It's back to school for the Liars, after a hiatus-of-indeterminate-length. (Wasn't New York just like two days ago in Show Time?)
We have just one bit of advice for our Liars: ACT NORMAL, BITCHES.
THIS WEEK'S MVP
HANNA. For wanting something different, this time.
THIS WEEK'S LVP
Ali, for continuing to ship a ship that should be scuttled in shark infested waters and spat upon for good measure.
BIGGEST SHOCK/BEST REVEAL
Hanna and Mona’s It-Girl “coming out.”
The gifs are great, but it was the Killer Babes soundtrack that really made it WERK.
Peter Hastings can’t be trusted.
PREVIOUSLY ON PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
Ali told aNOTHER major lie, but it’s not sitting right with everyone. Aria killed Shana. Mona threatened Ali. Peter Hastings threatened Melissa. Jason was sketchy. Jessica DiLaurentis is dead and unburied.
So many characters! Let's break it down by major(ish) plotlines.
The Ali Thing
We open on Alison, curled up on her bed in the cycling blue and gold hours of night and day and night and day. She is completely isolated, while voices echo around her: “Do you want some water?” “How can we help?” But she just wants to be left alone.
The Liars have dragged out their FUNERAL CHIC and are all ready for Mrs. DiLaurentis’s service. Except then Ali comes downstairs wearing a dress that had belonged to her mother, and Daddy DiLaurentis is NOT pleased. Because Ali has been prop-planing all over the Eastern Seaboard for the past two years and has not fully absorbed the intricacies of Rosewood Funeral Etiquette, it is up to the Liars to explain to her where her father's explosive reaction came from: that dress, it was the one her mother had worn to Alison’s own funeral.
Coincidence? They happen all the time, right?
We should be keeping track for the season, but Spencer has the best one-liners *again* this episode.
The next day, Ali has Hanna accompany her to the funeral parlor to pick up some paperwork her fully adult male relatives apparently can't manage on their own. In the lobby, a dramatic abstract landscape with a shadowy boatman spooks Ali so deeply she races from the room, but not before regaling Hanna with tales of all the funerals Jessica made her attend as a little kid. Funeral after funeral after funeral.
So. That's where Ali's coming from, in case we were all wondering.
The Aria-Killed-A-Gal Thing
As far as the Liars know, three people know that Ali was really in New York [ambiguous amount of time] ago, and that she’s lying about being kidnapped: Mona, Noel Kahn, and Ezra Fitz. Mona, they’ll have to keep an eye on. Noel Kahn only ever does what’s best for Noel Kahn (although we’d argue with how helping Ali escape murderers is at all “best for Noel Kahn,” but okay, Spencer, one fox at a time here). And Fitz…well. Although Aria initially vows she’s done with him, about five seconds later she’s standing in the doorway to his apartment. Because, as Mona has helpfully informed her and everyone else in the school with fingers enough to hold a Get Well Soon! signing pen—he’s back in Rosewood.
Let’s all get some major abdominal trauma; recovery seems like a breeze! Fitz is, indeed, returned and walking and has apparently had plenty of time to watch the news and catch up on all the DiLaurentis goings-on about town (dramatic rescues, murders, etc.). He and Aria have this conversation: Ezra: “So we just have to live with this enormous lie Ali made up?” Aria: “Yes.” “Why?” “Mrs. D was murdered.” “Okay.”
Ezra reminds Aria to be careful of Shana, who, as far as he knows, is still very much A’d and dangerous. Aria’s like “uhhh yyyyyyyep sure bye gotta go!” and tries to skedaddle but CAN'T because he has a new, fancy lock on his door and needs to help her open it, almost like he’s an authority figure teaching her how to do things. Ugh.
Later, Aria visits Ali, whose response is, “Ezra’s not a bad guy. He’s just too romantic for his own good.” Didn’t realize Humbert Humbert was romantic exactly, but okay. Ali is STILL trying to make Ezria happen, and at this point even ARIA is, ostensibly, against that. So. Ali, c’mon. Marlene, C’MON. "I really don't need you analyzing my personality right now,” says Aria, then hands over Ezra’s manuscript documenting him following and obsessing over Aria and analyzing her personality.
