In a series full of twists and turns, “The Purloined Keys” might have one of the greatest twist endings Nancy Drew has ever pulled off. Several plot threads combine in a game of cat and mouse as Nancy and the rest of the Drew Crew work parallel cases with disastrous results — for some. Will Nancy Drew become Nancy Hudson? After this episode, the answer is far from clear.
We open on a bloody scene in the Hudson ballroom. Nancy is in her Balmain dress as she sees everyone dead on the ground — everyone except Everett. In disbelief, she moves towards him, and Everett turns to face her. He slits her throat like the others, and Nancy wakes up in her own bed screaming. It was a nightmare, and as Carson runs in to comfort her, we see the fear in her eyes.
Nancy barely touches her breakfast as Carson asks her about the nightmare. Nancy says it’s likely just anxiety about the party as Carson asks if she’s still planning on telling Everett she’s his granddaughter. It’s a sore spot between them. Nancy says not to worry: she’s got Nancy Drew inside her even as she’s pretending to be Nancy Hudson.
At The Claw, Ryan, Val, and Nick share what they know about Everett with Bess, Ace, and George. Nick says Howard the accountant sent him a text about “the Black Crown tape” showing Everett committing murder. George points out that something is off. Howard is late, and why would someone hold onto that tape? Val, Ryan, and Nick head to the hotel to find Howard while Bess draws Ace and George’s attention to something more important: her dating profile picture. George scoffs and leaves as Bess points out she should want to help her to stop her pining over Odette. Ace says she’s got enough on her mind with Aunt Mei’s warning, realizing too late that they never told Bess about that.
Nancy arrives at the club for her meeting with Celia to find Everett waiting for her. He wanted to speak to her personally. Nancy tries to find Celia alone, but he stops her, saying he has a job for her. He says that after she recanted her testimony, Celia convinced him she should have one more chance to prove her loyalty. He says he’s recently discovered that Howard was disclosing confidential information, and he wants to know who he talked to. Everett says he’s going to Nancy because he doesn’t know who else in his company is compromised. He also says he fired Howard yesterday and has possession of his company property. Nancy says she’ll look into it, and Everett says he’ll ship Howard’s computer and phone to her house.
At the hotel, Amanda takes Val, Nick, and Ryan to Howard’s room, where he’s not answering the door. Val hints they could just go in, and Amanda waits. Ryan sarcastically says, “I’m sorry, I thought the bribe was implied,” pulling out his wallet. Amanda leads them inside, where they find the room empty. But when Ryan forces his way into the locked bathroom, they find Howard dead. Val notes that the scene looks like a suicide, but it’s staged. Nick gets a call from Nancy. She asks if Howard was their source and tells them about Everett’s offer, noting she’s not going to tell Everett about them. In an unspoken agreement, Nick and Ryan don’t share anything about what Howard told them (or Howard’s murder) to Nancy, still not trusting her.
Back at The Claw, Val is waiting for Celia to show up for an interview. Bess, still needing help on the dating profile, shows her what she has so far. Val says it doesn’t look like her, and George asks why Bess doesn’t just be herself. Bess retorts, “A former con artist who liked to dabble in the supernatural looking to rebound from a crush on a dead woman? I am un-swipeable,” as Val and George share a look. Ryan pulls Ace over and shares that they have information indicating that Howard was visiting an inmate at Seabury Prison yesterday. That inmate? Bertram Bobbsey, Gil and Amanda’s father.
At the Drew house, Carson gives Nancy the package Everett mailed. He tries to dissuade her from helping, noting he regretted everything he ever did for Everett. She’s determined to see this through, and he’s just as determined to keep her from becoming someone she’s not. He brings up her mother, saying Kate is the reason he pulled away from the Hudsons. Nancy gets into the laptop and sees that Howard was sending emails to an inmate at Seabury. She tells Carson she would ask Nick about this, but that she knows he’s been lying to her. Carson tells her to stop before she becomes involved any further, and she says she’ll hold off on giving Everett an answer until after she meets Celia.
This, of course, is a lie. She goes immediately to Seabury, where she sees Nick and Ryan. She asks why they’ve been shutting her out, and Nick says they wanted to protect her since she’s double crossing everyone at this point. They tell her Howard is dead, and she shares that she figured out Bertram’s identity on her own. He used to be a groundskeeper for the Hudsons. Nick and Ryan still don’t want her involved, and they reveal Amanda has been helping them. As a family member, she takes precedent and is inside visiting him now. Ryan tells her she should take a step back, and Nancy wryly notes, “You don’t know anything about me, do you?”
Inside, Ace and Amanda meet Bertram. He says it’s good to meet Ace and that Amanda never lets him meet her boyfriends. Amanda says they want to know about his visitor, and Bertram says he’ll talk if Amanda convinces Gil to visit him. Outside, Nancy is trying to call in favor with prison guard Ray. He tells her the only thing he remembers about Howard was that he was angry he couldn’t take his pen and paper inside. Nancy lights up, victorious as she marches past a confused Ryan and Nick.
