Emma is not coping well with the whole “accidentally triggered a chainsaw to slice Will in half” thing, which is probably understandable. She spends the opening of the episode in some kind of fugue state while cops talk at her and doctors prescribe her what is hopefully a lifetime supply of xanax.
Noah goes to visit Jake, the guy he is supposed to hate, at the hospital.
Brooke: It’s crazy, the doctors say it’s a miracle that the knife to the chest didn’t actually hit any organs.
Noah: Miracle. Definitely a miracle and not a completely staged coincidence. Praise Jesus.
Jake’s first words upon waking from his coma are “nerd.” I fucking can’t with this kid anymore. Why does his hair still look fresh from the set of Glee after being stabbed in the fucking heart? Brooke informs him that the former object of his affections is dead, and he presumably spends the rest of the episode mourning because we don’t see him again.
Emma insists on going back to school the day after she watched her ex-boyfriend be brutally murdered. 100% chance of mental breakdown to occur in the middle of class.
Mrs. Duvall: well did the meds at least help you sleep?
Emma: who the fuck needs sleep
At the police station, the Sheriff is staring at his board of murder victims/failures when Piper, who apparently also has free roaming rights in the precinct, shows up. She gives him the footage of the mayor dragging a body throug his house, and the sheriff is like “what am I supposed to do with this?” because the man has literally never solved a crime in his life.
Piper: This footage was hacked by Nina and Tyler, who are both dead. Will and Jake were using it to blackmail the mayor, and now one of them is dead and the other very nearly killed. Are you catching my drift here?
Sheriff: Idk seems pretty circumstantial
Emma walks back into school to the collective shock of random students, assorted police officers, and Noah and Audrey.
Audrey: The murder of a girl I was kinda hooking up with is definitely the same as you having to watch your ex of 2 years get sliced in half, so I definitely know what you’re going through.
The first crack in Emma’s Stepford coping façade: she walks by Will’s memorialized locker. It’s a crazy coincidence that his yearbook photo and his IMDB headshot are the same picture.
Brooke is waiting for Piper in the lobby of the precinct, very concerned as to whether or not her dad is about to get arrested. Piper answers with a resounding “yes, he’s a fucking murderer.”
Back in English class, Mr. Not Branson has picked another classic piece of literature to parallel the plot line of the episode. How does he do it. This week: The Crucible, and the mass hysteria that leads to a lot of innocent people dying (foreshadowing, foreshadowing, foreshadowing). He calls out Noah, who was clearly talking shit in the back of the room with Audrey. True to form, Noah pulls yet another serial killer out of his ass to cite as an example, despite the fact that it has literally nothing to do with McCarthyism.
The Sheriff has brought Mayor Maddox in for questioning, possibly the first sound law enforcement decision he’s made all season.
Mayor: I would never murder those kids.
Sheriff: I mean that’s what I said, but it has been brought to my attention that this video of you clearly dragging a body around your house could be considered “evidence.”
The mayor promises to come clean about the tape as long as he can talk to Brooke first, but Brooke refuses to speak to him until she’s sure that he didn’t murder her mother. Classic Catch-22. Turns out Brooke’s mom is alive, which was discovered by a very simple call to her rebab center, a solution no one thought to pursue until this moment.
At school, Kieran finally finds Emma at her locker, probably after hours of brooding in corners waiting for her to walk by.
Kieran: I’m here for you, ready to swoop as soon as you’re emotionally stable.
The second crack in Emma’s Stepford coping façade: She hallucinates and sees Will’s mutilated body in the bathroom mirror during a quick Xanny break.
The Sheriff and Emma’s mom are enjoying a quaint midday coffee break while discussing the rampant murder spree currently overtaking their town.
Sheriff: Idk my gut tells me that the mayor is just a distraction
Mrs. Duvall: Your gut definitely hasn’t led us wrong yet, let’s go with that.
In a (not at all) coincidental turn of events, Emma’s dad has been missing from his oil rig job (the chosen profession of absent fathers) for 3 weeks, which is right when the heart showed up at the Duvalls’ doorstep. Both adults quickly decide that this fact is completely irrelevant to their current investigation.
The sheriff assures Emma’s mom that the Lakewood police have finally figured out how to trace blocked numbers, and should be able to catch the killer the next time he calls Emma. However, Emma points out that while she is the one being harassed, she is literally the only person safe from murder at this point.
This argument is completely invalidated when Emma goes full hallucination at school, running up and down the dark and flickering hallways from a stalking zombie Will. Shocker: Kieran is there to catch her and save the day.