Now it’s Ali’s turn to visit Ezra, the manuscript in her hand giving her the edge, just the way she likes it. She challenges him on whether he actually dismantled and burned all the stalking equipment and intel, but he says he is only keeping it because it might help Aria at some point. Ali tells him to keep it safe, then, and breezes right out through the fancy new door lock like she does it every day.
Later, Aria returns to warn him that Ali might visit (too late, dude), and to confess the Shana thing. Ezra admits that he never expected to see her again, and she echoes his surprise. “Especially not here, at the scene of the crime,” she says. Ezra blinks. “There’s no crime here, not the way *I* see it.”
OH. OH. WE KNOW. We know EXACTLY how you see it. Also, this is basically Marlene King’s motto, which is basically our biggest problem with our absolute favorite show on television.
Anyway, Aria “confesses” about her role in Shana’s end. Ezra knows it was in self defense, as does she…mostly. At least that’s what she’s been telling herself. At which waffling Ezra wobbles nobly to his feet…
OUR HERO. [maaaaaassssssive eye roll]
The Swimming Thing
There’s a new girl at school, and her name is Sydney Driscoll. Em notices a willowy brunette with pillowy lips staring at her in the hallways, and assumes she’s rubbernecking at friends of the “dead girl who isn’t dead anymore.”
Actually, Sydney is a transfer student and new swim team member, and she was just gaping at her new idol, the star of many trophies in the Rosewood trophy case. She asks Emily to coach her. Emily, begrudgingly, offers some advice. More importantly, Paige shows up and hangs around, helping Emily measure Sydney’s armspan-to-height ratio and generally being cute and helpful. It’s clear that Emily is still upset with Paige, but Paige is obviously hurting, and trying to mend their broken relationship however she can.
When Emily gets home that night, Paige is sitting on her front stoop. She confesses to Emily that she still loves her, but Emily just says that she’s sorry.
Owww, our hearts!
The Jason Thing
We are… kinda bored by the whole Jason storyline. In a nutshell: Many people think Jason likely killed Mrs. DiLaurentis, but Spencer—who evidently has quite the soft spot for her half brother—can’t believe it.
Spencer: “[The Hastingses and the DiLaurentises] are not exactly the Hatfields and the McCoys…”
Melissa: “More like the Borgias and the Medicis. Lots of matricide.”
Among the Jason-accusers: Melissa, Mr. Hastings (maybe), Hanna, and Emily. The latter two pop back over to Philly to continue investigating that apartment building they followed Jason to in last week’s episode. Hanna does some sleuthing (how many times do we have to wish for a Hanna Marin: Girl Detective spinoff before it comes true??) and, with Emily’s amazingly snarky assistance, finds out that the apartment is where Jason actually went to sober up while everyone thought he was at fancy rehab, and he’s got an alibi for the time of Mrs. D’s death. High five, Veronica Mars!
Meanwhile, Jason tells Spencer he’s taking off. “My mother had a lot of secrets. Too many. That’s what really killed her.” Listen, Jason, if secrets could assume corporeal form and commit murder, every single person on this show would be dead. Spencer shows him the email they found from his mother, telling an anonymous person she can’t protect them anymore. Jason guides her to speculate that maybe Mrs. D never sent the email because she went to tell the recipient in person… and then he tells Spencer to stop investigating. (He doesn’t know Spencer and investigating is like a shark and swimming: if she stops, she’ll die). “And remember. You can’t trust him.” “Who?” “Our father.”
We are with both of you ladies on this one.
The Squirrely Hastings Thing
There is not a whole lot that is important to discuss in this plotline, save for Peter and Melissa continuing to be their squirreliest for no good reason, and this time as a united front. Melissa aspires to history’s bloodiest, royalest feud and rips up an email. Peter makes more ultimatums about being Done With That (DiLaurentis) Family, and No More Talking To Ali Ever, Do You Hear? and How About We Sell The House (subtitle: Because That Will Not Make the Police More Suspicious of Us AT ALL).
