Title: Pretty Little Liars S5.E23 “The Melody Lingers On”
Released: 2015

OH MAN OH MAN OH MAN. The only thing that could have made this episode better would have been if Mona herself waltzed through the courtroom doors and slapped Ali across the face (or appeared, ghostlike, to do Hanna’s hair in her cell).


LIT’R’LY EVERYBODY. Congrats guys, you earned it.


Daddy DiLaurentis, who seems to never have met his own daughter and so blames the other Liars for her incarceration, rather than her psychotic brain chemistry (/terrorized childhood with Jessica). Probably he isn’t even feeding poor Pepe, the jackass.


A reappearance from our favorite feathered friend Tippi! Hey ole girl, Tippi, how you been?


Burner phones should have been your best friends all along, girls! Although, probably A would have just bought a burner cell phone company and made sure they had a monopoly in Rosewood so that you all would always still be within reach, so.


Of course she was talking to A for years and years. And OF COURSE she didn’t tell anyone about it.


Jonny F*cking Raymond built a secret machine at RareBrew, Detective Tanner caught Hanna and Caleb up to no good at the body-barrel storage units, Ashley Marin had some serious love drams when she cheated on Pastor Ted with Jason D. Aria kissed Formerly Hot But Now Just Creepy Andrew during a study session, Ali was offered a plea bargain if she’d name her accomplice but she politely told that plea bargain to GTFO, and Hanna was arrested when they found her blood on the clothes Mona was killed in.


Lawyer’s Summits

The episode opens with Ali’s lawyer showing her a diagram of the courtroom. (Sidebar: Is this a thing people do? Are there people out there that don’t know what courtrooms look like, and once they’ve been arrested they say, “Excuse me, but what does a courtroom look like? Will there be a couch? Do I sit on the floor? Does the jury sit criss-cross-applesauce in a circle around me?” LAWYERS PLEASE ADVISE). Daddy DiLaurentis doesn’t understand how the American judicial system works, so he just yells a lot, but Ali and her lawyer are smart enough to ignore him.

Adorably, Ali’s lawyer thinks she needs to explain to ALISON F*CKING DILAURENTIS how to make a person (in this case, just one! of twelve jurors, that’s all it takes!) believe anything you say. “Just look them in the eye,” she advises. “Right,” Ali says, “and stare and stare until their entire sense of self starts to crumble and the only way back to sanity is through letting me reshape them in my image.” She pauses. “I mean…just one juror, you say?”

Down the hall, Ashley and Ted are having a very different kind of meeting with Hanna. Regardless of what Ted and Hanna think is good for her sanity, Ashley insists that she will be there for Ali’s trial the next day. She still thinks Ali is behind all of this, but Man O’Faith Ted has the Doubts/believes Hanna. [Second sidebar: we really love how Pastor Ted is like Caleb Redux, learning all the Marin/A secrets, supporting everything the Marin women think is best.] Hanna swears up and down that she and Ali are innocent but, while we are sure that Ashley believes at least half of that, she has had too many raw run-ins with the Rosewood law and DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH. She just wants Hanna out, at any cost.

Liar’s Summits

At Spencer’s house, the Free Liars sit at the breakfast bar with all the newspaper ads Spencer found in Ali’s house at Christmas spread out before them. The numbers Ali had red-circled, it turns out, match the Varjak number on the Pizza Receipt of Doom Emily nearly got shot for last week. Spencer was jetlaggy, or she would have caught it sooner.

“Yeah but Ali said the passport and letter were FAKE, so why would these be real?” No one ever answered when Em called the Varjak number last week, it turns out. But Spencer found the newspaper ads hidden in a completely different part of the DiLaurentis house, so there is no reason to assume they were planted, too, and also it seems like an awfully big coincidence for the same number to appear two different times, in two very different places, neither actually addressed to the Liars. Spencer is certain. And she knows she has a certainty problem – she admits as much to Jason later on – but she is certain that this ONE TIME, her certainty is right.

The girls are prevented from working through Spencer’s certainty problems, however, as Veronica appears on the stairs and “suggests” in her most barrister-y (don’t eff with me) voice that the girls stay away from the trial. “Well, it is a suggestion for Emily and Aria,” she amends. “For you, Spencer, it is much. stronger.” Spencer is PISSED. First, she notes, literally everyone in this one-road town knows that the girls have a long history with Ali, and will see them not going to the trial as them considering her guilty. But ALSO them not going to watch what happens to Ali is going to set a pretty dangerous precedent. “Are we supposed to turn our backs on Hanna when it’s her on trial?” Spencer spits, while Emily and Aria really master the art of physically melting into the shadows. “We aren’t talking about ethics,” Veronica spits back, rolling her eyes almost as hard as we did whenever Jonny F*cking Raymond said anything ever. “Oh that’s for sure,” Spencer agrees before grabbing two girl-shaped shadows and storming out.

