What a rollercoaster! We COULD NOT BE ANGRIER that the one thing that is most truly, truly bad about the whole Ezria story is being trotted out as the final obstacle for their love story to overcome…but at the same time, we COULD NOT BE HAPPIER to have been given the joyous gift that was Mona singing Elvis while Ezra’s face was beaten to a pulp.
Like, this is so very much just the show trying to soothe this small, rabid sector of *legit* critics amongst their fans by waving a fever dream around as if acknowledging that there is a severe moral and legal issue they want to side-step is enough to just let them eventually side-step it, and we should totally be offended by that!!!! But also…heart eyes emojis for days.
We hate you, show.
We love you, show.
We hate you, Ezra.
We hate you, patriarchy.
Okay, let’s talk Liars.
THIS WEEK’S MVP
How long? Do you need more episodes? Do you need a spinoff? We can give you a spinoff.
IS IT NEVER MONA? NO. IT IS ALWAYS MONA. With a pretty strong assist from Emily this week, we guess.
THIS WEEK’S LVP
Aria, tied right up there with Peter, which, girl…not a good look.
BIGGEST SHOCK/BEST SURPRISE
The jailhouse sequence! DUH.
Funny that Aria’s nightmares are our dreams come true.
But narratively, maybe getting to see Mona’s apartment? It’s nice to know she actually, like, lives somewhere. Although if the show tried to tell us that she just poofs into the ether of omnipotence and omniscience whenever she’s offscreen, we’d definitely believe it.
That the jailhouse sequence was just a dream, and part of the final “obstacle” to be overcome for Ezria Endgame (gag). Talk about a poisoned gift!
Runner-up: That Ali’s assaultive baby doctor is a baby doctor. We’re sorry—”doctor.”
MOST LIT ALLUSION
Well, according to Wikipedia (the best and last source for film crit), at one point in the original JAILHOUSE ROCK, Elvis’ protagonist forces a brutal kiss on his female foil. When she angrily (and rightfully!) confronts him about his “cheap tactics,” he says, “Them ain’t tactics, honey; it’s just the beast in me.” Which would read as a sharp allegorical version of Ezra tricking a teenage girl into falling in love with the teacher who spent years secretly recording her and her friends’ every movement (talk about cheap tactics), save for the part where Aria refuses to call him out on it, and he refuses to frame it as beastly.
THAT’S SO [YOUR TROPE HERE]
Previously on Pretty Little Liars
A.D. delivered a board game of death to the Liars’ barn door, and they all promptly got in over their heads trying to play and/or avoid playing it. Spencer was delivered the news that she is secretly Mary Drake’s daughter, and was born in Radley, and that her (and everyone’s) dad Peter has been lying to her her whole life; Hanna was knocked down from her Fashion Empire dreams, but at least got to keep both Caleb and Lucas in the aftermath; Emily found out her donated eggs were fertilized by a mystery donor and forcibly implanted into Ali when she was hospitalized, and now they are “together” we guess; Aria…got so hung up on the fear that A.D. would release documents that proved what a predator Ezra actually was when she was a teenager that she turned traitor, and now is letting herself be roped into destroying her friends’ lives. Hanna, at least, had the good sense to loop Mona in on the mess A.D. has made for them. Oh, and they all did a murder! Or at least, a manslaughter, which they have been bumblingly covering up for nigh on twenty episodes. Alas, Detective Fury is the one good officer of the law Rosewood has ever seen, and he is hot on their receipt-destroying trail…
This Is Not The Summit You Are Looking For
We open this week not on the Liars coming together to exposit their most recent woes, but on a scene which made your recappers come together to exposit our eternal ones: Aria and Ezra rehearsing their sick salsa moves for their upcoming day of unholy matrimony. “Did I step on you?” Ezra asks when the music stops and Aria breaks away as quickly as she can. “Because I’m sure I saw PAIN just now.” Ezra assumes she’s upset about the wedding and promises her that no one will ruin their perfect day and blah blah blah HAS HE NOT MET HER AND/OR WITNESSED THE LAST DECADE OF TORTURE SHE HAS ENDURED AT THE HANDS OF A FACELESS EVIL?
This gif alone intensifies Rosemary’s hatred for Ezra by 5000%.
