The Wife:

I think I’ve found the one episode of Gossip Girl I really don’t like. And believe me, I desperately wanted to like the “backdoor pilot” of the Untitled Gossip Girl Spin-Off About Young Lily Rhodes, but I didn’t. I liked what they tried to do with it, but the execution just fell utterly short. For instance, it made sense that, as Lily leaves her daughter in jail to think about her actions, she reflects on her own relationship with her mother and the night she spent in jail as a teenager. Premise = solid. In fact, the cast = totally solid, too. I like Brittany Snow. I like Andrew McCarthy. I like Cynthia Watros. I like Ryan Hansen. I love Krysten Ritter. But there was something about the writing of these characters that just didn’t work. Part of the point is that Lily as a teenager was very different than the Lily we know now, the one who ultimately fulfilled her mother’s wishes for her by marrying up, marrying someone grand (or several someones, as the case may be), but it was hard to see a connecting point between teenage Lily and adult Lily, other than that their both blonde and like men who wear leather jackets more than men in Don Johnson suits.

So as Serena sits in jail (by choice, in fact, to prove to her mother that she can make adult decisions such as serving her time, which means she’ll miss prom), Lily reminisces on her past. About how she got kicked out of boarding school (Santa Barbara’s Thacher School, which is real and thus I must give unlimited props to the attention to detail there) because she wanted to live with her dad, a music producer. But Daddy Andrew McCarthy doesn’t have time for his daughter, other than to tell the good folks at the Thacher School that she was acting out because her parents divorce was adversely affecting her, effectively getting her back in after a brief suspension. (Sidenote: I miss Lipstick Jungle.) Her mother is callous and inattentive, and her sister had the wherewithal to remove herself from that life altogether years ago, which Lily feels was a worse form of abandonment. So Lily, sensing her life kind of sucks, disobeys her parents and goes to find her sister in L.A.

No Doubt, I have a date with you July 21. Be ready. I will be.

No Doubt, I have a date with you July 21. Be ready. I will be.

Lily finds one of Carol’s coworkers and he agrees to let her borrow her sister’s clothing from her locker (she changes at work a lot because she’s constantly going on auditions) and escorts her to a Snowed Out show where Carol and her boyfriend/not boyfriend Shep would be in attendance. First of all, Krysten Ritter was amazing. Adorable. Funny. Perfect casting choice for the artsy, free-spirited older sister. But an even better choice was casting Veronica Mars‘ Ryan Hansen as Carol’s sort-of boyfriend. Hansen is amazing at playing self-absorbed jerkmeats, and here he was a self-absorbed jerkmeat with a bad Billy Idol pompadour. Genius. Carol wants to help Lily and be a good big sister and everything, but she can’t at the moment because she and her friends are on their way to crash a music video director’s party so they can get back the tape he took from them, which they paid him a good $500 to shoot. That music video director, by the way, is a Van Der Woodsen, channeling James Spader as Stef in Pretty in Pink. And he really likes to do coke. And he fucked Lily’s sister, which I think, if that turns out to be the Van Der Woodsen that Lily eventually marries, IS SUPER FUCKING AWKWARD. Owen and Shep pick a fight with Van Der Woodsen and his cronies, which Lily gets into to defend her sister. Van Der Woodsen calls the cops, and Carol has to bail her little sister out of jail when their mother won’t, opening up the possibilities for a string of Rhodes sisters adventures in LaLaLand.

Other than Ryan Hansen being a dick and dancing around to “The Safety Dance,” not very exciting. And even less exciting was the modern-day prom storyline. Someone might be sabotaging Blair? Well, no, not really, because it’s just Chuck making her prom dream scrapbook come true by forcing her choices to lead her to the dress she’s always dreamed about (which is fab), the date she wanted to have (Nate), the mode of transport and the glittery princess Prom Queen tiara that Nelly Yuki almost stole from her had Chuck not taken the stuffed ballots. He even gives her the key to his suite at the Plaza, because that’s how she wanted her perfect prom night to end. But instead, she ends it by breaking up with Nate. (Hooray! Because we all know she should be with Chuck, the man who made her 12-year-old prom dream come true!) Serena even makes it out of jail in time to attend the dance because her former lover/almost step brother bails her out. I mean, why? Why even bother with the prom in this episode? It was so insignificant, and wholly, completely understated. While I liked the thru-line of the big band at the prom playing “Stand and Deliver,” I have a very difficult time believing that a prom for Constance and St. Jude’s would have looked like that prom looked. We know their winter formal looks a lot more stunning than this did. This was so cheeseball in its attempt to be elegant, adult and understated that I just didn’t know what to do with it. I hate to say it, but I think the 90210 prom is going to be a lot more believable.

If Blair designed that dress when she was 12, shes a better designed than Little J ever was.

If Blair designed that dress when she was 12, she's a better designed than Little J ever was.

There’s nothing technically wrong with the L.A. Lily storyline. And nothing wrong with the grainy film wipes they applied to her memory (which works for me because she’s a photographer). It just fell really flat. And even though there was a lovely resolution in which Serena, sitting with Blair outside prom, acknowledges that she knows her mother had her arrested out of love and concern while Lily apologizes for her entire tenuous relationship with her own mother, there were no real risks in telling either story, nothing to lose or gain, which means . . . no drama. And that means boring. I’d like to see the spin-off succeed, though, because I’m very curious about the timeline of Lily’s life, which was something my sister-in-law brought up last night. The music they chose last night put us pretty solidly in 1986, and we’re assuming that Lily was 16 or 17 then. And Serena was born in 1991 if she just turned 18 this year, so Lily was bearing Van Der Woodsen children by the time she was 20/21. Now, that’s perfectly plausible and all . . . but does that really give her enough time in L.A. to cultivate a career as a rock photographer and follow Lincoln Hawk and Nine Inch Nails around? I had assumed her wild years lasted much longer than this, at least until her mid-20s. If anything, I need to spin-off to help me flesh that out.

The Husband:

I do feel a definite disconnect between the present Lily and the 1980s Lily, and I definitely have a hard time believing that whatever Cynthia Watros was doing would ever lead to some of the horrific displays of behavior and evil that modern-day Celia is capable of (I point you toward the Debutante Ball episode from s1), but I also think I liked the backdoor pilot far more than my wife did. It shows a good deal of promise, and while they might be getting their years a little iffy as far as much is concerned, I think it could be a pretty wildly fun program. They just need to bridge the years a little bit better, because otherwise it’s barely even a spin-off so much as an entirely new show. (Like how Mork & Mindy is technically a spin-off of Happy Days. Say what?)

Or maybe it’s just because I really like 80s Los Angeles movies, like Less Than Zero and, as the title would suggest is an influence, Valley Girl. The city still feels dangerous and open in these narratives, not like the plastic, cultureless meh I lived in for five years.

And yes, I love Krysten Ritter too, but I’ve loved her for a few years now. And she is definitely one of the main reasons I thought Confessions of a Shopaholic was such a blindingly underrated film. (Yeah yeah, I am in fact male – don’t let my endorsement of that movie fool you.)

But other than Blair and Nate breaking up, nothing really vital happened to anybody in modern day GG land. Save that for next week.

The Wife:

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.

terrified by the Big City.

The Fords: terrified by the Big City.

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.

Youre asking me what, exactly?

