Homecoming is upon Arroyo High. Ethan is obviously not going. Emma is clearly desperate to attend, but pressure of Sutton's incumbency (she won last year and was hoping for a twofer), coupled with Laurel's house arrest inspires Emma to flirt with skipping the festivities entirely. If you thought that would be fine with Char, then you're batty. Mads joins the campaign bandwagon to dick over Nisha (who's also in the running) when she "innocently" mentions rumors to Alec Rybak about Mads and Eduardo dating. With all this in play, Justin is nominated for Homecoming King, so Laurel appoints herself his campaign manager. Emma finds a way to convince Ted and Kristin to let her go. Emboldened by her success with the Mercers, Emma asks Ethan to be her date -- even if he doesn't actually "go" with her publicly. Worrying what Sutton would think, he says no.
When Sutton discovers how very far Emma has begun to encroach upon her life, she goes from zero to bitchy in an instant, reminding Emma that this chance at glory is but a hand-me-down and that "it's not you that they care about." That was way harsh, Sut. On the one hand, it's clear she's jealous to be missing out. On the other, Emma actually is taking over her life. Tough call... All the while, Sutton totally got smooched on by Thayer. (You will need this information later.) Perhaps by ESP, or maybe because he's growing to appreciate the liberties Emma allows him, Ethan wonders if Sutton would have allowed him to accompany him to the dance under any circumstance, and her hesitation is a silent but firm no.
Over in parent land, former prom queen Kristin brings out a photo album for a retrospective the committee is planning. This is only noteworthy because it has a photo of Helen Slater circa The Legend of Billie Jean (so good) and because there's a ridiculously cheesy picture of Ted and Alec in which Alec -- I kid you not -- is wearing a damn afro wig (albeit an understated one), but mainly because Ted can't stop mooning over a picture of him, Alec, and... wait for it... Annie Hobbs! (Of course Emma only notices this once Ted has sloppily ripped the page out of the book. Because removing it and replacing it with another generically old picture would have been too subtle. Sheesh.) Also, Alec places a call to a hospital where Annie is staying and alerts them that Sutton may be popping by unannounced. He lies that Sutton is a gold digger and tells them they better provide top-notch security for all the money he's paying them.
The dance begins, and Emma is ready to queen the pants off of Nisha. Before the announcements, Alec corners "Sutton" and officially makes the phrase "Have fun tonight" creepy. Damn you, Pasdar! How do you do that? He also tells her to remember who she is, which makes pretty much everyone's heads explode at once. Then Homecoming court is announced. "Sutton" and Justin both win. As they share their first dance, Ethan shows up all bad-ass-like in a tux and a motorcycle, asks if he can cut in, then kisses the hell out of Emma (actual Emma -- he tells her he came for her, not Sutton). Glory be! Of course everyone realizes Sutton has been secretly dating Ethan, and Char and Mads are particularly displeased. Meanwhile, Justin finds Laurel out in the hall. Still transitioning from being a bookish outcast, she is overwhelmed by her new life as the Homecoming King's girlfriend. Justin sweetly perches his crown on her head and tells her he'll never let her go. Oh, but wait! When he goes in for the "America's Best Boyfriend" hug, he has definitely foreboding in his eyes.
Lest ye think the night was over, Nisha retaliates by texting the photo of Mads and Eduardo kissing to a displeased Alec, who goes and confronts Eduardo in an epic break dancing battle. Okay, Eduardo is the only one break dancing, but wouldn't that have been spectacular? I have no doubt that Pasdar could have made breakin' creepy, too. He puts the BOO! in Boogaloo. Moments later, Sutton sees the pictures of Emma and Ethan kissing on Faceplace (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) and retaliates by kissing the hell out of Thayer. Back in Phoenix, Emma sees Ted indiscreetly hiding the picture of himself, Alec (with a Kotter mustache, btw), and Annie. She snatches it from its hiding place and is hot on the trail... except Alec has faxed a picture of Sutton/Emma to the facility where Annie is living with explicit orders to keep them out. As the episode closes, the nurse checks in on Annie, who is indeed an artist and furiously painting (for, I suspect, the millionth time) a smaller version of the mural on Emma's childhood ceiling, plus two little girls.
Previously: Secrets (between Alec and Ted), lies (Mads' fib that she is dating Eduardo), hook-ups (Laurel and Jeremy, almost Emma and Ethan, and nearly Thayer and Sutton) and revelations (the girls' birth mother is named Annie Hobbs).
Kristin and Phyllis (Laurel's mom) walk through the halls of Arroyo after putting together this year's Homecoming King and Queen voting stand. They see a poster of Nisha, who is running for Queen. "I wish Char would run," says Phyllis, adding with an edge, "she certainly has the time now." That comment slides right over Kristin's head because... well... doesn't everything?
In the gym, Emma turns on the lights and with them all the glittering, disco ball-y goodness of what will be the dance's decorations. She walks into the room and spins around like a ninny. Ethan eventually happens upon this scene and cuts her off, though he doesn't actively try to embarrass her, which makes him 100 percent nicer than me. He wonders why she's so enthralled by all this stuff -- didn't they have dances at her old school? She says she was never invited. He finds this hard to believe. She says she's assuming he's not really the school dance kind of guy, which he confirms. She says it's probably for the best since school dances are lame anyway, but he calls the bluff. Emma has to remind herself that she's inhabiting someone else's life. What would Sutton want?
Cut to the Mercers' house, where Kristin announces, "You are going to make a beautiful Homecoming Queen." Emma seems confused, which, again, goes over Kristin's head. She advises her to get it together and get her posters up ASAP so Nisha doesn't steal the race out from under her. Emma notices Kristin is looking through an old photo album. Kristin explains that the school asked for photos from past dances. Of course Kristin she was Homecoming Queen in her day. She flips the page to an absurd picture of Ted and Alec sporting some seriously wrong hairdos (think Hall & Oates). She flips the page again to reveal a picture of Ted holding Sutton when she was only two days old. Emma looks longingly at the photo.
In California, it has been raining for days, and Thayer's roof leaks. Sutton emerges from the shower in a towel and sits down gingerly next to Thayer, her best friend's older brother, on the couch. As teenage girls do? He tells her he found 523 U.S. listings for Annie Hobbs last night when he couldn't sleep. He's complaining like this is an impossible number, but to me, frankly, it seems like a low estimate for such a common name. Either way, he plans to cross-reference the name with DMV records and hopefully come across a picture that looks familiar. Sutton tells him to start in Nevada since Emma was living there last. Sutton heads back to the bathroom. And, as they say, Thayer hates to see her go but loves to watch her leave.