Do you hear the shrieking? It’s coming from me. It started around the time the curtain rose in that German club and I realized I was staring at Miriam Shor and Martha Plimpton both dressed as the emcee from Cabaret, singing “Willkommen” on stage. It hasn’t stopped since. What a glorious gift! The sun is brighter! Food tastes better! My gray hairs have magically disappeared! Truly: We are blessed.
If only the entire penultimate episode of season five was just one long Shor & Plimpton Variety Show. Alas, it is not. Don’t get it twisted, by the end of the half hour I was crying along with Kelsey and Liza, thinking about how I cherish this beautiful, complicated friendship — but there were some wonky bits along the way.
You know, like Josh contemplating being a sperm donor for Malkie. Maggie invites Josh and Lauren to feast on meat, wine, and weed — the Maggie Amato Trifecta — with her and Malkie. (By the way: a million thanks to the commenter who left the link for Debi Mazar’s lasagna last week. Perhaps we all can comfort ourselves with Maggie’s signature dish during the long, cold Younger-less months ahead.) This drunken meal devolves into Malkie admitting that she’d like to have kids, but she can’t afford a sperm donor. Although, the guy sitting next to her seems like a good candidate. And yes, Josh is drunk, but he seems sincere in his offer. Maggie is left blindsided. But all this possible baby-mama drama is left for a later date because, you guys, Liza has a plan.
It seems like a plan that will somehow blow up in her face, per the rules of TV, but it is a plan nonetheless.
Since Liza pressed pause on her relationship with Charles, the two have either been making unbearably polite small talk (“I wore a hat!”) or avoiding one another. The latter won’t be so easy once Charles announces that the whole team is heading over to the big Frankfurt Book Fair. For the Millennial crew, it’ll be a celebration of their big year; for Zane, the only editor representing Empirical, apparently (no wonder it’s failing, buddy), it’ll be time for some hard-core networking. Also, there will be lederhosen. So much lederhosen.
Diana might not be thrilled to go to Frankfurt — “It’s like Buffalo with dumplings” — but Liza sure is. She’s got her traveler’s checks ready to go and everything! Unfortunately, her sunny disposition quickly dissipates when Cheryl Sussman, the baddest bitch in publishing, makes her entrance. She might have been blackmailed into keeping quiet about Liza’s age before, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t going to torment her anytime she gets the chance. Which is here, in Frankfurt.
Liza alerts Kelsey to the fact that Cheryl knows the truth about everything, but assures her pal and colleague that she has it handled. Kelsey doesn’t find that promise so reassuring — she knows Cheryl plays dirty.
Cheryl seems preoccupied by trying to convince Diana, her BFFF (Best Frankfurt Friend Forever), to party like it’s 1999 again (the year when Diana tried to pull pantyhose over her head at a Simon & Schuster book fair party), so Kelsey and Liza attempt to enjoy their success. They receive word that, in an unprecedented move, both Marriage Vacation and Jake’s Capitol Letters (where is Jake, by the way?) have been chosen as the “book of the fair,” and the two ladies at the helm of Millennial are basically rock stars now.
To celebrate the big coup, Liza and Kelsey hold a Millennial panel. Things go very wrong when a nosy German reporter wants to know how old Liza is — there’s no way she’s a Millennial. Here’s the thing I don’t get: Is she supposed to be a plant put there by Cheryl to torture Liza? If so, there is no connection made between the two. Or is she simply just an outspoken reporter? If that’s the case, how is she honestly the first person who has asked this? This whole scene just feels a little off somehow. But no worries, the point of it is to have Liza witnessing firsthand the extremes Kelsey goes to in order to protect her. Seeing Kelsey lie for Liza is killing her inside.
This is why, when Cheryl cozies up to Liza in the middle of a club and offers her a job at Plaza, one where she won’t completely bring down Empirical if/when she gets exposed (they could say they didn’t know, I guess? The internal logic here is murky), Liza seriously considers it. Not only would a job at Plaza mean she’d get out of Kelsey’s way, but it would also mean she and Charles could be together in public — no more secrets. And what do you know? After Cheryl’s done her pitch, Charles sits down next to Liza with multiple buttons on his button-down shirt undone. MULTIPLE BUTTONS. Just tempting Liza. Tempting us all.
Charles is in a delightful mood because he thinks he found an investor for Empirical — earlier, Sad Charles divulged to Liza that he only had three months’ worth of operating expenses left and Empirical was in dire need of some cash … and also that he wants to kiss her like, really badly. He still can’t kiss her, but the company may live to see another day. Honestly, the guy is having a bang-up day. Immediately after this conversation, he gets to feast his eyes on Diana and Cheryl doing Cabaret, and that is followed up by Cheryl laying a big ol’ kiss on his face and drunkenly calling Frankfurt “Fuckfurt,” which (1) is hilarious, and (2) is the Frankfurt Tourism Board watching this? Cheryl is on to something.
When Charles leaves for his hotel, Liza follows. She arrives at his door with news of a plan to reunite them. Then they make out. Then she tells him the actual plan. Liza has her priorities very straight. If Charles releases her from her Empirical contract, she can take the job with Plaza, and they can be together. Charles likes this plan, especially the last part. So, he fires her and then they have sex. What a weird relationship!
Cheryl peeps Liza leaving Charles’s room, and is now armed with even more ammo against Liza, so perhaps this Plaza Publishing exit plan isn’t going to go as smoothly as Liza hopes — still, she needs to inform the other person majorly affected by this move: Kelsey.
The next morning, Kelsey wakes up in Zane’s bed with a raging hangover. No, these two birds did not sleep together. Kelsey spent the evening getting hammered in a fabulous coat and Zane spent the evening making sure she was okay. He even punches a handsy dude for her! Of course, that handsy dude turns out to be the agent he has a meeting with in order to procure his next big author (the meeting doesn’t go well!), so Zane might be reconsidering if Kelsey is worth all the trouble. Still, Kelsey is reeling from the possibility of falling hard for Zane.
The high she’s riding is immediately crushed once Liza informs her of her impending exit from Millennial. Oh you guys, this scene! Liza knows that deep down Kelsey must hate Liza just a little bit for everything she’s put her through. The lie is jeopardizing Kelsey’s success. Which is why she must go to Plaza Publishing (she leaves out the part about getting to bang Charles on the reg, but). Kelsey bursts into tears. She can’t go! Yes, they’ll be friends outside of work, but Millennial really was their journey to go on together. But they both know Liza needs to get out before things go bad. Who knows if the whole thing will actually happen, but still, it’s hard not to be moved by this teary hug of friendship in the lobby of a Frankfurt hotel. Again: Frankfurt Tourism Board, get on this!
It’s Trout Season
• It’s not the first time, nor the last time I will mention this: THE TROUT DID CABARET. Put it on a tote bag or something because that moment deserves to be treasured, always. (Doesn’t “Maybe This Time” feel like a Diana Trout anthem?)
• On a more serious note: How about those glimpses of Liza overshadowing her boss? The sheer surprise in Diana’s face when Liza orders her to get pens so Liza can sign autographs for Millennial fans after the “book of the fair” announcement was, honestly, heartbreaking. I know the big theory is that Diana already knows Liza is lying about her age, but if she doesn’t — how terrible will that discovery be?
• “Lovely language, German. Like a thousand cats coughing.”