Rosemary (who is honestly a comic genius and deserves a break) was too busy eating fancy NOLA food and drinking fancy NOLA tiki drinks to pause for a jaunt over to Rosewood with me this week, so I worked a little OG recapper magic and lured Catie back in for live-texting commentary. "It will be great!" I said. "A way to get out of your own life for a bit!" I said. "Take a break from your long hours in trauma on this surgery rotation!" I said.
Anyway, she stuck with me through the end (thank Mona) and, as always, made the viewing experience exponentially better.
THIS WEEK'S MVP
Somehow Aria???? for absorbing Caleb's whirlwind snarfing seminar like some kind of deep sea sponge, and for strong-arming a woman twice her size when that snarfing paid off.
"Aria is A" theorists totally have something to work with here, given that we all MUST still remember how miserably incompetent Aria was with Mona's laptop that one season (and how she's never fully cottoned on to the fact that literally no one calls them website pages), so this sudden technical acuity can be read as more than a little suspicious.
THIS WEEK'S LVP
Effing Ezra, for abandoning Aria so thoroughly that not only has he stopped caring about what possible wedding plans they should be making, but she is having to re-staff and keep open his place of business all on her own steam, because he literally can't be bothered to worry about whether or not his baker is even in the same state as the Brewniverse these days, or if the Brewniverse is even open and operating.
If Aria is A, Ezra, at least, will deserve it.
BIGGEST SHOCK/BEST SURPRISE
The A-tag fakeout with Marco wearing the black gloves to open A.D.'s mysterious finger package, duh. How did it take seven seasons for us to get a fakeout like this! How great that at least one real, good fakeout can crop up, even after all this time!
Going meta: that Catie literally could not keep her brain turned on any time Marco was talking.
MOST LIT ALLUSION
Definitely Spencer referring to herself as "some kind of Dickensian foundling." Peak Spencer, Peak PLL.
THAT'S SO [YOUR TROPE HERE]
Yvonne, a woman of color whose narrative survival threatened one of the main Liars' high school love pairings, died.
Jesus Mona Vanderwaal, show! Stop making unforced errors that perpetuate a dangerous trend, both on TV in general, and in Rosewood, specifically (that she wasn't also queer is no balm whatever). Don't want Toby and Yvonne to end up together? Great, have her break it off after having some a-ha revelation in the moment of the crash. Toby is a sensitive dude! He'd collapse from being abandoned like that, too. Having her die was unnecessary, lazy, and really, truly dumb considering the years of fair criticism you, as a show, have faced for your patterns of queer/POC deaths as plot twists.
JFC. I am SO MAD.
PREVIOUSLY ON PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
A.D. killed Hanna and returned her body to the Liars, only psych! It was just a RealDoll with Hanna's face glued on! Hanna was actually still way alive, which is good because without Hanna's burgeoning fashion empire, how would A.D. manage to manipulate (?) both (??) Lucas and Mona (???) into entangling themselves in the Liars' final game? Toby and Yvonne, meanwhile, maybe actually really died when A.D. (?) crashed their car, only not Toby, because he had to be alive enough for Spencer to be forced by A.D.'s #MurderJumanji board to go comfort him in the hospital, for which her reward was a handwritten letter from her Real Mother, Mary Drake. Yep! Spencer was born in a madhouse, all because her and Jason's and Melissa's father couldn't keep one single thing in his pants! Also, A.D. gave Spencer a magnetic puzzle piece, which, along with the puzzle piece Emily earned for accosting a sassy sophomore swimmer, seems to be building a map. A map to where? Who knows! Maybe Sydney Swimmer Twin, she of the ill-advised Jenna connection, who did something in the episodes Alexis and Catie missed to help lead the Liars into danger? Maybe!
Summit of the Boss Babies
Still sleeping for some reason in the same barn as #MurderJumanji—the same barn to which seemingly every citizen of Rosewood has their own key—Spencer is awoken by the sound of a wailing infant. "Who had a baby??" Catie asks, already lost. No one, I tell her, except also maybe Alison, who is for no clear reason ("…paperwork") spending this episode Out Of Town, and so could easily have had her (Emily's) babies without us even knowing.
The wailing, it turns out, is coming from the phone that controls Liar's Lament. It won't be muted or powered down or ignored; it will keep goddamn wailing as long as it goddamn well pleases, Spencer.
I maybe have been too harsh on these girls and their friendship since coming back, because all four Liars gamely gather in Spencer's barn, in the middle of the night, in the midst of the phone's incessant bawling, all to keep Spencer company. Well, and also to discuss what they should do next (they have no idea), and who should take the screaming phone for the next shift (no one). Despite the fact that both Ali and Ezra are out of town, leaving two great possible locations to keep it without risking too much neighbourly disturbance (jk everyone lives in everyone else's laps, there's no avoiding neighbourly disturbance), neither Emily nor Aria are willing to pull the trigger on those plans.
