Hello and welcome to the show about which Riese once said, “Sometimes I feel like Pretty Little Liars has sort of invented its own genre of television. It’s like high camp, in a way, but it’s also too dark to be camp, and too fresh to be meaningful.” I feel like this sentiment is highly applicable to this entire episode. Shall we begin?
We open in Ezra’s classroom, and a quotation from Jekyll and Hyde is written on the wall: “You start a question and it’s like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill, and away the stone goes, starting others.” I need you all to know that the rest of this quotation goes:
and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have to change their name. No sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask.
Brb, off to Queer Street. 54 seconds in and I’m so convinced the writers are already trolling the lesbian community for our endless WHERE IS PAIGE questions.
In come Hanna, Emily, and Spencer, who have just broken in. Emily is trying to call Aria, but Hanna says, “What are you going to say if we get her? Isn’t it funny how your old boyfriend turned out to be a stalking whackjob?”
I’m sure a few of us would be able to join that club.
The Liars are trying to find evidence to convince Aria that Ezra is A. Easily, Spencer finds Ali’s journal in the desk. So she just carries it on out, instead of hiding it in a backpack or purse or under her really cute fox sweater. For being “the smart one” I’m questioning Spencer’s intelligence in this scene. Now we’re left to debate who could have been at the cabin? Ezra and Shana?
And who comes around the corner? Mona! She looks around suspiciously and creeps into Ezra’s classroom, making sketchy noises in there. Then she walks out with a bunch of folders and papers. Maybe she’s not stealing them, maybe she’s delivering them.
We transfer the party to the Hastings’ place. Spencer is sniffling, she says it’s allergies? What’s that about?
Emily brings up a good point about the email addresses and phone number for the money. This leads Spencer to realize, “What do we know about Shana?”
Hanna wants Emily to interrogate Paige about her summer fling, which seems like a super comfortable and fun talk to have with your girlfriend. I would recommend starting this talk over date night, during a movie or my personal favorite, in the middle of a fight. Go for it! Tell me how that works out for you!
Emily agrees with me that they found that diary in Ezra’s desk awfully easy. But Hanna has some wise words:
Ezra and Aria are driving along, and Ezra asks my #1 favorite question ever, “What are you thinking?” Aria’s like, “You don’t want to know,” which is my personal code for “Something really meaningless like what color of vintage cowboy boots I should be on the lookout for,” but Ezra’s unrelenting.
Aria’s a writer. Was she always a writer? Did I block this out on purpose?
Aria starts explaining the plot of her story to Ezra and says she likes the villain more, and “Sometimes the villains win.” Ezra poignantly replies, “Sometimes,” because they are playing up this Ezra as A thing so hard I am having sincere doubts that’s all there is to the story here.
Spencer is at home watching an old black and white movie she probably borrowed from Aria and we find that she keeps her pills in a quaint little pill box. Is she chasing those with alcohol? Unless that’s sparkling water?
She quotes Raymond Chandler here, from “The Simple Art of Murder”:
Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.
Can we discuss the heavy-handedness of having Spencer cryptically quote detective stories to herself?
AND THERE IS A FLASH AND NOW WE ARE IN THE 1940s AND EVERYTHING IS BLACK AND WHITE and damn, Spencer’s hair looks so fucking good.
Toby comes in wearing a trench coat and I’m having a hard time taking this show seriously anymore and we’re only seven minutes in.
Even the title sequence is in black and white with a “old-timey” filter over it.
Toby, who may be real or may not be real, demands facts about Alison. It seems to me that Spencer is speaking pretty normally and Toby has taken up a weird 1940s vernacular (You’re spread so thin I can see right through you). Will this spread to the other characters as well?
1940s Spencer is at the coffee shop and Ezra offers to buy her coffee, but she declines. That’s right, Spencer, you independent woman you.
Ezra just said he’s “good for it” and so it seems like we’re stuck in cheesy 1940s slang-land. Make it stoppppp.
Ezra invites Spencer out to dinner, then makes her promise to go, then actually says “Cross your heart and hope to die?” Yeah, I’d walk out on him, too.
We zip on over to Emily and Hanna, who look so fucking good with this Instagram filter I cannot even. Do you guys think the filter is Willow or Inkwell? My bet is on Inkwell due to the contrast levels, just saying.
