Title: Pretty Little Liars S5.E13 “How the ‘A’ Stole Christmas”
Released: 2014

Welcome to a Very Rosewood Holiday Season, Liars! Absolutely nothing in this episode offered a reasonable explanation for why one billionty things happened between the Halloween Train and Thanksgiving, followed by thirty days of NOTHING, so we are going to take that as a sign that numbers just do not matter at all in Bucks County, PA and do a Rosewood-counting Twelve Days of PLLChristmAs countdown for this Very Rosewood recap.

Without further ado…

On the twelfth dAy of PLL ChristmAs, our true love gAve to us:

Twelve Clues from Mona

The girls wander down snowy Main Street, admiring the holiday decorations and enjoying the presence of Spencer, who is out of jail on bail and totally ruining the festive spirit by complaining that Alison ruined ONLY HER life, no one else’s. “You ruin one of us, you ruin all of us,” says Emily fiercely. Aw, Em. Everyone’s life is ruined!

They all pause at a store to make snowflake wishes for Spencer (“Dear Santa, if Spencer is convicted, please make the second season of Serial about her”), and Hanna reminisces about Christmases past. Back when she and Mona were BFFs, they’d made these same snowflake wishes: Mona wished that they’d be BFFs forever. Hanna wished for shoes. “Those were really great shoes,” Hanna sniffles. “Oh also Mona, I guess.”

And speaking of Mona, the master manipulator is working her A game from beyond the grave. Is anyone surprised?? A fancy lawyer approaches Hanna on the street and hands her an envelope containing a letter from Mona that he was instructed to give her PRECISELY THIRTY DAYS after Mona’s demise, definitely a stipulation that would have nothing to do with giving Mona enough time to safely ensconce herself in a new life after the death we pray she faked, definitely not that. “If you’re reading this, she’s still playing the game. I went out fighting. Promise me you won’t give up.”

The envelope contains a detailed magic marker map of all of Alison’s hiding places, because Mona has known every nook and cranny of her enemy’s lair since she was a babe in art class. For the Liars, this is an unexpected boon. And with the added impetus of A taunting them with a Liar-filled snowglobe gifted to them by a sidewalk Santa (yes, really), a plan takes shape…

Eleven LiarLogic Plans

Okay, so it’s is not the WORST plan the Liars have ever had. But that’s not saying much.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Alison is throwing an enormous Ice Ball, because she’s the Queen Ice Bitch and EVERYONE MUST KNOW. Also it is a charity fundraiser, because she is nothing if not her mother’s daughter.

While Ali’s distracted at the party, Spencer and Hanna (aka Detective Dream Team!!!!) will go explore the DiLaurentis house, using Mona’s map as a guide, to try to find some evidence that Alison—not Spencer—killed Bethany. Emily and Aria (aka Most Likely To Make Dumb Decisions And Lose Their Focus) will stay at the party, and with the help of Ezra, Paige, and Caleb, keep an eye on Alison. FOOLPROOF. Just, probably not Alison-proof.

Ten Christmas Fingernails

You’ll never convince us that these are better than the Halloween main titles, but… oh my Vanderjesus, is that a TINY GHOST MONA IN HER EYE?? NEVER MIND, THESE RULE.

Nine Hitchcock References

While the others are snowshoeing around Winter Rosewood, poor broken-legged Toby is trapped inside the classic Hitchcock film Rear Window. It’s delightful.

Eight Rosewood Blizzards

SNOW. In Rosewood. Did you ever see such a sight? Spencer and Hanna sure haven’t, considering the evident lack of appropriate winter wear they wear to Ali’s later that night. Unless…did they take their coats off at the door? Well, Spencer is nothing if not HER mother’s daughter, we guess.

Anyway, as the daytime snow comes down, the Liars spread holiday cheer. Hanna and her elf, Caleb, work at some crafts-and-gifts event at the church (which announcement board, PS, alerts us to the fact that it is Jenna’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Jenna! Have some tinseled terror!). Caleb complains about one of the little girls, who he calls a mini-Ali. And she’s a dead ringer: mermaid blonde hair, disdainful smile, casual cruelty to her four doe-eyed followers.

She makes fun of a deaf girl at the next table, and Hanna—fierce Hanna, growing into quite the Gryffindor—storms over to threaten to murder her. “You are making a lot of enemies…

Yep, that sounds like par for the course in a Rosewood church. The girl turns up her nose and goes to leave, but not before Hanna makes a final plea to her entourage: “You don’t need a leader. You just need each other.” Awwww, the theme of the show! And it works! The friends peel off to craft with the deaf girl, and Alison2.0 stalks out alone. “Mean girls stay mean,” says Hanna quietly to Caleb.

