essential episodes

The 15 Best Episodes of Younger

Us when we watch Younger. Photo: TV Land

Younger’s seventh and final season debuts on Paramount+ and Hulu today, but before saying farewell to our favorite frothy TV rom-com, it feels right to look back on the fun we’ve had, doesn’t it? For six seasons, Sutton Foster’s Liza Miller has — well, yes, she’s “gaslit an entire company” by pretending to be 26 years old when no one in publishing would hire a 40-something divorced mom from New Jersey who’s been out of the workforce for over 15 years, but aside from her massive fraud and betrayal, she has also worked her way into a super-hot love triangle, found a life-long friendship in a colleague, and even warmed the heart of her incredibly closed-off boss. Liza’s complicated, is what I’m saying. The reason people have enjoyed this show, however, is not. It’s an easy-breezy escape that’s silly and heart-warming (and sometimes completely ridiculous).

In the years since its 2015 premiere, some of the series’s nods to then-timely matters have already begun to feel a bit dated, but the elements in which Younger excels — the romance, the female friendships — remain a joy. Which is why when it came time to pick the 15 best episodes of Younger from its first six seasons, those elements kept popping up over and over. Not every memorable moment gets a shout out on this list — I am sorry, Miriam Shor and Martha Plimpton doing Cabaret, know that I treasure you — but these 15 episodes all contain meaningful character development moments, story lines that pushed the series forward, and/or things that make us swoon. And since we all know that no episode of Younger is complete with The Diana Trout, Publishing Marketing Maven and Patron Saint of Neckwear, there’s a little Trout treat from each included episode. Think of it as a farewell gift. So which episodes cracked the top 15? Let’s dive in.

“Hot Mitzvah” (Season 1, Episode 11)

From the get-go, the major tension of Younger is built on knowing that at some point Liza’s secret will be exposed, it’s just a matter of when and to whom. Most viewers probably wouldn’t have guessed it would be within the first season and to Liza’s doting boyfriend Josh. But it is. And it is a moment. Everyone gathers together at Lauren’s Hot Mitzvah party (she didn’t feel great about her appearance at 13 when she had her bat mitzvah, so 13 years later she’s having a do-over) and their wild, sometimes unhinged host gives her besties shots of Manischewitz mixed with molly … without telling them (please don’t do this, ever). This leads us to a Liza-Josh moment that changes everything. They say “I love you” for the first time and Josh pours his heart out. Because of this, Liza finally, mercifully tells him the truth about who she is. Then she gets swept up on the dance floor and watches him walk out, in complete shock.

The Reviews Are In: Extra points are given to this episode for getting creative with the consequences of Liza’s lie by having her be “too young” to work as a book doctor on a 40-year-old’s romance novel, and for a piping hot bathtub scene between Liza and Josh, but really this one is all about it’s game-changing ending. It was time someone knew!

The Trout Excerpt: Liza is surprised to find her boss pouring her own cup of coffee, but Diana explains: “I like to keep my life skills sharp, you know, in case there’s another Sandy.”

“Like A Boss” (Season 2, Episode 3)

It’s the launch of Millennial Print! After getting a whole host of mean comments about the announcement of 26-year-old Kelsey becoming the editor-in-chief of a new millennial-based imprint, including one that is simply a kitten driving a Barbie car, Kelsey’s imposter syndrome spirals fast and deep. Eventually she ends up on the floor during the launch party, having a panic attack in a heinous couture dress from Lauren’s clients Hector and Dorff. Liza cuts her friend out of the dress and gives her a pep talk that perhaps can only come from someone with a little more life experience: The truth is, no one knows what they’re doing and we’re all just following the fake-it-till-you-make-it rule, Liza tells her friend. She lifts her up both literally and figuratively and it becomes another bittersweet Liza/Kelsey moment, watching their wonderful friendship grow while knowing that Liza is lying to Kelsey’s face.

