Her son had been dating the relatively sane writer woman for months now without any announcements of lawsuit or engagement in the Times, and that meant things were going along well. At this point, Liz was probably being hassled by the notable Jack exes. Bianca, Colleen noted with approval, had recognized Liz as the One with considerable grace, which had probably driven them both crazy.
Bianca and Colleen agreed on the topic of Elizabeth being meant for Jack and vice versa, even if Bianca hated Elizabeth with every fiber of her being for it. In fact, when that notorious picture came out in the Post, Colleen had immediately found herself comforting Bianca, whose festering rage would have delighted Jack.
“It is ridiculous. That clever little writer girl with her little pointy nose and her witty rejoinders,” Bianca said over intervention martinis. “Johnny does not deserve such love in his life again.”
Colleen had agreed. “Well, at least the little girl seems to fight with him at every opportunity,” she said.
“That only makes it worse,” Bianca mourned. “Johnny must fight what he loves to enjoy it, and nothing makes him happier than the chase. He chases, she refuses to surrender to his advances…it will make him nothing but happy. I would scream, but that would please him, too. The bastard.”
Bianca, being a bit touched in the head and foreign, always did understand Jack’s perversities better than Colleen. Not that it bothered her a bit that Liz forced Jack to act like an intelligent human being instead of media executive scum, and to have reasons for his cost-cutting measures. It made him better at what he did.
So Colleen promised Bianca that she would give Johnny a bit of hell…but not until Jack was serious. There was still a faint hope of Donaghy grandchildren, though if Liz Lemon were smart, they would be the adopted-from-a-trendy-region kind. Colleen didn’t mind; in this day and age, grandchildren were grandchildren, and they could still be used against her son.
Phase one was in motion: anonymously sending a copy of the Post pictures to the Lemons last week, including the too-hot-for-print outtakes, as Colleen suspected the happy couple was pretending their families didn’t exist and the Lemons would panic at the sight of their precious child doing THAT in public. And once matters were settled, Colleen would inevitably be dispatched to do all of the wedding planning anyway, so she preferred to get it done in advance.
But there was a time for everything, and the time to let Jack know he wouldn’t be running off with his emergency contact without some interference from his mother was definitely now.
The little butt-boy who screened Jack’s visitors was more fluttery and whiny than usual when Colleen swept into the foyer of Jack’s office. He was on the phone with someone, plaintively saying, “He thought you would be TOO BUSY, and stop yelling at me, I didn’t pick them! It is not my fault you are an inbred theater nerd who can’t wear women’s shoes! And yes, you still have to come up and show off the dresses. They are LOANERS.”
Colleen liked ruining butt-boy’s day. She especially liked when he shrieked in shrill terror when he saw her standing there.
“What’s wrong? Jack’s girlfriend mad at you?” Colleen asked.
“I wish she’d just marry a dentist and move to Connecticut already the way she was supposed to,” Jonathan said. “What woman gets upset because her boyfriend sends her a choice of five designer gowns and tells her she gets to keep two?”
“Someone who doesn’t like being dressed by her boyfriend like a high-priced call girl,” Colleen said. “I know you don’t understand, because if Jack dressed you…”
“Mother,” Jack interrupted, walking out of his office with perfect timing. “How lovely to see you. Where are the other horses of the Apocalypse? Held up in mid-town traffic?”
“She’s balking about the gowns,” Jonathan informed Jack, ignoring Colleen despite his trembling lip. “You’re so lucky you didn’t send the diamonds down with, or there would be drama in the club.”
“Did you explain that Vogue has a strict no-Kohl’s policy at their formals?” Jack inquired dryly. “And that I would be happy to pay?”
“Yes, that’s what every woman wants to hear, that the man is happy to pay,” Colleen said. “So is this to insure she does that thing you like after, Jack?”
