Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Bethany Young was the third to last person to get dug up out of Veronica Hastings’ azaleas, but the most last person to be identified, an announcement that lost some of its punch when the Liars and their lovers felt the quake of Toby’s house getting blown to smithereens right next door. Emily smooched on Ali and didn’t sleep for many days due to keeping Ali safe for more smooches. Hanna smooched on Travis while thinking about Caleb who was thinking about witches and ghosts and how instead of being in Ravenswood, he might actually have been at Radley. Spencer accused everyone in her family, including herself, of murdering any of the young blonde ladies the cops keep digging up in their yard. And Aria decided to volunteer at Radley to forge a new bond with Spencer and also to prevent herself from slipping on Ezra Fitzgerald’s dick anymore.
In the bathroom, the Liars bitch and moan about the free home cooked meal and how Pam is up to something and everybody’s got stuff to do this afternoon, man. Aria is working at Radley. Spencer is going to Ezra’s to help him with his quote research and spy stuff. And Hanna’s got a full schedule of just straight up being better than this bullshit. Her clothes are over it and her hair is over it and her face is over it and her mouth also is over it, and I don’t just mean her new Gonzo-colored lipstick. When Ali says they’ll suck it up and do Pam’s dinner, Hanna says, “As always, your wish is our command.” Ali goes, “What’s that supposed to mean?” like she hasn’t spent half her life trying to make sure that exact thing is true. And Hanna just rolls her eyeballs like some kind of Liz Lemon and bounces.
Ali holds Emily back after the meeting to ask if she’ll walk her home from school because she’s got the most experience killing guys and also because she’s not sure if french kissing is still on the table, but if it is, she needs to get Emily alone. She is, inexplicably wearing another noose around her neck. Actually, she’s wearing it to cover up getting strangled with the yellow noose last week. Emily tells her not to worry. Nobody ever calls out Aria on what she’s wearing so Ali is surely safe. But then! Sydney Driscoll pops out of the stall like how Emily popped out from around Paige’s locker last week, Orphan Black Helena’s WEEEEEWOOOOO music piercing the silence. Sydney introduces herself, touches Ali’s scarf, compliments it, and sliiides on out the door in a cloud of sex appeal that smells remarkably like Jenna Marshall.
Hallway of Cow Brains and Menacing LED Marquees
Out in the quad, Caleb is reading Swamp Thing and eating French Fries for breakfast, like hobos do. Hanna sits and chomps down on his fries, three at a time, which indicates to him that she’s feeling weird about something. He surmises that it’s Ali and she confirms that it is and he suggests she shut it down and she worries that she’ll lose her friends in the divorce, because god knows Emily was six inches from killing her to death last week for bucking lesbian protocol.
Caleb is there to take his exit exams, the one thing besides dying a person can do to quit Rosewood High School. He hasn’t studied but he doesn’t give a shit because he doesn’t give a shit about anything because once you get strangled in the bathtub in a haunted house owned by your ghost bestie’s uncle who has been charged with keeping tabs on your marked soul so you can be sacrificed in conjunction with four other teenagers due to a death pact sealed by your ancestors who were in George Washington’s Revolutionary War cavalry, it’s hard to feel like you have any control over anything and subsequently give some shits.
She doesn’t mention that while all these things are true, the flip side is she pulled Hanna’s ass out of a fire a couple of months ago and visited her in the hospital after Mona mowed her down, because she knows there’s no reasoning with him. His mind is made up. So she decides to chop this thing off at the knees.
Aria’s rookie day at Radley goes about as well as you’d expect. The first thing she does is practically confess to killing Shana when Eddie Lamb reads her name off her name tag. All he says is “Aria” and she’s like, “Who, me? No, not me. I mean, yes, my name is Aria, but not like Aria Montgomery as in the Aria Montgomery who pistol whipped the dead girl they found in the New York theater owned by the former literature professor at Rosewood High with whom I — or, rather, my doppelganger has been seen snogging around town in the rain. Nice to meet you?” He says she looks familiar, probably because Spencer talked about her so much, but she insists that she is familiar to no one, least of all Shana Fring. “That girl whose funeral had more than six million views on YouTube?” “That’s the one.”