The Reviews Are In: This episode is all about highlighting the chemistry between Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff and further developing Liza and Kelsey’s friendship — perhaps the most central to the series. It also doesn’t hurt that we get to see Charles really start falling for Liza, and that Josh realizes he loves Liza more than he hates that she lied to him and they get back together. Early Younger is great at slowly building that tension in Liza’s lovelife.

The Trout Excerpt: Diana hears the plans for the launch party include trash-to-table food in Greenpoint and a guest list of Instagram influencers and walks out of the room with a tossed-off, “If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my crypt.”

“Secrets and Liza” (Season 2, episode 11 )

This episode marks the first appearance of Crown of Kings, Younger’s parody of Game of Thrones. COK and its author, Edward L.L. Moore, are important to the Younger-verse because 1) those books are keeping Empirical from bankruptcy and 2) Edward L.L. Moore becomes a big part of Liza’s story down the line and that only works because of what’s set up in this episode. But we’re here for a different reason: The Crown of Kings story line cleverly ties into the other major story line of the episode, too: Liza has learned that Thad, now Kelsey’s fiancée, is cheating on Kelsey and she threatens to show Kelsey proof of that if Thad doesn’t confess. Then Thad discovers Liza’s secret and tries to blackmail her with that information … until he’s crushed by falling construction debris. Yep, Thad dies, right before Liza’s eyes. The moment, in all its insanity, still elicits a gasp no matter how often I’ve seen it. All those Crown of Kings references about “killing off important characters” and to “beware the wrath of the sky!” really hit differently by the end of the episode.

The Reviews Are In: Just because this is a rom-com, it doesn’t mean people aren’t going to DIE, okay? Younger loves to surprise, even in the most ridiculous ways (I mean, this is the same season as the sheep-fucker episode, so …).

The Trout Excerpt: It’s not a quote, but a moment: Diana fending off people trying to sell her comedy show tickets in Times Square is a quick, joyous delight.

“No Weddings & A Funeral” (Season 2 Episode 12)

Enter Chad, Thad’s identical twin who we never heard of until Thad’s funeral! Clearly trying to hook up with Kelsey, Chad gets his hands on security footage from Thad’s accident and discovers Thad and Liza fighting moments before his death. Kelsey asks for an explanation and when Liza tells her about Thad’s infidelity, Kelsey blames Liza for butting in and possibly getting Thad killed. Feeling like she ruins everything and everyone she comes close to, Liza does what any of us would do: She quits her job and flees to the Paramus Mall. It’s Charles who visits Liza at the department store where she’s now working, gives her an impassioned speech, and then kisses her (a weird way to get your employee to come back to work!). It’s hot but also confusing because guess who had horny funeral sex? Liza and Josh! They’ve been estranged for a few episodes, but no more. He tells Liza he wants her back and he’s “all in.” But the emotional peak of the episode is Liza returning to Empirical and embracing Kelsey, who really needs her best friend.

The Reviews Are In: Two reunions, a stolen kiss, and a secret identical twin? Now that’s a season finale.

The Trout Excerpt: Diana cares about Liza and getting her back at Empirical, but the woman still has principles: “Don’t look at me, I’m not going to New Jersey.”

“A Night at the Opera” (Season 3, Episode 4)

What a horny episode of Younger! Diana runs into a plumber named Enzo doing renovations in her building and when she tells him she needs some quiet, he tells her that she “need[s] to get fucked.” And then they have sex. A lot of it. It’s very hot and well-deserved, until Enzo disappears to another job, like a magical fairy plumber sent to clear out Diana’s pipes. Elsewhere, Josh and Liza, whose feelings for her boss are growing exponentially, bump into Charles and his new girlfriend Radha at the opera. In one charged moment, Liza sees Charles outside the bathroom and he helps her zip up her dress. Friends, Charles and that zipper walked so that the Bridgerton Duke and that spoon could run, you know what I mean? The interaction is so soaked in sexual tension, in fact, and Liza is so jealous of Charles with another woman, that post-opera she can’t jump on top of Josh fast enough, and the two race home so he can undo that zipper.

