Pretty Little Liars Episode 516 Recap: Barrel of Monkeys

One she’s gone, Caleb fashions a key from a soda can, climbs up into the rafters and through the air ducts — a top-notch #BooRadleyVanCullen shout out; thank you, Bryan Holdman! — and shimmies on down into the locker. Inside, are just bags and bags of evidence, labeled and organized and bloody. There’s this like hazmat suit that Spencer definitely thinks is a live human being, and so she brazenly goes charging head first at it. But mostly there is a barrell and she and Caleb are pretty sure there’s a dead body in there, Breaking Bad-style, and that the dead body belongs to Mona Vanderwaal.


Do you think it could be monkeys? The only thing I’m better at than hide-and-seek is Barrel of Monkeys.

Rosewood town square.

Pastor Ted: I need to ask you something about your mother.
Hanna: Ugh. Yes. The answer is yes. The grossness of the fact of it nearly blinded me like a firecracker right in the retina, but yes.
Pastor Ted: What?
Hanna: What?
Pastor Ted: Are you on the wacky weed, Hanna? Jesus can help.
Hanna: Um, no. What did you want to ask me about my mom?
Pastor Ted: Oh! I want to marry her!
Hanna: She robbed an elderly lady! She killed a fake architect! She blew my formerly dead former best friend’s brother! Just kidding, yes, of course. Marry that woman; I won’t even puke on the dress.

That went well, I think.


And then I’ll teach you how to make shoelace pasta with actual shoelaces!


Paige looked so cute in shoes.

Talia has decided to ease up on pulling Emily’s metaphorical pigtails and do food metaphors with her now instead. She’s like, “You’re obviously attached to that shirt because of the naked person who used to be inside it, but have you ever heard of ropa veja, which literally means ‘old clothes soup’ but isn’t as disgusting as that sounds? What you do is put all these ingredients in a pot, right, and each one represents a relationship feeling. Pork which represents the substance of companionship and tomato broth which represent the blanket of comfort. There’s peppers for sexiness, and vinegar for fun, and onions because no one is perfect. So, like, you combine all the ingredients together and it is a delicious stew, but also a potion to cure a broken heart.”

Emily’s eyes are like, “You are one weird lady, but I’m for sure going to rebound with your pretty face.”

Somehow Aria ends up at a florist and gets hoodwinked into delivering some flowers? It’s pretty funny. This lady just comes out of the flower shop yelling at her to shut her mouth and run her buns over to Ashley Marin’s and drop of these roses. When Aria arrives, Hanna shuffles her upstairs because A is the one who sent the flowers, like a fake out from fake Jason thanking Ashley for the intercourse. A’s plan doesn’t work, though, because Hanna takes the flowers and shoos Aria away, and then Pastor Ted breaks open this face-sized peanut butter cookie and there’s an engagement ring inside. It’s like my favorite TV proposal I’ve ever seen. Not the cookie thing, but the next part. Ashley Marin looks right into this preacher’s face, the only man in Pennsylvania who is not a pedophile, and goes, “Naw, man. I want to marry my wine.”


Maybe I’ll sew some puffy drapes and throw them in this package for good measure.

At home, Emily sews up the hole in Paige’s t-shirt and sticks it in the envelope with her goggles and bike parts and probably a letter that is just Tegan and Sara lyrics. I imagine you when I was distant / Non-insistent / I follow suit and laid out on my back / imagine that / A million hours left to think of you / And think of that. And then she goes to Predator to pick up her paycheck. She says she’ll just grab it from the back, but Ezra will not be denied an opportunity to exercise his authority over teenage girls! While he goes to fetch the check and bends over his desk to sign it, Talia wanders up and comments on how great Emily looks when she’s not wearing ratty secondhand clothes. (Talia! You are good at empanadas but terrible at compliments!) She points at Ezra, all, “Dat ass, amirite?” And Emily is like, “… sure?” And that’s how Talia knows Emily is a homosexual and will be putting the groove-moves on her, starting ASAP.

I am happy to have another (presumably) queer woman of color on the TV, and I know she is a woman of color because Pretty Little Liars has been listening to us. And I also know there’s a real fear that if Emily goes too long without a love interest, we’re going to start crying foul. I think these writers care about us an awful lot, you guys. I hope Talia is Emily’s own age or Emily is 18 or whatever is not illegal or predatory! I hope they have such a fling! I hope Emily finds her smile again! And then I hope Paige comes home for prom and it goes just like the fanfiction I have been writing in my own head, but probably it will not because that fanfiction is rated M for Mature.