“Unless you can be helpful, Colleen, kindly shut up,” Jack said. Then he paused. “Lemon and I have been invited to a charity event tonight. With her usual pigheaded powers of denial, Lemon has completely ignored that she needs to dress like a grown-up. Could you possibly persuade her to put on a gown and like it?”
“Now you want your mother to be your go-between?” Colleen asked. “This is why she’s going to leave you for a real man. Or am I supposed to pretend I don’t know you’ve been screwing her for the past five months?”
“Six, and no, I’m sure that even if you hadn’t read the Post that day, you got an emergency call from Bianca,” Jack replied absently. “Did Bianca cry?”
“Bianca? Cry over you?” Colleen asked. “Of course she did. She then declared that your girlfriend has a pointy nose, and that she’d scream, but it would make you too happy.”
“Happy?” Jack asked. “My life has become a colossal game of pleasing that impossible liberal pixie with her hipster glasses without quote unquote ‘smothering’ her. What would make Bianca think I’m happy?”
Colleen would point out the bemused smile on his face at the moment, and the six months of being pleasing to the pixie without a lawsuit over the rights to Method Dude or whatever the name was, but it was too easy.
“Fine, then,” Colleen said. “I’ll take care of the pixie with the nose. If you want, I can make you and your little friend here extra happy, and introduce her to Rita’s son, the ophthalmologist in Stamford. Should I tell Liz that you’re going to sue her for the rights to her character when it’s all over?”
Jack stiffened. “Maybe you should stay here.”
“Oh, no,” Colleen said. Definitely not. Not when Colleen had to evaluate Liz Lemon for long-term staying power, because she’d be a dry drunk on a blow bender if Jack wasn’t dead serious about the woman. “You want me to get your girlfriend in a dress, it’s done. Isn’t that what good mothers do?”
“Liz, there’s a lady here to see you,” Cerie said. “She says she’s Jack’s mom.”
Frank and Toofer both started to laugh. Liz rolled her eyes, but not with surprise, because really, the only surprise was that Colleen hadn’t shown up sooner. It had been that kind of week.
“Show her in, Cerie,” Liz said. “Don’t be offended if she calls you a slut. That’s just her way. Also, I think she carries weapons.”
The entire world was going crazy-on-steroids nuts. Her office was full of super nice dresses that she had to pick from for this charity event that she had personally been invited to. Well, that she and Jack had been personally invited to, as a couple. Elizabeth Lemon and John Donaghy, printed in the fancy cursive embossed script, which meant it was an Event. Which meant there would be high society people asking if she lived at the penthouse yet, who her ‘people’ were, where she’d gone to school, and all sorts of snobby screening questions.
And now Colleen was here, probably to find all sorts of new way to torture Liz and Jack. Because torturing them as a couple was clearly in.
“Do they not require pants to work at your show?” Colleen asked, speaking of the devil. “My son has dumped me on you, claiming he needs to work and you hippies don’t do that.”
“That’s sweet of him. Actually, we’re thinking of sketches,” Liz said. That was a lie. The last twenty minutes had been Liz fielding a dose of, what’s up with you and the suit playing Pretty Woman? and a recap of last night’s Daily Show, which was usually the precursor to work. “You don’t watch the show, I imagine.”
“I watch the parts that are clearly based on my son,” Colleen said sharply. “I have an idea for you. Did you know Jack is deathly afraid of motorcycles? I’m sure he plays himself off as the man without fear, but get a motorcycle within fifty feet of him, and he clenches. Like this.”
Colleen’s expression was something. Liz would call it a vision, but not even that seemed sufficiently descriptive. The writers were all transfixed, at least.
“Wait a second. Is Donaghy the basis for Inappropriate Method Guy?” Toofer asked suddenly.
“Yeah,” Liz admitted. Because if she didn’t, Colleen would.
“Did you come up with that before or after you did it?” Frank asked, asking the question Liz had hoped to skirt.
“After,” Liz said. Nobody needed to know it was during. Nobody at all. Especially not Jack’s mom. Everyone coughed. “What?”