The Free Liars continue their interrupted summit at a blessedly Ezra-free RareBrew, now joined by Caleb (a welcome stand-in, but definitely no replacement for Hanna). While the Free Liars have been trying to work out newspaper code, Caleb has been using his mad hacker skills to try to track the Varjak number to some identifiable location. No luck, though–this number Varjak is using to order pizzas and pay for forest cable packages is more secure than Mona’s better-than-military laptop. “The phone could be on Mars,” he sighs, “or across the room!” It exists in a black hole of nothingness, is what he is saying. It exists in A’s very soul.

It is at this moment that something both glorious and head-poundingly frustrating happens: Spencer asks Caleb if he has any burner phones. “What color?” he asks, and that is not us being flip, but the actual words out of his mouth as he pulls a shiny burner phone from his bag almost before Spencer’s vocal cords have stopped vibrating.


Anyway, Spencer figures Varjak may not be answering because the girls’ numbers are so recognizable (duh), so she figures it wouldn’t hurt to try using a burner (OMG). She drafts a text, “Did you miss me? Love, Holly” and Emily and Caleb tell her to send it.

“But WHICH Holly?” Aria muses, “Golightly or Varjak?” Spencer ignores her and sends the text. As they sit anxiously waiting for a response, Spencer reminds us all that Hanna is the best sleuth among them, and asks Caleb to ask her to talk to Ali about the newspaper ads and phone number when he goes to visit her next.

The Waiting’s the Worst Part

And so now everyone is waiting–Ali for the trial of her life, Hanna for the truth to set her free, the Free Liars for Varjak to get in touch, and everyone, just everyone for Mona’s murder to finally become case closed.

To that end, Spencer tries to have a fraternal, commiseratory chat with Jason when she sees him on his way to audition for Dickish Rich Guy Probably Named “Blaine” in a John Hughes Film outside RareBrew. We’ve watched the episode several times to try to catch what it is she wanted to talk to him about, but all the shouting–Jason at Spencer, Daddy DiLaurentis at Spencer, Daddy DiLaurentis at Jason–was just too distracting. Considering that when they talk later it is so Spencer can apologize for helping the police arrest Ali and Jason can shout some more about how it is Spencer’s fault Ali (ALI, guys, ALI) is in jail, it was probably something along those lines.

Also unduly irritated at the fact of the trial is Not Hot Andrew, who catches up with Aria in the French classroom where he is prepping between periods and distributing papers to desks in such a way that he looks older and more teacherly than ever (love what you know, we guess, Aria?). “I’m just so tired of everyone memorializing Mona,” he says, sighing long-sufferingly. “She was an actual monster, in school and out.”

Aria has enough experience with crazy eyes to know when she is in the presence of someone around whom eggshells must be tread. “You aren’t really saying you’re happy she’s dead,” she asks slowly and carefully, her eyes darting for the nearest exit like he’s an incendiary device. Andrew’s eyes refocus and he remembers where he is. “Ha! What? No! What? I would never! I just…hey, GREAT job on that history test, champ! Aren’t I just the best tutor?”

You’re something, alright.

Allison calls Emily from lady prison and, other than asking if she’ll be at the trial, and Emily breathily answering that she will, this scene is basically just included to appease the millions of Emison shippers on Tumblr because it’s just a lot of small talk and mumbly mumblies.

Alexis read the scene as Emily just struggling with her innate Emily Fields compassion in the face of attending the trial of a girl she no longer loves who may still be innocent (and all the complicated repercussions for the Liars and Hanna if they go, or if they don’t), but let the ‘shippers have their chum, we suppose. WE will love this scene for its other role: as a slow-burn transition from gloomy rain out Emily’s window to the I’M AN EFFING QUEEN trial prep montage that starts with Ali looking at her reflection in the mirror while she showers, and ends with her looking each juror in the eye in the courtroom the next day before rechecking her own reflection in the shining tabletop beneath her hands.

Who does she see/who is she trying to be/the key is a question of a control. As much as the song blasting when Hanna shouted down Holbrook a few episodes back was Hanna to the core, this song is all Ali and all her lies, lies, and unbelievable truths. It is perfect.

