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Pretty Little Liars S05E06: "Run, Ali, Run"

Ah, the sweet sound of a teenage girl shrieking as the complicated bullying plot against her rises from its two-week (TWO-WEEK) slumber.

It’s been two weeks of Rosewood time since the Liars received their last message from A, and the girls Liars thought everything was going to be kittens and roses for the rest of their lives. Sure, they're surrounded by more writhing loose ends than someone in a tentacle-themed hentai but somehow, the Liars thought that everything would be okay, that Mona’s Army was just going to be a small bump on their road to normalcy, and that, as long as they all held hands and believed hard enough, the end of Shana was the end of A. And then Toby’s house went boom.

Now their willful ignorance has come to destroy them. And Hanna seems to be the only one capable of doing the thing that everyone else seems completely unable or unwilling to do: let Ali go.

What a world the Liars would live in if they could just let Alison go! There’s no guarantee that Mona’s Army would shrink, but you have to assume that it would, what with their organizational goal achieved. And now that A knows Alison is alive, she could draw A’s attention elsewhere, away from Rosewood. She could be the bait that would save the Liars. Run, Ali, run indeed. Go west, young lady!

But the girls have this useless attachment to Ali, and even with all the time the show has spent on character development while reintegrating Ali back into the group, it's still hard to find that attachment credible. They have an investment in her that seems to blind the Liars to their collective past, as well as to how she seems to be the root cause of all their problems. Alison is A Patient Zero.

This is the basic premise of Pretty Little Liars now, the leap of faith around which the entire season is predicated: Alison is worth saving. If we’re not sold on that fact, that Alison is at least changed by her experience on the run, or that she's just a victim of circumstance and her hatefulness is based on reacting to the evil that would swallow her, then everything else falls apart. Why would Alison stay in Rosewood if she’s a giant A magnet who attracts death and destruction to her friends? Why are the Liars leaping through so so many hoops to make sure she’s safe? Where does Emily find value in being with Ali, particularly when she’s witnessed Ali’s shaman-level manipulation? The heart wants what it wants, but there has to be a point when Em comes to the realization that #Emison will almost certainly lead to the Liars' collective demise.

That's why it’s so sad to watch Emily bark so completely up the wrong tree. We can deal with Spencer heading immediately to Radley because that’s clearly what you want to do once you learn the identity of the girl in the tomb—you go to the where she came from and figure out what led her to a hole in the DiLaurentis backyard. Even Team Ezria has started sniffing down the right path by trying to locate the tie between Mrs. D and Bethany Young. Hanna, of course, has the best instincts of everyone, trying to get Alison the heck out of Rosewood so she’s not their problem anymore.

Emily, however, is trying to sniff out Mona, like Mona is the danger. Emily was so convinced that Shana was A that Mona has to be the one donning the black hood again. She went so far as to accost Paige in the locker room to name names. And that’s what Emily called it, naming names. Like she’s a government commission rooting out Communists. She’s a sad McCarthy. The problem is that, for us as an audience, Mona’s Heroes don’t even stink as a red herring. Yes, they mean to get rid of Ali by most means necessary. But Mona has proven she’s not a killer. If Lady Vanderwaal was at the level where Alison is so toxic to Rosewood that going full Punisher on her was the right thing to do, she would’ve done it. And the most condemning evidence to Emily’s theory: Mona’s already told us that she doesn’t have to hide anymore. And that’s the truth, Ruth.

Poor Paige, though. I don’t think there’s been a character on this show that’s been able to swing so mightily from the “GET RID OF HER SHE’S THE WORST” zone to her current area of sympathy and pity. She just wants what’s best for Emily now and her speech where she found middleground in “Thrown from the Ride” between allowing Emily to find her own path with #Emison while also maintaining the anonymity of Mona’s group. Because she believes in Mona’s cause if not the methods. That a wild-eyed Emily rushes her in the locker room and offers her a false dilemma in order to get her to name those names is just another tribulation for Paige to suffer this season, along with the dead rat that falls out of her locker (that I assume is absolutely Mona) and the weird multi-scream we had to suffer when it fell out.

