There's nothing like a lyric from a song written in the 1920s about a woman who's fallen from grace trying to return home again to kick off the penultimate episode of a summer season fraught with issues of a woman who's fallen from grace trying to return home again. It’s like the writers plan these things or something.
Pretty Little Liars presented a syllogism for us. A is definitely bad for the Liars. Alison seems to be bad for the Liars. Therefore, A is Alison. It’s an interesting theory. It’s not the right theory, but it's an interesting one. How do I know it’s not the right one? Because the Liars came up with it.
We talked last week about how these girls were going to flip the board and go with their remaining nuclear option of telling Tanner the truth. It was the common-sense thing for them to do, because they’d exhausted every other alternative. They’d played the game to the best of their ability. They’d tried to catch A with theater and butterfly nets. They’d even tried being on the A team for a little bit in order bring the whole thing down from the inside. Nothing works. Being honest in order to upset the game seemed like such a brilliant plan.
Then, less than a minute into “No One Here Can Love or Understand Me,” we heard the notes of UNKLE’s “Restless” and a conveniently placed TV store revealed evidence that short-circuited everything. Of course A has pictures of the Alison visiting Hanna in the hospital, thereby wrecking the girls' (painfully true) story that they didn’t know Alison was alive. Head, meet desk.
The history of the Liars being wrong about their convictions is long and storied. The mere idea that they believed Ezra might be A was enough to convince everyone that he couldn’t possibly be A—and as it turned out, he wasn’t. The one thing they knew for sure was that Alison was dead—and then she wasn’t. They hunted Red Coat (sometimes literally, Emily with hoe in hand) because they thought she might be Uber A—and it was actually just Alison and Cece playing dress-up. Though I guess that last one might still be in play.
Hanna is having “bad thoughts” about Alison being A (“bad thoughts” being deduction). Spencer has fully turned the corner on Ali being bad for them. Emily is so convinced that she’s Freudian-slipping the name “A” in reference to a woman who was her lover just a few nights ago. With everyone so convinced, is it possible that this one time the Liars could actually be right about something? Seems unlikely, at least for now.
The rest of this episode was a necessary parade of what we currently know combined with the writers nudging us a little that they know we know they know. Like Tanner’s assertion that Rosewood “ranks surprisingly low on curiosity.” And the conversation between the Other Liars Brain Trust before Tanner approached them:
Aria: “Nobody tells you anything when you want to know it. Only when they feel like telling it.”
Hanna: “And they only tell you enough to make you crazy to know more.”
But what did they reveal in preparation for next week's #FAtalFinale? We can start with the Sisters Hastings and a video that could’ve just been a letter.
Melissa definitively telling Spencer that she was the one to bury Bethany Young alive is important information. Her involvement in what happened that night was always present, but never really accounted for. The red herring was that Melissa hit Alison for her shenanigans with Ian. Instead, she just happened upon a bludgeoned Bethany Young and buried the body. Without checking for signs of life first. I guess Emily is the only person in Rosewood who knows how to find a pulse.
This, of course, led the Liars to what I’d believed was a foregone conclusion: Someone had made sure Bethany was wearing an outfit that matched Alison’s and then bonked her on the head. Since Bethany was interred in Alison’s grave and then the crypt-wall-tomb-thing (I don’t know how mausoleums work), we already knew it was a set-up—but the Liars looked surprised by the information. Was it Mrs. D? Was it Alison? Was it just an unfortunate coincidence and, really, they should be looking for a culprit who simply whacks anyone wearing yellow on the back of the head?
This episode also confirmed that Cyrus Petrillo (that last name still kills me) was, indeed, hanging out with Alison while she was supposed to be dead. A picture produced by the crack team of Emily and Ezra (Emzra?) proved, at the very least, that Alison’s flashback wasn’t totally fiction to make herself believe the lie. Cyrus and Alison were totally hanging out for a while. But why? And how? And other interrogative pronouns?