The Reviews Are In: Any episode in which Queen Trout gets hers (and puts down her defenses a bit) is a true pleasure. At the time, we didn’t yet know that Enzo the Plumber would reappear seasons later and become the love of Diana’s life, but the story line works as a memorable one-off just as well as it does now, looking back on it as the introduction of an important relationship. And all of this in an episode that also throws a ton of heat on the Josh-Liza-Charles triangle? It’s a true bounty of steaminess.

The Trout Excerpt: No quote here, no quote needed. Just the simple act of Diana walking into the office the morning after her time spent with Enzo in a fancy cocktail dress grinning like an idiot — “with both rows of teeth” Kelsey fearfully notes. We should all want to be her when we grow up.

“What’s Up, Dock?” (Season 3, Episode 8)

When Liza ends up with a broken collarbone after crashing into a taxi while returning Diana’s bike share (it was for a date full of miscommunication, don’t worry), hospital hijinks ensue. She’s hopped up on morphine and visited by boyfriends past, present, and future. Ex-husband David thinks he has a shot at rekindling things after his and Liza’s drunken hookup and the fact that she put the wrong birthdate on their divorce papers, thus nullifying them. Charles ditches girlfriend Radha (who finally gives him a “me or Liza” ultimatum) to check on his favorite employee and some awkward flirtations take place. But really, this is a moment for Josh to shine as he shows us he’s a real stand up guy who would do anything for his girlfriend.

The Reviews Are In: What makes this episode extra-special is watching Liza dote on Maggie. After she (almost) signs the divorce papers, Liza makes Maggie dinner and gives her a heartfelt thank you: “You’ve given me a home and allowed me to make a better life for myself than the one I had.” There are tears and wine, it is lovely. This episode wonderfully encapsulates Younger’s talent at highlighting female friendship, plus it showcases Sutton Foster’s physical comedy skills. Sorry, but I’ll never not laugh at her careening directly into that taxi. I just won’t.

The Trout Excerpt: Diana to Liza in regards to using the bike share: “I need you to do a little research and show me how this socialist bike system works.”

“A Book Fair To Remember” (Season 3, Episode 11)

Liza, Kelsey, Charles, and Diana head to the Hamptons Book Fair to help boost Millennial’s presence. Kelsey’s mostly preoccupied with her new boyfriend Colin’s meteoric rise as a debut author … with a different publishing house. Meanwhile, Liza gets blackmailed by Emily Burns, an assistant at EW who discovered her secret and is threatening to write an article about it unless Liza agrees to publish Pearls of Wisdom, her self-help book full of advice from her labradoodle. Backed into a corner, Liza goes behind Kelsey’s back and gives Emily a deal. Meanwhile, after flirting about Charles showing his knees and Liza eating a danish, the two nerds run into each other outside of a Berlin concert at a bar, dance to “Take My Breath Away” and then share multiple steamy kisses. One happens to be outside Liza’s hotel room, where Josh, who has just spelled out “Marry Me” on her bed in rose petals, sees and runs off, heart crushed. Also, Diana decides to take some tasteful nudes for her boyfriend, Richard, but ends up in the middle of a Pokémon Go game.

The Reviews Are In: Heartbreak! Blackmail! Slow dances! Nudie photo shoots gone very, very wrong! All of this and more goes down in an episode of Younger that not only gives us the show’s signature mix of silliness, heart, and romance in perfect quantities, but also really pushes the Josh-Liza-Charles love triangle forward, while also revealing the depths Liza will go to at this point to keep her secret from getting out. A little something for everyone here!