Kieran: So what were you running from?
Emma: Wow that’s really invasive.
Kieran wants Emma to let him in and help her heal, and Emma points out that anyone remotely close to her usually ends up very dead.
Piper is back to squatting in Emma’s coffee shop, loudly recording her thoughts on Will’s murder as Emma busses tables about a foot away.
Emma: I wouldn’t be that opposed to dying at this point.
Piper: Nah, you’re genetically predisposed to survive murder sprees, you’ve got this.
The sheriff has been tracing Emma’s dad’s credit cards and got a hit at a gas station nearby. He’s suspicious that Kevin has been trying to contact the Duvalls, and Emma’s mom does nearly nothing to convince him otherwise.
Emma has another psychotic break at work, and apparently this is at last enough to convince the adults in this God forsaken town that she needs to be put on some kind of rest. Instead of, I don’t know, an anonymous and highly guarded safe house in a different state, they decide on the hospital. Because nothing bad has ever happened in a government building in this town.
Mrs. Duvall: Should I stay the night with you?
Emma: No, it’s fine.
Mrs. Duvall: Good enough for me, I’m gonna go fuck the Sheriff.
Because absolutely no one in this town has learned their lesson yet, Emma’s door is left unguarded, allowing her absentee father to waltz right in.
Kevin: I realize I’ve ignored you for years, but I’m here now
Emma: These past few weeks have been traumatic enough without having to conquer my daddy issues, thanks
Piper is next on the inappropriate visitors list, assuring Emma that she’s here as a friend, not a reporter (and definitely not a murderer). Recalling that Piper also suffers from father-related emotional deficiencies, Emma reaches out.
Emma: I can’t believe my dad showed up after 8 years of radio silence
Piper: Um, my dad is never showing up because he’s DEAD you selfish bitch
Brooke goes to visit her dad in jail, who finally confesses about the body in the trunk. Turns out Brooke’s mom is a junkie, and the body was a friend of hers who OD’d in the guest room. Mayor Maddox tried to get rid of it on the DL, because drug addicted wives have a tendency of tanking incumbent elections.
Emma recovers a repressed memory from the night her dad left, which stemmed from an argument about Mrs. Duvall having a baby that he didn’t want. Emma assumes it was her, but her dad assures her that it’s something else. “The answers are around you,” he tells her, as if he’s Yoda and this isn’t a moderately life or death situation. Plot twist: Emma’s dad was just a figment of her imagination the entire time. Daddy issues: 1, Emma’s psyche: 0.
Noah and Audrey are after hours snooping through Mr. Branson’s class when they find what appears to be a murder weapon inside the air conditioning duct. Rule number one of illicit crime: always hide incriminating evidence in your place of work. They make possibly their first rational decision all season and call the cops.
Noah: Here is indisputable evidence that Mr. Branson is up to some shady shit.
Sheriff: Ugh you people and your evidence.
The Sheriff calls in an APB on Branson, who is conveniently hooking up with Brooke in the auditorium at the very same instant. No one is surprised to learn that this isn’t his first relationship with a student, or that the last one showed up dead. I know that if I were to leave town under the suspicion of murder, I would pick up nearby with the same first name, same profession, and continue my same illegal activities with a different teenage girl. Mr. Branson: criminal mastermind.
Emma confronts her mother about the ultrasound that she found in the footage from the abandoned hospital. Long story short: Emma’s mom left town after the Brandon James’ murders because she was pregnant with his baby. They put it up for adoption and then returned to town, where Emma’s parents reconnected and everyone tried to forget about the life-altering shit that went down just 9 months prior.
Mrs. Duvall: I hope you’re not mad that I didn’t tell you
Emma: The kid you gave up is back in town murdering people HOW did you not put this together yet.
Brooke and Branson are hooking up on stage in the school auditorium (subtle) when Branson “hears something.” He goes to investigate leaving Brooke in her underwear in the dark, definitely not about to be murdered. To literally no one’s surprise, the killer shows up just as Branson leaves and takes a swipe at Brooke’s arm. She half-heartedly runs away, straight into Branson’s arms right as the cops show up to arrest him.
Brason: I can see why this might look suspicious, but I’m definitely not the murderer
Brooke: * saddled with 99 different kinds of trust issues at this point *
Current Suspect: Kieran is Emma’s murderous half-brother and is pulling a Charles/CeCe Drake/Jason DiLaurentis situation on us.