Tonight’s Will & Grace fall season finale on NBC followed through on expectations for a returning character – Minnie Driver reprised her original series role as Karen’s nemesis Lorraine Finster – but another hoped-for reunion didn’t quite pan out.
Stop reading here if you don’t want to know what happened on tonight’s episode.
Shelley Morrison, who played Karen’s beloved, no-nonsense-taking maid during the original run, had been the show’s most notable hold-out, with Will & Grace co-creator Max Mutchnick and Megan Mullally unequivocally telling reporters at different events last summer that Morrison had sent her regrets.
“She’s retired,” Mullally said at a W&G panel during the Tribeca TV Festival, breaking the news to a disappointed audience (even as she joked that not only would diminutive actor Leslie Jordan be returning, but that she had him in her pocket).
And tonight, in a twist sure to surprise viewers expecting a reunion, Shelley’s character Rosario Salazar, certainly the most popular supporting character of Will & Grace‘s original series, was killed off.
The episode opened with Karen wondering where Rosario was – a sort of inside joke, given that Morrison’s character has been MIA all season. “She just took a vacation,” Mullalley’s Karen said, dismissing Will’s suggestion that the maid was vacationing. “She went to the wine country.”
“You made her pick grapes,” snapped Eric McCormack’s Will.
Then Karen got the phone call – Rosario was in the hospital, having suffered a heart attack. The main foursome – Will, Grace, Karen and Jack – then were seen at the hospital, where a nurse came in to break the sad news to a surprisingly stoic Karen.
Later in the episode, the devastated Karen was a no-show at Rosario’s funeral, repairing instead to her favorite bar, where one after another the gang arrived with consolation.
Finally, Karen makes her way, solo, to the church, where she has a tearful goodbye with her old pal. “I need for you to not be gone,” she said to the flower-festooned casket, with Rosario’s enlarged portrait nearby.
The development came during tonight’s fall season finale (a holiday special is planned, with new episodes set for 2018) titled “Rosario’s Quinceanera” (in Latin America, that’s a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday).
Other supporting characters from the first W&G go-round – Jordan, Driver, Molly Shannon, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Angarano – have either appeared or pledged to.
Fans might have been hoping for a surprise reunion. Earlier today, Mullally tweeted a photo of herself and Morrison, “may I gently suggest u check out” tonight’s episode, leaving some followers to hope for Rosario’s return, however brief.