Taking a brief break from adult Elena’s withering glare, the latest episode of Little Fires Everywhere opens on a young, more carefree Elena (AnnaSophia Robb) in Paris with her boyfriend Jamie, a fellow aspiring journalist. We meet Jamie as their relationship is reaching a breaking point; she’s set to return to her curated life in Shaker Heights but he wants adventure and risks, not a white picket fence at 22. They reach an impasse and she leaves for home without him.
Elena’s obsession over the custody case (and proving Mia’s involvement in it) is starting to spread into other areas of her life — and it's taking a toll. Bill, who has formally joined the McCullough's legal team, wonders how Bebe could afford such a good lawyer, but the answer is right before them via a photo of Mia in the New York Times. It’s the photo of Mia, taken when she was nine months pregnant by a (fictional) renowned photographer Pauline Hawthorne; it’s called “Duo” and is worth nearly half a million dollars. This New York Times appearance further fuels Elena’s sleuthing mission — and not just because Izzy says a feature in the Times is something she’ll never have.
Breaking Elena’s order to stay far away from Mia’s apartment, Izzy comes bearing gifts in the form of the Times write-up, only Mia’s adamant it’s not her. When Izzy presses further — admitting to snooping around the apartment a little bit, putting together the pieces as to why this is definitely her portrait — Mia gets upset and kicks her out. She calls her art dealer/confidant Anita and asks how a massive photo of her ended up in one of the biggest papers in the country. It seems she does not want her pregnancy with Pearl to be public information, which poses a major question: Is Mia on the run from Pearl's father? If so, why?
Remember how Lexie was positively glowing last week? Well, it turns out she’s pregnant — and only Pearl knows about it. Lexie tries to tell Brian, using the pending custody case as a cover for her unsettled mood, but that leads to an argument. She reiterates her mom’s stance on Bebe’s sudden re-emergence into Mirabelle/May Ling’s life but Brian maintains that Bebe isn’t just some random woman. Lexie tries to steer the conversation to their future kids but Brian shuts that conversation down fast; he’s not having kids for a very long time. At that, Lexie can’t bring herself to tell him about the pregnancy and even promises to get on birth control.
Meanwhile, Bebe’s been granted visitation rights to Mirabelle/May Ling and Linda is devastated. She sees Mia, Bebe’s ride to their meeting spot, watching from the curb and realizes Mia’s involvement runs deep … and, of course, Elena has to know more.
Linda storms into Elena’s office, demanding to know whether she knew about Mia when she used the McCullough's money to try to pay Bebe off — a move that has made waves in the local press and could have serious legal implications for her and Mark. Feeling guilty after Linda's dressing down, Elena resolves to continue searching for leads about Mia in New York City.
But her obsession is starting to freak Bill out — especially her decision to go to New York in the middle of the night. He practically begs her to stay, but she’s determined to see this through. She follows her leads to the art school where photographer Pauline Hawthorne taught, and while she doesn’t find any trace of a Mia Warren among the class rosters, she does find a Mia Wright.
Meanwhile, Lexie goes to Planned Parenthood to inquire about an abortion. After failed attempts to tell Brian and her parents about the pregnancy, Pearl remains the only person she’s told. Despite her mother’s wariness about her friendship with Lexie, Pearl goes to the clinic to support Lexie. But once again, Lexie takes advantage of Pearl's friendship and uses her name for the Planned Parenthood paperwork without asking. Lexie has a reputation to protect and doesn't want to leave any record of her seeking an abortion. Pearl feels betrayed, but Lexie isn’t done asking for help. Unwilling to go home to her dad, she takes temporary refuge with Pearl and Mia.
While in New York City, Elena decides to reach out to an old friend for assistance, her former flame Jamie ... who happens to work at the Times. She wants an introduction to his colleague who wrote the piece on “Duo.” He can’t give that to her but agrees to do some digging into the subject. They catch up later over dinner, and we see that Jamie’s life is the antithesis of what Elena — or, more accurately, her mother — had laid out for them, spending years traveling the globe as a foreign correspondent.
He gives her the info he’s collected, which reveals Mia Wright had a brother named Warren who died in a car accident as a teen. Elena was already confident that Mia Wright is really Mia Warren but this gives her further evidence — and the address of Mia’s parents.
With Lexie tucked in her bed, Pearl’s in the hallway reading the informational packet Planned Parenthood gave Lexie after her abortion. That her name is written neatly at the top is not lost on Mia. Pearl doesn’t want to hear “I told you so” from her mom, but Mia’s not looking to gloat about being right. She’s just disappointed that Lexie only sees Pearl for what she can do for her, not who she is as a person.
