Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Emily found out Talia has two last names, a maiden one and a married one, on account of: she’s married to a dude. Spencer continued to be brainwashed by Johnny’s mansplaining wankshite. Aria followed Mike all around town and into the woods and found out he’s leaving candy for ghosts and probably stealing people’s blood. And Hanna got accepted into a hundred colleges but couldn’t get any of her parents to help her pay to go to them, so she decided to enter a beauty pageant and win herself a scholarship.
The Liars are just straight pillaging Mike’s room now that Aria has come around to Spencer’s blood thief theory. They rehash the thing that changed her mind, about how she and Emily and Spencer stalked Mike down to some dive bar in the forest where he gave a package to Ali’s fake kidnapper, Cyrus. Right after he handed over the mystery envelope, they got an A-blast with a photo of vials of their blood, which seemed pretty convenient since Mike was known to be lurking around the blood refrigerator at school that very morning. They don’t find their plasma anywhere in Mikey’s bedroom, but they do find a necklace in his gym bag that — wait for it — is jeweled in morse code! I’ve been missing these ridiculous hijinks this half-season! I’m here for the Tippis and the queerness and the way this show can be the gold standard of Bechdel glory when it wants to be!
Fitzgerald Book and Candy Shoppe. Talia is on the phone with Emily’s mom, without Emily’s blessing, exchanging cobbler recipes, which is worse than when Paige tipped off the police about Alison being alive and worse than Alison pretending not to be alive, in terms of things you don’t do to your girlfriend. Emily wants to know if Pam knows about them, and Talia shakes her head no, which, again, is incorrect. Pam Fields counts the Tylenols, Talia. Pam Fields knows everything.* Well and Emily knows Pam knows. Emily also knows she’s in a real pickle here with this married woman. But her girlfriends are in jail and in college, so she’s kind of employing the “get what you get and don’t pitch a fit” method of living, which is always a mature thing to do when you’re talking about eating food someone else cooked for you, but sort of the opposite of mature when you’re choosing who gets to touch your boobs.
(*I’m working on this new theory where Pam is A and this is all an elaborate pantomime to teach Emily a lesson about not talking to strangers.)
Mike comes in and orders a couple of coffees and it blows Emily’s mind! It makes her more convinced than ever that he’s a murderer! She sends out a text to the other Liars about how Mike is getting scarier, which must means she thinks Spencer is the most terrifying person on the planet. That girl has been having two cups of coffee for breakfast every morning since Pre-K.
Spencer — who is wearing like baseball pants from the ’40s and a plain white-shirt and a messy ponytail, and making my heart ring in my chest like bells on bobtails — is having breakfast at Hollis with Johnny. I know you find this nearly impossible to believe, but this motherfucker is somehow, through some feat of black unknowable sorcery, going to get even more deplorable this episode. Observe as says “Hogwarts” with full-blown contempt and then acts like Toby is a neanderthal because he has no idea what the fuck Johnny is saying when he starts talking like Luigi. “What? It’s an expression. In Italian,” is what Johnny says, after dropping some non-English adieu. Sadly, Toby does not pop him one right in his smug little jaw and be like, “What? It’s a punch. In the head.” Spencer tries to make plans with Toby, who is only on campus picking up something for Jenna, but he blows her off and glares at Johnny with murder eyeballs as he walks away.
“It’s an expression. In Italian. What are you, a cave man? I can tell by the outline of your pecs in that t-shirt that the answer is yes. In Greece, you would have been a god. Oh, but not me, sir! I have shattered the very concept of god, and have embraced the shifting truth of my own holiness. Was it not Gwenyth Paltrow who said, “I heard the rock say: ‘You have the answers. You are your teacher.'”
Over at Calebzra’s apartment, Hanna explains the plan about entering the beauty pageant, but Caleb thinks it’s an anti-feminist nightmare scenario and strongly advises her against it. See, but here’s what’s great about Caleb: He listens when Hanna’s like, “The world is an anti-feminist nightmare scenario so sometimes you’ve got to figure out how to swindle the machine from inside the engine room.” He offers to solve her problem for her, with his mom’s money, and she tells him no. And so then he immediately switches gears and supports her, because he respects her ability to make her own decisions and doesn’t try to shame her into doing what he thinks is best because he’s got a dick and some feelings.
Speaking of which dicks, Johnny is walking down the street with Spencer when he spots their Hollis graffiti hanging in an art gallery. He and Spencer are livid. They storm into the gallery and bang their tiny fists against the wall and start yelling at the owner about how these paintings belong to them and no one can sell them! Hollis owned the building Johnny vandalized, but the drawings on the wall are his own creative property! Johnny. God. I would rather be locked in a windowless room with no food listening to Ezra talk about being a hot dog for an entire week than get dragged into an art wanker conversation about The Ethics of Being Banksy. You make me hate everything. Get off my TV.
