HI EVERYONE! Catie & Alexis here, more or less!
#5YEARSFORWARD: BIGGEST SHOCK/BEST SURPRISE
The fact that every one of the Liars completely failed to take even a single picture of the hole to Murder Narnia. IT’S 2016! YOU HAVE A PHONE THAT EMOJI-A KEEPS TEXTING YOU ON! USE IT!
#5YEARSFORWARD: BIGGEST NO-DUH
The obvious fact that reintroducing Ezra to her daily life was a recipe for Aria’s imminent unemployment.
MOST UPVOTED NEW COMMENT ON TRIPADVISOR: ROSEWOOD
“My daughter and I were in the area this past week as part of a weeklong East Coast college tour, and had picked the date for our visit to Hollis specifically to coincide with the public lecture being given by the psych department chair (my daughter is interested mainly in psychology and criminal justice, and had told me her college brochure research indicated Hollis to have one of the best cooperative programs for the two this side of the Mississippi). When we got to the hall the talk was scheduled for, though, all we found was a crowd of people eating pig-topped cupcakes in exchange for answering a ten-page survey being distributed by the campus paper. And then, not only was the chair of the psych department NOT there to give the talk my daughter had been so looking forward to, but the survey questions didn’t even make sense! What newspaper anywhere is interested in knowing what the most isolated cabin trip five dozen people have ever been on is? My daughter insists that she is just as interested as ever in attending Hollis, but I just don’t know! ??? out of 5 stars. – John K., Stanford, 2016
MOST LIT ALLUSION
Let’s go with Caleb responding to Melissa’s cover story about how helpful to the polls her trip Out Of Town was with “Hail, the conqueror,” and say it is a nod to the 1944 Preston Sturges war hero/local politics satire, Hail the Conquering Hero.
“One writer described Hail the Conquering Hero as “a satire on mindless hero-worship, small-town politicians, and something we might call “Mom-ism,” the almost idolatrous reverence that Americans have for the institution of Motherhood,” and Sturges himself said that of all his films, it was “the one with the least wrong with it.” (x)
On the one hand, this seems like a stretch…but on the other, it is the EXACT stretch PLL is prone to making.
THAT’S SO FREEFORM
It continues to be necessary to video chat with dumb boring boys, all the time.
PREVIOUSLY ON PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
Aria found a ladder leading to Murder Narnia through a hole busted into the back of the closet in Sara Harvey’s Radley Hotel room/Charlotte D’s Radley Sanitarium room, and Spencer followed her down. Aria’s parents wrote over every memory of what sneaking around for romantic trysts ever did to their family and snuck around on romantic trysts until Aria caught them and they finally admitted they’d gotten re-engaged. Aria’s new guy/publishing house co-worker Liam surprised us all with a visit to Rosewood to “talk” about “Ezra’s” newest “chapters” and how much their editor loved them/how obvious it was to him that Aria was the real author. Hanna blew up at her new guy, Jordan, over the fact that in like a single week she has had to bury her high school torturer, submit to endless police questioning about her possible role in said torturer’s murder, and leap off the her dream career path by quitting her NYC fashion job, and refuses to return to the city with him. Spencer cornered the Hollis reporter assigned to write the fluff piece about the snake person daughters of the Pennsylvania senate candidates working together to get out the youth vote, and accused him of conducting a much more invasive investigation into the Liars’ role in Charlotte’s death. State Police Detective Tanner swooped back into town to start her own invasive investigation, and informed Ali that some intrepid Rosewood citizen found a secret local restaurant called The Two Crows from which they called the DiLaurentis house phone on the night Charlotte ran away, then definitely did not plant (false?) information about the hollow metal rod murder weapon with her to track how long it took to spread to the other Liars. Caleb professionally hacked into Veronica’s opponent’s daughter’s cell phone on a hunt for emoji-A and came out the other side with new medical records about a recent possible resurgence of Veronica’s old Vague Illness, then smooched all up on Spencer until she interrupted their nightly face-caressing session with the discovery that Melissa’s suitcase was missing a hollow metal rod piece from its broken handle. Le gasp!
Rad Ali Summit
Remember when the Prom Moms all got drunk, and Pam led the charge to shake down Ken Dad for his miserable treatment of Ali/all their daughters? Well apparently that fiery, child-protecting Mama Bear spirit is in the Fields’ women’s blood! Because now Em’s beautiful eggs have all been stolen by emoji-A, and she is on the WARPATH, Sara Harvey dead in her sights.
