Welcome to the final recap of season 6A/the Liars’ high school careers, friends! All three of us chipped in—well, DUG in—to decipher the questions that all the finale’s #Answers left us with (in fact, that’s the unique format we’ve chosen this week). We’ve maybe written this much in the past, but maybe not! So better just get started reading. See you at the bottom!
THIS WEEK’S MVP
Spencer out A-ing A
THIS WEEK’S LVP
Really the perennial LVP, whether we highlight it or not: @ABCFpll
Runner-up: The missing hour of the episode that answers the dozens of questions that CeCe’s “answers” dug up and was neccessary for us to actually FEEL what was happening, rather than just barely managing to keep up with it all.
BIGGEST SURPRISE/BEST SHOCK
Well, we guess the fact that CeCe is Charlotte was Charles is A. But also not really? But also that is okay! Because while Catie and Alexis tossed the idea around after the Christmas episode, and then doubled down on it last week, we had been equally convinced at various moments that Ezra was A—or Wren (or Ezra), or Holbrook (or Ezra), or Aria (or Ezra) or Spencer’s alternate personality (or Ezra). (Yes, tbh, we are still convinced that Ezra is really A, by which we mean the actual hArmful stalking presence in their lives.) So OKAY—it seems incredibly obvious that CeCe-is-really-Charlotte-was-once-Charles-is-now-A, and that Sara turned out to be faking innocence turned out to be Red Coat turned out to be Black Widow (but probably still suffered a lot of abuse and trauma to get there, so still deserves our sympathy), and that this whole thing should really go in our No-duh category. But…isn’t that the point of a mystery? The clues were there the whole time, and when finally revealed they make the craziness make sense? A has presented as male & female; has been in Radley & out; was a Dilaurentis & not. Every single detail about A’s/Ali’s/the DiLaurentises’ past has been equal parts truth and red herring.
CeCe being A IS one huge no-duh, but in the precise way that the reveal should be. And that is a pretty big surprise! After five and a half seasons and 130 episodes of UTTER, AMAZING NONSENSE, the solution (mostly) (kinda) made… sense. Wow.
Anyway, runner-up: Mona’s literal stiletto.
The solution only MOSTLY made sense. The kind of sense that, if you look at it straight on for too long, kind of stops making sense, or starts making people mad. And no-duh! Much like the impossibility of CeCe giving up her power and just moving to France when she had the chance, the GAME of watching this show has always been too fun. There was never going to be any way to end this hurricane of innumerable, unstoppable faceless threats to these teen girls’ emotional and physical autonomy—the violent assumptions and expectations of society itself included!—that would actually feel satisfactory.
(Also a runner-up here: Mona’s literal stiletto. That’s our girl! A surprise and a no-duh, all in one perfect Machiavellian package.)
THAT’S ALI, FOLKS
We’ve got nothing. Ali was merely a set of ears this week. This was the Cece show.
PREVIOUSLY ON PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
No one went to prom. Charles went to prom. Alison went to prom. Everyone else went to prom. Sara went to prom. Moms went to drink. Moms got trapped (#RIP, no one is coming to get you!). Ali got kidnapped.
Also… six years and eleventy thousand months of everything else, because tonight? It’s ANSWERS TIME.
In Media Res Cold Open
Question: If Ali just got kidnapped, why is she with all the girls AND A when the episode opens? And on a roof??? Haven’t they learned from Toby’s Mom/Ian/Cousin Nate/NYC/ACT NORMAL BITCHES that they should never, ever, ever follow danger into high places?
Answer: For the DRAMA!!!!!!! Also we are still in past-parallels mode, with this episode mirroring the 4B roof finale which ALSO starred all five girls chasing a black-hoodied A up onto a roof and begging them not to jump. “I’ll do anything to help you!” Ali cries. “Just because we know who you are doesn’t mean the game is over!” Spencer adds, very unhelpfully. GIRLS. YOU WANT THE GAME TO BE OVER. “Don’t do this to your sister!” Emily (ofc) begs. “You’ve spent your whole life trying to get back to your family,” Aria says. “It’s not too late.” “You’ve been such a BITCH to us,” Hanna says, “but we heard your story; we understand.” “DO NOT SHOOT!” Detective Officer Barry shouts at the LEGO RPD officers suddenly swarming the street below. “There are CIVILIANS up there!”
Then A jumps.
But… …seriously! How does any building in Rosewood STILL have such shitty roof security? Roofs are like the #1 cause of death in Rosewood, PA, matched only by a) moving ghost trains and b) actual ghosts! LOCK YOUR ROOF ACCESS, PEOPLE. Better yet: burn the whole town to the ground, salt the earth. Start over somewhere new.
* * *
Question: Are the Liars alone in the Fractured Fairytale Forest?
