Pretty Little Liars Episode 523 Recap: It Is Tippi The Bird, Actually

Snuffleupaguses! (I just learned that the plural of “Snuffleupagus” is “Snuffleupaguses,” thanks to Laneia.) Thank you for your patience these last few weeks as I’ve been running behind with my Pretty Little Liars recaps. I am juggling one hundred things I love, and this thing I love the most is just taking longer than usual. But, here is good news: You’re getting this recap today, and a whole other one tonight, so hang onto your Risen Mittens!

Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Hanna ended up in jail with Alison, which wasn’t Ali’s fault, but Hanna’s jail face said that she did think it was Ali’s fault and also that Ali was going to pay. Emily felt bad for herding Ali into the Rosewood Police Department paddy wagon like some sheep after she found out Ali didn’t kill Mona, so Emily ran hither and yon to try to clear Ali’s name. The main thing she found was that Varjak likes pizza. Spencer kissed a bunch of monsters on the mouth. And Aria went full Nancy Drew and even dumped Ezra.

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Veronica and I are still thinking of entering the Gayest Olympics.

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Mom, stop. I am getting out of here and Emily and I are going to win the gold medal.

Lawyer Julie meets with Ali and her Dad, who has finally arrived from Out of Town, to discuss Mona’s murder trial. Specifically, to look at a map of a courtroom in case Ali has never seen a TV show. Alison will be sitting right here and the prosecution will be sitting right there and the judge is over in that booth and the jury is in that box right there and Ali only has to convince one of them that she didn’t gut Mona and she’ll be free. If I’m Alison DiLaurentis and someone tells me I only have to persuade eight percent of people that a thing is true — seriously anything, if I’m Alison DiLaurentis — I’m betting seven hundred billion dollars on myself. Ali could set you on fire and sell you a box of matches while she was convincing you it was your fault you were in flames and also that it was the best thing to ever happen to you.

But for some reason, Ali isn’t happy with those odds.

In the next room over, Ashley and Ted (for some reason) are trying to get Hanna to narc on Alison for pretty much anything, even a not-true thing, if it keeps Hanna from staying in prison forever. Isn’t it kind of cool how the Liars’ parents keep trying to save them from jail by getting them to turn on each other, and the Liars are all like, “Only Liars decide when to turn on Liars!” It’s a friendship code. A weird one, but a true one, and I like it.

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Now. With Hanna and Ali out of the way, you can finally have a threesome with me and Aria, Emily.

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Did you kill Paige?

The Liars who are not in jail have gathered in Spencer’s kitchen to discuss the latest mysterious phone number that has made itself known to them. If you are like me, the first thing you thought was that they should call Tippi the Bird, Keeper of Digits and Dial Tones at Pennsylvania Database of Numerical Sorcery. And if you are like me, you will not be disappointed in 41 minutes. It turns out the phone number Varjak used for ordering pizza is the same number that was in the classified ads Ali was collecting and stashing in her room before Endless Labor Day. Veronica interrupts their investigative fun to tell Spencer she is absolutely banned from attending Alison’s trial, and she tells Emily and Aria that they should follow her advice also, since both of their parents are dead and no one is around to boss them or send them to England to keep them out of prison.

Emily makes a conciliatory face like, “I get where you’re coming from, but I’m going anyway.”

And Aria makes an I’m-so-sure face like, “I murdered a girl and tempt the rabies gods every day with my jewelry; I do what I want.”

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Spencer, this is an intervention. You are not the gayer than Emily. You need to stop.

The Liars take their investigation over to Fitzgerald Bookstore and Candy Shoppe so Veronica will leave them alone. Caleb is there and he has some news about the phone number: It is not traceable. So Spencer borrows one of his burner phones and sends a message from Holly Golightly talking about, “This is cat here, a no-name slob. Miss me? You know you wanna kiss me!” And then she runs outside to accost/apologize to Jason for convincing him that Alison murdered Mona and coaxing him to tell the police it was definitely Ali on that murder video from the air vents. Mr. DiLaurentis comes storming up out of nowhere and drags Jason to the car by his teen lifeguard heart throb hair and shoves him in the car.