Alas, it is just her psyche-destroying guilt over everything she is doing to her friends in an attempt to get A.D. to get Ezra’s ass off the prison line.
Which, speaking of! Aria has missed like four FaceTimes with A.D. since she put her phone down for this single dance class. Like, okay, A.D., we get it, take a chill pill. But also, definitely all these calls when Aria couldn’t possibly be available to answer them is a major part of A.D.’s torture of her, so, sure. Go off.
“—and my mom is worried that my brother’s terrible girlfriend will be in our wedding pictures, and will taint the memory of this unsacred family moment forever, and—”
Oh, right. Ezra’s still here. We guess his brother is dating someone their mother doesn’t approve of, which, wow, that bar was set so low! Who is this girl! But also, the only part we care about here is Ezra using the word “stalking” to describe his brother’s behavior wrt Ezra’s attention to broker a wedding deal these last few days. Guess it’s in the Fitzgerald blood!
Aria, for the first time in her life, mirrors our absolute zero degree of interest in this whole story. She doesn’t care about what Ezra’s werewolf baby brother any more than she cares about her own werewolf baby brother, tbh, so cool, Ezra, whatever, go broker a rich people’s image crisis, Aria will just stay behind in another public place and supes cazh FaceTime with her own distorted reflection, this time being instructed that she has to deliver a “gift” to Spencer’s house, unless she wants Ezra to know that she called him a “twisted predator” (girl, yes) who “exploited a student” (mmmhmm) while “in a position of power over her” (that’s right hunny).
Also not kicking off a Liars’ Summit, Marco shows up at Hanna’s Lucas’ loft asking questions about the flood in the Radley basement, because a witness saw Hanna and Caleb there that night. “Well, no duh, Detective Obvious,” Caleb says, coming out all damp from the shower. “I live there.” (He does?) “You do?” Marco asks. “He does,” Hanna says as she explains, cool as a damn cucumber, that Wine Mom Numero Uno Ashley Marin offered him a room at the hotel in exchange for upgrading the security system. It’s really a step up from that time Caleb lived in the air vents of Rosewood High School. “Well, that security system just happened to fail the exact ten minutes on the exact night you were there,” Marco says. He truly is a great detective, guys. But it’s coo it’s coo cuz Marco’s already talked to Ashley (at which revelation we screamed, PROVE IT, SHOW GIVE US ASHLEY) and he’s got some other compelling evidence in the works so whatever who needs your dumb receipts ANYWAY.
Much closer to a Liars’ Summit but still not quite there is what’s going on at the House of Soon-To-Not-Be Hastings. As you almost certainly have already forgotten, the Hastingses are officially moving to Harrisburg so Veronica can be the Senator Pennsylvania didn’t know it needed/they can collectively stop being geographically tied to every suspicious garden death and/or possible bastard teen in Rosewood. Which means Spencer and Emily (wearing her best outfit all season) are packing up the house, as Ali has abandoned her new old love Em to go to NYC to “visit Jason” slash give everyone a chance to remember that Mona is the real fifth Liar.
While Spencer’s going through a box of stuff that’s headed to the dumpster, she finds a Radley sanitarium baby blanket—most likely the one she was brought home in. Interesting that the Hastingses spent 23 years keeping her origins a secret but now that she knows, they’re throwing Radley baby blankets around willy-nilly. INTERESTING. As Spencer cuddles the blanket, they get a text from Hanna. She needs to play the game, and she needs to play it NOW.
The Summit of Monas and Marins
And finally: Summit!
Hanna is straight freaking. If they don’t play this game through to the end, Dunhill’s body is gonna end up on one of their doorsteps. The other Liars start to pretend to have answers to her freak out, but thankfully their collectively empty gesture is interrupted by Mona waltzing in all “What’d I miss?” Spencer’s like, “Um, an invitation.”
First of all, Spencer, HOW DARE YOU. Secondly, HOW DARE YOU. Thirdly, what’s with the hostility, ladies? Not that you’ve ever kept your understanding of Mona’s shifted “I literally faked my own death and survived alone for months in a torture dollhouse for you” alliance consistent, but we thought you were all on quasi-okay terms with Mona?
