The Spool / TV
Younger Recap: “Millennial’s Next Top Model” Delivers Bad Press
The company is hit hard in the wake of Liza's "outing".
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The company is hit hard in the wake of Liza’s “outing”.

There’s something scrappy about the way that Younger backs itself into a narrative corner and then has to write its way out. “Millennial’s Next Top Model” has A Lot of moving pieces, in that it’s picking up in the wake of Pauline’s confession last week as Millennial free falls in the world of publishing. It’s a little hard to believe that so many people would care so deeply about a woman who lied about her age to get a job, but as both Diana (Miriam Shor) and Quinn (Laura Benanti) remind us, no one actually cares about Liza (Sutton Foster). She’s merely a symptom of other, larger issues.

Let’s tackle the main storyline first: as a result of the public outing, authors and agents are pulling out of meetings or rubber-necking at the office like they’ve never seen a 42-year-old woman before. The office goes into damage control, but the real question is whether Liza needs to be fired. As usual, she winds up saving herself when a lucrative partnership deal with Infinitely 21 (which is definitely not a riff on Forever 21, no sir) nearly fall apart until Liza makes a bold – and frankly unprofessional – outburst that changes the game.

The result is not only an “unfreezing” of the deal but a cover model spot in the company’s new campaign, which goes about as well as a photo shoot can when it involves an adult in a romper posing with a scooter in the park.

Regardless of how silly or juvenile Liza looks, her actions prove – as always – that she’s game for whatever humiliation is required of her to ensure that her friends don’t wind up hurt. It’s an endearing trait, but after all of the abuse heaped on her in last week’s episode, here’s hoping that at some point in the future Liza actually stands up for herself and sticks with it. Seriously, girl, you’ve spent six years as a doormat for other people’s baggage!

The fun outcome of the photoshoot is not just a triaging of Millennial’s image problems, but a nice little tease of things to come as Liza winds up being photographed with both Charles (Peter Hermann) and Josh (Nico Tortorella). Naturally, it is the teasing, flirty picture with Josh that makes the grade as opposed to what Kelsey (Hilary Duff) describes as Liza’s “father/daughter dance” with Charles (meow!). Expect the drama to continue next week when everyone sees the final result blown up to billboard size in Times Square. It’s a savvy way for the writers of “Millennial’s Next Top Model” to have their love triangle cake and eat it, too; they’re still not seriously positioning Josh as a romantic rival, but the characters sure will when everyone lays their eyes on what looks like a TVLand promo pic from a few seasons back.

…here’s hoping that at some point in the future Liza actually stands up for herself and sticks with it. Seriously, girl, you’ve spent six years as a doormat for other people’s baggage!

Alas, that’s not the only drama infringing on Liza’s life in “Millennial’s Next Top Model”. Hurricane Quinn is back in town and looking to stir some shit up! Of course, Millennial’s not-so-silent financial backer is only there to serve her own interests, including using Liza as a PR prop on a local news segment under the guise of conducting “damage control”.

As expected, the interview only serves to make things worse.

This is where Hilary Duff gets to shine as Kelsey goes toe to toe with Quinn when the latter is caught in a lie and demands Liza be fired. Younger tends to be marketed as a cutesy romance comedy thanks to Darren Star’s involvement and its focus on the romantic machinations around the office, but if we’re being honest, the series is often at its best when it is exploring female friendship and agency. Kelsey’s willingness to back her friend, in this case, seems like a no-brainer since it’s Quinn’s reputation at risk, but things become just a little more complicated when Quinn makes good on her promise to pull her funding, leaving Millennial with a brand new fire to put out: they’re officially broke.

Cue the season finale!

Debi Mazar and Sutton Foster in “Millennial’s Next Top Model”

Random Thoughts:

  • By now most people probably know that I love badass women, so it should surprise no one that I find Quinn’s abrasive quips completely delightful. Her catty responses to Liza when she’s prepping for the photoshoot are divine, up to and including the fact that she’s wearing glasses because they tested well with voters.
  • Broadway babies should be rightfully excited about Annaleigh Ashford appearing on the same episode with Benanti, but I’m mostly just obsessed with the way that the former Wicked star delivers the line “Justifiably. We’re still friends, promise” as a single line in response to Liza’s outburst at Infinitely 21 (“Justifiablywe’restillfriendspromise”).
  • The Zane (Charles Michael Davis) stuff continues to be a slog, if only because he’s such a petulant whiner. As teased above, Diana rightfully identifies that his issues lie not with Liza (whom Kelsey acknowledges he barely knows), but rather that Kelsey hasn’t addressed his proclamation of love. Sure…whatever. The fact that this is treated as some kind of appropriate excuse, and that Kelsey later admonishes him for being “such a man sometimes!” because he doesn’t say what he’s thinking, leans into some pretty gross (and outdated!) cultural norms by writer Grant Sloss. Let’s not reinforce or reward this kind of icky toxic masculinity, mmmkay?
  • At one point Liza plays Candy Poker with Charles and his daughters. Is this…a thing?
  • Finally, in Maggie (Debi Mazar)’s completely separate subplot: she randomly hooks up with a chauvinist male artist who “flips” lesbians (sexually) for fun. This is a very slight storyline, though it does offer no shortage of amusing bon mots, including Liza’s incredulous (and completely square) “Are you bisexual now?” reaction; Maggie’s reassurance that she’s still a Kinsey nine; and that sleeping with men, which is akin to being “suffocated by a wet rug”, has been known to occur when there is a talent crush, ecstasy or a good parking spot involved. Offensive? Yes. Dumb? Yes. Funny? Still yes!