Pretty Little Liars Episode 521 Recap: Vengeance Is Mine

Friends, hello! Please accept my bended-knee apology for the lateness of these last two Pretty Little Liars recaps. Technology and my health have been conspiring against me, but three trips to the doctor and two trips to the Genius Bar seem to have gotten things back on track. This is a shorter recap than usual, but I promise to make it up to you after tonight’s all-new episode!

Previously on Pretty Little Liars Mike told Aria about how Mona was working on a plan to frame Alison for her (fake) murder and unmask A by collecting a full refrigerator of her own blood. Spencer got her brain completely scooped out and replaced with SpaghettiOs by a rambling wreck named Johnny. Emily broke up with Talia (kind of?) because Talia’s husband came a-callin’ at the coffee shop talking turkey about bisexuality. And Hanna danced like your childhood dreams of flying.

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We’re here because we need you to cast a tie-breaker vote for Best Liars in Love. Sparia or Hannily.

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Best Liars in love. Fine.

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The Liars hit up the Rosewood Federal Penitentiary and Inevitable Baby Doll Hospital to apologize for that tiny thing of having Alison tossed into jail for a murder she did not commit. They explain how Mona’s plan to stage her death and frame Ali probably actually got her killed, and then Aria amazingly, hilariously, chivalrously defends the Vanderjesus: “Once she found out who A was, she was going to come back home and be like, ‘LOL, Tom Sawyered, y’all!’ And then you would have gone free!” This does not do much to console Alison, that Aria Montgomery of all people is now Mona’s most ardent worshiper. Well, besides Hanna, obviously. And Hanna’s not even here. Aria again: “Hanna had shit to do, Ali. God, get off our nuts. You’ve barely even been in jail a few weeks.”

What an upside-down world we live in where Aria has stealthily scooted in under Hanna (hey-o!) as the best Liar this season. Guess who we’ll blame for Spencer’s tumble to the bottom of the list? Oh, it’s Fucking Johnny, all right.

As the Liars are getting ready to go, Ali tells Aria she’s going to dime out Mike so hard it’s going to make everyone’s heads spin around like Poltergeist. Aria begs for some more time for Mike to solve things, and Ali’s face is so perfect. It is the absolute perfect “Are you fucking kidding me” face.

It’s been a long time since I believed Ali was a bad guy. A long time. But when she gets out of jail, I kind of hope she starts torturing these guys (again?). They sort of deserve it.

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What is this?

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You tell me, Spencer. Sparia fan fiction? In your college application folder? You have become consumed with lesbianism!

The Liars disperse. Spencer goes home to find Veronica marching around the house in a livid trance. She cannot believe Spencer went to jail to hang out with Ali when she is under investigation for one half dozen crimes herself. She tells Spencer to pack up her shit because she’s going to London to meet one of Wren’s old Oxford buddies who is going to get her into college on another continent. Probably she should be sending Spencer to Bangladesh or Yemen or Cambodia or some other country that doesn’t cooperate with U.S. extradition requests, but okay, Veronica. You do you and SVU.

On her way to work, Emily is accosted by a woman named Claire Handleman (no, for real, I’m not making that up like “Costumeshop”) who is a handler for the Glass Slipper Beauty Pageant. You guys aren’t old enough to remember her from In the Heat of the Night, and that’s okay, I’ve made my peace with that, but she was awesome on that show. Also, she was on Days of Our Lives last year, which is a fun fact because half the people on this show have been on Days of Our Lives, including Hanna’s dad who was her uncle when they both lived in Salem. TV is great!

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We just need your authorization to use your name in these fan fics that were submitted to the Gay Love Glass Slipper Contest.

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Hannily. Spemily. Paily. Emison. Temily. Tippily the Bird.

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What is happening.

Anyway, so Claire Handleman tells Emily her mom didn’t sign her pageant permission slip, which means a couple of things: 1) Emily is still a minor and therefore not old enough to be dating Talia, and 2) Emily still hasn’t told anyone her parents vanished in the night and never came home. Emily lies and says she’ll have her mom sign the paperwork. Claire says she should have been signing that paperwork for years because Emily has always been a shoo-in for Miss Solar System.

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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. Hanna figured out that Cyrus must have met varjak in person.
    I’m so dissappointed in 5b. It’s been a real snooze fest. Just Spencer, emily and Aroa all hanging out with people unconnected to the plot. And I’m really annoyed with how much of Emilys romances always revolve around the other persons drama.

    • I was going to say the same thing. I was proud of my girl, Hanna; and frankly disappointed that Aria didn’t get it.