Opening Remarks, Remarkable Opening

So the trial pump-up montage ends as Ali makes a decision about who she sees and who will be in control. The courtroom is somehow less full than we would have expected it to be, but the DiLaurentis men are there, as is Ashley Marin, and Emily and Aria. Mona is there too, in spirit and in killer head shot, which the prosecutor uses as a visual aid throughout his very dramatic opening statement.

“Remember high school? When every hallway slight was like an assault? When allegiances and enemies were magnified out of proportion?” Alison’s story of kidnap and captivity and tearful return after two long years is a remarkable one, he continues, but none of it happened. It’s a fairy tale. A lie, created by Ali and perpetuated by the friends who helped to save her. (“GASP?! HER FRIENDS?! SAVE HER?!” – Emily and Aria) Mona had the truth, he says, so Alison schemed long and hard and finally, violently, killed her. AND WE HAVE PROOF.

Okay, listen, adult man. You can have it one of two ways: either high school girls blow things way out of proportion because they are so dumb, or high school girls can be evil masterminds with complex, slow-burning schemes to take each other out. Your case can’t rest on both being true.

Still, it is a fairly compelling speech, as far as speeches from men in Rosewood go. So compelling that we don’t even get to hear Ali’s lawyer’s remarks, the camera instead launching us forward in time to Aria calling Spencer to give her a rundown of the shitshow they just witnessed–apparently no one considered the possibility that Ali’s wild story of kidnapping (with a polygraph that was proven to have been tampered with) was a lie, or that the four girls who Ali bullied into supporting her story would be implicated by that lie’s reveal. Apparently. And since the prosecution has a witness to corroborate the idea of Ali’s kidnapping being a lie (“CYRUS???” Aria hyperventilates, forgetting somehow that he is burned on 1000% of his body and also currently in the ICU for acute suffocation/dead), the girls also worry that they know everything about New York…somehow forgetting that if that were true, ARIA would be the one swapping prison secrets in the jumpsuit laundry room.

Spencer’s thoughts on the matter remain unknown, however, as Aria’s phone call is interrupted by Daddy DiLaurentis storming down the very public courthouse hall to scream very publicly at them that it is their fault that Ali is on trial and somehow they are the ones who told Ali to do everything bad she ever did? Daddy DiLaurentis may have said something of greater heft, but at this point, he is the grown up “wah wah” voice from Charlie Brown. Rosewood men be crazy, y’all.

Not JUST Rosewood men, though, as Veronica reminds us when she comes home that afternoon to find Spencer alone in her room, reading. “And THAT is why I warned you girls not to go to the trial today,” she says smugly. “You’re the actual worst,” Spencer mutters back. “Thanks for nothing ever.”

Slammer Time

Ali’s on laundry duty at lady prison again when Hanna shows up to help. They speak in hushed voices: Yeah, the passport was fake, Ali says, but the personal ads are real, and the number Spencer found was also real. After Jessica DeLaurentis’s death, someone left a tribute ad in the paper with a line from Goodnight Moon, “Goodnight light and a red balloon” and a response number.  The line was from a book her mom read her when she was a baby. Two days later, another ad, “Goodnight nobody, goodnight brush.” After the second one, she texted the number. “YOU FRATERNIZED WITH THE A-NEMY?” Hanna gasps. No, Ali says, whoever it was, they knew who killed her mother and they were torturing her over it, and they stopped when Mona was killed. So Ali believes she wasn’t texting with A at all, but was actually texting Mona.

Because he is the best PLL boyfriend of all time and still thinks she looks pretty in orange, Caleb visits Hanna in jail, and we are sad that life has become so heavy for these two. Remember the good ole days of shared showers and Caleb secretly living in Hanna’s house? Anyway, Hanna explains that Ali thinks the number belonged to Mona, but it’s obvious she’s scared shitless. But Caleb only cares that Hanna is okay, and she admits that she’s scared too: “No one will believe us, I wouldn’t.”

She makes him promise that he will stay safe and get out – away from Rosewood where they can’t find him. Where no one can find him. Her plan involves boats. He won’t promise, but she insists it’s all she wants.

Licking Wounds and Digging Dirt

After his visit, Caleb rejoins the Free Liars at Ezra’s Big Brew Lots as they theorize at lightning speed. If Mona’s dead, Emily wonders who the lawyer has been talking to to learn about Cyrus and the kidnapping. As they ponder, Aria’s phone rings with a phone call from the Varjak number! Aria DOESN’T ANSWER FOREVER JESUS ARIA QUIT ARGUING ABOUT IT JUST GET IT so Caleb grabs it from her and answers it with a confused look on his face. A French song lilts from the speakers.