“Holy crap,” Frank said. “No wonder you keep him around. He’s your man-muse. You turn all your weird, conflicted, dirty feelings about Donaghy into hilarious art.”
“Man-muse?” Liz asked, flushing. “Shut up, he isn’t.”
“Whatever, because he is,” Sue, of all people, said. “So Method Guy accepts a motorcycle race…”
“Goes complete Speed Racer until the motors kick in,” Frank said. “That’s genius. Especially if we can get Josh to do the face Jack’s mom just did.”
Colleen waved them off. “Yes, yes, that sounds like hilarious ape humor,” she said, staring Liz down. “You and I need to see those dresses.”
“Sure, fine,” Liz said, glad to get Colleen away from her writers, who were all discussing ways to torture Jack with motorcycles. She hustled them into the office and with difficulty closed the door. “Why are you here, Mrs. Donaghy?”
Colleen ignored her, looking at the dresses, then back at Liz, then at the dresses, and then back at Liz. She finally selected the dark blue one with a big fluffy skirt with tiny glittery stones stitched into the top layer.
“This one,” she said. “You can wear it with flat slingback sandals. Make your makeup people give you a decent pedicure and you’ll be fine.”
“I,” and Liz stopped. “How did you know?”
“Bianca mentioned, in her long list of reasons why she hates you and hopes you fall down a flight of stairs, that you can’t walk in heels,” Colleen said with a mean old lady shrug.
Liz rolled her eyes. “She just says that because I’m dating Jack for real this time,” she said. “And is also a crazy person.”
“I know,” Colleen said. “But you can’t, and Jack doesn’t need to know that’s why you’re throwing a fit. He’d gloat about knowing your tastes, and Jack gloating gives me acid reflux. You do have enough good taste to like the dresses, don’t you?”
“They’re really pretty,” Liz admitted in a whisper. “And I tried them all on and they were all really great on me.”
“So, are you serious about Jack, or is this all going to end in a lawsuit where my son sues you for likeness rights to the Method Man?” Colleen asked. “Because that’s what he’ll do if you leave him.”
Man, Colleen was just the ray of sunshine Liz needed on a day like this. Maybe next Tracy could have a nervous breakdown, or Jenna could sexually harass Kenneth again.
“Ah,” Liz said. “We’ve only been dating for six months! Why does everyone need to know my plans?”
“Because Jack’s serious,” Colleen said.
“How do you even know that? He was more serious about Phoebe!” Liz replied. “Phoebe got proposed to in like, three months flat.”
And didn’t have any almost-oopsies, either, Liz added mentally.
“And that’s why we both knew Phoebe was a gold-digging whore,” Colleen replied. “Jack thinks like an engineer. Find the problem, isolate it, resolve it. That’s why his personal life goes sour, because he treats people like machines. In Phoebe’s case, he was devastated by Bianca’s remarriage and decided to show he could find the perfect trophy wife and fast.”
“He threw his phone into a lake over CC,” Liz said.
“CC left him because she couldn’t handle Jack being serious, because she’s a poseur,” Colleen said. “And because she didn’t love him. She loved the dirty sexy affair. Meanwhile, you’re the one he goes running to whenever he really needs something. Face it, he’s serious.”
Colleen was making all this seem really easy and stupid. “So it’s what my producer says,” Liz said facetiously. “Admit I love him and watch everything work out, right?”
Liz wasn’t expecting Colleen to smack her upside the head with a copy of the New York Times. It hurt, and reminded Liz that she was also apparently at war with Maureen Dowd, who had referenced the show as “lowest common denominator” twice over the past month.
“Don’t act like a trollop smartass,” Colleen said. “What do you want to have happen with my son?”
Because that was super-easy to answer and didn’t keep Liz awake on the decreasing number of nights she wasn’t sharing the bed with Jack or anything.