Across town, the others are caroling at a nursing home (CALLED IT). After the song finishes, Sydney pulls Emily aside to tell her that Jenna’s not that bad. Sure, okay, Syd. Emily pulls Paige aside to smooch her under the mistletoe. And Ezra, he pulls Aria aside and hands her two giant presents, because nothing says Christmas like flaunting your probably-illegal/definitely-unethical relationship in front of many other impressionable teens and elders! The boxes are full of fancy jewelry and fancy dresses, and Aria jokes that if THIS is low-key Christmas, she doesn’t want to see what full Fitzgerald Christmas looks like. Here’s a hint: TWO ponies.

Congratulations, Ezra! We officially hate you even MORE.

Seven DoppelLiars

The Ice Ball is cold, but the girls look HOT. (Likely this is what we can blame for not even a silken luxurious winter coat making an appearance in the blizzard later on.)

The girls are dripping with sparkles and cleavage, waiting for Alison to show so they can implement their plan. They figure she’s just waiting for the most dramatic moment to show up, and they are extremely correct. There’s a cinematic swell in the music, and Alison enters at the top of the stairs, flanked by four masked DoppelLiars.

“This is how you make an ENTRANCE, bitches.”

Now that Ali has finally arrived like some kind of glorious Valkyrie, Team Spanna slips out to effect their half of the Mona’s Map plan. They are watched by a mysterious white cloaked figure. WHO COULD IT BEEEE!!!??

Back at the Ball, Emily flushes out all the DoppelLiars (with a modicum of help from Aria). Two are the real twins Ali has been giving her very own Mona makeover to, of course. But the others? Ho ho ho! One is Sydney. And the other one: Jenna. These last two assure Emily, with no deficit of voice wobbling and panic sweat, that they are only siding with Alison because they’re scared of what happens to people who don’t want to be her friends. “We think she killed Mona,” says Emily, fiercely (i.e., in her normal tone). “So do we,” says Jenna, trembling. Oh. Ohhhh.

Six Creepy Santas

Aria also makes a “discovery” while on Ali-watching duty at the Ball. Aria spies her go into another room, where she kisses someone dressed as Santa. Instead of sticking around to see where she goes, Aria immediately runs back to tell Emily. “Em! You gotta see this! Alison is doing something weird over there!” Someone buy these girls some walkie-talkies. Surely Stalky Ezra has several they could borrow.

“Was Santa a girl or a guy?” asks sweet, heteronormativity-destroying Emily. “I got a sense of male butt,” says male butt enthusiast Aria. So the two of them set off to track down all of the Santas at the party. It probably wasn’t Lucas, who is the party’s main Santa and thus crawling with lap-sitters (uh, ew). It probably wasn’t these other Santas who we only see from a distance. So that leaves…

Holbrook! Who is dressed like a reject extra from Bad Santa 4: Naughtier Than Ever. Seriously, Holbrook—it is a BLACK TIE event, hosted by a TEENAGER. You do not show up in a hanging-open Santa suit, wife beater, and creeper smirk, even (or especially) if you are creeper-ily hooking up with said teenage hostess (and helping her escape jail, frame Spencer, etc.).

Don’t make us take away the Most Surprising Thing Found In Hanna’s Mouth Award we gave “not Holbrook’s tongue” at the end of season 4, PLL writers! Sometimes #NotAllMen can be a force for good. (But not for Ezra. NEVER FOR EZRA.)

5 Clues at Ali’s

Spencer and Hanna creep around the DiLaurentis house, freezing and creeping themselves out. (Okay, seriously: if they aren’t going back to the Ball after this, why snoop in their gowns in the first place? Like Hanna ever needs an excuse for an outfit change!). Hanna heads upstairs to Alison’s room, where in a false bottom on Tippi’s cage she discovers a fake passport in the name of Holly Varjak with Alison’s face. Spencer keys her in to the Breakfast At Tiffany’s reference (“the movie,” she scoffs), and Hanna worships Spencer’s crazy brain.

Downstairs, Spencer finds a cache of enigmatic personal ads, circled in red. “Alison was communicating with someone!” she breathes, obsessively arranging and re-arranging the ads, on the floor, in the dark, in a house they’ve broken into. Girl. Take a picture and leave.

In the attic, Hanna discovers a jack-in-the-box behind a false wall that she just tears open with her bare hands, because it’s not like they are trying to do this without Ali finding out or anything. It pops up to reveal… nothing, but it does say Mad Hatter on the outside of the box, so Hanna opens up the (mad) hatboxes that are stacked nearby. Seems legit. They’re filled with letters to Ali, from what Hanna calls “her fan club.” And one is from Bethany:

Not just from Bethany, but from a Bethany who was so excited to visit her on LABOR DAY. !!!!!!!!!!!!

Downstairs, it’s A! With a giant knife! Spencer has super rAdar and so managed to hide behind a table before even Jimmy Stewart Toby spotted the creeper, and she stays there, shaking, until A heads upstairs. Hanna’s forgotten her phone downstairs (believable) so Spencer can’t warn her that A is coming. So Spencer, who apparently picked up some badass skills in jail, smashes a picture frame, grabs the largest shard of glass, wraps one end in a Christmas napkin, and advances toward the stairs, makeshift shiv primed to stab. SPENCERRRRRRR!!!!!!