Can you imagine how inadequate you would feel in life if Spencer Hastings was your one sister and Alison DiLaurentis was your other sister? You could be the kind of guy who could fall down an elevator shaft and survive and no one would even notice.

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I got this new head so we’d have matching chins and this is how you repay me.

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Oh god Toby’s chin matches mine too. Is HE Charles DiLaurentis?

Aria goes to school to hang out with Andrew and she is wearing her best outfit ever. Better than the aluminum foil Wonder Woman skirt. Better than when she was dressed like Lord Licorice in that Halloween episode. Better than the skull blouse phase. Better than when she wore a messenger bag as a half-jacket over a leather bodice. Actually, the only outfit she’s ever worn that can compete with the outfit she’s wearing right now is the one where she was dressed as Lion Goes To The Slammer. This one:


Meow meow meow.

And what’s great is today’s theme is also cats! Aria is always the best when it’s cats, I guess!

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MEOW. Meow! MeeeOOOWW.

Okay, and get this shit right here from this little punk ass jerk.

Andrew: I’m super psyched for Mona’s murder trial today, babe. I love remembering that she’s dead.
Aria: Whaaaaat?
Andrew: Everybody acted like she was such a dang mental ninja just because she had natural adrenalized hyperreality and was never forced to overdose on Adderall to get straight A’s and exist in multiple dimensions at the same time.
Aria: That’s barely scratching the surface of what she was capable of doing, but okay.
Andrew: Oh, perfect. You think she should be sainted too.
Aria: I mean, she was the closest thing to a god we’ve ever had on this earth.
Andrew: Well, I hated her flawless guts. Want to make out?
Aria: Nope.

Attagirl, Aria.

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I didn’t not kill Mona, if that’s what you’re thinking.

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Are you actually a dummy, though?

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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. Jason is such a Ken doll! He’s like Ryan Reynols (who’m I’ve always insisted is a human Ken doll) but with less emotion. And now he even has Ken doll hair, after he, you know, became a diffurent actor and changed his ‘do furom the 90s curtains boy band style. Also loved the “fuck my Mom” joke ;)

    • I was just thinking how Andrew also looks like a weirdo emotionless Ken doll – him as Jason’s twin makes so much sense (you know, in a world where any of this show makes any sense)!

      P.S. Sorry fur blowing up the comments section…

  2. – Even at a trial Emily be wearing vests.
    – I KNOW that Spencer is A, but the way Aria was trying not to answer that phone was shady as f**k.
    – I love Edith Piaf’s trilling voice.
    – Seriously Hannah, Edith Pilaf? Aren’t you supposed to be smart now?
    – Everybody (the girls, Hanna, the audience) knows that the po po listens in on jailhouse calls, right?
    – So Caleb’s a lesbian? I’m just making sure.
    Spencer is A:

    • They don’t really say anything incriminating to them on the prison phone. They are maintaining their innocence.

  3. I really liked the BrosWatchPLLToo interpation of the Emison phone call: Ali is looking for the love and support Emily used to give but Emily can’t quite give that to Ali. It was one of those scenes where you don’t know what is going on in these characters heads.

  4. Those anagrams say more than just Charles dilaurentis

    Rachel S Dilaurentis
    Search L Dilaurentis
    Run Ali Ted is Charles
    And something about nerd Lucas being a liar

    Soooo yet again we haven’t really been given a strong clue

      • I wish I could take credit but I actually saw that on a tumblr post. I hope Ted IS Charles though

    • I’ve always been super suspicious of Ted. It just seems like he’s the only male on the show (apart from Caleb) who hasn’t done something super shitty and/or legally questionable yet. So odds wise there’s like a 90% chance he’s a serial killer…

    • It would make more sense, if each of those clues was a different message, instead of the same one three times.

  5. Sometimes I think I’ve wrapped my head around how crazy this show is, then I read an entertaining and engaging recap written by somebody clearly smarter and funnier than I am and I realize I have no fucking clue how bizarre this world actually is and I absolutely love it!

