Not A Couple Show Notes: Will & Grace Episode 2.20 — “Girls, Interrupted”

“You don’t understand. I can’t still be gay. Look how ugly this sweater vest is!”

But I’m a Footsketball Player!

This is just, genuinely, a really solid episode. Val (played by Molly Shannon) returns with her delightful brand of eccentricity as Grace’s temporary-lady-best-friend. Will and Jack go to a gay bar where Jack makes a love connection — with Bill (Neil Patrick Harris), the leader of an ex-gay group who wants to lead Jack down the “straight and narrow” path. But our boy Jack is never deterred.

Come for the NPH, stay for Karen’s sexy description of Rosario.


Summary:

Remember how last week Will and Grace was a bag of transphobic garbage? This week they have progressed to being “sexy garbage,” by actually handling an LGBTQ issue with humor and er… grace? Tess and Matthew talk about the importance of lady friends and how gay conversion groups are The Worst.

This episode was sponsored by the upcoming reboot of Doogie Howser, M.D.

Things That Happened

00:00: This episode is a much better follow-up to last week, especially when it comes to its queer issues.

02:01: This week we get double guest-stars. Molly Shannon returns as Val, and a pre-famous-again Neil Patrick Harris appears as an ex-gay dude.

03:23: Focusing an episode on ex-gays is savvy in part because — like Will & Grace itself — it’s exposing potential straights to something they may not have otherwise seen in media.

KAREN: “They’re trying to make gay people straight! Good Lord! Don’t they know what that’ll do to the fall line?”
JACK: “‘We noticed your homosexuality. Make the choice to be straight. Gay is not the way’? Jennifer Jason Leigh, these people are freaks!”

06:44: W&G deserves props for making the ex-gay movement look ridiculous without completely ignoring its more serious implications.

07:49: Val’s return is smart — because Molly Shannon is hilarious — but confusing — because her character makes literally no sense.

Tess: “So Val comes back, and she has good chemistry with Grace, but I don’t really … get her.”

10:18: There’s a very real need for Grace to have women friends, which we’d love to see the show explore. Val just isn’t a good choice.

11:20: Matthew and Tess babble incoherently about friendship and Judaism.

12:36: It’s great that Molly Shannon and Debra Messing have marvelous comedic chemistry, but since we know Val can’t stay in their lives longer than an episode at a time, it’s mostly wasted.

Matthew: “Maybe this comes up later on — I would love it if, in some future season of Will & Grace, including the new seasons, Grace had an actual female friend who competed with Will for her time.”

15:09: It’s also frustrating that this journey into the heart of lady friendship ends with Val betraying Grace and stealing her music box.

GRACE: “Val did not steal my music box. She is my friend, and I trust her.”
WILL: “Okay.”
GRACE: “Which is why we are breaking into her apartment so I can prove to you that it is not there.”
WILL: “Great. Give me a minute to get my black leotard and suction cups, and I’ll meet you on the side of the building.”

16:18: Jack’s plot kicks off in the “Jackest” of ways: He sees NPH passing out fliers for his ex-gay group, decides they must be lovaahs, and tells Karen she has to be a lesbian.

17:40: Jack’s pursuit of the ex-gay group leader is actually one of the more sexual/romantic plots this show’s gays have gotten so far, surprisingly.

BILL: “Ok, I have to say something here. The back-slapping and the head-rubbing was one thing, but the ear-blowing and the butterfly kisses are not standard NBA practice. And now this shower thing.”
JACK: “What are you implying?”
BILL: “You’re coming on to me.”
JACK: “What? I am shocked and appalled. But are you interested?”

19:07: Karen’s half of the plot is perhaps even funnier than Jack’s — like the sexy devil she is, she spends the episode trying to relesbianize her new ex-gay friends.

20:09: Let’s get meta: This episode featured two gay men still pretending to be straight men playing two gay men pretending to be straight men. #gayception

22:54: Tess thinks Will and Jack are mean for not taking Grace to the gay bar and inadvertently kicking off both plots in this episode. Matthew is okay with leaving the boring straight girl friend home every so often.