You're asking me what, exactly?

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.

The Happy Couple.

The Happy Couple.

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.

The Wife:

Unless a New Year’s Miracle occurs, this is the penultimate episode of Lipstick Jungle. Ever. Next week’s installment of the show will be the last it will ever see the light of day, unless, of course I get that New Year’s Miracle and Lipstick Jungle shows up on NBC’s fall schedule. (I am very doubtful that this will happen as virtually every strike-affected show returning for its sophomore season has been given the axe by its parent network – save for shows helmed by Josh Schwartz.)

Luckily, the season/series seems to be prepared to end in a satisfying manner, providing closure for Victory and Joe, compromise for Wendy and Shane and a new era of possibilities for Nico. I was very glad this week to see Wendy and Shane work out their shit after a much-prolonged and unnecessary imbroglio. When setting up her new home office, Wendy loses her shit when she and Maddie discover that Shane has been researching flights to San Francisco, the next stop on Natasha Bedingfield’s tour. The tour he allegedly turned down. (Why she would go from NY to SF with no Midwest stops in between is baffling. I know how rock and roll works. I’m watching Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels). She forces Shane to talk to a marriage counselor about his burning desire to abandon his family and after much seething resentment and seeing Shane play the NY club date on Natasha’s tour, Wendy beings to soften a bit to the idea of him going on tour, but only if she and the kids pack up and go with him. Clearly, this is a ludicrous idea and Shane won’t hear it. Even if he doesn’t want to be the lonely old guy in the bar who could have played keyboards on a 30-city rock tour, he also won’t disrupt his family’s life and force them all to live out of hotels for four months. Nico and Victory also remind Wendy that going on tour with the kids would be a ridiculous notion, and convince her to let her husband go on the road. She buys him a new road bag and a hot leather jacket as a symbol of apology for the tour fight and promises Shane that she’ll come visit and be a good rock and roll wife – but that she won’t visit too often, allowing him to have his time in the limelight.

Thanks, Brooke Sheilds, for letting Paul Blackstone come on tour with me!

Thanks, Brooke Shields, for letting Paul Blackstone come on tour with me!

I am glad this fight is over and that it has resolved itself in a way that benefits both parties. I wrote a lot in my last post about the nuances of the fight and who is right or wrong (no one, really), but I think this was the best resolution that satisfies the needs of both parties. It just took Wendy a while to realize that if she’s working at home, Shane being on tour doesn’t really affect her much except that she’ll be unable to wake up next to his glorious chest hair every morning.

As for Nico, because of last episode’s hormone-induced freak out/pass out session, she has decided to concede the website managing editor position to a new hire. She and Griffin fill her schedule with interviews, allowing for her to take a few days off after the new hire starts so she can have this off her plate while she recovers from her egg extraction procedure. Nico and Griffin hire a spunky young redhead who has never worked in print journalism but is one of the top ten bloggers of the year. When Nico returns to work after a loopy day in the hospital where the anesthetics made her believe Charles was still alive and that she was simultaneously still dating Kirby while romancing Griffin (in her fever dream AND in the Bonfire elevator), she finds that the new hire has scooped her next cover story in the interest of getting better web traffic for Bonfire. Griffin steps in to reprimand the new girl, protecting both the magazine and Nico’s best interests. Nico tells Griffin that she can fight her own battles, and he admits that he overstepped, feeling the need to protect the women he’s interested in. Their future for dating in the workplace seems pretty open – as long as they remember when business is business and when, as the Flight of the Conchords would say, “it’s business time.”

Victory, meanwhile, struggles with finding the right way to propose to Joe. After agonizing over going for the grand gesture, Wendy suggests that she look more for something small and meaningful, citing that even though Joe’s the kind of guy who picked Victory up from Tokyo in a private plane, the thing Victory remembers about that trip is the cupcake he sent along with it. She finally decides to make him a suit, handstitching The Question to be popped on the inside jacket pocket.

Probably one of the most creative proposals ever.

Probably one of the most creative proposals ever.

With the suit ready, the only thing missing is Joe, who has suddenly gone MIA. Even Ellen doesn’t know where he is or why he missed Victory’s small proposal dinner without so much as a phone call. After grilling Ellen, Victory finds Joe feeding the birds at the Coney Island boardwalk, gazing up at the disused Wonder Wheel. He tells her that he’s been evasive because he just fell into some bad business, and lost a significant sum of money. He’s spent so much of his life working to be on top, but knows full well that the only way to go from there is down. He admits that he’d been afraid to talk to her because he thought she would find him less attractive without his money. Victory says she doesn’t care and gives him his suit, a gift that Joe seems completely amazed by, that someone would take the time to make him something without him asking and paying for it. As he looks on the inside jacket pocket at Victory’s request, she says my absolutely favorite thing she’s ever said on the whole series, a line which I feel encapsulates the much stronger woman Victory Ford has become over this season:

“I may not be able to bankroll you, Mr. Bennett, yet, but I can keep you looking sharp.”

Amazed that someone would love him without the thing he feels defines himself, Joe and Victory kiss under the Wonder Wheel, fully accepting the answer to Victory’s question as a “yes.” I’m so thrilled to see Victory take charge like this – it’s just too bad that we’ll probably never get to see their wedding.

Stupid NBC.

The Wife:

Continuing my day of posts spent writing about shows that are canceled and shouldn’t be, here it is, folks, the last episode of Lipstick Jungle for this year. Unlike the ABC shows, however, NBC promised us at the end of this episode that LJ would return “in the new year” with “new episodes,” which I can only assume to mean the final two episodes of the series. There’s been a lot of talk around the interwebs about whether or not LJ is technically canceled (it isn’t), but the show’s fate lies in how the final three episodes do (so sayeth the New York Post). Given that the final two episodes will air next year on unspecified dates and times, I don’t expect that the show will survive its turn at the sophomore show guillotine. But it should. We know it should. And we know that Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money and Pushing Daises (over on ABC) should all have been spared the blade. But before I begin my final defense of Lipstick Jungle, let me recap this episode:

Shane and Wendy continue to see their marriage in crisis, with Shane upset that Wendy wants to go back to work, feeling, perhaps, a never-expressed belief that one parent should be home to raise the children, as well as feeling like Wendy doesn’t care for his opinions or desires after she shot down his proposal to have another child based on her need to get back into the work force. Their rift grows further when Josie, Shane’s manager, baits him with the prospect of a job touring as a keyboardist for Natasha Bedingfield. The job would take Shane away from his family for four months, a prospect which Wendy finds preposterous, despite Maddie’s urgings that her father should take the job so she can meet Natasha Bedingfield.

Shane and Wendy have a very real fight about the subject, which their son Taylor overhears. Shane accuses Wendy of not respecting his needs and desires by asking him not to go on tour, when she would be perfectly allowed to pack up to go to a movie shoot the first chance she got. Wendy counters that her shoots would never take as much as four months and that she was only ever gone from her family for two weeks at a time. They further discuss their roles and responsibilities in the relationship, leading Shane to turn down the tour at Wendy’s urging.

Feeling this is a mistake for his career, Josie comes to talk to Wendy, trying to shed some light on what it’s like to date a touring musician. Josie tells Wendy that you just have to make the best of it. You spend a lot of time on the phone, and you relish the times when that person comes home. But Wendy refuses to hear Josie’s side of the story, shutting her down and telling her that while she may have Shane’s best interests as an artist at heart, Wendy has Shane’s total best interest at heart.