"A screaming baby is the last sound Ali needs to come home to," Emily says first. "I'm just feeling really attacked rn," Aria says next. "Mary Drake is hiding like a lying liar who lies!" Hanna says third, and while that isn't really a productive addition to the discussion as to who should take the phone, it doesn't really matter: the crying stops the moment the phone hot potatoes into her hands.
It's her turn to play!
Liars In The Morning
Emily and Hanna start the next morning with coffee and schemes, the only way any Rosewood morning should start, tbh. Where did Hanna hide the phone that Caleb wouldn't find it? Her purse, obvs. Her reasoning? "Boys don't want to risk touching tampons, DUH." Yeah DUH, Em. Caleb Rivers, hobo dweller of high school air ducts, one-time reincarnated ghost, savior of every single woman in his life at least once, the man who literally peeled the lifelike face of his girlfriend off a human mannequin, the man who woke up early to go to a news stand, to buy actual paper newspapers with Hanna's fashion debut in them, truly the Most Woke Bae in the history of Pennsylvania, HE won't want to risk touching a tampon.
Yes, that's right! Mona's power and influence is so strong, she even brought the local daily back from the grave's edge just to make sure Hanna's dress got on the front page.
The glow of Hanna's sartorial victory is short-lived, unfortunately: A.D. followed through on their threat, and leaked an anonymous tip to a hungry up-and-coming fashion blogger than Hanna's designs were stolen from her ex-boss. At least Hanna doesn't have a major meeting with Lucas and the investors he's been drumming up coming up anytime soon!
I AM REAL GIRL
Over at the Staatliches Brewhaus, Toby is packing up two huge bags of food when Spencer walks in and just starts listing the NIH's hundred latest car-crash-coma treatment programs like she's her own secret twin trying too hard to being convincing in the role. "Right, yes, the experts at the hospital told me all that already," Toby says, and then thankfully Detective Marco arrives and saves Spencer from making Toby or us any more suspicious than we already are. Marco doesn't care; he and his tongue just met Spence like three seconds ago, he doesn't know her Spencetensity from Eve.
Still, he likes her, and so, after plying her with the pure stuff (blackest coffee), convinces her to spend the day with him.
Liars In The Daytime
Literally their scenes, all episode.
While Spencer goes off to the local youth center to play seven hundred rounds of ping pong with the center's former favorite orphan, Detective Marco (they "pong hard," I say, wishing I didn't have to be quoting Marco directly), Aria swaps places with Emily over at Hanna's Lucas' loft.
Why? So Caleb can teach her every in and out of blue-snarfing, of course! That way she and Emily can go spy on Sydney (for whatever reason Catie and I missed last season) while Hanna is busy prepping for her investors meeting/waiting in terror for A.D. to start her turn.
Her lesson nearly stops before it can beging when a weak and desperate looking Nicole shows up on the television behind them, gushing at length about how important Ezra's existence has been for her slow recovery, but Aria refuses to let the interview, or Hanna's and Caleb's pitying eyes, get her down. "You guys found your way back to each other," she breezes, reminding us anew of what a tragedy the end of Spaleb was, "Ezra and I will, too." Which reminds us anew of how terrible Ezra is!
JKJKJKJKJK we never forgot.
And so Aria hunkers down for five minutes to learn every surveillance/hacking skill Caleb has picked up from the streets/Mona in the past ten years, and before we can blink, is in the passenger seat of Emily's Beautiful Toyota, all “Connection’s open, I can hack her phone,” “I will through-put all her data into this device,” “Caleb taught me, this morning,” “I catch on fast.” Sure!! OK!!!!
Aria's improbable tech savvy works, and within moments of Emily "catching" Sydney "off guard" ("Are we really going to pretend this was an accident? Who sent you: Mona or Caleb?"), she has bugged the ex-swimmer's entire digital life, and Aria is hacking through all of it—including the afternoon appointment Sydney has at an eye surgeon's, which suuuuuuure is suspicious, considering she not two seconds ago told Emily she was dunzo forever with associating herself with anything having to do with Jenna Marshall.
Aria expresses her suspicion in the form of manhandling and angry talking, Bad Copping Sydney right into an alley the moment after she leaves the doctor's office. "You are all certifiable," Sydney exclaims. "This is the last time I do anything at the behest of someone anonymous!" ("You can't spell anonymous without A.D." - ancient Marin proverb.)