Tess: “I’m of the opinion that they maybe should have taken her just because her life was so pathetic at that point?”
Matthew: “Okay, but at a certain level, Grace’s life is always pathetic these days. Grace has literally nothing going on right now!”
Tess: “Hey, she’s still dating that weirdo.”

Link Roundup

Hey, the show’s not called “Will & Grace & Val” it’s called “JUST JACK!”

Molly Shannon returns!: Ms. Shannon was last seen on this show as Val during “Grace, Replaced” (sorry, we didn’t show notes that one yet) — the episode where she started to butt into Will’s life and push Grace out. This time things sort of go the other way around, with the added bonus that she is now a kleptomaniac!

Neil Patrick Harris: NPH, on the other hand, is making his first and only appearance on the show, playing an ex-gay who would have been a much more interesting recurring character than Val. This only being 2000, we’re still several years away from Neil’s first appearance as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, the show that catapulted him to legitimate fame (and out of the closet — but we’ll get to that further down). As of this episode, he’s firmly in “guest star who doesn’t get mentioned on the DVD box set” territory: the former Doogie Howser, MD and the star of a new (in the 90s) show with Tony Shalhoub called Stark Raving Mad…that was ultimately cancelled when NBC execs decided to move the comedy block of Will & Grace and Just Shoot Me! into its timeslot the following season. Oops.

Speaking of Ex-Gays on TV…: Queer as Folk also featured an ex-gay plot line, back in its first season. It focuses on Emmett Honeycutt, who briefly attempts to become straight after making a pact with God while waiting for the results of an HIV test. The plot lasts for several episodes, and includes a disastrous moment where a gay man and a lesbian try to sleep together, but it resolves with Emmett carrying on being gay in the end. Hooray!

Yeah, girl. It’s all gonna be okay.
We couldn’t NOT include a picture of Mama Ru from this movie.

Ex-Gays are on film too!: But I’m A Cheerleader is a 1999 film which satirizes the ex-gay movement. Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan, a cheerleader, whose family and friends realize that she is a lesbian. She is sent off to a conversion camp called True Directions (no, not One Direction or New Directions). RuPaul is a TOTALLY HETERO camp counselor. Megan falls in love with fellow lesbian Graham at camp, and the pair of them fall in love and run away together. It’s a happy ending. Yay!

Bring It On: Totally different movie about high school cheerleaders. Does not feature ex-gays or any real gay plot lines, but it does teach us to do spirit fingers.

Infomercials: Particularly in the 1990s and early 2000s, infomercials were very odd and usually featured white people failing spectacularly at stunningly mundane and ordinary tasks. They were, and still are, a sign that you have stayed up too late watching live television. Here is a list of 17 hilarious 90s infomercials in case you’re experiencing nostalgia and it’s currently 4:00am.

Jewish Lena Dunham: Lena D caught some flack a few years back because she wrote this article for The New Yorker called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?” But it’s all good because she is Jewish (or at least that’s what she says).

Other People: There’s literally no reason we should have thought we weren’t going to cry during this movie, considering the plot is “While having a lot of feelings about being a gay comedian, Jesse Plemons spends a year watching his mom, Molly Shannon, die of cancer in the hometown he hates.”

Karen Walker Bisexuality Watch: Karen gets really excited to pretend she’s a lesbian at the ex-gay party, and then gets extremely into her description of her love for Rosario. Sounds like a Kinsey 2 if we ever heard one.

Butterfly Kisses: An only slightly creepy song about daddy/daughter love. (JK, it’s creepy AF). Get the bad taste out of your mouth with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s version, I Love My Daughter (But Not In A Creepy Way).

Coming Out Parties: NPH came out, officially, in 2006 after the start of How I Met Your Mother. Here’s an article from PEOPLE. Sean Hayes was even later to the coming out party; he did not come out publicly until 2010. However, in several articles he has expressed regret for having not come out sooner.

Next Episode: S2E21: “There But for the Grace of Grace”