Oh, Lipstick Jungle, NBC did you no justice in making this episode your exit from television. That awkward “friends forever” montage, at the end of what would have been a very good episode if the series had continued, just highlighted how mishandled this show has been by the network, forcing the writers to prematurely wrap up a gem of a series about strong women with a most trite images of femininity they could possibly pull out of context from the series. When each of those “aww, friends!” moments happened in context, they were reminders of who these women were and why their friendship was important, but culled together to some awkward violin strings as a coda to an episode that should by no means have been the finale? That just reduces something truly great into a cliché of what women-centric television is alleged to be. And that’s just wrong. Truly, I wouldn’t have been happy with any way this episode ended, because any ending at all would mean that the show was officially over, but I would have been slightly more pleased if they’d just stopped with Wendy stroking her daughter’s hair, Victory and Joe kissing at the rubble of their engagement party and Nico and Kirby smiling at one another with possibility as Griffin’s call goes ignored. At least stopping with those images would have felt true to the intent of the series.
So that’s the end and what I thought of it, but let’s discuss what got us there.
Wendy and Nico decide to throw an engagement party for Victory and Joe, and Joe, despite his financial situation, decides to keep up his illusion of grandeur by sending a private jet out to Ohio to pick up Victory’s parents. While the Fords are perfectly happy to live off the dinner rolls they stole from Joe’s plane and sleep on Victory’s couch for the duration of their stay, Joe wants his future in-laws to see the kind of life he can give their daughter, flaunting reservations at expensive hotels and dinner reservations at Per Se. Worried about Joe’s financial strain, she tries to get him to calm down the luxuries for her parents, considering that they’re simple folk in the first place and fearful that Joe doesn’t have the cash to pull all of this off. She accidentally lets these worries slip when talking to Wendy, who assures her that Joe will get back on his feet eventually, knowing herself what it’s like to fall into bad business.
I’ve got to say that I really loved seeing Ann Harada as Victory’s mom. I’ve seen Ann Harada as Christmas Eve in Avenue Q and she’s one funny lady. She was really adorable in this episode, being the well-intentioned but slightly overbearing Asian mother, steeped in Midwestern wholesomeness. I kept expecting her to gently pat Victory on the head and say, “It’s okay, dear. You should have a big wedding just so you can return all the gifts for cash” as a nod to her character in Avenue Q. It was also great for the show to actually acknowledge that Lindsay Price (and therefore Victory Ford) is biracial. I mean, the woman’s name is Victory Ford. I seriously thought they were just going to make her be white from Ohio. The actress herself has spent a good portion of her career playing white, so I’m glad they let her be truer to herself by casting Ann Harada as her mom.
Nico, meanwhile, gets a call from Kirby in Aspen, expressing that he wished she had decided to join him. Griffin hands her a letter to sign for the legal department acknowledging that they have an extra-office relationship. While she agrees that the protective qualities of the letter are well-intentioned, she is wary of including so many details. Griffin sees her hesitancy as hesitancy about their relationship, but Nico assures him that she’ll edit the letter and turn it back to him ASAP. But Nico’s work woes go deeper than her relationship with Griffin: suddenly, she finds herself not getting the invites she used to get, discovering that her new blogger hire has jetted off to Skywalker Ranch for a new media conference Nico knows nothing about. Fearing people have forgotten about her, she talks to Dahlia about getting her name back on the PR rosters. Dahlia’s solution? Get Nico a spot on the fourth hour of The Today Show to plug an upcoming Bonfire article.
And about that Bonfire article – the cover story, about a med student who cheated her way into school and had an affair with one of her professors, is a hot commodity that Griffin wants to keep within the family by optioning the film rights to Parador. While Sal does make a bid, he tells Wendy that she should make a play for it as well, telling her that her sensibilities would make for a better movie of that story than he could ever hope to make. This causes a bigger rift between Nico and Griffin when he hears that Wendy has offered to buy the rights, assuming that his girlfriend was the one who tipped off her bestie, but Nico assures him that she knew nothing about it. To add insult to injury, Kathie Lee and Hoda turn the Today Show interview in an unexpected direction when they start grilling Nico about relationships between older women and younger men. Trying to act graceful in the hot seat, Nico assures Kathie Lee and Hoda that her relationship with Kirby (though she never says his name) was not tawdry at all, but actually a loving, caring relationship that just didn’t turn out quite right in the end. Griffin takes this as a personal affront. She won’t sign a letter acknowledging their relationship, but she’s perfectly happy to gush about her ex on national television.
In an effort to do some serious damage control, Nico asks Wendy to invite Griffin to the party, feeling that it will help solve both of their problems. Wendy can put to rest Griffin’s fears about stealing the picture and confirm Nico’s innocence, and Nico can show Griffin that he’s wanted and even accepted in her inner circle. At the party, Wendy finds out that she has been officially outbid for the film. Overhearing this (and trying to avoid the brush-off from Victory’s dad), Joe steps in and offers to bankroll Wendy’s movie. She politely declines, citing Joe’s financial situation, which he is stunned to hear that she knows about. Victory, meanwhile, runs interference with her dad, trying to figure out why he just can’t be happy for her. He tells her that he doesn’t think Joe is right for her, that he’s the kind of man who will neglect her for his work, the kind of man who doesn’t want children. Victory assures her father that Joe is what she wants, and that he will give her the kind of life she wants.
At home, Wendy has been noticing her daughter acting up, coming home late, telling her mom that she’s been hanging out with some dude named Paul (the delivery boy?) in his dorm room. Then Maddie shows up drunk to Victory’s party, just in time to catch the end of her mom’s toast, and Wendy has to cut the evening short and tend to her daughter, who rails at her mother in the street for not being honest about the situation with Shane. Maddie, mistakenly, thinks that her parents are divorcing and that Shane will never come home from the tour. She suggests her mother throw her in therapy like she forced Shane to do, not realizing that the situation had been ameliorated before her father left for his tour. (Maybe if she had decided to come home and say goodbye to him, she wouldn’t have been such and ungrateful little bitch, off to be a “special victim” over on Law & Order: SVU. I think we all know what that means . . .) After throwing up in a trashcan, Wendy takes Maddie home and lets her calm down. When Shane calls that night, Wendy doesn’t tell him about Maddie acting up, letting her daughter speak to her father and apologize for not saying goodbye before he left. Shane suspects something else may be going on, but Wendy assures him that Maddie is just really tired and that they’ll talk again in the morning. Repentant, Maddie curls up to her mother and asks to sleep in her bed, leading us to that Madonna-like image that should have ended this episode.
After having it out with her father at the engagement party, Victory tells Joe that she no longer wants a big wedding, just the two of them and her family, Wendy and Nico. Joe asks her if Wendy and Nico will always know everything about the two of them, citing that Wendy mentioned his financial situation to him earlier in the evening. Victory apologizes, saying she didn’t mean to mention it. Joe tells her that he just wants to trust that there are some things that will stay between the two of them. When Victory agrees, he picks up her ringing phone and talks to her mother, asking her to check with her local church when she gets back home to Ohio and find out if there are any openings available to hold the ceremony there in the springtime, leading them to the kiss they share by the piano that, as before, should have ended this episode.