Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 11
“The Scales of Justice”
Posted by Sarah
Kids, I’ve been your faithful Will & Grace recapper for nearly two seasons, and I feel like you know me pretty well by now. So I feel like you know how thrilled I was to see that we got an episode for the out-of-norm pairs. And what an episode! This week, Grace and Jack’s extreme dieting led to the kind of physical comedy I thrive on. And Will helping Karen repair her relationship with her stepdaughter provided a beautiful emotional balance. Sure, the storyline may have flown in the face of continuity, but I guess I can let it slide if it means that Karen Walker Feels Things™. We’ve got a lot to discuss, so let’s get to it!
Leave it to a wayward cannoli to get you to reexamine what you’re doing with your life. After coming home from an extremely satisfying dinner, Jack and Grace are debating who gets the leftover dessert when it falls from the bag to the floor. And when they bend down to pick it up, both of them split their pants and decide to make a few lifestyle changes. Thus begins a dieting regimen that I honestly don’t think would have worked with any other pairing on the show. When you put Grace and Jack together, they feed off of each other so well. Jack’s a little more on and a little less straitlaced than Will is, so it allows Grace to unleash a little faster than usual. And when you leave them unsupervised, you’re guaranteed some A-plus comedy, all while highlighting how ridiculous dieting can be sometimes.
Once they’ve assessed each other’s bodies like good friends do—where do I get Jack’s kimono, honestly—Grace and Jack embark on a strict new diet, since Jack’s getting married in a couple of months, and Grace is “a woman who’s alive” (aren’t beauty standards such a joy?). From dipping a carrot in soda water and calling it a Carrot Fizz to swallowing gum while watching Chef’s Table, these two are all about unsatisfying meal choices and pretending like they feel great about it. They’re actually doing a good job of lying to themselves…until Grace has the audacity to try and put a few croutons on her salad. And holy god, this level of physical comedy from this is one of the reasons why I love this show so extremely much. The way Jack tries to pry the crouton from Grace’s mouth into his own, the way he throws the container across the room (which, I have been asked by more than one person to point out the fact that it was a very weird container for croutons to be in. So there. But it’s not like you’re going to get the same comedic effect with a bag, right?). Not to mention the way Grace full on tackles him when she realizes that he’s eating the croutons off the floor. Their insane struggle is real and it’s hilarious.
One week into their diet, it’s time for their first weigh-in. And aside from the adorable little girls selling chocolate in the building (“Would you like to buy a candy bar?” “Would YOU like to never see your families again?!”), they’re keeping the delusion that they’re making good decisions alive. That is, until they actually face the scale. And by the time they’re negotiating how many pounds they can subtract from their total due to clothes and bras and wenises (oh, Jack…), Grace has had enough. She wonders why they’re doing this to themselves. They’re both relatively healthy, and while they sometimes don’t make the best choices when it comes to food, they don’t need to be as drastic with their lifestyle changes as they have been over the past week. It’s then that Grace proposes that they both go easier on themselves, and Jack is fully on board. And even after all of the top-notch physical comedy this storyline provided, it’s good to see these two end it on a note like this, realizing that they can balance their diet and still be happy. After all, no one can really eat the way they could when they were younger.
Except for Will, who walks in with candy bars and loses three pounds like it’s nothing and should maybe watch his back around Jack and Grace right now. Let’s see if he makes it to the next episode.
On the flip side, Will’s starting a brand new semester at Columbia, and after finding a few reviews online saying that he lacks spontaneity, he’s determined to be a more fun teacher. Which apparently means teaching himself the ukulele so he can sing the syllabus to his new students? Jack’s idea is a little better; turning the classroom into an episode of Judge Judy would be pretty fun, but Will’s not entirely on board. That is, until he realizes the whole ukulele thing isn’t flying with his new class, and he decides to Judge Judy the hell out of a mock trial with his students. He sends them off after the bell with the task of coming up with a case to try, and all but one of them files out. And when the girl tells him that he knows her and gives him a couple clues, it dawns on him who his new student really is: Karen’s stepdaughter, Olivia.
(Let’s pause for a second. How does Will not know Olivia’s in his class until that moment? Did Columbia just not give him the enrollment list? And it’s such a small class, too. This shouldn’t be that much of a mystery. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled recap…for now.)
It’s clear that Olivia has a grudge against Karen, and while she doesn’t go into it right away, the divorce obviously isn’t helping. She hasn’t spoken to Karen in a while, she’s definitely angry with her, but she’s definitely wrestling with her feelings as she asks after her estranged stepmother. It stays with Will after his class lets out, to the point where when he visits Grace Adler Designs to drop some diet books off for Grace, he reluctantly tells Karen who’s in his class this semester. Karen’s surprised; since she’s not on speaking terms with Olivia, she had no clue that she was at Columbia. And why aren’t they on speaking terms? According to Karen, Olivia refuses to give back the necklace that has been in her family for generations: her grandmother gave it to her mother, and Lois gave it to Karen (with everything we know about Karen’s childhood, it just hit me extra hard that there was a tradition like this in her family? Way to pull at the heartstrings, show). And now that she knows where Olivia is, Karen’s determined to take back what is hers.
