The fifth episode of Little Fires Everywhere ventured into the backgrounds of two mothers in suburban Ohio at odds about who is considered a mother.

Reese Witherspoon is Elena Richardson, a white housewife/journalist raising four teens in a mansion with her husband, who finds herself investigating the woman she rented her family cottage property to. Kerry Washington is Mia Warren, a single black mother who recently moved to Shaker Heights with her teen daughter, has become an enigma for Elena. Mia is fighting for her friend, Bebe Chow played by Lu Huang, to regain custody of the baby girl she had left at a fire station due to the hardships of having no support as recent Chinese immigrant. But Elena’s friend, Linda McCullough played by Rosemarie DeWitt, is planning to adopt the baby. This causes a rift between Elena and Mia who were developing a relationship as so was their combined five kids.


The episode opens in 1976 in Paris with Elena, the younger version played by AnnaSophia Robb, dancing in a disco with her boyfriend at the time, Jamie, played by Luke Bracey. They’re studying abroad as Denison University students until Elena starts packing her suitcase to head back to Shaker Heights. Jamie is hesitant to join in the packing and admits he doesn’t want to go back home. He wants a global life and tries to convince Elena she wants to do the same. They break up.

Fast forward to 1997 where Elena is using her journalistic skills to research Mia. Her leads end up in New York City where Mia had attended art school. After Linda comes to the newspaper office blaming Elena for the fiasco of her possibly losing baby Mirabelle aka May Ling for Bebe and her supporters, Elena heads off to NYC in a frenzy.

In NYC, Elena bribes the art school’s receptionist with cupcakes to get Mia’s files. On her way back to the hotel, she decides to take a detour to The New York Times, where Jamie works. She asks Jamie to hunt down additional information since the newspaper recently printed a story on Mia selling a photograph of herself pregnant and naked in a bathtub called “Duo.” Jamie says he’ll help and asks Elena to dinner afterward.

Their fancy dinner is going well with Jamie discussing his life as a foreign correspondent and living all over the world compared to Elena raising her four kids and only talking about those kids. When they depart, Elena confesses, when pressed, she wanted to see what Jamie’s life was like after pursuing the dream she thought she would pursue herself. She then asks Jamie to run off with her. In disbelief, Jamie calls Elena selfish and leaves.


Lexie, played by Jade Pettyjohn, is the eldest Richardson daughter who’s also a popular cheerleader dating the popular football player Brian, played by Stevonte Hart. In the last episode, Lexie brags about having sex with Brian. Now, she’s pregnant.

She only confides in Pearl, Mia’s daughter played by Lexi Underwood, who has become more of a pet than a friend. But Pearl is desperate to fit in.

In her car, Lexie wants to tell Brian she’s pregnant until she asks about  the Mirabelle/May Ling situation. Who should have the baby has become a dividing topic in the picture-perfect Ohio suburb. Trying to find an ounce about his interest in children, Brian mentions he’s leaning to Bebe’s side since she’s the biological mother. He also adds he’s not ready for kids at all and doesn’t even want to hear about it. They’re only seniors in high school. With a pained look, Lexie stares straight ahead.

Later, Lexie is at the abortion clinic. When asking for an appointment, she notices one of her mother’s doctor friends in the background. It spooks her. For support, she calls Pearl, who is the shiny example of sincere support. Lexie tells Pearl she’s the only one she’s confided in about the pregnancy, with Pearl earlier holding the pregnancy test and breaking the news to Lexie. Pearl smiles a bit. Until the nurse calls her name. Lexie gets up and quickly apologizes for registering under her friend’s name.

Pearl waits for Lexie, who refuses to go home. She asks why her name was used. Lexie explains it matters if people knew she had an abortion. So Pearl drives Lexie to her home where Mia senses what happened and comforts Lexie. After Lexie relaxes into a nap, Pearl shows her mother Lexie’s discharge papers with her name on them. Mia tells Pearl she doesn’t like how Lexie treats her. Pearl admits she had sex with the eldest Richardson son Trip, played by Jordan Elsass, and it wasn’t what she hoped for. Then Trip calls Pearl.

When Lexie wakes up, she asks Mia what decision she would have made. Perturbed by the question, Mia tells Lexie she needs to trust her decision and adds how she didn’t like the way Lexie used Pearl’s name at the clinic. Lexie complains that she had no one else to turn to. Mia counteracts that Lexie had a million places to turn to.

I think my daughter skipped school to help you and you thanked her by using her name and then demanding she take care of you. I spent two months cooking your diners, working in your house and you never so much as uttered a thank you and now you want more. Pearl may have love to give and give to you, but I do not.

Meanwhile, Pearl meets Trip at a swing set. Trip apologizes to her for being mean during her first time after his youngest sister Izzy, played by Megan Stott, pointed out his tendency to sleep with girls and not care about their feelings. Trip tells Pearl she’s different. “You read The Bell Jar for fun. I don’t even know what the fuck The Bell Jar is still,” he says. “And you’re really really pretty.”

Pearl accepts his apology, and they hold hands.


After Elena can’t sleep with Jamie’s words and Joshua Jackson as her husband Bill’s voice messages in her head, she drives into Pennsylvania to meet with Mia’s parents.

They hadn’t seen Mia in fifteen years. Shocked, Elena asks if they ever met their grandchild, Pearl. They say no. They also add Pearl is not their granddaughter.

This confuses Elena. Then it’s hinted Mia was a surrogate who kidnapped the child, which is the reason why she jumps from town to town.

Additional secrets that come up around Mia includes:

  • Mia Warren is Mia Wright. She changed her last name to Warren, the name of her younger brother she lost in a car accident when he was 17.
  • When Pearl asked for the umpteenth time about her father, Mia returns to the nightmare on the subway she’s had in previous episodes where Jesse Williams is coming toward her. Who is he?
  • Mia digs into a memory box after the paternity question. She finds a roll of photos to develop. Once developed, we see Anika Noni Rose appear in the photo. Who is she?

Little Fires Everywhere is streaming now on Hulu. New episodes will arrive on Wednesdays.