  6. Your comment about Toby “being A for a minute” sent my brain down a path and I need to process a bit here.

    So we’ve had four people who had reveals that seemed to indicate they were on the A team, right? Mona, Toby, CeCe and Ezra. (This could be wrong, I’m going on what I remember right in this moment.) The two girls who were revealed as on the A team continue to have suspicion cast upon them by everyone, even the audience. Though it seems apparent that both Mona and CeCe have been victims of A themselves, there’s also a lot of questioning of their motives and beliefs that they are still out to get the Liars, to an extent.

    But the boys? Toby was on the A team to be undercover so he could protect Spencer. And Ezra ended up not even being on the A team. (I’m not going to go into how horrible the creepy ass things he did are because my comment is headed in another direction. But fuck Ezra, man.) Neither of these boys have any suspicion on them at all anymore. In fact, the show almost casts them in a hero’s light.

    You’ve been saying for a long time, Heather, that this show is subversive in how it represents girls, teenage girls in particular, with regards to their capabilities and their agency. And I 100% agree with you. However, I also think that PLL walks a very fine line between being subversive and destroying everything they’ve represented about women so far. I’ve been really nervous lately about some of the decisions that they make, and I fear that for the casual fan who doesn’t dissect this show into tiny, tiny bits, PLL may actually be undoing the good things it has done with regards to female representation.

    In my opinion, however little it’s worth, Big A almost certainly has to be a male. It has to be in order to further support this idea about the male gaze and how women have always and will always live their lives being forced to give deference to how men perceive them. These five girls have to be triumphant over a man who has exploited them.

    But after what you said about Toby and what it made me realize? If Big A does end up being male, are they going to redeem him as they have with Toby and Ezra? Or, worse, does this show only place women in the truly villainous roles, perpetuating this idea that women will always be in competition with each other, harming each other to get ahead? I’m really, really torn right now.

    Thoughts? Am I overreacting? :D

    • nope this is a very reasonable line of thought. PLL does so many important things but oh my stars I hate how Ezra’s monumental creepiness was/is allowed to just….not have the consequences it should. I continue to be so impressed with Caleb tho (he apologised for invading Aria’s space when he grabbed the phone off her! He cares about Hanna’s friends! He has so many burner phones! Etc) but 99% of the men on that show can gtfo.

    • The Ezra redemption arc has been the most problematic for me as well. Toby being A for two seconds didn’t really bother me because (while arguably questionable) his motivations for teaming up with Mona always seemed to be centered around helping Spencer, and comparatively (from what I remember) he didn’t really do anything that terrible as part of the A team. Ezra hooked up with an underage girl who was a student in his class in order to help himself write a book about the murder of another underage girl he’d also sort of dated. Like…. why doesn’t everyone realize how fucking creepy that is???

      I actually really liked evil Ezra as a plot line, and was bummed that it was more or less a red herring. However, had the Liars and/or the overall commentary of the show been “even though he’s not A, he’s still a giant sketch ball” I would’ve felt a lot better. But basically, he got shot and then 3 episodes later he and Aria are sleeping together and ABC Family is putting up #EzriaForever hashtags during every episode.

      Part of me is kind of hoping that his redemption arc is the actual trick and he really is Big A. It would be amazing, and pretty ballsy. I’m doubtful that’ll happen, though I do remember thinking it was interesting that the song “Every Breath You Take” was playing during the first time Aria and Ezra got back together. Considering everyone knows that song is about being a creepy stalker, I can’t imagine it was a random selection by the PLL crew. It could possibly be interpreted as an acknowledgement from the writers that they are aware of the continued sketchy nature of Ezra and Aria’s relationship.

      For what it’s worth, I do think Big A will be a male character. Lucas has been my main guess the last couple weeks, but I’m starting to waver on that a bit now.