At the next class, Will’s in full Judge Judy mode, complete with robes whose collar can only be described as a doily and a questionable accent that he just won’t give up. And when he realizes that no one came up with a case to try for this mock trial, Karen comes in to save the day, crashing his class to confront Olivia once and for all. Suddenly, stepmother and stepdaughter are on the stand, battling it out for the necklace. Olivia stands firm in the belief that Karen gave her the necklace, while Karen insists she let Olivia borrow it. And even though they keep getting sidetracked by personal issues—like Karen grounding Olivia in the sixth grade for not drinking enough, you know, typical parent stuff—Will thinks that it sounds like there was an expectation that Olivia would give the necklace back, and rules in favor of Karen. Olivia, however, refuses to give the necklace back, and reveals that she’s been wearing it this whole time. She’s convinced that Karen is only asking for the necklace out of spite, but Will tells her that it doesn’t matter what Karen’s intentions are; the law in this case is clear. Plus, it was a gift from Karen’s mother, and should be given back to her. And Olivia does give it back. But not without muttering under her breath: “And I thought it was a gift from my mother.” And here’s where things start to get incredibly real.
I’ve got to give it up to Megan Mullally (I mean, I know I do all the time, but I swear this time it’s for more than just thinking she’s generally amazing); the woman knows how to navigate Karen’s emotions so deftly, it’s brilliant. This season has been especially heavy with Karen Walker Feels Things™ moments so far—which is valid, because of the divorce—and she always nails it every time; there hasn’t been one moment that has felt out of character when things start to get serious. This week is no exception. When Karen hears what Olivia said, she’s stunned but still reluctant to get to the true heart of the matter (is it just me, or was the way Karen kept kicking the desk every time she said something to avoid her truth a really great touch?). Will knows that this is about more than just the necklace, and won’t rest until they finally talk to each other. When they do, Karen says that Olivia never called after the divorce, that she cut Karen out of her life because she blamed her for all of it. Olivia completely denies that and asks why Karen was never the one to call her. And after beating around the bush for a second, Karen finally lets her guard down and says she was scared to make the call. It’s an amazing moment of vulnerability for her, and when she asks Olivia if she really thinks of her as her mother, it’s Olivia’s turn to be vulnerable too; she tells Karen that since her mother died when she was so young, it finally felt like the dark times were over when Karen stepped in. It’s just such a heartfelt, emotional…
Wait, hold on…Cathy Walker died before Stan met Karen? I just…WHAT?!
Hoo-boy, okay, we REALLY need to pause here, because they just casually contradicted Olivia’s first appearance in the original run (not to mention the first season of the original run). Let’s bring it all the way back to the beginning with one of my favorite episodes (and top 20 entry), “Secrets and Lays”: Karen lets the gang use the Walker cabin in Vermont in an attempt to get Will’s mind off of his anniversary with Michael because “Stan took the kids to Scarsdale to see their real mother.” Fast forward to season seven’s “Christmas Break,” and Olivia arrives at the manse with no place else to go for Christmas; everyone still thinks Stan is dead, and her mother and brother are in the hospital getting some plastic surgery done. Which means that the first Mrs. Walker was very much alive by the time Karen came into the picture. I know they were going for a moment here—and they totally succeeded, don’t get me wrong—but this was just too big of a continuity error for me to let go of. Even if it did give us an incredible storyline.
In conclusion: hey NBC, I’m available to consult. I’ve been watching this show pretty much daily for eighteen years, I’m basically a walking encyclopedia at this point. Just think about it. You know where to find me. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled recap…for real this time.
Karen is so visibly touched by Olivia, it makes your heart swell. We all know there were times in the original run where Karen forgot her stepchildren’s names—or even how many stepchildren she had—but there were moments where you saw how much she really did care about them (I think my favorite has to be from “Christmas Break,” when Jack lets Olivia know that Karen paid ABC to run Step by Step for two extra seasons just so Olivia could watch her favorite show, because what the actual hell). So to learn that Olivia thought of Karen as her mother was everything. And it moves Karen to give Olivia the necklace, to keep up the tradition between mothers and daughters. Continuity notwithstanding, this moment between them was absolutely beautiful, and completely unexpected. You never really heard from Stan’s kids during the original run, so when I first read that they were bringing Olivia back, I just didn’t get it. But I should know by now to not doubt this show.
With everything Karen has been going through this season, having this moment was a much needed beat of positivity, especially since it could have been so easy for Olivia to side with her father because he’s blood and leave it at that. And I am so happy they gave my girl a happy ending this week.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- “This food baby’s daddy better make an honest woman out of me.” Using it?
- Give it up for Jack McFarland, kids:
- I need more bits like Karen shouting “ANSWER YOUR MOTHER WHEN SHE SPEAKS TO YOU” at Shu Shu in my life. I need more bits like Shu Shu drinking out of a martini glass in my life. I need more Shu Shu in my life. Bless that dog.
- And while I’m on the subject of Karen, can we all agree that she was serving looks this week?
- I’ve got to hand it to casting for getting Aya Cash into the role of Olivia. The Olivia of “Christmas Break” could have easily grown into the Olivia of “The Scales of Justice,” and in terms of similar appearances, it’s one of the better recasts.
- Related: I really love this show for never showing the Walker men once. I mean, there was that one time Karen thought she was talking to her stepson, Mason, after his swim meet, but it turned out to be some random kid because she didn’t know what Mason looked like wet. But that clearly doesn’t count.
- I’m not sure how much of a deep cut this original run reference is, but I really can’t resist…He went doily down the street.
- Damn this show for making me laugh and feel my emotions at the same time:
- “I’m gonna tell you the same thing my mother told me when she gave it to me: ‘Shove it up your butt ‘til we get through customs.’” Yep, that sounds like Lois Whitley, alright.
- “I’m subtracting seven pounds for my bra and my feelings.” The older I get, the more I realize I’m just slowly morphing into Grace Adler, and I’m fine with it.
- Moment of appreciation for the fact that they brought the whole gentleman’s boner thing back at the end of the episode. I live for that kind of perfect circle.
What did you think of “The Scales of Justice?” Let’s talk in the comments.