The publishing industry TV show that centers on a 40-something woman lying about her age to get a job has evolved into focusing on the imprint and her friend who runs it.
Liza (Sutton Foster) shares at the beginning of the episode with her friend Maggie (Debi Mazar) that her boyfriend Charles (Peter Hermann) may be funding a secret company, a competitor against Millennial, the imprint she works at. That secret company could be Mercury, an upstart by former Millennial associate Zane (Charles Michael Davis), that took a big book deal from Millennial.
One of the highlights of this show is the book titles it comes up. In this episode, it’s The Seasoned Slut by a longtime romance author, who’s been with the original Empirical that has now become Millennial. The author is concerned that the established Empirical became the youth-centric Millennial, when it doesn’t fit with her age and readership demographic.
Kelsey (Hilary Duff), the new CEO of Millennial and a former flame of Zane, decides to hunt down Mercury headquarters. Her GPS leads her to a crowded co-working space. Once she spots Zane, she accuses him of sleeping with Audrey, his new client, who was originally meeting with Millennial.
Liza discusses The Seasoned Slut Metrocycle marketing campaign with the author, who’s not buying the campaign. She says she built her career at Empirical when Kelsey was an assistant. She also adds that her readership doesn’t ride bikes. Her contract with Millennial is hanging on a thread.
At dinner, Charles arrives at Maggie’s apartment where Maggie’s new lover (Nicole Ari Parker! Not a lot of women of color guest stars), Kelsey, and Liza are sitting at a table full of food. Kelsey asks Charles if she heard about Mercury. Charles dodges the question.
Liza approaches Charles about being the investor of Mercury. She said she knows what a liar looks like because of her lying about being 26 when she’s 40 for the past five seasons. Charles admits he’s behind Mercury since it’s his turn to build his own company since Empirical belonged to his father. Liza argues Charles can’t be on the board of Millennial while creating a competitor. So Charles asks Liza to keep the secret. And she does.
The next day, Kelsey is chasing the romance author at the restaurant to convince the author to not sign with Mercury. Liza tries to intercept. Kelsey tells the author that Zane is a former employer with a personal vendetta against Millennial. But the author says she doesn’t know Zane; she’s there to meet Charles. Cue Charles and Zane walking up to the table. (A lot of pivotal moments this season are happening at fancy restaurant tables).
Kelsey has a WTF moment, accusing Charles of funding Mercury. She yells about the back-stabbing and blames them for her newly diagnosed alopecia (yasss for awareness).
Onlookers’ smartphones capture Kelsey’s meltdown. The video makes the rounds on the digital literary circuit that same afternoon. Liza notifies Kelsey that three other authors have just jumped ship from Millennial to Mercury to have the “gray hair in the room,” code for older white man boss. Charles, that boss, had resigned from the board an hour earlier.
A fun note is Josh (Nico Tortorella) reading the author’s erotica to his newborn to quiet her. This episode shows how when publishers change, some authors might not see the change helping them succeed, such as the bike campaign for an older adult erotica book.
The stress of being the CEO of a flailing company is getting to Kelsey, who now has severe hair loss. Her leadership is questioned in different ways each week, but the chain of events has hit the fan and is affecting her body. Next episode should show the fallout over the competing publishers and bring up another aspect of female bosshood.