Witnessing his parents fighting causes Taylor to act out at school, starting a fight with his best friend whose parents are also divorcing. (You know, the kid whose dad tried to hit on Wendy.) At the parent-teacher conference, Wendy and Shane resume their fight again, which prompts Wendy to ask if the two of them can see a marriage counselor. Instead of taking Wendy’s offer to work on the relationship, Shane decides to take the Natasha Bedingfield tour behind her back.

Meanwhile, Victory continues to work on her Baron Brothers campaign. She and her friends all approve an ad where a woman is lying naked on a bed in Victory Ford linens, and Victory is excited by the choice, until she finds out that the Baron Brothers intended her to be featured in the ad. (Frankly, I thought that was pretty clear since the drawing of the girl in the picture looked exactly like Victory.) Another rattling part of her meeting with Baron Brothers was spotting Joe Bennett across the room. While her Baron Brothers rep heads off to take a phone call, Victory excuses herself to talk to Joe, but she finds she can’t say her peace there because Joe only wants to talk business with her.

Victory tells her friends about appearing nude in the Baron Brothers ad, and they both assure her that doing the ad herself is the best move for her career. Nico assures Victory that the nude ad links her image with the brand. It shows people that if they buy her sheets, they can be like Victory Ford because she uses them herself. (Why Nico isn’t in marketing, I don’t know. She’s clearly good at it.) Wendy and Nico call Victory out on her fear of nudity and convince her to do the ad, hoping it will help her get over her fear of being seen as vulnerable. Nico even recommends Kirby for the job, hoping that a photographer Victory knows will be more comfortable for her to work with.

Victory takes it all off and comes out of her shell.

Victory takes it all off and comes out of her shell.

After losing Charlie, Nico decides to freeze some of her eggs, just in case she should want a child in the future. Wendy helps her prepare her hormone treatments and assures her that she’s doing the right thing, even though the excess of hormones make Nico have hot flashes at inopportune times. Kirby drops by her office to thank her for the recommendation to shoot Victory’s Baron Brothers ads, and also to ask her permission to show them the nudes he took of her as part of his portfolio. Nico assures Kirby that she’s fine having people see those pictures, just as her alarm goes off to tell her to take more hormones. She tells Kirby that she’s decided to freeze some of her eggs, just in case. Kirby doesn’t know quite how to take the news, surprised that Nico is rushing into the idea of parenthood so quickly after having Charlie for only a few days. He tells her she’d be a great mom, after seeing how good she was with Charlie. Awkwardly, she reminds him that he was great with the baby, too.

After taking her next hormone shot, Nico passes out in her office and Griffin rushes to take care of her. He accompanies her to the hospital, and to her home, where he refuses to let her lift a finger, instructing her to lie down while he prepares some tea for her. Ever since their Halloween meeting with Hang Time, Nico and Griffin have been growing friendlier, and the show has certainly been humanizing him more. During their afternoon together at Nico’s house, Griffin tells her that he overheard her at the hospital talking about her fertility treatments. He is barely fazed by the news, telling her that he had friends who went through the treatments a couple of years ago and now have a darling baby girl. Griffin goes on to encourage Nico’s desire to have a child and orders dinner for her, during which they discuss their failed marriages, their commitment to their jobs and the eerily similar fact that their former spouses both left them to start families with other people. Realizing that they’re more similar than she thought, Nico starts to rethink her relationship with Griffin, wondering if perhaps the two of them have a chance to have something together, as they both understand what its like to love a job more than a family.

After freaking out a bit at the Baron Brothers shoot, Victory finally becomes comfortable in her own skin, ready to keep shooting even after Kirby announces that he’s gotten more than enough great material from her already. Newly confident, Victory heads over to Joe’s house to surprise him and say her peace about their breakup. She tells him that she finally understands why she thanked Rodrigo instead of Joe at the fashion show, feeling that if she had thanked Joe, she would have felt too exposed. She then thanks Joe for all that he’s done for her and, most importantly, she tells him that she would have said yes to his marriage proposal. Joe immediately takes her in his arms and they spend the night together, reemerging the next morning as that same happily confused couple we know them to be, only this time, with a Victory that’s got just a little more spunk and fire in her, a Victory that knows exactly what she wants. After telling her friends about spending the night with Joe, she announces to them that this time, she’s going to ask Joe to marry her.

Victory, finally living up to her name.

Victory, finally living up to her name.

I’m so happy to see Victory finally come out of her nervous, self-conscious, self-doubting shell. Those things were preventing me from liking her. She’s still got those qualities, of course, because those things make her human, but I’m proud of her for learning to put those things on the back burner when it really matters. Finally, she’s learned to take control of her life, and that’s totally commendable, especially because I think she’s finally become the right partner for Joe Bennett, the kind of girl who can stand up to him, who can put a ring on his finger and who can command his respect. Before she really found herself, it was too easy for Victory to lose her footing with Joe, too easy to be treated just as arm candy, but now, I see her as a much more formidable partner. All I can say is that I hope Joe Bennett says yes to her proposal and that this season/series finale features a quickly put together but fabulous Ford-Bennett wedding.

Now, as to why this show is actually great, I point you towards Shane and Wendy’s fight. I’m told that a lot of people (women specifically) don’t like this show because the ladies of Lipstick Jungle don’t talk like real people. Really? Because I’m pretty sure that Shane and Wendy’s fight was one of the most real things I’ve heard on television in a long time. It is absolutely like the kind of fight you have about balancing your work life and your home life, which is a really important balance to find when you’re married with children. And the best part about this argument is that both parties are right, but neither seems to be willing to find a compromise that will make them both happy. It’s dramatic, without being melodramatic, which is more than I can say for most relationship fights I see in movies and on television.

Shane deserves to value his career just as much as Wendy does, but Wendy also deserves to be able to continue the career she loves. I don’t know where Shane got the idea that Wendy would want to stay home for good, considering he married her knowing that she was a career-minded lady, but it seems like he’s decided that now that she’s given up the office, it makes up for the first fifteen years of their marriage where he stayed home, working freelance, while she was the breadwinner. That said, Wendy also deserves to have a partner in the relationship that can help them care for their children together, which Shane can’t quite do from the road. But then again, its only four months. Four months that he’d be gone in their fifteen years together. For all the two week stints that Wendy was gone, I think its safe to assume that, over the years, they’ve added up to more than four months.

Personally, I can see that being on tour for four months would be hard on their marriage at this time. They know they’re not doing well. And Shane should know that, with Wendy starting a new project, this is not the best time for him to leave her with full responsibility for the children. I don’t think it was ever said that he couldn’t take a touring gig in the future, simply that it isn’t a great idea right now. Especially since their son thinks they’re getting a divorce. But at the same time, Maddie is fifteen and is certainly old enough to babysit her brother and see that he gets home safely from school. Should Shane head out on the road, surely someone could convince Maddie to help out more around the house for a little while, especially if she were rewarded for it with a private meet-and-greet with Natasha Bedingfield.

