“The Testimony of the Executed Man” has a lot to love, from the introduction of a new love interest for Bess to the solving of the Frozen Hearts Killer case (or is it?). But this episode shines because of its meta love letter to the fans of Nancy Drew.
The episode works on a number of levels. Nancy Drew, iconic crime solving character, is in attendance at a true crime convention, a meta scenario that will provoke squeals of glee among those in the “childhood obsession with Nancy Drew to true crime enthusiast” pipeline. But within the world of the show, Nancy Drew is a celebrity in her own right known for solving cold cases, so it works on that level as well. There’s commentary about fan fiction and about fan subculture that, while gently mocking, is a tribute to the fans and the characters. It’s a loving wink to the fans that also functions as a great case of the week episode, and it ranks among the best episodes of the show. Let’s get to what happened!
All By Myself
Bess is hiding her witchy outing with Temperance and feeling lonely. All of her friends are occupied with their own adventures, and no one invited her along.
At the historical society, Addy, the coffee date Bess tried to ditch in episode 1, comes in looking for information about Passamaquoddy land in Horseshoe Bay. Addy gives Bess the address, and the two look for the information while trading barbs back and forth.
Bess goes to see Nick at the youth center to get his help with the main case of the week. He agrees to help her, leaving his new STEM counselor in charge: Addy. Nick reveals that he and Addy are working on getting a plaque to commemorate the land the youth center stands on as having originally belonged to the Passamaquoddy tribe. Nick picks up on the tension, and the two continue their standoff.
After Detective Con, Addy returns her book to Bess. Addy implies that Bess has no depth to her, and Bess snaps, feeling taken advantage of and pushed aside with her friends. She tells Addy exactly what they were up to, and Addy smirks, saying, “I totally would have banged you if I knew you were interesting.” They kiss, all the tension having built up over the course of the day releasing. It seems we have an “enemies to lovers” plot on the way!
Danger! High Voltage
Nancy makes a deal with Laci, the host of Premeditated, a podcast devoted to solving cold cases. Laci wants to know about Joe Kelsey, an immigrant convicted of murder in the 1950s who was executed for the crime but may be innocent. The box containing evidence pertaining to the murder wound up in Horseshoe Bay, and Nancy promises to give it to Laci at Detective Con in exchange for information on the Frozen Hearts Killer.
Not one to resist another mystery, and curious about why Laci is convinced there’s more to Joe Kelsey’s story, Nancy takes a peek at the evidence over George’s objections. Inside is a Vostok watch that Ace immediately recognizes because his zadie (grandfather) also has the Soviet watch. Nancy notices that another witness tried to clear Joe, but the police already had a confession and did nothing with the information.
Just then, the trio notice the smell of an electric fire, and the radio turns on by itself. (Ace: “Florence, your slip is showing.”) They pull off at the next exit by a creepy factory (of course), and while they try to figure out what’s wrong with Florence, they are startled by the ghost of Joe Kelsey banging on the door and yelling in Yiddish (a terrifying jump scare for both the trio and the audience). George, exasperated, says, “I told you not to open that box!” as Joe disappears.
Ace is mostly concerned about Florence, but Nancy doesn’t have cell service. So the three go inside the factory to find higher ground. Of course, the door immediately closes behind them with no warning, because this is Nancy Drew, and George drops the box. All the items inside spread over the floor, and Nancy follows the trail up the factory stairs. Fun fact: the line “It’s locked!” is a reference to the Nancy Drew games, where this line is uttered often.
Nancy wonders about Joe’s confession. As she reads it, a random clanking sounds in the distance. Nancy goes after it, and it’s Joe’s hammer levitating … with Joe holding the hammer. He’s trying desperately to help them understand, speaking Yiddish while re-enacting the crime. As he rushes towards Nancy, the three separate, with Nancy falling over the edge of the walkway.
George and Ace grab Nancy, pulling her back up. Nancy realizes that Joe is left handed while the attacker was right handed. Nancy thinks Joe is trying to protect the real killer despite his clearly false confession. Ace is affected by how few possessions Joe had when he died, imagining what it would be like to die with so little to show for your life.
Bess finds that the way to get rid of Joe is to burn his things, even though they already promised the evidence to Laci. George points out that Laci has no idea what’s in the box. They could just put any 1950s items inside and it would seem like the real deal. The three go to burn the items, and as soon as they do, the door opens. But Ace, still thinking about the end of Joe’s life, takes his book of matches. They head off to the convention.
Killer on the Loose
Nancy finds Laci, and her guilt eats at her as Laci gushes over finally having the Joe Kelsey evidence. Laci shares that when she aired her episode about the Frozen Hearts Killer, she got a listener voicemail that praised her for guessing that the killer took pride in their work. Laci tracked the voicemail to its real owner: Rodric T. Hartt, an anagram for his alias. When Nancy checks the guest list for the con on a hunch, she finds that the killer is at the con.