I chose to believe Bethany Young is a Mona plant and that we will see her riding on the wings of a pegasus alongside Tippi the Bird before this season is through.
Spencer finds Melissa cleaning out the backyard barn where she has decided to move to give her dad some space in her apartment in Philly. But wouldn’t you know: Somebody’s been squatting in there like someone squatted under the DiLaurentis porch, peeping and creeping and leaving half-eaten bags of Doritos all over the place, so there’s rats everywhere. Spencer’s like, “What are you hiding in that garbage bag, butthole?” And Melissa is like, “I literally just told you it’s a rat.” A rat falls out of the bag. Spencer jumps and shrieks, “A RAT.”
Caleb lets himself into Hanna’s kitchen to drink more beers and tell her a thing or two that he learned about “the world” when he was hanging out with time-traveling scarecrows and old ladies who keep souls in Mason jars over in Ravenswood, and what he learned is: If you are killed with a gaggle of other teenagers and resurrected due to a double suicide, that doesn’t mean you can always be resurrected because reversing sorcery on original sorcery is one thing, but reversing sorcery on reversed sorcery is entirely another. And ain’t nobody needing any “algebra” or “language arts” to figure that shit out. Also, Alison is a no good B, in his opinion, and Hanna should dump her. Hanna is like, “It’s not that easy.” And Caleb takes a swig of his cheap ass malt liquor and says, “GD B, Hanna.” She kicks him out.
Spencer goes to Ezra’s to — no joke — help him pack up the equipment he used to survival and manipulate them for two years and carry the boxes to storage to keep his ass out of jail for another in a string of neverending felonies. And Ezra Fitzgerald, this clown over here, he doesn’t even have the grace to apologize or even look contrite. Spencer is no stranger to sociopathic tendencies, so when she realizes she’s not going to get any closure out of this or convince him to stop slipping into Aria, she asks to borrow one of his cameras.
Spencer can imagine because her sister probably throws pizzas too. RAT PIZZAS. Ezra says he probably made everything worse for the Liars and for Alison. Spencer says Ezra probably doesn’t know what “probably” means.
This show is a trillion times more fun when Janel Parrish is around.
Rhonda creeps up on Aria in the dark at Radley talking about, “How you gonna steal pottery from blind girls and make earrings from baby goose carcass without any hands, little girl?” Eddie Lamb rushes in and keeps her from cracking Aria’s skull for stealing Bethany’s sketchbook from her. But Aria can’t stop! She sneaks into Rhonda’s room and snoops around and almost gets caught, but she hides under Rhonda’s bed at the last second, and of course Bethany’s sketchbook is tucked up into the springs. She texts Emily to say she’ll be late to dinner because Radley “just” got interesting. Because flying patients and lesbian ghost dances and pirate treasure maps and ghoulish dolls and teddy bear picnics and Mona whispering about Miss Aria You’re A Killer Not Ezra’s Wife just wasn’t interesting enough.
Eddie Lamb catches up to her on her way out, asks why she’s so jumpy and what she’s looking for, and Aria screams, “YOU KNOW NOTHING EDDIE LAMB I DIDN’T MURDER SHANA FRING” as she drives away.
Always the cool cat, that Anita.
Once Aria rounds the bend, Eddie Lamb calls up Ezra Fitz.
Before Ali joins Emily and her mom inside for some delicious popovers, she takes a moment to speak to Hanna about the necessity of shutting it the fuck down with Caleb. She says you can’t trust your brain when your lips are attached to other lips, and that’s even when you have the kind of mental alacrity that allows you to get your seaplane pilot’s license at the age of 14. And it’s just the final straw for Hanna. She’ll chaperone you to the funeral home, the hospital, she’ll stand beside you on the roof when someone is trying to shoot your guts out, she’ll remember your lies and make copies of them for everyone else to memorize. She’ll blow it off when you keep reminding her about Hefty. She’ll allow that Mona goaded you into smacking her face. But don’t you fucking tell her her business about her beautiful hobo.