The Trout Excerpt: When asked if she has any modeling experience, Diana’s sincere response: “As a child I was in a local advertisement for a hospital, so … ”

Season 3, Episode 12 “Get Real”

After the proposal-gone-wrong and the kiss that took her breath away, Liza’s relationships with both Josh and Charles are in flux. Meanwhile, Liza and Kelsey are tasked with landing a self-help guru for Millennial, and to do so they must attend one of her seminars. When her ex David, also in attendance, is pulled up onto the stage and starts talking about his wife and her new boy-toy, Liza knows she’s in trouble. She sneaks off to the bathroom just in time for him to call her phone on stage, but instead of David winning her back, the guru helps Liza realize she’s in love with Josh. She races to his apartment and professes her love, but unlike your typical rom-com, there is no happy ending here. Josh calls Liza a liar and a cheater and tells her she hurts people. He can’t be with her. It is devastating. It also propels her to Hilary Duff’s Come Clean to Kelsey. And so she tells her everything.

The Reviews Are In: The final two scenes in this finale make it stand out: More heartbreaking and shocking than the fizzy Younger typically goes, Josh has finally had enough of Liza messing with his feelings (Nico Tortorella is great here) and his rejection is a gut-punch. On top of everything, this is a season finale, and the cliffhanger that leaves us wondering how Kelsey will react to the full story is deployed perfectly. Oh, and if things feel too sad and uncertain, know that Diana brings her parrot, Elphaba, to the office and it starts repeating Diana’s sex noises in front of everyone. Wow, it’s truly a privilege to type that sentence.

The Trout Excerpt: Anything that involves Diana Trout and a parrot is instant gold, but it’s really that line reading of “Animals are so mysterious” that sends me.

“Forged in Fire” (Season 4, Episode 3)

If you’ve been paying attention to this list, dear reader, it should be clear that a real highlight of Younger is the Liza and Kelsey friendship. So it should be no surprise that “Forged in Fire” makes this list — it’s all about Kelsey and Liza repairing their relationship after Liza tells Kelsey the truth. Up until this point, Kelsey’s been keeping the secret purely to maintain Millennial’s brand. In this episode, the ladies head to Bonfire, a super-secret invite-only publishing retreat led by the show’s send-up of Amazon, Achilles. Kelsey spends the duration getting shitfaced and making Liza feel terrible. On the drive home, however, once the ladies get cell service, Liza gets a ton of frantic texts and calls from Caitlin, who had to go to the hospital and have emergency surgery. Kelsey gets to see Liza in mom-mode and learn more about why Liza did what she did. At one point, Kelsey goes to leave and give Liza privacy, but Liza grabs her hand. She needs her, signaling that although Liza lied about a lot of things, how much she needs and cares about Kelsey was always the truth.

The Reviews Are In: Kelsey had every reason to be mad forever, but the show doesn’t work without Liza and Kelsey together, and having their reconciliation tied to seeing Liza’s motivations for, as Kelsey puts it in a later episode “gaslighting an entire company,” feels believable. And on top of that, this episode sees Diana making it very known that she cares about Liza’s future success. The ponies were right, friendship is magic.

The Trout Excerpt: Diana’s boyfriend Richard offers her a compliment about being beautiful inside and out, and Diana doesn’t miss a beat: “I only care about out.”

“A Close Shave” (Season 4, episode 6)

Perhaps the moral of this story is don’t meet cute, age-appropriate guys at mysterious publishing retreats in the woods because they will be charming and nice and happy to help you commit identity fraud, but they will also make your love life very complicated. When Charles sees Liza and Jay, another editor and a classmate from Princeton, having dinner together, it makes him feel a lot of things. The problem is, Charles is already feeling so many things because Kelsey gets into a Twitter feud with Zane Anders, the editor she’s sleeping with, and he gets a hold of sensitive information and proceeds to poach Empirical’s top author, Edward L.L. Moore. Charles could lose the company, he’s freaking out, he takes it out on Kelsey and mama bear Liza will have none of it. She storms into Charles’s office to tell him off and he starts ranting about several things until he finally gets to the thing he’s actually upset about and that’s how Liza could be dating Jay and not him. It’s a record-scratch moment with big implications for the future of the show.