Speaking of which, Pearl admits she had sex with Trip, which is not the Richardson son Mia was expecting. She adds she decided to lose her virginity to Trip because he seemed like an easy, fun person to do it with. But she was very wrong — it wasn’t easy, fun, or simple. Bestowing motherly wisdom, Mia admits that’s never easy or simple. Pearl uses this heart to heart to segue into a conversation about her father. But all Mia will say is that they met on the subway, describing him as persistent, smart, and charming. She’s careful to add that he wasn’t interested in being a parent. In five episodes, Mia’s said very little about Pearl’s dad — but her silence, and his recurring appearances in her dreams, speaks volumes. Whoever he is, he’s someone Mia’s gone out of her way to keep from Pearl.
A phone call from Trip interrupts them and he asks Pearl to meet him in a local park. He apologizes for treating her like garbage after their secret dalliance and they make up. Despite her disappointment in his siblings, Pearl’s still willing to give him a shot. Meanwhile, Lexie, looking for Pearl, stumbles into Mia in the art studio. Mia gets her some tea but takes the opportunity to deliver some hard truths about how Lexie’s treated her daughter. Mia’s tired of her taking advantage of Pearl’s seemingly never-ending goodwill and says she cannot subject her daughter to that anymore.
That night, Mia dreams about Pearl’s dad. He follows her down a subway car with the “Duo” portrait plastered all over it. It’s a rattling nightmare that also wakes up Pearl, who was sleeping next to her. Still thinking about what Mia told her about her dad not wanting to be a parent, she asks if Mia wanted her. Mia says Pearl has no idea how wanted she was.
In New York, Elena and Jamie’s dinner is getting very flirty. As they wander around the city with their brown bag nightcap, he asks why she really came to see him. She relents, admitting she wanted to know if he was happy with the life he chose, if he had any regrets about choosing it over the life they had planned. She says she has a lot of regrets and makes a move, which he flatly rejects. He reveals he also had ulterior motives for agreeing to see her: He wanted to know if she’d ever apologize for what she did to him.
It’s a very charged sentence devoid of any further explanation, only that it was an incident completely separate from their break-up. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about it in episodes to come. We’re seeing Elena’s wrath towards Mia play out in real-time, but it’s safe to assume Mia isn’t the first person to face it. Jamie departs after one final blow, telling Elena that she stuck to her plan, but he can’t make her sad life bearable.
Back at her hotel, Elena continues to unravel. She’s avoiding calls from Bill, whose messages are growing increasingly frantic. Unable to sleep, she checks out of her hotel in the middle of the night and takes off for Pennsylvania, where Mia’s parents live. In a scene mirroring Mia's introduction in the premiere, Elena spends the night in her car. But given she’s a suburban white lady, the police officer who wakes her up is just trying to warn her about the neighborhood’s safety.
Izzy, sorry for upsetting Mia, brings a piece of apology art to the apartment but stumbles into Lexie on her way out. Lexie won’t tell her why she was there, already rebuilding her facade of perfection — eerily reminiscent of their mother. Izzy feels betrayed that her sacred space has been infiltrated by one of her siblings. She takes the artwork back to her house and sets it on fire, intently watching as it’s reduced to ashes
Mia’s also tending to a fire — both literally in the fireplace and figuratively, as she tries to keep her lies from getting out of hand. She wonders to Anita if she’s making the right decision by not telling Pearl the truth. While Anita suggests it’s time to be honest, Mia isn’t so sure she can do it. But one thing’s very clear, if Mia’s going to come clean, she better do so before Elena does it for her.
Still using her fake story as a cover, Elena gets Mia’s parents to open up to her. They’re harboring a major bombshell: They haven’t seen Mia since she was pregnant. The child Mia was carrying wasn’t hers, she was acting a surrogate for another couple.
Most overt ‘90s references:
- There are a lot of squabbles over the landline in this episode, most notably Mia and Pearl arguing over who gets to use the phone — a fight most growing up during this time period will remember.
- Jamie and Elena argue over the credibility of Paula Jones’ claims of sexual harassment against then-President Bill Clinton. The episode takes place just one year before the Clinton impeachment.
- Alanis Morissette is always the perfect angst music, but the use of “Uninvited” in this episode — as the tension is really starting to ramp up — is *chef’s kiss*.