“Well,” Liz said. And then, to her own extreme surprise, told Colleen exactly what she wanted. Which, to her extra-extreme surprise, she’d known since the incidents with Rhonda at the CVS, but hadn’t wanted to admit. Except that she had, apparently.
“All right,” Colleen said, accepting Liz’s rambling expression of hope, fear, and dubious consideration without even batting an eye. “Bring the dress. We need to go shopping.”
Colleen was going to drive Liz away. Or convince her to come to the event in a tuxedo. Apparently after insulting the staff at TGS as smelly apes, Colleen had dragged Liz to lunch with her, far away from him and no one had been able to reach them since.
So now it was twenty minutes to when their car had to leave to reach the Vogue event on time, and Liz was nowhere to be found. This was probably because Colleen had taken Liz to Bianca’s, and the two had worked his woman over until she had cried and promised to never, ever make Jack Donaghy happy again.
Anna Wintour was going to be extremely offended by this.
“She’s here,” Jonathan called.
“Finally,” Jack said, checking his bowtie. He was in love with a bohemian type; it required certain sacrifices. If he stated that often enough, Liz appearing in jeans at Anna’s party would be acceptable. “So where did…gott in himmel.”
“Hi,” Liz said, essaying a smile. “I kind of feel like I’m going to Prom. Do I look okay?”
“Beautiful,” he said, after remembering how to speak. “Much better than okay.”
Was that nail polish he spied on her fingernails? Great Caesar’s ghost!
“Okay, it’s just a big poufy dress,” Liz said sternly. “You don’t need to look at me like that.”
“Like what?” Jack asked.
“Like I’m clone-Liz from Planet Fashionista,” Liz said. “Your mother dragged me around the city with the blue dress in tow and demanded expensive services from people who charge about what I pay in rent a month for them.”
“And why, pray tell, did she do that?” Jack inquired, now rather alarmed about what his mother had discussed with his girlfriend when he could make himself do anything other than stare.
“To make me face my demons, she said,” Liz replied, wrinkling her nose. Jack’s gut started to churn. Colleen loved when others faced their demons, though suggest what was good for the goose and gander was good for the dried-up sea harpy and get a smack to the head. “She stuck one of her big rings on my finger and had everyone fawn on me like I was your fiancé or something. I told her that was stupid, but then she told me that if I fought her, she’d call my mother and start planning a wedding without us. She also made a tailor adjust the dress, so I think we kind of have to keep it now.”
He could kiss his mother. Dear God, Liz clearly had no idea of the overall impact she had in her “prom dress.” If he wasn’t entirely certain she’d laugh in his face, he’d drag her to Atlantic City right now, to hell with Anna and her dreary self-publicizing charity events.
“Do you have a wrap?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah. Do you think Colleen would let me forget?” asked Liz. “I told her I didn’t need one, and then she called me a suburban hick with pedestrian aesthetics until I gave up.”
Liz handed Jack a bag, from which Jack removed a silver and blue shot-silk shawl that screamed good taste. He’d hear about how Colleen’s ‘fixed’ income had strained under the purchases later, but for now, he quietly blessed her as he set it around Liz’s shoulders.
“I admit, it’s gorgeous,” Liz said, fussing slightly. “You smell fantastic, by the way. I approve.”
“I don’t suppose you’d rather avoid the event and run away with me to Atlantic City, would you?” Jack murmured into her ear, taking a moment to kiss the space right beside it.
“And waste me in a fancy dress?” Liz asked, crooking her head back to look at him and smile. “Come on. This much expensive work needs to be showcased, and I know something you don’t know.”
Jack froze. Visions of angry ex-girlfriends glowering at him as he attempted pleasantries with this transformed Liz Lemon on his arm danced in his brain. “Which is?”
“What I’m wearing underneath this dress,” Liz said with a wink.
Liz rarely surprised Jack; he was the master of market research and the occasional grey area of employee/girlfriend data mining that only the uncharitable would call stalking.
It made moments like these all the more impressive.
