Karen Walker (Will & Grace)

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Karen Walker
Will & Grace character
First appearance"Pilot"
(episode 1.01)
Last appearance"The Finale"
(episode 8.23)
Created byMax Mutchnick
Portrayed byMegan Mullally
Information
Nickname(s)Kare, Miss Karen, Kare Bear, Kiki, Zany Delaney
AliasesAnastasia Beaverhausen
Pilar Palabundar
Sister Frances Beaverhausen
Anastasia Beaverhouse
OccupationCurrent
TitleChairman, CEO, and Board Member
(Walker, Inc.)
FamilyMr. Delaney
(father; deceased)
Lois Whitley
(mother)
Virginia "Ginny" Delaney
(sister)
Spouse(s)Mr. St. Croix
(ex-husband)
Dick Popeil
(ex-husband)
Stanley Walker
(husband; deceased)
Lyle Finster
(ex-husband; invalid)
ChildrenMason Walker
(stepson, via Stanley)
Olivia Walker
(stepdaughter, via Stanley)
Lorraine Finster
(former stepdaughter, via Lyle)
RelativesSylvia Walker
(mother-in-law, via Stanley)
Kimmie Walker
(sister-in-law, via Stanley)
Jonny Walker
(brother-in-law, via Stanley)
Barry
(cousin)
Gina
(cousin)
Sumner Davis
(nephew)
 
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Karen Walker
Will & Grace character
First appearance"Pilot"
(episode 1.01)
Last appearance"The Finale"
(episode 8.23)
Created byMax Mutchnick
Portrayed byMegan Mullally
Information
Nickname(s)Kare, Miss Karen, Kare Bear, Kiki, Zany Delaney
AliasesAnastasia Beaverhausen
Pilar Palabundar
Sister Frances Beaverhausen
Anastasia Beaverhouse
OccupationCurrent
TitleChairman, CEO, and Board Member
(Walker, Inc.)
FamilyMr. Delaney
(father; deceased)
Lois Whitley
(mother)
Virginia "Ginny" Delaney
(sister)
Spouse(s)Mr. St. Croix
(ex-husband)
Dick Popeil
(ex-husband)
Stanley Walker
(husband; deceased)
Lyle Finster
(ex-husband; invalid)
ChildrenMason Walker
(stepson, via Stanley)
Olivia Walker
(stepdaughter, via Stanley)
Lorraine Finster
(former stepdaughter, via Lyle)
RelativesSylvia Walker
(mother-in-law, via Stanley)
Kimmie Walker
(sister-in-law, via Stanley)
Jonny Walker
(brother-in-law, via Stanley)
Barry
(cousin)
Gina
(cousin)
Sumner Davis
(nephew)

Karen Walker (née Delaney; previously St. Croix, Popeil, and Finster) is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Will & Grace, portrayed by Megan Mullally.

Although Karen was originally conceived as a supporting character role for Will & Grace, her escapades became a more prominent part of the show based on viewer reaction. She was a multi-millionairess thanks to her marriage to "Stan Walker" (an unseen character) until the money ran out following Stan's untimely death. At the end of the series she regains this status due to Beverly Leslie leaving his fortune to Jack McFarland.

Karen has been described by Grace Adler as "a spoiled, shrill, gold-digging socialite who would sooner chew off her own foot than do an honest day's work." She is also a promiscuous borderline alcoholic and assumed drug addict with an often tenuous grip on reality and very few morals. She is good friends with Will Truman’s equally narcissistic best friend Jack McFarland. Karen Walker was stated to be worth $730 million by Will Truman on the episode "Grace Expectations" and on the episode "24" she claimed that her husband's fortune was $985 million to Lorraine Finster. After speaking her lines normally in the pilot, her delivery increased in pitch in subsequent episodes until her distinct nasal voice became one of the character's hallmarks.

