What’s up, Drew Crew? It’s been a long mid-season hiatus away from Nancy and friends, and after the cliffhanger finale back in December I’m glad the show dropped us right back into the aftermath of Carson’s arrest. This episode is a stand-alone mystery, which was a nice change of pace. It also showcased Kennedy McMann’s performance as Nancy, showing her to be impulsive and not the “perfect” Nancy we’re used to seeing. It makes her feel real and more vulnerable than previous incarnations of the character, and it only strengthens the episode. Read on to find out what happened in “The Mark of the Poisoner” …
We open with Nancy being interrogated by Carson’s lawyer, who is trying to get Nancy to open up. She’s the potential star witness for his future trial, and in order to free him the lawyer needs Nancy’s help. But she feels guilty that her theory landed her father in jail. The lawyer packs up to go and notices Nancy’s ghost trap hanging from the ceiling, commenting that Nancy must be trying to catch a ghost. Nancy wryly replies, “something like that.”
Back at The Claw, the crew is decorating for Ace’s return. George, Bess, and Nick discuss Nancy and the missing ghost of Lucy she’s looking for. Bess floats the theory that maybe Lucy’s ghost vanished because Carson was really her killer, and now she’s at peace. George thinks it’s ridiculous to base Carson’s innocence on the appearance of a ghost. Nick points out that Carson’s fingerprints were on the bloody knife when they hear a noise. Thinking it’s Ace, they yell “surprise” as a frightened Nancy arrives at work. She feels even more guilty when she realizes she forgot the surprise party, even as the group assures her that it’s fine given everything that’s been on her plate lately.
Ace arrives and the crew rejoices at having him back again. Nancy tries to apologize to Ace, but he won’t hear of it. He asks how she is, but before she can answer, Nancy gets a call. It’s the chemist analyzing the poison that killed Tiffany Hudson. He’s identified the poison — it’s difficult to make and nearly untraceable. It mimics the death of a cardiac arrest, so most coroners wouldn’t think to test for it. Nancy’s reaction is subdued, and she wonders if she should move forward with this information considering the harm she thinks she’s caused.
Back in the restaurant, Nancy gets whispers and strange looks as the daughter of a “killer” who also happened to crack the case. She wants to quit, but George helpfully encourages her to stick it out since having Nancy there has been great for business. She even has her own fan site. George relents as a patron snaps photos of Nancy on his phone, sending her back to the kitchen. Owen enters and finds Bess. The DNA results are in, and the two are first cousins. Bess is officially a Marvin, and she is overjoyed. She wants to know when she can meet the rest of the family, but Owen is cagey. He needs the coins back since they are the proof they need against the Hudsons.
Bess starts to tell him the truth, but Nick intervenes. He tells Owen that he melted the coins by accident, and that if Owen is going to be upset with anyone, it should be him. Owen is furious, mentioning that he paid a serious amount of money for them. Nick counters that the money is a drop in the bucket for him, questioning why he’s even there. Bess tries to smooth things over, reminding them that taking down the Hudsons is a common goal they share.
Nancy is in the back room researching prior murders with the poison the chemist found, looking for connections. She zooms in on the photo of an officer investigating a case, and Ace comes up behind her. He asks why Nancy is looking at a photo of his father, and Nancy is shocked.
Ace and Nancy head out to talk to Ace’s father. Nancy thinks they should just tell the cops what they found in Tiffany’s blood, but Ace points out that she stole that blood sample. He starts to give her pointers on meeting The Captain (yes, he calls his father “The Captain” and yes, it’s kind of adorable), including that he lost his hearing after an accident on the police force and that he’s self conscious about it. They enter and Ace flicks the lights to let him know they’ve arrived. The Captain sees Nancy and signs “the hero of Horseshoe Bay” as he recognizes her from the newspaper. He recalls the case Nancy found, signing that it was ruled a suicide but that he never believed that theory. Nancy tells him about Tiffany, and he shows them emails he received that appear to be ciphers from the killer. Nancy offers to help to decode the messages.
At The Claw, Ryan Hudson enters as Bess mans the front desk. He pushes past her to see George in her office. He acts like he’s checking in on her after her sister’s kidnapping, but George scoffs at this considering it was weeks ago. He claims he was at a wellness retreat to clear his head. He apologizes for the garden party incident, but George isn’t having it. Bess enters and tries to casually snoop as the two continue to trade barbs. Ryan tells George that he’s here for her before he leaves. Bess not-at-all subtly makes her way back to Owen and Nick. She thinks they can use Ryan Hudson to get an artifact to prove the Hudsons’ guilt. Owen is skeptical, but Nick thinks there may be a way.
Nancy, Ace, and The Captain are still trying to crack the ciphers. Nancy realizes the real cipher was in the photos, not the text. The Captain feels guilty for not stopping the murders then and wants them to get out. But Nancy notes that the killer engaged with him because he was in the press as a hero. Nancy thinks the press is doing the same things with her; maybe she can draw the killer out. She records a video for her fan page telling the killer to come and get her … not Nancy’s best decision, but certainly not her worst.
