Well, you knew Tiff’s world was going to blow up at some point — if we’ve learned anything, it’s that meeting your future self is never without its speed bumps. There she is, getting all hopped up on watching her valedictorian speech on VHS (honestly, could our nerd queen be cheesing any harder?), and just a few minutes later, 1999 Tiff drops the bomb on her that she’s adopted and her mom doesn’t tell her the truth until sophomore year of college. While that news stings a little, what Tiff ends up being angrier about is 1999 Tiff’s reaction to it when she found out.
You can see 1999 Tiff actively trying not to tell her younger self this life-altering news, but Tiff keeps needling her about her life choices. 1999 Tiff tries to explain that 12-year-old Tiffany has no idea what she really wants out of life; she’s just doing what her mom is telling her. She needs to relax and see the world around her. She needs to dance and date idiots. “You think all that success is gonna make you whole, but you’re just gonna be you when you get there.” Tiff isn’t buying this version of herself. She must have done something to derail their dreams so much, so 1999 Tiff blurts out the truth. She says it’s better she knows now anyway. “You can move through this faster than I did. I want to give that to you,” she tells her. Tiff is shocked and hurt, of course, but she still thinks 1999 Tiff is kidding herself with wanting her current life.
And you know what? Tiff’s mostly right. I mean, I guess if anyone knows that you’re lying to yourself, it would be another version of you, right? 1999 Tiff admits that she was expelled from MIT when she imploded after learning that her mother, her biggest support system, had been lying to her for so long. Tiff thinks she’s blaming mom for things that were very much in her control and that this person she’s reinvented herself as is just a phase and she should stop pretending anything otherwise. She tells her about the Quilkin Institute. She reminds her that although she may only be 12, she owns who she is and what she does. That’s some harsh truths from a kid who doesn’t even know how to use a tampon, you know? And while it might be an oversimplification of everything 1999 Tiff went through, it’s not that far off. This isn’t how 1999 Tiff wants to be living her life. Hey, how about these 12-year-olds showing up and reminding their future selves about the lives they saw for themselves once? I know this show is about the kids coming into their own, but the adults are learning a lot, too. Is that cheesy as hell? Yes. Would my 12-year-old self roll her eyes so hard at that? Also, yes. Leave me alone! I love it!
The Tiffany truth-telling session comes to an end when Russ, the truest dud, lets them know that Erin left with some guy named Larry. They scoop up KJ and Mac and head back to Larry’s farm.
You see, that pink cloud spitting out newspapers from 1988? Yeah, that’s not getting any better. Larry shows up looking for the Tiffanys, but since they’re out having that much-needed discussion, he’s met only with Erin and a whole ton of hostility. It’s understandable since, I mean, technically speaking, he did kill her. Like, I get it. And hilariously — and true to her pre-teen self — Erin wastes no time telling Larry that she watched him die horribly just two days prior. “Burnt into nothing,” she adds just to make it hurt. And it does. This is 1999 Larry, you know? He’s optimistic and believes himself to be a really good guy. This news is a real blow. The only thing that really convinces Erin to take him seriously is when she spots her bike from 1988 in the back of his truck. He tells her about the arrival of that folding-like pink cloud over his farm, and Erin thinks it could be their ticket home. When he asks if it’s a good idea for him to just come with him alone, she says, “What are you gonna do, kill me twice?” Dang! Burns from the mouths of 12-year-olds sting.
Everyone reconvenes at Larry’s Farm, including 1999 Juniper, who new recruit Larry calls for the first time (when we first see Juniper, she’s trying on wedding gowns, so I guess that doesn’t pan out!) to help handle the situation. The cloud has continued to dump junk in the field. The junk, Juniper explains, all comes from the two time periods the girls have been to. Mac’s dad’s recliner is there, Halloween garbage, Adult Erin’s pickle jar. And it’s not just any cloud, it’s a time rift. Usually, they repair themselves, but this one is sticking around for some reason. When Mac tosses a newspaper (remember? They’re paper girls, damnit) up into the cloud it explodes upon contact, so they won’t be able to use that as an escape route back to 1988, and that spells trouble for everyone. The Old Watch will be there in no time, and according to Juniper, they’ll want to execute the four girls for breaking the time travel ban. So that’s not great!
In fact, the Old Watch has kind of already arrived: They find an Old Watch scanner — it’s a robot spider the size of a cat, but it is definitely not a cat — that Juniper says is beaming out “a signal across all the ages to the big wigs.” They’ll be here in within the hour on the Cathedral, their mobile headquarters that “oversees the entire timeline.” She can’t answer Mac’s question about why “every stupid thing [has] to have a stupid name,” but she can let them know the only option available to them to survive this: Run.
• Mac’s having a hard time processing her impending death, so she and KJ head to the cemetery to find her grave (how bleak!), where they run into and then away from Mac’s stepmother Alice who’s leaving flowers on Mac’s grave for her birthday. Will that woman ever know peace after seeing her dead stepdaughter running around a cemetery? Who knows. But it does bring Mac some comfort: “Maybe more people seem to believe I was worth a shit than I thought.” If that doesn’t make you want to bite a pillow to muffle your sobs, I don’t know what will.
• Oh, okay, some meaningful stares are being shared between KJ and Mac on that stoop.
• 1999 Tiff using Whitney Houston releasing “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” in 1998 as an example of someone really reinventing themselves is so good.
• I had a visceral reaction to seeing the opening credits of The Real World: Hawaii. Not as visceral as it would’ve been for Seattle, but still.