Lows in the Mid-Eighties is the two-part eighth episode of the third season and 53rd overall.
It is one of the few episodes to feature a flashback to the life of the characters prior to the show. Most of the scenes are set in 1985, when Will and Grace were still students at Columbia.
For his performance on the episode, Eric McCormack won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2001.
While waiting to be seated at a restaurant, Will, Grace, Jack and Karen meet Pam who is having trouble understanding her boyfriend Tom. The group right away sense that Tom is gay so Jack suggests Will and Grace tell the story on how he came out to her while they were still dating.
When Mary Met Sally
While still in her freshman year in college, Grace is dating Will who is still in the closet. She plans on losing her virginity to Will on Thanksgiving when they go to visit her parents in Schenectady. Will on the other hand meets Jack McFarland immediately senses that he is gay.
At Grace's parents' house, her mother prohibits them from sleeping on the same bed so Grace sneaks into Will's room to seduce him. In order to keep them from having sex, Will tells her that they should wait until the time is right and he accidentally proposes to Grace, which she jubilantly accepts. As the entire family celebrate, Will excuses him and Grace to the kitchen where he finally tells him he is gay. Devastated, Grace throws him out of the house and lost touch of each other.
They bump into each other at the supermarket a year later where Grace tells Will that she moved off-campus. As a woman walks by Grace, Will immediately hides behind the groceries. Back in the present, Grace asks Will what was that all about and Jack blurts out that the woman was Diane, whom Will slept with the night after they broke up. Grace becomes upset learning that he had slept with another woman right after he could not do it with her and storms out. Will chases him trying to explain how drunk and upset he was that night. He recalls how awful it was and that he needed to do it with someone whom he does not love and he did not want to put Grace through that.
The Sultan of Boran
Intertwined with Will and Grace telling their story, Karen also recounts her life during the same period where she had three lovers: the Sultan of Boran, a man named Clayton, and Martina Navratilova. She breaks up with them because she has fallen in love with Stanley Walker, who turns out to be married. She recounts how she met a cigarette lady named Rosario who ends up being her maid ever since.
- Eric McCormack (Will Truman)
- Debra Messing (Grace Adler)
- Sean Hayes (Jack McFarland)
- Megan Mullally (Karen Walker)
- Shelley Morrison (Rosario Salazar)
- Debbie Reynolds (Bobbi Adler)
- Tom Gallop (Rob)
- Leigh-Allyn Baker (Ellen)
- Ever Carradine (Pam)
- Sara Rue (Joyce)
- Neil Vipond (Julius)
- Raymond Forchion (Clayton)
- Michael D. Trail (Guy)
- Scott Berman (Dontonio)
- Martina Navratilova (Herself)
- Lisa Borgnes (Diane) (uncredited)
- Title is a reference to the High in the Mid-Sixties rock album series released since the 1960s.
- Debra Messing was also nominated in this episode for the 2001 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, but lost to Patricia Heaton on Everybody Loves Raymond.
- This episode reveals that Rob was Will's roommate in college, how Will and Jack met, as well as how Rosario started working for Karen.
- Grace's younger sister Joyce is introduced. Her older sister Janet is mentioned but does not appear. Janet eventually appears in The Accidental Tsuris.
- Will's father crashing his car into a telephone pole when he came out is briefly shown in this episode. This event is mentioned again in Whoa, Nelly!
- Julius' first appearance.
- Diane is briefly seen in this episode played by Lisa Borgnes. She later makes a bigger appearance in Last Ex to Brooklyn, where she is played by Mira Sorvino.
- Will tries to get through making out with Grace by looking at Kevin Bacon on a poster for the film Quicksilver. The poster is an anachronism since the film was not released until 1986, a year after the scene takes place.
- Madonna's Crazy For You (1985) and Duran Duran's Union of the Snake (1983) are briefly heard during the party at Will's dorm room. In her own flashback, Karen dances to The Power Station's Some Like It Hot (1985).
- The gang know right away that Pam's boyfriend is gay because he was a dance major, knew all the songs from the musical The Wiz, collected Victorian dolls, and spends all his time in aerobics class.
- Aunt Reba and Uncle Joe appear again in Moveable Feast.
- Jack tells Will "you're my new best friend. Call me every five minutes." He had previously said something similar to Will's assistant in Head Case, albeit sarcastically.
