Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Paige left the warm embrace of Emily’s arms to journey to California, a Narnian wonderland where it is rumored that lesbians can survive to the ripe old age of possibly 20 years old. Mona’s mother threw her a Hawaiian-themed funeral and then threw a punch right at Ali’s face. That was not the worst thing that happened to Ali, though. The worst thing that happened to Ali was her friends red-rovered her right to jail for Mona’s murder. Oh, and speaking of magical places, the Grunwald shimmied in from Ravenswood to sniff around Mona’s empty tomb and pet her stuffed dog and stare deeply into Alison’s eyes. And then the Grunwald prayed for our souls.
Toby Cavanaugh, convicted felon and long term boyfriend of three-time murder suspect Spencer Hastings, has arrived at a not-Rosewood prison to deliver transfer papers for Alison DiLaurentis. Because he is a police officer, in case you have forgotten. Alison’s face is bloody and bruised when she calls Toby over to remind him that he was in jail one time and he knows how shitty it feels and so get her out of here. But he reminds her that she put him in jail for the blinding of his step-sister. And she reminds him that he showed up on that one Labor Day weekend to thank her for putting him in jail because it meant Jenna stopped molesting him. And then he reminds her that on that Labor Day weekend she rubbed his borrowed sweater all over her friendship bracelet before she went to the kissing rock to do it with Ian and that particular forensic evidence is why all the Liars were scared of him for so long. And she reminds him that he was a shady motherfucker back then, and even one time nearly (accidentally) murdered Emily in a chemistry lab.
Such a long, loving history between these two!
Ali: You do understand that your girlfriend is going to die — and I’m not talking about spending five hours under ground, breathing dirt until a clairvoyant sorority mom can pull her to safety, dude; I am talking about actual death — unless she and the other Liars start talking to me again.
Toby: I am the law!!!!
Ali: I should have killed you instead of Mona.
Toby: Is that a confession!???
Ali: No, it’s sarcasm. Jesus. Just tell Spencer to fucking taking my phone call.
I can’t stop thinking about that line from Who Framed Roger Rabbit when Judge Doom is like, “Have you forgotten what happened last time? If you don’t stop that laughing, you’re going to end up DEAD, just like your idiot hyena cousins!” That’s what Ali’s face reminds me of right now, looking at Toby like she’s doing.
Toby rushes right over to Rosewood High to talk cop shop with some curious teens. The laser pointer these kittens are chasing today is: 1) Ali had help setting up that fireworks display, a hijink she was definitely behind. 2) Holbrook sticking his tongue down Ali’s throat is definitely a thing Aria saw at the Ice Ball. It was not one of the one hundred Ali-shaped people at that ball, including Ali’s literal soul twin. It was Ali. #AriaKnows. 3) And so therefore Holbrook did the fireworks because Ali brainwashed him with her underage sexuality.
Holbrook is Out of Town taking care of his sick dad, so the Liars think Toby should find out if he’s making time to visit Ali in jail. Spencer’s like, “Why are we always throwing Toby head first into the lion’s den?” When the question she should be asking is, “Why are we not always throwing Ezra headfirst into the lion’s den?” But whatever. The Liars decide to hold a coven over the weekend to determine their Next Steps. Hanna, however, cannot attend said coven because her Next Step is out of this town for good. She has arranged a visit at one of the 100 colleges that accepted her.
Spencer: Did Mona’s adrenalized hyperreality pass to you when she died or something? How many colleges did you get into?
Hanna: [rolls her eyes]
Aria: [covers her hands with her ears] LA LA LA I FORBID ANYONE FROM TALKING ABOUT COLLEGE UNTIL I GET INTO ONE AND CAN MAKE THESE CONVERSATIONS ALL ABOUT ME.
Hanna: [rolls her eyes]
Spencer: Seriously, Hanna, how many?!?
In between college visits, Hanna says she’ll deal with Holbrook by visiting him and telling him to stop obeying Ali’s murder decrees. He did bump his grown-ass man face into Hanna’s underaged teenage face one time, after all; that’s got to count for something.
At Fitzgerald Bookstore & Candy Shoppe, Ezra is melting down about how his caterer doesn’t have the right kind of diamond powder to crust the fois gras in and did he say chablis or did he say merlot because he’s pretty sure he said merlot and none of these vendors will accept anything over a one million dollar bill and his life is so hard. My god, what would it be like to walk around the world in Ezra Fitzgerald’s shoes? How would that feel for even a single day? 99 problems and vintage wine is every single one.