      • I’ve adored PLL for five years, but detested Ezria for the same five. I fervently want them to reveal that Ezra is indeed evil, if not Big A, himself. This show is so feminist and was built from the ground up on literary allusions of older men preying on younger women, that Ezra is the most logical of all of the characters to be revealed as Big A-adjacent. A has done a ton of things that require big money, year after year, and who but a Fitzgerald has that much cash at his constant disposal? Otherwise, allowing Ezra to be “redeemed,” and for Ezria to exist as a “positive” at all, just feels like it flies in the face of the whole Boo Radley of it all. Ezria needs to be destroyed in order for the integrity of the narrative structure to hold. Or at least it does if “Pretty Little Liars,” wants to be the show we all hold it up to be.

      • i was pretty disapointed in the result of ezra being A myself. it fit in so nicely with the creepy teacher dating his student thing. i thought the whole storyline ended up being anti-climatic and i certainly haven’t let ezra off the hook yet.

    • I agree so much about Ezra. Such a disgusting storyline. Anyway, I think that Ezra and Aria’s relationship is really popular among the straight tween-age girls who watch this show. Maybe the #ezria fandom might have put a lot of pressure on the writers to find some way to forgive Ezra?

    • Oh oh no these are glorious comments, thank you. I’ve always thought A was going to be female & I was ok with that whilst also wondering how that squared with the (hopeful?) message of the show. But now? You’re right it needs to be a guy.

      The whole issue of A team suspects & reveals is so loaded isn’t it? The fact the guys are completely exonerated regardless of what they do & the girls – not so much. (Plus I would take issue with Toby not doing much: planting evidence that could get Paige arrested; Hurling manikins at Hanna; driving down Lucas; faking his death that sent Spencer to Radley? & through it all finds out no relevant information to help the girls. yet, he cries, gets a pity fuck & all is forgiven.)

      I can’t even begin to start with how awful Ezra is.

      I hope the show is what we think it is & the writers have some plan in mind. I just have to say unfortunately I’m kind of losing my faith in them after this half season.

    • This is great! But the thing that has confused me the most throughout the whole series is that it seems like almost EVERYONE close to the girls (including Spencer, herself!) Has been on the A-team for a hot second!(usually because they were being victimized or blackmailed themselves) So it’s very confusing to keep straight who is actually and consistently on the A-team!

      But I feel like it has also been a great tool used by the PLL writers/producers to drag out the show and keep us on our toes…

  7. My new Updated Theory

    Most people have been favoring the note’s Anagram being Charles DiLaurentis, but I think it’s Rachel.

    I’m going now to combine two of my easier theories.

    Pastor Ted is Shady
    Bethany Young is a Red Herring
    And suggesting. that Pastor Ted is the Father of Alison and her Twin.

  8. I’ve been thinking about who actually has the motive to be A.

    Among the people that we have actually been introduced to on the show (I’m excluding potential “twins” and other people that we don’t know about yet), the person who would appear to have the most compelling motive is Jenna. I mean…they blinded her and threatened her and killed her girlfriend. However, Jenna has been “out of town” all season, so I doubt she’ll be “Big A.”

    Also, can we talk about why is no one talking about escaped convict/cop killer/ long haired blonde woman Cece Drake when analyzing the video of Mona’s murder??

    • Jenna could technically be Big A because, as we have seen many times, A uses other people to do the dirty work! She could just be sitting in an Out of Town spa just calling the shots! And she comes back every few months just to “see” how much chaos she has caused!

  9. My excitement about Tippi the Bird could not be contained. I shouted, which sent my dogs in a fit of excited barking and my roommate looked at me like I was crazy. Only on PLL could you be so excited to see a Bird.

    I could hardly process that cat jacket Aria wore. I occasionally wonder where the wardrobe people even come up with that stuff. It’s gotta be Etsy.

    • I watched it at my parents house, and the minute I saw A shredding the paper, I basically screamed “that’s going in Tippi’s cage!” Over and over. And my parents were like “who’s Tippi…?” “It’s a bird…?” They didn’t understand!!

  10. Loving the Gayest Race! It reminds me of Effy in the good ol’ days :)
    Oh and thanks for that anagram, I had no clue!

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