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

When Veronica checks in on Spencer that night, Spencer wants to know if Veronica knew the prosecution was going to point out Emily and Aria as co-conspirators in Ali’s fake kidnapping. Veronica was like, “Well, I warned them to stay away, but they wouldn’t listen, and if anyone asks you, you didn’t know about that fake kidnapping thing at all.” You know, I’m really starting to understand why Spencer has been chafing about going to college on account of Spencer getting into to college makes Veronica a terrifying myopic robot person.

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I thought you’d like to know that Ashley Marin and I are entering the Gayest Olympics.

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Yeah, until Ella shows back up and sweeps her off her feet.

Caleb visits Hanna in jail and she tells him to run away and he says he’s not going to run away because the last time he ran away he got attacked by that girl from The Ring on a bridge and found out he’s a ghost. He returns to the Shoppe, where the Liars are hanging around waiting for an epiphany to strike them re: mystery phone numbers, when Varjak calls to play some music. It is Edith Piaf crooning the same way she used to croon in Mona’s bedroom. Hanna confirms this over the phone and then goes back to her cell and thinks about all the French things she used to do in Mona’s bedroom. (I mean, kissing and fries, by the way. French of both. Mona let Hanna have her own cheese fries.) Spencer tells Caleb she’s going to bottle him up and sell him as “Essence of Best Boyfriend,” which is a terrifying thing to say in light of the recent barrel of bodies situation, and also terrifying because that’s the exact kind of shit the Liars used to say to Toby before he was A for a minute.

Aria and Emily drive on over to Mona’s to see if they can glean any information about her connection to French music by staring at the exterior of her house. They cannot. Aria “jokes” that fuck it, they should just go shopping and buy she can buy some new “clothes.”

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Spencer is hanging out on her back porch reading the Rosewood Gazette when Jason wanders up and shares the most insightful conversation with her.

Spencer: I think Ali is innocent of murdering Mona but guilty of other things and our society is so hardwired for binary thinking that grey areas really fuck me up.
Jason: It’s weird, right? We’re Lannisters, we should know grey areas better than anyone.
Spencer: I’m a Targaryen, dude.
Jason: I think we both know Mona was the Targaryen.
Spencer: The thing about A is she knows what you’re going to do before you do it and so you can’t help but wander into her traps because you can’t not do what you were always going to do.
Jason: You can’t not be who you are.
Spencer: Yeah, exactly. And you can try to change who you are.
Jason: You can even chop off your own head.
Spencer: But at the end of the day, most people do what they’ve always done.

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This is what a normal person’s face looks like!

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No, you are CGI Ken Doll, I cannot take your pain seriously.

Jason: I’ve got to testify tomorrow. I’m going to try a new thing where I don’t hurt my own sister in every possible way.
Spencer: Good luck. If you succeed, maybe there’s hope for me and Melissa.
Jason: lol no.
Spencer: Well, anyway, I’ll be there tomorrow. Fuck my mom.
Jason: Really, because Hanna got super weird when … oh, wait. No, I see what you’re saying now. Okay, see you tomorrow.

Jason’s testimony is a debacle for the ages. As soon as he backtracks on how he’s not absolutely after all sure that it’s Alison who is murdering Mona in the video, the prosecutor goes for his jugular, like so: “Are there any other blonde haired girls in this town who look like your sister; and if so, did you bone any of those girls’ moms; and if so, is she in this courtroom right now; and if so, will you point to her if she’s Ashley Marin?” Well, the courtroom just explodes with the revelation, and so does Emily’s head.

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Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.

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Wait, Ashley did what? I dozed off daydreaming about Paige.

And that’s when the Liars go to Mona’s to break in to look for evidence, because clearly they’re the only ones who are going to be able to keep Ali and Hanna from being in jail for all eternity. Mona’s room has been plundered. Doll heads litter the floor. Drawers are open, masks are all over the place. And Edith Piaf is playing on vinyl, obviously. A has left the Liars a note about how the early bird catches the worm (and puts it on your Chinese food), and just as the Liars are about to give up because A was five steps ahead of them again, Aria goes, “Y’all what if A is a Liar, also? What if A really didn’t find what she was looking for in here? What if some clues are still in this room?” Emily advises everyone to think like Mona, which is as silly as being like, “Okay, now jump off this bridge and fly!”

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Pretty sure this is code for something gay.

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They root through her stuff some more and find a mirror and pluck out the reflective part of it, and inside are three weird phrases like when Miss Aria was a Killer and Not Ezra’s Wife. But these ones are anagrams, and all of them say: Charles DiLaurentis. Who is that? I do not know, but my main three hopes are: 1) Andrew, who is secretly Jason’s twin brother! 2) Alison’s secret child! 3) Code for Cece Drake, because I just really want more Cece Drake in my life. The Liars don’t have Twitter so they don’t crack the anagram, though.

When they leave, there’s an ice pick poking into the floor like a needle into Aria’s eyeball, and a broken window, but they don’t notice that. They also don’t notice that Andrew is creeping out there like a regular old Cousin Nate. When he shows up at the Brew later and kisses Aria on the cheek, it kind of seems like he’s sizing her up like maybe he’s going to try to dress her up in a Mona skin suit later, doesn’t it? Is he after Aria because she’s the only other button-sized one?

In jail, Jason talks to Ali and Ashley talks to Hanna. Everyone feels sad about how somehow Ezra Fitz is the only person on this show who has never been arrested.

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I’ve decided to withdraw from the Gayest Olympics. I don’t have a shot against you and Emily.

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I know.

And finally, Emily goes to work because Emily always goes to work, and in between doing all the things she does to keep Ezra’s business booming, she takes a break to listen to Fucking Johnny’s secret machine. During the confessions, Edith Piaf plays and Emily just about has a heart attack.

The Risen Mitten shreds his Varjak passport and Varjak social security card and Varkjak Costco membership card. And then he takes the shredded paper over to a bird cage. And inside the bird cage is Tippi. Marvelous, magnificent, motherfucking Tippi! There is hope for all of us after all, dolls!

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This is my thank you to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for screencapping for me and for not getting mad when I’m running late with my recaps! 

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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 1619 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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