Emily has an idea and it is that she will take over this catering situation and make enough money to buy a plane ticket to California, where she will snoggle her moogle with Paige McCoogle, who isn’t returning her calls and texts right now. You understand why Emily is upset by this, of course. For starters, Paige was like the only person whowas always pouring unfiltered love into Emily’s heart and also companionship things and sex things. And for seconders, the last time one of Emily’s girlfriends left town and stopped returning calls, Lyndon “Nate” James happened.
Emily is desperate. Paige did not respond when Emily passive-aggressively hinted she was going to college in Gaymo, Oregon. Paige did not respond when Emily sent her scissoring emojis four nights in a row. But the perhaps the true reason for Emily’s desperation is she wants to visit Paige for spring break even though spring quarter ended at least last week, which means that she’s going to have to buy a plane ticket and a time machine. She can’t even make a down payment on a TARDIS on a barista’s salary.
Ezra would like to know if Emily even took home economics. He would like to know if she’s some kind of professional caterer. He would like to know if she even watches Top Chef, okay, because based on the thousands of hours of surveillance footage he watched detailing every move she made for the last three years, he doesn’t remember seeing her even bake a Pop-Tart.
Aria tells Ezra to give Emily the job, not because she thinks Emily deserves it or because she wants to help out her dear friend; no, Aria tells Ezra to give Emily the job so she’ll stop talking about college and making Aria feel shitty about herself.
I forgot that the DiLaurentises owned a real estate agency. Probably I forgot because they keep moving into and out of the one house where everyone in their family has been murdered at least once, and it seems like if you had access to dozens of other residences, you might be able to find a new place to live. Anyway, Jason is taking over the business now, and that is just fucking fine with Ashley Marin who has been sitting here guarding the files since Pepe dug up Jessica D. (I was just thinking of Dolce, Gabbana & Lebowitz law firm. Remember that? Hanna really has always been the best.) Jason asks Ashley to stay and she says fine but she needs to go home and shower first. He says he’ll go with her. She says fine to that too, speaking of 99 wine problems.
Wait, no. Before they go, Ali calls from prison and Jason hisses, “Tell her I’m in the shower!” And that’s what Ashley does. Aw, man. Seems like just yesterday Ashley and Ali were cowering together in the foyer while Noel Kahn did Psycho shadow puppets on the wall and clanked chains together and did ghost noises. Now they’re strangers.
Here’s a little secret. I had to watch this episode three times before I understood who the hell’s murder investigation was happening. When I first watched, I thought it was Bethany Young’s and then when I watched again I thought it was Mona’s, but then when I started recapping, I was like, “Wait, no. Mona was murdered at Christmas. It is, at the very least, after spring semester right now. Why are they only just now searching her yard for evidence?” But then I watched a third time, and I am pretty confident it is Mona’s murder. Anyway, whatever. Toby is in someone’s backyard in his police suit and he finds a bloody knife and he hides it under a leaf and draws a chalk outline around it and covers it in glitter and flashing lights, like Spencer taught him.
Then he goes to Spencer’s, where she is hanging out with Caleb, and its like Toby panicking about how the knife is his knife and he’s being framed and Caleb panicking about how he also is framed because of the other day when he went to Toby’s house to hold all his knives and Spencer’s eyes just lightin’ up like fireflies in a Ravenswood sky because it’s evidence-destroying time! How long has it been since she burned a murder weapon? Too long, friends. Too long. Well but Toby isn’t hearing that garbage! If he is going to get an award for Investigation (to go along with the stuffed seal he got for Marksmanship and the stuffed gorilla he got for Sand Racing), he cannot dabble in obstruction of justice. Toby and Caleb screech at each other for a minute about who gets the knife, until Spencer swoops in with the compromise of: Toby will leave the knife where it is so the police don’t find his and Caleb’s DNA on a bloody dagger in a dead girl’s yard, and Caleb also will leave the knife where it is so Toby can get his little trophy.