And then, finally, there was the Mona issue. Mona is either playing the Liars harder than ever or she’s showing some signs of humanity. Her stakeout with Hanna where she admitted to having panic attacks with Alison back in town and her deep talk with Aria in “the ladies’” about not being a good person make me want to believe it’s the latter. Mona's startled reaction to Alison calling out her crazy in that church also makes me believe that she would've been on the road to recovery if it weren’t for that pesky nemesis of hers. The conversation with Aria, though, is interesting, thanks to the “bad thought” that popped into my head when Mona said Ali couldn’t trust Aria after what happened in New York. Why would Shana’s death mean that Alison couldn’t trust her? Or anything else that we saw? Is Shana’s death a red herring for some bit of evil that Aria did while she was there? I don’t put a lot of credence into the “Aria is A” theory, but it did make me curious as to whether that conversation will be part of a future montage, once we know what they weren’t saying.
Otherwise, the penultimate episode of Pretty Little Liars' summer season was a fairly slow one. Set-up, set-up, set-up. We’ve seen the previews for the #FAtalFinale where Alison gets wired up to the lie detector by what seem to be painted garden hoses. I’m sure there will be some shocking conclusions to be had, but this episode had a bit of filler in there with a lot of stuff we kind of already knew. I mean, there was a whole scene involving a Tempest-inspired soliloquy by Spencer about Melissa. And don’t even get me started on the whole Ravenswood business. Hoo boy. Let’s just get to next week already.
– All right! You twisted my arm! The Ravenswood stuff. I know this whole season so far has been teasing “What’s Eating Caleb Rivers?” and we all know that what’s been haunting him (I can’t believe the writers had Spencer actually use the word “haunted” when referring to Caleb; they might as well have said that he looks “spooked” or “like he’s seen a ghost”) has been a bunch of nightmare fairy-tales that don’t belong in the Rosewood universe. It’s bad enough that Grunwald psychically detecting where Alison was buried will forever be part of the story of what happened “That Night,” but now we have to endure Caleb’s tale of supernatural woe involving souls let out of jars that turned into fireflies? Seems unfair, since most of us intentionally didn’t watch Ravenswood so that we wouldn’t have to know these things. I was glad to see #Haleb get it together, and maybe they’ll be okay now and we’ll never have to hear about what happened in Ravenswood ever again (at least until we get that final Ravenswood crossover episode in Season 5B).
– Emily didn’t say it out loud, but you could tell that what she wanted to say was, “Ezra, you’re the only person who can help find this information we need, due to your history of being an incredible creep.” It was all in her furrowed brow.
– I kind of wish PLL would dedicate more time to that “great bromance.” Maybe an episode focused on Toby and Caleb hanging out with the Liars going crazy in the background—like a whole hour of the Liars running all over town trying to figure out who A is while the boys sit on a bench, eating sandwiches and talking about how weird Rosewood is. Heck, I’d even take more Ravenswood talk if he agreed not to bring up the Ouija board again.
– There was a lot of time devoted to the connection Melissa and Spencer share. A lot of imagery that was almost more powerful than the relationship has demonstrated in four and a half seasons.
– Ella had to cancel on this movie theater night? Is there some rule that Rosewood's teens can't be in the same room with their parents unless the police are involved?
– Also: Hokey smokes, what do you have to whisper in Mona's ear that will make her break down, leave the room, and cry? This is a girl who used to hang out with broken dolls in the world's most frightening collection of misfit toys and once pasted her plans of manipulation and revenge all over the walls like she was John Doe from Seven. And you made her cry? Dial it back, Montgomery.
– Toby's terrible at interventions.
– Uh-oh, Paige going out on the town. In your face, Emily. Question, though: Is the woman Paige brought to the movie the same woman Jake brought to Emily’s birthday/Sparia’s Bust Jenna party? If so, I totally called it.
– I can’t believe the writers had Toby utter the actual words, “Say it out loud” like Edward does in Twilight. I’m serious when I say there were a LOT of meta references in this episode (this one, of course, called back to the #BooRadleyVanCullen hashtag started by Heather Hogan on AfterEllen).
– Tanner was spying that fedora hard. And I don’t think it was because of the amazing blocking job the local Rosewood haberdashery performed on it. It’s too weird an affectation for it not to mean something.
– The Ouija board pointing to GOODBYE? Just stop it.
– It appears that, while Hanna was looking out the window at all the fireflies in the woods (eyeroll) and Caleb was sleeping peacefully on the couch, someone spied on them through the window. Was this your Moment of A? Or was it a ghost?!
What'd you think of "No One Here Can Love or Understand Me"?
AIRED ON 8/26/2014
Season 5 : Episode 12