Out in the deep, dark forest, Emily is giving Paige directions from a GPS like she didn’t one time follow the orders of one of those things right into a deserted barn where she was summarily trapped, poisoned by carbon monoxide, and forced to make out with the ghost of her dead ex-girlfriend. The first ghost of her first dead ex-girlfriend. Emily realizes that the further into the woods they drive, the less Paige is able to carry on a conversation/breathe. Finally, Paige stops the car and hurls herself out the door and succumbs to a full-blown panic attack. When she finally manages to wheeze her way to semi-consciousness, she just starts blurting out all the truths: For one thing, she’s not on lockdown from her parents. She only told Emily that because she hoped it meant they could stay in and watch movies and makeout and not get savagely attacked and beaten to death all the time. And for another thing, she can barely even manage to stay inside her own car right now because it reminds her of being tied up in Cousin Nate’s trunk and stuffed in Cousin Nate’s closet.
Emily is like, “Why didn’t you just tell me?” And Paige just breaks: “Because you said you like ballsy women! On our first date at that karaoke place, that is what you said so me! Strong, confident women! Your first girlfriend bent the will of God and the principles of linear time with her mind! Your second girlfriend survived in the hellscape of Noel Kahn’s murder cabin! And the last time I wasn’t brave, when I wasn’t ready to come out of the closet, I lost you!”
When I think about Paige before we met her, what I imagine is this girl standing in front of a full-length mirror in her bedroom, hair braided, hand extended in front of her, her thumb and forefinger making the shape of a finger-gun, pointing at her own reflection and going, “You’re not. You’re just not.” Unable even to say out loud the thing she was afraid of being, which, of course, was gay. But that was just a start of the things she would not allow her brain to admit to her heart. Gay, yes. In love with Emily Fields, too. Terrified of losing anything, everything: swim meets, hockey games, herself. Deeply, profoundly alone. Just pointing at herself in that mirror and willing her spirit to obey the way she could will her body to obey. Don’t crack. Don’t crack. Don’t crack.
And being with Emily, it just split her wide open in ways she didn’t even know existed. ‘Cause that’s how love does you. And there’s this part of Paige still staring herself down in that mirror, saying over and over, “You’re not. You’re not.” You’re not afraid of the dark. You’re not afraid of closed spaces. You’re not afraid of you dying or her dying. You’re not vulnerable. You’re not breakable. You’re not alone. You’re not.
For the Liars, it has been hell by degrees, and now here they are, only one small step away from where they were yesterday, but Paige has been plunged into the thick of the nightmare from the regular world.
And so she does the most courageous thing of all: She says out loud that she’s terrified.
Emily thinks the solution is some fresh air, and since there’s none of that here in this part of the wide open forest, they walk arm-in-arm to another part of the forest, where the fresh air is.
Aria stalks Meredith to the Rosewood Grille where the two of them have a grown-up talk about Byron’s murdering tendencies. Meredith’s story is that she keeps catching Byron rifling through Aria’s stuff, and also her own stuff when he thinks it’s Aria’s stuff, and so to pay him back, she rifled through his stuff and found Ali’s diary pages that Aria snagged. Also, just by the way, Byron did sneak away from Ella the night Ali disappered. He thought Meredith and Ali were blackmailing him together, and when Mer told him it wasn’t true, he huffed off into the night to confront Ali. Next morning, dead Ali.
I can’t believe I am about to say this, because, as you know, I am the least likely candidate in the world to show Byron Montgomery even a shred of mercy, but I think Mer is playing Aria right now. I think she stole the pages and confronted Byron with them and that’s how come they were hollering in the hallway. It’s just way too early in the season for Byron be to this year’s Big Bad, and, frankly, I’m just not that lucky. So, Byron: Still sucks. But Meredith: Is doing dirt.