quit. But that vibe doesn’t get in the way of the deeper, more emotional moments of the show, like the one we got between Janet and Grace this week. I really hope we get more of Janet as the revival goes on, because she’s so much fun to watch.
Meanwhile, Jack walks into 9C at the tail end of Will’s study session with his law students to show off the shiny new wedding band that’s about to go on Estefan’s finger. It’s insane how close Jack is to getting married, and I’m not the only one who thinks so; Will even gets emotional when he sees that Jack engraved “To my soulmate” on the inside of Estefan’s ring. Jack seems so sure that he’s found the one, it seems like nothing could shake that confidence he’s feeling on the matter. Except maybe some of the chocolate milk Will’s students left behind that—whoops—was laced with drugs in preparation for the rave they’re going to later.
You know how when you’re a kid, your parents try to teach you to not put things in your mouth if you’re not sure where they came from? Yeah…I’m really glad these guys didn’t do that.
I honestly had to stop myself from just throwing a transcript of all the things Will and Jack said when they were high into my bullet points for this recap and calling it a day. Everything about this plot was fire. The jokes, the delivery, the special effects, that random Handmaid’s Tale hallucination, all of it made what could have easily been a ridiculously terrible idea a ridiculously genius one. Once Will and Jack are soaring and marveling at the fact that Will knows words, they start to focus on how big of a word “Soulmate” is. And when Jack starts to break down what being someone’s soulmate entails, he realizes that Will fits the criteria perfectly. But he has to be sure; he takes the wedding ring meant for Estefan and declares that if the ring fits Will, that means they’re soulmates. And to be fair, it does fit…the very tip of Will’s finger. But that’s good enough for them; they’re convinced that they’re soulmates, to the point where Jack wants to call Estefan to tell him this new revelation. I don’t know about you guys, but I was exploding the entire time. There have been episodes in the past that played around with this idea, but none of them felt as blatantly obvious as this one. Yeah, they’re both tripping balls, but still…watching them connect these dots and saying things to each other like “I’m so glad you’re my soulmate” was A LOT. But of course, just like every other episode that explores the possibility of Will and Jack together, as quickly as they’re convinced of their soulmate status, it all comes crashing down as they get into an argument over Will trying to make Jack a sandwich when Jack isn’t hungry, causing Will to throw Jack out of the apartment.
Well. It was fun while it lasted.
When they finally come down from their high, Jack tries to shake off the whole soulmate thing as a product of the spiked chocolate milk (personally, I think there’s usually a hint of truth in the things you say when you’re intoxicated, but I guess that’s neither here nor there). But Will’s definitely still got something weighing heavy on his mind; he wants to know that Jack will still need him once he’s married. And when Jack tells him that of course he’ll still need him, Will proposes that they make it official, complete with vows about how they’ll be in each other’s lives forever. Which by itself is a really cute best friend thing to do, but after the trip these two just had, those vows made me absolutely lose my mind. This episode essentially lit every single person who ever entertained the idea of Will and Jack as a couple on fire, and I don’t think anyone involved is sorry about it.
Here’s the deal: if this were the original run, I would have been able to brush this episode off so easily, like I did with “Gypsies, Tramps and Weed,” and “Birds of a Feather Boa” and any other time the possibility of a relationship between Will and Jack popped up, because those instances didn’t happen very often back then. But now, so many moments have passed between them in the revival that it’s kind of hard to ignore a plot like this. And it’s hard to ignore the little moments within a plot like this; when Jack tries to put Estefan’s ring on Will’s finger, he could have easily just slipped it onto Will’s finger as far as it would go and the joke would have still worked (I mean, that’s how the promo was edited, and it was effective). But Jack trying to jam the ring on there like he wanted it to fit was a definite choice, and I feel like it probably helped to fuel the fire of all the Will/Jack shippers out there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no way they’re going to pair Will and Jack up in the middle of the series, because it would throw the dynamic of the show off to the point of no return. But at this point, we should not be surprised if we get to the eventual end of this series, and they end up being each other’s happily ever after. And they’re doing a hell of a job getting me on board for this possibility.
So where’s Karen in all of this? She’s reached the final stage of her divorce from Stan, and she’s got all her walls up as high as they will go. She brushes it off when Grace asks if she wants to talk about it, she acts like it’s no big deal when Will looks over her divorce papers and says she’s a signature away from no longer being Mrs. Stanley Walker. She acts annoyed that everyone keeps expecting her to break, asking “What do you want me to do, sing a torch song or something?” It’s not surprising at all; when was the last time you saw her readily admit to feeling anything resembling human emotion? But you know she has to be feeling some kind of way about the fact that her marriage of over twenty years is officially over; you can practically hear the way her clipped, flippant responses try to cover it up. So how exactly do you give her an outlet to get all those emotions out without having to be vulnerable in front of her nearest and dearest?