At the bookstore, there is a new guy in town. He is wearing a Ramones t-shirt, which, frankly, is all you need to know about him, but I’m going to give you a little extra. Pageboy hat. Chunky bracelets. Messenger bag over on the couch with like a RISD degree hanging halfway out of it and three unfinished screenplays that are basically his college Facebook status updates masquerading as fiction. A Dan Humphrey for every town, I guess. He says the word “slammin'” — as in, “It’s really important to me that this sign that says ‘books’ be slammin’ because how else will people know they’re in a bookstore?” — and Aria really must be losing her mind about college because that right there, just the whole entire package, was put on this earth to be her kryptonite. And she doesn’t even blink. Throw a pizza at a stranger on the street, awful Newsie! That’ll get her attention!
Ezra finally overhears Aria wailing about college and swoops in to explain: 1) Literally any person can go to Hollis College, no matter if they only attended ten days of high school, and so calm down because at least there’s that. 2) Her dad is a professor at at least two colleges, including Syracuse, so there’s also that. 3) The reason she got waitlisted at Talmadge is because — and this is so righteous, I love this — Jackie Molina works there now. You remember Jackie Molina, right? Ezra was engaged to her as told by his relationship status on his website page. This was before he met Aria but after but after Alex Mack, whose child he tried to purchase, I do believe you will remember.
Emily tells Aria what she needs to do is just write a nice letter to Jackie Molina explaining that she was stalked and seduced by her former English teacher who is Jackie’s former fiance and they can commiserate over Ezra’s extradimensional horribleness together. That is her ticket to higher education! Or something. (This episode really does make me feel like I haven’t taken my Adderall in a week. My working theory is the theme of season 5B is: Liars Chillaxin With Dudes They Haven’t Snogged and I’m not exactly prone to paying attention when the boys are on-screen. I’ll work on it.)
(I wonder what Paige is doing.)
So Caleb calls Hanna at her Ballard College visitation weekend to tell her about Toby’s knife, and Hanna calls Spencer at her house/graveyard to corroborate Caleb’s story about Toby’s knife, and so Spencer goes speeding out of her house and clomping up to Caleb’s apartment, hollerin’ to beat the band. They need to find that knife! They need to set it ON FIRE! Fuck Toby’s cop awards! This business is serious!
Emily is trying to stuff grapes and she is doing it like a maniac, dough all over the place, including the wall, because that is where she is slinging it in fits of such temper. Ezra wanders in, surveys her frazzled nerves, the ingredients on the wall; he points his finger at her face and says, “I knew you didn’t take home ec!”
She stabs him in the face. She tells him Pam Fields offered up her secret empanada recipe, and he’s like, “These empanadas better be slammin’, Emily. Not like this grape mush here, which is most assuredly not slammin’. I am a slammin’ guy and all aspects of this business must reflect that slam. If you need some inspiration, peek your head out of the kitchen and check out Boots the Newsie’s ‘books’ sign. That is a thing that is slammin.'”
Through some miraculous force of will she does not remind him of time he said to her, “Some people have real problems, Emily.”
In the dark of night, two terrible things happen.
One) Hanna goes to an RV park looking for Holbrook because his dad lives in this RV park and Holbrook is rumored to be taking care of his dad. Well, Holbrook is not there. His dad is, and some creepy ass fuck who is chopping up deer guts and also a child who seems even more terrifying than that one who lives in the basement of the Brookhaven Doll Hospital. Holbrook’s dad thinks Hanna is Alison or one of the hundred people in the northeastern United States who look just like Alison, so he’s surprised his son isn’t with her. The awful kid, I think, chews the head off Hanna’s Ballard College stuffed dog and fills it with real live animal guts, so that’s a disgusting surprise Hanna gets when she returns to her car. The guts spill out all over her. I can’t talk about it more than that or I will vomit.
Two) Hanna and Caleb retrieve that bloody knife they’ve all rubbed their fingerprints on and decide to destroy it by putting it in the kiln in Rosewood High’s art classroom. You can tell this is a thing Spencer has been wanting to try for a long time, just waiting for the right piece of evidence to turn up. I mean, she obviously doesn’t understand what kilns do, but she’s really excited it. Unfortunately, Caleb ruins her fun by getting himself locked inside the kiln and very nearly cooking his brains. Spencer rescues him, but the knife is gone.
The next morning, Aria goes to Emily’s to comfort her because of losing her girlfriend and she only slept three hours because of her kitchen stresses and sometimes even the Gryffindor-est among us need a hug and cry. Just joshin’ ya; Aria goes to Emily’s to read her the letter she sent to Jackie Molina at Talmadge. She says her secret relationship with Ezra “kept me in a fishbowl separating me from my family, my friends, even from myself.”