Hanna takes a full glass of vodka to the dinner table with her. It’s … messy. And awesome.
Emily realizes Hanna has been boozing it up right in front of her mom, but Hanna just shrugs and says vodka helps wash down baloney. So Emily takes her keys and sends her home on foot. Before Hanna leaves, she’s like, “P.S. Your mom doesn’t believe a word of what Alison is saying.”
I think it was a really clever move by the writers this season to take the two Liars that Ali has damaged the most and have them come at the situation in exact opposite ways. Emily with her otherworldly grace and capacity to forgive, taking all of Ali’s legitimate sadness and desperation and fear and grief, and wrapping it up with Ali inside her Hufflepuff arms so Ali doesn’t have to shoulder her burdens alone anymore. And Hanna with her planet-hopping strides toward self-awareness and emotional health, taking all of Ali’s same-old bullshit and lies, and rejecting it with her Gryffindor force to keep it from consuming her again.
And the thing is, they’re both right. Ali is a victim and a bully, a lost child and a cognizant adult, a selfless hero and a monster of self-preservation. But maybe only Spencer can see her for those multitudes because she is fathomless too.
I also think it’s fascinating to see how Alison’s resurrection has divided fans as much as it has divided the Liars.
It’s funny — I mean, not ha-ha funny because most of what I’m about to say hits my inbox with the strength of a thousand angry hornets, but more like: amusing, I guess — the way so many people are staunchly convinced they’ve got Alison’s whole deal figured out and anyone who dares to disagree about her motivations or actions (or even just say, “Yeah, I dunno what her game is yet”) is a moron and a punk. My stance on this Emison thing, just for an example. I don’t know how many people have had a holler at me about what a jerk I’m being for not rooting for Emily and Alison. But dudes, I don’t even know Alison. I can be fascinated by Alison and blown the fuck over every single week by Sasha Pieterse’s seemingly infinite depth as an actor and not root for Emily and Alison. Just like I can worship Mona Vanderwaal as a TV character and Janel Parrish as a freaking magician and not root for Hanna to fall in actual lesbians with her.
I watched a pair of literature professors with five doctorates between them almost come to physical blows over Hamlet the other day and the only thing I could think was, “I’ll bet those guys tag their hate!” And so I guess if that’s how it is, if that’s the facts of life, that we gotta beat each other up because of the way stories sit in our bones, it’s good we finally have a show that highlights so many queer experiences to murder each other over. Neoclassicists shouldn’t have a monopoly on screaming and throwing punches while talking about whether or not their favorite protagonist is bonkers.
Somebody hit me up with a Tumblr ask last week and wondered if all recappers get people going, “You’re a jerk for not writing this recap the way I wanted it to be written!” And what I said was that probably all recappers get that, but it’s especially true when you’re talking about the LGBTQ community because while representation is better than it ever has been on TV, it’s mostly still sparse and one-dimensional. Like if you want to watch two straight white cop-adjacent people fall in love, you can choose from sixty TV shows. If you want to laugh about a straight white married couple pratfalling all over themselves, you can choose between a hundred TV shows. But if you want to watch an authentic coming-of-age love story with openly queer young women, your choices are extremely limited.
If you can’t change the channel, you’re gonna get loud about trying to change the story.
Here’s a secret (lock it in your pocket, etc.). 95 times out of a 100, when you think a writer is fucking you over re: your favorite fictional couple, you’re not being fucked over. You’re coming face-to-face with the awful realization that wanting something doesn’t mean it’s your right to have it. And the Vonnegutesque truth about how the thing that makes stories work is constant conflict.
But being a gay TV viewer complicates that because lots of times we’re not just demanding what we want to see; we’re crawling through the desert on our hands and knees, begging for a story that we actually need.
