In the pilot episode of TV Land’s Younger, 40-year-old freshly divorced mom Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) is unable to get a job in publishing after taking time off to raise her now college-aged daughter, so her best friend and new roommate, Maggie (Debi Mazar), suggests she say she’s only 26 on her résumé. Thanks to a wardrobe fit for a Brooklyn millennial, a dye job, and some major (like, very major) suspension of disbelief, it works. Liza secures employment at Empirical Publishing, which means she has to keep that lie going for the foreseeable future. So for five seasons (over a year in the show’s world), Liza’s been lying and attempting to keep her true age a secret from friends, lovers, co-workers, and co-workers who become lovers … but mostly failing at it.
Whether it happened because Liza decided to unburden herself and reveal her true identity to someone she loves, or because both of her IDs happened to fall out of her wallet — which, yes, is a thing that happened — it seems like at this point everyone has somehow discovered the secret of Liza’s true age. In fact, there are only three main players who don’t know about it: Liza’s boss and the reason statement necklaces were created, Diana Trout (Miriam Shor); Kelsey’s best friend, PR maven, and resident kook Lauren (Molly Bernard); and extremely handsome person Zane Anders (Charles Michael Davis). Furthermore, there’s a whole group of side characters who are already in on publishing’s worst-kept secret.
As we head into season six, in which surely this lie will become even more exposed (someone please tell the Trout, she deserves to know!), here’s a quick refresher on who knows about Liza, how they found out, and what happened once they did.
Josh (Nico Tortorella)
When does he find out? “Hot Mitzvah” (Season 1, Episode 11)
How does he find out? At Lauren’s hot-mitzvah party (she’s 26 and hot now, so), she drugs all of her friends with Molly. While rolling, Josh and Liza say “I love you” for the first time and then Liza decides to spill her guts, emotionally speaking.
Well, how does he take the news? Josh is very sad, not because of the age thing, but because of the lying thing. And also probably because he got a dragon tattoo thinking Liza was born during the Year of the Dragon. But, alas, she was not.
What’s the fallout? They decide to start over, thanks to a slideshow Liza makes that honestly feels like such an old-person move. Still, the obstacles they face in their relationship post-PowerPoint are too great — Josh hates lying for Liza, Liza doesn’t want kids, Josh catches Liza smashing faces with her boss — and the two split for good. (Or do they?)
Cheryl Sussman (Martha Plimpton)
When does she find out? “The Old Ma’am and the C” (Season 1, Episode 12)
How does she find out? Cheryl’s from a rival publishing house, and while having lunch with Diana Trout in an attempt to get some information on Empirical’s bid for an Ellen DeGeneres book, she learns that Liza is Diana’s 20-something assistant … which would be all well and good, except that Cheryl and Liza worked together at Random House years ago.
Well, how does she take the news? Oh, Cheryl Sussman is downright giddy about it because Cheryl Sussman plays dirty, and now she’s got the dirtiest dirt with which to play.
What’s the fallout? When Cheryl tries to get Liza to hand over proprietary info, Liza pulls the old “blackmail the blackmailer” card and thwarts all efforts. Cheryl never outrightly spills Liza’s secret but does continue to taunt our heroine with the fact that she knows. In season five, after Liza turns down a huge job offer from Cheryl, she decides to leak a story about Liza and Charles’s affair, but says nothing about Liza’s real age. Cheryl’s a bitch in the best and worst ways
Dr. Jane Wray (Camryn Manheim)
When does she find out? “Beyond Therapy” (Season 2, Episode 8)
How does she find out? Doctor-patient confidentiality is a glorious thing! Empirical’s Millennial imprint is trying to nab Dr. Wray’s book, and before Cheryl Sussman can fully out Liza, she becomes Wray’s patient, tells her everything, and wins the book for her imprint by making a deal in which Wray can include Liza’s story anonymously in her book if she comes to Millennial. Using the lie as leverage works both ways, apparently.
Well, how does she take the news? Oh, she is very interested in Liza Miller.
What’s the fallout? Honestly, not much. There’s talk of wanting the subject of that “anonymous” case study to appear on Ellen, but Liza shuts it down pretty easily. Let’s hope, at the very least, Liza’s still seeing Dr. Wray. If anyone needs some therapy, it’s the lady living a double life.
Thad (Dan Amboyer)
When does he find out? “Secrets and Liza” (Season 2, Episode 11)
How does he find out? Just when Liza’s about to show Kelsey a video of Thad hooking up with a co-worker in his office bathroom, he bumps into Liza’s college-aged daughter, Caitlin, and Liza’s entire story begins to unravel.
Well, how does he take the news? Is Thad related to Cheryl Sussman? He plans to blackmail Liza to his heart’s content … only Liza tells him he can expose her secret; she refuses to let Kelsey marry such a dirtbag. Aw, what a pal!
What’s the fallout? A construction beam falls from a crane and kills Thad. Okay, so, Liza doesn’t literally cause that to happen (she does have to watch it happen), but still, it is an insane deus ex machina and no one talks about it enough. From a crane, you guys!
Emily (Fiona Robert) and Pearl the Labradoodle, who knows all
When does she find out? “A Book Fair to Remember” (Season 3, Episode 11)
How does she find out? She does some digging for her EW article on Millennial, and thanks to the Dartmouth alumni database, she discovers Liza’s real age. Emily may seem like a dummy, but unfortunately for Liza, she’s not.