Buuuuut, she’s too late: A hides at the bottom of the attic stairs, grabbing Hanna when she tries to leave. Spencer rushes up at the sound of Hanna’s scream, and thankfully just finds Hanna knocked cold on the floor. It looks like A’s made a clean getaway, but THOSE TERRIFYING MASKS HIDING BABY ZOMBIE MASK IN THE CORNER BEG TO DIFFER.

Thank god for Hanna’s boobs. Which is where she stuffed the note from Bethany, which emerges unscathed.

Four Hottie Santas

The blizzard rages on, and apparently dumps so much snow on Rosewood that not one of the Liars or their bedbuddies can walk the fourteen steps from the Hastings Manor to her or his own home. So they are all trapped at Chez Hastings, feeling gloomy and missing their families (the Hastings WOULD leave Spencer alone on what might be her last Christmas of freedom). That is, until the bedbuddies traipse downstairs dressed in clothing that is very, um, weather-inappropriate.

Alexis has A STRONG OPINION about this. And not the jolly kind.

The next morning, the group wakes up (absent any conflicting evidence, we’re just going to assume the Liars all slept together on the ottoman like a pile of kittens as usual) to find that the “roads” are still so “blocked with snow” that no one can possibly get “home.” (Which, reminder, for literally all of them but grandma-traveling Em is just down the block.) So they rustle up some resourceful Christmas magic, and make their own Friendsmas. As long as we put our thumb over the screen to block out Ezra’s face, it looks pretty darn adorable.

Three Ghosts of Christmas

Throughout the episode, Alison is visited three times by the Ghost of Murdered Mona, who we’d love even more if her presence didn’t mean that Real Mona was dead (sob). She’s amazing anyway, and she takes Alison on a wee tour of her short, Christmassy life:

In the past, little Alison discovers a secret cache of presents inside her piano. When she opens them early, because of course she does, she finds two of the same yellow dress. “Did you and Dad get me the same present?” she asks her mom. Jessica sits her down, and says slowly and carefully: “You only saw one dress. You only found one present. You opened it, and there was one yellow dress.” Alison’s like, “But mom, there are two,” and her mom is like, “Your dad will literally leave us if he knows there were two dresses.” And so Alison is like, omg, “Okay. There was only one yellow dress.”

“And the monster was born,” Moaning Mona tells her.

“Who was the other dress for?” Alison asks, quavering. But it’s not going to be that easy. Bitch.

In the future, Moaning Mona leads Alison to a coffin containing her own body. “When?” Alison asks, tremblingly. But Mona won’t say.

“You look pretty good, considering. But they never found your legs…” (We may have screamed in glee at the amazing ridiculousness of that kicker.)

Black Widow walks in, and lifts her veil. It’s Jessica DiLaurentis, here with a warning: “They’ll be coming for you soon. I’m sorry.”

In the present, Mona tells Alison: “Wake up, bitch. It’s Christmas. And I promise, you don’t want to miss it.”

Two Blonde Bitches

Let’s rewind back to the Ball for a second. Aria and Emily lose track of Alison for a minute, but eventually spy her entering the Winter Wonderland maze—alone.

Or so they think. Inside, she’s pursued by White Cloak, who throws back her hood to reveal…

CECE DRAKE. Bearing gifts. And sparkly eyes. And condolences. And warnings: “Your ex-friends are here. And NOT to say Merry Christmas.” Zing!

Aria, Emily, Ezra and Paige spy Alison leaving the maze followed by White Cloak. They track them through the back hallways, and eventually corner the pair. But the two spin around to reveal… terrifying Alison masks. Which they lift to reveal… (man, there is a LOT of dramatic revealing in this episode)… TWINS.

And not the Alison and CeCe kind, either. The Cindy and Mindy kind, who have covered their newly Mona-dark ‘dos with blonde Ali/Cece wigs. Their evil smiles are the same as ever, though.


And a Warning On A Christmas Treeeeeee….

And finally, back to Friendsmas, which is just winding down when the group hears sleigh bells outside, and a sprinkle of ash falls down the chimney. “Santa?” they (Hanna) wonder, getting up to see what’s going on. Outside, an enormous fir tree is beautifully decorated. “What wonder! What magic!” the group exclaims. Until…


And that’s it; that’s a Very Rosewood Christmas.

Until January 6, Liars,

A(lexis and Catie)

About the Contributor:

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. A Wyoming expat, she now lives in Maryland, where she runs the DC chapter of the FYA Book Club. She can be found talking about Teen TV on Twitter, and her longform criticism can be found on Authory.

This post was written by a guest writer or former contributor for Forever Young Adult.