Answer: Okay, this probably wasn’t one of your burning endgame PLL questions, right? But everyone has to start somewhere, so here’s your first Real Answer: No! Sara is there with them, for one, ready and anxious to bounce on out to Lt. Tanner on the Prom dance floor and let her know exactly what happened, when it happened, and where the Liars are going next. Also MONA is there! In her red crushed velvet cloak and best expression of utter disdain. She quickly lets Aria know that she long ago ID’d Clark as 21 Jump Street-ing it by “the bulge in his pants,” winky-face, and then explains that she’s been snarfing Ali ever since Ali came back to town.
So Mona knows that ChArles has been texting Ali, and is probably the one that took her. Mona is also the one ready with the data and tech to triangulate Charles’ unique cell tower location, which, surprise of surprises, is in the middle of Carissimi Group HQ. And since Emily isn’t convinced that Charles, who drove a car through her house, is above hurting even his SISTER, the Liars (+Sara+Mona) are off!
But… …what about the boys? Three of whom are cops? And Caleb and Ezra, who each for VERY DIFFERENT REASONS know their way around a high-tech surveillance outfit? Just, like, nobody thought to tell any of their bed buddies anything once Sara offered to go into the other room to talk to Lt. Tanner? And why are these kids THRILLER dancing? Don’t they know to be careful what they wish for, especially in a town like Rosewood???
* * *
Question: What about the DiLaurentis boys?
Answer: Well, Jason is either dead or paralyzed, being dragged by his feet down a hallway while his eyes stare unblinkingly into our souls. So that’s fun! Ken Dad is still MIA, but is definitely not at home, which we know because he does not answer the phone when the girls try calling the DiLaurentis landline in an effort to find Ali. Also because he has not let the PromMoms out of the basement where Charles trapped them last week. RIP moms! We loved your wine-sleuthing spinoff!
But… …for real, who is going to let the PromMoms out? How will their husbands even know to miss them, when they spend such a significant percentage of their lives Out Of Town?
* * *
Question: Who are all of these UTILITY-stamped men outside the Carissimi Group HQ and why are they loading heavy duffel bags into the back of a van in the middle of the night?
Answer: Well, the duffels are probably not stuffed with Ali’s dismembered body, no matter how quickly Hanna’s brain jumps to that conclusion. Beyond that: search us.
But… …no, really: WHY DID WE SPEND FIVE THOUSAND PRECIOUS MINUTES WATCHING THAT? You know, instead of getting a moment to breathe and FEEL the repercussions of A’s story, or [spoilers] learn if/how Mona makes it out of the lAir, or if/how the DiLaurentis men recover from their nightmare, or if/how the police deal with A/Wilden/Tanner/the years of corruption in their ranks, or especially if/how Ezra GETS WHAT HE DESERVES for preying on and stalking children while being held up as a romantic paragon to the show’s IRL teen audience.
* * *
Question: What is the code to the locked door hiding A’s secret REAL FOR REAL NO REALLY NOT LYING THIS TIME lAir?
Answer: Well, it isn’t Ali’s birthday, or Mrs. D’s, which Mona knows off the top of her head, being the self-taught eideticker that she is. Nope—it’s September 7! Which SARA “puzzles” out by being a human calendar who remembers that every year she was in the dollhouse, she was given a fancy cupcake on that day. It’s also the precise date that she and Ali both disappeared and Bethany was murdered in their place, but the cupcake detail is much more compelling, we think no one will agree!
So Mona tries the cupcake code, and wouldn’t you know it, A really is a sentimental fool. The secret door opens, and Mona gives a little smirk before declaring to all and sundry, “We ARE smarter than A!”
But… …shouldn’t Mona, of all people, be suspicious of the fact that a complete stranger figured out the code before she could? Or of herself, for not guessing the Labor Day Night of A Thousand Nights code on your own? Or of **A** for USING such an obvious code? And Sara—did you get a cupcake the first day you were down there? How many years were you really gone? What is TIME?
* * *
Question: What’s inside A’s lAir?
Answer: The Minority Report, basically!
Despite the fact that nothing in their game with UberA has ever been this easy, the girls stride through the open wall panel and into the future. Sara doesn’t follow. “It’s a little tight in there!” she calls to them from the hallway, which is a totally fair reaction for a girl who was locked up in an underground dollhouse for 2-to-4 years to have. Also it is a little too much like TIME TRAVEL, what with the floor-to-ceiling white and space station touchscreen computer console and holographic video feeds. Leaving a world ruled by Black-Eyed Peas and returning to one ruled by Macklemore would be hard enough on a person, nevermind all this space-age techno nonsense!
Oh, also Sara’s (probably) a double-timing bitch who (probably) gave them a code that would keep the doors open just long enough for the Liars and their fairytale gowns to get inside before swooshing shut and locking once more.
In any case, the Liars will have to deal with the fallout from Sara’s (probable) betrayal later, as right then something that Mona did on the touchscreen space console turns on the hologram video wall, revealing a live feed of Alison yelling at ChArles’ black-hoodied back, with the two DiLaurentis men unconscious on the floor behind them.
