Ever wonder how Emily Thorne got so intensely focused on revenge? We jump back to 2002 during the days when she was still known as Amanda (though we'll still refer to her as Emily here). She was partying hard and getting into trouble. Nolan swings by to pick her up after a bar fight. It's been six months since he gave her David Clarke's journals. It's obvious she's yet to read them.
Conrad, Victoria and Frank are forced to deal with the fact that someone sent a note threatening to expose the truth about the late David Clarke. They invite all possible suspects to their annual New Year's Eve party at Grayson Manor. It's at one of these gala events that Victoria first met David. There was an instant connection. As for the 2002 bash, so many old friends we've come to know are on the guest list. Lydia and her husband, Michael, are the first to arrive. They announce that they are trying to buy David Clarke's old house. Too bad the current owners aren't entertaining any offers.
Emily stops by the Stowaway for a drink. She asks the pretty lady behind the bar for a vodka tonic, hold the tonic. The woman who serves her just happens to be dating a young Jack Porter. As short time later, Emily finally does read through her father's journals. She later convinces Jack's girlfriend to hook her up with a waitress gig at the Grayson family's New Year's bash. She intends to find out the truth about her father.
Some of the guests in attendance at the 2002 gala are Mason Treadwell, Bill Harmon, Senator Tom Kingsley and Dr. Michelle Banks. None of these folks had any clue that they would one day become the target of the young lady currently serving drinks. Also present at the party is Roger Halstead, a senior accountant at Grayson Global. According to David Clarke's journal, this guy was a true friend who knew he was innocent. Halstead was forced to keep quiet against his will.
Conrad reveals to Lydia that he and Victoria are the owners of David Clarke's house. The two of them chat about how they conspired against an innocent man. This is moments before they begin their extramarital affair. Conrad later announces that the house next door has suddenly become available. He wants Lydia nearby. Victoria is also onboard with the idea, as having a friend live in that house may help her forget about David. A photographer snaps a photo of Lydia and Victoria. It happens to be the shot that catches Emily in the background.
At the Stowaway, Nolan hits on the cute bartender before realizing she's Jack's girl. It's the moment when these two future buds first met. Nolan learns that he's partially responsible for forcing the Porter family to move out of their family home thanks to one of his real estate deals. He tries to make good with Jack's dad, but learns that it was all for the best. It's the only way he could hide the fact that his wife could care less about their two sons. Jack's opportunistic girlfriend overhears the conversation. She makes a move on Nolan, who gets decked by Jack. This seems fitting since these two have always had an up-and-down friendship.
Emily corners Halstead in the pool house to reveal her true identity. She lets him know that she's not afraid of the Graysons. Halstead, however, is. That's why he's become a drunkard as well as the prime suspect as the possible leak. Frank confronts him inside the pool house. Emily shows up during their uncomfortable chat, as Halstead had vowed to help her. Frank shuffles her out the door. When Emily returns, she finds Halstead dead in the bathtub in what's made to look like a suicide. As it turns out, Halstead didn't write the incriminating note. The real author was Treadwell.
Emily now knows that the Graysons will do anything to protect their empire. She reads a note that Halstead slipped her. He intended to tell her everything until they killed him. Emily makes an emotional phone call to Nolan vowing that she'll do whatever it takes to expose the people who framed her father. Back in present day, Emily rereads Halstead's note. She's doing so on the night of the Grayson's annual New Year's Eve bash. She's been to event before, but this time she'll be attending as a guest. Make that a guest with a plan for revenge.