Emily’s first stop is Sara’s hotel room (Sara having evidently checked out in a rush, after having thoroughly trashed the pin-tidy room Team Sparia broke into the week before) so that she can show Ali, for some reason, the hole busted through the back of the closet leading down to Murder Narnia. Hanna tags along, using her “in” with hotel management to gain honest access to the room, and is delightfully obsessed with images of Sara eating food off the dirty hotel carpet the whole time.
Emily, meanwhile, is so frothed up about Sara’s potential involvement in her egg-napping that she can’t think straight, and after finding the drywall in the disaster room’s closet smooth and intact, blindly interprets Ali’s “maybe this isn’t the right room” as “I really don’t think that Sara Harvey, whom I love and am defending to the death, had anything to do with anything,” rather than the “…so why don’t we check some others, or get to Murder Narnia via the exterior door” sense she almost certainly intended. “WHY ARE YOU DEFENDING HER, THIS GIRL HAS TWO FACES,” Emily exclaims, right as a maid with two literal faces (spoiler) wheels her cart through the room’s hall door.
Proving Aria’s assessment of the size of The Radley’s closest re: Boston apartments, the girls close themselves inside to avoid detection, and still have more than enough room to each pace around and wave their arms wildly as they argue, not quietly, over their next plan of action. Well, as Hanna and Ali argue; Emily is too busy banging her fists against the back wall, all “I’M NOT LEAVING UNTIL ALI SEES MURDER NARNIA.”
Eventually (thankfully), the bespectacled maid moves into the bathroom on the opposite end of the room, and the girls take the opportunity to sneak out the room’s ajar front door. Like dummies who have never snuck around a building they didn’t belong in, though, they let the door close loudly behind them, and the sound attracts the maid back into the main room. And then we see her turn to the cart and remove her 80s granny sunglasses, and the next thing we know, her glasses, her gloves, and her whole g-d face are lying in a neat pile on top of the maid’s cart, and we are never sleeping again.
It’s Not THAT Complicated
Despite the fact that everyone Aria ostensibly works with ostensibly has enough experience reading to know when and how to read between the lines (and also how to do some damn background research), not a one of them has picked up on the fact that maybe a junior publishing assistant committing so hard to supporting her former high school English teacher’s swan-diving career that she has basically moved back to Murdersville, PA is weird enough to warrant deeper inquiry. Nope! It’s just “wow you really are such a dedicated student, wow what a great teacher he must have been, wow maybe if I keep repeating the fact that no student owes her mere high school English teacher this dang much and you keep repeating that IT’S COMPLICATED *you* will eventually be the one to see the flaw in your own logic.”
Seriously, NO ONE (Liam) will shut up about how great Aria is as a human and a publishing assistant, but also how maybe as NAUGHT BUT A MERE FORMER STUDENT she should probably just call it a day.
Anyway, as Aria repeats as they continue this cycle at Brewbarella’s yet again: it’s complicated. And while we appreciate Liam’s gentle joke about Ezra being so unfit for publishing success that he’s eating his cornflakes with rum, Aria does not, and refuses to untangle the knot of reasons why, and to come clean to their editor in the hopes of getting her own book contract, and of admitting to herself that she’s already turned out better work than fucking Ezra Fitz ever will. “He’s going to feel so betrayed,” she opines. “…by his old English student??” Liam repeats, loudly. “IT’S COMPLICATED,” Aria repeats, louder still.
At lunch later that afternoon, Byron is working really hard to remind Aria of all the reasons she really shouldn’t be on board with this second wedding gambit, but she is too absorbed by thoughts of Ezra’s future disappointment in her as a person a thousand times better than he will ever be to really pay attention, or even to eat her salad. The last straw comes when Byron asks her to be the officiant at the ceremony, stressing that SHE is the writer in the family.
“I AM NOT YOU TAKE THAT BACK,” she exclaims. “Er, I mean…I just wouldn’t want Mike to feel left out.”
Nice try, Montgomery, but that was the wrong bluff to shoot for. Mike’s not coming! Why? Well, the reason Byron GIVES is that he thinks Mike is still bitter about the way the marriage ended the first time, and that he doesn’t trust Byron not to hurt Ella again (which: fair), but that is obviously just a cover for the fact that Byron and Ella got wind of the bloody swath their son was cutting across SoCal’s supernatural hotspots and decided not to extend an invitation in the first place.
“UmmmmmmK then I guess I’d be happy to,” Aria mumbles. YAY.