But… …IS A FROM THE FUTURE? (No.) (Maybe.) (Probably.)
* * *
DiLaurentis Family Reunion
Question: Who, WHO, is this mystery person who loves black hoodies so much? (That is, who is A/Charles?)
Answer: With the Liars watching from the techno lair center, the black hoodied villain of our story spins around slooooowly… and it’s Cece.
That fizz you feel? That’s an Answer, baby.
Alison is probably more shocked than we are—after all, we’ve been floating this theory since December. The Liars, though? They are absolutely shocked. As Cece turns to them via space-age hologram camera and sings a bone-chilling verse, “Lord help the mister/who comes between me and my sister,” they realize that Cece has spent years torturing them for coming between her and Alison.
But… …why isn’t Tanner here, after Sara so helpfully called her for help back at Prom? Because she’s working for Cece?!?!?! YES, LiarLogic declares (hey, they’re mostly audience surrogates this episode, but it wouldn’t be PLL if they didn’t engage in at least ONE moment of LiarLogic). But NO, we declare right back. The most obvious solution seems like it would be that Sara didn’t actually talk to anyone, let alone Tanner, just that she said she did so that no one else would think to do so themselves.
* * *
Question: Okay, so CeCe is A. But wasn’t CHARLES A? And, like, wasn’t Charles a boy? How did he…end up a she?
Answer: The same way it happens to so many of our fellow humans. The eldest DiLaurentis child was assigned male at birth, and given the name Charles. As she explains, she always asked for dresses, and liked playing with dolls; eventually, she came to identify as female. Charles was (figuratively and sort of literally) buried, and the eldest DiLaurentis was reborn as Charlotte to everyone except those who might have disapproved. Because as it also happens with too many of our fellow humans, not all of Charlotte’s family was supportive.
But… …no buts, really! CeCe is Charlotte is A. The details of her transition aren’t crucial to the story, as her psychosis stems NOT from her being trans, but from a lifetime of systemic rejection and emotional and psychological abuse from both of her birth parents.
*Note: Now that we know Charles/A is really CeCe, we’ll refer to her with female pronouns, and the name CeCe, as we think she’d want*
* * *
Question: Ok, so, WHY is Cece A?
Answer: We see a flashback explanation, and it’s like looking at the negative to the story Ken Dad told Alison about Charlotte: The structures are the same, but all the colors are different. In this version, Charlotte (CeCe) loved Alison. The baby was like one of her dolls, to dress up and dote upon. One day, when Ali was crying, Charlotte tried to get Jessica’s attention through the upstairs window to come help, but Jessica was too busy doting on Jason to notice. And so Charlotte took it upon herself to comfort her baby sister by running her a bath. Charlotte was still a child, however, and didn’t have the upper body strength or motor skills to avoid dropping Baby Alison into the deep, hot water. And then, when Ken Dad FINALLY came out from his study to investigate the sound of running water and found Charlotte standing over Alison in the tub of scalding water, he assumed the worst. Already judgmental and biased against a child who preferred dolls and dresses, CeCe explains, he convinced Jessica to lock their eldest away in Radley. For good. Jessica and Aunt Carol came to visit occasionally, but for twelve years, Charlotte—still stuck as Charles—was locked up in that institution, alone.
To be perfectly honest, Ken Dad, as per uzh, was a real dick about the whole thing. And now, he’s getting to hear all about it. From the floor. Just outside Cece and Alison’s Radley cell. Where he and Jason are lying paralyzed, able to hear everything Cece is saying.
But… …is it possible that there is a gray-er truth to Charlotte’s childhood, caught somewhere between her and Ken Dad’s black and white memories? Additional instances of dangerous behavior Charlotte presented OR additional instances of Ken Dad’s actual revulsion to her gender non-conformity that we aren’t privy to? ABSOLUTELY. But the fact stands that both Mother and Father DiLaurentis saw full-time institutionalisation as the only solution for their pre-k child, whatever the cause, and then Jessica compounded that confusing trauma by keeping Charlotte’s very existence a secret from the entire world.
And so we as an audience are caught in the precarious position of needing to recognize that CeCe, as a character, in this particular story, is an unreliable narrator who has done some really bad things to a lot of people. And we also need to understand that the writers were trying to show us that Charlotte’s role as A formed out of a desperation to connect to a family that she was isolated from, and NOT because she was trans. The writers clearly worked hard to be sensitive, and they mostly do a good job. HOWEVER, we think there were definitely moments when they failed to communicate all of that perfectly. This is an especially egregious message being delivered to an audience who has been told, again and again, that other very problematic things are OK (namely, everything to do with Ezra) and who might not understand the significant difference between telling us abuse breeds abuse and telling us trans = psychotic (the former being CeCe’s situation, the latter being completely false, and actually extremely dangerous.)
