This episode begins where the last left off -- with Emma, Ethan, and Thayer freaking out over what to do with the scrap of Sutton's dress and the note that threatens to take out Emma next. Emma seems to be the only one that notices shit just got real up in here. On the other hand, Thayer and Ethan think Sutton is simply playing an elaborate mean girl lying game like she's played in the past, exemplified by the white wrapping paper and black bow -- her signature -- and persuade Emma to hold off on telling the police about Sutton's disappearance.
When a scout from Ted's alma mater appears at school the next day, Emma becomes distracted by the possibility that she could escape her past once and for all by getting a full tennis scholarship to college. The guys encourage her to take a trip to the Texas university because they think Emma's continuing high jacking of Sutton's identity will smoke Sutton out if, indeed, she is playing a game. The trip is jubilant for Emma, who is so close to having a future she can taste it, but she's ambivalent and flipping out on the inside because she realizes that it's all an illusion that will fall apart when she comes clean about Sutton's disappearance. She gets home, and Sutton hasn't shown herself, so she and Ethan decide it's time to come clean. Only now Thayer has gone missing, too. When he does return, it's with awful news: Sutton, he thinks, is dead by Annie's hand. They begin the mourning process and prepare themselves to break the news to the Mercers when who shows up? Sutton with a foxface and a pissy attitude.
Justin and Ted each spend the episode internalizing their personal dramas, though Ted is, as ever, much less effective than Justin. Ted has a bit of a bipolar episode, first jubilant at getting to return to his old college, then stressing and crying to an unsympathetic Alec because Kristin is growing closer to Rebeccannie. (Kristin's open arms for Rebeccannie, though, may be a closer of keeping her enemies closest because she is still deeply suspicious about Rebeccannie's relationship with Ted and wants to monitor the newbie.) Meanwhile, the golfing prodigy turns a 180 on Laurel, acting distant and irritated with her until finally she asks if he's breaking up with her. He says he is, implies that he has another girl waiting in the wings, then goes back to his empty room and rages at this direction his life has taken. By episode's end, he is burning that gold-and-black box from which Laurel's mysterious bracelet appeared.
Finally, Alec and Rebeccannie continue to become stronger allies. Despite their obvious doubts about each other, they are both canny enough to realize that there are ways they can use each other to advance their own agendas. Specifically, Rebeccannie needs Alec to get Phyllis forcefully committed to rehab so she can successfully take over her home and her life. She only gets halfway there this installment as Phyllis goes to the drunk tank, but Char must be sent off to her estranged father's house for the time being. For his part, Alec keeps watch on Rebeccannie while he tends to other business -- specifically following up with the Dowinger Clinic re: Annie (in a call that we don't hear -- again!) and having a raised-voice discussion with Dan Whitehorse about arresting Derek. Ethan and Emma overhear the exchange, and Ethan confronts Dan, who gives the backstory on exactly how in debt he is to Alec (long story short, a rich girl OD'd, Dan was on the hook for it, and Alec saved him from spending several decades in jail). Long story short, Alec's grip over Arroyo isn't loosening at all. With Alec, Rebeccannie, and Sutton all assembled in Phoenix, does the town have a chance of surviving this tri-pocalypse?
Previously: Rebeccannie, the twins' presumed biomom, was back in town -- and not at all what (or who) they expected. Ted developed a strange fixation about Justin's dead mother's bracelet. Derek the goon proved an unimpressive mole for Alec. And Sutton was still missing -- though a neatly wrapped box containing a swatch of her birthday dress and a threatening note surfaced.
We return to Sutton's room as Emma, Ethan and Thayer stare at the "present," stunned. Emma wants to tell someone, but Ethan and Thayer are against it. Ethan tells her it feels like a lying game perpetrated by Sutton. He tells the others about the time Sutton was Mean Girl Mach 1 on some transfer girl named Hillary, stealing everything from the poor girl, from her cell phone to her retainer. When Hillary would replace them, Sutton would send the originals back in a beautiful package with a note attached. Long story short, the girl crumbled under the mindfuck and transferred. Also, Sutton is a crazyass bitch. I can't help but wonder, though, if she had this level of sociopathy inside her, why has the first half of the season even got to this point. The Sutton Ethan is describing would never have gotten trapped in the loony bin or shipped back to Emma's home in Vegas, and she certainly have nipped all this nonsense in the bud before getting ambushed in the back of her own car and abducted by a shadow person. Then again, we wouldn't have a show. And also, rub your hands together because if Ethan is even close to right some mad-mad-madness is about to go down!
But back to the kids. Emma finally brings up the point that bothered me so much last week: "We're dealing with a missing person here!" The shot of reality doesn't seem to faze Thayer, who explains that he got so worked about the white-paper-black-bow combo because that's exactly how Sutton would wrap her present. Which either means it's Sutton or someone who has been stalking the hell out of Sutton. I don't see any downside to finding the cops, frankly. If they tell them, and it is Sutton, then her ass is grass. If they tell them, and it isn't Sutton, they might be saving her life. Then again, Dan Whitehorse is, for intents and purposes, "the cops" so they might be more efficient dressing up a hamster in a cop uniform and putting it on the case. At least the hamster wouldn't haven't such a stank attitude. Thayer tells her the only way to win this little game is not to play. Ethan tells Emma to "try and act normal." Was that ever an option?