The times they are a-changin’ in Hope Valley. That’s the theme of the May 2 episode of When Calls the Heart. From the unwelcome presence of school inspector Landis to a big shift in Lucas and Elizabeth’s relationship, there were some major developments in the penultimate season 8 episode of the Hallmark Channel drama.
Elizabeth defends her school in this episode of ‘When Calls the Heart’
We knew we hadn’t seen the last of school inspector Landis (Todd Thomson) when he showed up in town for graduation day at the Jack Thornton School. He reappears this week, and he has bad news for Elizabeth (Erin Krakow). With enrollment projected to rise significantly, the county board of education is more determined than ever to bring her school under its umbrella.
Elizabeth turns to Bill (Jack Wagner) for help fending off the threat. He thinks the council might be able to put a halt to the consolidation plans, but there’s a more immediate problem. Elizabeth still isn’t credentialed to teach blind students. If she welcomes Angela Canfield into her class, the district can shut her down immediately.
Elizabeth tries to negotiate with Landis, but he says he’s just the messenger. And he’s not budging on the requirements. Elizabeth is between a rock and a hard place. She’s promised Angela (and Angela’s mother) she’ll be able to attend school this year, but if she keeps that promise, she might not have a school at all.
Hope Valley under threat
Where are all those new students that put Elizabeth’s little one-room school at risk going to come from? Turns out, Hope Valley quaint small-town status is under threat. The shady Wyman Walden (Wesley Salter) is working for a group that’s buying up land with the idea of building a factory. They’ve snapped up the Canfield’s cabin — presumably prompting their move to town in this episode — and Wyman is trying to make a buck on the side by purchasing properties in town as well.
However, Wyman and his partners face some serious opposition once people get wind of their plans — just look at those skeptical faces during the glimpse we get of his sales pitch meeting. While Bill doubts they’ll get approval to build their factory, Wyman is convinced the prospect of easy money will ultimately sway people. But this is Hope Valley, where community comes first. Wyman will likely find the town’s residents less persuadable than he believes.
Rosemary finds her calling; Clara fears for Jesse
The silver lining in Wyman’s sneaky plans is that it helps Rosemary (Pascale Hutton) find her true calling. She’s decided to start a newspaper. A career as an investigative journalist is a perfect fit for her given that, as her husband Lee (Kavan Smith) puts it, she’s “a lot of bit nosy.”
Meanwhile, Jesse (Aren Buchholz) heads out of town on business for Lee. But when he doesn’t return home, Clara (Eva Bourne) grows increasingly frantic. A search party heads out; they find Lee’s car stuck in the mud, but no sign of Jesse. His wife fears the worst, but Lee assures her that Jess is likely OK. At least Clara is able to get her and Jesse’s money back from Wyman, but that’s hardly a consolation when she’s worried her husband isn’t coming home.
Carson makes a big decision
There are also big shifts in some relationships in this episode of When Calls the Heart. Carson (Paul Greene) starts out with big plans to propose to Faith (Andrea Brooks). But she’s not on the same page, expressing her reservations to Fiona (Kayla Wallace), who, it turns out, was engaged before she came to Hope Valley.
“People change,” Fiona tells her friend.
After a messy mix-up involving the engagement ring and a bowl of chocolate pudding, Carson starts to have second thoughts. He tells Lucas (Chris McNally) that losing the ring was a sign.
“I think that it just wasn’t meant to be,” he says, a comment that has Lucas reflecting on his own situation with Elizabeth.
Carson seems to be preparing to leave both Faith and Hope Valley behind. Does this mean Greene is leaving When Calls the Heart for good? Nothing’s been officially announced, but assuming the show is renewed for season 9, it seems there’s a chance we won’t be seeing much of him in the future.
Elizabeth bonds with Nathan
“Changing Times” is bookended by two scenes involving Elizabeth and her suitors. At the beginning of the episode, Nathan pays her a visit to drop off Florence’s wedding bouquet, playfully pulling them out of his hat — a rare moment where we get to see his more lighthearted side. “I guess she thought you would be the next one to be married,” he says.
This scene is the friendliest and most relaxed we’ve seen Elizabeth and Nathan with each other in a while. She’s so comfortable that she even asks him to take off his red serge. “Excuse me?” a shocked Nathan replies. But she’s not making a pass — he mentioned he was cold, and she wants to warm up his jacket by the fire, just like she used to with Jack.
Moments later, she’s helping him into his jacket, and even moving to button it up. It’s an intimate moment, and Elizabeth is taken aback. The situation obviously reminds her of her time with her late husband, but she may also be beginning to realize that she feels more deeply for Nathan than she’s previously allowed herself to admit.
Lucas exits the field
Elizabeth might not be sure yet about her feelings for Nathan, but a heartbroken Lucas thinks he’s got it all figured out. He saw the pair holding hands at the end of last week’s episode. Then, he drives by Elizabeth’s house in the opening moments of this episode, where he sees Nathan’s horse outside. Later, he shows up at the school, and Elizabeth is distracted and declines his lunch invitation. We find out that she ditched Lucas at Florence and Ned’s wedding (not cool, Elizabeth). “You didn’t even say goodbye,” he says. Elizabeth starts to try to explain, but Minnie (Natasha Burnett) interrupts their conversation.
Lucas has been willing to wait for Elizabeth, but his conversation with Carson sparks a realization. She keeps pushing him away, while at the same time appearing to get closer to Nathan. In the last moments of the episode, he pays a visit to Elizabeth to end things.
“Love … can’t be demanded, it can’t be forced,” he tells her. “I want you to find your true love. And in order to do that, I want, I need, to set you free.”
Elizabeth is too overcome with emotion to speak before Lucas departs. Her reaction is hard to read (likely a deliberate move from a show determined to keep viewers guessing until the very end about who she’ll choose). She might be feeling guilt about hurting Lucas combined with relief that she now has a green light to pursue Nathan. But it’s also possible that it’s only at the moment when she appears to have lost Lucas for good that she realizes it’s him she really loves.
The writers certainly seem to be setting up an Elizabeth-Nathan pairing for next week’s season finale, titled “The Kiss.” But McNally warned fans that this season would be a “rollercoaster,” (via Entertainment Tonight). There could well be one more twist coming in episode 12, when Elizabeth finally makes her long-awaited decision.
The When Calls the Heart Season 8 finale airs Sunday, May 9 at 9 p.m. ET on Hallmark Channel.