Pretty Little Liars Episode 516 Recap: Barrel of Monkeys

Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Toby went to Build-a-Badge to get himself outfitted as a police man, something no one thought would cause problems in his relationship with Spencer, despite the fact that Spencer is under investigation for at least one felony every minute of her life. Caleb and Spencer decided Officer Toby was harshing their vibe, in terms of being hooligans, so they cut him out of the Scooby gang and baked a bloody knife without him and so there. Emily tried to poison the town with empanadas. And Hanna visited Alison in jail because with Paige gone and Mona dead and Alison behind bars, it’s a dude-heavy world out there and Hanna needs her lady-fix.


No, what’s Regretsy? I’ve never heard of it.

At Predator Candy Store & Book Shoppe, the Liars debrief last week’s shenanigans, namely that Caleb nearly roasted his brains in a kiln, Hanna found deer guts inside a teddy bear instead of Holbrook, and Aria got into college by telling the truth about Ezra even though she still thinks she was telling a lie about Ezra. Emily is wearing one of Paige’s old t-shirts and wringing her hands about this envelope she’s going to mail to her with like swim goggles and spare bike parts and her broken bleeding heart. The Liars offer to take it to the post office for her, but Emily says she needs to do it herself so she can let Paige go, since Paige asked for space and so now Emily isn’t even going to California for spring break.

The Liars make the strangled, awful, terrifying sounds of a nest full of motherless baby sea otters being attacked by a fire-breathing demon monster from hell’s darkest abyss.

Wait, no. That was me. I was the one making those noises.

Never mind.


This old thing? Gosh, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t have any idea who ripped a hole in the neck of it while trying to take it off her girlfriend during a frantic, fifteen-minute quickie while someone’s mom was at the grocery story buying popover ingredients.

Hanna’s like, “Can I borrow that baseball shirt?” And Emily slaps her in the face. Everyone besides Emily is dressed so crazy today! Hanna is wearing a sleeveless denim vest onto which she has crocheted little black scarf-sleeves for her shoulders. Aria is wearing those season one pheasant feather earrings that we never could figure out if they were attached to her ear lobes or like woven into her hair. I remember Googling about it back in 2010 and one of Google’s auto-suggestions was “aria feather hair extensions.” Spencer is wearing this blocky poncho sweater with an 8-bit video game background stitched onto it. Actually, my girlfriend would really love that sweater. I’m going to lay off the sweater.

Aria orders a coffee and instead of a receipt with dollars and cents printed on it, what she gets is a receipt with some of A’s very best nonsense printed on it. It’s her entire Talmadge essay, in cash register type. Superior A troll move. It doesn’t even make sense. I love it so much. There’s an extra note at the bottom about how lying stays on your permanent record, which is a pretty dumb threat: everyone knows if you want to wipe out your permanent record, you just print it out and throw it in the creek, or shred it in the garbage disposal, or bury it in the yard at a frat party.


I got a little carried away in Michael’s, okay? Jewelry doesn’t make itself, Emily.

Hanna comes home to find her mother making smoochy faces on Pastor Ted’s cheek. Hanna is scared to walk into the kitchen, though, because she knows Jason was getting smoochy faces on his pecker last night and that’s just not a thing she needs to see. Her relief is three-fold when she summons the courage to follow the giggles: It is a man of the Lord in her kitchen, there are no peckers in sight, but there are waffles. She tries to whisper-grill her mom about Jason getting dressed while walking down the stairs just ten hours ago, and Ashley goes, “I pretended not to know Caleb was living in the walls for half a season; you can pretend you didn’t see what you saw last night.” Hanna thinks that is a thing she can do. (Spoiler alert: She cannot.)

At Predator, bossy Talia has some bossy feelings about how to make coffee which she bossily bosses at Emily. Tallia is, as the saying goes, all up in Emily’s nut; and her interest in Emily’s nut is, very obviously: crackin’ it. What Talia does not know is that if Emily was the kind of girl who was turned on by a beautiful woman getting tyrannical on her about pedantic tasks, she would be pregnant with Spencer Hastings’ baby by now. She would be pregnant with two of Spencer Hastings’ babies by now. She would be living in Maine on a maple syrup farm selling hand-knitted vegan cardigans on Etsy while her and Spencer’s twelve children watched old episodes of Mathnet and Spencer wrote her memoir, Running With Shovels, in the kitchen on a vintage typewriter.


Oh good lord, Aria is posting Sparia fanfic on her Tumblr now?

But Talia does not know that, and so she continues the “gorgeous overlord” method of flirting. Emily smiles a smile at her that would make you cross the street if you saw someone walking toward you was doing it. You would think they were unhinged. You would think they were a murderer. You wouldn’t be wrong.