Anyway, Mona doesn’t bat an eyelash when Spencer declines her offer to help. After all, regardless of whether or not she has a piece playing on the board, she was the one who replaced Hanna’s Lucas’ windshield when they hit Dunhill with Hanna’s Lucas’ car, which makes her an accessory to the murder. And “if you think I’m leaving my fate in your fumbling hands, you’ve been smoking the drapes.”
Over at the Radley, meanwhile, Caleb is stumbling straight into his own mini-Liars’ Summit because OMG IT’S ASHLEY HEY GIRL! Our fave WineMom waltzes into the Brew with a fresh new ‘do, and gives Caleb a hug. Does Caleb have chemistry with every woman on this show or?
Anyway, Ashley’s been with the Rosewood PD, she tells him, after asking him to step two feet deeper into her very public hotel lobby for “a bit more privacy,” and she wants the truth more than she wants a nice glass of 2012 Stag’s Leap Cabernet. But Caleb lies anyway, and assures her that Hanna is in no trouble whatsoever.
Cutting Down The Tree To Spite The Swing
Aria shows up at the House of Soon-To-Not-Be Hastings with a bag of takeout and a dirty secret. Spencer’s immediately like “how dare Mona” and Aria’s like “yeah totally how dare she” as she hooks up a burner phone to the Hastingses’ Bluetooth speaker system and drops the phone in a moving box, then promptly bolts out of the house, where she promptly stops, pressing herself against the exterior wall to eavesdrop guiltily on Spencer and Veronica having mother-daughter time.
Not long after she’s gone, voices start playing over the loudspeakers. It’s a recording of Mary talking to Peter…about killing Jessica DiLaurentis. Peter and Veronica run into the room and chaos ensues as Peter yanks the speakers off the wall.
He thinks Mary is the culprit and runs out to find her as Spencer and Veronica hang back and listen to Mary tell him she could “pin a lot on him.” Peter’s voice responds, “I think burying a dead body in my yard is plenty.” Veronica is rightly pissed, but Peter tries to reassure her by saying it was “a hundred years ago.” “Six,” Spencer corrects. We can’t believe we’re saying this, but we’ve gotta agree with Peter on this one. Damn if that doesn’t feel like 100 years ago. We’re like Barack Obama: young and hopeful at first, but eight years later, we’re graying around the edges and ready to get this shit over with.
Veronica still isn’t convinced that the cops aren’t the right way to go here—”someone BROKE into our HOUSE”—but a) maybe you should have ever once locked your kitchen door, lady! And b) Spencer desperately begs her to let this one go. And while Veronica may be ready to throw Peter out for the buzzards, she can’t say no to Spencer.
The Quick and The Angry
Thank VanderJesus our goddess is not easily deterred, because despite everything, Mona show’s up at Emily’s house with the name of the fertility doctor who performed the procedure on Alison, and she’s ready to go directly to him to find out who bankrolled it—because there’s a good chance that guy could be the father. “Still takes two, hun,” she explains with a wink. She’s already made them an appointment at the doctor’s office, and they’re going to go together—as a couple. Emily mostly spends this scene standing there with her mouth hanging open, speechless and in awe of our queen’s prowess.
“Wear a jacket, it’s always fall here.”
And so, Mona and Emily show up at the fertility doctor’s office where Mona deftly plays the part of an eager mother-to-be. The doctor’s attention is elsewhere until they mention that it was Alison Rollins—“Alison DiLaurentis, you might have known her as,” Emily inserts with real venom—who referred them. “You were willing to work for all cash, with no questions asked,” Mona says as the doctor nervously attempts to kick them out of the office. As they get into the elevator, Mona assures Emily that, though that meeting may not have gone as smoothly as planned, it’s all part of the long con. She holds up a copy of Fertility Monthly and, with our favorite sly smile, points out that Doc forgot to remove his home address label from the magazine.
The fact that, six years on, Emily still couldn’t imagine her way onto that possible sleuthing angle says just everything about why all the various As have been so roundly successful. No vision, these Liars!
The Arc of the Callbacks
Over at the ol’ Brewhaha, Caleb’s attempting to get Hanna to chill for like just one minute pls but she’s having none of it. Ashley will know in a heartbeat that Hanna’s lying, and so she must avoid her mother at all costs for the rest of her life and/or until they end their game of MurderJumanji. She’s so upset that she’s stabbing her cake rather than eating it, so you KNOW she means it!
