Polk Defeats Truman is the 5th episode of the second season and 27th overall.

With 90% of his practice now devoted to Harlin Polk, Will coldly dismisses all of his smaller clients. Karen is put on a budget by her husband, so Grace helps her shop for cheaper clothes.


On A Budget

Polk defeats truman karen

"Even in the Midwest I'm funny"

Stanley has put Karen on a budget because of her recent unreasonable purchase of a ski lodge so she cashes all the paychecks Grace has given her she keeps as a collection. Nearing bankruptcy, Grace decides to help out Karen live within her budget, which according to Grace is as big as Spain's.

Against Karen's will, Grace takes her to an outlet mall filled with marked down designer clothes. Karen then ingeniously calls Stanley, casually mentioning that she will be wearing a "rhinestone-studded track suit" from the mall to wear when they meet their socialite friends. Afraid of its impact on their social status, Stanley immediately ends Karen's budget crisis and sends his helicopter to fetch her from the mall.


Will is able to close a deal for his client Harlin Polk to buy a cable company, granting him 10% of all the profits. To be able to focus more on Harlin's business, Will decides to fire his other smaller clients, who according to Grace are people who took a chance on him when he was a nobody. Just as Will is celebrating his newfound success, Harlin fires him, ironically reasoning that he needs to represented by someone "bigger".

Grace runs into Harlin who tells her about the decision. Later, instead of singing the "told you so" song because of Will's arrogance before being fired, she comforts her best friend with a joke.





  • Last appearance of Harlin Polk.
  • Title is a play on the famous incorrect headline "Dewey Defeats Truman" published by the Chicago Daily Tribune regarding the 1948 presidential elections, where incumbent US president Harry S. Truman actually won.
  • For her performance on this episode (along with To Serve and Disinfect), Megan Mullally won the 2000 Primetime Emmy Award for Supporting Actress.
  • Grace thought she was having a good day because the "shishlach" vendor hit on her. This may be a reference to an in-joke or she may be referring to shashlik, a type of kebab.
  • Grace's Aunt Honey is mentioned in this episode after having been let go by Will as a client. She later appears in Moveable Feast.
  • The paychecks from Grace which Karen keeps in a box on her desk were previously seen during the pilot.
  • The Adler family "Told You So" song and dance is first heard and seen. Grace also tries to show Will the song's "special dance" but he closes the door on her. The song is heard again during the episode Moveable Feast. Similarly, Grace's Aunt Honey is also mentioned in this episode but is not seen until the same season 4 episode.

Cultural references

  • Will celebrates by singing Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) by C+C Music Factory released 9 years earlier in 1990. Jack tells Will that his choice of song makes it obvious that he has not been to a club in about ten years.
  • Grace says that the line between being enthusiastic and being obnoxious is American comedian and fitness instructor Richard Simmons known for his flashy and flamboyant public image.
  • While teaching Will how to fire someone, Jack refers to him as "uneducated Rita", after the 1983 film Educating Rita.
  • Harlin recommends that Will read Mitch Albom's bestselling novel Tuesdays with Morrie, which is used in the story line of the episode There But for the Grace of Grace later in the season.
    • Interestingly, the 2002 Broadway adaptation of the novel starred Jon Tenney who appears in the show as Will's brother Paul Truman.
  • Before hearing of Will being fired, Jack sings The Gold Diggers' Song (We're in the Money) from the opening scene of the 1933 film Gold Diggers of 1933.
  • When Grace is finally able to tell a joke, Will calls her Shecky, after American comedian Shecky Greene.
  • While threatening to cut the label off Karen's sweater, Grace hums the theme from Jaws (1975), which has become a classic staple for building suspense.



Grace:Those hips say someone had a good meeting with Harlin today.
Jack:That song says somebody hasn't been to a club in about 10 years.
when Will comes in singing "Everybody Dance Now"

You know the old saying: give Jack a fish, he eats for a day. Teach Jack to fish, he brings home a fisherman Will

Grace:Okay, so I'm at the ATM trying to get 20 bucks to get us some coffee, and it spits out this piece of paper that says, "Funds not available." So I'm, like, "I don't think so!" And the guy who lives under the envelope table starts giggling at me. Anyway, I stick my card back in, and this time, it eats my card and tells me that I'm thousands of dollars overdrawn. Thousands!
Karen:So... no coffee?
Will:I'm sorry that you can't understand it, but this is the way business works.
Grace:Not my business.
Will:That's because your job is shopping for pillows and tassels. My God, a gay guy could do your job in his sleep.
Grace:Karen, I'm trying to help you. Look, I know it's scary, but I promise you, once you get into the swing of things, it's actually kind of fun.
Karen:You know what else is kind of fun? Tuning you out.
Grace:You spent thousands of dollars in the Madison Avenue boutiques. Do you know how much you'd save if you just shopped at that outlet mall in Paramus?
Karen:Honey, do you know how many things are wrong with that sentence?
Karen:Can we get a couple of seared ahi salads with honey mustard on the side?
Woman:I don't work here.
Karen:That wasn't my question, was it?
at the outlet mall

You know, Grace, I don't presume to understand the very modern relationship you two got going, but in the great state of Texas, you'd be considered a bitch. Harlin

Grace:How many gay lawyers does it take to win a case?
Will:How many?
Will:Thirty-seven. One to win the case and thirty-six to go out to brunch and trash him.
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