  2. Okay, there is a thriving lesbian community in Rosewood. Besides all of Emily’s girlfriends, there’s also the Rosebud. So answer me this, how come nobody is hitting on Emily’s friends? There are enough lesbians around enough for Emily to trip over them every 12 steps she takes. We’ve all seen Emily’s friends. There should be a least a few women willing to see if they’re interested. As soon as Hanna walked into the Rosebud she was getting waved at, danced with, and sent drinks. Lesbians should be beating each other to death trying to ask Spencer out. She’s into Sparia, and there’s that weird chemistry she has with Melissa. You can’t tell me that she wouldn’t ping your gaydar. I don’t understand.

    • “Lesbians should be beating each other to death trying to ask Spencer out.”

      There is now water all over the screen from where it escaped from my mouth. omg

  3. This was worth the wait, your funnier then he had been recently.

    “1) Emily is still a minor and therefore not old enough to be dating Talia” It is impossible Emily is under 18, we’ve been over this, she had her Senior year B-Day.

    Sometimes a non governmental organization will demand a Permission slip just being under 21. I’ve experienced that myself.

    What bugs about this Talia and her Husband storlyine is it sends a really problematic message about people in open marriages. Like the House episode they’re effectually saying any couple that thinks they’re happy in one is engaged in some major Communication.

    I think what Veronica read in that file may have to do with Wren. I hope she gets in the -A became what happened here, I’m remembering way back in 1.9 when she was awesome.

    • I don’t think “open marriage” was ever mentioned on this show, not even by Talia. Talia told Emily she was basically still married to her roommate because getting divorced is complicated (which is still weird, but whatever), but she wasn’t presenting it as an open relationship, just like, friends with a piece of paper. I’d compare it to green card marriage. I don’t think her husband was calling their relationship open either, he was being really creepy and dismissive of Talia’s sexuality.

      But honestly, it doesn’t even matter because Talia had no business getting involved with Emily. Even if Emily is 18, SHE IS STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL. Talia is old enough to nostalgically refer to her husband as her high school boyfriend. She has a career, not an after school job. She doesn’t live with her parents. She is in a completely different stage of life than Emily and it is SUPER CREEPY for an adult to want to be with someone whose next big life event is the prom.

  4. Wonderful recap as always! Sorry to hear about your health and computer, Heather. But very happy that the wizards of hogwarts were able to put you and your technology back together again!

    I’ve been wondering, are the #booradleyvancullen tweets a thing that is no more? When you first started at here, you brought them over with you, right? Or did I imagine that?

    If they’re gone for good, I’ll miss them. But it’s ok. I’d rather have your recaps, in whatever from they come. Was just a bit curious is all…

  5. – A targets Mike after Aria tells the other Liars, including Spencer, that he can clear Alison.
    – Spencer could easily have put the blood in her own purse. In fact, that makes more sense than she didn’t notice it in there for 24hrs.
    – Emily dances with Talia, and gives us PLL Boobs o’clock.
    – Okay, we all know that Spencer was applying for Hogswarts, right?
    – That was Andrew in the bandages.
    – If Spencer let out all of her nervous energy, she’d be breathing fire on that guy.
    – Okay, I’m calling BS on Hanna having watched “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

  6. Heather! You genius! I already thought Andrew could be A, but you’ve offered enough proof to convince even Spencer Hastings! Andrew is A!

  7. Okay, now I want a spin-off where Emily and Santana are best buds and conquer Broadway while breaking all the girls hearts until Paige and Brittany come in and they fall in love!

  8. Heather you’ve written yet another gem. Honestly, your recaps make the show 1000000x more entertaining.
    I agree with your ranking of PLLs this season: Hanna, Aria, Emily, then Spencer.
    Even though it depresses the hell out of me.
    My love affair with Troian and Spencer is having trouble accepting that they wrote Spencer down to season one nonsense with great criminal skills.
    I do appreciate that Hanna is a total badass. Remember her in season one when she was essentially a barbie doll and now she has an amazon prime order history that would make Walter White proud.
    Emily is a disappointment. She’s acting like Aria, granted she’s about 1000x times hotter and therefore I can deal (Shay Mitchell is a goddess).
    Aria is surprising the hell out of me with her new tree whisperer status and such. After four seasons of making fun of her uselessness all the time I’m a little sad that I can’t do that anymore.
    Oh PLL writers how you play with my heart.

  9. My personal opinion…Naya is still the sexiest teenage lesbian. That takes nothing away from how sexy Emily is in this dance, but all the girls on PLL have really never dressed or looked like teenagers. There is no way I can watch this dance and believe that Emily is not in her 20’s. I know for the sake of PLL we all suspend disbelief and pretend these girls are in high school, but seriously, they haven’t looked like high school in years.