Bertram tells Amanda and Ace that he told Howard where the Black Crown tape was hidden, asking if Howard tried to get into the hiding spot. He says if Howard tried to get in, something that defies nature happened to him. Bertram says he personally witnessed Everett Hudson destroy the tape multiple times, but no matter what Everett did, the tape just kept coming back unharmed. Amanda reveals Howard is dead, and Bertram goes white. He calls for the guard as Ace tells him he could be next if Everett is going after people who know about the tape. Bertram refuses to tell them the hiding spot, but Ace turns to Amanda.
Amanda says her father loved collecting keys. Back at the Bobbsey trailer, Ace, Ryan, Nick, and Amanda sort through the collection trying to find a key to whatever hiding place Everett has. Nancy calls Ryan, and he answers. She asks if they took Howard’s notebook from the hotel, noting that he only went between the hotel and Hudson Enterprises the day he died. Nick hangs up on her, telling Ryan that anything they say to Nancy could get back to Everett. Nancy realizes that they haven’t found Howard’s car. Ryan calls Val to ask her to go back to the hotel for the notebook before Nancy can get there.
Using Howard’s phone, she unlocks his car in the hotel parking lot. Inside, she finds his notebook, but as she exits the car Val is waiting for her. She tells Nancy all she has to do is yell and the police will notice Nancy taking evidence from a crime scene. Nancy tells Val that her quest to win a Pulitzer is going to cost real lives. Tossing the notebook onto the front seat, she locks the door again with Howard’s phone so neither of them can have it.
Back in her car, Nancy looks at the photos of the notebook pages she took before Val showed up. She types one address into the GPS system, and it coordinates to the Hudson hunting lodge. Bess calls, reminding Nancy that she has a shift at The Claw (HA! Nancy working a full shift, that’s a good one.) Bess, thinking Nancy is working with Nick, mentions the Black Crown tape. Nancy hangs up, and Bess realizes Nancy didn’t know about the tape. George enters, and Bess asks her about Aunt Mei. George says she doesn’t want to talk about it and asks about Bess’ dating profile instead. Bess is depressed, but then she looks at the profile again. George has rewritten it as a tribute to her friend, emphasizing the real Bess (with some help from Odette.) George says both she and Odette just want Bess to be happy.
Nancy meets Celia and asks about the tape, not revealing why she’s looking for it. Celia doesn’t know what the tape is, but she says she has a feeling that Everett has figured out who Nancy really is. She thinks they’re both in danger, noting she’s kept other secrets from Everett over the years. Nancy says he would have just killed her if he found out on his own, and Celia leaves to focus on the party.
Ryan shares with the group that Everett was likely paying Bertram as an insurance policy and that Everett likely doesn’t know that Bertram knew about the tape. They realize one of the keys is for the Hudson mausoleum, connecting to a phrase Bertram used talking to Amanda. Nancy is getting ready when she gets a call from Everett. Nancy feeds him false information, and he insults her ability to sleuth as he hangs up. She puts on the dress Tom Swift gave her (looking fabulous) and heads downstairs. Carson tries one last time to get her not to go to the party, but she says she needs him to trust her. He says he does, and like any proud father, he takes a picture of her in the dress. They’re both choked up, realizing this is the last time anyone will see her as “just” Nancy Drew. But Nancy has a sudden realization: Ryan and Nick are about to walk into a trap.
Nancy frantically calls Nick, who refuses to take her calls. He, Val, and Ryan go into the mausoleum, prying into each grave. Val realizes one looks fresher than the others, and Ryan realizes it belongs to a relative who was cremated. They are opening it as Nancy pulls them away. She says they walked into Everett’s trap, and when they look again, there’s a camera inside.
Nancy is furious at Nick for ignoring her. Only Val and Ryan were on camera, and Nancy says Everett now knows they were involved with Howard. She especially berates Nick for not realizing that Everett would have moved the tape the second he realized Howard was looking into it. She tells Val and Ryan they need to leave. Val doesn’t believe Everett would go after his son, but Ryan says he absolutely would. Nancy drives to go to the party, hoping to stop Everett through Celia.
When Nancy gets to Celia, she’s acting robotic, repeating phrases she said earlier. Celia leads Nancy inside a room, and when Nancy sees blood on the floor she realizes something is horribly wrong. Celia’s body is hanging from the wall — this other Celia is her ghost. She has been a ghost the entire episode in a The Sixth Sense-level twist. Celia the ghost screams, in shock that she is dead. Nancy, in tears, asks the ghost if Everett killed her. But Celia doesn’t know, and Nancy starts panicking. She sobs, saying she thought she could protect everyone, but now she knows she doesn’t stand a chance. Celia tries to comfort her, but tells her she can’t stay. Celia vanishes.
Ace, Bess, and George make “go bags” for Val. Val says she can’t leave Ryan, but Ryan says he can buy them time. He says he’s lost too many women that he cares about before they kiss. At the party, Everett sees the tape and tells his guards to take care of Val. As he gets into his car, Nancy is waiting for him. He drawls, “How theatrical,” as we see Carson walking around the Drew house. Nancy tells Everett he should be worried as Carson sees strange marks on Nancy’s arms and face in the Polaroid he took of her in the dress. Everett laughs and asks who he could possibly worry about. Nancy just says, “Me. Your granddaughter,” as he looks at her in shock. She pulls out a Taser from her bag and uses it to stun him. Turning to the driver, she says, “Gil, let’s go,” as the limo pulls away. Nancy smiles straight to camera before it all goes black.
Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.