"Absolution is the most powerful form of forgiveness: a full pardon from suspicion and accountability. It's the liberation of a stolen future. A future my father never lived to see. Absolution is a mercy the people who killed him will never know." So says Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), née Amanda Clarke, as she stands in a snowy graveyard and places a single red rose on her father's grave. Every time she softens toward these people, a new dirty secret comes to light, hardening her resolve. But Emily is no longer the only person suspicious of the Graysons. The press has virtually condemned them as "the new trial of the decade" comes to a close. People have caught on to the convenient timing of all of this. There are protesters stationed outside of Riker's Island, just waiting for the chance to throw eggs (and maybe worse) at Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman) and his family.
Emily isn't bothered over the press frenzy. She's too concerned with finding her father's killer, and she's managed to track down a list of all the inmates who were involved in the riot the day her father was killed. Nolan (Gabriel Mann) expresses his disbelief that this list will lead her to the killer ("Now what, cross-reference it with the Grayson family Christmas card list?") But Emily is more resourceful than that, and she gets her answer sooner than she expected. Doing something selfless for once, she goes to check on her secret sister Charlotte (Christa B. Allen), telling Nolan she's worried about her, and she's rewarded with a picture of their father that Charlotte found hidden away by Victoria in the lining of her jewelry box. It's dated the day he died. In his hands he holds a journal that Emily has never seen before, and there's only one place it can be: with Nolan. After smoking him out with an "innocent" phone call, Emily catches him trying to hide the diary in a secret panel in his wall. She is furious that he would hide it from her, but Nolan claims that he was only doing as her father wanted. He says that in the last weeks of David Clarke's life, he was "paranoid and terrified" and "he wouldn't have wanted you to remember him like that." Yet another reminder that David Clarke wanted more for his daughter than a life consumed with thoughts of vengeance. Emily responds by yanking the journal out of Nolan's hands and once again kicks him out of her super secret club.
At Grayson Manor, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) stares listlessly at the unfinished painting she managed to salvage from Painter's abandoned loft. When Conrad (Henry Czerny) enters the room, she doesn't move a muscle. She just keeps staring at the unfinished image of herself like it's a metaphor for her life (which it is). And when Conrad tries to goad a reaction out of her she refuses to give him one. Instead she simply tells him that one day "the suffering you so glibly spread around will come back at you tenfold." She may not be the best at planning and executing dastardly deeds, but man, she's got those one-liners down cold.
"A system rigged against me, by the people that I knew as friends."
Safely ensconced in her beachside mansion, Emily digs in to her father's last writings. As she reads, we flash back to David Clarke (James Tupper) himself, sitting in the prison yard and scribbling frantically in his little book. It's mostly just the musings of a tortured man (see above), but he adds in one last thing before being tragically stabbed to death by a man with white hair, dressed as a guard: "CM will come with PROOF." Who is CM? Was Clarke just paranoid, as Nolan says, or did he die right before the evidence needed to clear his name would finally come into his hands? I think we all know the answer to that question. Not surprisingly, it doesn't take Emily long (or much effort at all, really) to track down the name of the mysterious 'CM.' Her name is Carole Miller, and she used to work for Grayson Global before she died in 2002, just two days after David Clarke. Suspiciouser and suspiciouser.
Nolan zooms over to The Stowaway and then zooms back out, telling Jack (Nick Wechsler) that he's going out of town "on business" -- because hey, remember that billion dollar multi-national company I own and supposedly run? -- and that Jack should talk to Emily and tell her what he knows about the Graysons (even though Nolan knows full well that Emily knows even more than Jack does -- but Nolan is a romantic, and he's still pulling for these two crazy kids to get together -- also, for Emily to stop trying to ruin people's lives all the time). Jack takes Nolan's advice and pops in on Emily, intent on confessing everything he knows about those dastardly Graysons. BUT. He's interrupted by an ill-timed phone call from jail. Jail says it's had enough of Daniel Grayson, and that Daniel Grayson's fiance should come and pick him up pronto before any of the other kids at the slumber party start picking on him for being a whiny little a-hole. But please excuse me, I'm letting my contempt for Daniel's actions later in this episode color my opinion of the rest of him. Jack defers his confession to a later date. Later, as Emily is picking Darling Daniel up from jail (and why isn't beloved mother there, hmmm?) those same dang protesters are still there, and they chant "murderer, murderer, murderer," as Emily walks Daniel to her car, which is also plastered with the world MURDERER, except this time in red-painted scary letters.