In 2010, Karen Walker was ranked #23 on the TV Guide Network special, 25 Greatest TV Characters of All Time.[1]

Contents

Fictional character history [edit]

Early years [edit]

Karen Delaney was born on January 16, 1959 (which is revealed in the show's season 8). Karen's childhood was a rocky road, thanks in part to her unstable relationship with her mother, Lois Whitley (played by Suzanne Pleshette), a con artist who incorporated her young daughter into her schemes. Karen has made many references in the show, to her education and her maiden name, Delaney, which suggest she is of Irish-American background and was raised Roman Catholic. Her drinking habits may be a reference to the stereotype of Irish people's heavy drinking habits. Although she tries to keep her age secret, her good friend Jack McFarland revealed that she was 42 in 2001, meaning she was born in January 1959. She has been married four times — her first husband's surname was St. Croix, her second husband was named Popeil (a reference to the American culinary businessman/entrepreneur Ron Popeil), her third was Stan Walker (married since 1995), and she was married for 20 minutes to Lyle Finster (John Cleese) in May 2004, although she is still married to Stanley (see below), who has two children of his own, Olivia and Mason. She has intimated an illicit relationship with Ronald Reagan (claiming no one said anything to her at his funeral because she was his mistress.) Karen also goes under the alias "Anastasia Beaverhausen" ("Anastasia as in Russian royalty, Beaverhausen as in ... where the beaver lives") and also once used the alias Pilar Palabundar to "beat up businessmen for cash in Chinatown." Other alias was Lupita, used when she had an affair with a high-class hotel janitor while trying to pass as a maid using Rosario's uniform. Her real name may not, in fact, be Karen, as she changes her name from time to time to throw off the "Feds." Her mother refers to her as "Kiki", which was her childhood nickname. She has made more than one reference to attending Sarah Lawrence College, although she may have been joking, referring to her lesbian tendencies (see Sexuality). She is noted also for her shrill/squeaky voice; in one episode in the third season, Karen inhaled helium from a balloon, only for the gas to have absolutely no effect on her voice. She is also noted for her addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol.

Karen seems to have had a background in acting (including a performance in a soft core adult film as a naughty maid); however she vowed never to act again after her part as a bank teller in the TV show Mama's Family was cut. (Her one line was: "Would you like that in fives, tens, or fifteens?" said with a Southern Accent). She has also spoken of a 2 episode character arc in Dynasty.

Karen tends to have trouble separating stories she has read, seen, or heard about with her actual life. On one occasion she explains that she loves family and then recites the story of Heidi, claiming it as her own. Another situation involves Karen's fear of elevators. She and Jack are walking up the stairs of a skyscraper because she refuses to use the elevator. Jack asks her why she's afraid of elevators, and she recounts the opening scene of the movie Speed. She has also described the events of Norma Rae and To Sir, with Love as her own life experiences.

Overview [edit]

Connection to other characters [edit]

To entertain herself, Karen took a job as personal assistant to interior designer Grace Adler. Though she rarely accomplishes any work (in several episodes, however, she does do her job fully), she keeps the job because it gets her "away from Stan and the kids", as she once told an intern. Karen actually quits Grace Adler Designs twice. First, when Grace found Karen in a dominatrix film and was horribly embarrassed, and second, when Karen does a design job all on her own and Grace takes credit for it. In the first instance, Karen returned to the company at the end of the episode because Grace gave her 49 copies of the film (Grace keeps one—totaling 50) so "no one would have to see the tape again." The second time, Karen returned in the next episode. She became Jack's assistant at "Out TV", but because she and Jack couldn't keep a professional relationship, she was fired and then returned to Grace like "nothing ever happened", even though she remarks, "I missed you."

Despite her incompetence, Grace never fires her because of the business benefits from Karen's social contacts; Karen also pays for Grace's health insurance and Christmas bonus. For a long time, Karen never cashed any of the paychecks she was given because, being rich, she didn't need to; also, Karen and Grace had made a deal that, in exchange for not cashing the checks, Karen was not required to actually do any work. Instead, she kept them in a shoebox on her desk because she thought they were "pretty little blue pieces of paper." Once, when Stan cut down on her extravagant spending habits, she cashed all her paychecks at once, nearly bankrupting Grace. Karen "kindly" gave the money back to Grace in the end, even though it should have been Karen's money to keep.

Karen and Grace are very close friends, despite Karen's constant criticisms and insults regarding Grace's clothing choices and personal life (often dismissing Grace's wardrobe with the comment "Honey, what is this? What's going on here?"), and Karen and Will's dislike of each other turned to friendship over the years as well. Through Grace, she also developed a strong friendship with Jack McFarland.

