In what is undoubtedly the best episode of Nancy Drew, the show proves once again how it is the best show on television right now. Laugh out loud humor combines with heart to create a memorable and ultimately incredibly moving episode, and the writers have never been better. Thanks to spot-on performances from Scott Wolf and Riley Smith, “The Gambit of the Tangled Souls” is about to become one of those episodes fans will use to introduce their friends to Nancy Drew. It’s a perfect representation of what this show is all about, and it is so hilarious that it will certainly become a comfort episode of the series for years to come. Now sit back, my dudes, and pull out your guitar — we’re heading straight back to the 1990s for some totally tubular teenage time, brah!
Someone Like You
Bess gets Nick’s help with the Drew Crew’s mission to discover the entity’s origins via the lock on the prison door, with the not so secret ulterior motive of running into Addy again. Bess asks her out for dinner, and Addy accepts. Unfortunately, Bess has to immediately cancel when presented with the opportunity to split George’s soul for good (you know, a totally normal reason to cancel a date).
After the successful ritual (more on that later), Bess says goodbye to Odette by burying her broken crystals. Bess asks for a sign that Odette made it to peace. Just then, Addy appears — she was dropping off Carson’s jacket. It seems Odette approves. Bess asks Addy out again, and it appears they’re starting something together.
No Role Models
Nick decides to use the scary cell lock as a teachable moment for the kids as he tries to figure out where it came from. The kids asks innocent questions about Nick’s past, and he is honest with them about his criminal conviction. Addy interrupts to his relief.
Later, Addy tells Nick that she’s grateful a place like the youth center exists. Her cousin took his own life, and she blames it on the lack of opportunity afforded to them on their reservation. She asks how Nick processed what happened to him, and he lists off the many, many (many) things he’s accomplished since arriving in Horseshoe Bay. Addy pointedly asks, “Which one helped you process your trauma?” Nick realizes he hasn’t and says, “One day you just wake up and say, this is your life.”
Nick leaves George a message to talk, but she’s in the middle of the ritual and can’t respond. Alone in his moment of need, we see him leave the youth center …
What’s My Age Again
Ryan and Carson head into the storage locker to search for the soul splitter. Ryan teases Carson about Jean before he accidentally knocks over a bottle of elixir. That elixir is designed to lower one’s inhibitions and make them a youth again … which is exactly what happens. They get the soul splitter, but they become their teenage selves. I cannot stress enough how hilarious this is, with Scott Wolf and Riley Smith fully committing to the bit. Carson puts on a letter jacket that is an homage to Wolf’s role on 1990s teen drama Party of Five while Smith dons a motocross jacket that pays tribute to his 2000s teen heartthrob role in Motocrossed (true DCOM fans will know and love this deep cut). They drive off together in a 1976 Gran Torino, and the adventures begin.
Nancy gets antsy when they haven’t heard from either parent, and Nancy gets a call from Jessie that Carson and Ryan are doing donuts in The Claw’s parking lot (again, utter brilliance). Nancy and Ace go to check it out, with Ace reacting with a, “Holy BALLS, I have so many questions!” when they see the dads living it up. Of course, Ace’s questions are primarily related to the classic car until Nancy focuses them on the issue at hand. Proponents of the Ace-as-a-Hardy-Boy theory will be thrilled to note that the writers directly addressed Ace’s lack of a last name by … not giving him a last name. We see you, writers.
Nancy realizes what’s happening and isn’t sure how to respond, but Ace immediately tells her he speaks teen, turning to Ryan and asking “So dude, where’s my Carson?” Horrifyingly, Carson went to Jean’s house, who Ryan refers to as a “total smokeshow.” At Jean’s house, Carson attempts to express his feelings for her in the most adorably teenage way imaginable as a frantic Nancy pulls up outside in her car, screaming “DAAAAAAD” desperately to stop the madness. She drags him back to the car as Ryan consoles him with a “Better luck next time, bro.” Adopting her mom voice, Nancy informs the two that “I really need the soul splitter and then we can have, like, the most raddest day ever, okay?” Carson reveals he also does not have the splitter (Ace: “Oy vey”).