Laci quickly realizes the evidence is fake, telling Nancy, “This is Detective Con, bitch!” Nancy reveals she burned it, but not why, before telling Laci the killer is here. The Drew Crew monitors the crowd while the live podcast records, hoping to find him. Nancy and Laci purposely bait the killer, calling him impulsive and trashing his planning methods. It doesn’t turn up anything, so Nancy leaves to go get her notes from the car. But when she’s alone, a man approaches. He says, “What you said about me wasn’t true” as the camera reveals his missing fingers. It’s the Frozen Hearts Killer.
Nancy profiles him as he talks. Rodric says he wants to perfect his technique, but before he gets the chance to try it on Nancy, she opens the door to reveal the police as the Drew Crew rush in. Nancy’s exit was a ploy to get him to reveal himself, and it worked. But Nancy is troubled. She asks why Rodric took Matthew Burke’s heart, and he whispers, “I’m a part of something much bigger. You’ll never understand.” As the police drive away, Nancy looks troubled.
The Ghost in You
But all is not well in the non-human killer’s world. Ace begins to breathe heavily, the matchbook he took from the crime scene affecting him. When Bess asks if he’s okay, Ace begins speaking in Yiddish, possessed by Joe’s spirit. He sees a ghostly woman in black walking down a hallway and stares after her, heartbroken. He doesn’t remember it seconds later.
Bess wants to end the haunting by burning the matchbook, but Ace stops her. He says Joe had “numbers on his arm” like his grandfather, and he needs to hear his story. He needs to understand why someone who survived the Holocaust would be willing to die despite his innocence after making it to America.
Ace stumbles into the main hall and into a seat next to Laci’s grandmother, who is there to listen to her live broadcast of Premeditated. He gets increasingly agitated as time goes on, speaking in Yiddish again, but he manages to hold it in.
After the panel and catching the killer, Nancy and Ace go to leave when Laci and her grandmother arrive to say goodbye. The matchbox drops out of Ace’s pocket, and Laci’s grandmother recognizes it as being from The Bluebird Motor Hotel. Laci reveals the box wasn’t just for the podcast. Her grandmother was the worker from the factory who tried to clear Joe’s name. Ace speaks the words in Yiddish that Joe said, and Laci’s grandmother reveals what they meant: “I’ll never leave you, sweetheart.” The motor hotel was where the two would meet in secret — and where they both were when the murder occurred.
Laci explains that it was illegal for the two to be together in 1950 and that Joe knew her grandmother would be the one to pay the price if word of their relationship got out. When the other night watchmen blamed him, he took the fall so no one would know even though Laci’s grandmother still tried to save him. As she holds the matches, they light on fire, revealing Joe’s younger self in front of them before he fades away.
Lotta True Crime
In a more lighthearted subplot, The Drew Crew checks into Detective Con, which is an absolutely hilarious parody of true crime conventions made even better by the fact that everyone assumes the Drew Crew is cosplaying … as themselves.
There is a whole booth dedicated to George, with the “Fan Fans” selling merch including crow bars. George is the subject of an epic internet fan fiction about her life with Nancy as the sidekick, which stuns George. Nick is incredibly proud as the girl running the booth freaks out when she realizes the real George is standing in front of her. The Fan Fans mob her as Nick realizes the author of this fan fiction is close to home.
Ted is the author of the George Fan fan fiction — she’s even been selling merch online. Ted reveals Odette told her all of George’s supernatural stories, and George gets her to admit she was proud of George and all her adventures.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Nancy Drew without some shipping updates. While Agent Park is absent in this episode, Nace fans have a lot to love. Nancy, George, and Ace head to Detective Con together, leading to some road trip moments for Nancy and Ace. Nancy is less than thrilled to be the center of attention at a true crime convention, but George teases she should “bask in the adulation” of her people. Nancy insists her people are in Horseshoe Bay as she and Ace exchange longing stares. George, naturally, immediately notices this, but doesn’t say a word.
The tension builds throughout the episode, with Nancy clutching Ace’s arm when the factory door closes on them, not to mention her landing on Ace when he and George save her on the walkway.
But it’s at the end of the episode where the two really connect. After Joe is laid to rest, Ace tells Nancy she should feel good about catching the Frozen Hearts Killer. But as usual, Nancy opens up to Ace before anyone else on the Drew Crew. She shares the voice memo she got of Trott telling her he’s part of something bigger, and both look at each other as they realize this isn’t over. Based on the previews for next week, Nace’s slow burn is about to catch fire.
Nancy Drew airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. You can find our other coverage of the series here!