“The Spell of the Burning Bride” has everything that makes a great Nancy Drew episode: compelling storylines for the Drew Crew, some inner turmoil for our favorite detective, and even some big reveals. It also features Kennedy McMann’s comedic chops as a spell turns our focused sleuth into someone who is still focused … on all the wrong things. Hilarious, smart, and featuring showcase moments for its supporting cast, this is an all-time great episode of the show so far.
The episode opens at the flower shop as a terrifying veiled bride breaks the glass window. She walks the streets after stealing a bouquet as ominous music plays. Back at The Claw, Bess and Ace are trying to come up with punny titles for Valentina’s article as Nancy talks to her for an informational interview Ryan set up. Valentina is an alumna of Columbia’s journalism program, and she’s giving Nancy advice. This advice includes not posting bikini pictures online so she’ll be seen as “serious,” which Nancy takes issue with as a feminist. But Valentina has an ulterior motive. When Nancy is distracted, she takes the straw from her drink. It seems Valentina has realized that Nancy is Ryan’s child and is trying to prove it.
Nancy talks to Lily, the owner of the flower shop. She says only one bouquet was stolen and that Tamura “had the bedside manner of a plumber” and didn’t help. Nancy offers to solve the case, and Lily accepts. Ace receives a text from his brother (who, in true Ace fashion, is in his contact list as “Long Lost Brother?”) asking to meet. George purposely allows Odette to possess her, trying to live up to their bargain to give her a life. Nick wants to chaperone her, but when Bess enters Odette says she’d rather have her instead. Bess rushes after Odette, and Nick asks Ace to “chaperone the chaperone.” Ace agrees to help with their “date,” and a flustered Nick insists that it’s not despite Odette’s clear interest in Bess.
Nancy pays a visit to Tamura to get information. He shares that there have been three break ins this week, with the perpetrator only taking one thing at each location. Nancy shows camera footage with the ghostly figure, but Tamura spots a car in the background. It’s Gil’s, and with the Bobbsey reputation he and Nancy go to question Gil. Gil says he saw the ghost and even took his own video proving she was there. Nancy turns to Tamura and simply says “Welcome to Horseshoe Bay.”
Naturally, Nancy researches the ghost bride and finds a story that fits. The bridal gown supposedly has the power to suppress “female carnal desires” (Ace: “Who would want that?”). The lust then went into the dress, until 1919. Before Nancy can continue, they are interrupted by Bess and Odette. As romantic music plays, Ace escorts the two out before showing Grant, the new kitchen helper, how to lock up (Grant: “Do any of you actually work here?”). Meanwhile, Ryan is at his cover shoot as Celia breathes down his neck. Ryan thanks Valentina for handling Celia so well as she covertly gets a DNA sample from him too.
Odette and Bess go ice skating, which Odette is wonderful at as Bess struggles. Odette is happy for once, and she pulls Bess further onto the ice. Ace gets a text from his brother telling him he’s on the way to Horseshoe Bay. Nancy and Tamura go over the evidence, with Nancy noticing he’s uncomfortable around weddings. She found a wedding registry with no wedding online with his name, and Tamura simply says he moved for a fresh start. He sees that Nancy’s ghost bride was actually connected to a murder. A woman was forced to wear the dress in 1919 and went insane, killing her husband. The things taken from each store are used for weddings — could this bride be planning another one?
Nancy realizes someone is wearing the dress and being possessed by the ghost of the woman who wore it last. The last bride killed her husband with fire, leading them to believe that’s what will happen this time. At the historical society, Nick is helping to install the new security system with Noah, a welder. As he turns away, Noah takes off her outer clothes to reveal the ghostly bride. Nick sees her, and she turns on the blowtorch ominously.
Back at the rink, Bess and Odette share an intimate moment together. Odette is sad, since she could never be so openly affectionate with her love in her time. Nancy calls Ace, who’s on the line with Nick as he tries to negotiate with the burning bride. Nancy, Tamura, and Ace head to the historical society where it’s revealed that Noah is under the influence of the dress. They rip it off her and Nancy destroys it. Noah says the dress called to her for weeks before she put it on. Tamura’s ready to blame it all on substance abuse, which Nancy jokes marks the end of them joining forces. But Nancy’s a little woozy after destroying the dress …
Bess and George wake up handcuffed to a bench at the police station, with George being shocked at their state. It turns out they both got drunk last night, something George is opposed to because of her mother Victoria’s struggles. Bess needs a minute to process the shift from Odette to George. Nancy gets a call from Tamura, and her being off the day before makes hilarious sense as soon as she arrives at the station. The dress released all that trapped lust when it was destroyed, and the second she sees Tamura the music swells and he walks in slow motion. She snaps out of it as she stumbles over her words to Tamura. Then Gil Bobbsey enters, and the cheesy 80s music plays again as Nancy swoons. She tries to get it under control as Bess and George return. They rush her out as Nancy panics.