Nick, Owen, and Bess are meeting with Ryan to get information about the Bonnie Scott. Ryan is reluctant to betray his father, but Owen points out that he’s not his father. Owen shows up at Nancy’s house with egg rolls, startling her when one of the ghost traps breaks. He wants to check on her after seeing the video. Nancy’s phone buzzes, the killer has sent her a message. She tells Owen that she’ll have to take a rain check as she rushes off.
She races to The Claw, where Ace, Bess, and George are waiting to help her solve the ciphers. Nancy shows them the message, which says that a person named Claire is next. But Nancy wants to solve this alone, thinking that people always get hurt when they get involved with her mysteries. But Ace holds firm, saying that she needs them. They realize the victims are all connected to Hawthorne High School, a school in a rural area near them that closed down in 2004. Nancy rushes out without telling the others where she is going.
Ryan is having lunch with his mother as she notes he’s put his house on the market. She’s concerned about the items in the safe in the house and insists on sending someone to handle those for him. She also notes that Tiffany’s sister is awake from her coma and that she hopes it has given her perspective. Ryan looks suspicious of his mother in light of all that’s happened.
Nancy is at the house of Claire Barnett, where she has called the cops to try to solve this one by-the-book. But the house is empty and it appears that Nancy got this one wrong. Nancy gets a text, and it’s a video of Claire, who is being held captive by the killer. They flash to an image of the scoreboard at Hawthorne High with forty minutes on a countdown clock.
At The Claw, Ryan calls Owen and Bess. He thought about their proposal but doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. He wants them to stop looking into the Bonnie Scott, clearly spooked by his mother’s discussion of Tiffany’s sister. But when he hangs up, he immediately calls his mother. He acts like all the items have been removed from the safe, but he has an urn that could tie his family to the murders. The question is, what will he do with it?
Nancy breaks into the abandoned high school to find the killer. There’s a door propped open but before she can investigate, George, Nick, and Ace arrive. They couldn’t let her go alone. As they make their way though the school, the lights turn on in the gym, displaying twenty minutes left.
Nancy notes footprints belonging to a woman who must have dragged Claire through the hall. It’s suspiciously easy. Ace stays upstairs as the lookout as the rest of the group investigates the lower level. Nancy enters a room and sees Claire, but as she rushes forward to help the door locks behind her. We also get a great shoutout to the classic Her Interactive “Nancy Drew” video games as Nancy shouts “it’s locked!” at the door (I see you, super video game fan Kennedy McMann). Mist starts to filter into the room as Claire whispers, “it’s poison”.
Nick and George try to find where the poison is coming from as Ace calls his father for help. He explains the situation as The Captain tells him how to open the sealed door. Claire and Nancy talk as Claire says a man took her. This is off to Nancy since she saw women’s footprints outside. Nick and George find the poison’s origin in the chemistry lab as Ace breaks into the killer’s lair. George watches a tape made of one of the murders as Claire starts asking Nancy in depth questions. It’s supposedly to keep them both focused, but the tape George found has a female off-screen asking the same questions. Claire is really the killer, using an antidote to keep from dying as her victims tell her their secrets.
Nancy realizes this as she is about to pass out from the poison gas. Claire reveals that she didn’t kill Tiffany and in fact regards that killing as inferior to her own methods. Claire targeted only those she hated from high school and stopped after that, but when she saw Nancy’s video she couldn’t resist. Nancy passes out, but grabs a ring off of Claire’s hand. As Nick and the others finally reach Nancy, Claire runs off.
In the spirit realm, Nancy wakes up trapped in the place Ace visited in his coma. Nick starts chest compressions as George notices the ring. She realizes the pearl in the ring is the antidote and gives it to Nancy. In the spirit room Nancy sees the ghost of Lucy Sable, who lunges at Nancy as she wakes up, gulping air. Claire runs down the hall but is stopped by Ace. She tries to fool him, but the cops are already there. He saw her photo and connected the dots himself. The Captain arrives and tells Ace he did a good job. Ace smiles happily at this praise from his father.
Back at Nancy’s house, Bess is fussing over Nancy. Nancy wants to know why her friends always show up even when she asks them not to. Nick says that’s what friends do as each one mentions the things that Nancy has done for them. Bess tells Nancy to ease up on the guilt, because we may hurt the people we love, but we also forgive them. Ace admires his photo in the newspaper; it seems he’s the new hero of Horseshoe Bay. They wonder if Lucy followed Nancy back from the spirit world, but Nancy’s not sure. They go to leave, and Nancy is alone. She gets a call from Carson and finally picks up after ignoring him. Lucy appears, hovering in the background as Nancy tells Carson how sorry she is. She’s determined to get him out of prison.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments. Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET only on The CW.