I’d pretend to be trying to get over my ex-girlfriend for a chance to give you a five-second Frencher.

Toby and Caleb go back to his place to freak out about what’s in the barrel, about their fingerprints being all over the barrel, about how neither of them can talk to their boyfriend about the barrel because he is a police officer now. And then Spencer goes home to play Scrabble with that officer. They feel happy to be in love and not under A’s literal gun right this second, until a text comes through on Spencer’s phone from Caleb about the body in the barrel and Toby loses his shit. He’s all, “Why do you keep jeopardizing my career by breaking the law!?” And she’s like, “No! Why are you jeopardizing my entire life’s work by being a police officer?!” Toby storms out.

I wonder if everyone is breaking up this season?

Stupid Johnny comes back to Spencer’s house to get an egg or something for his sewage painting, weaving a hippie thread about skipping college to work on a Platypus milk farm or whatever “real world” thing, and Spencer gobbles his bullshit right up. Ugh! Spencer! STOP IT. You are too good for everyone, but you are especially too good for this clown.


Valedictorian? That’s cool, I guess. I was voted Most Likely to Be the Worst.

Okay and here’s the creepiest thing A has ever done on this show. Caleb rushes to Hanna’s to talk about the storage unit with the evidence and the body in the barrel and check out this shit: The storage unit is rented in Hanna’s name! That is so messed up! It is so perfect! I still have the heebie-jeebies about it two days later.

The Risen Mitten breaks into RPD, hacks into the server using Holbrook’s login, and helps him/herself to a sack of caramel candies. Welcome back, you dastardly gloves! You mischievous gauntlets!


I’m Mikey, I’m so fine, I’m so fine I’ll blow your mind. I’m Mikey! (Hey, hey!) I’m Mikey!

One badrillion thank yous to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for the screencaps. Follow her on the Twitters and learn everything you never knew you wanted to know about Pretty Little Liars!

Next page: #BooRadleyVanCullen tweets are back!

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. – HH, it was Alison who took pictures of Aria. Jason just developed them.
    – Talia wants girls in polos and ponytails because she’s seen pictures of season one Emily.
    – What kind of storage unit are they at that they have those huge air ducts?
    – I noticed that when Spencer was standing next to the haz-mat suit, that it seems to be sized for her.
    – So Aria brought Hanna some flowers? Is she trying to make Spencer jealous?
    – Was Alison even in this episode?
    – Next episode, Hanna taps that keg and has her some Mona distilled alcohol.

  2. Hilarious as usual, especially the screenshot captions!

    Kept refreshing the page waiting for you recap to come up, thank goodness it’s finally here.

    Thanks for the laugh, can’t wait for next week!

    Honorable mention to the Tweet that appeared on the TV which Marlene up on her Instagram!
    “I bet Alison would have eaten Emily’s Empanadas” Too freakin funny!

  3. The couples are all going to break up this season so that Sparia and Hannily can be official by the end of the series. Mark my words.

    • And Monison. Because Alison would respect the hell out of Vanderjesus for rising from the dead, and then they’d scissor.

    • Even though I ship Haleb to the point that I almost cried when the spinoff was announced, THIS WOULD MAKE ME HAPPIER THAN ANYTHING.

  4. is it too much to hope for to see emily in that off the shoulder thingy she wore when she was talking with paige?

  5. Ugggghhhh Johnny is the WORST, what a goddamn blow-hard. And yeah, Ashley, you should probably marry the only man in town who seems to be capable of not hitting on your daughter or any of her friends. So fucking creepy that Jason can go from having sex with Hanna’s mom to hitting on Hanna’s friend the next lunch. Gawd, he’s creepy. All the men on this show are creepy.

    “The Barrel of Erised! Hanna will see Mona, Emily will see Paige, Spencer will see Emily, & Aria will see fork earrings. ” – this was the best. Fork earrings, oh man.