Unfortunately, art does not exist in a vacuum! It exists in the real world, with real people, who have really different levels of knowledge and ways of interacting with and interpreting the world. And this art, in particular, exists in a world where #CeCeIsA is brought to you by #CleanAndClear and #EzriaForever are official hashtag messages (#LiarsAreTrapped in a capitalist propaganda machine!), and not everyone seeks out expert criticism and careful, compassionate reactions from those communities that should have the loudest speaking roles on every issue. But you can! And you should. Use art—and every controversy and problematic fave it kicks up—as an opportunity to learn more about your place in the human experiment. In this case, use Heather Hogan’s recap on Autostraddle as a launchpad, and pay attention to the voices that join this discussion.
* * *
Question: Who killed Toby’s mom?
Answer: Another question that probably wasn’t burning a hole in the top of your #SummerOfAnswers checklist, but there we are! #CeCeIsA is just a gift that keeps on giving.
Seven years alone in Radley meant friends were slim for the pickings. However, by the age of 12, Charlotte made a single friend: a girl named Bethany. Bethany was the one person besides Jessica that Charlotte was comfortable being herself with, as we see in a flashback to a scene on the Radley roof, where Charlotte is modeling a new dress (the twin of the one Ali got for Christmas that year) and scarf for her friend. “You’re absolutely beautiful,” Bethany smiles. The two set to discussing how utterly awful Radley is to live in, and how great it would be if they could just LEAVE. “Oh, leaving isn’t the problem,” Bethany declares. “It’s staying gone.”
Unfortunately she doesn’t have the genetic gift for lying that Charlotte does, so could never ever come up with a lie good enough to keep her and Charlotte safe on the outside if they ever did manage to escape. Charlotte does, though! She is through one convincing made-up story and well into another when oh no! Their bonding is interrupted by “Old Goody-Goody Cavanaugh” coming out for a smoke, like mental patients on suicide watch are given to freely do.
Charlotte panics—no one can see her dressed this way! No one but Bethany would ever understand! (THANKS, HORRIBLE DILAURENTIS PARENTS.) Bethany promises to cover for her, but as Charlotte hides behind an AC unit, she sees that what Bethany actually does is argue with Mama Cavanaugh for literally one second before straight up shoving her off the roof. “WHAT DID YOU DO!”” Charlotte screams, running out and blanching at the sight of Toby’s mom’s body on the ground below.
And of course, everyone did believe the perfect little blonde girl over the little boy wearing a dress, even Jessica, who paid off Wilden to make everyone think Toby’s mom killed herself.
Back in CeCe’s Space Odyssey lAir, the Liars are shocked dumb. Spencer especially is floored by this revelation, that Jessica would choose her secret child’s continued mental trauma and personal repression over Toby and his family getting to know the truth. “That changed him,” she croaks, “thinking that his mom CHOSE to leave him.”
“Now we know who taught A to treat people like dolls,” Aria mutters in turn. Ken Dad might’ve abandoned Cece, but Jessica is the one who taught her how to be A.
After that, they diagnosed Charlotte with “intermittent explosive disorder” (a real joke, she explains, in that it really WAS the perfect diagnosis for Bethany) and kept her doped up for years…until they finally let her out to lay Charles to rest. She and Jessica “buried” him at Aunt Carol’s and Jessica finally accepted Charlotte as her daughter.
And then promptly took her back to Radley under her brand new name.
But… …what prompted them to finally stop doping Charlotte? Did they never reevaluate that diagnosis? Are there even real doctors at Radley? Why was there no paper trail to Charlotte in Charles’ medical file? Did CeCe burn those when she planted (because she had to have PLANTED) the medical file in the black-bath basement room? Where did the donated organ come from?!
* * *
Question: Okay, but wait a second—Charles is Charlotte and Charlotte is CeCe. But JASON AND CECE DATED???
Answer: JASON AND CECE DATED.
But… JASON AND CECE DATED???
* * *
Question: Yes, but, for real. Jason and CeCe dated. How and why? And how was CeCe in Jason’s yearbook, if she was stuck in Radley all those years?
Answer: Right, so no big surprise here, but turns out Charlotte/Cece was SUPER brainy, and with nothing else to do in Radley, she filled her room with books and studied all the time (“I saw the one way I could escape, so I took it”). One day Jessica came to visit, bringing with her some exceptionally good news: The board granted Charlotte permission to attend classes at UPenn. Awesome!
Well, except that it turns out that Charlotte already knew everything being taught by all her new professors. So one day when classes were cancelled (“Okay, I called in a bomb threat”), Charlotte took the opportunity to venture further afield than the UPenn campus in an effort to see some of her family in the wild. Her first stop? Rosewood High, where no one questions the presence of an unidentified adult walking the halls! And as luck would have it, she came on school picture day, and as greater luck would have it, reached the school picture room just as Jason was getting his senior yearbook photo taken. And because she had spent years basically in solitary confinement being told everything about her entire existence was wrong, she really leaned into it, flirting with Jason when he started flirting with her.