I like that fight because it’s very real, very nuanced and very delicately crafted. It’s more real than anything I’ve ever seen on Sex & the City, which, compared to this show, is extremely melodramatic. I also find Nico, Wendy and Victory to be better role models. Know why? Because we actually see them working. Sure, we saw Carrie write, but I think we all know she’s a not a great writer who probably shouldn’t have even had that column in the first place. We’ve never seen Miranda lobby for anything or talk about her cases. Once Charlotte gave up the gallery, there was no need for her to work anymore because she achieved her WASPy dream of finding a rich man that she could have a perfect home with. And then there’s Samantha, who did PR, but never seemed to have any clients other than Smith Jarrod, whom she was also fucking. Their world on SATC was fun, certainly, but unrealistic and unattainable. The ladies on LJ make much more sense for a world in which women do have to balance their work lives and their home lives. These ladies have worked hard to get where they’re at, and they deserve to be recognized in their fields. The truth is, everyone has a job and your job impacts your social life. And yes, the ladies of LJ lunch together as often as the ladies of SATC do, but you know that these girls are returning to the office when they finish their lunch.

I also find their problems to be all that much more real than those of SATC. Granted, SATC is a comedy and the situations are usually quite exaggerated, but SATC had its dramas, too. I was crushed when Joe left Victory on the roadside in “Sisterhood of the Traveling Prada.” I was never that crushed from anything on SATC. This show takes the time to fully craft the relationships between its characters, and they explore real issues that people face in relationships when they strive to balance their work lives and their personal lives. SATC never gave us a working life for the girls to contend with. And because their problems with their relationships were seated in their own neuroses, I cared less. (Except about Miranda and Steve. I love Steve and I still believe that he would have never cheated on Miranda, no matter how little sex she had with him. He would just watch porn and masturbate, like everyone else does.)

Lipstick Jungle is one of the only shows on television with female leads, and it’s good. It’s really good. Wendy, Nico and Victory think and act like real women do. Their problems are real. And they deal with those problems the way actual women would. I relate to these women, and it’s so refreshing to have something so relatable on television. But I guess not enough television viewers know actual women who act like this, who think through situations rationally before responding with histrionics, women who got somewhere by using their brains and pride themselves on that fact. Or not enough viewers actually want to see women-driven programming that’s smart, stylish and actually good. And that’s really sad. Really, really sad. I thought we were at an age where women like Wendy, Nico and Victory would have as much power on the television as they do in their Manhattan, but I guess I was wrong.

I’ll be sad to see this show go. Truly. It’s much smarter than SATC ever was, and much more honest. And I’d rather see that than see Carrie overspend on shoes anyday.

The Wife:

“Chapter 14: Let the Games Begin”

After witnessing the Victory/Rodrigo kiss at the fashion show, Joe has all but withdrawn from Victory’s life. When Nico and Wendy find out that she’s no longer with Rodrigo, they start trying to repair her relationship with Joe, hoping to convince him to contact her again, but he won’t have any of it. Nico eventually convinces him to help Victory broker a deal to design tennis outfits for an up-and-coming tennis darling (as Victory knows nothing at all about sports) and to at least remain in contact with her for business purposes. Once the deal is settled, Joe storms away and calls Victory out for kissing Rodrigo at the fashion show, raving against her fickle ways as the elevator doors close shut on him. Later, his assistant comes to reveal to Victory that Joe had planned to propose to her.

Will you just listen to Roan Inish, for the love of God?

Will you just listen to Roan Inish, for the love of God?

Meanwhile, Wendy, still feeling a little guilty about what happened between her and Dennis, starts to get a little jealous of all the time Shane is spending with his gorgeous, young agent who just helped him book a job composing a film about a 1960s Irish Catholic/Protestant Romeo & Juliet story. Wendy joins Shane at dinner with his agent and the film’s producer, and the producer immediately tries to convince Wendy to sign on to the film for an executive producing credit. She accepts, which seems to really bug the hell out of Shane. Wendy immediately gets her producer’s cap on and starts to steer Shane in directions that don’t jive with his work style. Things get further complicated when Dennis shows up with a bottle of wine to apologize for his behavior, which Wendy tells Shane was a thank you for making the boy’s Halloween costumes. Shane reminds Wendy that she is his producer first and his wife second when it comes to the film, so she should stop worrying about how attractive his agent is because he doesn’t want to sleep with her. Realizing that producing a film that Shane is also working on is putting a strain on their relationship, Wendy quits the film and apologizes to Shane for being so jealous. She admits what happened between her and Dennis and Shane is angry and disappointed that she felt the need to keep something from him.

As for Nico, she has been preparing to meet Mother Atwood, who shows up at her door as Rosanna Arquette, who is smoking hot and looks like she and Kim Raver could be sexy blonde twins. (Although, I must note that Rosanna, whose character is supposed to be from Michigan, seems to have a much better hair colorist than Nico does. Fancy that.) Now, every time I see Rosanna Arquette, I think of a scene from David Cronenberg’s Crash (the good Crash about sex and car crashes, not that shitty one about racism that somehow won Best Picture in 2005), in which she tries to get into a sports car despite her broken spine and damaged legs. She has scars that run the full length of her legs, making it look like she has a permanent seam down the back of her fishnet stockings. This is one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen on film, and it is the only thing I can think of when I see Rosanna.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures I could find of her sexy leg fissures. So this one will have to do. Its her sexy back brace.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures I could find of her sexy leg fissures. So this one will have to do. It's her sexy back brace.

That aside, Mother Atwood (aka Tina) starts a war with Nico over her son, baiting Nico by insinuating that she’s too old for Kirby and that she won’t want the same things he wants. The final straw for Nico, though, is when Tina tells Kirby that he’s out of place at the Hang Time launch party and that he will never be part of Nico’s high-powered world. As a challenge to Tina, Nico asks Kirby to move in with her. Tina warns her son against this, fearing that he will be “a passenger in [his] own life” if he stays with Nico, which I think is a really interesting metaphor coming from the star of Crash. Ultimately, after Tina has headed home to Michigan, Kirby tells Nico that he doesn’t want to move in with her as a challenge to his mother. He wants it to be Nico’s choice to form a life with him, not just the open option at the moment.

“Chapter 15: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Prada”

Fresh from their latest personal dramas, the ladies also pile on some work pressures. After finding out about the proposal, Victory can’t get her mind off of Joe. She keeps trying to apologize for the Rodrigo misunderstanding, but he won’t take her calls. A new studio woos Wendy, and Griffin tries to push Nico into the new media sphere. Worse, Wendy catches Nico actually enjoying Griffin’s company.

“It’s not high school. I can’t quit cheerleading because you don’t like the captain.” – Nico

Hoping that they can get Victory’s mind of Joe, and also struggling with whether or not to tell her about the proposal, Nico suggests that the three of them head up to a spa upstate for the weekend. At the spa, they finally come clean when Victory starts freaking about apologizing to Joe. She then gets extremely angry with Nico and Wendy and goes off to sulk with Byron, the massage therapist.

“Who are you to protect me from my own life?” – Victory

As Victory talks to Byron, she points out that her friends infantilize her, which makes me wonder: have I always thought of her as immature because she actually is or because I identify with Wendy and Nico more and they perceive her as childlike? Bryon books her for some massage treatments and later invites her to watch the stars with him, which he says always helps him clear his mind. As they lay in the field, she finally realizes that the answer to the proposal that never happened would have been a resounding, earthshaking “yes” that she calls out across the countryside.