The Reviews Are In: I could’ve just written “I don’t know how you’re dating a 40-something guy in publishing who isn’t me!” and everyone would be like, “oh yeah, I know why this episode is on this list.”

The Trout Excerpt: Although I do love Diana’s story about pillow talk gone wrong while she was at HarperCollins, her response to Richard’s “I love you” text is “I know. Thank you.” and you just can’t beat that.

“Fever Pitch” (Season 4, Episode 7)

We’re still processing Charles completely unloading his feelings onto Liza when this episode hands us two very good story lines to dig into. Liza, still flustered from the moment with Charles and the vivid sex dreams she’s having about him, heads to PitchFest to hear ideas from unpublished authors. Liza gets one lovely pitch from a woman named Pauline Turner, who left her Upper East Side life, including her husband and children, to find herself. She brings some chapters to Charles, who conveniently is the only one left at the office and oh buddy, the two talk about a hard cupcake and then go at it on his desk, releasing tension that has been almost unbearably rising all season. And then they get interrupted by the custodial worker, Charles sees the chapters Liza’s brought and realizes that Pauline Turner is Pauline Turner-Brooks, his wife who left him, and she’s written a book about their marriage. Consider all the sexual tension sucked out of the room.

The other main plot of the episode is a goody, too: Avoiding the office after losing Empirical its biggest author, Kelsey heads upstate with Lauren and Josh to relax in a house full of dicks (no, really). It gives Kelsey and Josh a chance to address the building tension between them: They kiss, but very quickly Kelsey pulls away, knowing that it isn’t right to do this to Liza. It would’ve been an intriguing path for the show to take, but perhaps too easy.

The Reviews Are In: Sure, this is a big one for Team Charles and has some excellent Kelsey moments, but what really pushed it onto the list is one of the best lines of the series, “The door knob’s a knob!” So simple, so perfect.

The Trout Excerpt: Diana knows something is up with Charles when he’s not in the office; the guy never misses work: “Not even during Hurricane Sandy when our power went out and he marched his thoroughbred thighs up 40 flights. So brave.”

“It’s Love, Actually” (Season 4, Episode 11)

There’s a lot happening in this leadup to the season four finale — Josh decides to run after Clare to Ireland and the Kelsey/Zane stuff gets kicked up a notch when Zane takes a job at Empirical — but this episode is here for two reasons. The first is that here, at the Pubbies, with Charles and Pauline thrown in her face, Liza finally gets real about her feelings for Charles. Her date, Jay (JUSTICE FOR JAY!), can see it all over her face, she loves Charles, and Liza has to admit it to herself. That’s progress! But Diana’s story line is the real star here. She’s being honored at the Pubbies, it should be a great night, but she realizes she’s being manipulated by her boyfriend Richard and she knows she deserves much better. She dumps his ass and then slaps on some ridiculous neckwear before heading out to collect her accolades. At the event, she swears she’s fine standing on her own, both in life and on the red carpet, but when it comes down to it, Diana reaches for Liza. A girl could still use the reassuring hand of a friend, after all.

The Reviews Are In: If that scene in which Diana tells Richard off and then steadies herself in the mirror didn’t make you think, hmm should this show actually be about Diana Trout? well, your eyes were probably closed.

The Trout Excerpt: “I have grown. A few months ago I thought I had to put up with someone I knew was manipulating me and now I know I deserve better.” If that’s too sincere for you, there’s always Diana’s “stoop, please” that she tosses at Liza on the red carpet before things get too mushy.

“A Christmas Miracle” (Season 5, Episode 7)

Charles and Liza “meet” for the first time at a mutual friend’s holiday party, Charles walking in just as Liza, her daughter, and ex husband put on the Miller family holiday tradition of performing “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music. He’s finally seeing Liza for who she truly is (just, like, adorned with a dirndl). Days later, as he heads off for a holiday ski trip, a commercial for The Sound of Music comes on and he knows what he must do: He must get to Liza. And he does. And he tells her that he doesn’t care about her lie. And he kisses her. And it’s snowing.

