Lest somehow you forgot, when we last saw our paper girls, they were staring up at a giant Transformers-esque robot in a silo. So, update: That thing is a time-traveling ship, only adult Erin can pilot it, and it is pretty much the only shot Erin, Tiff, KJ, and Mac have at getting back home to 1988. No pressure, adult Erin!
It turns out that Heck and Naldo’s whole mission was to get to that robot, jump through a “folding” (a precise and ephemeral rip in time that allows one to travel through it) and pop out in the year 1999, where they should be able to turn the tide in the war against the Old Watch. The device they were carrying (and handed to Tiff) allows them to pair themselves to the robot — which is why adult Erin, now paired with the robot, will have to drive the thing. I guess Larry was never trained in unpairing the robot? That part remains unclear. Although adult Erin isn’t thrilled about her role as the only viable robot pilot, it does give her an upper hand of sorts.
Larry is dead set on completing Heck and Naldo’s mission as planned. The folding they need to travel on will appear that night over the farm for ten minutes. Larry wants adult Erin to pilot them to 1999 and after they … finish the war, I guess (!), the STF there can help the girls get back to their own time. No one else is having any of that. Tiff, who is almost alarmingly into all of this time-travel stuff, comes up with another plan: Take them to 1988, they can stop Heck and Naldo from being killed, and then they can use Heck and Naldo’s time-traveling space capsule to both continue on with their mission and get adult Erin back to 2019. Everybody wins. Adult Erin reminds Larry that she is the captain now and she’d rather not drop off a bunch of kids in the middle of a war zone. They’re going with Tiff’s plan, she’s decided. The way Erin is just beaming with pride here will break your heart. It’s so cute — but it is short-lived.
You didn’t think we’d simply get some sort of fun training montage and then they’d be on their way, did you? We’ve got a bunch of angst to deal with first! Although, yes, adult Erin flipping off Larry with that giant robot hand after he’s super condescending is a lot of fun!
First, adult Erin has to put out a fire with her sister, Missy. When Erin doesn’t show up to their meeting to sell their mom’s house and Missy finds a bloody shirt in the living room, she demands Erin tell her where she is or else she’s calling the cops. Now, I don’t fully buy that any of this is necessary — Erin really can’t think of any excuse? — but if it means we get a hilarious scene of Ali Wong and Nate Corddry awkwardly pretending they’re dating, I’m fine with it. It’s cringey and beautiful all at once. But really what this tangent means is that Erin gets a front-row seat to her relationship with Missy in 2019. God, this girl is so excited to get a glimpse of her helicopter-pilot sister and begs adult Erin to at least try to mend fences. “You can’t erase 20 years of resentment in one afternoon,” she responds. She just doesn’t get it. But how could she, really — adult Erin hasn’t been exactly truthful about their falling out.
Adult Erin made it seem like Missy abandoned her when their mom got sick, leaving Erin to deal with everything, but it becomes clear that adult Erin actually pushed Missy out. She says she didn’t want Missy, who is busy with her own family and career, to have to take it on. Missy, though, says she never asked her to be a martyr and, even worse, blames Erin for robbing her of time with their mother in the end. So yeah, that’s complicated and definitely not something that can be solved before adult Erin has to, you know, jump through time.
It’s not just the Erins who have some pre-folding drama: KJ refuses to leave without Mac. She steals Larry’s motorbike and races off to Dylan’s house after finding his address online. (Computers have all the maps you could even need, and that is blowing the girls’ minds.) What she doesn’t realize is that Mac is off having a nice little day with her brother. Sure, they’re setting off fireworks and goofing around, but things also turn serious. Dylan tries to impress upon Mac that so much of what happened in their childhood is just unacceptable to him now. Their dad was a bigot and violent and Dylan apologizes to Mac for going along with a lot of that. He’s changed a lot and he wants Mac to know that if she ever needs to talk about anything, he’s there for her. He knows how lucky they are to get this second chance, even if he doesn’t understand it. Later, after Mac begins to feel self-conscious after meeting Dylan’s daughters, he takes her aside to tell her how much he loves her. He’s going to adopt her and make sure she gets the life she deserves. Mac can only keep her tough girl bravado up for so long and they hug. Not to be dramatic, but Dylan Coyle M.D. is precious to me and if anyone hurts him, I will walk myself out into the sea, okay?
Sadly, that hug could be the last Mac sees of 2019 Dylan. While KJ is at the Coyle house waiting for Mac with Dylan’s wife — who seems lovely even if she does want to feed kale chips to children — Prioress shows up. KJ bolts and heads to the Chili’s nearby where she knows Mac, Dylan, and his daughters are. Mac doesn’t want to leave, but once she realizes that Prioress, who followed her to the fast-casual dining chain, will 100 percent kill Dylan and his family to get to her, she goes. She doesn’t even have time to say good-bye. Mac breaking down on the back of the bike? That’s going to leave a mark.
Mac and KJ make it back to the farm just as the folding opens up. They have ten minutes to get in the robot and go. Prioress is still on their tail. But there’s nothing Prioress can do once she sees that robot break out of the silo and jump into the folding. She’s upset about it for several reasons, the most pressing being that her boss has now shown up — comic-book readers will know he’s called Grand Father (welcome, Jason Mantzoukas!) — and he is not pleased.
• After Larry takes like one minute to think about how he’s dealing with a bunch of 12-year-olds, he gathers himself and actually bonds a little with Tiff, who has taken to all the time-travel stuff really easily. He shows her his notebook in which he’s calculated when and where a whole bunch of foldings have or will occur. Seems important!
• Larry also explains all the pink sky stuff: That’s what it looks like when the Old Watch wipes everyone’s memory. It’s called “ablution” and they use light to bring people up to their command ship where they erase their memories before returning them.
• Dylan named his younger daughter after his and Mac’s stepmother Alice, which is surprising to Mac (and us, since the last we saw her she was passed out on the couch). Dylan explains that Alice was the only one there for both Mac and Dylan once Mac got sick.
• Erin gets her first period. Yep, in the middle of a war for time when she’s stuck three decades in the future at the farmhouse of a guy who you just know is not stocked up on tampons. I’m sorry, but no one has a worse first-period story than that.