Bettina Strauss/The CW
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Action ,
S3 E4
October 31, 2017 at 10:04 PM EDT

Stranger Things doesn’t have a monopoly on ’80s nostalgia, and Legends can absolutely tap into the same Amblin well the Duffers do, but…well, as fun and as homage-fueled as this E.T. riff was, it didn’t quite take flight. With one too many plot twists and an arc that doesn’t deliver as emotional a gut punch as it could have, “Phone Home” had all the humor, but not enough heart.

Still, it did give the story of boy-meets-wayward-alien a poignantly Legends-y spin. This week’s adventure took the team to Ivy Town in 1988, where a younger Ray got in trouble with some suits, died, and wound up erasing his future self aboard the Waverider. As soon as the team finds out — in the middle of Ray attempting a trust fall with Mick to help the crew bond and welcome Zari — they head to a day before the events that would take little Ray’s life in order to save him from whatever threat is on his tail.

Turns out there’s no threat chasing little Ray; instead, the boy has taken the creature he encountered at the end of the last episode home with him. It’s a baby Dominator — as in, the aliens that nearly destroyed the world in the first Arrowverse crossover — and little Ray’s nicknamed him “Gumball.” They’ve bonded quickly; little Ray feeds him candy just like Elliot did in E.T., watches classic films (in this case, it’s Singin’ in the Rain because Ray loves musicals) with him just like Elliot did in E.T., and keeps him hidden from his mother just like Elliot did in E.T. Have I mentioned this episode riffs off of E.T.?

I’ll admit: It’s all very, very cute. And so naturally, a Legend screws it all up — except in this case, it’s a future Legend. Little Ray gets in the way of the Legends’ plan to kidnap Gumball when he plays hooky and nearly catches Zari and present-day Ray in the act. Zari is forced to hide under the bed while Ray shrinks inside his Atom suit to become Gumball’s newest favorite toy — and things only get worse when Ray’s mom comes home to admonish little Ray for skipping his favorite home away from home.

Amaya and Nate, dressed as animal control officers, step in to help with the situation. When Nate notices how great Ray’s mom looks (oh, come on, Nate), he can’t help but start peacock-ing when they reach the front door, while Amaya assesses the situation. Their lie about a creature in the area they’re there to check on unfortunately leads Ray’s mother to talk about how reckless little Ray is, saying things about how he fails to make normal friends and would rather spend time with his “weird” inventions — all of which both versions of Ray hears.

The criticisms discourage poor little Ray, who decides it’s time for him to take Gumball and run away. (Next: A Dominator queen gives Nate the royal treatment)

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