Karen's home life [edit]

For the first few seasons of the show, Karen lived with husband Stan Walker. Karen met Stan Walker in 1985, brushing off three simultaneous relationships (with Martina Navratilova, Sultan Habibi Shoshani Padush Al-Kabir, and a man named Clayton) to be with him only to learn that Stan was married. After going through two other marriages, she finally got together with Stan 10 years later. At some point before this, she also agreed to appear clothed (her costume was a rubber dress) as the star of the fetishistic porn film Next to Godliness, a dominatrix flick. Stan was an obese man who was credited with keeping Taco Bell and Pizza Hut in business and who has worn a toupee since his teens.

Stan was an unseen character during the show's run, despite being mentioned in many episodes. His two children, Mason (known to Karen as "the fat one") and Olivia ("the girl"), by Stan's previous wife were often left in the incompetent care of Karen.

In the fourth season, Stan was jailed for tax evasion and told Karen to date other men. She could not bring herself to do so until she met rich bachelor Lionel (Rip Torn), but just as their affair began, Stan was released from jail. However, after Karen caught Stan with his mistress Lorraine Finster (Minnie Driver)—a cafeteria worker at the prison—the couple separated, and Karen moved into the Palace hotel. After beginning divorce proceedings at the end of the fifth season, Stan died suddenly.

During season six, Karen pursued romantic liaisons and ended up marrying Lyle Finster (John Cleese), Lorraine's father. However, after twenty minutes of marriage—a sudden ceremony in Las Vegas—she asked for a divorce due in part to her disliking her new married name and in part due to Lyle's shocking disregard for Karen's personal feelings and desires.

Karen has been the head of Walker, Inc., since her husband's death. However, at the end of season seven, it was revealed that Stan faked his death and had actually been in hiding. Karen began dating Malcolm (Alec Baldwin), a government agent who had helped Stan go underground. However, she ultimately reconciled with Stan, and Malcolm left on a government mission to Sri Lanka. Later in the eighth season, however, Karen and Stan experienced significant marriage difficulties. They finally chose to divorce, only for Karen to learn—in season eight's finale—that his money was borrowed and that, as a result, she was now broke.

Karen then pressured Jack into a relationship with Beverley Leslie (played by Leslie Jordan), who was wealthy enough to support Jack—and in turn keep Karen in the extravagant lifestyle to which she was accustomed, as well as support her addictions to prescription drugs and alcohol. Though unattracted to Beverley, Jack went ahead with the scheme because Karen had financially supported him for the whole of their relationship. Karen, probably realizing that she was doing to Jack what her mother did to her, told Jack that she cared more about Jack's happiness than the money. Beverley, who had been in the bathroom, then comes out to an empty bedroom, looks for Jack on the outside balcony and, being 4'11 and 100 lbs., is swept to his death by a gust of wind. Beverley had left his millions to Jack. Jack happily became the provider in his relationship with Karen, which has otherwise not changed. The series finale showed that—until at least 2028—Karen, Jack, and Rosario shared a home together, and, thanks to plastic surgery, Karen appeared to have not aged a day.

Other relationships [edit]

Rosario [edit]

Her relationship with her maid Rosario Salazar (played by Shelley Morrison), whom she met and hired in 1985 and for whom she even arranged a marriage with Jack to help her get a Green Card, is very close. Although the duo often bicker and fight, it is only part of the bond they share. In the beginning of the series, it seemed that Rosario didn't speak much English, and Karen had a hard time communicating with her. Karen's way of giving Rosario orders was to add the letter "o" to the end of every word she'd say (e.g., "Enougho with the April Fresho. *hangs up the phone* Right now she's calling me a bitcho"). In another example of miscommunication, Karen used to end phone calls with Rosario by saying "hola", which means "hello" in Spanish and not "goodbye". When Rosario was first seen on-camera at the end of the first season, it was revealed that she spoke English quite well and that Karen was being patronizing. In a later season, we see Karen forced to live in an apartment block she owns in Spanish Harlem as punishment for failing to bring the building to code. She is seen in this episode screeching at a child in the street in fluent Spanish, leading Will to comment "And yet when you talk to Rosario, it's 'Scrubbo the tubbo.'"