The Grayson women aren't faring much better than poor Daniel. You know you're in trouble when your sleezy drug enabling boyfriend is telling you to pull it together, but that's where Charlotte's at right now. She pops pills into her and Adam's mouths right in the middle of the school hallway, clearly not caring if she's seen. And seen she is, by ex-boyfriend Declan (Connor Paolo). He wants to talk, but she's totally done with him, you guys (later, he'll turn her in to the principal because he's worried about her, but she just sees it as another betrayal). So while Charlotte is busy self-destructing, over in some anonymous park Victoria is doing the opposite. In exchange for full immunity, she's prepared to detonate a nuclear bomb all over Conrad's business. She's done keeping secrets, and she's had it with Conrad taking all her lovers away from her. She tells the nice man from the SEC that Conrad is a domestic terrorist, and that she'll shout it to any government organization that will listen.
"Well, then, we'll starve the beast."
Welcome home, Daniel. He's greeted by everyone but Charlotte as he walks in the door, but when all he wants to do is sleep, all they want to talk about is damage control. Emily brings up the idea of offering an exclusive televised interview. Victoria immediately hates that idea (she thinks they should starve the press out), but he says he'll think about it before heading off to crash. Queen V retires to the kitchen for a nightcap (or something), but Ashley (Ashley Madekwe) pulls her aside and quietly gives her two week notice. V isn't surprised by this at all, nor is she surprised to learn that Lawyer (Courtney B. Vance) has offered her a media relations position at his law firm. She "graciously" congratulates Ashley, but asks her to remain on as their media lliason until all this trial nonsense is cleared up. Ashley agrees.
But Emily didn't go home. She headed to the hospital to look up Carole Miller's death certificate and medical records. She makes a sneaky phone call to the man listed as Carole's physician and he informs her that Carole Miller, now going under the name Carole Thomas, is alive and well and living hiding out in Pennsylvania. The next morning, Emily exits the Hamptons and heads to Lancaster, PA to find the mysterious CM. And find her Emily does, posing as an agent of the Department of Homeland Security, which Carole (Tess Harper) quickly figures for a fake, and pulls a large shotgun on her. Just before her brains can be splattered all over Carole's nice wood floor, a voice calls out from the landing to STOP! Please for the love of God do not shoot the blonde, says Nolan-Not-Actually-On-Business. Meet Amanda Clarke, he tells his aunt Carole, David Clarke's daughter. She puts down the shotgun. Oh, she says, I'll make tea!
"I think I've been asleep long enough."
Turns out Carole took tiny Nolan in when he was a wee boy, and it was through Carole's job as Conrad Grayson's personal secretary that Nolan was introduced to David Clarke in the first place. Carole grew close to David when they worked together, so when all the hullabaloo over the plane crash started happening, Carole secretly looked into the events for herself. The day that David Clarke was murdered, in fact, Carole had managed to procure enough evidence from Grayson's accountant to hang him with, and was sending it to David via Nolan. Nolan arrived at the prison just as it was locking down, and he knew something up. He called Carole and told her to get out of Grayson Global immediately, not even taking her purse. He then took steps to fake her death so the Graysons wouldn't track her down to eliminate "evidence." But Emily isn't interested in evidence against the Graysons -- she has plenty of that. She is interested in Carole's tale of "the white haired man" who showed up about a year before the crash of Flight 197, of whom Carole says, "I know he frightened Conrad even in the bright of day." (For once, Emily is a little behind -- viewers should have caught on to this guy if not from seeing him in the picture Emily obtained from Charlotte, then certainly from seeing him stab David Clarke in the flashback.) Nolan is careful to let Emily know she's to leave Carole alone. "This is bigger to me than your revenge against the Graysons," he tells her, "This is my--" "Family, I know," she says. "I would have done anything to protect mine, too."