Aria and Andrew are studying The Trial of the Century, which: whoa! Andrew says it’s notable for being the first trial where a temporary insanity plea was successful, and that’s true, but the real deal with the Trial of the Century is it’s about how this woman named Evelyn Nesbit, who most people consider to be the world’s first supermodel, was physically and psychologically tortured and coerced into marrying this full-on sociopathic rich white guy named Harry Thaw, who murdered this other rich white guy named Stanford White, who had seduced Nesbit when she was only 17.
Thaw was a King Joffrey-caliber sadist, no joke. He beat and raped women and men, including Nesbit, and but was obsessed with female chastity. White also was into the same stuff, especially seducing and bedding underage girls. Right, and so when Thaw went to trial for murdering White — on top of Madison Square Garden, in plain view of NYC’s other richies, just shot him right in the face — the story in the press became that Nesbit was some kind of seductress, a “scandalous woman,” a “benevolent vampire.” That she drove Thaw to do what he did.
The temporary insanity defense was basically conceived by his own mother as a marketing plan because she knew it would appeal to these ridiculous patriarchal, puritanical ideals of men in America. It was seriously called “Dementia Americana.” It “encompassed the male prerogative to revenge any woman whose sacred chastity had been violated. In essence, murder motivated by such a circumstance was the act of a man justifiably unbalanced.” Justifiably driven to kill another human if he “ruins” your wife, that’s the male prerogative. And of course the press and the jurors ate the crap right up.
Thaw didn’t want the insanity plea because he truly believed he was “one chivalrous man defending innocent womanhood.” This fucker who beat the hell out of young women and prostitutes before sexually assaulting them, all over the country, this guy pitched a full-on crying, stomping toddler tantrum in the courtroom when he realized he was going to be labeled as a madman instead of a hero.
He ultimately went free, of course, and the insanity thing was struck down later, because: dollar dollar bills, y’all. And the person whose reputation and life suffered forever? Not the abuser. Nope, nope, nope. It was the abused, Evelyn Nesbit.
Talk about your Alison DiLaurentis parallels.
Man, I hope Pretty Little Liars sticks it so hard to the Thaws and Whites in the end.
What was I talking about? Oh, right. The Trial of the Century is what Andrew and Aria are studying when Mike comes clomping in with his two whole coffees, and when he realizes Aria and the Liars ransacked his stuff, he comes back out and legit threatens to murder her if she ever goes in his room again. And then he flips over a coffee table. Aria asks Andrew to use his Sports Guy status to follow Mike to the gym and peep on him to see if he’s doing anything with anybody’s blood, or coded jewelry, or even frankly steroids at this point. Andrew says yes.
Hanna has scheduled a meeting with a coach who introduces her to the wide world of beauty pageants by rapid firing a bunch of questions at her about reversing animal extinction, the decay of American infrastructure, the moral quandary of fetal genetic diagnosis, the philosophical difficulties of preemptive military action, what in the world is happening on Scandal this season. Just a lot of really complicated queries with no clear-cut answers. Hanna says she’ll work on the Q&A portion. The main thing her coach needs to know is that she can Dance. Not little ‘d’ dance, no, ma’am. Dance.
Hanna texts Emily to tell her to cancel all her plans because they’re gonna rhumba all weekend long. Emily is like, “Finally, geez.”
Emily’s still working the coffee counter at the Book & Candy Shoppe when this floppy haired dudebro comes in looking for Talia. He recognizes Emily right away due to Talia’s descriptions of her as “radiant” and “entrancing” and “no seriously, man, otherfuckingwordly beautiful.” So he gets right down to the creepster business of talking about bisexuality like he’s the personification of Glee, all, “Oh, I know all about you, of course, about how Talia needs a little something vagina-shaped on the side, because of bisexuality, and I know about your bike ride and your french kissing and the way you taste like peperminty vanilla. I’m her husband forever and you’re just a blip on the sapphic radar.”
Mike scurries out into the woods and hides a prize in the knothole of a tree like real Boo Radley. Andrew spies him doing it and reports back to Aria immediately. He tells her he will take her to that tree, he will take her and quiz her about world history on the way and she will get into college and they will climb that tree, he will take her there. Andrew really wants to see Aria’s bra. Aria says that there’s no need for that; all he has to do is tell her what the tree looks like and she’ll find it herself.
