secrets and lies

How Everyone on Younger Discovered Liza’s Secret

Sutton Foster as Liza Miller. Photo: Zach Dilgard/TV Land

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-age daughter, so her best friend and new roommate, Maggie (Debi Mazar), suggests that she lie on her résumé and say she’s only 26. 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 as a sort of fresh-faced 26-year-old, which means that in order to keep her job, she has to keep that lie going for the foreseeable future. Well, until season six, episode eight, that is.

It is in that episode that Charles’s (Peter Hermann) ex-wife, Pauline Turner Brooks (Jennifer Westfeldt), discovers that the woman dating her ex, the woman spending time with her daughters, the woman who basically gave her a writing career, is not who she says she is. Oh, you guys, Pauline is angry. And Pauline is also a dick. So she decides to out Liza Miller to the entire world while onstage at a major publishing event meant to celebrate Pauline and Liza’s working relationship. Ex-wives, amirite?

So, yes, after six seasons (it’s been much less time within the world of the show) Liza is completely exposed and the premise of Younger is irrevocably blown up. Now everyone — including the last three major characters to learn the truth, Lauren (Molly Bernard), Zane (Charles Michael Davis), and good Lord Diana Trout (Miriam Shor) — knows. Here’s the thing, friends: Liza’s true age was the worst-kept secret in publishing. Whether it was 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 — characters on the show, both major and tertiary, were learning the truth all over the place!

Don’t believe me? Let’s turn to the below timeline of who found out Liza’s secret when and what happened when they did, all the way down to the very last person kept in the dark. After revisiting some of the bigger reveals, it’s easy to see that it was only a matter of time for Liza’s lie to go public.

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.

Pauline Turner Brooks (Jennifer Westfeldt)

When does she find out? “The Debu-taunt” (Season 6, Episode 8)

How does she find out? In an effort to “bury the hatchet” with Liza, she has her register for the approved pickup list from the girls’ school. When Pauline remarks to the admin that there’s not much you can do about your ex’s 20-something girlfriend, that admin is basically like, “Well, I haven’t been on this show that much so I don’t understand the stakes and I don’t care about privacy laws, so here, look at Liza’s license — that broad is 42.”

Well, how does she take the news? The woman goes nuclear. After finding out that Charles also knew about Liza’s lie and kept it from her while he let Lyin’ Liza around their kids, she decides it would be real cool-like to use her time at the mic during a Publishers Weekly event for debut authors to completely out Liza in front of everyone. Hell hath no fury, etc, etc.

What’s the fallout? Obviously, there’s the Diana of it all — which we will get to — and the story goes public, so there will be major fallout for Millennial, but on a personal level, Pauline informs Charles that she’s getting her lawyers to revise their custody agreement. I told you: NUCLEAR.

Zane Anders (Charles Michael Davis)

When does he find out? “The Debu-taunt” (Season 6, Episode 8)

How does he find out? He is sitting front and center at the Publishers Weekly event as Pauline puts Liza on full blast.

Well, how does he take the news? Zane doesn’t have a huge personal connection with Liza, but he is angry that he is one of the last people to know and about how it is going to affect the company.

What’s the fallout? A lot of dirty looks and disappointed head shakes in Liza’s general direction.

Lauren Heller (Molly Bernard)

When does she find out? “The Debu-taunt” (Season 6, Episode 8)

How does she find out? Our PR maven is sitting at the Millennial table when Pauline sets the world on fire, figuratively speaking. Lauren’s going to have some work to do!

Well, how does she take the news? Lauren’s response might be the best of all. She immediately starts calling Liza “Ms. Miller” because her parents taught her “to respect [her] elders.” She also questions how she didn’t figure it out earlier, especially knowing that Liza thought Four Loko was a rapper.

What’s the fallout? Hard to tell at the moment. She is obviously surprised, but that’s to be expected as she processes the fact that a close friend has been lying to her the entire time they’ve known each other. Still, Lauren doesn’t seem like one to hold a grudge over something like this.

Diana Trout (Miriam Shor)

When does she find out? “The Debu-taunt” (Season 6, Episode 8)

How does she find out? Queen Trout listens to Pauline expose Liza at the PW event, but it’s not until Diana rails against Pauline for being vindictive — look at Diana standing up for her friend in front of everyone! — and Liza has to confirm that what Pauline says is true, that Diana finally gets it. Her best friend, the woman she asked to be her maid of honor, has been lying to her face. A bonus sting comes when she realizes that she was the last person to know. She’s “the village idiot.”

Well, how does she take the news? Um, how do you think she takes the news?! SHE HAS A PANIC ATTACK IN THE MIDDLE OF TIMES SQUARE.

What’s the fallout? Surprisingly (thankfully!), it doesn’t take too long for Diana to forgive Liza. At first, she’s a little baffled as to why Liza would go to all this trouble for this particular job. But as she begins to list tasks Liza’s had to do over the years, it quickly moves from degrading (clean Elphaba’s birdcage! Bring her urine sample to the doctor!) to much more meaningful things Liza’s done for Diana (held her hand on the red carpet! Told her to go after Enzo!). Because that’s it, isn’t it, folks? It started out as Liza lying to get a job with Diana, but it turned into something much more — a friendship that neither want to lose. We’ll see how their dynamic changes post-reveal, but it seems like their bond is only stronger. Anyway, I’m going to go have a good cry in a dark bathroom somewhere because female friendship is amazing and Diana Trout was holding back so many tears. See ya!


When do they find out? “The Debu-taunt” (Season 6, Episode 8)

How do they find out? After Pauline goes hog wild at the PW event, The New Yorker publishes an article all about the drama at Millennial and Liza’s lie being exposed. It’s everywhere!

Well, how do they take the news? Oh, you know people are messy bitches who love drama. The Summer of Scam lives on!

What’s the fallout? Yet to be seen. This is a PR nightmare and Millennial is sure to pay the price for it in some way or another. Cool, cool, cool. This should be fun!

How Everyone on Younger Discovered Liza’s Secret