So why was CeCe in Jason’s yearbook? Oh, because she was just too hot NOT to jump in and get her picture taken too, obvs! And of course no one in a position of power bothered to check a student roster, and no one in the rest of the senior student body bothered to dispute that she, a complete stranger, deserved to be prom queen. She and Ali sure do share genes!
“I know what you’re going to say,” Cece interrupts this skin-crawling flashback. “It’s screwed up that I dated my brother.” Ali verbalizes what we’re all thinking. Wait…did they…like… “EW NO,” Cece spits. “Like I said, it’s my brother. I mean, didn’t you ever wonder why he was so angry and frustrated all that summer??” So: dating only! No sexy times!
Anyway, when she met Jason and introduced herself as “Cece Drake” it was the first time she had used that name, so when Jason talked about her, Jessica didn’t realize Cece = Charlotte. That is, until the weekend the whole family was supposed to go to Cape May and Cece showed up on the DiLaurentis front porch. Jessica freaked out at the thought of 15 years worth of intricately layered lies being exposed. Because remember that symbolic funeral Jessica gave Charles? UH YEAH, not so symbolic to Ken Dad, who thought Charles was dead this whole time.
Jessica’s first worry was that Ken Dad would recognize his son in CeCe’s face, but that fear turned out to be completely unfounded (we’re talking about a man who was inside with two small children and let a loud tub fill completely with water before coming to check what was up, so his observational skills are NOT GREAT), as when Ken pulled up in the driveway and met Jason’s new “girlfriend,” he was 100% totally fooled. After all, not even an idiot Rosewood male would suspect that his son is actually dating his own dead-son-turned-not-so-dead-daughter.
And so CeCe tagged along on that Cape May trip, thus beginning a beautiful (yet admittedly weird) friendship between her and Alison.
But… Did they HAVE to date??? Aren’t there other ways of getting to know a person?
* * *
Question: Hey, what’s that noise?
Answer: That’s a motion sensor going off back at Cece’s holodeck. Mona deftly navigates the sci-fi control panel to pull up an image on the hologram, where the Liars see “RW2” painted on a wall. Our resident Radley experts Mona and Spencer know that wall: it’s the rear west wing on the second floor of Radley. Ali and Cece are in Radley! They see Red Coat #623 getting a big ole batch of explosives ready—Cece is going to blow up Radley, taking the end of the DiLaurentis line with it.
But… Girl, we don’t even know.
* * *
Question: Wait. If CeCe loved Alison so much, why did she bonk her on the back of the head with a rock?
Answer: So, Cece HAD big plans to come clean to Alison after that super great summer they spent together with Wilden and Ian and Melissa and whoever Beach Hottie was. But then That Bitch Bethany ruined everything when she found out Jessica was having an affair with her dad, losing what little “it” she had left, stealing Cece’s clothes, and sneaking out of Radley, intent on doing some major damage to Jessica. And since CeCe was so fiercely protective of the mother who had been SO GREAT to her for her entire life, her one protector and confidant (also jailer, but you know), she escaped right after Bethany, somehow ALSO wearing the yellow tank top that Bethany had just stolen and Ali was also wearing.
Not that CeCe knew that part, as when she came upon a blonde girl wearing her own yellow tank, snooping around Jessica’s yard, her brain started flashing BETHANYBETHANYBETHANY, and rather than considering it was the girl who actually lived in that same house, she instead just went for the rock and the killing blow. And *bonk* she hit the wrong girl. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So Jessica did what any mom would do, and buried her own child in the azaleas, not even taking a moment to thoroughly check that she was actually dead, while Cece sobbed nearby, swearing she thought it was Bethany. (It’s actually all very heart-wrenching.) Then Jessica paid off Wilden AGAIN to return CeCe to Radley and make the right excuses. “My daughter was never here.” In more ways than one!
Back in real time, CeCe brokenly tells Ali that she had thought it would take a long time for Jessica to forgive her, yes, but it had never occurred to her Jessica would die before that could happen.
But… Why was Bethany so set on destroying CeCe/Jessica? Was she really just that much of a psychopath? And did Jessica REALLY not notice that Alison wasn’t dead? How did Grunwald happen to show up and pull her out? (Is Alison a ghost??) Where was Bethany while this all was going down? WHEN did CeCe find time to have a loud argument with Melissa within earshot of Jason? How did CeCe find and abduct Sara? WHEN? When did she build the dollhouse? For whom, if not for Ali, and evidently also not for Bethany? WHAT WAS SHE ARGUING WITH MELISSA OVER?
* * *
Question: So if CeCe bonked Alison on the head…who killed Bethany?