  10. “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution. In due time their foot will slip, For the day of their calamity is near. And the impending things are hastening upon them.” Love ARIA

    (Andrew is just A nobody)

  11. I totally thought Claire looked familiar. Now I know it’s from back in the day when I would stay home from school and the only thing on TV was In The Heat of the Night. Thank you.

    Also, it seems that the PLL Gods received at least half of our petition to have Emily and/or Hanna dance for the rest of the season. Also also, bless you for the screen grabs of Emily dancing. Shay Mitchell is my future ex wife in my head, so thank you.

    I’m starting to believe that I may personally be A. There’s probably evidence somewhere.

    Oh, and Tippily the Bird? Thank you.

  12. Fake London and the fake English gave me more rage than Johnny folks. Colin is just the worst, I know a lot of Primary School teachers and headteachers and I’m telling you he wouldn’t be employed here, no snacks are given in this country, also no naps, we make them study Dickens and Shakespeare from the age of 4. That flat was a joke, nothing looks like that in England! Seriously no one can afford a flat in Central London…even the DiLaurentisese. I have 30 y/o friends in excellent well paying jobs living in tiny shared basement flats with random weirdos because it’s so expensive. Aaaargh! How am I meant to suspend my disbelief of all the A based crazy when the version of England they depict is even crazier. I did snort/spit laugh at Spencer’s “this is how I pack” statement. It was the first time I feel like we’ve seen a proper Spencer this half season. Why did her mother tell her to stay in fake England I can’t bear it!
    I wish Andrew wasn’t so creepy and I wish Emily hadn’t U-Hauled all over Talia. She’s just too kind for her own good.

  13. As someone who lives in London and went to Oxfurred, I too was a little baffled by that. Also oh my goodness I hate epussodes of things Americans go to London. You find the odd old duffur like that purrofessor in Ox, but no-one like Colin is allowed to exist, and if they did, I’d punch them. Why is he smiling ALL THE TIME? Also hahahahah there were union flags in the background – NOT a thing! Couldn’t work out if she was suppussed to be in Ox or London at that point, because that place exists nowhere… I wonder if she took the train or the coach between the two…trying to imagine Spencer taking any kind of public transpawt.

    That said, I feel Spencer would fit in at Oxfurred. She’s ludicrously neurotic, which is basicatly the only requirement. Oh my goodness I need there to be a series where they all go there and A chases them around the Bodleian and up all the spires. Although the fact that so many shows are filmed there and the crews have no sense that anyone is actually trying to get a degree makes me hesitant…

    • I forgot about the flags hahahah. I supposed the set dressers didn’t realise that its mainly fascists over here that put flags up! I wish there had been random pearly Kings and queens and a one man band…maybe a chimney sweep. I second a Lewis/PLL crossover in Oxford, that would be glorious.

      • Hahahaha exactly – I mean, it’s more the English flag that’s like that but increasingly the union flag just looks creepy. I think they were going fur more of a Hugh Grant in the 90s vibe – at least Colin’s hair wasn’t that bad. But they might as well have had all that jazz. I really wish A had followed her there dressed as a demonic chimney sweep. Why is my imagination better than the real world? :p Only if they stop purreventing people using lipurraries, and actually start featuring my college as my college, not All Souls’. Dude, no-one believes that is AS, no-one films there, just tell people you’re in the lefty gay college fur once, and someone murdered someone else because they missed the Q off LGBTQ, or misquoted Judith Butler.

        On a Lewis-related note, my tutor was once told she had to go the long way out of Merton on the only day she could move out…ofur an actor called Bob who was playing a dead body and lying on the ground. I also once confuronted a man who replied to my “how can I get round to the Rad Cam” with “you can watch us filming ofur there”…in exam season. This should be repeated on the show, with Spencer in finals-mode slapping him.

        I mean… *Insert sane remarks here*

    • Oh god, all the England scenes have been just teeeeerrrible, like you totally tell that the writers have never actually been to England and are overcompensating with the most Britishisms ever uttered by humankind.

  14. Though, really, you think Mr Darcy is a desirable mate? I always feel like I’d much rather marry Mr Bennett – he’s such a troll.

  15. Tippily the Bird! I could get into that. Though honestly Paige is much more my type.
    And I totally agree that they’re treating Emily like an Aria this season. I didn’t notice until someone pointed it out to me because I actually enjoy seeing her story lines, unlike all the Ezaria bullshit of seasons 1-5A.

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