Well, how does she take the news? Oh, very well. It means she can blackmail Liza into publishing Pearls of Wisdom, a self-help book written from her dog Pearl’s perspective.
What’s the fallout? Well, Millennial has to publish a Labradoodle advice book, which seems humiliating … but it actually becomes a huge hit! Also, Liza has to attach a merkin to a dog, but don’t feel bad for her; she’s the one committing fraud!
Kelsey (Hilary Duff)
When does she find out? “Get Real” (Season 3, Episode 12)
How does she find out? After Josh tells Liza that she’s a liar and a cheater and hurting everyone she loves (he isn’t wrong?), Liza decides it’s time to make like Hilary Duff’s 2004 single and come clean to her best friend. (I’ll never apologize for that joke.)
Well, how does she take the news? No exaggeration, horribly.
What’s the fallout? Since the Liza-Kelsey friendship feels like Younger’s true love story, the rift that forms between them once Kelsey learns the truth hurts the most. Kelsey’s heart is broken, you guys! Thankfully, it only lasts about three episodes, and once Kelsey sees Liza being a good mom, the two make up and Kelsey becomes Liza’s biggest ally in keeping her secret.
Jay (Aasif Mandvi)
When does he find out? “A Close Shave” (Season 4, Episode 6)
How does he find out? After meeting Liza at a publishing retreat, he runs into her with Caitlin, who refers to Liza as “mom” like children typically refer to their mothers. Liza has no good cover story and ends up telling Jay everything over dinner.
Well, how does he take the news? Like it’s nothing. He’s happy not only to keep her secret but also to rescue her several times when it looks like she might be exposed. The best thing about Jay is that he wants nothing in return. No blackmailing here! He is too good for this world.
What’s the fallout? Jay and Liza date a little bit, but alas, Liza’s heart belongs elsewhere. Still, the best gift Jay gives us is that he forces Charles to admit his feelings for Liza in one of the best scenes of the series. You know the one I’m talking about. “I don’t know why you’re dating a 40-something guy in publishing who isn’t me!” Charles yells. We can never truly repay you for this, Jay.
Charles (Peter Hermann)
When does he find out? “#LizaToo” (Season 5, Episode 1)
How does he find out? After dropping their biggest author, Edward L.L. Moore, due to sexual harassment allegations, Moore fights back by providing information that will discredit all of his accusers, including Liza Miller, who, he tells Charles, is a complete con artist. Edward L.L. Moore brings receipts!
Well, how does he take the news? Probably the worst out of everyone. He’s like 10 percent relieved that he didn’t fall for a 27-year-old, 90 percent angry that Liza betrayed him. Like, so angry. He ices her out at work and grows progressively passive-aggressive until finally he tells her he knows the truth. And by “tells,” we mean he “yells at her on a Manhattan sidewalk.”
What’s the fallout? Things are rough at work for a while, there are lots of longing glances being tossed around, and it makes the release of Charles’s ex-wife’s book Marriage Vacation much more complicated, but eventually he sees Liza for who she really is and falls even more in love with her. We’re still swooning!
Don Ridley (Christian Borle)
When does he find out? “Big Little Liza” (Season 5, Episode 5)
How does he find out? While on a date with the freelance journalist, Liza trips on some ice and her belongings go flying. Don finds both of her IDs scattered on the sidewalk and has some questions. One of them is not “Why is your wallet so slippery that your IDs fell out of it?” but it should’ve been.
Well, how does he take the news? To her face, he says he understands the idea of doing whatever it takes for your kid. Behind her back, he writes up a huge story about her for Vanity Fair.
What’s the fallout? The article gets pulled before getting published and Don just lets it go. Don doesn’t seem like the best journalist.
Caitlin (Tessa Albertson)
When does she find out? “Girls on the Side” (Season 5, Episode 10)
How does she find out? After seeing Caitlin get hurt by having a secret relationship with her college professor, Liza opens up to her daughter.
Well, how does she take the news? The most realistic way: She laughs in Liza’s face and asks if anyone has seen her in daylight. The truth hurts, Liza!
What’s the fallout? Not much aside from some mother-daughter bonding. At least now Caitlin can stop blowing up Liza’s spot accidentally.
Quinn Tyler (Laura Benanti)
When does she find out? “Lizability” (Season 5, Episode 12)
How does she find out? When Quinn decides to invest in Empirical — specifically for Millennial — Liza and Charles realize that the only way it could be a clean investment is if Liza has nothing to do with it. She offers to leave and work with Cheryl Sussman, but when she tells Quinn her plans, Quinn doesn’t buy her explanation, so Liza tells her everything.
Well, how does she take the news? Oh, she is into it. She thinks exposing Liza’s secret to the world and making her the poster child for ageism would be incredible for Liza, for Millennial, and most importantly, for her own book.
What’s the fallout? Since Quinn is into Liza’s situation, Liza turns down Cheryl’s offer. In an act of revenge, Cheryl leaks Charles and Liza’s affair to “Page Six” and Quinn backs out of the investment, unable to spin such a story in today’s climate … until Charles tells her that he’ll step down as the face of the company and they can put Kelsey in charge. Charles gives up his job (he’ll become chairman of the board) so that he and Liza can be together and his family’s company doesn’t totally crumble. It’s a huge, life-altering decision. So the fallout is basically everything. All the fallout you could imagine.