Pretty Little Liars Episode 525 Recap: The Greatest Show on Earth

Oh, my precious grey parrots, I humbly bend my knee before you and ask you to forgive me for the monstrous lateness of this final Pretty Little Liars recap of season five. I buckled under the pressure and time wouldn’t stop for me. When season six rolls our way (and oh, so soon!), I promise to be on my best, most Spencer-approved recapping behavior, even if I have to take off my bra to get a bucket full of Adderall. After the recap are the 100 best #BooRadleyVanCullen tweets of the whole season!

Previously on Pretty Little Liars, the Liars were all convicted of murdering Mona Vanderwaal: Alison first, in a trial where her lawyer’s main defense strategy was having her throw grapefruits across the courtroom; and then the rest of them because of, I think, habeas corpus. And while the Liars were getting handcuffed and carted away, Veronica Hastings was just shaking her head over there in the corner of the courtroom because if they’d stayed home like she told them, they would never have been arrested for homicide. Toby was like, “Rawr, I just want to be the police!” And Caleb was like, “My essence is on sale at JCPenny!” And Paige was at Stanford, forcing Emily to learn to make empanadas on her own.

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Spencer, we can’t have an orgy. We’re all wearing handcuffs.

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Maybe we could auto straddle.

The Liars are on their way to jail in an RPD paddy wagon, wearing orange jump suits like one of the other times they were arrested (for digging their therapist’s boots out of the mud with a shovel, remember) and forced to do community service. Emily asks Hanna what it’s like in prison, which is ridiculous, like I am so sure Emily has not watched every episode of Orange Is the New Black six times. They talk about how hopefully they’ll all end up at the same facility and be bunkmates so they can share commissary money and start a coven.

Spencer: This is some hardcore bullshit, but I will tell you what, it has really always only ever been the four of us, and that’s all we need.
Aria: Should we all cuddle up like a crate of puppies at the end of a rainbow, for comfort?

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My grenade launcher. My game. My rules.

They do not have the chance. The paddy wagon wrecks and the back doors open and A+ steps out of the darkness and shoots a grenade at them. Luckily it’s one of those grenades filled with sleeping gas and not gun powder, and so they all get knocked out instead of getting dead.

When the Liars wake up, they are in their own bedrooms. But except no they are not. They are in real-life simulations of their own bedrooms with just enough stuff missing that it feels like getting seasick. One-by-one they realize the world beyond their windows is just cement walls, and that all their photos are the ones that came with the frames, and that the books on the shelves are the kind in IKEA. It is Spencer who hurls her chair through her window, which A+ always knew would happen. Remember when he had all those literal rats in literal cages and Spencer-rat was the first to crack? (I think they got arrested for that too? When they took that trophy to the police and it had Spencer-rat’s blood on it and not real human blood?)

The Liars are greeted by the sound of a disembodied airport voice saying good morning in like six languages and inviting them to follow the lighted path to their destination. The doors unlock and they amble out into the hallway and are so relieved to see each other that Emily practically faints dead away. They do follow the lights. The lights lead to Alison’s room in the doll house.

She’s sitting there too, wearing a mask of her face over her face, as per the usual. Playing the piano. She takes off the mask. And the face under Ali’s face isn’t Ali’s face at all. The face under Ali’s face is the same face that was under Ali’s face under Caleb’s Halloween costume’s face on the Nightmare Express.

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Oh hey, it’s me, Alison. Come here, Emily, let’s kiss on the lips.

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Just kidding, kissing girls is gross, how could you.

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Just kidding again, I love you, let’s have sex. I’m Alison.


Did your soul grow a little? Did you scream? Did you run around the room and fall over your cat’s toys and break your neck and not even care? I grabbed my girlfriend’s leg so hard I almost bruised it. I started shaking. I did. I shaked for the next half hour like a little polar bear without a coat. My girlfriend was like, “But you knew she was alive. You kept saying it. I specifically remember you calling yourself one of the few faithful Vanderchildren.” Still, though. Believing and seeing are two different things.

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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. You were waiting for after Easter to let us know that the Vanderjesus had risen, weren’t you?

  2. I think the comment about I. Marlene King sneaking in all this subversive feminist commentary on the grossness of the patriarchy while having to appease the patriarchy (network execs) to even get this show on the air is the truest thing ever.

    Some lingering questions I have:

    1. How long does everyone think the girls will be kept in the dollhouse? Does Mona use her brain power to just teleport everyone out there?

    2. Since Tanner has now seen Mona alive does she just release Ali from prison? Do they keep her in there so A doesn’t think they’re onto him?

    3. Where the hell is Pam Fields? Her daughter is in JAIL (well was, now she’s just kidnapped)!

    • “I think the comment about I. Marlene King sneaking in all this subversive feminist commentary on the grossness of the patriarchy while having to appease the patriarchy (network execs) to even get this show on the air is the truest thing ever.”

      100% agree.

    • Seriously, WHERE is Pam? She’d be tearing down buildings with her bare hands looking for Emily. The whole town, brick-by-brick.

