After a season of lying about her age to Josh, her new friends, and her boss, Liza finally has to face the truth. The season finale, titled “The Old Ma’am and the C,” begins with her coming clean to Josh (Nico Tortorella), but also touches on season-spanning themes like the struggle to succeed at work, second chances, and the importance of female friendships.
When we left Liza (Sutton Foster), she confessed to Josh that she’s actually 40, not 26 (blame it on the Molly). Liza has made passive attempts to come clean throughout the season, but this had to come up before the season ended, so if it took some Manischewitz laced with ecstasy to do the trick, so be it.
Liza finds Josh sitting alone at a bar, sipping whiskey, still in a haze. Liza begins to explain why she’s been pretending to be a 26-year-old publishing assistant living in Brooklyn, saying she was flattered that Josh thought they were around the same age when they met, so she went along with it, assuming they wouldn’t see each other again. She insists her feelings were real, and as those feeling became stronger, it became more difficult for her to tell Josh the truth. Feeling Catfished, Josh responds as any inebriated 20-something man would: “That’s some crazy shit!”
Then Liza drops the divorce bomb, and adds that she has a college-aged daughter studying abroad in India (something Liza told Josh and her current employer she was doing while she hadn’t been working). Now totally overwhelmed, Josh calls Liza a lunatic and insists he’s not mad about her age, but rather the fact that Liza has been lying to him for months, a line right out of an episode narrated by Nev Schulman and Max Joseph. Josh decides he never wants to see Liza again, telling Liza to have a “nice, fraudulent life.” It would’ve made for an all too perfect happy ending if Josh accepted Liza’s age and immediately forgave her. He’s a nice guy, but no one, especially not an intoxicated tattoo artist in his 20s, could come around that quickly.
On her way into work the next day, Liza runs into Kelsey (Hilary Duff), who assumes Liza and Josh left Lauren’s “Hot Miztvah” early to get it on, and Liza doesn’t correct her. The ladies soon learn that Empirical has been granted the first bid at Ellen DeGeneres’ new memoir, and big boss Charles (Peter Hermann) wants all hands on deck. Liza runs into Kelsey in the bathroom and clarifies the reason she and Josh made an early exit. It briefly seems like Liza will reveal her real age to Kelsey, but instead she says the breakup happened because “we just weren’t a good match.” Kelsey digs for more, forcing Liza to admit, “I still love him, I think I always will.” It’s sweet to learn that Josh is more than a fling for Liza, but this also seems somewhat hasty since the former pair only “defined the relationship” like two weeks ago.
Their conversation gets interrupted when Liza gets summoned by her boss Diana (Miriam Shor) to bring the wallet she forgot at the office to the restaurant where she’s having lunch. Diana’s dining partner Cheryl Sussman turns out to be an old co-worker of Liza’s who nearly recognizes her during the drop-off.
Cheryl doesn’t out Liza to Diana, but she does call Liza at work to confirm that Liza is exactly who Cheryl thought she was. Over drinks, Liza tells Cheryl everything. Cheryl empathizes with Liza, saying it’s a crime no one will give a 40-year-old woman a fresh start… before asking Liza to pass along insider information that’ll help Cheryl’s publishing house win the Ellen DeGeneres book deal from Empirical. And if Liza doesn’t give Cheryl the numbers she wants, she’ll out Liza to Diana. “Gawker would have a field day with this!” Cheryl remarks. Before the two part ways, Cheryl takes a personal hit at Liza, reminding her former co-worker that she has two kids and never stopped working because “that’s what nannies are for.”
Kelsey tells Liza about her and Lauren’s visit with Josh, and she hits too close to home when she advises Liza to show Josh who she really is. Kelsey touches on something women of all ages struggle with: trying to be the perfect person in a relationship, which really is the overarching issue. The women have a moment of tenderness in which they realize the depth of their friendship, and we understand Liza has never had a friend like Kelsey before—someone who truly wants the best for her and with whom the confinements of her previous relationships do not exist (Liza did fish that tampon out of Kelsey in episode 5, after all). And like a good friend, Kelsey will get Liza the info she needs to give Cheryl, bringing Liza to a moral crossroads.
When Liza and Cheryl meet up for the exchange, Liza unveils printouts of emails Cheryl sent her detailing her request, and threatens to destroy Cheryl’s career by sending them to Gawker. And with that ballsy move, Liza lives to see another day as a 26-year-old. Turns out, her boyfriend finding out the secret is enough for one 21-minute episode. But Liza and Josh agree to start over after he watches a slideshow of photos taken throughout the past four decade of Liza’s life.
With 18-year-old Caitlin returning from India and living in Maggie’s Brooklyn apartment with her mom for the summer, Liza and Josh will face a new complication in season 2—which, thankfully, has been picked up for the fall. Josh’s introduction to Liza’s suburban New Jersey social circle is overdue, and while Josh revealed Liza’s real age to his videogame-loving, pot-smoking pals after the split, they might tease the couple now that they’re back together. Or they’ll make some comment about Liza being a MILF and it’ll be totally normal because Brooklyn.
Josh will also bear the burden of perpetuating the lie to Liza’s friends, who will likely learn of Liza’s con soon, thus testing their newfound BFF status. Speaking of Liza’s newfound friends, part of me would like to see how Kelsey’s fidelity pact with her man plays out. And after The Scarf turned out to be plagiarized, Liza is yet to make her mark at work, so hopefully season 2 will bring some professional success for the former stay-at-home mom. That is, after all, why Liza started this whole charade.