Sutton continues to be a serious hosebeast. I can't believe it's taken me this long, but why can't they just slap a Band-Aid on Emma's head and let her continue "being" Sutton? She's better at everything. She would definitely be better at taking Sutton's midterms, which is where we are in the school year (hello, internal show time line that makes no sense!). That provides a sufficient excuse only for Sutton to be all, "I'm too busy and damaged to pursue our biomom in earnest." Add that to Thayer's persistent belief that Alec has nothing to do with the twinanigans, even though the girls know for sure that he knows Annie Hobbs, and it seemed like the episode was going nowhere fast.
Then lo and behold! A clue falls in their lap: Remembering Annie's sputter that Sutton's attacker was or resembled a snake, they spot that Derek has a serpent tattoo in the inside of his right wrist. And since Char's gone and there's literally no other reason for Derek to exist, narrative-wise, clearly it's significant. Ethan throws him against a wall to get a confession out of him, but a teacher interrupts, which allows Derek a few periods to give his interrogators the slip. The investigative triumvirate pays a visit to Derek's house where his wary mother let's down her guard just long enough to tell them that Derek's car broke down at the lake the night of Sutton's party, and he was delivered home by "that cop, the nice one" (who else but Dan Whitehorse?).
Emma volunteers to do precisely what I suggested earlier and take back over Sutton's life, starting with her exams and the talking-to from Ted and Kristin about what a bitch she's been. Thayer doesn't waste a single breath without a complaint and even Thayer's patience wears thin. They finally get a lead on an auto shop where Derek works, and Ethan and Sutton head there to rough him up, Drive-style. In the midst of a tussle involving the crunch of a crowbar on Ethan's hand, a car pulls up, and the kids flee. They did get the parcel of information that Derek was only supposed to deliver Sutton to a third party when the car went into the lake and he panicked and left her for dead. Speaking of left for dead, that's exactly what Derek is the next morning -- only his assailant was successful. Dan's deputy, who pulled over Ethan and Sutton after the garage altercation, mentions Ethan's busted hand to Dan, and he is entirely too quick to take the logical leap from motive and time-and-place to calling his brother a murderer. So what does he do? He gives Ethan the terrible, horrible, no-good advice to skip town even though they acknowledge it'll make Ethan look guilty as sin. He heads to the school with Sutton and Thayer so Emma and Sutton can switch places once again, but the police arrive and an incredibly inconvenient shoe malfunction sends Emma into police custody and Sutton speeding off into oblivion with Ethan.
Meanwhile, there are two secret relationships afoot and one that is open-to-the-point-of-freaking-everyone-out. In the former camp are Mads and Ryan, Justin and Laurel (who wears a hilariously on-the-nose "I'm sneaking around" trench coat for their rendezvous). In the former, the Sutton-Emma switcheroo creates complications for Mads (when she makes cover-up plans with actual Sutton that Emma doesn't remember), while the return of one of the musicians from the party a couple weeks back creates a bump in the road for Justin. Though Laurel is happy to use the "I'm joining a band excuse" for now to fuel her secret meet-ups with Justin, it seems only natural this guy is going to quickly prove himself to be way better than Justin. Just give it time. As for Alec and Rebeccannie, Kristin is reasonably suspicious of the pairing, and Rebeccannie only stokes the fire by being all, "I loves me some man attention, especially if it's from the one who destroyed my life, woot woot!" She continues to plunge headfirst in the relationship, using Mads' deception (which Alec finds out about in, like, two seconds) to insinuate herself into Alec's personal drama. So confident is she in this gradual encroachment that she even goes to check out engagement rings.
Previously: There was this guy named Derek, who hasn't been around in weeks, so I guess he'll be important again. Remember that time Laurel sang at a party? Yeah, I barely do either, but they show a flash of that right after Justin asks, "I'm going to lose Laurel, aren't I?" so that'll be important too. More obviously significant is the burgeoning relationship between Alec and Rebeccannie (who has an as-yet unclear connection to Annie Hobbs), Kristin's growing distrust for Ted and the twins' discovery that Annie may not be their biological mother... but she was Sutton's savior in the lake. Sutton's attacker? All Annie could get out was, "Snake!"
The morning after Annie's revelation, Sutton is primping for school like nothing happened. (Everyone raise a glass to the unnecessary bra shot of Alexandra Chando!) Emma calls over the computer and is gung ho about jumping back on the case to find their mother. Sutton is less concerned because she can't find her taupe blouse with gold polka dots. It's a lot harder to want to rock the boat when you're sleeping in 800-thread count sheets than, say, if you're in a decrepit old cabin that just screams The Strangers 2. Kristin walks in to deliver to some fresh towels, and Sutton is a real brat to her for not knocking. Kristin shrugs it off and assumes Sutton's video chatting with Ethan, who she claims left the ball because he felt sick. She tells him to feel better while Emma desperately wriggles out of webcam view. Emma wonders what "Feel better" means, and Sutton snots that she couldn't very well Kristin that Ethan left to "jump into bed with" Emma. Emma sheepishly admits she and Ethan haven't... you know... which Sutton should already realize because she barged in on the closest they ever got. But that gives Sutton way too much credit for not thinking everyone is out to betray her when, in fact, they're all bending over backward to accommodate her entitled nonsense. Sutton brusquely tells Emma bye and clicks out of the video chat before Emma can respond. She sees a picture of Ethan on her computer wallpaper, and issues a wistful-yet-annoyed look.
Sutton finishes dressing and heads out to the kitchen where she continues her reign of a-hole behavior by snapping at Laurel for borrowing the taupe top in question. Laurel says "Sutton" said she could borrow it and explains the extenuating circumstances -- she needs to look extra-cute now that she's single again. While Sutton's all, "Told you so" (which she didn't), Kristin compliments Laurel's maturity in deciding to move on from Justin. Sutton snarls, "Absolutely. Gold star for Laurel!" Even Ted has to restrain himself from telling her to stop being such a grubby bitch. Sutton leaves and Kristin wonders if Sutton is as stank as she thinks. Laurel explains that midterms are upon them, and it's only going to get worse.