Nico spends time with her friend, Christine Ebersole, who owns the spa. Ebersole’s character used to be Nico’s boss at Simon & Schuster, but gave it all up to move out to the country. Talking to her forces Nico to think about her own life and her relationship with Kirby. Bristled from her earlier encounter with Mother Atwood, she starts to think that perhaps she could buy the spa and retire to the country on weekends, residing in the B&B with Kirby. When he comes to visit her over the weekend (and bring beer for heartsick Victory, who was disappointed to find no liquor at all in the spa), she suggests that they buy the place and build him a studio out in the fields so that he could spend the rest of his days photographing the Hudson. Kirby appreciates the idea, but asks Nico if that’s what she really wants. He tells her something that confirms the fears Mother Atwood planted in her head: he doesn’t want to leave the city. He likes the noise and the rush of life there. The country is great every now and again, but Kirby is not at a space in his life where he’d want to be there every weekend. Perhaps Nico’s worst fears for her relationship are coming true: they just want different things, because they’re of such different ages.

Wendy doesn’t tell her friends about the potential job until they make an early car ride back home at Victory’s request (she just can’t wait for a phone call any longer; Joe Bennett is the one and she needs to find him) and break down on the side of the road after Nico hits something. (Or doesn’t. No body or carcass was ever found.) Nico interrogates Wendy about why she didn’t talk about the job, which Wendy says is because she needed to hear her voice first. She tells Nico that she feels like Nico doesn’t respect her anymore now that she’s not at Parador, which Nico counters with stories they told when they first started working together at Merick-Verner, about how they were going to run the company together some day. Wendy tells Nico that it simply isn’t her dream anymore, and that she’s not sure she wants to be high-powered lady Nico has always fought to be. (Even in considering buying the spa, Nico can’t give up the idea of leaving behind her social circle, as Christine Ebersole admits to her that when she left the publishing world, some of her contacts did indeed stop calling her.) Wendy refuses the job, and not just because Nico was the one who recommended her for it.

Meanwhile, Victory calls Joe to arrange a meeting. He offers to send a car to pick up the three damsels in distress. When two cars arrive, Wendy and Nico think all is forgiven and ask Joe which car they should be in. He directs them to the one he’s not in, and Victory stays behind to talk to him. She wants to tell him that she loves him and that she would say yes to his proposal, but Joe is so badly hurt by Victory’s unknowing rejection that all he can think to say to her is that he doesn’t feel like they work as friends, or business partners. So he hands over the papers to her company, clears her of her debt and walks out of her life, leaving Victory broken down on the side of the road, stunned.

Back home, the three women comfort each other at Victory’s house, putting off calls from work until another day, drinking the Scotch they stole from Joe’s towncar.

Ill miss you ladies. You could so take the SATC girls in a fight.

I'll miss you ladies. You could so take the SATC girls in a fight.

I loved this episode. The storytelling was so slow and meticulous that it felt honest. In fact, I think this episode achieved an honesty that Sex and the City was never quite able to achieve. The women on Lipstick Jungle live and breathe and come alive before you. Moreover, they hurt before you. Never before on this show have Brooke Shields, Kim Raver and Lindsay Price been able to tell you so much about themselves as Wendy, Nico and Victory simply through their quiet reactions. When Nico realize that she may be too old for Kirby, its all in Raver’s eyes. And when Joe leaves Victory behind on the roadside, Victory doesn’t break into hysterics. Her face flushes and she cries without making a sound more than breathing. Beautiful work by all three actresses. It’s just too bad that the brilliant work in this episode couldn’t have come sooner, as the series has been cancelled.

I’m sorry that a show as good as Lipstick Jungle has become has fallen victim to low post-strike ratings. Wendy, Nico and Victory are some of the best, most real and most relatable female characters on TV, and I will actually be quite sad when LJ runs its last episode. I’m sorry television just didn’t have room for you strong, glamorous ladies. With your cancellation, and the fall of The Ex List, we’re now down to Samantha Who?, Desperate Housewives, Cold Case, Kath & Kim, Privileged and The New Adventures of Old Christine as the only female-lead shows on TV*. This comment is not a reflection of the quality of those shows at all, but that’s a pretty sad list, isn’t it?

*This is not counting ensemble shows, which have plenty of kick-ass chicks in powerful roles, like the ladies on Criminal Minds, Bones or even Gossip Girl.

The Husband:

Technically, Lipstick Jungle is not officially cancelled, but there will be no back-nine for this season. The 13 episodes shot for s2 will air, leaving us with “Chapter 20” as the final episode. It is unlikely that it will return, but I just wanted to point out there is ever so slightly the tiniest bit of hope that it might get a third season.

Unlikely, though. It’s a shame, really. And s2 has only elevated everything I loved about the first season, and if that doesn’t interest the American viewing public, then it’s definitely a loss for everyone.

The Wife:

“Chapter 12: Scary, Scary Night”

This episode was Lipstick Jungle‘s attempt at a Halloween episode in which each of the women faces something scary in her life: for Victory, its the nightmare’s she’s having about Joe’s imminent demise; for Nico, it’s having to play ball with a man who thinks women don’t belong in the workplace; for Wendy, it’s kissing a man who isn’t her husband.

While Shane’s away at the Toronto Film Festival promoting the movie he scored, Wendy makes friends with the attractive father of her son’s best friend. Wendy and Dennis hang out and talk about their spouses being in such high demand at soccer games and arrange for the boys to go trick-or-treating together on Halloween. At the post-candy sleepover, Dennis tells Wendy that he and his wife are separating and moves in to kiss her. Wendy, appalled by this act, is immediately uncomfortable and asks Dennis to leave. She is also flabbergasted when she meets up with her friend Sal, whom she plans to start a production company with, and he announces that Griffin has offered him Wendy’s job. Sal offers not to take it, but Wendy eggs him on to do so, even though it bothers her. Wendy’s issue, it seems, is that she’s too fucking accommodating. She leads Dennis into thinking that she’s just as lonely as he is by complaining about how much Shane is gone these days and how sad it makes her, not realizing that this is leading Dennis on. Furthermore, if Sal taking her job bothers her as much as it clearly does, she could cause a lot fewer problems for herself by being honest with people. I really don’t like this jobless, needy Wendy. I hope she gets her own company started soon so that she stops creating so many problems for herself.

Nico spends her Halloween helping Griffin land a deal to buy a men’s magazine with the promise that she might get to be editor-in-chief of more than just Bonfire in the future. The magazine’s owner is a boorish man’s man who treats women as objects and doesn’t want to do business with Nico, automatically assuming that she’s Griffin’s date. Nico tries to appeal to him with her keen business acumen, citing the ad revenue of Bonfire and its other properties, but he refuses to listen and thinks she’s too uptight.

taking it like a man.

Nico: taking it like a man.

Nico realizes that the only way to get his business is to act like him, so she starts to close the deal by doing tequila shots, talking about sports and Harleys and thoroughly crossing the gender-line this man has so clearly drawn in his head. Griffin is impressed, and they close the deal for the purchase by the end of the night. Meanwhile, at home, Kirby feels emasculated by Nico’s money and her ability to pay for lavish gifts for him. He takes an extra catering shift at a Halloween party where he snaps a photo of a dry celebrity going on a bender, which he sells for $4,000 a shot to a tabloid, allowing him to purchase the plane tickets to Aspen that Nico had been talking about.