Spencer and Toby are still a little awkward with each other due to him laying down the law last week and her breaking it because her favorite thing to do besides drink coffee is break laws. Spencer is feeling an extra tenseness on top of the Spoby tenseness (which is on top of the tenseness she feels because of being an omniscient ghost ninja’s constant prey which is a tenseness  on top of the regular everyday tenseness of being a Hastings), and this new tenseness is that she’s only been accepted into colleges that exist in tropical paradises. No Ivys at all. I can’t tell if she’s mad she didn’t get into any Ivys or mad that she didn’t apply to any Ivys because they’re all too close to Rosewood/A or mad that her life’s never gonna be as fabulous as it was in her noir fever dream. Toby tells her Hawaii seems neat, and a good place for her to be so she doesn’t get him fired from being a Pennsylvania cop.





They don’t have time to work out their deal because fuckin’ Johnny peeks his head through the blinds, which is his first step in unleashing his truly systematic awfulness all over town. I hate this guy!

Watch this asshole right here, just watch him.

First of all, he invites himself right into Spencer’s living room and pays for his first and last months’ rent in pennies, which I thought was a funny joke at first, like it only costs 50 cents to rent the Hastings’ barn because basically you’re just leasing your own casket, but no, this motherfucker thinks it’s ever so charming. And then, he starts purring about when he went to Italy and rode the trains and sailed the gondolas and made like gluten-free pasta out of peat moss and wild berries that he foraged for in the Alps while using pig slop to craft sewage paint to make garbage can art. Okay, and then he starts rooting around in Spencer’s wastebasket without even asking and when she offers him a sandwich like maybe he’s only acting like some kind of absurd Portlandia character because his blood sugar is so low, he laughs in her face about sewage paint and starts gathering up an armful of banana peels and turnip skins.


What in the free range fuck are you doing in my kitchen?

Thank fucking god, Mona texts from heaven and Spencer kicks Johnny outside to his imminent shovel beating.

Aria goes to The Grille to meet “Holbrook” but he does not show up and instead it is Jason who is there because Ashley stood him up. They decide to eat together so Jason can plant a bunch of lies about Alison into Aria’s head and tug on the loose threads of her half-formed fears and sanity. Somehow she finds it easier to trust the man who once videoed her and her middle school-aged friends in their underwear and was caught taking picture of the inside of her nose than to trust Alison who has always been a little mean but totally honest with her.

Hobo House of Former Chickpeas


Mona, it’s Hanna. If it really was you that sent that text, call me back. I will run away with you. I’m sorry it took me so long. Call me. Love you. Bye.

Spencer: I rushed right over when Mona texted me from heaven! What’s the science, guys?
Hanna: The science is that ghosts don’t have fingers, and I am telling you that as a person who was accepted to both Columbia and Cornell.
Spencer: I need to lie down.
Caleb: There’s no time! Whoever stole Mona’s laptop from Aria’s useless hands has accidentally tripped some kind of tracking device that Mona installed to alert you guys in the event she was killed and Aria fucked up everything.
Spencer: Let’s go, I guess. It’s not like I need to be doing any homework. It’s not like you have to be able to read to get into Hollis.
Hanna: I can’t. I’ve got to go break the heart of Pastor Ted, the one grown man in this town who has never tried to molest any of us.
Spencer: Whatever, I know you’re going home to swim around in your college acceptance letters like Scrooge McDuck in a vault of gold!

At Predator, Talia is still on Emily’s junk, this time about the hole in the t-shirt she is wearing. Talia, get it together, man. What kind of lesbian person tells Emily Fields she doesn’t want a peek at her collarbone/shoulders? A dummy lesbian, that’s who. Talia wants everyone to wear polos and ponytails because her type is “JC Penney catalog model,” I guess. Emily is like, “I’ll tell you what, Talia. Why don’t you remove yourself from my jock and I will not remove your face like it is a mask you are wearing over a different mask so you can pretend to be the boyfriend of a girl you want to finger-bang. Okay? How about that, Talia?”


It was inside a lighthouse, and I just stabbed him, right in the guts.



Frankly, “fingerbang” is all Talia needed to hear.

So Caleb and Spencer go to this storage place where Mona’s laptop was activated, but they can’t get inside the specific storage unit because it is locked. Obviously, Spencer does not view this is a problem because she has bolt-cutters in her car, one time taught a class on lockpicking to the other Liars, and also carries dynamite on her person at all time like a cartoon coyote. But before they can gain access to the unit, a teacher from Rosewood appears from nowhere and starts complaining about the smell and the blonde girl who keeps showing up with sacks of dead bodies in the middle of the night.

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!

I love you guys! I’ll see you next week, when Talia chases Emily around the playground and Emily makes out with her face, probably!

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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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