Karen is known for her volatile arguments with her maid Rosario, where they screech over each other, ending simultaneously with a loud insult. A few seconds of silence follows before they embrace each other emotionally declaring their affection for each other, to the laughter of the audience. Their relationship is very much love-hate with each being brutally honest with the other, but at the end of the day still loving each other. Rosario affectionately calls Karen "mami" from time to time, when they're not trading insults. The only low points were when Karen lost Rosario in a bet to her arch nemesis Beverley Leslie and when Karen sacked Rosario after discovering she had hidden the truth about her husband Stanley Walker being alive. Rosario appeared in the last episode, with her final words to Karen being "Suck it, bitch!". In "Saving Grace, Again (2)" it is suggested that Karen uses Rosario as a horse or at least treats her like one because she asks Jack if "winter white is a good colour for Rosario's saddlebag" and in "Cheatin' Trouble Blues", after climbing up numerous flights of stairs, said, "Well, if I'd known we were gonna do all this walking, I would've saddled up Rosario, like when we go to Greece!"

Gin [edit]

Karen has a sister named Gin, played by Bernadette Peters.[2][3] According to Gin, Karen rigged a floorboard during a game of Twister so she would fall through, hurt herself, and end her career in dance. Gin always mentions how one of her legs is now shorter than the other due to the incident. Later, Gin admitted she rigged the floorboard as a cry for attention.[4]

Lois Whitley [edit]

Lois, played by Suzanne Pleshette, is Karen's mother who appears in the episode "Someone Old, Someplace New". Jack is making a movie called the Mystery of Karen Walker and while making the movie he meets Lois. At the end of the episode Karen and Lois see each other for the first time in a many years. Karen says "I told you I never wanted to see you again." It is later revealed that Lois made a living as a con artist during Karen's childhood and adolescence, implementing Karen in many of her schemes. As a result of this unconventional upbringing, Karen decided to distance herself from her mother, presumably in an attempt to lead a more stable life. However, the fruit does not fall far from the tree, as Karen's long, colorful history of multiple marriages and desire to "throw the feds off" proves. Then in the next episode "Something Borrowed, Someone's Due" they forgive each other but Lois wants to do one more job. The job was "milking a poor man out of his hard-earned money" (he is also an invalid). The man however is not poor; he "shorted Enron at 54". Karen would appear to be a down-on-her-luck daughter who is so "slow" that she was a cheerleader who never stopped clapping. While doing this Karen makes her mom (Lois) sign a paper saying Lois will never pull another con with Karen again and Karen notarizes it because she is a legal notary from a Chicago job they once pulled. Karen just wants a mom who loves her not her cons. Karen is "slow" in this episode somewhere between Sean Penn in I Am Sam and Sean Penn "At home with his family". The job fails when the old man's daughter gets a restraining order on Lois; then Lois and Karen make amends.

Other rivals [edit]

Karen's arch rivals include, but are not limited to, Beverley Leslie (played by Leslie Jordan), Lorraine Finster (played by Minnie Driver), Anita Bryant, Candice Bergen (who is also Karen's best friend, referring to running into her at a restaurant as "horrible-slash-delightful"), Marlo Thomas (Karen hates her, but likes her husband, Phil Donahue; Marlo and Phil apparently live in Karen's apartment building but never actually appear in the series). We once see Karen greeting an off-set Marlo at a party by shouting "Marlo Thomas—look at you! Vintage '60s with a plunging neckline—oh, and I love your dress, too, honey!" Further enemies include Scott Woolley (until he fell in love with her; played by Jeff Goldblum), Candace Pruitt (whom Karen refers to as "Candy" Pruitt; played by Christine Ebersole), who once said that Karen's voice sounded "like someone strangling an old macaw", and Helena Barnes (played by Joan Collins), who is a famous interior designer. Karen has a love-hate relationship with most of her rivals. She often openly insults or ridicules her enemies like Beverley Leslie, Candice Bergen, and Candy Pruitt (and they do the same to her), while simultaneously thinking of them as her friends. Karen has a tendency to stumble upon becoming aware of her physical proximity to certain rivals. The most notable occurrence of this physical reaction occurs during her encounters with Beverley Leslie. While Lorraine Finster was a rival/stepdaughter, Karen would stumble when Lorraine shouted "Hello, Mother!".

