The other girls go after Ali’s voice, but then Spencer disappears just like Hanna did. And I gotta say, the whole “suddenly supernatural” deal with the cobwebs and the old-timey photographs and the creepy disembodied laughter and folks suddenly disappearing into thin air is all a little overplayed for me. We get it. Ravenswood is creepy. Anyway, while they search for Spencer/Hanna/Ali/the door, Emily and Aria find an open window and Em is like “Fuck this, I’m shinnying down the drainpipe. I’ll be back with an army or my girlfriend or both.” And the whole time there’s this jagged piece of glass hovering over the window and even though it’s technically right above Aria’s head, you know that Emily is the only one in serious danger of getting GLASS IN HER NECK.
But it’s all a takeout, no one is guillotined, because they are distracted once more by the sound of Ali’s screams.
Spencer’s personal haunted house experience takes her to a greenhouse, where she comes face-to-face with Gasmask. But—and this is why I love Spencer—rather than screaming or running or asking it to take off all its masks, please, Spencer grabs the closest pair of pruning shears and slices the fucker’s wrist open. While he is incapacitated, she clocks him over the head, and then reaches down to unmask him.
And oh, how I wish she could have this moment. Because all the other Liars want closure, or freedom, or peace of mind from A, but Spencer wants TO WIN. Her checkmate will have to wait, though, because Gasmask springs up and knocks her unconscious. She is found there by Aria and Emily, and together they resume the hunt for Alison. They follow her voice, but it only leads them to an old-fashioned (and therefore evil) tape recorder playing her cries for help. And I like to think that this is another face mask situation, where Ali made the tape for some creepy old dude in a cabin, who collects “young girls in peril” noises as a hobby. Oh, but wait, The Grunwald shows up and is like “why are you guys listening to my private tapes?” She also drops some nonsense about how one of the Liars has been “touched by the one Ali feared most,” and you can just see Spencer going “What base are we talking here, because I have had some times with some Rosewood villains.”
Outside the mansion, Hanna and Miranda reunite with Caleb, and Hanna tries to drag them all back through the haunted tunnel. The entrance seems to have disappeared, or else can only be unlocked by someone wearing a funny hat, but Miranda stumbles upon a tombstone with her name and face on it.
Hanna is all too eager to escape from this hellhole with no cell tower, but she doesn’t want to leave Miranda unprotected. So she kisses Caleb full on the mouth, long enough for all the Haleb shippers to lock it in their pockets forever, and asks him to stay in Ravenswood. When I pictured this moment, I always thought it would play out with Hanna tearfully begging Caleb to come back with her, and him refusing. But I much prefer it this way: as an act of solidarity between two girls, which is the home base this show always comes back to.
When the rest of the gang finally escapes the mansion, it is to discover that Spencer’s car has a flat. Spencer and Aria both turn to Emily and are like “Sooo—can you change a tire?” And Emily is like “Oh yeah, I always keep a car jack in my back pocket, next to my copy of Written on the Body.” And Aria and Spencer are like “Whoa, seriously?” But it turns out to be a moot point, since the spare is missing and Ezra rolls up to the rescue. And astute viewers will note that his hand (the hand that Spencer injured with those pruning shears like a goddamn Amazon) stays hidden in his pocket the whole time.
The second Ezra drops off the Liars, who should appear but Alison. Really. I am so used to seeing her appear as a fakeout wrapped inside five layers of masks, disappearing behind a trick mirror, but this time she’s just there. Standing mere feet from the last place they all saw her together.
And I thought—I think most of us thought—we were prepared for this moment. The show has teased the idea that Ali has been alive for a while now, and the timeline in A’s lair seemed to confirm it. But big reveal isn’t Ali’s existence; it’s the way she looks scared and vulnerable and still strong. It’s the way that, for the first time, we can see what the Liars used to see in her. What Emily saw and loved in her, which was this terrifying, infuriating, charismatic, fragile, girl. To see Ali as a person, and not as a faceless, everywhere-and-nowhere presence, that’s the big surprise of this episode.
She can’t stay long, she says. And then Emily just blurts “Ali, don’t leave again” and there is whole world of pain and longing in that sentence that we could spend from now until January unravelling. But Ali says she wants to come home. She just needs the Liars help. And help among these friends has always meant one thing: secrets. And then Ezra reappears and Ali disappears, leaving us with one big answer and a hundred new questions.
My question for you is: How do you feel about Ali being alive? And what will this do to Emily?