An amazing thing in the Marin kitchen on a Saturday morning:
Ashley: Morning, Em. You want some pancakes?
Emily: No, thank you. Ms. Marin, can I ask you a question? If your life was a hellscape of psychological warfare and you knew you could find sexual comfort — which isn’t everything but is at least one bright spot in a world of ceaseless homicide — in the arms of a partner you couldn’t see yourself with long term, would you go for it? I’m asking for a friend.
Ashley: Is that friend me?
Emily: I’m really asking for me, Ms. Marin.
Ashley: Right, yes, of course. Look, the way I see it, life lasts a few minutes, really, and less than that if you’re either a teenage girl or a lesbian or a person of color in this town, and you’re all three, honey, so make it count with someone who matters for the very few moments you’re alive.
Emily picks up a pancake off the top of the stack and chomps into it. Wonderful. Ashley Marin makes everything so much better.
Spencer is at home trying to wrap her head around why Toby loves being the police so much, when Johnny comes smashing through the backdoor demanding a tool box. Spencer gives him a mirror. Just kidding. Spencer gives him a tool box. Just kidding. Spencer puts on her burglin’ outfit and grabs her little lyin’ toolbox and hops into Johnny’s GD Volkswagen van so they can go steal “their” “artwork.” I’ve got a secret and you can keep it for free: There are few things in life as dangerous as assholes who mistake their awfulness for integrity.
Also, Johnny doesn’t even know how to pick a lock! He fiddles with the door handle of the art gallery for a good ten minutes before Spencer finally pushes him out of the way, pulls her lockpicks out of her pocket, and pops open the door in three seconds. They snag all the paintings and tuck them away in Johnny’s van. No problem. Easy peasy. But when Johnny pull the last one off the wall, an alarm sounds. He flips out and runs around in circles, but refuses to leave his precious graffiti behind, so he finally wrestles it off the wall and hops in the passenger seat of his van and Spencer drives them away as fast a Mystery Machine will go. So like 25 miles per hour.
Aria, meanwhile, is trekking into the woods to look for the place where Mike stashed his crime things. Do you see this, Spencer? Not only are you ruining your own life by scheming with my worst nightmare, you’re also going to get Aria killed! She is taking initiative in your absence! She is taking initiative in the forest by herself, trying to distinguish one tree from ten thousand trees based on someone’s verbal description of the tree, and she is doing it in the dark! While you are helping a Mugglehead commit a crime that is basically just stealing a whole different crime!
Hanna and Emily are practicing and practicing and practicing their dance, getting ready for Hanna’s coach to arrive and give them a verdict about whether or not Hanna is pagent material. Caleb has ramped up his support and is providing sustenance in the form of cheesesteaks. Also he is providing rage-making news in the form of: Kate has also entered the pageant. You can guess how Hanna responds to that information, and it is by practicing her moves with even more tenacity. She’s got this coach that makes her feel like she’s the kid at fat camp who eats her own toothpaste and she’s got this evil stepsister who makes her feel like she’s unlovable by even her own father. And you know what she’s going do about it? Dance, bitches. She’s gonna goddamn motherfucking Dance.
Less spiritually elevating: Spencer and Johnny stop at a gas station and are immediately confronted by Officer Toby.
Officer Toby: We got a call that the this exact artwork in your van was stolen from an art gallery one mile from here about ten minutes ago. Please step away from the vehicle, sir.
Spencer: What? No! Toby, stop acting like a jealous jerk!
Officer Toby: Now, I’m sure that my girlfriend Spencer Hastings had nothing to do with this theft because my girlfriend Spencer Hastings would fill up her getaway car with gas before she committed a crime. That’s what I know about the brain inside the head of my girlfriend Spencer Hastings.
Johnny: Well, I trespassed and vandalized to create these paintings on the side of a building I do not own, and then I did some light breaking and entering and some casual theft to steal this art, which, again, is painted onto material I can claim no right to, and so I don’t see what the problem is, Officer.
Spencer: He’s just mad because I’ve been hanging out with you!
Officer Toby: Can you even hear yourself right now?
Johnny: I live by my own moral code that is based on my delusions of what the world should be like and work very hard to make people feel inferior to me when they choose a more reality-based approach to personal ethics.
Officer Toby: Whatever, just get in the car. You’re super under arrest.
Spencer: HE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG.
Officer Toby: Tanner is trying to use me to get to you, which is why I am staying away, by the way.
Spencer: TOBY DON’T BE A BUTTHOLE. LEAVE HIM ALONE.
Officer Toby: Spencer, where’s Aria? Go home and think about that.