      • Seriously, we were robbed of everybody in Emily’s life responding to her arrest and subsequent disappearance from jail. Yes, Pam Fields would tear Rosewood apart looking for her. Wayne Fields would scale all the buildings with no regard for his heart or their propensity for coming to life. And Paige Fucking McCullers would leave the most epic trail of overturned trashcans as she literally ran all the way across the country to try and rescue Emily.

        • I feel like the only reason the Hastings were the ones the writers clued in was because they’re the only ones you can count on to be weirdly chill about their daughter being kidnapped. Between Pam, Ashley and Ella Rosewood would have been torn apart crypt by crypt until they found their daughters.

  3. – Awwwwww, it’s Sparia.
    – Aria. Accessories. The jokes just write themselves.
    – If this is the Dollhouse, where’s Echo?
    – When Spencer breaks the glass in her room you can see her reflected in the glass. Heather Hogan said about the noir episode, “Showing a person in a mirror to symbolize his/her duplicitous ego is a famous noir convention…”
    – Yes. YESSSSSS. The VanderJesus has risen.
    – Of course Mona can play the piano.
    – Hanna is the first one to talk to Mona. I refuse to believe that that is coincidence.
    – F**k these guys. Go back to the girls.
    – I know how you can snap Mona back to herself Hanna.
    – “We have three minutes.” That all you’ll need…for me or Hanna.
    – When Risen Mitten is watching them through the monitors, is Spencer in her bed?

    – Spencer’s in her mind again.
    – Who’s Charles? Of course a show about four girls turns to one stuffy guy.
    – “How did we not know this was going on?” I’ve got a few theories. Most of them center around trips to Out of Town.
    – Boy, when the Hastings Lawyer Team goes up against the police, they really beat the po po down.
    – The girls are dancing…but not with each other. Lame.
    – Apparently A likes Hanna’s cleavage as much as I do.
    – Is Charles A, or just a minion?
    – It seems a little cheating to bring in this person at the eleventh hour.
    – Is it actually Charles, or is it Jason?
    – If Mona’s not in the barrel, then who is?
    – So, if Mona left those three anagrams of Charles Dilaurentis behind the mirror, then why didn’t she realize that those blocks spelled Charles? She’d been there for months. Only Spencer realized it. Did she also leave the notecard behind the mirror? Spencer is A.
    – The thing I love most about the VanderJesus still being alive is that now there’s still a chance for PinkDrink to be canon.

  4. when mona appeared onscreen i let out a howl of pure joy and delight to see her lovely face again. MONA. MONAAAAA.

    so wait — is that rumor about a 4 year time jump true? are they going to be in the bunker for 4 years? is season 6 going to be unbreakable little liars???

    • I don’t think that that’s going to happen. I think that A gave the gas mask to Mona/Ali because he was going to kill the other Liars after the prom. If that’s true, then I don’t think that he’ll change his mind after their escape attempt.

  5. I love the BRVC community so damn much.

    Also, I kept getting teased because I refused to accept Mona’s death and HAHAHAHAHA I LOVE BEING RIGHT.

  6. Am I the only one who thought these last two episodes were funny as hell? Emily and Spencer are a comic goldmine.

    “If your main thing when you are watching Pretty Little Liars is whatever circus promos ABC Family has on blast, go watch Scooby-Doo. You know who A is! It has been confirmed! A is the male gaze powered by surveillance culture and enabled by a victim-blaming society saturated in sexism and obsessed with denying women their agency. Who has been systematically torturing the Liars all this time? The patriarchy, just as we suspected! Who thinks women are interchangeable play things created to act out male fantasies? The patriarchy.”

    This is why we come to you for recaps! I didn’t even know what a woman’s agency was, till I started reading your stuff.

  7. Yeeeeeeeessss thank you Heather for this amazing recap, you truly are the best. You said everything I wanted to say to the people criticizing the episode. I kept coming back here every day after the episode waiting for your recap because I knew you would understand it. I was very touched by what you wrote about patriarchy, so thank you!!!

  8. The thing about A being Jasons twin is that A’s lair looks like a shrine to Charles. I think Mrs. D had a twin and that twin had a son Jasons age give or take a month named Charles and he died around the time of the video (which I don’t think the baby is Ali because jason/Charles would have to be 7 but look at most 5) and this twin went insane and got committed where shenanigans with Bethany young and Marion cavanough took place. And now her son is one of her personalities. At wildens funeral A had a distinctly female form and that was the A (bc the dress is in the background) that blew up tobys house and sent flowers to Bethany’s parents. Both radly connections.

  9. Top notch recap, Heather Hogan! Long live Vanderjesus!

    Related: can I now add “Composed a Top 100 Season 5B #BooRadleyVanCullen Tweet” to my resume? Would that get me hired places, you think?

  10. “This episode is one of the most monumentally fucked up things I have ever seen on television. I love it so much.”

    These two sentences sum up my feelings about this show perfectly.

