A flashback episode to 2002 shows the earliest origins of Amanda Clarke's revenge plot. And, apparently, that everybody had terrible hair then
Credit: Colleen Hayes/ABC

Those percussive, cascading synth chords that opened “Legacy,” Revenge’s long-awaited flashback episode, could only mean two things: First, 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”! And second, it must be the year 2002, because let’s face it, that’s the last time Fitty, or “In Da Club,” was relevant.

Specifically, it was December of 2002. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was burning up the box office. Miramax and the Weinsteins were gearing up their Oscar push for Chicago. And NBC was trying—and failing—to launch a pre-Mad Men ‘60s nostalgia craze with American Dreams.

In the universe of Revenge, Amanda Clark had only been out of juvie for six months, partying her way through the fortune she’d gained as an investor in NolCorp. (Sadly, “In Da Club” was not being played for Charlotte Grayson’s eighth birthday party, despite the obvious “Go Charlotte, it’s your birthday” hook.) When we dropped in on Amanda she was dancing with some sleazy guy who thought that dancing was a free pass for groping. That didn’t bother her as much as when he went off with some other club-dweller for a quickie bathroom-stall tryst. A beating ensued. Because her father may have been convicted of treason and terrorism, her life may have been squandered in a juvenile detention center, and she may now miraculously be a multi-millionaire, but unleashing on a dancefloor creep is still Priority #1. As it would be for any 18-year-old. Amanda was quickly escorted outside…to Nolan’s waiting car. He scolded her for not having read her father’s journals, because if she knew the truth about what happened in the past she’d be better able to deal with the present.

So began a flashback episode that, for my money, was pretty darn disappointing. In fact, it may be the first episode of the series that I can truly call a letdown. The biggest issue was that, well, we already knew everything that was dramatized here. Amanda really thought her father was a terrorist but slowly came to know the truth about the Graysons’ conspiracy. She worked as a waitress at their December 31, 2002 New Year’s Eve bash to gain more intel on them, and started piecing together each of the players who did her daddy wrong. I, for one, had really been hoping that we’d learn more about her relationship with Takeda and the time she spent training with him Kill Bill-style in Japan. That maybe we’d learn what exactly his motivation is for pursuing an anti-Grayson vendetta. Not to mention what role the new Big Bad of the series, The White-Haired Man, has to play in all this.

The biggest crime of “Legacy,” though, may be that it was such a momentum killer after a couple of quicksilver episodes that left us begging for more. Commenter Matthew Johns0n may have said it best during our Revenge live chat on EW.com: “This is like the ‘Across the Sea’ episode of Lost…wrong time to air THIS episode.” That would be that unfortunate installment of Lost that introduced a whole new mythology to the series, including a bizarre turn by Allison Janney as the mystical island matriarch…two episodes before the series finale.

“Legacy” suffered from a similar problem. Its plot hinged around a character we’ve never seen before and who has never even been mentioned up till now: Roger Halsted, a nervous, schlubby former Grayson employee who knew the truth about David Clarke being set up. And felt really bad about it. “Legacy” did have a few moments of oddball fun, as we got to see some of our characters’ younger selves or characters that are no longer with us, like dearly departed Daddy Porter. And Frank, the stubbly Grayson henchman with a soft spot for Victoria who didn’t see Faux-Manda’s tire iron until it was too late.

NEXT: Where were you in 2002? Actually we still don’t know where Daniel and Charlotte were…

Elsewhere in the Hamptons of 2002, Conrad was getting fed up with how Victoria was wallowing in guilt over David Clarke by spending lots of alone time in his old house. Yes, the Graysons had anonymously bought David’s property after it was seized by the government, to allow Victoria to indulge her nostalgia for her lover/fall-guy.

Nolan’s flamboyance hadn’t quite yet reached critical mass. His hair was still brown and his wardrobe was shockingly devoid of pastels. Jack, however, proved that, at heart, this episode was really just a celebration of bad hair. Good God, in wearing it long he looked like either a wannabe snowboarder or Seattle grunge-band member. It was a hairstyle better suited to the 1991-set flashback-within-a-flashback than 2002. Or as commenter LuckeeShev87 said during our live chat, “It’s like Lucy from Peanuts.” Even worse, his girlfriend’s name was Kai, which I’m pretty sure was the title of the spiritual leader of Bajor on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In other hair news, the only way Revenge gave us to differentiate between Henry Czerny’s Conrad in 1991, 2002, and 2012 was from the amount of Just for Men that had been carefully applied to his scalp. Naysayers who didn’t like my comparison of Revenge to Game of Thrones, I present to you another obvious connection: both series very much concern themselves with the follically-challenged.

At least in happier news, Sammy the Bionic Dog hadn’t yet reached middle age by 2002. Most dogs would have, but not Sammy.

Among their Christmas cards, the Graysons received a rather unusual Yuletide greeting: a bloody card with the word “shame” printed on it, signed by David Clarke. Could it be that someone from their inner circle who knew their secret was holding it over them? There was only one to know for sure—invite everyone who was involved in the conspiracy against David to their New Year’s Eve party, Agatha Christie-style, then have Frank investigate them one-by-one.

Taking Nolan’s advice, Amanda went to her old home, broke inside, and decided that right there would be the place she would read her father’s journals. She flashed back to another New Year’s Eve, this one in 1991 when she and her father had just moved to Southampton. “Uncle Bill,” a.k.a Bill Harmon, the Grayson financial whiz turned hedge-fund manager, stopped by to collect her dad. David promised her he’d be back to watch the ball drop with her, as her zombified babysitter stared blankly off into space in the background.