After lunch, Aria decides she has not yet filled her quota of Men Explaining Things to Her and so she heads to Ezra’s Brewzilla Books loft to finally come clean about the drunken mess she cleaned up for him. His dumb face is predictably patronizing at the news, just as predictable as his bruised-ego tone when he demands she tell him HOW happy his editor was to get Aria’s chapters instead of his.
Naturally, Aria offers to be honest with her editor about her own misconduct, and likely lose her job, rather than let Ezra go in and take the fall for his own damn drunken self, but he won’t let her. “You thought you were protecting me, and that a potential future jury might be more sympathetic to a manuscript about my painful history losing women in my life to extreme violence; this wasn’t a career move, it was an act of love, and you are forgiven.”
And then we think—we THINK—he tells her she “can” just write the rest of it, rather than have him turn in his new chapters with a note that he’s taking a brand new direction. “Why not? Dickens got paid by the inch,” is a thing he actually does say, but we are standing so close to this raging inferno of hate that all we could hear every time we tried to rewatch the scene and make sense of what actually happened was the snap and crackle of oxygen burning up.
Anyway, her mixed prints are nice!
Somehow It Gets Worse
Obviously the next important step is for Liam and Ezra to meet! So they do, at the hotel. Ezra starts telling Liam all about how he’s TOTALLY not still into Aria, did not write this book about her, at all, doesn’t still have a lock of her hair in his wallet or a pair of her underwear in the back of his drawer, no sirree. Liam, to his credit, is like, “a-what-now?” and when Aria shows up she’s like “oooooh shit.” Because, if you have forgotten, Liam still thinks that Aria was just Mr. Fitz’s star pupil. Or, he USED TO THINK that.
We do, again
Aria has to take a break from her boy drama to re-marry her parents. Her speech as they gaze adoringly at each other is very sweet, even if it is—in typical Aria fashion—all about her. “These two, they know who they are and what they want. What an important, nice thing for a couple to have.” As the music swells and her parents kiss—chastely, your daughter is standing right there—the camera pans to Liam, striding up the aisle, stealing the dramatic moment all for himself. Poor Byron and Ella couldn’t even take center stage at their own damn wedding.
Liam and Aria talk after the wedding. She says she’s sorry about lying about Ezra; when he asks her why she did, we think for just a second that she’ll be like, “well, it was ILLEGAL,” but of course she’s just like, “Well, it’s complicated.” IS IT???????????? Anyway, Liam says that her writing (for Ezra, remember) makes it pretty clear she loves him, but she explains that maybe the process of writing was just her way of working through her lingering (complicated) feelings. Which actually, sort of, makes sense. It does to Liam too, being a Litbro and all, and he kisses her for the trouble.
The Wedding Hanner
Since growing into herself and her own confidence in high school (thanks, MonA), Hanna has never been one to let the world keep her down. So what, she lost her high intensity, highly offensive, High Fashion job in NYC? She’ll just pick up freelance styling projects on her own, right here in Rosewood! The dream, obvi, would be to style the launch party of Mona’s alternative high school for the maniacally gifted and talented, but you gotta take what you can get, and right now, what Hanna’s got is the upcoming Montgomery re-hitching. Team Hella in the house!
“This silk beauty isn’t even on the racks yet,” Hanna gushes, holding up a very elegant and modern cream bridal gown. “That’s great but is it elegant ENOUGH,” Ella counters, before devolving into a story about how she and Byron were such cynical hippies in college they insisted on getting married in a barn dressed like cowhands the first time they got married, which just explains so much about Aria, honestly. Anyway, so this time she wants to do this wedding thing properly, elegantly, which means… “Can you show me what you had picked out for yourself?” Ella finishes, simultaneously showing support and enthusiasm for Hanna’s future wedding AND coopting Hanna’s plan and making it all about her. Which ALSO explains Aria so very much.
Hanna, for her part, is in such deep turmoil over how she left things with Jordan and how Caleb has started things with Spencer and what it means that these First Loves are finding their way back to each other after all these years, though, that she doesn’t even absorb it. “I know just the dress!” she beams, and promptly denies Jordan’s newly boring ringtone for the thousandth time that afternoon.
Hella Hot Dress
Hanna’s perfect dress is, strangely, the exact opposite of what Ella asked for. Okay, it IS elegant and lovely and looks beautiful on Ella, but it’s blacky-gray-sparkly and extremely un-bridal. It’s like a dress you might wear to a fancy winter wedding, if you were not IN the wedding. But! Ella likes it, and she even gives Hanna permission to style the tables at the wedding too, so Hanna can continue to avoid her own wedding by immersing herself in someone else’s. Seems very healthy!!