Simple: you let her take a swig of the magic chocolate milk. (When I read the synopsis for this episode, I was trying to figure out how the hell Karen Walker—KAREN WALKER—could ever “accidentally” take a drug, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.)
At first, you’re wondering if the milk has even affected her. I mean, look who we’re dealing with here; the woman knows how to handle her high. But suddenly, the hotdog she buys from a street vendor turns into a microphone, and the laundromat she’s standing in front of turns into a piano bar boasting the final performance of Mrs. Stanley Walker on its marquee. Suddenly, she’s wearing a dress that looks EXACTLY like the one Judy Garland wears in A Star Is Born. And you know you’re in for a ride…just one that doesn’t start right away. Honestly, I would have gladly taken Karen passionately singing her heart out into that hotdog on top of that dryer and nothing more, because it was hilarious. And the back and forth between what she was hallucinating and what was reality was absolutely perfect comedy. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to get to the heart of what Karen’s feeling. We’re here to watch her take it down a notch. We’re here to let her destroy every last one of our emotions as she sings her torch song.
Personally, I can’t believe that there are people who are still sleeping on what an absolute gift Megan Mullally’s music is (I’m trying to do my part here; I told you guys almost two years ago), and I am so thrilled that she was able to showcase her insane talent here. Her rendition of “The Man That Got Away” is absolutely stunning, so full of emotion, and would have made Judy proud (here’s the original for reference; I’m legitimately so happy this show took the time to match Karen’s wardrobe to the film). And good lord, what a perfect song to have Karen sing at a time like this. The thing I find most infuriating about Karen’s marriage to Stan is the fact that he pulled so much shit over the years without any consideration for his wife. There was obviously a lot of love there, if Karen was able to find the strength to forgive him and keep going after prison and infidelity and faking his own death and about a million other things I’m probably not even thinking of right now. And that mixed with the way Stan has been treating her throughout this whole divorce process just makes the song choice so brilliantly heartbreaking. It fits Karen so well, it hurts. And it gives her the perfect outlet for the emotions those divorce papers obviously brought up.
I know Karen has got brighter things ahead of her (and one of them better be Samira Wiley’s character, I swear to god); after everything she’s been through this season, there’s got to be a light at the end of the tunnel. And seriously, Stanley Walker can fuck all the way off with his decades of nonsense. But Karen’s marriage to Stan constitutes such a big part of her life that the question of “What do I do now?”—or even, since this is the farewell of Mrs. Stanley Walker, “Who am I now?”—has to seem overwhelming and answerless, regardless of how terrible of a person Stan turned out to be. You can see the sadness in Karen’s eyes as the marquee dims and everything returns to normal as she comes down from her high, and I love how that sadness isn’t resolved by the end of the episode in the traditional sitcom way. It’s not like she’s going to sing for a few minutes and then suddenly feel better about everything, because that’s just not how life works. It’s a process, one that we didn’t really get to see when Karen was going through this with Stan during the original run, and I’m glad that this show recognizes it this time around and is allowing us to truly see how it affects Karen. I love that the show is letting us see her vulnerable side without compromising the character we all know and love. Of course, I want things to look up for her as soon as they possibly can. But I am such a sucker for Karen Walker Feels Things™ moments, and Will & Grace handles every single one of them with the care they deserve.
Obviously, this storm will pass; this is Sitcom Land, after all. You know that eventually, she’s going to bounce back, and I can’t wait to see how she does it. But right now, I just want to give my girl a big martini and an even bigger hug as she begins to write her next chapter.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s going on?
- “I’ve already been here longer than I want to be here” is my mood in most places.
- Moment of appreciation for the fact that Karen calls it “Chockie Milk.” That’s endearing as hell.
- “I’d love to stick around, but we all know that’s not true” is also my mood in most places.
- “Janet, what are you doing here?” “Her.” If Janet Adler is going to whip out gems like that all the time, I want to keep her forever, that joke made me feel ALIVE.
- The only word Will can remember while high is “Cassoulet,” and really, would you expect anything less?
- What I really need in life is a loop of Jack saying the word “Right” but writing the word “Penis” in air finger cursive. Oh wait, there is one!
- If your vows don’t include “in front of God and all the high-end male erotica in this apartment” somewhere, are they even really vows?
- Of course Jack thinks business casual means cutting the ass out of a suit. Of course he does.
- The fact that the woman in the laundromat saying she was going to steal Karen’s shoes was followed by Karen walking through Manhattan barefoot is the kind of spectacularly subtle running gag I thrive on.
- NBC released Megan Mullally’s stunning full performance of “The Man That Got Away” online after the episode, but according to Megan, it’ll only be available for a week? Which is nuts, but it is what it is. As of this recap, you have about three more days to let Karen gut punch you with emotions, so click this link while you still can and revel in one of the many reasons why this woman has my entire heart.
What did you think of “Family, Trip?” Did Karen Walker make you feel things? Let’s chat in the comments.