  11. O HAPPY DAY!

    This recap was definitely worth the wait. And I am not going to stay up rewatching Sister Act 2, THOUGH I AM SORELY TEMPTED.

  12. Heather. Heather, Heather, Heather. I may have bitched to my gf about this recap being so late, I may have thrashed around and moaned and gotten caught in a bear trap in the woods, but truly, this show would be nothing for me without your recaps. As much as I love it, and I would watch it anyway, you’re the one who got us on to PLL and you’re the one who will always make the show worth watching. I savour these recaps like fine wine. Perfect, as always. Xxx

  13. This post was great! It actually makes me want to start watching the show again. I stopped watching it after Ali came back. It just got to be too much and I felt like the producers and writers liked messing w my emotions lol!

  14. I’m so glad you felt the same way I did about the finale – I was baffled by the number of people who hated it. I love that they’re upping the darkness with the show. It was deliciously fucked up! Out of interest, Heather, which is your fafurite epussode, if this is your second?

  15. If Mona is Vanderjesus, Heather must be her best disciple! She’s the apostle Heather!

    In other words, thank you.

  16. “You know who A is! It has been confirmed! A is the male gaze powered by surveillance culture and enabled by a victim-blaming society saturated in sexism and obsessed with denying women their agency. Who has been systematically torturing the Liars all this time? The patriarchy, just as we suspected! Who thinks women are interchangeable play things created to act out male fantasies? The patriarchy.”

    Heather, I LOVE how smart you are. And I love how right you were about this show. When I started watching in season 1 it was because I had read a few of your recaps on AE first and you promised me that the show was smart and subversive and that these women were going to rescue themselves every damn time and I didn’t always believe you, and I didn’t always see what you saw, but you’re right. You’re right you’re right you’re right. You told me so. Any time I tell people to watch PLL and they roll their eyes at me I say “but start at season 1, and read Heather’s recap after each ep. You will DIE.”

    Here’s hoping someday there’s a college course on PLL, and you’re the professor.

  17. Your recaps are half the enjoyment of watching this show. They’re golden. Thank you so much for your wonderful wit and the flawlessness of your literary technique. I loved that metaphor specifically, about chicken nuggets and coq du vin, and not just b/c i love food. Marlene King is a genius and this show deserves all the viewers and respect any “adult” show does. I’ve seen too many ppl belittle it w/o watching it, because it’s about a bunch of teenage girls- a demographic seen as inconsequential. I’m not a teenager anymore, but I wholeheartedly support the agency of girls and women and believe in their potential. I too, don’t care if this is all we get to know about A. it was never just about A; this show shows the dazzling possibilities of female friendship. I’m glad they’ve never stooped to the petty overdone trope of having the Liars fight over a boy or something. It passes the Bechdel test, hell it passes almost any test relating to the depiction of females on american tv. A truly groundbreaking phenomenon. I haven’t said anything you prolly haven’t heard, but i just want you to know that I’m so grateful for your work in these recaps.

  18. If they Unbreakable PLL those women next season this female will be mad as hell. Many many thanks for the stunning recaps HH, truly they are genius, and witty, and amazing, and always always worth the wait. The pAtriarchy is real. Vanderjesus is risen.

  19. I don’t understand the people who try to make sense of all the crazy plot stuff PLL throws out there over the years. Trying to figure out Pretty Little Liars is like trying to understand the mechanics of a rollercoaster WHILE YOU ARE ON THAT ROLLERCOASTER. Just hang on and enjoy the ride, man.

    I loved this episode SO. MUCH. and I’m glad you also enjoyed this episode because it was the kind of crazy and disturbing and wonderful that only PLL can pull off and it got so much hate it didn’t deserve. I mean I do wish they hadn’t pushed the “BIG A REVEAL FOR REAL WE REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME” thing because I genuinely thought it was going to happen in the same way that “Ali is Alive!” happened and instead of the “Is she/isn’t she” thing they had dragged out, they were like “no really she is” and the show moved on to the aftermath of that reveal, so I was thinking this would be the same but since it wasn’t that I was inevitably disappointed in a way I wouldn’t have been otherwise.

    My only other gripe was that when Mona was revealed she wasn’t actually A which I was FREAKING OUT ABOUT BECAUSE HOLY SHIT WHAT A DELICIOUS PLOT TWIST THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN. I was so fucking excited when I thought she was the Big A reveal and she had just been Loony Toons Psychopants this whole time and actually lived in this mega A lair and faked her death and her sanity and everything, and then I was kind of let down when that wasn’t the situation but eh, I’ll take alive Mona in any way I can get. (ALIVE MONA!!)

  20. Fuck wank bugger shitting arse head and hole that was good! (The episode and the recap!)

  21. So did I miss something or is Talia still at Emily’s house sharing recipes with Pam wondering why Emily didn’t return home from court? Or after blackmailing the beauty pageant lady did she high-tail it out of Rosewood for California with Paige where it is safer for Emily’s exs and women of colour?

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