  6. HH, love this recap. It was your trademark mix of hilarious and insightful.
    Two things:
    1. Is anyone certain of the Liar’s ages right now? We just moved three months in like one second after spending several years in a couple months. Is Emily 18? I don’t know whether to ship kissy faces with terrible Talia or blow Aria’s rape whistle. As someone who is entirely anti-Ezria it’s really making me hit the brakes on the obvious eyefucking Talia is throwing her way. Can anyone confirm? Because Talia is like a professional caterer right? She’s gotta be grown.

    2. Can I talk about how well Pretty Little Liars captures the single parent dynamic with Ashley and Hanna? It’s something that isn’t talked about often but we really saw it at the end of this episode when Hanna held Ashley after she rejected the only non-pepohile in town. Single Parent/Child relationships so often walk a fine line with the parent treating their child as Child/Best friend/Spouse. The children shift between those roles as best they can, like we saw in this episode. They often also take on the role of parent as Hanna did in the kitchen questioning Ashley about her tryst with Jason.
    The second thing isn’t related to your recap I just think it’s incredible writing as someone who is the eldest child of a single mother.

    • Re #1 – at the very least it is about 18 months after Ezria began. In terms of teenage maturity at 16/17/18, that is a big difference.

      (And #2 is such an excellent point!)

      • #2 continued:
        Like I can’t help but adore Momma Marin every time she waltzes across my screen. They just nail it on the show with every verbal exchange Ashley and Hanna share. That they are in this together, they built this life together with/for each other. It reminds me of growing up, and the way my mother and I spoke to each other. Often more like equals than parent and child. It’s an excellent portrayal.

    • I thought there was that time like 2 seasons ago but 5 years in normal people time…but actually before Hallowe’en in senior year…but then about 780 days happened between Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving so just…I don’t know…there was that thing (oh my God why are there so many loose ends in this show – who tried to drown Jenna, where is Wren, who is red coat, why did NO-ONE ask Mona who red coat was, because she must know, because she spoke to her that time when she entered Radley aaaah why do I care, the writers don’t even know, but I’m angry that I seem to remember more of this than the people who write this show) AAAANNNYWAY, there was that thing where Emily was now 18 and would be tried as an adult, not a minor, for something or other…there was a video, I think, but not one of Ian’s ones? I’m rebinge-watching atm, so may be able to clarify in a couple of days :p

      • Emily’s birthday was in November. It was that time Paige distracted her with an appointment to see a pro-trainer while she and Aria and Spencer set up her surprise party and then Emily came in all cranky and went off at Paige just as everyone was yelling “Surprise!” then she had that talk with her by the water about College, where they finally accepted what they had both been dreading (that they were not gonna be together next year) and we all cried and Emily started emotionally distancing herself from Paige because she couldn’t bear to lose her too, having already lost Maya and Alison.

    • Also I agree so hard about Ashley and Hanna – that’s what I’ve always thought. So much of the plot-based writing on this show is so fucked, but the emotional scenario stuff is so true. Like the queer girl who loves her best furiend Emison dynamic, or the being manipulated by that older guy who you think is the love of your life thing. Also I am basically in a Hanna + lesbian Caleb (except he is no longer lesbian enough and I hate him since stupid Poebirdswood) relationship at the moment. My male partner in crime (who actually introduced me to OITNB) said the other day he might get an undercut…

  7. Maine maple syrup farms, knitted cardigans, intellectual television shows, and vintage typewriters… sounds like the Pinterest board of my heart. Note to self: find a girl who shares this vision. Oops – PLL discussion, right, carry on.

  8. I swear I am not a nitpicker who delights in pointing out errors to writers! But I have to tell you that “Toby and Caleb go back to his place to freak out about what’s in the barrel, about their fingerprints being all over the barrel, about how neither of them can talk to their boyfriend about the barrel because he is a police officer now.” should be “Spencer and Caleb” because it changes the meaning :/

  9. I know I am super late to the party, but I just need to say how happy I am that Heather’s recaps (my favorite things on the internet) are now on Autostraddle (my favorite place on the internet).

  10. Emily’s face when Talia asks her to check out Ezra’s ass is priceless…upchuck in 5,4,3,2…

  11. Johnny’s like that friend in college who studied abroad in Italy for five minutes and came back unable to talk without Eurosplaining the hell out of every conversation. It makes zero sense that Spencer would fall for that shiz. That said, he has to be an A plant, right? Maybe playing up the crunchy vagabond thing while he secretly keeps tabs on Spencer and the Liars??

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