Will & Grace Season 2, Episode 18
“Jack’s Big Gay Wedding”
Posted by Sarah
During the vows that Jack absolutely did not prepare beforehand, after he spent the episode distressed and upset that he wasn’t getting the wedding of his dreams, he looked into Estefan’s eyes, felt those frustrations fade away and lovingly said, “I know I got exactly what I wanted. This is perfect.” And god, I wanted to say those things about this finale. I really, really wanted to. Because almost everything was fantastic…if it wasn’t for the bisexual erasure of Karen Walker completely overshadowing everything good about this episode. You guys…what the actual hell happened here? I just…I am stunned. I am upset. I am confused. And I honestly can not believe the writers thought the way they chose to do this was a good idea in any sense of the word “good.” But I will get into all of that in great detail (you know me, and how I feel about my girl) in a minute.
For now, we have a wedding to get to.
Our Fab Four made it to the airport, ready to travel to Spain for Jack and Estefan’s nuptials. There’s just one teensy problem that might completely derail everything; their flight has been cancelled, effectively putting the wedding on hold now that they have no gorgeous castle in Spain to get married in, no unicorn dessert station waiting for them at the reception (which, real talk, is a tragedy), and no one to perform the ceremony. Jack is understandably freaking out until Estefan suggests getting married right there in the airport. Even though it’s clearly not ideal, Jack goes along with it, trying to throw together a last minute ceremony with the limited resources at their disposal. And after Jack grabs the White Castle burgers for their makeshift cocktail hour and walks off to eat them in sadness, he and Estefan try to figure out who can officiate their wedding. Lucky for them, a friend of theirs just happens to be waiting at the airport for a different flight.
Bless whoever decided to keep giving Coco Peru screentime on this show, because it’s always gold. At this point, I don’t even care what the storyline is; just give her space to work her magic. Coco just happens to be on her way to Tampa to officiate her sister’s wedding, and after some extremely poor salary negotiation on Jack’s part, Coco agrees to perform the ceremony for Jack and Estefan. So now that that’s taken care of and the wedding is still on, everything’s all good, right? Well…maybe Jack’s still upset, but things have got to be going better for Will and Grace.
Or…maybe not. Will learns that McCoy’s network wants to make him chief London correspondent, which is great, because this is McCoy’s dream job. But it also means that McCoy has to move to London. And after McCoy lets it slip that he turned the job down so he could stay in New York with Will, Will tells him to take the job; he just knows that if McCoy doesn’t, he’ll grow to resent him. They vow to try to make the whole long distance relationship deal work, but it’s obvious that neither of them are convinced, and really, can you blame them? Relationships equal work and effort, no matter how great they are. Add on a few thousand miles’ distance to that, and it’s enough to make anyone panic. And I feel for Will so much here. He hasn’t really been able to catch a break when it comes to the guys he dates, and now that he’s got a good thing going with McCoy, it’s in danger of falling apart. I just want him to be happy, and I know that this is going to be a challenge that will follow him into next season.
Grace isn’t faring much better, either. She’s still angry at Will for saying that she can do better than Noah, and it doesn’t help that when she realizes she can call Noah and have him come to the wedding now that it won’t be in Spain, Noah tells her he’s still not coming. Will can see how much this is affecting Grace, and he asks her a deceptively simple question: is she happy? And like a knife to the heart, she tells him that she’s happy enough, saying, “You get to a point in your life where you’re lucky if you get 60% of what you want.” She tells him that she can’t do better, and you can tell from the sound of her voice that she believes it. And it crushes my heart every time I think about it. Like Will, Grace hasn’t been able to catch a break in her love life, and you just know that that plays a part in her way of thinking here. It makes me so much angrier at Noah, and at Leo, and at all the dudes that didn’t know how to treat her when they were with her, because you can see the way her shine dims in this moment, and it’s devastating.
