Will & Grace Season 3, Episode 12
“Filthy Phil, Part 1”
Posted by Sarah
Remember a couple weeks ago, when I said I wanted this show to give Karen more than just a 30-second plot like she seems to keep getting this season? Yeah…this is not the plot I meant.
Stop making Karen Walker fall for assholes. Even when said asshole is played by Joel McHale (I can’t help my Community-loving soul). How hard could it possibly be to just let her be in a healthy relationship after everything Stan – and Lyle, and Malcolm, et cetera et cetera – put her through? I mean, good lord…we were so close with Nikki last season. SO CLOSE. That first episode she was in was insanely promising. Then it quickly went all the way down to hell, and now we’re stuck with this? I don’t get it. I don’t get why it’s virtually impossible for the writers to give her something that isn’t all kinds of toxic. My girl deserves so much better, and she’s not getting it. And I’m honestly so tired of yelling about how Karen’s been treated as of late. But I’m gonna do it anyway. So buckle up.
Karen’s invited her new guy over to 9C for brunch, and the nervous excitement she’s feeling is palpable. Honestly, the only time I’ve ever seen her come remotely close to this was back in season five’s “Field of Queens,” when she was fawning over that restaurant owner. And that guy turned out to be a total dick, too, so it’s already a terrible set up for how this storyline is going to go. When Phil first arrives, though, he seems like a decent guy. He comes bearing gifts for his hosts, he flatters Will in all the right ways. He’s laying the charm on thick, and it’s definitely working…until Grace starts to notice some inconsistencies in the guy’s story; one minute, he’s an OB-GYN, and the next, he says he met Karen after performing a difficult heart surgery. And every time Grace tries to get some clarity on it, Phil deflects by stroking Will’s ego a little more. Throw in some old-fashioned controlling behavior for good measure, and all of the alarms start blaring in Grace’s head.
Because yeah…this guy isn’t suspicious at all.
Here’s what I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around: Karen Walker comes from con artist stock. Her mother scammed countless guys out of their money while she was growing up; hell, she was even roped into some of these schemes as a kid. And yes, I know that she’s had it rough lately, and being in a new relationship feels incredible, so I get why she would want to hold on to that feeling. But the fact that she’s not picking up on even the most obvious clues, but Grace is? All of it feels weird. All of it is hard to watch, especially to see the way Karen just bends to this guy without a second thought. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before with her. The fact that this show could take Karen’s laugh – which is legitimately one of my favorite things – and exaggerate it for this douche makes my heart hurt. It feels so out of character to watch her do things like pick up Phil’s napkin for him while being forced to keep eye contact with him the entire time, which I guess is the point. But why does that have to be the point?
I keep thinking back to Nikki’s first episode last season, and it’s not even because I’m still furious with how that ended (but let’s be real, I’m still furious with how that ended). There was an immediate tenderness between Nikki and Karen that wasn’t really there with any of Karen’s past relationships. Karen felt safe to let her walls down with her; she felt taken care of for the first time. And yeah, not much can top that episode in my mind, but it should have at least set a precedent for how any of Karen’s future relationships should go. Instead, it’s like the writers were like, “Yeah, you know how we started to give Karen a healthy relationship? Let’s do the exact opposite of that. That’ll be hilarious.” It just stuns me that we’re here. It stuns me that, quick affair with Jenny’s brother aside, THIS is the relationship that follows Nikki. How did we go from “Right now, I feel very taken care of” to this fucking guy in no time at all? How is that fair to Karen in any sense of the word “Fair?” And how is that fair to the viewers who love her?
Grace tries to have a heart-to-heart with Karen about her suspicions, but doesn’t really get anywhere. So when Karen and Phil excuse themselves to the terrace, she immediately starts going through Phil’s wallet to discover that not one of the credit cards in there has the name he gave Karen. And between Karen and Phil’s weird behavior after brunch, and Grace firing her laptop to confirm her suspicions that Phil is trying to con Karen out of her money, Will sees that all that flattery was just a distraction, and that Karen might actually be in trouble here. The only problem is that Phil catches them as they try to dig up some dirt on him, and gets hip to the fact that he needs to get Karen the hell out of there if he’s going to keep up this ruse. And he does, but not without Grace getting a quick moment in to warn Karen not to give this guy a key to her apartment, and not before Karen drops the bomb that Phil moved in with her (ARE YOU KIDDING ME).
Before they can even truly take in what they just learned, Karen comes back to confront Will and Grace about their disapproval of Phil. And even though Grace tells the truth and tries to look out for her friend, Phil already prepped Karen for this conversation, telling her that Will and Grace would be saying all of these nasty things about him and their relationship. Karen thinks it all stems from jealousy, that Will and Grace can’t stand to see her happy because they don’t have a man in their lives. Grace tries to tell Karen that she only wants what’s best for her. But Karen wholeheartedly believes what’s best for her is to have someone who loves and supports her, which for some reason equates to Phil’s manipulative bullshit, even though the people who have stood by her and loved her for literal decades are standing RIGHT THERE. There is no ultimatum on the table; Will and Grace aren’t forcing Karen to choose between them and Phil. But Karen does it anyway. And she chooses her new boyfriend, leaving her friends in the dust, and a “To be continued…” in her wake.