Ezra shows up then and just starts talking out his ass about how wedding planning is hard and he wishes they could just go to Tuscany or something like a basic bitch bridezilla, or at least, that’s the interpretation writ plain on the face of Caleb, a hobo ghost, as he silently watches Ezra whine about dumb rich family with obnoxious personal agendas while he, Hanna, and the rest of the Liars are fighting for their actual lives. When Aria walks in and Ezra tries to talk about it with her, she’s like “yeah no bye” and walks directly upstairs. It’s honestly so great.
As established right before Ezra’s wedding man-meltdown, Hanna’s desperate to destroy the MOUNDS of evidence pointing to her in Dunhill’s murder, so she heads out to a shed in the woods (Was it the one where she was held? Or just a random one? WDK, we guess the woods around Rosewood are literally FILLED with murdery barnshacks) and is peeking in the windows when a park ranger shows up. She makes up a story about needing a shovel, because oh okay! this is the barnshack where the Liars stashed their shovels after burying Dunhill! But the park ranger tells her she’s SOL because those shovels are gone—evidence in a murder investigation or something. He turns away from her, and when he turns back, she’s up and vanished.
When she gets back to the loft, she immediately starts yelling at Caleb that she’s spent the last few hours getting Lucas’ car detailed, and she doesn’t notice that Caleb is setting the table for three people. For the second time THIS EPISODE, someone surprisingly walks out of Hanna’s Lucas’ bathroom. This time, it’s Ashley! Ashley’s immediately like “Spare me the chitchat why is Caleb living with you.” Caleb jumps to Hanna’s rescue, explaining that Hanna doesn’t need him, HE needs HANNA. Because, like, he loves her, so much and she’s great and #HalebForever he knows they drifted apart for awhile, almost ended up with other people, which would have been a disaster (rude, Caleb, #Spaleb 5ever), etc etc etc. And suddenly he’s proposing to Hanna in front of her mom and saying he wants to “make it official” which lol apparently Caleb is the only person in the PLL universe/fandom who did not know that Haleb was definitely endgame official but okay.
“Remember when I was a ghost?”
Anyway, murdery barnshack reveal crisis AVERTED.
We Bet You Think This Song Is About You
Aria calls Spencer, who is staring at the burner phone that “just blew up her whole family” and definitely had fingerprints on the screen before Spencer just started Liarhandling it like a shortsighted Liary Liar (ARIA). Peter thinks Mary was in the house, but Spencer doesn’t believe Mary could’ve done something like—she’s got this letter that Mary wrote that makes her cry every time she reads it, and she just can’t believe that the letter writer and A.D. are the same person. She wants to come clean to Veronica, but Aria stops her. “Just give Mona a chance to figure this out,” she says, which, YES. DUH. ALWAYS.
Spencer starts viciously scoffing at this idea, but she doesn’t get very far before Ezra walks in then and Aria hastily hangs up the phone. He’s all excited because he found them a song for their first dance, and he starts playing this awful song and swaying around the kitchen like an idiot. When Aria just stares blankly at him, he’s like “Okay I get it I know why you were whispering to Spencer.” Seriously. SERIOUSLY. Everything Aria has been through and when she’s not bubbly and talkative all the time, he assumes it’s about him. NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU EZRA.
“No seriously, I can’t get out of the lease on that lair space I rented out three seasons ago.”
He somehow manages to bring up his true crime novel and make himself a victim, like “you never forgave me for that awful thing I did but I made you stronger by stalking you” and because she is WEAK/GASLIT, she hugs him. Well, really it is because she is actually so worked up because she feels guilty that SHE is the one being the villain and making all the mistakes, and she is trying to hide her totally readable facial expressions from him (don’t worry, girl, he’s an emotional idiot, he’d never read them correctly), but also she is deep down very wrong about who the actual person in need of forgiveness right now is.