Hanna makes a hilarious lesbian joke, and they complain about Ezra spending ten cents in a tip for coffee.
Spencer thinks that Aria is lying about not being back with Ezra. Spencer dubs Hanna the President of the Man-Hater’s Club (I’m Treasurer, who wants to be Secretary?) and tells her to keep an eye on Ezra Fitz.
We finally get to 1940s Aria and OF COURSE she is still wearing something bananas even in an alternate reality. I bet the costumers of PLL had so much fun with this episode. I bet the costumers actually pitched this episode entirely.
Aria’s a bad liar. They ask her how Syracuse is and she says, “Oh, it was fine” which, words of wisdom, is not believable, ever. Spencer asks her if she made it down to the Erie Canal Museum, and Aria says it was closed. Wikipedia tells me the Museum was opened in 1962, so… I have no idea what the premise of this flashback is at all. Are they all in 1940? Are they in 2014 and Spencer is in 1940?
And why are they all wearing business suits/fancy dresses? Tell me they all just work in a Mad Men style office and drink scotch and nap on their couches. Please let this be true.
Later, Spencer walks around in a satiny dress thing and she’s calling the Fitzgerald Art Foundation. What number was she calling? The one on the money from Ali’s room? She gets freaked out, hangs up, takes pills. Will this bring her back to 2014?
Toby’s back, watching her take some pills. He says, “You learn a lot more walking in uninvited” – ladies and gentleman, the entire premise of Pretty Little Liars to date.
I’m really liking the shadows in this episode, it’s very Noir and I dig it. We might as well just go camp, you know?
Toby thinks Spencer already has most of the puzzle figured out. She asks him how, and he tells her she’s the smart one. Then he looks at THE MOST RIDICULOUS portrait of Alison hanging above the fireplace. When did it get there? Spencer has no clue. Someone snuck into the Hasting’s house to hang a Sex Kitten Ali portrait above the fireplace? Spencer mentions she might be alive somewhere and Toby shoots the idea down. Haha, oh Tobes. If you only knew.
We glide on over to Ezra and Mona drinking together on a balcony. Hanna, P.I., sees them. “Men,” she says disgustedly.
But wait, we’re back at the House of Silky Nightgowns, and we’re in a play now? AND OH MY GOSH IT’S PAIGE
Let’s talk about how everyone looks fucking flawless in this 1940s filter and how they made Paige so strange looking in her clothes! Is she in a housecoat?! Compared to Emily’s super gorgeous dress, I’m not feeling this Paige makeover.
Emily and Paige are talking about Shana. It’s going well.
Oh gosh, they’re secret lesbians! So it must really be 1940s, correct? Emily tries to take Paige’s hand and the guy at the counter glares at them. Paige is really cute and lovey in this scene. I have missed her. Emily asks if she’ll see Paige later, and Paige says she doesn’t know.
Are they setting us up to have Paige and Emily break up?
Mona struts down the street in a fur coat and Hanna is tailing her. High heels make tailing someone so obvious. Mona disappears around a corner, then shows up in a billion mirrors to heighten the terror I’m feeling right now. Mona calls Spencer and tells her there’s a blonde package waiting for her in apartment 3B. Ezra’s place.
Spencer gets there to find Hanna chillin’ on the couch, looking entirely too casual for being held for ransom? For a second, I thought maybe Hanna was in on it, but nope, she’s just awesomely indignant about hanging with Ezra and Mona and can you blame her?
Spencer comes out with it and asks Ezra if he and Aria are back together. He basically dares her to tell Aria about him as A, asking her why she hasn’t told yet.
“I’ll tell you why not. It’s because you’re not sure. You’re not sure about anything. You’re in over your head and you know it.”
Finally someone can see that Spencer is cracking a little. Too bad that person is a stalker whackjob.
Hanna steals a carrot from Mona’s glass. Why do I feel like the carrot is poisoned. THE CARROT IS POISONED DON’T EAT IT, HANNA. I watch Once Upon A Time, I know what’s up with poisoned produce. They leave, which seems way too easy for someone who was just ransomed/blackmailed? Why did they even call Spence over if she could just walk out?