NEXT: Amanda lands a gig at the Graysons’ New Year’s Eve party. All the better to plot their destruction.

Back in Montauk 2002, Kai wanted to skip out on the Stowaway to take a waitressing gig at the Graysons’ New Year’s party, but Daddy Porter said no. Amanda, posing as “Mandy,” said she’d take the job and kick Kai back 25%. (Commenter Amanda Basta: “Clearly Amanda got better with the aliases as time went on.”)

New Year’s Eve was then upon us, and Lydia and Michael Davis made their arrival at Grayson Manor. Since Lydia was Victoria’s closest friend, she and Michael were given an “ocean-side room.” Having 24,000 square feet really is awesome.

Victoria took this opportunity to indulge in her own 1991-set reverie. Turns out that particular New Year’s Eve party was the first time she had ever laid eyes on David Clarke. She was drawn to him because of his TV-star good looks, sure, but also because he was the kind of guy who would buy beachfront property because it “felt right” and not because of tax incentives. Translating that into something the rest of us in the 99% can understand, it’s that Victoria was attracted to David Clarke because, unlike Conrad, he was capable of feeling these pesky things called emotions. During one such nostalgia-trip, when Victoria took a stroll around David’s old house, Conrad popped up Whac-A-Mole-style to say he’d decided they’d sell the house because she was still in love with his rival.

New Year’s Eve, and Amanda was on hand to cater the party. Now, I know what some of you are thinking…didn’t Amanda have black hair in Lydia’s photo from that night? It appeared black, but I’m willing to give Revenge’s producers the benefit of the doubt. It could very well have been Amanda’s Britney-esque brown and only appeared black because it was a black and white photo, and she was standing in a shadow. Incongruity solved.

NEXT: All of David Clarke’s persecutors are evil and proud of it.

It was Amanda’s task to set up the place-settings for everyone who had been invited. At one table were congregated just about all of the conspirators from the anti-David Clarke plot: Uncle Bill Harmon, Senator Tom Kingsly, Treadwell, that evil shrink, and, of course, the Graysons themselves. Everyone was bitching magnificently to one another. Treadwell was talking about how he’d just wrapped up his reporting on the DC sniper story. But that didn’t stop him from giving Victoria that photo of David Clarke from the day he died. (Wait, how did Treadwell of all people get ahold of that?) Senator Kingsly was spouting cynical bile like “My resolution is to spend more time on the campaign trail telling people what they want to hear.” And Uncle Bill was trying to get Kingsly to put aside those pesky “family values” and allow a proposed Indian Casino to be built. “We all know you’re capable of it,” he said. Wow, the David Clarke conspiracy really is the worst-kept secret ever.

The one person who didn’t want to sit with them and asked to be reassigned was probably the only one worth knowing: Roger Halsted, whom Amanda remembered her father had said she could trust. So when she visited him in the Grayson boathouse, she revealed all, including her parentage and how her dad said she could trust him. He was a bit flummoxed at the moment, but later he awkwardly bumped into her and slipped a note into her pocket. (Also, Star Trek: Enterprise fans, rejoice! Halsted was played by John Billingsley, who portrayed the fussy Denobulan Dr. Phlox on the Trek prequel.)

Oh, you knew that wasn’t your room, Lydia. Your room was in a different wing of the house. She barged in on Frank and Conrad and managed to get Conrad alone. He told her that he and Victoria were the sole owners of the company that had bought David Clarke’s home and that they’d be happy to sell it to her. She’d take the house. But she also wanted the man who’d let her buy the house. With a sly, seductive smirk she moved in for the kill…apparently beginning a nine-year affair. Which really makes Victoria seem stupid, doesn’t it?

NEXT: Conrad may be in flagrante Lydia, but he’s still a mensch, don’t you know it? And finally, the author of that bloody note revealed…

After emerging from that bedroom, Conrad announced to the assembled guests that they’re selling the beach house to Lydia and Michael. As Michael said, Conrad is a mensch indeed.

Frank had finally narrowed the suspects list down to Roger alone and began his interrogation. By the time Amanda entered the boathouse to check on him, she found him lying in a bathtub with his wrists slit. A suicide? Not when Frank’s in the picture. And in that moment Amanda knew. She knew that her father had indeed been the victim of a terrible conspiracy. So she frantically called Nolan, who was hanging out at the Stowaway and had just received from Kai the best kiss he’d get until Tyler, and said she now believed him.

On his way out, Treadwell casually mentioned that he enjoyed how his job was to “expose the truth and shame the Devil.” Victoria realized he was hinting that he had sent that bloody “Shame” note, just to stir the pot and see what the Graysons would do. For more material, of course. He mentioned that watching them turn on each other was in fact like Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, and he wondered who would be the last to fall.

The only thing for Amanda to do next? Get a double infinity symbol tattooed on her wrist. Okay, maybe after all “Legacy” was more like that episode of Lost where Jack got a tattoo in Phuket from Bai Ling.

What did you guys think of “Legacy”? Do you agree that it was a disappointment? Are you also anxious to see the full story of Amanda’s apprenticeship under Takeda in Japan? Why were Daniel and Charlotte totally awol from Grayson Manor on New Year’s Eve? What on earth did Amanda do in the nine years between this New Year’s Eve party and her arrival as Emily Thorne in the summer of 2011? And were people’s hairstyles really that wretched in 2002?