It is not the only swoony moment of the episode. How about Enzo bringing Diana a Christmas tree and warming that cold Trout heart? They just love each other so much! Or the extremely, objectively most heart-warming scene: Liza and Diana’s gift exchange. Diana gets her assistant a Diana Trout-approved piece of neckwear and in turn, Liza gives Diana a handmade scarf. The thoughtfulness visibly moves Diana. Agh, they just love each other so much, too!

The Reviews Are In: Rom-com fans should cherish this episode, for it is a gift.

The Trout Excerpt: The Queen of Neckwear has no time for blinking Christmas light necklaces: “Neckwear should inspire envy, Liza. Not seizures.”

“The Bubble” (Season 5, Episode 8)

Honestly, this episode might have made this list solely for the Liza and Charles Finally Have Sex Montage at the top. But “The Bubble” is a real overachiever. Charles and Liza are trying to stay in their secret new relationship bubble as long as possible, but that bubble gets popped the moment Pauline returns to pitch what could happen in season two of Marriage Vacation’s Netflix adaptation and it’s all about her husband being stolen by a two-faced assistant. Eventually Charles gives her the option rights to her second novel in exchange for keeping quiet about the romance. It’s the first glimpse of Charles being willing to really give it all up for Liza, and plants some seeds for future episodes.

Other people are being selfless, too: When petty, scorned political writer Jake Devereaux wants to take his book away from Kelsey and give it to Zane to teach her a lesson, Zane says no. This is Kelsey’s baby and he won’t steal it from her. It’s because he loves her! But wait, there’s more: Thanks to Lauren, Maggie and her ex Malkie cross paths and Malkie calls Maggie out on being closed off. It hurts. We’ve never seen Maggie so emotionally vulnerable. She leans on Liza for support and then decides to make a big romantic gesture to show Malkie she’s changing, by way of a mural outside Malkie’s boutique.

The Reviews Are In: We’re sweating, we’re swooning, we’re talking mysterious beards. Plus, whenever the show gives Liza a chance to be there for someone else, instead of just letting Liza be a needy monster person, which we all know SHE CAN BE, there is always a standout moment. And with a runner that has Diana on a cleanse, Younger’s really firing on all cylinders here.

The Trout Excerpt: Upon beholding Charles’s I’ve Been Getting Laid Beard, Kelsey remarks that men who grow beards are usually hiding something. Diana responds, “Yes. Generally crumbs.”

“The Debu-taunt” (Season 6, Episode 8)

We are gathered together today to talk about the moment that Pauline outs Liza’s secret to the entire publishing world and Younger blows up its premise once and for all. It is exciting and inevitable and it is all focused on Diana Trout. Honestly, who gives a flying fuck about the fallout in the publishing world at large. Diana stands up to defend the young assistant she has come to love as she is being publicly trashed, only to learn that the assistant has been lying to her all along and she is the last person to know. Miriam Shor has been a scene stealer since season one, but in this episode, she steals the whole show.

It’s after the panic attack in Times Square and after her hospital confession to Enzo about just how humiliated she is that we get The Scene back in the office. It’s one of the best of the series. Diana’s hurt for a lot of reasons, but a major one is that she, so closed off when we first met her, opened herself up to Liza so fully. Diana realizing that Liza does care about her and telling her that she loves her in her own Diana way, and Liza saying the words outright, well it makes me tear up just thinking about it, okay? In a show riddled with declarations of love, this is the best it gets.

The Reviews Are In: Six seasons of building the Liza/Diana relationship comes to a head here and I… can’t type, still crying about it.

The Trout Excerpt: Liza’s understandably excited to learn that Diana and Enzo are engaged — and Liza’s going to be the maid of honor! — but that is not Diana’s way. At the height of Liza’s excitement, Diana has to set her straight with a simple: “Liza, please deactivate yourself.”

The 15 Best Episodes of Younger