Personality [edit]

With other staff and help, Karen is deliberately patronizing, referring to them solely by their title both in conversation and to their face: "Driver", "Butler", "Private Detective", "Pharmacist", "Back-Up Pharmacist", et cetera, and even refers to Will as Lawyer on occasion. She does this even when they are doing other jobs ("Cook sometimes cleans, Cleaner sometimes cooks, Driver sometimes provides an alibi ..."). This rude tone is not limited to her employees, as she looks down on or openly mocks most people she meets, even her friends. Karen is often cruel to her staff at home, training them to run when she enters a room. Other times she berates them, but somehow this comes across as an act of affection.

Sometimes Karen unintentionally reveals to her friends a softer side that is carefully hidden. In one such incident, Karen's husband has an apparent heart attack and may die. Karen discovers that her friends have placed a bet to see who can get her to cry first, so she elaborately punishes each of them by leading them on to think she might break down in their presence. In the end, it is revealed that it was not a heart attack but rather acute angina (angina pectoris), she then has an emotional breakdown over the incident, during which Grace stumbles in and subsequently consoles Karen. Another episode sees Karen and Jack in her mansion with her refusing to let him enter 'the forbidden room'. When Jack finally gains access he discovers it is a nursery which Karen had prepared during a pregnancy scare in an earlier season. Although she agrees to change the room into a liquor storage room, she quickly changes her mind and the audience sees her stony facade crumble. This could reveal that's she's afraid to have a baby because she knows she'll be a horrible parent, but at the same time she may long for a child of her own..

When Jack accidentally gave away her favorite shoes to charity she rushed to buy them back, but a poor looking woman had just found them. After negotiations (up to five) Karen started counting out $500 inside her purse until the woman exclaimed it was her lucky day for receiving a free $5. Karen then gave her just the $5 but then out of compassion gave the $500 as well. She tells Jack (who was with her) not to tell anyone about this.

Popularity [edit]

Karen's popularity on the show grew mostly from her one-liners, "zingers", and straight-forwardness. Karen's emotional complexity was wrapped in a façade of lack of interest in other people's problems, as well as a focus on her own selfishness and greed.

Although her friends are cavalier about it, Karen is clearly an alcoholic and drug addict, often indulging in prescription pills and booze. She often (albeit casually) mentions taking street drugs or being under the influence of them. She hides bottles of vodka and wine in Grace's office and often refers to drinking her breakfast and lunch, implying that they consist of strong liquor. In one episode, she complains to Will about the way he approached her, saying: "You came in here all high-and-mighty ... acting all mighty, while I was high," and on another episode saying, "Oh, honey, you say potato, I say vodka," and to Ben Doucette (played by Gregory Hines), Karen declares, "Honey, I'd suck the alcohol out of a deodorant stick." In the episode where Karen got a physical exam, the doctor (played by Jack Black) reads the chart listing medications she is on, revealing that she is taking every drug in the Merck Pharmaceutical catalogue. Following her exam, she asks Will to read it, and Will asks her: "What, are you afraid they might find blood in your alcohol?" In the episode "FYI, I Hurt, Too," she states that the subway is a good place "to buy mari-batteries", quickly changing it as a policeman walks by. In the second live episode, Karen's medicine cabinet opens with hundreds of pill bottles falling out. In the series finale, Karen drinks an entire bottle of vodka in one gulp, which Jack, Grace, and Will watch without much surprise. It is implied that her heart beats at an extremely slow rate (even though Jack once considered it to be "racing" at the time) and that she needs a new liver. Despite this, she appears to be in very good health.

Karen makes observations on others with an emotionless and often cruel eye. She once said to Jack, "Honey, you know what's really sad? Poor people with big dreams. Well, that's not so much sad as it is incredibly funny!" A recurring victim for her cruelty is a bartender named Smitty, who tells her tragic events in his life, such as being on his last day, his twin brother dying in a fire or having the childhood memory of his mother being killed in front of him, only to have her laugh in his face and thank him for cheering her up. She is also known for the excessive use of the word "honey" when conversing with people, for her "killer rack", and for being insanely rich.

