There’s plenty of backstabbing as the board is set for a Kelsey vs. Charles showdown.
It’s been back to back episodes of mounting anticipation as Younger prepares for its forthcoming gender war. While the majority of ‘The Unusual Suspect’ appears to focus on the escalating battle of wills between Kelsey (Hilary Duff) and Millennial benefactor Quinn (Laura Benanti), the few scenes that feature Zane (Charles Michael Davis) and Charles (Peter Hermann) are loaded with mystery that tease a not-so-shocking revelation that drops at the end of the episode.
Despite my concerns last week that Quinn was being shown the door, she’s still hanging around this week. The action has leapt forward in time; the episode opens with the reveal that Quinn’s book has been on the New York Times bestseller* list for three weeks and the Senate hopeful is riding high (read: she’s gloating to Kelsey and Sutton Foster‘s Liza).
There’s an asterisk, though. As Kelsey and Liza brainstorm a solution to shift the narrative away from Claw‘s surprising success, they discover the real reason behind Quinn’s sales. The unsavory truth is that the book is being propped up by “bulk” sales, a notorious (and real) trend that publishers use to swindle their titles onto bestseller lists.
The players are now in position and the real battle is about to begin.
In real life, books need to sell somewhere between 5k – 10k to make it onto the bestseller list, which has the advantage of not only boosting sales, but also potentially nabbing authors lucrative movie deals and larger advances for their follow-up efforts. Bulk buying is a way to game the system, but as Younger clarifies, it comes at a price: Quin has been using company funds to make the purchases, the social media chatter is traceable back to Chinese bots and, most significantly, Millennium‘s reputation has taken a nosedive thanks to a damning dagger icon (denoting bulk sales) on the Times list, which is basically a blinking indicator of fraud in the publishing world.
Kelsey’s strategy – disclosing Quinn’s political ambitions as justification for the bulk sales – is ingenious because it accomplishes two things at once: 1) it maintains the facade of a publisher that supports its author without throwing Quinn “under the bus” and 2) it forces Quinn’s hand, because she will, in all likelihood, need to leave immediately to focus on her campaign.
Alas, by this time Kelsey and Liza’s efforts to secure a sophomore follow-up in the form of a true crime tell-all by potential murderess Audrey Colbert (Scream‘s Willa Fitzgerald), has already fallen through due to the bad press. Naturally the publisher that scooped up the juicy property (for the astronomically high sum of $800K!) is none other than…new upstart Mercury, which is being fronted by Zane. And judging from Liza’s knowing look at the end of the episode, she’s already figured out that the loan documents she spotted at Charles’ place make him the deep pocketed financier backing Zane.
All this to say: the players are now in position and the real battle is about to begin.
- Let the record show that I exercised great restraint in this recap by NOT making a Mercury Rising joke.
- It’s likely given the forthcoming feud over Colbert’s book that this is not the last we’ve seen of Fitzgerald. Considering how truly awful she was as the lead of MTV’s Scream, I’m surprisingly…ok?…with her performance as a monosyllabic would-be multiple murderer with a to-die-for wardrobe.
- The script for ‘The Unusual Suspect’ is by Grant Sloss, who has worked on Kirstie and Romancing the Joan. Far be it for me to speculate on anyone’s sexuality, but the number of sexually risqué/dirty jokes and RuPaul-esque dialogue in this episode is off the charts. In addition to Redmond (Michael Urie)’s mention of sex without lube, Lauren (Molly Bernard)’s comment about Maggie (Debi Mazar) getting “back on the hunt” (take a moment…it rhymes with…) is pretty brazen!
- While I’m always up for a little meta humor, the attempt to frame Charles and Liza’s covert meet-ups as some kind of dangerous liaison comes off a little undercooked. The intrigue is obviously informed by Exonerated, the popular Serial-esque podcast that Audrey’s book will refute, as well as Charles’ nefarious plans, but two scenes just isn’t enough. It would have been better to frame the whole episode as a mystery, which could have worked considering Kelsey and Liza are technically embroiled in an investigation around the success of Quinn’s book for the better part of the run time.
- Let’s offer up a hallelujah for the demise of Josh (Nico Tortorella) and Clare (Phoebe Dynevor)’s romantic status. Overlooking the hilarious suggestion that new parents have enough energy to make googly eyes at each other, I was beyond thrilled when Josh gets down on one knee to propose divorce. Thank the heavens for this cute ending to an ill-advised story line.
- Finally, Diana (Miriam Shor) is more or less relegated to supporting status this week, serving up comedic hysteria about Audrey and then deftly mixing physical comedy with bitchiness when she arrives bearing bad news (on crutches, no less). Shor is always great, but she doesn’t always need a full subplot of her own. Younger has proven surprisingly adept at knowing when and how much to use her talents and particularly given the focus of this episode on setting up the stakes for the battle to come, this judicious use of Diana feels about right.