“Za-zing,” he managed to say with a smile, offering his arm, which for a wonder, Liz took without comment.
What he thought was, I’m going to marry this woman. By hook, crook, or intervention of his mother.
It was time to make the call. Colleen dialed the number she’d stolen from Elizabeth’s ratty purse while Liz had been tortured by hairstylists.
“Lemon residence, Margaret speaking,” a woman’s pleasant voice said. “Who’s calling so late? Liz, is that you?”
“This is Colleen Donaghy. Jack’s mother. I assume you’ve seen the pictures I sent you,” Colleen said.
Long pause. “Oh,” her future in-law said. “Yes, I have. It’s a little bit shocking. Our Liz is a good girl. She’s not the kind of girl who does that in limos like a mid-priced prostitute.”
Colleen snorted. “Your daughter has been sleeping with my son for six months,” she said. “She’s done worse in limos.”
“Six months?” Margaret asked with a gasp. “And she couldn’t call her mother once? Well, that’s just perfect. Still sulking about Christmas, I suppose. Liz is a sulker, you know.”
Colleen reminded herself that Liz was not responsible for her parents, and that they’d only need to speak at births, funerals, and perhaps a horrible first Christmas that would end in bloodshed and promises to never do it again.
A man’s voice rumbled in the background. “No, Dick, it’s just that Donaghy woman,” Margaret called back. “We’re talking about Lizzy’s gentleman friend.”
“Future husband,” Colleen said. “If I know Jack — and sadly, I do — he’s going to marry your Lizzy. That’s why I called.”
An even longer pause. “Well, you know I don’t actually have any influence on Elizabeth,” her mother said. “She does things her own way. If you want me to break it up, you’re out of luck.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Colleen said. “But I’m sure we’ll be asked to plan the wedding. Our children are busy and important, after all, so I wanted to know all about Lemon family traditions so that we can be ready for our future.”
It was brilliant. Colleen had realized that the only stumbling block that could completely fuck up her son’s life was his writer girl’s contrary skittishness conflicting with Jack’s touchy pride at a bad moment. Putting on Jack’s wedding would probably bankrupt her and end in tears when either Jack or Liz had a last minute attack of nerves and stupidity over their class differences anyway.
A united front with the Lemons would trap their children perfectly; the terror of being controlled, along with the indignation that their mothers had interfered in their business, would unite Jack and Liz in a fit of pique, and a perfectly timed fight with her mother — who Colleen would provoke at the right moment — about Liz’s inability to commit would close the deal.
It would play out predictably: blah blah blah, who does my mom think she is? I do SO want to get married! I really DO want to be Mrs. Donaghy, screw her! And of course, Jack would swoop in with his corporate jet and suggest they foil everyone with an elopement in Las Vegas.
The only thing left to do was sketch out the dates on her calendar and lay bets with her friends and Don Geiss.
Her call waiting beeped. “That sounds wonderful, Margaret — I can call you Margaret, right? But Jack’s on the other line, so I’ll talk to you later,” Colleen fake-simpered. “Hello, Jack. Married yet?”
“You’re up to no good,” Jack declared. “And I want to know what you plan to do to my girlfriend, Mother.”
“I resent that slander, Jack,” Colleen said. “I’m going to ruin her life by manipulating her into our family. A real man wouldn’t need his mother to convince his middlebrow lady friend to marry him, but I’m used to doing your dirty work.”
“Don’t screw this up for me, Mother,” Jack said. “The last thing my relationship needs is your help.”
Colleen snorted. Paranoid and wrong; Jack was definitely in love. “If you’re so afraid of your scary, evil mother, maybe you should close the deal before Liz comes to her senses and realizes she’s marrying a Donaghy,” she said.
“I will have you bricked up in a convent in Bulgaria,” Jack began, and paused. “No. No, Mother, I don’t care what plans you have. They won’t stop me.”
He hung up.
Six months at most, then. Colleen congratulated herself; she did excellent work.