Warm Hearts and Cold Fights Make Katy Keene’s Winter Song Sing

Katy Keene, a Brunette 20something with red lipstick wearing a pink sweater with a ruffled trim and a blue collar, stares pensively into the distance before a blue apartment wall

In Katy Keene chapter five, cabin fever-induced conflicts and a harsh polar vortex-inspired NYC cold snap forces Katy to confront her emotions over her mother’s death as she stands on the verge of applying to a fashion school. Elsewhere, Jorge messes up big time, and Pepper and Josie fight and bond.

Katy Keene
“Chapter Five: Song for a Winter’s Night”

Ryan Shiraki (director), Leo Richardson (writer)
Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Camille Hyde, Jonny Beauchamp, Julia Chan, Lucien Laviscount, Zane Holtz, Katherine LaNasa (cast)
Based on Archie Comics
March 5, 2020

Personal warmth and emotional deep freezes collide this week, as Katy and company must brave the cold to survive some major revelations about one another and themselves.

For Katy, a deadline looms, and the winter chill at first seems to be an excuse to perfect her portfolio for her application to Parson’s Fashion School. That includes lining her friends up for an impromptu fashion show so she can pick her three best outfits to submit. But she needs a full ride scholarship to afford it, and it’s something she won’t attain without an influential recommendation.  Pepper points out that Katy should pursue help from the very influential Gloria. But Gloria says that Katy’s collection has no cohesion (“What is this for? A drag queen? Chloe Sevigny?  A heart-obsessed toddler?” Gloria asks while examining Katy’s line in the best dialogue of the night) and that she’ll only write the letter if Katy produces a dress for Gloria to wear to the Young Fellow’s Ball, giving Katy a 24-hour deadline to produce magic. Which is darn hard, considering Gloria seems to like nothing at all.

Meanwhile, it turns out Jorge’s mom somehow doesn’t know about his sideline performing as Ginger, and when she catches him leaving the apartment in full drag, Jorge is forced to to contemplate coming out of another closet. (It’s unexplained if and how he ever explained the wig fire to her that happened in the last episode.) Considering how badly it went when he told his mom and dad he was gay, he’s understandably nervous about their continued acceptance.

Katy and Jorge bump up against some major conflict here, as Katy’s unable to help Jorge hem a new dress for his Aida act (yes, Jorge is one of Those Queens you see on Ru Paul’s Drag Race who can hem and design, but can’t sew, apparently). When Katy doesn’t respond to Jorge’s pleading, he decides to take matters into his own hands, and accidentally breaks Katy’s mother’s beloved sewing machine, forcing her to confront that long-simmering sense of loss and sadness she’s felt ever since her mom passed away. The conflict between Katy and Jorge is realistic, heartbreaking, and well-acted. It also gives Jorge the second big line of the night: “If I don’t make it, deliver my ashes to Chita Rivera.”

Josie and Pops, meanwhile, unearth a studio hidden at the back of the record store for her to record her demo in. She has money enough to record four songs off of the Cabots thanks to the whole Josie-acting-as-a-condom-for-Alex’s-bad-tendencies deal she made with Mr. Cabot. Unfortunately when the tabloids leak Alex and Xandra’s adopted-sibling-quasi-incestuous relationship, Alex and his father assume that Josie violated her NDA. Now she has to confront the source of the presumed leak, and she (finally!) blames Pepper. But Pepper denies responsibility, leading to a huge fight. Josie finds out that Pepper’s in debt, and in return, Pepper finds out about Josie’s check from the Cabots.

Katy Keene - a young brunette woman in a pink dress - sits ina circle with her friends Josie McCoy, an afridan american woman in a black top and white shorts, Pepper Smith, an Asian American woman and Jorge Lopez, a Latinx man with dark hair. They are all helping Katy sew an outfit together on the floor of their orange carpeted, green walled apartment.

“Song for a Winter’s Night” has some of the prettiest writing yet put to the screen for a Katy Keene episode. The show really is at its best when it concentrates on the personal conflicts between its main characters, and here — in what, aside from a couple of scenes, amounts to a bottle episode — the series excels. When the heat breaks down, secrets emerge and tempers begin to flare more broadly than any of Katy’s skirts, and for a moment it seems as if the gang’s unshakable friendship won’t even survive the day.

Every character has a moment to shine and — gasp! — a long-reaching problem to try to hash out and solve. Katy’s long-term mourning for her mom is once more explored, and the depth of her grief is understandable and palpable. The show continues to pull focus on the import of the shared friendship between the main five, so the solution to her feeling of loss is the realization that she has other people who will help take care of her, which is a warm and sensible and good morale.

(I will say, though, that at this point, unless they’re really going to tug on the string connecting her window dressing job with Francois to the rest of her, they really need to cut bait with it. It hasn’t driven enough story to justify its existence when all of the plot tension still lies between Gloria and Katy abovestair.)

It was nice to see both Josie and Pepper ultimately bond, as well as Pepper have a more vulnerable moment in front of her friends. I can’t agree with Katy calling Pepper “the most fiercely loyal person she knows,” considering Pepper leaked that bit about K.O. and Katy’s non-engagement in her column, and Katy had to tell her two episodes ago not to say anything about the mess with her, Lacys, and Guy. Josie’s initial guess is a fair, if not correct one, in light of all of this, though. It’s absolutely true that Josie would feel as if she were participating in quid pro quo blackmail, and that Pepper would try to hide her debt from the others. Pepper feels less like a karma Houdini here and is more aware of her frail financial position, whereas in the previous two episodes she felt more laissez-faire about it.

Jorge’s angst over his mom, meanwhile, is both easy to understand and heartbreaking. Naturally, Mrs. Lopez, the most fiercely supportive mother in all the CW, handles the drag queen news as well as one would expect.

There aren’t very many other flaws to report. Yes, we do take another break for an Aida-based musical number (The Rice/John Broadway composition — they’re singing “My Strongest Suit,” but no one pulls out any Verdi here), but it’s handled a little bit better than last week’s Katy Keene episode. The choreography still feels a little awkward though.

Yet, “Song for a Winter’s Night” is a solid improvement over last week’s episode, and a touching and fun piece of work.