Possibly because he wasn't able to get through to Emily earlier, Jack has decided to go directly to the source: he's going to tell Daniel Grayson what happened on the beach that night, and more importantly, all the things his parents have been doing to cover it all up. He tells Daniel about being on the beach and about the hoodie being planted, and he tells Jack ahout Lee Moran, about Queen V hiring Lee to beat up Daniel just to get him out of prison temporarily. Daniel is suspicious, like, Why are you telling me all of this? (And implied, why should I believe you?) "Because," says Jack, "Emily trusts you." Jack says if he's going to spend the rest of his life with her, Daniel owes it to Emily to know the truth and act on it. I think there's a very good chance that Daniel's head is going to explode by the end of the night.
Let's check in on Ashley, who's about to realize she's been pre-emptively boned by Victoria. Queen V told Lawyer that Ashley was "tricky." As a responsible employer, this made Lawyer want to look into Ashley's bidness, and he didn't come up empty-handed. He tells Ashley he's rescinding his offer of employment, that he doesn't want the kind of person who would leak photos to the press working for him. Conrad overhears all of this, a look of interest on his face, but his thoughts are interrupted by an extremely discomfitting phone call from a secretary at Grayson Global, who needs to inform him that, HELP THE S.E.C. IS HERE. Queen V literally overhears this phone call from a lighted balcony, where she has apparently been waiting -- possibly for hours -- for just such a golden opportunity. She walks away, smug satisfaction oozing out of her with every step.
In a state closely related to shellshock, Daniel wanders over to Emily's house, and, plopping himself down at her counter, tells her that he thinks the press might be right, that the whole Lee Moran confession thing doesn't make sense. I thought you'd still be sleeping, she says. "I think I've been asleep long enough," he says, and watch out because you know he means business if he's busting out the metaphor. She keeps her face admirably neutral as he lays out the amateur's version of events that he has managed to piece together. After he's finished his theorizing, he tells her that his "parents raised [him] to be a Grayson, to put [his] name before everything, including the truth." This is a moment of clarity for Daniel, and Emily takes advantage: "You don't need to be that guy, Daniel," she says. She tells him that the TV interview is an opportunity to get a "healthy distance" from his parents. He looks like he believes her, but he needs more evidence. He's been the spoiled child of the family for far too long just to cut the cord without so much as a fare-thee-well, and too much of his self-identity is built around the affirmation he craves from his parents.
Still mulling over Emily's advice, Daniel sees the light on in his father's study and on an impulse stops in to confront him. What he finds is Conrad wallowing in despair over the impending SEC investigation. At first Conrad plays it cagey. "You've been a pawn in our decrepit marriage for far too long. I owe you an apology." "No," says Daniel,"what you owe me is the truth." I should also mention at this point that Emily is listening to every word they say via the bug she planted a couple episodes back. So: not only does she hear what's about to happen, and thus know exactly what's going on later when Daniel supports his father on national TV, but she has the whole thing on tape. Conrad tells Daniel EVERYTHING, and from the beginning. But before he tells him, he makes Daniel promise that he will try to rebuild the company and its reputation, and take care of his little sister. We hear just a little hint of real pain in his voice as Conrad begins the story, telling Daniel about what they did to David Clarke, and "that innocent baby girl." What with Jack and now Conrad telling him all these secrets and Emily giving him advice, it seems like everybody's putting their balls in Daniel's court. But what's he going to do about it?
"My father is the victim of a witchhunt."