At the same party, Victory is desperately trying to forget her vision of Joe falling to his death on the face of a mountain that she had in a dream. When she finds out that Joe is preparing to climb the Matterhorn, she urges him not to go, citing how afraid she is that he’ll die and that she’s concerned for a man that she very much considers her friend. Joe refuses to listen and goes anyway, but Victory still keeps seeing him: she sees him in a white dinner jacket that she chases through the party, only to find out that it isn’t Joe at all; nonetheless, she is terrified to see the man turn around bearing Joe’s icicle covered visage from her dream.

Not so pretty or pink.

Andrew McCarthy: Not so pretty or pink.

She returns home from the party to find Joe sitting on her stoop. He decided not to go on the trip, but that his only reason for going in the first place was the fact that his father died when he was Joe’s age and Joe prefers to take big risks rather than sit at home safely, just in case each big risk is his last. He thanks Victory for caring about him enough to not want him to die unloved.

“Chapter 13: The Lyin’, The Bitch and The Wardrobe”

This episode is all about Victory Ford’s upcoming fashion show and the various bits of sabotage perpetrated by one Rosie Perez. (You do not fuck with Rosie Perez! You do not!) Joe brings some receipts to Victory’s attention that show just how far over budget Perez’s Dahlia has taken Victory’s fashion show. Victory confronts Dahlia about this issue only two days before the show and ends up firing her, which she immediately realizes is probably not the best idea. Dahlia, being the vindictive girl-child that she is, pulls out all the stops to destroy Victory’s show.

You do not mess with the Dahlia! The Dahlia messes with you, bitch!

You do not mess with the Dahlia! The Dahlia messes with you, bitch!

She sabotages the runway order, fires the caterer, uninvites several key guests, steals some of Victory’s models and misprints Victory’s name on all of the programs as “Victory Fork.” Fortunately, Victory has friends in high places. Nico takes up the reigns to get the seats filled with important people and Kirby offers his catering companies’ services for the evening. Wendy, still having a good relationship with the print shop Parador used to use, decides to handle the reprints of the programs and press kits. As for the runway, Victory desperately calls Rodrigo, who offers to help rebuild the runway, despite how much he’s still hurting from their break-up.

Wendy, amidst helping her friend with the program misprints, is setting up to restart her relationship with Parador as an independent producer. She brings in a pitch for an adaptation of a book she loves, which she intends to sell only if no changes are made to the original story. Her young daughter suggests that the main character, who is a hermit who doesn’t understand people and is much better with animals, have a boyfriend, lest the film lose out on the key demographic of 15-year-old girls. Unfortunately, Wendy hears the same suggestion from a bubbly young VP of Production named Paige that Griffin brought in to keep an eye on the youth-oriented markets, despite Sal’s insistence that Wendy’s original pitch is the best (and most sensical) one. Wendy storms out, angry at Sal for insisting she bring him a “passion project” that he could greenlight. At the copy shop, the girl behind the counter recognizes Wendy as a producer and asks her to read her manuscript. At first, Wendy resists, telling the girl that she can’t read anything not submitted by an agent, and then she realizes that she isn’t that person anymore and accepts the girl’s script. Wendy falls so in love with the story that she realizes that she needs to produce this film – with her own company.

Friends fill the seats at friends nearly-ruined fashion shows.

Friends fill the seats at friends' nearly-ruined fashion shows.

As for Nico, she runs into her husband’s lover Megan and baby Charlie. Megan, at 22, seems hardly fit to care for this baby on her own, without a proper diaper bag, as Nico notes. Megan seems hesitant to even let Nico hold Charlie, fearing that Nico (who has been nothing but wonderful to that child) may want to take the baby or otherwise harm it:

“I’m not a dingo, Megan. I won’t run off with him. I swear.”

Nico spends the majority of this episode trying to find a gift for the baby, before she finally realizes that the best gift (other than the blanket she decides on) would be to give Megan a box of Charles’ things so that little Charlie can grow up knowing that his father was an impressive man. Megan is surprised by Nico’s kindness, but is ultimately grateful that Nico has decided to share of her husband so freely with his mistress and his illegitimate son, which forces her to think about maybe one day having the children she said she’d never have.

Nico also gets a visit from Joe in this episode, who comes to her hinting that he suddenly wants to propose to Victory. Nico tells him that Victory was not currently seeing anyone else and that Joe’s proposal would not be unwelcome. When Victory finishes her runway show, Joe is crushed to hear her thank Rodrigo for his help, rather than her investor, Joe (who really did make all of this possible). He disappears from the show as though he were never there, and Wendy and Nico debate whether or not they should tell Victory about it, or tell Joe that they honestly didn’t know Rodrigo was back in the picture.

Planting one on the carpenter.

Planting one on the carpenter.

In a final note to Nico’s very crowed storyline this week, Kirby reveals to her that becoming a paparazzo paid for their trip to Aspen when she tells him that he shouldn’t be taking catering shifts just to make ends meet, but should be following his dreams and working on his photography. I have a thought for Nico: she should pull a Wendy and anonymously drop Kirby’s portfolio off at the newest Bonfire subsidiary that she helped purchase in the last episode. If Kirby can get a staff photographer job at a magazine, he’d be able to make steady money doing what he loves . . . and get to take pictures of hot girls riding motorcycles, to boot. Just a thought, Nico. That tactic worked out pretty well for Wendy and Shane. Shane was only a little mad when he found out that Wendy’s cred got him the job. He got over it.

The Wife:

In “Let It Be,” Wendy is forced to face the repercussions of forging the insurance documents for her John Lennon biopic when her star suddenly dies in the middle of filming. Despite Nico’s urgings that her next move should be in her own best interest, Wendy fesses up to her new boss, Griffin, and admits that she forged the insurance documents in order to grant her friend his dying wish in order to prevent her company from suing Noah Mason’s estate to recoup their losses. Griffin, having demonstrated how no nonsense he is earlier in this episode when he questioned Wendy about the film being over budget, fires Wendy for her multi-million dollar mistake.

On the bright side, no press is bad press.

On the bright side, no press is bad press.

Nico also has to deal with Griffin’s presence in this episode. Griffin insists that Nico as Editor-in-Chief of Bonfire respond in the upcoming issue to a controversy caused by the magazine’s “Demented Chic” fashion spread that featured models posing in a mental institution. Nico refuses to write the letter, and instead writes a letter that includes some negative sentiment towards her new boss. Her arch nemesis Mike Harding gets ahold of the draft and sends it to Griffin, who leaks it to the press in the hopes of boosting Bonfire sales. Griffin doesn’t seem to mind Nico’s brashness at all, which is beneficial for Nico. Also beneficial for Nico? The fact that she convinced Mike Harding to leave Bonfire for good by goading him with false offers of how much she’d be making if she left the magazine due to the change in management.