Sure, k. See ya soon, Syd. Like, literally: Aria and Emily have your stuff well bugged, and their website page sleuthing has only just begun…
Back at the loft, Hanna's game phone finally buzzes: A.D. wants her to open the door. And then there is just SO MUCH BANGING, and whatever flimsy tampon-based plans Hanna had for keeping Caleb out of the loop evaporate as he opens the door and finds HannaDoll standing there, waiting to be brought inside, Hanna's task somewhere "in the appendix." "You honestly thought I wouldn't notice this?" he asks. "You honestly thought THAT was me?" she asks back. But then the bickering is over, and Caleb is back inside the Liar Loop, and maybe finally now things will get moving.
Caleb heads off to the barn to try and see what his hobo hacker magic can do to crack things wide open, while Hanna stays behind to read through every appendix in Lucas' whole loft, which is obviously fruitless as there was never any appendix A.D. meant other than the one in HannaDoll's body. Equally inevitable: Hanna covering the doll's body with several white sheets before starting her "operation," because, of course. But I suppose I should be too snarky, because there is so much blood once Hanna cuts through. It's super gross!
Pictured above: Catie IRL
Inside is a packet holding a mini-dress kimono with a tag exhorting Hanna to wear it to the investors meeting…or else. It's a pretty cruddy piggy-cupcake-level move, as the investors Lucas gathered are mostly Asian, and Hanna is certain this dress will be incredibly offensive. We haven't been huge fans of Hanna's being stuck on the sidelines tied to her fashion project while the rest of the game is going down, but we do want all the Liars to get to find success and happiness, and watching Hanna try to come to terms with the loss of the dream that might have finally made people see her as the impressive, creative, confident person she rarely feels she is…that was just too damn sad.
Liars In The Night
…Not that she can tell Lucas any of that, so all she's left with saying to him before they take the elevator up to the Radley meeting room that night is, "Whatever happens up there, thank you, you're the best kind of friend," which isn't unsettling for him to hear AT ALL.
Thankfully, Hanna is kept from seeing A.D.'s plan all the way through, as Spencer calls right as she is stepping onto the elevator: Caleb is in the hospital. He tried prying a doll house off the board while Spencer had her back turned picking out wine, and got a shot of poisonous white power straight to the face.
He is not dead! But also not out of the woods, as he couldn't be honest enough with the staff to get them to run real tox screens to find out what hit him, and instead fell back on the ol' "cleaning the bathroom, mixed ammonia and bleach" excuse. RIP, Caleb! Use your hard-won ghost skills well when the time comes.
While the rest of the Liars gather in the ICU's waiting room to hear how Caleb is/argue about the degree to which A.D. wants to keep them off-balance and arguing/figure out who will get Hanna's puzzle piece now that A.D. has surrendered it, Toby is off in Yvonne's room, talking honeymoon. Yep! Those crazy kids married each other that afternoon, right in her hospital room, because Toby couldn't wait any longer, and the writers have an endgame to get to, and Yvonne couldn't very well die tragically before Toby said his vows. DUH.
(I am being very harsh about this; please refer back to the awards section if you need a reminder about how angry I am on Yvonne's/the audience's behalf here.)
So, yes, the moment after Yvonne tells Toby how happy she is, her bridal bouquet falls to the floor, and she dies. Moments later, Spencer finds Toby wandering into the waiting room in a daze, and catches him as he collapses to the floor, weeping.
Meanwhile, back at Ezra's dark and empty loft, Aria lets herself in, leaving him what is obviously the thousandth message about how is Brewberry Books is falling apart. Sabrina, his only employee, has literally absconded to a baking camp in California, and Aria has zero business training. "Doing both our emotional labor when it comes to wedding planning is one thing, dude," she says, "running your business without you even returning my calls is an entirely new level of patriarchal expectation." Behind her, a figure rises slowly from the dark. Aria hangs up, whips a knife out of the block, and flicks the lights on, ready to cut a Syd-bitch. But it's only…
DeAd To Rights
And thus we reach the A-tag! A.D.'s black-gloved hands carefully handle a plain manila envelope addressed to the Rosewood PD, flipping it over to ease open the glued flap. The camera starts panning in a circle, and what! It's Detective Marco! Detective Marco is A.D.! The camera starts to pull back, and what! It's the whole of the Rosewood PD standing behind him! THEY ARE ALL A.D.!!!!
We wish. Actually, they are all on duty, and A.D. has sent them an envelope with something very smelly wrapped in gauze inside. "Finger," Catie declares. "That's a damn good doctoring school," I reply.
Regardless, Marco sends it off to forensics. Not that he needs to: we all know it's Rollins'. Sorry, Liars! Game's almost up.
We've been promised the identity of Jessica DiLaurentis' killer, so, don't expect that. Also Peter Hastings is finally Back In Town, two whole episodes after his half-bastard daughter learned the secret of her parentage from a haunted board game, so, bring a barf bag.
A(lexis and Catie)