The effects of Scandal follow me everywhere I go. I look at coats through the lens of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her fantastic fashion sense. I compare all fast-talking, fast-walking political soaps to the late Shonda Rhimes sudser. I now have an impeccable radar for when shows start laying the groundwork for a possible romantic reconciliation between a beloved train wreck of a couple. Those Olitz-detecting alarm bells officially started going off while watching Tuesday night’s Younger installment, “Big Little Liza.”
After years of on-again, off-again merry-go-rounding, the diabolical minds over at TV Land's Younger just might be trying to get Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) and Josh No Last Name (Nico Tortorella) back together.
The panic-inducing moment in question popped up in the middle of “Big Little Liza,” directed by Younger star Miriam Shor, as Josh gets into his Drake-like feelings over whether or not he should give up his tattoo parlor, the very creatively named Inkburg. Liza says no, but Josh says yes, because his options are either letting go of the shop or agreeing to a whopping 10-year lease. That kind of commitment is difficult and scary, especially for Josh, whose green card marriage has already imploded. In Josh’s opinion, nothing is keeping him in New York City — so why not give himself an escape hatch? Considering the fact that NYC is one of the most expensive American cities to live in, and hipsters everywhere need tattoos, Josh’s boozed-up argument actually makes a lot of sense.
Yet, Liza doesn’t see it that way. She tells him all of his tattoos are commitments to himself, and he “can’t go wrong” continuing to invest in himself. True, but Josh has two very smart questions: “How can I be sure this place is my future? What’s keeping me here?” Liza responds that he has lots of friends, adding, “You have me.” A very sad, drunk Josh shoots back “I don’t have you.” As he stares at her mouth, it feels like the pair might kiss at any second. They don’t, but the tattoo artist’s displeasure over this fact hangs above them.
If this were a one-off emotionally loaded conversation followed by Liza finding emotional fulfillment with another man, this scene wouldn’t be such a warning sign of romance to come. But, Liza is soon duped by her latest possible love interest, Don Ridley (Christian Borle), who tried to out her true age to the world via surprise Vanity Fair profile. Charles Brooks (Peter Hermann) isn’t even a factor in “Big Little Liza.” The only positive interaction Liza has with a guy goes to Josh, when she gives a rousing speech to Josh about how she isn’t going anywhere, and his roots are in New York (with her). “I will be at your side,” she promises at the close of the episode. “We commit to you. I commit to you.”
It turns out Liza’s entire monologue is unnecessary since Josh isn’t going anywhere — he’s just getting a bigger sign. But now, all of Liza’s declarations of commitment and fidelity are out there, no matter how much she swears it’s platonic commitment and fidelity. When the pair hugs over the continuation of Inkburg, Josh’s final words — “I’m not ready to give up yet” — has obvious double meaning: he’s not giving up on the business or a romantic future with Liza. Both halves of the duo realize this, as their respective mile-long stares signal.
While watching all of this Liza-Josh drama, the Olivia-Fitz madness of yore is quickly conjured. The days of Olivia reminding Fitzgerald “Handsome Man-Baby” Grant (Tony Goldwyn) who he is with booming intensity come to mind. Or the times Fitz managed to stop crying about all of his privilege long enough to tell Olivia to put that white hat back on.
Liza and Josh’s scenes feel particularly Olitz-y since they follow the familiar Scandal formula of very slowly hinting a love resurgence is on the horizon. The former pair’s emotional chat in “Big Little Liza” isn’t the first time someone has suggested that maybe, just maybe, this romance isn’t dead yet. A few weeks ago, in “The End Of The Tour,” Josh’s roommate Lauren Heller (Molly Bernard) tells him it’s all going to click with some lucky lady soon. “What if it already did?” Josh asks. “What if it’s Liza?” Lauren doesn’t immediately shoot the possibility down, and instead promises nothing will keep Josh from Liza if it’s meant to be.
If Charles has any interest in stopping a Liza-Josh reunion, he'd better ditch his Aubrey Graham-ish emotions over Liza's admittedly egregious lying as Younger. The book editor is officially getting a divorce from wife Pauline (Jennifer Westfeldt), as a sneak peek for next week’s “Sex, Liza and Rock & Roll” confirms, leaving Charles legally and ethically open to settling down with Liza.
Who says a love triangle needs to be settled by a show's fifth season?
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