Answer: MONA DID. We know, crazy. Through tears, Mona admits to the Liars that SHE killed Bethany on that Labor Day from Hell. Mona had been threatening Ali, trying to scare her, but that night…Ali (“Ali”) was all alone in her yard, and everyone hated her and she was really mean to Mona, so what the hell. *head bonk*
Unfortch, hearing Cece confess to accidentally hitting Ali instead of Bethany, Mona realizes that she made the exact same mistake, only in reverse. “I killed an innocent person,” she admits. But Spencer replies, “Bethany wasn’t innocent.”
But… …didn’t Melissa kill Bethany? By burying her alive? How did the Liars’ fingerprints get on the shovel, given that both Mona AND Melissa wielded it after Speedy Spencer dropped it? Didn’t Mona pick Alison up later that night and take her to the motel to help her run away? Did she think that the head-bonking just didn’t take? Who did she think had buried Ali’s body, if she had left it behind all in the open? Has anyone on the show at this point NOT killed someone?
* * *
Question: FOR REAL THO: how was everyone wearing that same yellow tank top on that neverending Labor Day night? BONUS: What’s with the two yellow dresses from the Christmas episode?
Answer: When Charlotte was in Radley, Jessica started buying her dresses and scarves and stuff to wear. Starting with the dress that we saw in the Christmas episode, every time Jessica bought Ali something, she would buy the same thing for Charlotte (see “Who Killed Toby’s Mom?” above). Including—evidently—a certain yellow tank top, which Bethany stole to dress up as Charlotte on Endless Labor Day night. So CeCe saw Bethany—but thought she was Alison. Mona saw Alison—but thought she was Bethany. And at least one person (Jason) saw either Alison or Bethany, and thought she was Cece. We’re pretty sure this all actually makes sense, although it feels a little like we’re doing algebra but all the variables are blondes.
But… We’re going to go ahead and mark this as a win in the “TWINS!!!!!!” column, okay?
* * *
Question: Okay, got it. But this only explains CeCe’s connection to Alison. How did she meet the Liars and learn about the A game?
Answer: Knowing Charlotte had flown the coop once already, the docs at Radley took away her privileges. And with Bethany dead and Jessica in angry grief, she was left even more alone than before. That is, until a new crazy chick showed up: MONA, drugged to the nines after her adrenalized hyperreality came crashing down at the end of Season 2. Dressed in her plush red velvet robe, CeCe would sneak into her room every night for “storytime.” That is, the magic window of time when an extremely high Mona, thinking CeCe was Alison, would tell her all kinds of crazy stories about torturing Ali’s cabal of Rosewood girls.
Hearing about what Mona did to the Liars was, like, Cece’s own personal ABCFamily teen drama. She was ADDICTED. “I mean,” she crows to Ali in real time, “this bitch ran her best friend over WITH A CAR. That shit was pure gold!” (“I am so, SO sorry,” Mona says tearfully to Hanna back in Space Camp. “I know,” Hanna says, still hurt, but with forgiveness.) If CeCe couldn’t be with Ali anymore, if she had to suffer for it—then so should the Liars.
Eventually, the doctors started to wean Mona off her meds, so CeCe quit visiting. But once Mona got lucid, someone started slipping her puzzles to work on the sly, and she realized: she wasn’t ready to quit playing The Game. CeCe made a (secret) deal with her: if Mona helped CeCe get out of Radley, CeCe would continue The Game on the outside. Her first assignment? Befriending the Liars. Mona told her the Liars were happy that Ali was gone, and that really pissed her off. She thought they deserved everything they got.
But… …wasn’t Mona’s WHOLE THING after Radley that she didn’t know who Red Coat was, or who had taken the game from her, or who was pulling all the new strings? So…did “Red Coat” make the deal with Mona to help CeCe escape in exchange for “Red Coat” helping Mona keep torturing the girls? And Mona just didn’t realize they were the same person? Or, did Mona know CeCe was in The Game, but not that she was Big A? Also, when Mona WAS drugged enough to think CeCe was Ali, why in the world would she have been so eager to inform her that she “did exactly what you told me to,” if she had been the A torturing Ali in the first place? Was Alison the Original A? Was Mona working for Alison who was running from Mona who was then working for CeCe? And most importantly, did CeCe plant a snake in her own dressing room and then rescue Spencer FROM it with a mannequin leg?
* * *
Question: Ahhh, so CeCe stole The Game from Mona? Where’d she get all that money to build underground dollhouse bunkers and bluesnarf police vehicles and obsessively monitor the lives of every teenage girl in Rosewood and hire red-herring DiLaurentis doppelgängers?
Answer: Back at Mystery Lair Theater 3000, Spencer reminds Mona that she’s supposed to be getting them out of there, so Mona pecks around on the control panel and accidentally pulls up CeCe’s stock portfolio. Turns out CeCe’s the “real life Wolf of Wall Street,” having never made a bad investment, spinning penny stocks into swimming pools full of gold coins like it’s her job. She’s got so much money, in fact, she was able to hire Rhys as an actual employee at the Carissimi Group. The dude’s a decoy, and even HE has no idea he was hired because he looks like a DiLaurentis.