The gang calls Hanna and plays it for her over the prison phone. Hanna recognizes it – she has heard it in Mona’s room, because Mona loved French music, stuff like “Edith Pilaf.” “Like the rice dish?” Aria has to ask because Hanna is in lady prison where her famous one-liners are no longer allowed. Ali was wrong – it was A taunting her all along.

Now, stay with us as this next bit was heavy on the Liar Logic™: Somehow, the French music proves that the number wasn’t Mona’s (even though Mona loved French music), and Mona never sent the lawyer to them, but that doesn’t mean she left them totally in the dark. She hid a tape for them in her book, after all, which the police never found. So maybe there’s more stuff hidden in her room for them to find. Maybe ALL THE ANSWERS are still in there, so they’ve got to get into Mona’s room and search, even though no one has seen Mrs. Vanderwaal in a hot minute. Caleb apologizes to Aria for grabbing her phone out of her hand because he understands boundaries and respect for others and not being an emotional bully/manipulator, and also because he bears the heavy weight of being the only guy on this show who must turn female pupils into little hearts.

Aria volunteers to go to Mona’s house and talk to her mom because she is little and the least intimidating. Emily volunteers to drive her because Aria is too small to see over the steering wheel of a car. As the girls leave, Caleb asks Spencer to wait. The two sit down for tea and biscuits (good riddance, English NPH, Caleb’s a better Englishman than ye anyhow), and Caleb admits that he regrets not getting Hanna out of town when he had the chance. With a tone of heartbreaking vulnerability, he tells Spencer that Hanna wanted him to leave if things went sour. Spencer assures him that that was a very hard thing for Hanna to ask, because all she ever wants is him all the time. She then jokes that she wants him to bottle him and sell it (WOULD BUY), and Caleb tells her to finish her cookie because that’s what good boyfriends do. 

Let’s live in this scene forever, friends.

At Mona’s house, there’s no answer when Aria knocks on the door. Emily’s afraid they’re just chasing smoke and that Mona didn’t secretly have all kinds of mysteries and riddles hidden away in her bedroom, because Mona has been dead a long time and Emily doesn’t remember EXACTLY WHAT MONA WAS LIKE. Aria doesn’t know for sure, but she does know Mona wasn’t stupid, and there might be clues somewhere. Emily fears they’re running out of time before they all get dragged down Ali’s Rabbit Hole of Horrors.

Judging by the clown prison pants and cat face baseball jacket Aria was wearing earlier, the correct answer here would be “yes.”

As the girls drive away, the camera angle switches to Mona’s bedroom, as someone watches them drive away from her window.

Spencer is reading the paper on her back porch when Jason appears to apologize for his dad OH NOPE PSYCH, he actually just wants to berate her about “trapping” Ali for the police to catch her. Jason let her go that night, because he thought there was a chance she was innocent, and now he’s pissed he listened to Spencer. Spencer knows, okay Jason? She knows that she can be really certain about things, and that grey areas are not a good place for her. There’s someone out there who knows that and is using it against her. She doesn’t think Alison killed anyone. “Well effing great,” Jason says. “I’m testifying tomorrow.”

The next morning, Spencer tries to sneak out to the trial but Veronica catches her and forbids that she go. Spencer basically responds with a middle finger emoji. No amount of nineteenth century Barristering will keep her from this one, Veronica.

Second Verse, Worse Than the First

At the trial, the prosecutor plays the graphic tape of Mona’s attack. Jason is on the witness stand, and admits that, yes, it’s the same tape the police showed him when he identified Allison. But now he tells the prosecutor he no longer believes it’s Allison in the video. It couldn’t have been. Desperate to regain the upper hand, the prosecutor changes the topic: to Hanna…and Ashley oh dear god this is bad bad bad no please stop. He has Jason point out Ashley in the audience, and asks if they ever met up “socially” outside of work. Jason admits they met “socially” in private sometimes. The prosecutor takes this and runs with it: Were they intimate? Private? You know, like sexy stuff? Basically, did anything happen between them that might have Jason wanting to change his testimony to favor the defense? Throughout all of this, Ali’s lawyer keeps yelling “Objection!” and it’s finally sustained. WHISPERS. MURMURS. DRAMATIC MUSIC. Jason doesn’t even have to answer: the implications alone are enough to do major damage to both Ali and Hanna.

In the hall outside the courtroom, the girls are shocked. Hanna, and probably A, must have known about Ashley and Jason going to pound town, but the whole thing just made it seem like even Jason believed Ali was guilty, and it took Ashley to convince him to change his story. Spencer chases Jason down to ask if he’s okay. Jason implies his actions have gotten him kicked out of the house, which is probably good because he’s, like, 30 and it’s kinda seeming like a failure to launch situation. What happened between him and Ashley is no one’s business, not even yours, Spencer.

