‘When Calls the Heart’ Season 8, Episode 1 Recap: ‘Open Season’

When Calls the Heart returned to Hallmark Channel on Sunday, Feb. 21. Season 8 picks up several months after the end of season 7, and the show wasted no time in getting Hearties up to speed with where things stand in Hope Valley. Let’s dive in. 

[Spoilers ahead for When Calls the Heart Season 8, Episode 1.] 

Lucas and Nathan have both been away from Hope Valley 

Lucas and Nathan standing next to each other
Chris McNally, Kevin McGarry | ©2020 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

If there’s one theme in the When Calls the Heart Season 8 premiere, it’s of return and renewal. It’s springtime in Hope Valley, and Elizabeth (Erin Krakow) is looking forward to “the promise of renewed life and a fresh start.” 

First up is a meeting between Hope Valley’s favorite teacher and mountie Nathan (Kevin McGarry). McGarry has promised that Nathan will be more assertive this season, and we immediately see evidence of that. He reminds Elizabeth that they still haven’t gone on the dinner date she agreed to in the season 7 finale. He suggests that night, but she hesitates. 

In her voiceover, Elizabeth explains that Lucas (Chris McNally) is out of town and Nathan has been busy as well. She admits that with both men away, she’s been able to avoid her feelings. But she knows she must make a choice eventually. 

Lucas shows up at Elizabeth’s door, and he gets a more enthusiastic welcome than Nathan. He wants to apologize for leaving without saying goodbye. An emotional Lucas says he saw her embrace Nathan and was jealous. 

Jesse and Clara fight, Faith returns 

Faith sitting next to a man in a wagon in When Calls the Heart season 8 premiere episode
Jonathan Purvis, Andrea Brooks | ©2021 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

RELATED: ‘When Calls the Heart’: Meet the Season 8 Cast and Characters

Things are tense between newlyweds Jesse (Aren Buchholz) and Clara (Eva Bourne), who aren’t even sleeping in the same bedroom. Meanwhile, Carson (Paul Greene) is worried about Faith (Andrea Brooks), who is returning from medical school. She left Chicago five days ago and should be back by now. 

Nathan gets an unexpected — and unwelcome — visitor in the form of his niece Allie’s (Jaeda Lily Miller) father Dylan (Donovan Stinson). His ne’er-do-well brother-in-law demands $1,000 in exchange for leaving them alone. Nathan tells him to get lost.  

Rosemary (Pascale Hutton) and Lee (Kavan Smith) return from their South American cruise. Carson is disappointed Faith isn’t on the stagecoach, but minutes later, she arrives. After her stage broke down, she got a ride with a flirty cowboy, much to Carson’s consternation. 

Nathan plans to adopt Allie 

Nathan tells Allie he plans to formally start adoption proceedings. Allie is delighted, but Elizabeth can tell that something is troubling Nathan. He tells her everything is fine and doesn’t divulge that Allie’s father is in town. 

Carson and Faith have a heart-to-heart chat. He admits he got nervous when she stopped writing as frequently and is afraid they’re drifting apart. Later, Faith tells him she’s just happy to be home. 

Jesse tells Lee he and Clara are having problems, while a tearful Clara opens up to Rosemary. Later, Lee and Rosemary cook up a plan to save Clara and Jesse’s relationship by giving them a special gift.

Nathan tends to avoid Lucas, for obvious reasons. But he turns to the saloon owner to borrow the money he needs to get Allie’s father to leave town. 

Elizabeth tells Rosemary she’s finished her book and updates her friend on the Lucas-Nathan situation. “I realized I care for [Nathan] more than I thought,” she admits. But does that mean she loves him? At this point, it’s hard to say. 

Nathan hatches a plan, Fiona goes into business 

Nathan concocts a mysterious plan involving Allie’s father. Bill (Jack Wagner) tells him it’s a bad idea. Before heading out of town, Nathan stops by Elizabeth’s house. She tells him to be safe. 

Lucas took control of the oil company last season. Now, the well isn’t producing. Hickam (Ben Rosenbaum) suggests a new technique for extracting the oil, but Gowen (Martin Cummins) says it’s risky — and dangerous. Still, Lucas seems interested. 

At season 7’s end, Fiona (Kayla Wallace) was fired from the phone company. Now, she’s going into business for herself — she’s taking over the barbershop. Later, she tells Clara she doesn’t want to just be a “replaceable cog in [a] big wheel.” 

Nathan rides through the woods in the dark, where he’s attacked by Dylan. Allie’s father takes the money and rides off. 

Clara and Fiona sneak off from the cafe, which rouses Bill’s suspicions. He tries to figure out what they’re up to but is caught by Molly (Johannah Newmarch). The town gossip teases him about being nosy. There’s definitely a flirty vibe between these two. Perhaps perpetual bachelor Bill will finally settle down this season. 

Lucas explains himself to Elizabeth, Nathan gets his man

Lucas — who has a fancy new car — fills Elizabeth in on what he’s been up to while he was away. He was in Louisiana helping rebuild a school destroyed in a hurricane. Elizabeth is impressed. Lucas has always seemed a bit slick and worldly, which was a potential obstacle to their relationship. But he’s showing a more thoughtful side here. He tells her he just wants her to be happy. 

Nathan finds Dylan holed up in a cabin. It turns out, he wanted Allie’s father to attack him so he’d have an excuse to arrest him.

A failed dinner date, a new face in town  

Nathan is in a good mood after making his arrest. The only thing that could make things better is dinner with Elizabeth. He asks her out (again) and she hesitates (again). She’s not sure if her babysitter is free, but it appears she’s avoiding Nathan because she’s afraid of losing him like she did her husband Jack. Nathan suggests little Jack and Allie join them for dinner, and Elizabeth agrees. 

Jesse kisses Clara's hand in When Calls the Heart Season 8 premiere
Aren Buchholz, Eva Bourne | ©2021 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

Lee and Jesse have a chat, with the former reminding the younger man that marriage is work. Jesse brings Clara flowers; she gives him a book. Then, Rosemary and Lee present their gift to the couple. It’s a tandem bicycle, which is actually pretty cute. They ride off together, all smiles. 

Finally, it’s time for Elizabeth and Nathan’s long-delayed dinner. The little group heads to the cafe. Of course, Lucas is there. His mother (and Elizabeth’s editor) has just arrived, and there are strained introductions all around. Lucas and Helen head off, and suddenly Elizabeth isn’t feeling well. She asks Nathan if they can put off their dinner one more time. He politely agrees, but he’s obviously disappointed.

Does Elizabeth’s reluctance have to do with Nathan, or is she just nervous about having to talk to Helen about her writing? Hopefully we’ll find out more in the next episode of When Calls the Heart, which airs Sunday, Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. ET on Hallmark Channel.