- Karen mentions doing jello shots with Oates from Hall & Oates. The duo would later make an appearance during Grace's wedding in season 8.
- Jack refers to Will and Grace's story as "When Mary Met Sally", after the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally…
- Grace mentions that Will reminds him of old Hollywood movie stars Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift, who were both closeted gay men, oblivious to the fact that Will was also in the closet.
- Jack says to Will that the only ones who are gay are "just me, and you... and a dog named Boo," referring to the 1971 Lobo song Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.
- As Will throws Jack out of his dorm room, he tells him that Janet and Chrissy are waiting for him at the Regal Beagle. Janet Wood, Chrissy Snow and Jack Tripper are characters from the 80s sitcom Three's Company.
- Grace jokes that upon meeting her bubbly mother, Will learns the answer to the "age-old question whatever did happen to Baby Jane". This is a reference to the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford 1962 thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? where a once famous child star descends into mental illness. The film is referenced more later in the episode Whatever Happened to Baby Gin? in season 8.
- In forcing Will to admit he is gay, Jack calls him "Marvin Gaye" and tells him that "ain't no closet big enough," referencing Marvin Gaye's 1967 song Ain't No Mountain High Enough.
- When breaking up with the sultan, Karen says "it's midnight at the oasis. Send your camel to bed," lyrics to the 1973 song Midnight at the Oasis by Maria Muldaur.
- After Grace announces her engagement, the family sings "Get Me to the Church on Time" from My Fair Lady but replaces "church" with "shul" because they're Jewish.
- Will & Grace run into each other at a D'Agostinos Supermarket.
- In describing Tom, Karen mentions Vermont and Mykonos (popular spots for the gay community) as well as Christina Aguilera, who is considered a gay icon.
Honey, I've always said, if your genitals are on the outside, you're hiding something on the inside. — Karen, on why men cannot be trusted
|Jack:||Our little Pammy's in pickle. And, uh, shouldn't we help her find her way back to a place called hope?|
|Karen:||Honey, she's wearing synthetic plaid. It's a 4-day drive and a boat trip to a place called hope.|
|Will:||How would you like it if I kicked your ass?|
|Jack:||That depends on the spirit on which it is delivered.|
As much as I would love to be Mrs. Habibi Shoshani Padush Al-Kabir, I'm afraid I can't marry you. — Karen, breaking up with the sultan
|Karen:||I've got some bad news. I can't marry you. I'm in love with someone else.|
|Martina:||But, Karen, I was straight before I met you.|
|Karen:||Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles, Marti.|
|Will:||Hi, Jack, it's Will Truman.|
|Jack:||Oh, right, from Queens College?|
|Will:||No, I go to Columbia.|
|Jack:||Missy, anywhere you go is Queens College.|
You bastard! I'm in love with you, and you're treating me like some sort of test drive?! You take me out for a spin, and you go, "Hmm, I don't really like the feel of this one. I think I'd rather have a stick." — Grace, finding out his fiancé is gay
|Will:||Don't you see what a compliment that is? I mean, I love you, so if I can't make it work with you, then it'll never work with any woman, because you're perfect for me.|
|Grace:||That is not a compliment. A compliment is "You're sexy, you turn me on," not "One look at you proves I'm a queer!"|
Grace, you ruin everything. — Joyce, learning that Will is gay
You know, I always knew this would be hard. I guess I just hoped that because it was you, it wouldn't be the worst moment of my life. — Will, being thrown out after coming out to Grace
I owe you everything, you know? I mean, this past year, coming out. You've been like my sherpa through the Himalayas of... him-a-laying. — Will, to Jack
I love you the way you love a cherished family pet. That you never want to have sex with. — Will, turning down Jack
|Karen:||[TO PAM] Honey, let me give it to you in a nutshell. Your boyfriend's a big flaming feather-wearing, man-kissing, disco-dancing... [TAKES A DRINK] Vermont-living, Christina Aguilera-loving, Mikanos-going-- [TO JACK] Honey, take it on home.|
|Jack:||Tom's queer, dear.|
|Will:||Why is this such a big deal?|
|Grace:||Because I thought that I was the one that helped you come out.|
|Grace:||I thought that I was the one that changed your life.|
|Grace:||I thought it was my naked body that did nothing for you!|
|Will:||It didn't! It still doesn't!|
|Grace:||Don't try to make me feel better.|
|Will:||So are we okay?|
|Grace:||We will be.|