The next morning Queen V finds Charlotte still at home. Charlotte tries to lie and say she's late for school, but V has just been on the phone with her principal and knows about the suspension. But for once V does the right thing and instead of yelling at Charlotte and punishing her, she gives her the affection (and the answers) she's been seeking. She tells Charlotte she's not going to find the answers she's looking for in a bottle of pills, or even in the newspapers and books printed about David Clarke. Charlotte rightly blames V for not telling her about her father when she asked, and V accepts the blame. They'll have to sort out the rest after Daniel's interview, which takes place that afternoon in the Grayson home.
Emily knows that what Conrad told Daniel the night before (a talk which went well into the early hours) might change what Daniel was planning on saying in the interview, but Emily heard everything and tries to urge Daniel in the direction she wants him to go. Finally, Daniel sits down with ABC News correspondent Cynthia McFadden, underscored by melodramatic piano. She starts off the interview by diving deep, asking about the protesters. But Daniel has an answer ready: "I get it. People feel disenfranchised and fed up with the privileged minority who seem to abide by their own set of rules. Listen, if anyone commits a crime, no matter who you are, he or she should pay for it." This is an admirable sentiment, even a wonderful one, but its impact is completely undermined for us as the audience with the next thing out of Daniel's mouth. McFadden askes him about the allegations against Grayson Global of corruption and fraud, and Daniel defends his father. Knowing full well that his father is guilty, even more guilty than people realize, he still tells the nation that the SEC investigation is a witchunt, that they're using his murder trial as an excuse to go after his father. There's so much going on here that it's actually a little hard to parse out, but I can't help feeling that Daniel has chosen his father because he was honest with him when he asked. By recognizing Daniel as an equal and placing that trust in him, Conrad has essentially displaced whatever negative feelings Daniel might have had about his father committing such horrible crimes. It's genius, really.
"No one said I can't be my own man and my father's son."
Emily knows exactly what this means: Daniel has chosen a side. He isn't a doofusy, innocent little puppy any more. He's started the long, dirty slip into the dark side, and now more than ever it's important for Emily to keep him by her side. Conrad and Victoria know it, too, and you can see in Daniel's eyes as he interacts with his mother that he thinks about her differently now. She continues to lie to him about the things she's done, even as he stands there and asks her, and his father told him everything. Who would you choose? More evidence that Conrad knows how to play people: he finds Ashley slinking quietly out and offers her a Lexus*, or a Lexus and a job at Grayson Global, her choice. "I for one admire someone who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty." So Ashley is no longer working for ol' Queen V. Seem like everyone is jumping ship, actually, and the SS Queen V is slowly sinking (watch out, though, she'll suck you down in her wake if you're not careful). Conrad gets in the car with Ashley and continues his thought: "As long as you understand from this point forward, our hands wil be intertwined." He also gets in a nice zinger about V: "What both you and Victoria have yet to grasp is how little she matters. To anyone."
*A Lexus GS! Gotta make sure to get the whole name in there or they won't get their product placement money!
At the moment, Victoria matters very much to Charlotte. She takes Charlotte to David Clarke's grave for some closure, and tells her that her father was a good man who made one mistake that led him down a path of destruction (what specific mistake she's referring to we can only guess). You can tell Charlotte is very appreciative of all of this, but then DUN DUN DUN, they see the rose that Emily left at the beginning of the episode and realize that someone has been here what can it mean? It means you're in trouble, Victoria. Trouble, meanwhile, is sitting in the Stowaway filling Nolan in on the events of the last twenty-four hours. She tells him how Conrad confessed everything to Daniel, how Daniel is "one of them now." And then EmilyOver takes over. "The best among us," she says, as Daniel sits in his father's chair all metaphorical-like, "will learn from the mistakes of the past, while the rest seem doomed to repeat them." Too bad she won't take her own advice. She finds the white haired man on one of Treadwell's tapes as the episode comes to a close. "I'm going to kill him," she tells Nolan. She seems determined to follow that path of destruction that everyone on Revenge seems to inevitably head down at one point or another. Everyone but Emily unburdened their secrets in this episode, and I can't help but think that's somehow significant, that things are about to explode. The first step in absolution is confession, after all.