When Nan Zabriskie shows up to evaluate Hanna’s pageant talent, it’s all pretty chill. Just regular human dancing. But somewhere in the middle of it, Hanna is filled with the Holy Ghost. She pops, she locks, she gyrates, she gives it the ol’ hiiiii-YA, and the triple whiz-BANG! She does t-rex arms, octopus arms, she does gun-fingers, she does the cold weather seizure shakes. It’s zazzle fingers to the left and shusher fingers to the right. Cyclone arms. Bloobalooby feet. Backwards rhombus ruffles. Stump shudders. Her head jolts, her arms waggle, her feet are the sensation of the palpitation nation.
Emily realizes about two-thirds of the way through that her controlled sexy dancing is no match for Hanna’s spiritual convulsions. This routine operates on a plane very rarely occupied by mortals, and so Emily wisely removes herself to the side of the dance floor to allow the majesty to wash over her.
When Hanna is finished dancing, she gives a little first pump of righteousness and Nan Zabriskie stares at her like she’s seeing the sun for the first time. Unfortunately, she tells Hanna she cannot enter the pageant because her ferocity is too much competition for Beyonce and the world will never stand for it. Hanna cries a little bit. Nan tells Emily to enter, though.
Mike finds Aria rootin’ around in his tree and because his main mode is screaming these days, he screams. It’s Mona’s blood, he says, and Aria, terrified that he will be making a Mona clone or a Mona-shaped velociraptor with her DNA, breaks the blood beaker and runs off into the woods.
Veronica bails Johnny out of jail with the money he used for his security deposit, and summarily kicks him out of the barn. Before he goes, he kisses Spencer on the mouth. GET OUT AND STAY OUT, JOHNNY!
Talia is creeping on Emily again, late at night. She staked out her porch and when Emily never showed up there, Talia used her cobbler-bond with Pam to weasel out the information that Emily is hanging out at school with Hanna. And so that’s where she goes.
Emily: JESUS, FUCK! This school has tried to kill me more than once, Talia. Slow your stalker roll.
Talia: I heard you met my horrible husband. He reminds you of Larry from Orange Is the New Black, huh? It’s cool, though, I’ll be your Piper!
Emily: Honestly, I probably will end up in jail at some point, but for right now, I gotta tell ya, I’m not interested in being the teenage fling you do finger-banging experiments with and then run home to tell your husband all about it.
Talia: Fine. I was getting a gay vibe off of Spencer and she seems like she’s into making bad decisions. Can I get her number?
Emily: GOODBYE TALIA.
Emily goes to Hanna’s house to console her, but Hanna is already consoling herself with a giant pizza that she is eating all by herself. Emily Fields, this perfect unicorn person, goes, “I will enter that pageant. I will win it. I will give you that money. You will go to college.” Hanna doesn’t know what to say. (Sometimes you can say more with kissing than with words, Hanna. Just sayin’.)
And Mike finally comes clean about why he’s been acting so sketch. Before Mona was murdered, he caught her siphoning off her own blood and storing it in a freezer in her bedroom that was disguised as a desktop computer. A had been in contact and had presented Mona with a plan to take down Alison: She’d collect her own blood for a couple of months, then they’d stage her murder and splash her blood all over the house, and in the wreckage they’d plant some evidence to incriminate Alison, and Alison would go to jail for killing Mona, and Mona would know who A really is, and Alison would be behind bars, and Mona would assume a new identity in a new town and the Liars would be saved and she would be a hero.
Mike thought this was a very shitty plan, and far below her normal standard of Hyperreal plotting, but he went along with it because he loved her. And she promised to meet up with him sometimes, in the woods, after she fake died. But now she keeps not showing up at their rendezvous points and Mike’s thinking maybe she is dead for real.
Wait, is there actually a chance Mona might be alive? Seriously? Jeez, what if she is Big A who was only pretending to be Little A working for a Bigger A? Gods, she’s my favorite villain in history. Be alive, you perfect little psycho!
Aria meets up with the Liars and tells them everything, about Mona, about Mike, about how they maaaaybe made the wrong decision when they formed a human shield to keep Ali from escaping from the police. Spencer’s face. Listening to Aria Montgomery reveal all these plot points to them that she figured out on her own, you can tell Spencer is starting to understand for the first time how Johnny was hardcore ruining her life.
The Risen Mitten breaks into Mike’s room to do a bicep workout. Gotta get ripped! It’s almost beach season!
The biggest most hugest thanks to Nicole (@PLLBigA) who totally called that thing about Mona and the blood way back in the middle of last season, and made these amazing screencaps, and always has the best PLL scoop on Twitter!