As for Victory, she and Rodrigo almost take their romance to the next level, but Rodrigo is hesitant to spend the night because he has to take care of his ten-year-old daughter. Victory is committed to making an impression on Rodrigo and his daughter and starts inviting them out with her, much to her publicist Dahlia’s chagrin, who demands that Victory be dating high-end men, not contractors, who are bad for the Victory Ford brand image. Rodrigo breaks up with Victory because he feels like she’s too hung up on Joe, which Victory realizes she absolutely isn’t when she runs into Joe at a restaurant opening Dahlia had forced her to attend with another date. She and Rodrigo then have super-hot make-up sex in her unfinished store.

I think we should do it on these boxes, right here. Thoughts?

I think we should do it on these boxes, right here. Thoughts?

In “The F-Word,” we learn an awful lot about Nico’s family when her father shows up to tell her that her brother George was arrested for insider trading. George, a limo driver, used information he overheard in the car driving rich clients. Nico’s father asks his daughter to help “fix” the situation, whether it be bail money or a good lawyer, as it is Nico’s responsibility to help her family.

Lets all laugh at our new boss expense!

Let's all laugh at our new boss' expense!

Nico journeys out to Queens to visit her father’s restaurant, where she learns that he no longer owns Pappedemos’ Restaurant because he’s had to spend so much money bailing George out over the years. Nico evidently changed her name for reasons that are not entirely clear to me. Professionally, we live in a world where having a very ethnic name like Nico Pappedemos would not hinder someone from establishing themselves in the publishing industry. In fact, it might help. As such, I have to take Nico’s decision to abandon her Greek roots as a direct refusal of the family she came from and, specifically, a direct admonishment of any associations with someone like her brother.

Nico helps George get bail, but has to deal with the pressure from the scandal at work when Griffin pushes and pushes for the story about the limo driver to be covered by Bonfire. Ultimately, Nico tells Griffin that she knows the man in the story and is uncomfortable running it because of her connections, which is the appropriate thing to do in that situation.

Victory gets to meet Rodrigo’s daughter, who automatically hates Victory for not serving her a vegetarian meal (“E.B. White changed my life.”) and for accidentally ruining the ending to Charlotte’s Web. Despite Dahlia’s insistence otherwise, Victory tries to make it up to Rodrigo and Celia by inviting them to a fancy gala that she is required to attend, an event which will also mark Nico’s public debut with Kirby at her side and Wendy’s return to society after holing herself up in her apartment for weeks, pretending that she’s enjoying her time at home when it’s actually driving her insane.

And down came the rain . . .

And down came the rain . . .

At the party, Celia gets pushed over by paparazzi and Rodrigo is upset that he doesn’t get to spend any time with Victory, so he and his daughter return home to Brooklyn and leave behind a world that isn’t designed to include them. Wendy and her family attend, but Wendy can’t make it past the red carpet when she sees Griffin, whom she is not yet ready to face. At home, she admits to Shane and the kids that she didn’t quit her job, but was fired because she did a bad thing for the right reasons. Finally, with her admission of weakness, Wendy’s bratty daughter Maddie relates to her mother and shows a softer side we’ve never seen before.

Victory apologizes to Rodrigo the next day for dragging them to the party and she admits that she has just as hard a time reconciling her public face and her private face as he does:

“I’m two people. There’s the one on the label, and then there’s just me.”

The Husband:

I haven’t talked enough about Lipstick Jungle this season – in fact, I haven’t said anything on this blog – so I’d just like to say that even though it’s one of the only “girly shows” my wife actually watches (her words, not mine), I am actually kind of obsessed with this show on my own terms. Some bloggers, such as Zap2It’s TVGal, don’t consider it that great of a show and thinks the women act in very unusual and unwomanly ways, but I feel the opposite, that as opposed to the other Candace Bushnell TV adaptation Sex And The City (it’s true, the women really do act like gay men there), the woman of LJ tend to deal with their problems in very realistic (yet questionable), neurotic (yet not overbearing) and professional (yet decidedly unsure) ways. Don’t get me wrong: SATC was a wonderful and groundbreaking show, but it had a very heightened reality, while on LJ the drama isn’t over-the-top but relatable, which is a coup for the show since the three main characters are the head of a Miramax-like movie studio, a magazine editor-in-chief and a fashion designer (that is, not entirely relatable to much of the country or the people within). I especially love Nico, who while getting shit from viewers for pursuing such a loins-driven affair with Kirby, never acted as if she was doing the right thing, leading the show to deal in some grey areas that only made me like the show more. I’m also quite impressed by the issues raised through her backstory, being a Queens girl who puts on a good front as being anything but, and bringing in Dan Hedaya as her struggling father only made me like her more. (It helps that the only story of hers I wasn’t completely into, that of her strained relationship with her husband, has gone away now that the man is dead and buried.)

I’m also oddly attached to Victory – a character my wife and I have disagreed on for the entirety of the show’s run – because I find her complete lack of responsibility and adult temperament to be very refreshing for television, a confident woman who is yet still lost in the lipstick jungle that is upper-class New York City. I feel for her, more than my wife, her struggle to achieve greatness and popularity with her line, and yet be unwilling to accept handouts from Andrew McCarthy’s billionaire character. (Curse you, Blane! First you steal Andi Walsh from the deserving Ducky, now you try to control women with money and power!) Her relationship with Rodrigo, though, has given her stories a more kinky and controlled edge, and yet I miss some of the first-season bits, such as her battle with Kerry Butler as her former assistant who plagiarized some of her designs.

I do like Wendy a lot, too, but I had a great deal of trouble relating to her plight regarding the dying actor and the Beatles biopic. In short, I have no sympathy for her being fired as a result of her actions. Despite having worked in Los Angeles, and “the industry,” for a handful of years, I don’t purport to be an expert on everything Hollywood, but I do know that you never, never ever ever, hire an actor who you know is going to die in less than two years. It’s a horrible move no matter what your intentions were – as the press would jump on the belief that you were just trying to pull a PR stunt – and is irresponsible to the filmmakers involved with said film. I was behind all of her decisions previous to that, but hung my head in shame at such a blunder.

Kicking SATCs ass in realism and relatability.

LJ: Kicking SATC's ass in realism and relatability. And classy dressing.

Quick question if anyone wants to respond: if I read the source material book Lipstick Jungle, would I ruin any future plots that could appear on the show, or is it so different from the program that I might as well give it a shot? (I have the same question about Gossip Girl, but I’m far more likely to check out the one LJ novel than an entire series of YA novels.)

The Wife:

For the first time ever while watching Lipstick Jungle, I have actually enjoyed Victory Ford’s story the most out of our three protagonists. I’ve made it pretty clear that Victory is my least favorite character on this show. I don’t think that she has the kind of depth that Wendy or Nico have, nor does she have the maturity or the intellect. Victory has always felt like the weak point compared to the other two members of this power trifecta: she just always feels too flighty and unstable to be friends with such established women as Nico and Wendy. And yet, to her merit, of the three, Victory is the best, most loyal friend. What she can’t seem to make sense of in her own life, she somehow seems to make sense of in others’ lives.

You just dont understand doorknobs like I understand doorknobs, Andrew McCarthy.

You just don't understand doorknobs like I understand doorknobs, Andrew McCarthy.

This week, she finally began to take charge of her own life. When Joe hires an expensive contractor to design the interior of Victory’s new store without her consent and refuses to allow her input on any design decisions, Victory runs into an attractive contractor with similar views and hires him to do the job without consulting Joe. (Although, I did love the moment where Joe displays the Good-Fast-Cheap triangle on the barren wall of Victory’s store and explains to her these basic rules of building anything . . . and then applies them to his sexual relationship with Victory: “neither fast nor cheap . . . hmm.”)