Already worked up about Mona’s self-Liar-involvement, Spencer heads out into the night only to find Detective Marco Fury skulking around outside on the street. “When did we go from dating to stalking?” Spencer pans. Marco claims he chose to wait for her outside her house because he didn’t want to embarrass her by having her come to the station to tell her he knows Caleb dumped her the night they hooked up (seems more spiteful than useful in a murder investigation but OKAY MARCO). Spencer refuses to take an ounce of his shit, and accuses him of crossing lines of professionalism. “If you’ve got questions, call me into the station like a real cop you lil bitch,” she (basically) says.
She gets into her car, but before she even has the ignition turned over, Mary Drake has popped up from the backseat like a wraith and clamped her hand over Spencer’s mouth. “DRIVE,” she instructs, and while this is very creepy, the fact that she said anything after creepin’ behind Spencer is a marked improvement from the last time.
Mary explains that the recording was a phone call from her days in Radley. Not that she had any idea they were recording her, but, like, it’s Radley; they probably did a lot of shady shit that people didn’t know about. She also tells Spencer to wipe that judgey look off her face re: the topics discussed in said recording. Yeah, maybe there was a plot to kill Jessica but only because Mary had to protect herself. We get a flashback to a few years back when Peter let Mary into the house one time but swore she’d never see Spencer—ever. There’s talk of punishment and someone signing papers to put her away (Jessica? Peter?) then Jessica shows up and makes a comment about Peter “taking care of her.” Apparently the pills that stopped Jessica’s heart were meant for Mary—”We’re sisters, same genetic heart defect,” she explains foreshadowingly, adding extra foreshadowingly “Finally for once I stepped out of her shadow and stood up to my bully”—and somehow Mary intercepted them to kill Jessica. Rosemary doesn’t remember any of these, but trust Alexis, she is 97% sure it happened.
ANYWAY. Mary asks Spencer to run away with her, hide under the radar, run from the law! Be free! Mary may not be as crazy as she used to be, but she’s still chock full of bad ideas. Still, so is Spencer, and boy does she look like she’s considering it.
Spencer comes home to find her parents chilling in the barn reading Mary’s Radley letter. Peter says (screams) that the letter is a manipulative ploy, but Spencer retorts that he would do anything to make Mary disappear forever. Peter’s like, “Uh, hell yes I did, and I would do it again sorry not sorry.” She threatened his family repeatedly and he wasn’t having it, and he thinks if Spencer had been in his position, she’d’ve done the same. Which, fair! But also, Peter, you are awful. Peter leaves and Veronica tells her to start unpacking—they won’t be moving to Harrisburg after all, because duh, she’ll be forfeiting her Senate seat, because duh, no female politician will ever be able to rise above her husband’s crimes (we’re always With Her). Also, though, politics is not the best job for someone whose entire family is caught in a web of murder plots and whose house is built above the azalea graves of innocents and non-innocents alike.
“But mom,” Spencer tries, “it wasn’t Mary who left that recording.” “Then who did?” Veronica asks.
WELL. LET THIS FEVER DREAM FROM THE DEPTHS OF OUR EZRA-HATING, MONA-LOVING HEARTS SHOW YOU, V!
Interlude: Mona and the Black-eyed Ezra
NB: Our notes on this entire scene are basically nothing but OMG OMG OMG OMG but we will try to rally and get through it like adults all the same.
Right after Aria hugged Ezra’s predatory pain away, A.D. texts to congratulate her on “showing her true colors.” And then the two engaged dummies sit down to watch the most natural old movie, Elvis Presley’s JAILHOUSE ROCK, and Aria promptly falls deep into the only fever dream we have ever wished were real life.
It’s Mona! As a prison warden! Singing an Elvis song to jailhouse bride Aria! As Ezra gets the living snot punched out of him! REPEATEDLY! And then there is Veronica Hastings all done up as a fellow prisoner, there to officiate the ceremony. Aria tries to apologize, but no go: “You’re just a selfish little bitch. I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire.” DAMN GIRL.
Aria wakes up to the end of the movie playing/a text from A.D. We were still living in that black and white world where Mona sings dressed as a sexy cop so missed it, but it evidently told her to look for something at the Ol’ Daddy Brewbucks, because she goes downstairs and starts digging around Ezra’s merchandised hipster typewriters, under the cash registers, deep in all the empty pasta boxes she can find, looking for the documents A.D. has been holding over her head all season. She finally finds an envelope folded up underneath the leg of a chair, containing not one but TWO Murder Jumanji puzzle pieces, but as she pockets them, she sees Mona getting coffee. Or rather, MONA sees HER getting up to no good.
