A bus full of children—presumably on some school trip based on the homework being distributed—inexplicably crashes off a mountain road. A few scream, then everything fades to black. Suddenly it’s “the present day.”
Things are hazy in the present. A butterfly busts out of a scientific-looking display after being mounted. An old man is startled next to a bottle of booze and a picture of presumably a deceased loved one. Then Camille, a young redhaired girl last seen on that tragic bus, is climbing up the side of the very mountain we assumed she fell to her death upon.
The first clear scene happens at the Lake Pub. Lena, a redhaired young adult, is drowning her sorrows in a pint. Her friends catch her father, Jerome, in the backroom for the third time this week with Lucy, the female bartender (all we know is Jerome handed her some money; she apologized and said “it doesn’t always work”).
Meanwhile in a community center of some type, The Returned gets its first bit of clarity. Jerome has arrived late for a meeting, what turns out to be a grief support group for adults impacted by the death(?) of those 38 students. It’s led by a man named Pierre, and this evening they’re celebrating a couple’s birth announcement while planning a memorial for the students (a wall with small niches representing each student). Everyone in attendance is thrilled… except Jerome, lamenting the cost.
If the eerie soundtrack didn’t flip the switch yet, now things explicitly begin to get weird. Camille has walked back into town to get home. Her mother, Claire, hears someone enter and calls out for Lena—dresser-top pictures reveal she and Camille were once twins (obviously now it’s something else entirely). She walks into the kitchen to see her daughter, but nothing could have prepared her for it being her other child.
Camille, for her part, operates entirely without fuss. She apologizes for coming home so late, swears something odd happened, but she’s too hungry and needs to make this sandwich before showing pre-bedtime. Claire frantically tries calling Pierre but gets his voicemail. She then dials Jerome, saying only that it’s urgent, he needs to come… and it involves Camille.
Jerome arrives at Claire’s to learn about the big return, and Camille confirms he’s her father (in the most dad way possible, he just barges in on her in the bathroom and she shouts “Dad, get out!”). Like Claire, he also has no answers. Camille walks in on the two adults clearly discussing something important (they stepped outside for more than Jerome’s smoke), and she starts to presume she must have some medical condition—maybe a coma? Why else can’t she remember what happened after waking up on the bottom of that mountain? She insists on seeing a doctor soon and attempts to call her friend Frederic before bed, but he doesn’t answer.
Frederic, meanwhile, is out drinking with Lena. Eventually, a long-haired man enters searching for a woman named Adele. He says she works there, but the current bartender disagrees. Lena, however, overhears this and insists she knows an Adele, an older woman who works at the local library. She’ll take the man there if he buys her a drink first (Frederic gets a bit annoyed by this and takes off).
Eventually, Pierre has arrived and declares he’s a doctor there to examine Camille. “I was on the bus and then I woke up in the mountains. Total blackout in between, could it be a brain tumor?” Camille is getting suspicious though. She notices Pierre doesn’t have tools and wonders if he’s a psychiatrist instead.
“I’m not crazy.”
“Do you know what crazy is? Crazy is denying reality,” he replies.
They put Camille to bed and exit her room.
Claire, Jerome and Pierre try to figure out what should happen next. Pierre balks at it being called “resurrection,” and Jerome reveals Claire has prayed for this “for years.”
“What’s she’s experiencing is terrifying but also amazing,” Pierre insists.
Late this evening, Lena and the strange longhaired man walk to Adele’s, through a tunnel and along the highway (we learn Adele tutored Lena last year, but it “didn’t do much good”). The man arrives at Adele’s house and stares at her through the window; Adele notices through a mirror but looks again and he’s gone… until a doorbell rings. Upon hearing his voice, she’s breathing heavily. Murmuring prayers to herself, Adele screams “leave me alone” before breaking down at the front door. Her daughter wakes up to find her. (Lena departed before the man approached the house, headed back to her own home.)