While Grace turns to Cinnabon for comfort (which, girl, good call, I would have done the same), she meets Marcus, a guy who is also eating Cinnabon and IMMEDIATELY seems a million times better than Noah wishes he could be. As they’re both bonding over the gooey center of the cinnamon bun–which is honestly the meet-cute that Grace Adler rightfully deserves–Marcus tells her that he’s taking a spontaneous trip to Italy, France, and wherever else his heart takes him, for however long it makes him happy. Grace is stunned, saying that she wishes she could do something like that, and it’s here that Marcus decides to drop the thing that will clearly be on Grace’s mind for the rest of the evening: “Sometimes the things we do without thinking, they end up being the best things that we ever do.” With that, he almost invites her on his trip with him, before he stops and excuses himself to give Grace a moment alone. And yeah, I know there’s still a wedding to be attended here, but part of me was definitely like “GO FOLLOW HIM” in that moment, because man, he came out of the gate strong. Grace obviously thinks so too, considering her actions after the wedding…but I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here; there’s one more matter to discuss before we get there.
And that matter happens to involve Karen, who is at the bar being waited on by Smitty (because of course he works there too, you guys. Of course he works there too) when she tells him that she’s a lesbian. She says that after her marriage to Stan fell apart, she wasn’t sure who she was or what she wanted, “then Nikki came along and told me” (Oh no, yikes, everything about that wording is yikes, make it stop). But she makes a point to say that she’s still not entirely sure who she is, which leads Smitty to pose this scenario: maybe Karen isn’t gay, but lost (YIKES, THIS IS SUCH A BAD LOOK, I TOLD YOU GUYS TO MAKE IT STOP, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING). By the time Nikki makes it to the airport, Smitty’s influence has already set in, as Karen struggles to tell her “truth,” finally hovering over a microphone at the gate desk and announcing to her girlfriend and everyone else in the airport that she’s straight.
Okay, record scratch, stop everything, none of this is okay. Because Karen might have just said she was straight, but her ENTIRE DAMN HISTORY ON THIS SHOW begs to differ. It has been firmly established (for jokes, mainly, but still, firmly established) that Karen Walker is a bisexual woman. It’s literally been this way from the start. So can someone tell me why the hell we’re suddenly supposed to believe that all of these years of canon bisexuality mean nothing, and why we’re supposed to pretend like that canon bisexuality never existed?
It’s not just the fact that they completely decided to ignore everything from the original run that established Karen’s attraction to women, although do not get me wrong, that is a massive part of it; I know this revival has had a tendency to not pay attention to what the original run already laid out, but last season’s musical promo for the Upfronts literally called her “the drunk who’s bi,” so I don’t even know what to think about their motives for this. But the way that it was done made it hurt so much more. Karen’s big “coming out” moment (I really hate using this phrase for that, but what am I supposed to call it?) was meant to pay homage to Ellen DeGeneres and the vital, brave, and groundbreaking “Puppy Episode” of her ‘90s sitcom, Ellen. Up until this point, queerness was pretty much always played as a joke, and god forbid you see two women or two men do anything on TV that straight people did on the regular. I don’t even like bringing up Roseanne anymore to help make my points for me, but before Ellen’s “The Puppy Episode,” there was Roseanne’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” where Roseanne is kissed by another woman, played by Mariel Hemingway. At the time (1994, to be exact), it was groundbreaking in its own right, but looking at it in a 2019 context, it’s so obvious how many hoops they had to jump through to actually get this to air (and it almost didn’t make it to air); even the camera angle when the kiss happened had it so you would never see a woman’s lips pressed against another woman’s lips, as if seeing that was the most scandalous thing in the world. But then, in 1997, this happened:
And in the midst of Ellen’s career nearly being destroyed over this–not to mention the death threats being thrown around because of this episode–the door was blasted wide open for queer representation to slowly become less and less of a punchline, and become more and more of a lifeline to those who were reaching for one. Will & Grace first premiered directly on the heels of the “Puppy Episode” backlash and subsequent cancellation of Ellen, and the show ABSOLUTELY WOULD NOT EXIST if Ellen Morgan never came out over that airport PA system. And I know every single person working on Will & Grace knows it. I really don’t think the intention here was to belittle the impact “The Puppy Episode” had on pop culture. But good lord, to use that iconic moment to double down on the tired and extremely damaging “straight woman thought she liked girls but is really just lost” trope is not the way to pay homage to the reason you’re able to make this episode in the first place. ESPECIALLY when said woman has a history like Karen’s, filled with flirtations and mentioned relationships with other women (lest we forget, she broke Martina Navratilova’s heart in the ‘80s). If they wanted to pay tribute to Ellen, it would have been so easy to switch out the word “straight” for the word “bisexual.” SO EASY. And it would have had an impact worthy of a “Puppy Episode” tribute, because biphobia is still very much alive and well in sitcoms for reasons I will never understand, and this would have been such an amazing statement against the bullshit representation of bisexuality as a phase, or as not a real thing. This could have been such a powerful moment in Will & Grace’s history. Instead, it comes off as insanely and uncharacteristically disrespectful and feels like a slap in the face all around: to Karen, to the fans who identify as bisexual, to the fans who know and love someone who identifies as bisexual, and to the trail Ellen blazed so that this show could be on the air for ten seasons and counting.
It is so unbelievably sad that a show that has allowed so many people to see themselves in it (myself included) just made a decent portion of their fanbase feel like they were being erased and invalidated. That’s not what this show is supposed to do; this is supposed to be a safe space. And even though Will & Grace has been making strides to fix the flawed representation of the original run–just look at episodes like “Who’s Sorry Now?” to see the effort they’ve been making–this is a giant leap in the wrong direction. I just don’t understand the motivation behind giving us this whole Karen/Nikki storyline at all if this was going to be the result. “Conscious Coupling” gave me so much hope that Karen’s bisexuality wouldn’t be a joke, that she would be happy, that we would finally get the storyline I and so many others had been wanting for so long. If this is really how this storyline ends, what even was the point? It honestly would have been better to just let me keep screaming “GIVE KAREN WALKER A GIRLFRIEND” season after season, because at least then there wouldn’t be the possibility of this mess happening.
In the onslaught of reactions to this storyline, I saw someone point out just how much Karen was struggling with saying she’s straight and how it’s obvious that she’s still doesn’t seem honestly happy, and I know part of that was as a nod to Ellen (see the above clip), but it also provides the slightest potential for them to keep addressing this next season and maybe (fingers crossed) actually fix this. Just like Nikki telling Karen she needed to be with a gay woman led to Karen embracing butch stereotypes, it almost felt like Smitty had inadvertently talked Karen into saying she’s straight as I rewatched this episode–like “Oh, Nikki needs to be with a gay woman, so I guess I’m a lesbian now. Oh, Smitty says I might be lost, so I guess I’m just lost,” and since WHEN has Karen Walker been so easily influenced by other people before? God…–and the whole thing was just so abrupt and weird that there almost has to be a continuation somehow. That, mixed with the fact that Megan Mullally keeps saying she wants Samira Wiley to come back next season–even after the episode, someone on Instagram asked her who she wanted Karen’s next love interest to be, and she said she would like to continue with Samira–gives me the slightest, most microscopic hope that maybe the plan is to keep exploring this next year (even though at this point, I’m telling myself not to expect anything, because I don’t think I can stand another letdown like this one). And if it is the plan in place, I don’t understand the logic behind making this a cliffhanger of sorts, because this was just such a shitty way to end the season. Now we’re stuck with what very obviously looks like bisexual erasure, and a good six months to sit with it until the new episodes begin in the Fall. And that just plain sucks.
It’s finally time for our Poodle to get married, and even though it’s still not the wedding he envisioned, his friends remind him that it’ll be okay, because he waited for the right one, and he didn’t settle. Soon enough, he’s walking down the aisle arm in arm with both Karen and Will, and giving those thirteen gold coins to Estefan. I know I’ve been saying all season that I thought something was going to keep this marriage from happening, and I am so very glad that I was wrong about that. There is so much love between Jack and Estefan, and it is overflowing in this moment. And even though this wasn’t the wedding they had planned on, everything is going so smoothly for them…that is, until Will decides to propose to McCoy before Jack can say “I do.” And McCoy accepts.