Back at The Claw, Nancy continues to have problems as she sees Ace and Nick. She runs her hands through Ace’s hair as he says “it’s a net.” Instantly possessive, she yells “Who’s Annette?! I’ll kill her!” Ace quickly says that what he meant was that she ripped a hole in the netting of the dress, releasing the “trapped lust of a century’s worth of women.” She’s burning up (literally), and they put her in the walk in freezer while they strategize. They realize the Hudson archives may have the answers since a Hudson ancestor made the dress.
Outside, Bess goes to Ace and asks what’s been going on with him. He confesses that his brother has been in witness protection since before Ace was born. His brother’s mother (not Ace’s mother) witnessed something, and the head of their security detail was Ace’s father. Ace’s mother doesn’t know they exist. Ace found out when he started investigating his father’s early career. Bess confesses that she drank as heavily as she did because she was attracted to Odette and wanted to stop herself from acting on it.
Inside The Claw, Odette and George talk, with George threatening Odette to never drink like that in her body again. She says she knows people were looking at her because of her mother’s alcoholism and she doesn’t want that. Nick comforts George, who is now worried she’ll never have control again. Nancy, oblivious, calls out from the freezer asking to see Nick. Ace and Bess see Ryan, who has the requested archive materials about the dress. When he asks if Nancy’s okay, Ace replies “Yeah! She’s just … a little boy crazy.” They drive off, leaving a confused Ryan behind.
In the freezer, Nancy is coaching herself not to think about sex, telling herself to think positive thoughts. She fails as she immediately thinks “I’m positive that I want sex.” Tamura goes to The Claw looking for Nancy to sign a witness statement as Nancy picks the lock to get out of the freezer. Gil enters, saying Nancy texted him to meet her for “pie,” panicking Nick in the background. As Nancy escapes the freezer, George tackles her to the ground to contain her lust in a hilarious fight sequence. As Tamura and Gil get into a verbal spar, Nancy and George’s literal fight threatens to spill into the main dining room. Before Tamura and Gil can notice, Ace and Bess go to help, with Ace telling a very overwhelmed Grant to “hold down the fort.”
As George holds her down, Ace and Bess give Nancy the antidote they made. Nick breaks up the Tamura and Gil fight by sending Gil out the back door … right where Nancy is currently still being held down as the antidote is proving useless. George calls her “Handsy Drew” as Nancy runs to the bathroom saying she’s going to be sick. But it’s all a ruse, and she smashes the bathroom window. Running into the parking lot after Tamura, he’s happier to see her than we’ve ever seen before. He explains that after all that, he did enjoy working the case with her (oblivious to all the thoughts she’s currently having about him). She gushes that “our brains are so compatible” as he remarks that he thought she hated him. Nancy suggestively says “I don’t think we should let the fact that we hate each other get in the way of doing what we really want.” Tamura says they shouldn’t as she leans in for a kiss, but she collapses on his shoulder. The spell is broken, but Nancy’s dignity is also smashed to pieces as she realizes what just (almost) happened.
Bess and George comfort Nancy, with both reassuring her that desire is normal and that whether she’s the buttoned up journalist Valentina wanted her to be or not, she’s a great detective. Nancy admits it felt freeing to be able to express desire openly (though clearly not at that level). Ace pulls Bess aside to tell her his brother has arrived, and she agrees to help him. Nancy goes to Tamura to “clear the air” after what happened. Tamura tells Nancy that his ex-fiance didn’t have a passion for investigating the way the two of them do. He says he won’t doubt her theories so much on their next case, while Nancy reassures him that his skepticism provides a balance. They shake hands, and when Nancy walks away Tamura seems to be wrestling with feelings.
Ace goes to the location where his brother is, and all he finds is a box containing a ripped photo of his younger father. Nancy goes to Gil’s and acts on the one desire she truly felt. They kiss, slamming the door. Valentina meets Celia Hudson, and it turns out Valentina was being paid by Celia to investigate Ryan. She tells Celia that Nancy is her granddaughter, and that she wants money to be silent.
Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. Check out the description for next week’s episode here.