Oh boy, could what Lauren’s doing in this episode be any more cringey? Lauren’s always been an extreme sort of person, but her going full throttle over Liza’s possible engagement doesn’t exactly feel like her. In the previous episode, when she showed Liza that she had video of Charles proposing to her, Liza asked that this stay between them. It was a circle of trust. She would let her know when a decision was made. Here, a bouquet of flowers shows up at the office for Liza and Lauren assumes Liza must have said yes and these are a romantic gesture from her now betrothed. There are 300 other things you could assume. Also, flowers come with a card, if she’s so bent on butting in she would be reading that card. But she can’t read that card because if she did, she would’ve learned they were simply from a charity organization and she wouldn’t go ahead and make a slideshow announcing Charles and Liza’s engagement to the whole company that leads to a big, public blowup between the estranged couple. Can you tell I’m frustrated? Everything is just feeling a tad too contrived at the moment.
But it is true: Lauren queues up this big Liza and Charles slideshow set to “Take My Breath Away” (how dare she!) and doesn’t listen as both Charles and Liza try to stop her until finally Charles has to yell at her and inform everyone that yes, he proposed, and no, they are not engaged. The awkward staff meeting devolves into Liza and Charles rehashing their difference of opinion for all to see: Liza loves Charles and doesn’t think they need a piece of paper in order to spend the rest of their lives together, and Charles loves Liza but thinks marriage is much more than a piece of paper. There’s no middle ground here. It’s quite the tragedy.
Kelsey is super-surprised by this news since Liza had yet to fill her in — she was waiting for a better time since Kelsey was dealing with both the loss of Zane and Millennial. When in doubt, Younger should always lean on the Liza and Kelsey friendship to ground the story, as it does here. Kelsey wants to be there for her friend and so advises her to focus on her work. And anyway, all Kelsey heard in that fight is that Charles said he loved her in front of everyone. Aw, Kels.
Unfortunately for us, the “work” they’re talking about in this episode is just as frustrating as how that staff meeting played out. Liza and Kelsey are looking to sign Füpa (oh, Younger) Grünhof as an author. She is Younger’s bizarro-world Greta Thunberg and the parody is so over the top that any charm it might have had wears off quickly. Füpa is a 16-year-old Austrian environmental activist and up until now has refused to sign with any publishing house. After Liza and Kelsey attend one of her composting rallies and Liza sticks her hands in a big-ass box full of worms, Füpa agrees to meet with them. She’s basically yelling the entire time and for some reason like so, so mean to her mom? The ladies persuade her to sign with Empirical and wouldn’t ya know, the next day she had planned to be on the same national morning show that another Empirical author is appearing on — the author of their latest hit, Arabian Sea, a book shepherded in by Zane (this angers Kelsey to no end, and her whole deal of pretending to be happy about the success of this crappy novel is an episode highlight).
On New Day USA the next morning, Füpa arrives in time to see the author of Arabian Sea be an absolute dick on air — as Kelsey notes he is manspreading and mansplaining at the same time — and by the time he starts going off on how climate change isn’t real, well, Füpa is all over him, live on television screaming at the camera to not buy this man’s book. She also tells Liza and Kelsey that if they publish that guy’s work, they aren’t publishing hers. Liza’s lost a lot in the past few days, so she’s not letting this one go. She finds Füpa down on her boat — she’s setting sail for Davos — and pleads with her to stick with Empirical. Her book will be right there next to that guy’s, like “a stealth bomb” available for the people who actually need to read it, the people who need to hear her message. And it works. Füpa says she’ll “bend to have [her] voice heard.” And then she turns it all around on Liza. In her experience, a lot of the advice adults give her is exactly what they need to hear. Does Liza maybe need to bend in some way, too?
Liza’s obviously heartbroken that Charles is treating this like the end of them. Maggie assures her it’ll blow over, especially because they see each other all day at work. How could he not be reminded of his feelings for her? Liza takes that to heart and tries to flirt and make nice. Charles isn’t cruel to her, but he doesn’t seem interested in reconciling, either. After their big blowup, they talk it out, agreeing that they would never say terrible things about the other. They love each other, they just want different things. Charles seems like he’s already moved on and that makes Liza even more upset. I mean, the dude doesn’t even look at her as she walks out of his office in a gorgeous dress. No last look is not a good sign, Liza.
Liza decides to make a stand for Charles’s heart at the Children’s Literacy Fund (it’s called C-Lit for short because Younger’s gonna Younger) benefit they’re both attending. She tells Kelsey that she’s an editor and she knows endings and this doesn’t feel like the end to their story, not like this. “Go turn the page and find out,” Kelsey says, pushing her toward Charles. It’s cheesy as hell but also gave me chills, I guess it’s just that time of year.
Liza asks Charles if they could maybe compromise here. I mean, this is literally something you cannot compromise on because you’re either married or you’re not, but okay. Liza thinks that maybe in time one of them will change their mind and that they owe it to each other to give themselves that time. Maybe each of them could bend a little. Charles is not mean, even though Liza’s idea is terrible. But he is firm: He bent when he gave up Empirical for her. He bent when he had to change his custody agreement because Pauline was so angry about Liza’s lie. “If I bend anymore, I’m going to break,” he says. It is a devastating line! Charles is very calm about the whole thing. He tells her that this is hard but it’s for the best. “There are no villains here.” Liza’s still not convinced this is the right thing to do if they still love each other, but Charles is done with this conversation. His daughters, who are the reason he even showed up to this benefit, walk over and he wants to leave. Liza gives the girls a long hug good-bye and tells them to visit her the next time they’re at the office. It feels like Liza acknowledging for the first time that she might have to move on, too.
• Problems with Lauren’s slideshow aside, I loved that Younger referenced the Empiriconda, because we should never, ever forget.
• Okay, also Lauren introducing Liza as “a housewife from New Jersey who moved to New York to impersonate young people and learn about memes and Snapchat lenses” made me giggle.
• “She’s like one of the Von Trapp children but hangry.”
• Maggie’s description of Charles — “a man-shaped building with a good haircut” — makes me laugh every time I think about it.