But… That’s a LOT of money. She’s really NEVER made a bad trade in her life? Maybe she really IS from the future!
* * *
Question: I guess I’m with you in understanding that CeCe started torturing the Liars because she hated them for having had a part of Ali’s life that was kept from her, and THEN because they were happy Alison was dead. But when did CeCe find out Alison wasn’t dead?
Answer: As Cece got deeper and deeper into the game, she kept seeing a blonde in a red coat watching the Liars. The night that Shana set the Thornhill Lodge on fire with the Liars inside it, CeCe knew that the Red Coated girl would be there, so she sent a decoy (also in a red coat) to distract Red Coat. That decoy? SARA HARVEY. Sara was supposed to keep Red Coat (or Toby? Or Spencer, in the woods? SOMEONE) busy while CeCe flushed out Ali. But then CeCe overheard Mona tell the Liars that the girl in the Red Coat was Ali, which Hanna confirmed, and hooray! CeCe’s incredibly logical and low-key plan to confirm her head-bonked sister’s continued existence WORKED!
Bonus Answer: According to Marlene, Sara is the Red Coat who saved the other three Liars. Because, presumably, it was never CeCe’s intention to actually KILL them. What do you think she is, a MONSTER??? Certainly not the girl who is about to blow up her sister while her best friends watch!
But… …WHY was Sara Red Coat? Did CeCe bribe her? Kidnap and torture her? Did she have a vendetta of her own? Why was she all feral in the dollhouse, and why did she fake being Emily’s girlfriend? What’s with all the showers?? And what was Shana’s deal? Was she working for Ali? For CeCe? For herself? Is this something we should remember? DID WE EVEN WRITE THOSE RECAPS?? (We did. Whoops.)
* * *
Question: Didn’t CeCe leave the country?
Answer: Yes. She did. She left the country with Ali’s passport from Noel Kahn, though she’s not remotely grateful to Ali for giving up literally the only thing Ali had in the world at the time. Aria had killed A (Shana) in NYC, so it seemed like as good a time as any to bounce. Buuuuuuuuutttttt…she was addicted to The Game—and she was really good at it! So back to the ol’ Rosewood mines she flew.
In real time, Ali protests the reasonability of CeCe’s reason for renewing the A game, listing all the times she almost froze the Liars to death, lit them on fire, stabbed them with a knife, drove a car through their house, etc. And CeCe’s like, “Yeah and I almost sawed Emily in HALF! Key word there: ALMOST.”
Also important: Cece snuck home to say goodbye to Jessica before leaving the country, but Jessica was dead when she got there.
But… Oh god, just a billion things. Why was Noel Kahn willing to help Ali in the first place? Where is he now? Did CeCe kill him, too? Why did CeCe want to KILL Ali once she came back? Why did she want her to go to jail? Where does the line between love and hate blur? And most of all—who killed Jessica? PEPE???
Can’t wait for #WinterOfAnswersOrJustOneSpecificAnswer:WhoKilledJessD?
* * *
Question: Ok. So CeCe is Black Hoodie, and Alison was the very original Red Coat and Sara Harvey was the decoy Red Coat (except for when CeCe was the decoy Red Coat in Raven5wood/New York). Then who was the Black Widow?
Answer: CeCe admits to Alison that killing people is never fun, even when those people deserved to die. Like, for instance, that scoundrel Wilden, who CeCe definitely killed. We flashback to his funeral, and see Black Widow get in the limo where a hooded CeCe is waiting. When the Black Widow takes her veil off, it’s… also Sara Harvey, there to verify that all of CeCe’s plans were going, well, as planned. Yawn.
Aria finally voices what we’ve been wondering this whole time: if Sara wasn’t actually being held hostage in the dollhouse, and if the police finding her there was just an act, or if CeCe is still playing with Emily because she knows the Liars are watching. Spencer suddenly realizes why Tanner’s not there; Sara never called the police. Emily’s understandably upset, and wants to get to Ali in Radley ASAP, but they’re stuck in this computer box A-Brain with no way out.
Don’t worry though, girls, ‘cause Spencer and Mona are there! Spencer immediately identifies which flashing light wall had a pattern unlike the others, and Mona removes a fierce and bedazzled shoe to reveal an even fiercer ICE PICK hidden inside her four-inch heel. She smashes Spencer’s escape wall for them to get out, but as the girls scuttle away, Mona hangs behind. She needs to know how the story ends.