By the end of the episode, though, Hanna’s finally thinking that maybe there’s something to all this wedding nonsense. So she sticks a veil on her head—the most important step!
Oh, right, the finacé: she finally gives Jordan’s boring rich face a call, and picks a date for the wedding. Literally. She just, like, SAYS the name of a day. No checking on venue availability, or family schedules, or even WHAT DAY OF THE WEEK IT IS. Just like any old number that pops into her head. Anyway, it’s May 17. Mazel tov!
Should’ve Used a Duffel
Spencer’s Cause of the Week is Melissa’s Broken Suitcase, the missing periscoping handle from which is the murder-weapon-red-herring du jour. Remember when MonA gleefully riled the Liars up with that fake shovel handle murder weapon back in Season One? They don’t!
Y’all, at this point we don’t even remember WHY they are looking for the murder weapon. Did Emoji-A ask them to? Do they think it will help solve the case? Eliminate a subject? Once again we need our own serial killer wall just to keep track of this show.
When Melissa gets home, Spencer and Caleb accost her about Murder Suitcase. Melissa’s barely gotten out of her car when they bear down on her like a grand inquisition: but WHEN did you break your suitcase! HOW did it break! what was the minimum force necessary to CRACK the metal handlebars, in newtons! Etc. Melissa waves it off, saying that the cab driver from the Philly airport took an especially bumpy ride back to Rosewood to avoid traffic from the Phillies game, blah blah, the suitcase must have extracted its own handle, snapped said handle in half, thrown a bit of it away, and retracted itself back down, all just bumping around in the trunk. You know how these things happen!
Spencer thinks this all sounds suspicious (she’s Spencer, she thinks the weather report sounds suspicious), but Caleb does her one better by getting all Sherlocky about it. “Melissa got home two Saturdays ago… but that means the sun would’ve been at an angle of 17 degrees above the meridian meaning the glove could NOT have fit his left hand meaning this painting was completed AFTER that building was demolished meaning the crossword is hiding a secret code meaning… the Phillies game was in BALTIMORE that day!!!”
Basically, Melissa be lying.
Later, Hanna comes by to tell Spencer and Caleb about more of Melissa’s lies. Years ago, (“years ago!” it’s like 3 years, okay?), in London, she ran into Melissa in the bathroom of a fancy party or bar or something. Everyone is dressed really nicely and talking on their cell phones long-distance so we’re surprised the faucets aren’t just dripping out pound coins or something. Anyway, Melissa gets over the surprise of running into Hanna very quickly and launches into a whole rant about “that person who preyed on you and…” oh, she’s not talking about Wren, she’s talking about CHARLOTTE. Charlotte, who evidently has been using her phone privileges to call Wren to tell him about how Melissa killed Bethany Young, causing Wren to leave Melissa. This, evidently, is motive for Melissa to kill Charlotte, although we feel like Melissa should really be thanking her instead.
Sometimes You’re The Pigeon
Spencer’s other, more serious, Cause of the Week is her mother’s medical records. She’s upset that Veronica has been covering up her Vague Illness recurrence, and not because of her health or anything silly like that (well, Veronica does assure her that the doctors have given her the all-clear). No, she’s upset because Veronica has predicated her campaign on transparency and honesty, and yet this whole time she’s been sitting on this big ol secret. Politics! Now, Spencer can’t SAY that she knows that the opposition knows, but she DOES know that they know, and now her mom knows that Spencer knows and okay everyone just needs to start telling each other things because this is getting ridiculous. Veronica spins Spencer’s annoyance into a very sweet mother/daughter moment, saying that she’s glad she did this—ran for office? No, had kids.
The sweetness is not to last, though—Spencer comes home a few days later to find her mom apoplectic. Apparently, someone on their team leaked information that Yvonne had an abortion in high school—and Mama Perkins is running on a pro-life platform. It doesn’t look good for the Perkins Camp, but it looks equally squicky for the Hastingses, who’ve prided themselves on running an aboveboard campaign—no mud-slinging. Veronica hisses that the leak has been traced to Spencer’s IP address, but Spencer swears she didn’t do it. She and Caleb have a quick tête-à-tête—was it Mona? Was it Sara? Melissa? Emoji-A?—but before Spencer has hardly girded her defenses before Caleb steps up and takes responsibility to Veronica. She insists he resign, and also get the hell out of her house. As he leaves, he tells Spencer he didn’t do it—but he could tell they needed a scapegoat, and he’s happy to take the fall. CALEB. THIS IS A LITTLE STUPID, BUT MARRY ALL OF US, PLEASE.