Lena sneaks home late, but she gets startled by a unique knock at the bedroom door. It’s can’t be Camille, but they had some sort of system and who else could it be? The door opens and the younger girl walks in. Lena is immediately freaked out; Camille is immediately freaked out. The twins are no longer twins. The panic only subsides when Claire rushes in to embrace Camille and never let go of Lena’s hand.
The end of the episode teleports four years earlier. Jerome and Claire are making breakfast as Camille gets ready to go on a school trip (“This sucks,” she laments). Lena is sick—faking according to Camille, a temperature according to Jerome—so she stays as the other three depart. As soon as they’re gone (well, Camille sees it in the window), Lena is up and she’s invited Frederic over.
Mid-bus trip, twin telepathy kicks in. Camille is breathing heavily on the bus as Lena and Frederic explore each other. It leads to Camille freaking out on the bus about wanting to get out, distracting the driver who doesn’t see Victor oddly standing mid-road…
Julie, a female doctor somewhere in her thirties, gets a call. The old man is having heart palpitations and needs her to come quickly. This man was alone at the start (he has that butterfly display), but we see that is no longer the case (a female voice calls for him outside of the room). As Julie leaves her apartment complex, a man just slightly younger than her is waiting at the front door. He asks if the codes have changed, but Julie lets him in… he proceeds to knock on her exact apartment, only to reveal to a neighbor he’s looking for a woman named Adele.
Julie arrives and administers some tests on the old man, Mr. Costa. There’s odd movement heard in his other room, but he insists he’s home alone this evening. Julie prepares to leave, but the man is still visibly shaking, short of breath as well. She departs, as Mr. Costa walks down his hallway to slowly reveal a younger woman handling some pasta in the kitchen. It’s a chorus similar to Camille’s “I was hungry.”
Julie takes a long public transit route back to her apartment as a children-of-the-corn-esque kid follows her… at the bus stop, on the bus, walking to her apartment and eventually to her front door. The boy will not speak, so Julie only detects him once he’s at her door. The neighbor spots him, comes questioning, and Julie claims him, calling the boy “Victor.” The neighbor is satisfied enough with the reasoning and leaves, only after telling Julie more about the young man from earlier.
Victor for his part, is hungry. Julie tries to get him to answer her questions, but the boy only smiles. She even threatens to call the cops on him even without luck. She eventually puts him to bed as he mutters his first word. When asked what his name is, he says “Victor.”
Lucy, later after getting paid by Jerome, closes up at the Lake Pub before walking home through the tunnel… where she is attacked. She bites the hooded man, even stabs him with his knife… but the man somehow still manages to stab and kill her.
Mr. Costa follows up Julie’s visit in the most peculiar of ways. He’s tossing pictures in a pile and dousing them in lighter fluid… all on his hardwood floor. His mysterious female visitor—the same woman from his tableside picture earlier—is gagged and tied to the bed, helpless to watch as the flames engulf everything.
The fire at Mr. Costa’s house is ruled an arson by local authorities, but they say no one was found on the premises. A missing persons report goes out on the elderly man. He eventually surfaces… on top of a damn in town. He jumps.
Adele, following her confrontation with the strange longhaired young man, is startled. The head of the authorities who responded to the Costa arson goes home, revealing he lives with Adele. He comforts her after she can only say “it happened again.”
That longhaired boy? His name as Simon… he walks to a graveyard and discovers his own gravestone. He died in 2002 around the age of 30.
While it’s not clear what “Returned” means at this point, the following characters are certainly dealing with something out of the ordinary
Simon discovered he died in 2002 but is back in town searching for Adele (a librarian with a daughter, married to a local cop).
Camille had a twin, but Lena is now noticeably older. She died in a bus accident during a school trip, but has returned home without any recollection of what happened.
Mr. Costa’s female companion, shown in a tableside image as he drowned his sorrows in booze, suddenly joined him and caused some shortness of breath. Costa was so overwhelmed that he tied her to the bed and burned his house down, later taking his own life.
Victor, based solely on his hunger (a trait exhibited by Camille and Mr. Costa’s female companion), seems to be a unique kid.