When everyone knows your secrets, girls, you no longer have secrets to hide.

With that, it’s time to uncover some of Mona’s secrets, and the girls head off in the direction of her house.

At Marin Mansion, Ashley tells Ted she shouldn’t have gone to the trial, but Ted assures her it wouldn’t have made a difference if she’d stayed away. He silences his ringing phone, no doubt another nosey churchgoer calling as word spreads about Ashley’s trial mishap. “Most of the ladies in the congregation manage to pull the news right out of the atmosphere,” Ted muses.  “You can go, Ted,” Ashley dismisses him. But Ted says he’d like to finish his coffee, thanks. “No, you misunderstand. You can go. Like forever,” Ashley explains. But Ted is a Marin Man, a Marman, and he made a promise to his Marin. He made a promise to her, and he believes in clean slates. But Ashley knows this is no way to start a life together. She tells him to go, a final dismissal this time, but he still insists on finishing his coffee. We love Ted. And Ted. Loves. Coffee.

Just Think Like Mona

Spencer bangs on Monamom’s door but there’s no answer. No one has seen her anywhere lately, which isn’t surprising because she is a mother in Rosewood. Has anyone checked the pottery kiln for all these missing women lately? As they leave, the girls hear Edith “Rice Dish” Piaf playing from Mona’s room. So they try the door, which is of course unlocked. Upstairs, Mona’s room is completely trashed, the blood bank is empty, the heads are ripped off her dolls, everything is overturned. A note is stuck in the ripped off head of a doll. “Finders keepers, losers weepers…”

Spencer and Emily assume they’ve lost this battle, but Aria ingeniously points out that maybe A didn’t find anything and just wrote the note to trick them into thinking she did. “How do you stop someone from search a room?” she asks. Why duh, you make it look like it’s already been searched. The girls “think like Mona” for a moment, which works surprisingly well when Spencer removes the glass from a hand mirror to find a notecard underneath.

HECK YES ANAGRAMS. As the girls leave with their new clue, we see Not Hot Andrew spying on them from across the street. And in Mona’s house, the camera pans on an ice pick in the floor surrounded by broken glass.

At the Brew, Aria runs into Andrew, and he apologizes for what he said about Mona. But it’s a terrible apology. Rather than actually being sorry for what he said, he says he didn’t like the way her face looked when he said it. “Welp, that’s my face man, it does its own thing sometimes.” Aria’s so over this r/n. Andrew promises he doesn’t think Mona deserved what happened to her. He “surprises her face again” when he leans in to kiss her cheek.

A Portrait of Two Families

We are given a respite from Andrew’s creepiness when the scene cuts to Ashley visiting Hanna in prison. “Maybe I’ll write a book about being in prison,” Hanna jokes (WOULD READ). Ashley says she hopes Hanna didn’t get the bad decision gene from her, but Hanna hopes she is a genetic carbon copy of Ashley because Ashley is A QUEEN who is tougher than a couple of bear balls. Mama bear balls. This oh-so-sweet Marin moment ends only because Ashley is late to teach her Parenting 101 class at Rosewood University.

Meanwhile, Jason visits Ali and the shared genes here are of quite a different variety. As in, lies. Her lawyer remains confident, except for the moments when she doesn’t know Ali’s looking at her. Like Hanna told Caleb, Ali tells Jason to leave Rosewood. But he’s channeling the Liars and tells her he believes her and he knows she’s innocent. Ali assures him she didn’t kill Mona, but she’s certainly not innocent.

A-tag, Deep Cuts

At home, Spencer reads by a fire. Veronica comes in and is COLD AS ICE. Spencer pulls the anagram from her book. Meanwhile, Em’s cleaning up at the Brew. She takes a break to listen to Jonny’s secret machine. Stealing money from mama’s wallet, hating your boobs, killing the dog, YA KNOW, THE USUAL. But then – mon dieu! – the secret montage ends with an Edith Piaf track, which carries us directly into the next scene: a forensics lab, where we see that the ice pick from Mona’s house came from Boo Boo’s Ice Cream Factory, the same place where our Liars left prints all over that freezer door for A to use as A pleases.

At the Lair, A is shredding all evidence of Varjak and using the shredded bits to line the cage of (WAIT FOR IT) TIPPI THE BIRD’S CAGE.


Someone is shooting arrows. ARROWS. We no longer have any idea what to think about this show.


Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and cocker spaniel. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. She is a brand designer who loves tiki drinks, her mid-century modern house, and obsessive Google mapping.