Aria, with less chill than is humanly possible, bolts from the shop.
The Quick and the Angry 2
Because she is an actual celestial being, Mona is not done impressing the stuffing out of us/the Liars/the world: she and Emily have finished their dumpster digging over at BabyDoc’s and boy did they turn up GOLD. How? Because BabyDoc, naturally, is so dumb that he doesn’t have the good sense to shred his financial documents before trashing them. No wonder A.D. picked you as their rube, yo!
The doc’s docs show that he paid off his medical school loans with cold, hard cash. “Tell us who paid you, or we’ll tell the state board,” they threaten. Unfortch, it does no good. A.D. doesn’t do face-to-face, you guys KNOW this. Everything was handled electronically, and all the doctor has is the donor’s ID number. But Mona is obviously trouble, and Emily obviously so brimming with rage, that he hands that over with barely a moment’s thought. Nicely done, Team Emona!
The Ark of the Callbacks 2
To celebrate fooling Ashley, Hanna guesses, Caleb takes Hanna to his hobo tent, which has been sitting forgotten in the woods since Season Two. Hanna asks him if he was proposing to her like really for real, and Caleb’s like “duh babe.” Well, actually, he says “I would marry you right this second if we could find a bear who was licensed!” and while that is clearly meant to play as a joke, we have learned by now that their ordained friend Aria moves through human homes in the dark like a bear, so maybe they’ll get their wish by season’s end!
#tbt #throwback #hobotent
Epic music swells, Hanna gets out champagne, Caleb slips a paper cigar label on her finger and kisses his bride. Then in a great callback to their first time together: SEX SILHOUETTES.
Goodnight Mary, Goodnight Moon
Meanwhile at the Lost Woods, Spencer goes back to Mary to let her know she won’t be joining her in her life of “freedom” hiding from law enforcement. She just can’t leave her friends and family behind, a truth of which Mary, supposedly, is totally understanding. But Spencer does assure Mary that she knows it wasn’t her who left the recording at their house. As she’s leaving, she hears a twig break in the woods—someone was probably nearby, listening in. A.D.? Marco? The disembodied spirit of Radley Hospital itself? Honestly we wouldn’t put “creepily eavesdropping from the woods” past a single, solitary character on this show.
A black hoodie stalks through the DiLaurentis house, approaching the game board slowly. They pull out two puzzle pieces and reach to add them to the center puzzle map, and yes! Another fAke out! It’s Aria, delivering her turn’s “prize” incognito…just in case she’s caught? We guess?
In exchange for her terrible efforts, she receives a message that her grand prize is right behind her. A piece of paper is stuck in a vase—her Ezra file, we assume, but also probably not! A.D. IS NOT YOUR FRIEND, ARIA.
It’s All About the Mona, Mona, Mona
Meanwhile, Mona is headed home after a long day of fucking ruling when she finds Emily outside her apartment. (We were SO EXCITED to see Mona’s apartment, btw.) Emily has the burner phone that was found at Spencer’s, and since Caleb is preoccupied with hobo tent sex, she needs Mona to bluesnarf it or whatever it is Mona does to burner phones. Mona’s like, “We can figure it out tomorrow, it’s been a long day,” and basically slams her apartment door in Emily’s face. She locks one million locks, waits for Emily to leave, and turns, giving us a glimpse of her omgsocute apartment. Then she sits down at her jacked to the max computer, and as the camera pans, we see that her home office is 100% LAIR with pictures and maps and a diagram of the Liars Lament game board and…a pile of shovels in the corner.
Honestly at this point even if she was A.D. then we guess we’d end this series on the A Team, because Mona is our queen and we’ll fight for her to the death. But also: she is definitely not A.D., and her Lair is definitely the correct level of sleuthing that a GOOD Liar would rise to to actually figure out who is behind their torture.
Hookups, breakups, and Aria’s caught black-hoodied. Someone has a wedding (probably Haleb, but also maybe Emison, given the lady-look of both those hands and the serious lack of bling on either ring), and Aria gets caught by the cops with some serious junk in her trunk. And Mona keeps getting paid!
A(lexis and Rosemary)
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.