I just…everything about this is wrong. EVERYTHING. You really expect me to believe that Karen would choose some skeezy dude she just met over the family she’s had for over twenty years? After everything they’ve been through together? That’s really what you’re trying to sell me? Good lord. You know what? Fine. Whatever. Just resolve this shit in the second part the right way so Phil can go on his merry potentially homicidal way, and I can go back to yelling about bisexual erasure and unnecessary storylines involving porpoises and forgettable men. You know, like the good old days of this weird-ass season.
Meanwhile, Jack’s over here consistently giving my heart and soul a palette cleanser during confusing and infuriating storylines, falling into unexpected career paths in the purest way possible. After learning that Miss Coco’s is about to close, Jack realizes that somebody has to buy the bar in order to keep it intact. After all, too many gay bars are disappearing from Manhattan, and if Miss Coco’s closes, it’ll be yet another blow to the community. And between Coco wanting to keep the bar in the family and Estefan being fully on board with the idea, Jack heads to the bank to get a small business loan so he can buy Miss Coco’s and save it from becoming another Victoria’s Secret like the Manhole turned into. The only problem? That meeting goes exactly the way you’d expect it to go for someone with no credit and no way to prove that they can pay the loan back.
I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting this storyline to get emotional; maybe I was too focused on figuring out why we were putting Karen in yet another toxic relationship to prepare myself. But Jack’s passion for the community he found at Miss Coco’s hit, and it hit hard for me. Everyone deserves a safe space, but if you’re part of a community where you’re put in harm’s way just for being yourself (so, basically, pretty much anyone who’s not a cis, straight, white dude), those safe spaces are vital so that you’re free to breathe, and so that you can find your tribe. As Jack looks around Miss Coco’s at all of the regulars he’s come to know and love, you can feel how much this place and these people mean to him. And by the time he talks about the first time he walked into the bar–“I felt safe. I was home.”–the lump in my throat is so very real. It’s clear how important Miss Coco’s is to so many people, and the only way to show how much of a loss it would be to not have this space anymore is to show the bank all the people who depend on Miss Coco’s as a second home.
While Ruth, Jack’s loan officer, can see how personal it is for Jack to buy the bar, she still isn’t sold on giving him the loan. But then Jack urges Ruth to take a look at the picture of her nephew on her desk – the picture where he’s dressed as Lisa Vanderpump for Halloween – to show her that while keeping Miss Coco’s alive is personal for him, it’s also personal for her. If Miss Coco’s closes, continuing in the unfortunate tradition of gay bars disappearing from the city, where will her nephew find his people? This is the thing that gets to her. And while Jack may not be able to prove he can pay the loan back, he’s definitely shown that Miss Coco’s has a loyal clientele, and he’s definitely shown how passionate he is about the bar. It moves her to approve Jack’s loan, and his home away from home is saved.
Honestly, I really like this turn of events for Jack, and I think it’s incredibly promising. For someone who hasn’t really had a solid long-term job (rec center notwithstanding, but seriously, when was the last time we saw him go to work there?), I think the shift has a lot of potential. Original Run Jack would probably run this place into the ground about five seconds after he got his hands on it. But Revival Jack, with how much he’s grown over the last couple of seasons? I feel like he’s got a chance. And let’s hope this leads to good things…because I’m going to need at least one plot every episode that doesn’t make me shout one prolonged “WHY?” at the TV.
Honey…What’s This? What’s Happening? What’s Going On?
- This isn’t the first time Joel McHale played one of our Fab Four’s boyfriends; in “Cheaters” from season three of the original run, he played Ian, Grace’s date that resembled Frankenstein’s monster and got super pissed at the elderly ladies sitting in behind them for unwrapping butterscotch candies during the overture of Suessical the Musical.
- Estefan describing a bank solely as the place that has a bowl of lollipops is why we don’t deserve him and he should be protected at all costs.
- I need an episode that’s just Will listing off true crime podcasts.
- “You did your best. Which is probably why it didn’t work.” Seriously, why isn’t Coco Peru on this show every week?
- Doesn’t Know Where She Is Diane might be my new favorite character.
- Bummer Bennet was played by Sean Hayes’ husband, Scott Icenogle, and it was a DELIGHT to watch Jack trash his character like that.
- “I wouldn’t believe everything you see on the internet. I once clicked on a picture of that kid from Jerry Maguire, and I absolutely could believe what he looked like today.” Yes, I hate Phil. But the delivery of that line is exactly why I love Joel McHale.
- “Misunderstandings can cause real problems. I mean, watch any episode of Three’s Company.” Again, Phil is a garbage person, but the dude’s got a point here.
- I’m adopting “Go to the tongue rodeo” into my lexicon, I don’t care.
- Even though this two-parter is making me yell things, I have to admit, this was a solid way to end the first part of it:
What did you think of “Filthy Phil, Part 1?” How do you think the second part is going to play out? Let’s chat in the comments.
Featured Image Source: Chris Haston/NBC