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

Emily still hasn’t decided if she’s going to Ali’s trial or not when her phone rings and it is Ali calling from prison. Ali doesn’t play the sympathy card or the shame card or any of the cards in her deck of emotional manipulation. She just asks Emily to please come to her trial because she needs someone there who believes she’s not the worst person on the planet, and when Emily Fields is standing beside you radiating belief in your goodness, none of the horribleness of other people’s judgment can even touch you. Her light is a shield for your weary, broken soul! I mean, that’s the truth. I wonder if Ali will ever have the courage to actually say that to Emily. Right now she just asks for Emily to show up at the trial and Emily promises she will.

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Is Spencer trying to get you to have a threesome with her and Aria yet?

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Yeah, but she can’t handle this.

Ali takes a shower while the prison guards watch and looks at herself in the mirror while the prison guards watch and it’s very sad. The only time in her life she wasn’t being watched was when she was pretending to be dead.

The whole town shows up for Ali’s trial, even Mindy and Cindy, who are keeping it 100 with their Princess Diaries makeovers. After everyone is seated including all the jury and the judge and Alison is wearing her best freaked out kitten face, Aria and Emily make their entrance. These girls! Emily’s courtroom outfits are some of her very best outfits. Like even Bette Porter thinks Emily is wearing these suits.

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But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Emily is the sun!

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Oh, and Aria, I guess.

Can you believe it’s taken us this long to get inside a Rosewood court? How many people have been arrested for murder since this show started? Thirty, at least.

So the prosecutor weaves a yarn about how Alison DiLaurentis is a pathological liar who faked her own kidnapping and murdered Mona to keep her from diming Ali out, only half of which is true. He’s like, “Look at her. Look at Alison DiLaurentis. She’s pretty, oh yes. And little, too. But mostly she’s a Liar. A Pretty Little Liar.” The jury gasps. What a thing to say! Oh, and also the prosecutor points out Emily and Aria, which isn’t hard because they’re stumbling all over everyone trying to find a seat while he’s making his opening arguments. He says they’re her co-conspirators.

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Do you think Julie is still dating Russ?

During halftime, Aria rushes outside and calls up bae to say that Cyrus spilled the kidnapping beans and now they’re all practically on trial, but Spencer can’t hear Aria over the sound of Mr. DiLaurentis having a fit in the background. He screams at Aria and Emily about how all this is their fault and he takes no responsibility whatsoever, right, and never mind that he was nowhere to be seen when: a) his son was perving on his sister with a video camera for years, or b) his son’s best friend was making homemade porn with Ali out at the kissing rock, or c) his wife was burying her daughter alive in their own backgoddamnyard, or d) Ali was getting strangled repeatedly in the living room, or e) all the days when Alison has been in jail for a murder she did not commit. And if that ain’t the most rich straight white guy thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t even know. “Everything that is wrong has nothing to do with me, the only person with power in this situation, and everything to do with these teenage hellbeasts with their tits and fannies!”

Sometimes Pretty Little Liars feels like an elaborate tourism ad for Wonder Woman’s Paradise Island (Where No Men Means No Problems).

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Emily would never have a threesome with Aria and Spencer. She waiting for me to get out of jail.

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Excuse me, she’s waiting for me to get out of jail.

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How many girls have bought you PinkDrinks? None? That’s what I thought.

Rosewood Penitentiary Laundry Room.

Hanna: What about all those ads you cut out of the newspaper?
Ali: Someone was tormenting me by posting Goodnight Moon quotes.
Hanna: What?
Ali: It’s the book my mom used to read to me. Someone was trolling me about my dead mom.
Hanna: Ali, everyone’s parents read them Goodnight Moon.
Ali: Oh.
Hanna: Oh my Vanderjesus, Ali, have you been Beautiful Mind-ing us for like five years? Are you even operating in reality? I am now remembering two times that you were so sure you were being stalked that you set up elaborate scenarios where people would see you fake being stalked so they would believe you were being stalked. Did you make Mona like the Joker made Batman so you’d have an arch-nemesis? Am I going crazy now?
Ali: You’re just as sane as I am.
Hanna: God’s balls.

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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 1563 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:

  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

  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!!

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