All Ova It
Spencer is in a loosely-tied dressing gown and Emily is still somehow showing way more leg. Emily has to go to the Hollis bursar to enroll in some classes to finish her degree, which is apparently her plan now. But she just wants to go spelunking in Murder Narnia again. She got the fever! Mostly because, you know, Emoji-A has her actual ova. Spencer tells her that Sara’s just playing on her fear, and Emily is like, “YES, ACTUALLY, IT’S NOT LIKE SHE STOLE MY CHAPSTICK.” And Emoji-A, or whoever, is playing dirty: they deliver Emily a package of baby books, with instructions to “Start talking before our baby does.” Which is HELLA CREEPY in so many ways. Is Emoji-A going to conceive a child WITH EMILY? What does she need to start talking about?
Emily heads to the bursar, where she is chatted up by a cute boy who invites her to a lecture by their new psych professor, so that he can brown nose a little before class even begins. What a tedious boy thing to do. Also, y’all, we think that the show is actually using Rosewood-Induced White Boy Face Blindness against us now, because we didn’t recognize this guy as the reporter who’s been tailing Spencer and Melissa until they actually said it was him. So, here’s a spoiler in case you are just as dumb and blind as us: this is the same reporter guy!
It takes the girls awhile to put these pieces together, too. Emily facetimes him—Damian—in front of Hanna, and she thinks he looks familiar, but doesn’t quite grok the whole deal until Em is already on her way to meet up with him. Luckily, she SOS-texts her really quickly, letting Emily know that he’s a seedy reporter, but she just gets this flirty grin on her face and invites him out for dinner. We think she may be planning something… (um, we hope).
Text reads: Damian’s a reporter. He’s playing you. Did the same to Spencer and Melissa. Lose him. – Hanna
See Emily Run
Later, after Hanna and Spencer somehow determine that Melissa could’ve texted Charlotte from some creepy forest motel, Emily decides she’s the best option to go and investigate said creepy forest motel. Alone. In the creepy forest. It feels very old school PLL (possibly because this is the exact same “creepy forest” set that they’ve used a billion times), but quickly turns into some sort of farce. A giant black SUV appears over the horizon, and tries to run Emily down, but she dives away just in time! Then she runs up to the motel, banging on the doors, but no one will let her in… and the SUV pulls up again, trying to run her down, but she dives away just in time! … then, this literally just KEEPS HAPPENING, for about ten minutes. It honestly looks like they just looped the footage.
Eventually she climbs up on top of the motel (sure?), where she finds the suitcase handle murder weapon! Great job Em! Oh wait, the SUV has looped back around again and rams the wall until Emily drops the handle—which disappears.
Later, Em debriefs with Hanna, by listing a bunch of conclusions she’s made about this attack: one, she KNOWS it wasn’t Sara, because Sara wants to expose Charlotte’s murder and this person was covering it up. Two, that means that there are TWO people, with separate motives, targeting the girls. And three, oh shit.
Ali and Elliot, Please are chilling at home when Ali receives her first Emoji-A text: “Does the good doctor know why Charlotte ran out of your ::house emoji:: that night? I do!” Eep! She confesses to Elliot, Please that Charlotte was angry with her, Ali, for dating him, her doctor—and that’s why she took off that night. Elliot, Please at first appears to try to make this all about him, but it soon becomes clear that he’s really just trying to lessen the guilt burden on Ali by taking the blame himself. It would almost be sweet (see: Caleb, this episode), if this wasn’t such a strange and kinda icky relationship to begin with.
The two of them don’t find it icky, though, and he tells her he loves her, foreverz style. She looks literally fourteen here, but guess what? They’re going to the chapel. They’re gonna get married! And they’re going to do it TONIGHT. Since Aria is now an internet-ordained minister, they pop over to her place for a quickie ceremony.
More evidence that Emoji-A is your grandma: they’re spending their night figuring out how to program a universal remote. With wedding cake!
The Liars figure out what we’ve known all along: the only way out of the mess they’re in is to burn it all down.
A(lexis and Catie)
About the Contributor:
Catie grew up in Denver, Colorado, where she often stayed up past her bedtime reading with a flashlight and once sent homemade Hogwarts acceptance letters to her friends. Now an adult, she still loves books and TV meant for teens, but is grateful to no longer have a bedtime.