The overarching theme of the season is Kelsey (Hilary Duff) taking over the publishing house as a millennial woman and picking up the pieces of the financially strapped company.
The episode starts with Liza (Sutton Foster) and Charles (Peter Hermann) acting in a true crime fantasy at an art museum according to the story on the popular Exonerated podcast.
From last week’s episode, investor Quinn (Laura Benanti) has been experiencing best-seller list bliss for the past three weeks to Kelsey’s dismay after the Lean In-like book, Claw, failed to reach audiences during a pre-sale experiment. Quinn notifies Kelsey about the book trending on Twitter and her plans to be interviewed for The Cut. She then requests Kelsey to interview her.
“How does the book everyone hated made it debut at No. 10 on the best-seller list and continues to rise?” Kelsey poses the question to Liza and Diana (Miriam Shor) after Quinn leaves her office. An smh moment.
They go into a meeting with Audrey Colbert (Willa Fitzgerald), the alleged murderess in the Exonerated podcast. Diana skips the meeting out of fear. “Do you think I did it?” Audrey asks an anxious Kelsey and Liza. She emphasizes she needs a publisher who trusts her and doesn’t think she committed the murders since she’s now an international supervillain. The book can clear her name. After the awkward meeting, Kelsey and Liza learn later that they weren’t the only ones being pitched Audrey’s book, but so was half the major publishers.
Audrey’s agent, the nosy Redmond (Michael Urie), later tells Kelsey that Claw has suspicious sales with bulk purchases and Chinese bots inserting the title all over social media. He lets them know that’s the real gossip on the street.
Kelsey and Liza approach Quinn at the fancy Ardmore Club, disbeliving she’s being blamed for phony sales. When they tell her they have evidence from their peers, Quinn admits she faked the best-selling novel for her senatorial campaign since that shiny New York Times best-selling sticker will be on every cover of her book. Kelsey says this will ruin the business while Quinn argues the book will pump millions into the company. Quinn then threatens Kelsey about showing up at The Cut event for the book.
“No one will work with us if we throw an author under the bus,” Liza says.
When Liza gets home, she finds papers on the dining room table listing prices for the home. She asks Charles why he’s moving money around, and he says he just needs to with his unemployment. Like in the previous two episodes, it seems like Charles and Kelsey’s sometimes beau Zane (Charles Michael Davis) are in cahoots as if they’ll create their own rival publishing house.
At The Cut event, everything seems to be going smoothly until the Q&A part of the fireside chat. One woman tells Kelsey and Quinn about the dagger next to Quinn’s best-selling status, and the dagger means suspicious bulk sales. Quinn laughingly says it’s due to colleges and universities requesting the book to use for syllabi, then she moves the spotlight to Kelsey.
Kelsey maintains her composure. She admits to the bulk sales, but they’re also due to forthcoming events as Quinn plans to throw her hat in the California Senate race. It sparks applause, when Quinn and Kelsey faux hug where Quinn threatens Kelsey about what she’s done since that type of announcement is reserved on a stage of higher magnitude. Kelsey just tells her to enjoy the applause.
The next day, Kelsey, Liza, and Diana learn Mercury nabbed the Audrey Colbert deal. They never heard of this competitor until Redmond lets them know Zane is the publisher of Mercury and the deal stands at $800,000. Their men were in cahoots building their own company! Then the episode ends with Liza’s eyes popping open because she knows Charles had something to do with it. Her boyfriend whom she got hooked onto Exonerated.
Yes, Kelsey’s and Liza’s love lives got more complicated with the clandestine creation of competitor Mercury by their men. An extra episode highlight is Nicole Ari Parker guest starring as a post-childbirth vagina support group leader who Maggie (Debi Mazar) meets after being traumatized by Josh’s (Nico Tortorella) green card wife having a baby in their Uber.