Sexuality [edit]

Karen frequently implies that she's attracted to other women, and has hinted that she may have slept with members of the same sex.[5] Several lines of dialogue have implied that Karen has bi-/homosexual tendencies, and/or that she may be a male-to-female transsexual herself:

Despise numerous references to her possibly being bisexual, Karen Walker clearly does not consider herself to be a part of the gay community or sexually alternative. In episode 20 of the sixth season, Karen even referred to herself as a "straight woman" when she tells Jack "every healthy relationship between a gay man and a straight woman has a sell-by date" after he expresses concern about the future of their relationship. If not bisexual, Karen definitely had a bi-curious past. Although there are other references to Karen being straight, another noticeable one is in episode 20 of season 7 when Jack tells Karen "all straight people age" after she expresses concern for growing old and needing glasses.

Karen's staff [edit]

This list is not complete; it has been stated by Grace in Season 7 Episode 19 "Sour Balls" that she has a staff of more than 30 people.

Karen is particularly adamant about creating a distinction between herself and her staff. In one episode when she comes to answer the front door, she announces "I'm approaching!" or "I can see you", as she enters, and several maids evacuate the room. When Will signs on to work as Karen's lawyer, he asks her if she'd like to go to lunch, and she responds "Honey, I don't eat with the help." When Jack comes to live with Rosario in Karen's penthouse, he is disappointed by the view out of his window—Karen tells him "This is where the help stays." Jack is confused and explains, "But I'm not help." Karen firmly replies "You married help, you're help."

Featured staff [edit]

Notable Staff Members [edit]

Mentioned staff [edit]

She also includes Will as a member of her staff ("Lawyer") at times and has also had Picasso working for her.

Karen mentions that her staff are interchangeable, "Cook sometimes cleans, Cleaner sometimes cooks, Driver sometimes provides an alibi." When Karen tells her high-society friends that Will is her "whore", he leaves the charity event stating, "You should ask someone else, like Butcher, or Baker, or Pain-Killer Maker!"

After Will & Grace [edit]

Walker's persona has appeared in advertisements for The Megan Mullally Show, which debuted in September 2006 and which was canceled in January 2007. In one, Karen asks Megan to take her along. In another, Karen tries to pass for Megan at a meeting with studio executives until she is caught by Mullally and they begin to physically struggle with each other.

Mullally once again donned a Walker persona in an episode of The Megan Mullally Show which featured Andy Dick. Mullally in a "Karen Walker voice", "I hurt his feelings, that was fun!"[citation needed]

Karen: The Musical [edit]

It has been announced that Megan Mullally will be starring in a new Broadway musical entitled Karen: The Musical. This musical will be the "Return of Karen Walker". Mullally said the show is currently being written and composed. She said the premise for the show, at the moment, is that Karen decides for a variety of hilarious reasons to do a Broadway show called Karen: The Musical. She also said in an interview that the show may involve Will & Grace recurring guest star Leslie Jordan, reprising his role as Beverley Leslie. The show will reportedly present never-before-seen sides of Karen and will also showcase Mullally's skills as a musical theatre actress, which may not have been known to many Will & Grace fans.[6]

Other aspects of Karen [edit]

References [edit]

  1. ^ "25 Greatest TV Characters of All Time" (in English). September 19, 2010. TV Guide Network.
  2. ^ a b "Bernadette Peters & Josh Lucas To Appear on 'Will & Grace'". Starpulse.com. 2006-04-06. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  3. ^ Durfee, Rob. "rob's Will & Grace page - Whatever Happened to Baby Gin?". Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Whatever Happened to Baby Gin?". Archived from the original on 1 February 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2012. "GINNY: That's right. I loosened that floor board so you'd fall through. I just got so caught up in the game, I forgot." 
  5. ^ Warn, Sarah (2003-06-07). "Karen Walker and the Bisexual Straight Woman | TV Show Recaps, Celebrity Interviews & News About & For Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Women". AfterEllen.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  6. ^ "The Return of Karen Walker in KAREN: THE MUSICAL, MetroSource's Q&A with Megan Mullally". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  7. ^ Koski, Genevieve (2012-03-01). "Random Roles: Megan Mullally ". avclub.com. Retrieved 19 October 2012.