Apparently this show likes to end its seasons with marriage proposals this time around. But I’m not really complaining, because I do think Will and McCoy are great together. I’m just still worried about the long distance thing, because really, when do those relationships ever work? Have we learned nothing from Leo? But between Jack and Estefan tying the knot and Will and McCoy getting engaged, there’s a lot of love and a lot of happiness going around. And Grace is inspired by Will’s impulsive proposal to do something a little crazy herself. With Will’s blessing to “Go get yourself some happy,” Grace races to the gate that will lead her to her spontaneous trip with Marcus to Italy, but doesn’t see him waiting. Funny how sitcom timing works, though, because just when Grace is about to give up, Marcus rushes in, ready to board at the last minute, and ready to take Grace on the journey of a lifetime. And for a shining moment, it looks like Grace might finally (FINALLY) be interested in someone who’s actually worthy of her.
Thus ends another season of our beloved show, and I just have a few requests as season three starts to take shape. Please let Jack and Estefan lead a happy married life. Please let Will and McCoy find a way to stick together, because I honestly can’t believe the turnaround on McCoy and I love them together now. Please let Marcus continue to be the same guy he seemed to be in this episode, and please let Grace find her happiness. And for the love of god, please listen to the fans who are feeling frustrated and let down over Karen’s storyline (because there are a lot of them–it’s been all over my social media since the episode aired and it shows no signs of stopping), and fix this whole bisexual erasure disaster. According to Max Mutchnick, the writers room reconvenes later this month to start work on season three; there is absolutely still a window to rectify this. Please use it. Please do better next season.
Please be the show I’ve always thought you were. Because I know you can be.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- Before I start my regularly scheduled bullet points, I just want to give it up to my Poodle, who not only put up with me shouting “BUT SHE’S NOT STRAIGHT” every time they said Karen was straight as we watched together on Thursday night, but also heard me out when my thoughts on this were still a jumbled mess and let me vent my frustration as we engaged in an incredibly involved post-episode discussion. He’s a gem, and everyone deserves a friend like him.
- Also, in the midst of my frustration/recap prep, I watched “The Puppy Episode” of Ellen for the first time in years and forgot how truly phenomenal it was. You can find both parts on YouTube, so do yourself a favor and get on that.
- Estefan genuinely being like “Well, she checked” when Jack asked the woman to check on their flight and the woman fake typed on the desk is one of the reasons why I love him so very much.
- Okay, Karen’s storyline was terrible and upsetting, but good lord, she slayed in this pantsuit.
- All I’m saying is I had Cinnabon for the first time in a couple years over the weekend, and Grace’s reaction to hitting the center of that thing is a very real feeling that I may or may not have also experienced. Just add this to the mounting evidence that I’m slowly but surely morphing into her.
- Will lifting Jack’s air veil was such an endearing touch to the ceremony, and I love their friendship so much.
- “If you hurt my Jackie, I know someone who will reach up inside you and turn you inside out. Not in the good way.”
- “Queerly beloved, we are gathered here under this extremely harsh lighting that I wouldn’t wish on my evil twin sister, she should rot in hell…” Yes, hi, petition for Coco Peru to officiate all of the weddings in all of the land.
- Smitty’s on my shit list right now for suggesting that Karen’s a lost straight woman, but I have to admit that this was brilliant:
- That dance sequence at the end of the episode was fantastic and lovely and I wish it had somehow been able to be squeezed in sometime before Karen and Nikki’s exchange so I could have enjoyed it to its fullest extent.
Another season is in the books! Let me know what you thought about “Jack’s Big Gay Wedding” and season two as a whole in the comments. I’ll see you back here in the Fall for season three, kids.