It’s true? It’s the truest thing anyone has ever said on this show of lies? And Aria knows it’s true? But she doesn’t think the effects of the abuse are real? She doesn’t think it actually hurt her? She’s just using the truth to explain true things she thinks she’s making up to bond with Ezra’s ex-girlfriend who knows it’s the truth and knows the effects are for real? Emily thinks it’s a damn terrible idea because — wait for it — it’s going to hurt Ezra’s feelings. So Aria goes to Talmadge to try to get the letter back but gets accepted into college instead.
I can’t wait to see how victimized Ezra will act when he finds out Aria told someone the truth about being his victim.
When Emily arrives the bookstore to stuff her empanadas, she discovers that Ezra has hired a midnight caterer to bake and serve professionally prepared foods so Emily can enjoy opening night as a guest and but don’t worry, he’s still going to pay her. What he doesn’t get — and it’s good and right that he doesn’t get it because he should be involved in the drama of these children’s lives! — is that becoming a caterer was Emily’s way of trying to save her relationship with Paige, and if Pam Fields’ savory meat pies aren’t magical enough to heal this gaping wound in her heart, what hope do any of us have for happiness?
Hanna decides to pay a little visit to the penitentiary.
Alison: Finally, good lord.
Hanna: I came here to tell you to stop whatever bullshit you’re doing with Holbrook.
Alison: Dude, if I were A — like if I really did have maical torture powers — do you not think I would have kept myself out of jail or breathed fire on you guys when you formed a human chain to keep me from running away?
Hanna: Probably, but I lost the last fuck I had to give in a pile of guts in an RV park last night, so.
Alison: See you at Aria’s funeral, I guess. I’ll be the one getting slapped in the head.
At the bookstore opening, Emily tries to force feed Spencer an empanada, going so far as to tell her to EAT AROUND THE HAIR but Spencer has a whole other cooking problem and it is that she tried to cook a murder weapon and A stole it from her. It’s a problem for many reasons, including: she told Toby she was just going to leave it in the woods. When he finds out what she has done, he yells at her for ruining his life’s work of being a police officer and storms off into the night. She cries. Toby should probably go to California, too, to be honest. Because he is a hundred-year-old ghost soldier, Caleb seems made for this life, and because he is a monster person, Ezra also seems made for this life. Toby, like Paige, just wants to exist peacefully and do woodwork, man. Worse news than her boyfriend is so mad at her is the news that Boots the Newsie is moving into her backyard.
Emily goes into the kitchen and starts flinging stuff around and yelling at the caterer about how her relationship is over and fuck you and your caviar and your ability to prepare finger foods for hundreds of people without wanting to die. Emily is such a glory when she’s angry and heartbroken. Like when she got drunk at the school dance when Maya went to drug prison. And that time when she told Sydney she was going to eat her liver with some Cheerios. And like now. It’s weird. It’s like she becomes more flawless with every step she takes toward Radley.
The caterer gives Emily so much side-eye, which also is a kind of glory — but then she helps Emily rescue her empanadas with some almonds on top or some kind of special sauce of whatever thing always saves the day on reality cooking competitions. I hope they don’t hook up. They probably are going to hook up. But I hope they don’t. The show could always time-jump if it wants to put Liars in relationships with adults, right? Just do that. Only age-appropriate relationships and let the Liars start talking to each other again instead of the boys in 2015! (I do hope the caterer stays, though. More women of color on the television is just the thing my heart needs! And goodness, a competent adult is a breath of fresh air!)
A tortures Aria by sending her a bookmark with her Talmadge essay printed on it. This after Ezra introduced her to a college admissions person just this very night! Oh, Aria! Why can you never appreciate what Ezra does for you! He’s watching your back, literally, every second of the day. Why do you always have to hurt him so! Can you just try to be slammin’, for like one second of your life?
Also, not slammin’? Hanna peeps Jason sneaking down the stairs after having had sexual intercourse with her mother.
And at the jailhouse, Ali gets a new jumpsuit with a note inside, insisting that the Liars will see her very soon. I hope this means they will be joining her in prison.
A big ol’ thank you to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for the screencaps! Follow her on the Twitter machine so you can be in the know! And a big ol’ thank you for your patience. I know this recap is super late; it has been a week!