Victory and Rodrigo go on a sort-of date to a midnight antiques market, scouring the first unloads of the night to find the perfect reclaimed fixtures for the store. And this is where I really began to like Victory: Rodrigo shows her a pair of antique doorknobs, and the pair tell a romantic story about a G.I. coming home from the war to his young wife, turning that very knob on his apartment door and announcing to his bride that they could finally begin their lives together. This is the first time I’d seen Victory display some sort of depth. She understands the secret history of objects and the beauty in that history. This is something I wish I’d known earlier so I didn’t spend 8 episodes being annoyed as hell by her.

As usual, she was a good friend to her assistant, Roy, whom she discovers from the store security cameras has been sleeping in the store for weeks. Roy tells her that he was evicted from his apartment after his boyfriend drained his bank accounts and ran off to Fort Lauderdale. Oddly, that is exactly what happened to my brother. In an effort to help her friend, Victory decides to follow Joe’s earlier advice and rent the upstairs unit so that Roy can live rent-free.

No more missing wig fittings for chemo, mister.

No more missing wig fittings for chemo, mister.

Wendy’s upcoming Beatles movie runs into some production trouble when her friend and star Noah starts missing readings and costume fittings. Thinking that he perhaps has started using drugs again, Wendy stages an intervention, and convinces Noah that she can push production back so that he can take six weeks in rehab to get his shit together. Noah’s wife comes to Wendy in secret and explains that Noah isn’t using drugs, but that he is, in fact, dying of a rapidly-advancing brain tumor. Wendy risks her job and falsifies the physical examination forms so that they can move the production schedule up in order to wrap before Noah starts to show symptoms of his disease. Clearly, this is all going to catch up with Wendy next week in a very negative way.

As for Nico, she struggled with finding her place in the world as a widow and was confronted by her husband’s mistress, who demanded that she be taken care of in the way Charles had been up until the time of his death. At first, Nico is outraged and demands a restraining order against Megan, but later, after spending a lot of time reclaiming her late 20s with Kirby out at swap-a-palooza, she realizes that she has a lot more in common with Megan than she thought. At 22, Megan is giving up her life to raise Charles’ baby, much like Nico herself did at 24 when she married Charles. Nico gives Megan a considerably large check, an agreement to provide medical care and even sets up a trust fund for the baby. As she begins to pack away all of Charles’ things, Nico even gives Megan the brown v-neck sweater she had asked for, to remember Charles’ by. I’m proud of Nico for letting go in this way, and finally being able to start a real relationship with someone who truly adores her: Kirby.

So even though Im being nice to you, that doesnt mean you should drop by anymore, okay?

So even though I'm being nice to you, that doesn't mean you should drop by anymore, okay?

In another note, I finally realized in this episode what bothers me about the actress who plays Megan, Shannon McGinnis: her voice. Her voice is Tina Majorino’s voice, but coming out of the wrong face, and that’s really odd to me.

The Wife:

Nothing says “Our meager half-season actually made it to TV because of the strike” quite like starting your new season with “Chapter 8” of something. What a random number and what a random way of titling episodes.

Regardless, Chapter 8 actually felt like a very natural place to begin a second season of this show, as Chapter 7 left off with Nico (Kim Raver) making amends with her husband on his sick-bed and vowing to herself and her friends never again touch the man candy that is Kirby Atwood.

Nico did not tell Charles about the affair, and never intended to . . . until he brought home photo of her naked back that Kirby had taken. The photograph acts as Nico’s tell-tale heart, silently reminding her of her misdeeds as it glares at her from the wall. Wendy and Victory assure her that Charles was simply subconsciously drawn to the photo because it is, after all, of her and that proves that Charles still adores her. Nico goes to Kirby to try to get him to un-sell the photograph, but ultimately ends up confessing her affair to Charles after he refuses to have sex with her and her newly plumped G-spot. She accuses him of cheating with one of his students, which is a legitimate fear considering Nico was once Charles’ student, but he denies her accusations.

Look, Nico, its shirts vs. skins. And if you wanna play, youre gonna have to play skins.

Look, Nico, it's shirts vs. skins. And if you wanna play, you're gonna have to play skins.

The G-spot plumping, by the way, was an incredibly lame subplot that really didn’t fit in with the tone of this episode at all. I’ve seen this plot on other shows and it worked a lot better on them. For instance, on Nip/Tuck when Sean gives a client a G-spot plump and violates her (sort of) during the procedure, the client later returns to have the collagen removed because she’s so overstimulated that she cannot lead a normal life. Nico, on the other hand, seems to do this for no real reason at all. It is only what I can assume to be a failed bit of levity in an otherwise heavy episode.

The day after Nico’s confession, Charles is admitted to the hospital for a double bypass. Nico, Wendy and Victory run into Charles’ student, Megan, in the gift shop and learn that Megan has been having an affair with Charles and is carrying his child. Oops.

And then Charles dies. Oops.

Nico, distraught over this news and learning of the affair, tears through Charles’ files and finds that he had known all along about her and Kirby, complete with surveillance photos, and was planning on filing a case for abandonment so that Nico would end up with the financial burden of the divorce. It seems that Wendy and Victory were wrong about that photograph of Nico, after all.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s mom, Mary Tyler Moore, came to visit and criticize her daughter for taking less time at the office after Wendy catches her teenager Maddie out at a bar. Props to Wendy for paying attention to her children, unlike the parents on Gossip Girl and 90210 who really don’t have any fucking clue where their children are going when they say they’re studying for a math test. No props to Mary Tyler Moore for having so much plastic surgery on her face that she no longer looks like human.

Victory is still battling with Joe Bennett for autonomy within her company, which he secretly bought at the end of Season 1 and which I can only presume is how he shows affection. She spent this episode looking for a retail space in which she could open a boutique store, only to wind up in a space owned by . . . Joe Bennett. I’ve always felt that Victory’s strange desire to get away from Joe in the business world is a little odd. Joe is a billionaire for a reason. He’s a great person to have as an investor in the Victory Ford line, and paying rent to Joe Bennett for the best retail space in midtown is not a bad thing. The fact that Victory can’t separate her personal life – in which she chose to break from Joe – and her business life speaks to a certain emotional immaturity that I just don’t understand. I mean, really. Joe was a great guy, and her resistance doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Sure, he slept with someone else, but that was after they had broken up. It’s not like the horrible disastrous relationship that Nico and Charles had. Not even in the slightest.

And this brings me back to Nico and Charles. This episode had by far the most intricate plot any Lipstick Jungle episode has had so far, and I really, really enjoyed it. I wonder now, in the timeline of Who-Wronged-Whom in the House of Nico and Charles, which of them was cheating first. I have to assume Charles, what with the advanced pregnancy of his former student, and all. In which case, how dare he try to fuck over Nico like that. He’s a dick, and he deserves people laughing at his funeral. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but seriously. Even if he had survived the surgery, he was going to be in some deep legal shit. Which, I suppose, allows Nico to enjoy the last, highly awkward, laugh.

He left me for someone who sleeps in headgear. - Nico Reilly

"He left me for someone who sleeps in headgear." - Nico Reilly