But… First, why in the world could CeCe just not go to Wilden’s funeral on her own? They had a public history together! She is a known occasional resident of Rosewood! It wouldn’t have been weird, right? And then, see above re: WHY was Sara Red Coat? Also WHAT HAPPENED TO MONAAA? What “rest of the story” did she get to hear in the four seconds between when the girls leave and when they arrive at Radley to catch Sara in the act as Red Coat? Is Mona still trapped inside the future?
* * *
Question: The bomb! CeCe was planting a bomb in Radley!
Answer: Cool your jets. Don’t you remember who we’ve got on our side? A moment after Sara sets the timer ticking on the bomb, and at the exact second that CeCe tries to detonate it, our girl Spencer—she of the MacGyvered EMP, a quote for every occasion, Quiz Bowl Champion and Rosewood High Valedictorian—is already busy dismantling the bomb. She may not have Mona’s “self-taught eidetic memory,” but she’s got her very own Hastings Brain, and that’s all she needs to out-A A herself. And she does it without any StudyAid, too!
But… You know what, we’re just going to roll with this one. What CAN’T Spencer do? Nothing.
* * *
Question: Poor Emily! Will she ever get a chance to give Sara Harvey a piece of her mind?
Nope, no buts.
* * *
Question: What happened with Cece? Did she jump off that roof?
Answer: Bomb un-bombed, the girls run after Cece, onto the roof. Just as we saw in the beginning, she’s surrounded: Detective Officer Barry and a passel of cops on one side, Liars on the other. The Liars plead with her not to jump; they tell her that they forgive her.
She leaps anyway. …Off the ledge. Back onto the roof.
But… …is The Game ever really over? (Bonus answer to a question you may or may not have been wondering: how does the A blAck mAsk thing work? It’s a BANDANA tied over her face, under the hoodie, and not one of those grim reaper Halloween costumes. One of your recappers may or may not have said OHHHHHH out loud at this reveal. As if these were the Answers she had been waiting for, all along.)
* * *
Question: So, they all lived happily ever after?
Answer: The music is tinkling, the sun is shining, and the dark shadows that have plagued Rosewood since a stormy Labor Day night mumblemumble years ago have been banished for at least five more. It’s Labor Day Weekend again, but not that Labor Day Weekend. A regular, warm-tinted, normal-length one. The girls are gathered, four cars pulled into the DiLaurentis driveway, each loaded with suitcases and proudly stickered with college names. Emily’s off to Pepperdine, Aria’s actually going to make it to SCAD. Spencer got into Georgetown on a bomb-disabling scholarship. Ali’s the only one staying behind, and for someone who once wanted to be anywhere but Rosewood, she’s feeling pretty good about the whole thing. The five hug, and cry. They can’t believe they’re actually leaving.
But… How did Spencer get into Georgetown without applying? Is Emily following Paige to California? Is Hanna still going to New York to live in Caleb’s palace of legal hacker dollars? Where’s Mona? What is Ali doing?? What happened to Jason and Ken? WHAT HAPPENED TO CECE? Who’s living in the DiLaurentis house with Ali? ARE THE MOMS STILL IN THE BASEMENT?????
* * *
NEXT YEAR (+/-5)
Question: Hey—didn’t I read that next season will take place five years in the future?
But… Ali’s name is Mrs. Rollins?? Ali is a teacher? Who are the girls running from? Who is coming after Ali? Why does Spencer have bangs? Why is Hanna wearing so much pink again? WHAT IS HAPPENING?
WHERE IS MONA?
ARE THE MOMS STILL IN THE BASEMENT?
DID CECE GO TO JAIL?
DID SARA HARVEY GO TO JAIL?
DID EZRA GO TO JAIL (FOR BEING A PEDOPHILE)?
DID EMILY AT LEAST BREAK SARA’S NOSE?
WHY ARE ROSEWOOD MEN THE LITERAL WORST?
DID HANNA MOVE TO NYC WITH CALEB?
YOU MEAN THIS BARN?
WHO KILLED JESSICA?
WHAT HAPPENED TO PEPE THE DOG?
WHAT HAPPENED TO TIPPI THE BIRD?
HOW MANY YELLOW TANKTOPS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS SHOW?
WHAT IS TIME?
IS JASON STILL LYING PARALYZED ON THE FLOOR?
WHERE CAN WE GET A PAIR OF MONA’S ICE PICK SHOES?
We will be back in the next week or so with our biseasonal BEST IN SHOW awards post, so be on the lookout for that. We’ll probably also start bingeing from 3×01 on in the hiatus, trying to piece together all the clues we missed (and figure out if REALLY REALLY there is still a way EzrA—and taking him down once and for all—can be end game. Fingers crossed!!), so watch for signs of that on murdercAbin. And if you REALLY want to make sure not to miss us in the interim, you can find us twitter here, here, and here, and can subscribe to Catie and Alexis’ forthcoming Notes From the SS Friendship Tiny Letter here.
A(lexis, Catie, and Rosemary)
Pretty Little Liars 6A: BEST IN SHOW –> we just couldn’t even