She gets her names and now we have this side thread Emily yanks on in trying to pull apart Mona’s tapestry of subterfuge and manipulation but it’s not what the girls should be scared of. Mona hasn’t done anything to the other Liars since assembling her new followers other than get them drunk and distract them with conversation. The target has always been Alison and the stakes haven’t even been raised all that high except for a crudely edited video. I guess we’re going to leave this one up to Spencer and Aria in order to get the truth. Team #Sparia to the rescue!

Honestly, I’m looking forward to Aria volunteering at Radley in order to get answers. She’ll be the third Liar to conduct some kind of investigation inside of Arkham and the idea of crazy people trying to touch Aria while she’s trying to sniff out clues sounds like good television if I’ve ever seen it. But the show has an Alison problem right now. We’re used to a series with a complicated set of emotions for every character but if the audience struggles to build sympathy for a character that seems to also seems to be the root of all evil while also failing to understand the affection any of the other character have for her, the show is just going to be frustrating to watch. I just watched Alison watch a disturbing video of her mother and, later, get cracked by a crowbar and still I feel like there’s no dilemma here. Get rid of Alison. Spirit her out of Rosewood so that A can follow her around in Oklahoma or whatever and then start looking into those hobbies. I hear knitting can be wonderful.


— Interesting how Toby was always around but never there. The episode made sure to mention that Toby was still in Rosewood following A’s revenge on his house. I mean, they really wanted you to know that he was still around. But no mention of him getting a haircut.

— Of course, Ezra only keeps paper copies of all his files. “What? Scan these files into a computer and use an OCR program to search through the documents for my answers? Inconceivable! I would much rather have boxes and boxes of incriminating evidence in document boxes that I can hide in my underaged girlfriend’s attic. Analog is the way to go! Now, leave me for a few hours. It’s time for my daily bloodletting and oil pull.”

— There’s been a wonderful story (wonderful in execution) happening with Spencer’s parents. It’s not about A. It doesn’t even seem like it’s about the secret secrets between the Hastings and the diLaurentis family. Just two people that can’t stand to be together anymore. It was heartbreaking to watch Spencer unable to do anything and having to just suffer that her fact-finding and sherlocking led to no reconciliation. Sometimes your parents just split up. This week, Spencer wears the Beanie of Sadness.

— Aria throws it out there that Papa Hastings as A. It’s part of a conversation where they announce exactly what we’ve been surmising: that literally anyone in Rosewood could be A. Papa Hastings, Melissa, Jenna, High School Extra #3, the voice-only barista as The Brew, Olympian Missy Franklin. Anyone can be A.

— Tanner is so close to things. It’s almost uncomfortable watching an officer of the law actually do some good detective work in Rosewood. She could probably use Holbrook hanging around with her just to soften her edge with his sad eyes of sympathy. Otherwise I think someone might actually be able to crack this case. And that just can’t be.

— I’m glad to see Eddie Lamb back. He’s one of my favorite third-tier characters. The drawing he left that Bethany Young drew of Mrs. D: doesn’t that look like a demon is about to attack her and not that the demon is, like, her buddy? Leave it to the Liar to see something and immediately jump to the exact wrong conclusion.

— OF COURSE Ezra still has cameras in the hallway. But good for Two Slips Aria in remembering that it’s only been a few weeks since she found out about Ezra the Spy and telling him that they can’t really be together right now.

— Ali should stop wearing yellow. It seems to make her a target for getting attacked from behind.

— TravisWatch: Wow, that was easy. The young man backed down pretty quick. Between his voluntary stepdown and this new spate of teen drinking, the path seems to be cleared for #Haleb.

— Aria: “I don’t get it. For two years, A’s been hunting you down like a warrior cat …” I think A’s Warrior Cat name would Bramble Pelt.

— “Time for the caged bird to sing. - A” Too soon, Pretty Little Liars. Too soon.

— Your Moment of A: Much like how Cobra Commander has different masks for different occasions, Funeral A is ready to make her way down to Bethany Young’s service with a pretty bouquet of flowers. And secrets. Oh, the secrets.

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