Hanna has turned into a real misandrist in this episode. “What is it with men? Why do they always turn on you?” They bicker about what causes baldness (the hats? genetics? climate change?). Spencer tells Hanna she traced the number on Ali’s list and that it’s the Fitzgerald Art Foundation.
HANNA WORKS A SWITCHBOARD. So they DO have big girl jobs!
Aria and Paige are hanging out, being buddy buddy. Aria is lending Paige a camera for a trip to the Delaware Water Gap on a canoe trip with Emily. That’s the most adorable lesbian outing I’ve ever heard of. Dear girlfriend, if you’re reading this, I want to go on a canoe trip.
Aria tells Paige that she grew out of being a tomboy by falling in love for the first time. I personally love that this is happening, because it exactly shows how awkward closeted lesbians feel ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Aria tells her she just “grew out of” climbing trees, where climbing trees is a euphemism for being a big ol’ lesbian. I, too, “climbed trees” in my youth, but I just never stopped.
Toby and Ezra are drinking at a bar? Toby, you’re underage, go home. Why are they hanging out — Wait, did Ezra just refer to women as skirts? Fuck this. I hate Ezra. He’s giving Toby some information: Alison DiLaurentis is alive and Spencer Hastings knows how to find her. This isn’t going to be good.
Back at the Hastings house, Ali is literally just hanging out in front of her portrait. I hope the actress who plays Ali gets to keep that portrait. I would 100% hang that above my fireplace if that was me.
Who painted this portrait, you ask? Too bad! We are so not finding that out. Everyone keeps telling Spencer she has all the pieces. Ali is being super creepy, and Spencer’s pills fall into the garbage disposal, which may or may not have been invented in the 1940s just saying, and of course I am fucking terrified of the combination of garbage disposals and my hands. Pretty Little Liars is just following me around, asking me what my biggest fears are, and then putting them in this show, I am positive of it. First the dentist, now THIS.
But don’t worry, Toby is our savior, and grabs her hand out of the disposal because women be crazy, am I right? Ali is nowhere to be seen, of course.
Are we in Toby’s Private Investigator office? Is he a legit detective? He is shining a light on Spencer to interrogate her. He asks if maybe Ali tricked Spencer into helping cover up her death. Well, duh.
Perhaps the Liars grew up in the time change, because Aria and Ezra are together at a bar, drinking champagne. That’s right Ezra, get your underage girlfriend drunk on champagne.
Why are they drinking champagne out of martini glasses, you ask? I’m very sorry, I don’t know the answer to this question. (Updated to add: genius Autostraddler Lizzie says those are champagne coupes. You learn something new every day.)
Aria wants to tell her friends about the two of them hanging out drinking champagne and being in love. Ezra is manipulating Aria again, telling her that she trusts her friends too much.
Ezra: I bet you I know one of your secrets.
Aria: I bet you don’t.
Ezra: Alison’s alive.
WHAAAAAAAT. Is Ezra coming out and admitting that he is A and he knows all? I swear, if Spencer wakes up from a dream at the end of this episode, I’m going to be so upset (spoiler alert: I was pissed).
LOLOLOLOL Paige thinks Rosewood is a city, aw, that’s so cute. Wait. They ARE in a city, did you see those apartments outside of Emily’s window?
Paige and Emily are scared of being lesbians together, and my heart is breaking for every closeted lesbian in the entire history of ever. Emily is doing a great job of making her girlfriend feel better, including the best line ever:
Paige: What if people find out?
Emily: Then they will be insanely jealous of me.
Paige: Of me.
Emily: Of us.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Wait, guys, there is LESBIAN SEX IN THIS EPISODE and it’s so perfect and Emily’s hand slides under Paige’s bra strap and this scene will fuel our fantasies for the long Paige-less episodes bound to happen.
Hanna’s being an adult at the switchboard. She talks to Mabel and asks her about the Fitzgerald night-call answering service.
She pretends that Mr. Fitzgerald is her boss and she lost a phone number. She has the woman check if Alison has left a message. Clever clever.