My favorite non-Harry Potter book is Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux because it gets to the root of the soul’s thirst for story. There’s a part of the book where Despereaux, this timid little castle mouse, gets locked in the dungeon in the dark and it goes like this:
Let me tell you what it has been like recapping this show since the beginning: Every week, year after year, hundreds of emails from people saying how Emily Fields and Maya St. Germain and Paige McCullers have been the “Once upon a time” they told themselves in the dark. Emily stepping out of the closet with the grace of a poem and never looking back. Maya refusing to conform or apologize for living outside society’s expectations at all times always. Paige recognizing her brokenness and making herself whole. Stacks and stacks of emails from people explaining how they siphoned off the courage of those three characters and cleared their throats and dropped their tails and stood up straight and spoke into the darkness.
A generation of young gay women saying “Once upon a time” into their own personal dungeons and telling and telling and telling themselves the stories of Emily and Maya and Paige.
Could Alison be one of those stories one day? Absolutely. But for me, right now, she’s not. She’s one of my favorite TV characters. She’s played by a ridiculously talented actor. But telling me to shut my “pro-Paily” mouth and stop rooting for two characters who symbolize the triumph of the It Gets Better generation, two characters who stood sentinel as DOMA was overturned and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was reversed down and 19 states struck down their same-sex marriage bans is just kind of silly.
You can’t quantify love, right? If I tell you that I love my girlfriend because she’s wicked smart and uproariously funny and so, so sweet to me, and you show up at my doorstep with a girl who is even smarter and funnier and sweeter, do you think I’m going to leave my girlfriend for that girl? No, of course not. Because my girlfriend makes me feel like my soul found its parking space. Her spirit feels like my spirit’s matching Lego piece. And so much of that is the years of experience we’ve had loving each other.
Paige and Emily have been with us a long time. I’m not saying they’re forever. I’m sure as shit never saying the word “endgame.” But I’m not going to stop cheering for them just because Alison and Emily are sexy as hell together.
Mrs. D killed Ali thinking she was Cece and then buried her alive but when Ali went missing she needed another blonde girl to fill the hole in the backyard so she offed Bethany Young, who just happened to be a patient at Radley with a vendetta against her because she was on the Radley Board of Directors and covered up the fact that Toby’s mom’s fall from the roof wasn’t a suicide.
Spencer’s bright idea? Show the sketchbook to Toby. That surely won’t send him wailing back to that guy who’s writing a book about the flavors of the clouds.
Hastings Kitchen of Whiskey Lullabies
Emily’s Bedroom of Post-Traumatic Stress Scissoring
Rear Window Brew of Coffee and Capitulation
Spencer uses some of Ezra’s spy equipment to peep on her backyard and what she sees is Ali lurking around back there in undercover gear. Or Ali’s twin trying to return home to Spencer’s barn but finding Melissa inside. Or Cece Drake modeling this season’s best ski clothes. Or anyone wearing any number of masks taking a turn about the yard in the pale moonlight. Spencer, of course, sends out an SOS blast.
Before Emily gets the text, she calls up Paige and leaves a voicemail: “I heard about that rat in your hat. I should have called earlier to check on you. Or, like, not have pressured you into narcing on Mona’s crew for information we could have gleaned just from using our brains for five seconds. Call me if you need me. Call me even if you don’t? I love you—kuleles. I love ukuleles. They’re like tiny guitars. How adorable is that? Anyway, bye.”
The SOS meeting is to discuss how Ali changed clothes so fast and what she’s doing creeping in Spencer’s backyard, but the tone changes when A texts to say that Hanna spilled the beans at the Brew. Hanna tries to explain about the relentless charm of Sydney Driscoll’s face but the Liars are very mad.
The Risen Mitten addresses Ella(!!!!) and Zach’s engagement party invitation to Pam Fields, Nicki Minaj playing cheerfully in the background: Bitches ain’t shit, and they ain’t sayin’ nuthin’ / A hundred muthafuckas can’t tell me nuthin’ / I beez in the trap, bee, beez in the trap / I beez in the trap, bee, beez in the trap.
My eternal gratitude to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for another round of killer screencaps! Follow her on Twitter for the latest, greatest PLL spoilers and scoop!