He then, of course, goes roaming the night-dark streets of Rosewood, where, what a crazy random happenstance!, he runs into Ali on her walk home from Ezra’s and makes the world’s cheeriest, friendliest small talk and offers her a ride home—this despite (or because of) her explaining that she actually knows her way around Rosewood better than any cop, and she can escape whenever she needs to just fine, thanks.
That is ten minutes before the episode is over. It gets the creepy A-tag theme music. It is also the last time we see Ali all episode, an episode in which the idea of a girl being snatched off the street by a repeat/disgruntled kidnapper is at the front of everyone's minds. JUST SAYING.
The Hanna-Doll Thing
Hanna opens and closes this episode, both scenes in direct dialogue with Ali’s role in her life. At the top of the episode, Hanna is presented as the Liar chosen to bring Ali her dress for the funeral (the dress Ali subsequently ignores in favor of Jessica's old one). It is just Hanna and Ali in Ali’s room, two blonde It Girls mirroring each other in mourning. In the final scene, Hanna is literally washing that Ali-blonde away in the colorist’s chair. Her whole internal journey, it is gorgeous.
The first hint of Hanna's growing identity crisis is when the funeral director mistakes Hanna for Alison--he’d been told Alison was there, and given the description he was given, he saw a haughty blonde girl there in his lobby, and…
Well, Hanna gets it. She’s gotten it for two years. Ali, returning from her painting-induced escape just in time, also gets it. She tries to pull one of her old power strings by making a half-hearted reference to how it didn’t used to be so easy telling her and (Hefty) Hanna apart. Hanna looks away from Ali to grimace at her own distorted reflection (GET IT??) and…evidently season 5 is gifting us with MEAN GIRL MONA flashbacks! YES YES YES.
So, two months after Ali’s disappearance, PastMona finds ShyHanna (sporting a fancy new Ali 'do) eating cupcakes by herself. Mona is sans glasses and avec attitude. She feeds the fire that we now know as our dearest Hanna Marin by applying Ali's signature attitude to build ShyHanna UP in the face of Ali’s disappearance, not tearing her down. She will make the two of them unforgettable. ShyHanna looks skeptical, but hopeful.
Later, Hanna spies Mona in the courtyard and has another flashback to Mona giving her a wardrobe makeover, complete with actual clothes of Ali's. Ashley Benson's ShyHanna tone is very convincing. Mona is dressing her up in Ali’s clothes and Ali’s hair and Ali’s makeup and oh god HANNA IS ALI’S LIVING DOLL. It is the best and the worst.
Our next glimpse into ShyHanna's transformation comes after her and Em's successful Philly trip, when a very serious Jason-is-in-the-clear conversation taking place in Em's dark car is accompanied by the BEST SONG. BEST SONG does the classic diegetic/non-diegetic shift to become the entrance music for Mona+Hanna’s slow-mo “Girls are Babes/Killer Babes” BFF makeover reveal from two years ago. Four inch heels, amazing outfits, and Mona grasping Hanna’s hand so firmly—and, it must be said, so gayly—as they blaze down the halls of Rosewood High.
In the flashback to present day, Hanna looks searchingly at Emily, then
randomly asks her, "What was it like, coming out?" Emily explains that it wasn’t like saying the words turned her from one things into another; she had always been one way, she had always known, she just hadn’t admitted it. “But you always knew?” Hanna follows up. Em confirms. Hanna shakes her head, amazed and disappointed. “Not me," she says…
"I never knew who the hell I was." WHOMP, straight to the heart.
When we finally cut to Hanna in the colorist’s hair for our very last scene, it is clear a transformation has taken hold. “Same shade as always?” the colorist asks. “No, not the same,” Hanna declares, staring straight up into the camera. “It’s time for a change.”
The MonA Thing?
From behind the frosted translucent wall across the salon, Mona watches this transformation go down. Then she is joined by a blonde with Ali hair…who, as we now know, could be ANYONE, given Mona’s penchant for turning shy girls into her living Ali-dolls at a moment’s notice.
Anyone at all…and she is on Mona's side.
That's it for this week, Liars!
Next week... "You need to take a psychological selfie right now," Spencer tells Aria. ALSO AN ACTUAL SELFIE, because have you SEEN that hat???
A (lexis and Catie)