Toby is giving Spencer a lecture about secrets. Okay, Mr.-I-Was-A-For-A-Long-Time. Let’s not throw stones at glass houses. Spencer is talking about how A is made stronger by Ali’s lies, which is totally true but depressing. She talks about finding the diary, and Toby asks why she got that, and tells her to think about it. Poor Spencer is really cracking under all this pressure.
Then Toby grabs Spencer and says, “Down these mean streets a girl must go, who is not herself mean.” and they kiss, because Spencer’s like “YOU KNOW THAT MOVIE, TOO?!”
Aria’s playing with some toothpicks at the diner when Spencer shows up. Aria’s freaking out, which seems normal under the circumstances.
She tells Spencer that she’s been seeing Ezra again, where “seeing” means “having the sexytimes,” and tells Spencer that she loves Ezra. There’s definitely a feeling here that she knows she isn’t meant to be with Ezra and that something is up.
As Aria is figuring out that Ezra isn’t such a great guy, and Spencer is about to tell her that Ezra is A, Hanna comes running up to tell them that she found Ali. Of course it zooms out and goes silent as Hanna is telling them everything of course it does this to us.
Okay, whew, we are not left in the dark. We are all taken to a nightclub where the phone call came from.
Ali steps out of the dressing room and says, “Did anyone see you come in here?” and tells them to get the hell out. Spencer sticks up for all of them when Ali says they are trying to get her killed. I’m glad they all stick together and back up Spencer. Ali tells them to start thinking for themselves. She tells Ali to see how long she’d last without them, that Ali is setting them up for something.
Just as Spencer is about to tell Aria the truth about her stalker whackjob, someone shoots a bullet through the window! Hanna runs and turns out the light, which is a move I can’t tell is smart or stupid. They make a run for it, or rather, Ali runs for it and they follow her.
They end up in a warehouse and argue, and Ali goes to smack Spencer and Hanna stops her. I love that they’re all sticking together for once, and all standing up to Ali.
Ezra starts calling for Aria, and the others tell her to stay quiet. She, of course, doesn’t listen. In the most heavy-handed “Choose your friends or me” manipulation I’ve seen yet, Ezra stands at a car and tells her that her friends are lying, that he’ll keep her safe, and that he loves her. “No one has ever loved you the way I do.”
Ali turns into normal-manipulative-Ali at this point, too.
This scene had me yelling at my television to just tell Aria that Ezra is evil! But no, they let Aria just walk on over to him.
When she gets over there, it’s Toby, not Ezra. Wait, what? Raise your hand if you rewound this scene. It was Ezra’s voice, wasn’t it? But Ezra is lying on the ground, or we assume Ezra is lying on the ground.
Now it’s raining, because of course it is raining, and Aria is upset that everyone’s been hanging out without her this whole time, you guys.
Spencer is just so tired, so damn tired, and everyone’s telling her to figure it out so they can get on with their lives. She’s afraid of the truth, they say. Toby starts yelling at her to look at the pages.
“Don’t look at the book, look at the pages!” He’s basically yelling at her. It’s unnerving.
AAAAAND we’re in Oz.
Or just color.
Or present day. Or half a second after we jumped in time.
So Spencer just completely lost touch with reality for awhile there and maybe has some mental health issues she should address at a later time.
She grabs the diary, remembering that she needs to look at the pages, not the book. She has Hanna and Emily come over to talk about how now the the book is a trojan horse. There are little changes to the pages. Nice catch, Spence! Names of things were changed: a pavilion, a cute girl becomes cute guy… It’d be minor changes they wouldn’t notice if Spencer hadn’t taken photos.
“A doesn’t know that I have the original pictures on my phone,” says Spencer, while I begin yelling, “BACK IT UP ON TWELVE EXTERNAL HARD DRIVES IMMEDIATELY.”
They go to Aria’s house to stake out her porch until she comes back, and Emily calls her while Hanna looks in the window to find Aria and Ezra kissing! Dun dun dunnnnn.
In A-land, which is also in 1940, we see Ali’s dressing room and shards of glass. There’s a telegram from A, telling Ali (presumably) to break a leg.
What we learned:
– A changed minor parts of the diary.
– …What else can we honestly trust from this episode?
A lot happened or very little happened. I can’t tell. But you know what did happen? Paige and Emily sex. So that’s what I call a good episode.