They determine that to find the device, they’re going to have to retrace the dads’ steps. They manage to find it at a barn with motorbikes (again, a nod to Motocrossed). Nancy hurries to get the device to George, leaving Ace in charge of dad parenting. They immediately steal Florence, but Ace sees a reminder in Carson’s calendar. Carson is supposed to be at the evidentiary hearing in 30 minutes (Carson: “Could I maybe skip that?”). Ace attempts to get him ready in a suit, which goes exactly as well as you might imagine. Ace also tries to give Carson pointers, but soon, it’s all on Carson. And he starts to flub it as soon as the hearing starts. Ryan goes in to rescue him as Ace hilariously tries to stop him while an officer holds him back and he throws his name around as the judge asks if he is also involved. Ryan hits him with a “Correct-amundo, as they say in the original Latin.” But they accidentally fix the problem: since Ryan is now technically Carson’s client, they need to file separate paperwork, and the hearing is delayed.
Ace calls his mom to apologize for being his teenage self, his time with the dads having given him a new perspective. Carson and Ryan wake up, with Ace cautiously confirming they’re no longer teenagers before triumphantly shouting, “Mr. D, you’re back!” They remember everything as Carson groans over what happened with Jean. Ace reassures him as Carson goes to Jean to smooth things over.
Carson apologizes to Jean, but then gives her a beautiful speech about how he feels (followed by a very Carson-esque reassurance that he can absolutely be professional if she turns him down). Jean smiles, and she kisses him (Yay, Carson! Nice work, buddy!).
Ryan decides to keep the guitar he bought as his teenage self, since he never got to learn as a teen and Lucy always wanted him too. He tells Ace, “It’s like spending time with Nancy rubs off on you. She’s so passionate about everything. Makes you want to be a better person I guess. You know what I mean?” Ace forlornly responds, “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
Who Will Save Your Soul
At the start of the episode, George and Nancy head down to the entity’s prison, where George laments the fact that Hannah is no longer around to help them with her soul splitter issue. Ace is looking for the device in the Bobbseys’ storage unit as Bess looks for more information. They go to leave when they hear footsteps, but it turns out to be Ace, with George nearly running him down. He shares that the cops know about the storage unit and they need to beat them there before they take the soul splitter. They’re too late, but Nancy calls Carson for help.
The police are tagging the items, which means the crew will have to steal the device, do the ritual, and get it back without the police noticing it’s missing. Bess gives herself a crash course in the ritual that she thought she’d have more time to learn. Carson files a motion to delay the processing of the evidence as Ryan tags along for “moral support.” The plan is to have Carson steal the soul splitter and give it to the Drew Crew, then sneak it back in. Nancy finds out about the Amanda break up while they wait, but they don’t have time to explore it before another officer kicks them off the property.
Bess rushes to prepare the ritual as they wait for Carson and Ryan to return with the soul splitter. They have until sunset. George drinks the “beetle smoothie” to prep, but as time goes on without the soul splitter, George passes out. Any delay could cause a problem with George’s soul. George wakes up and asks what will happen if they don’t find the splitter, and Bess shares her soul would become like Odette’s was before she landed in George. Bess asks to call Nick and tell him what’s really happening, but George doesn’t want Nick to see her like this.
Suddenly, Odette’s soul comes forward. Bess is excited, wanting her support, but Odette quickly fades back to George. Nancy rushes in with the device, and they begin the ritual. Nancy sees that Bess is having a hard time knowing that Odette will be gone forever, and she comforts her as the device spins. They successfully split the souls and return George’s soul … but then it pops out of her body again. Bess panics, but Nancy has a realization when Bess talks about Beckett Dow being the creator of the device. The initials on the creature’s prison lock were “BD.” Nancy rushes back to the cage to see if there’s anything there that can help George.
In the cage, Nancy finds literal directions for the soul splitter like one would find directions for a board game. She calls Bess and tells her that the device is meant to split one soul, not two. In order to save George, they need to destroy Odette’s crystal and her soul. Bess is devastated and leaves the house, desperate to find another way.
Nancy finds Bess with Odette’s crystal. Nancy apologizes for not being more sensitive to Bess’ feelings for Odette. Bess says she feels like a coward, and Nancy opens up about her mother’s death. Nancy says she saw signs everywhere, which she interpreted as her mother trying to tell her it was okay to be happy again. Nancy says Odette wants the same thing for Bess, and Odette wants George to live her life. Bess asks, “How do we know that peace is where they’re going? Do you ever have doubts?” Nancy firmly replies, “No. After everything I have seen, I don’t doubt anymore.”
They complete the ritual together, with Bess destroying the crystal as Nancy tells her, “Goodbye doesn’t mean you’re going to be alone.” George wakes up — the ritual worked. George is thrilled and can’t wait to tell Nick, but Ace has bad news. Nick is gone without a trace, leaving only his cell phone behind.
Nancy Drew is off next week but will return on Friday, December 3 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. You can find our other coverage of the series here!