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

Mona Vanderwaal is alive and wearing a blonde wig and the yellow tank top everyone wore the Labor Day they were bashed in the head and buried in the yard. She even says she’s Alison, and invites the Liars to join her in “her” “sitting room” for a nice, normal cup of tea.

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Hanna: Mona! Oh, man. Mona. Mona.
Mona: Stop calling me that! I am Alison!
Hanna: Prove it.
Mona: [slides her hand up Emily’s thigh]
Hanna: Okay, then.
Mona: Anyway, you know I hate that bitch Mona Vanderwaal. But who I love is the Grunwald because of how she pulled me, Alison DiLaurentis, out of the ground after my jackass mother covered me in dirt and left me for dead.
Emily’s eyes to Spencer’s eyes: This is her real hair.
Spencer’s eyes: I’m never taking study drugs again, ever.
Aria’s eyes: [are bigger then eleven Jupiters]

The loudspeaker in the doll house chimes four times and Mona hops up and walks out the door to a game room because four chimes is game time. The game they’ll be playing today is called Mystery Dream Date. What event will they be attending with these Dream Dates? Well, the doll house chimes two times, which means Tyra Mail time, and today’s Tyra Mail is invitations to prom. So that’s what the dates are for. While Spencer is looking around the room for any kind of clues, fixating for a nanosecond on some building blocks with letters on them, Hanna loses her goddamn mind. She turns to one of the cameras on the wall and starts screaming about how kidnapping one of the two loves of her life is enough, and if A tries any funny prom date business with Caleb, she is going to burn down the entire planet earth.

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Time for a little Lesbiopoly!

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I am not trading SheBar and The Planet for McKinley High School.

And then she turns her yelling toward Mona.

Hanna: You’re not Alison, you’re Mona!
Mona: Dude, stop. I’m Alison.
Mona: Seriously, Han, shut it down.

A deafening alarm goes off and Mona yells over the sirens that the only way to make it stop is for the Liars to go to their rooms. They run that way with their hands over their ears, step inside their rooms, turn to face each other, and their doors slam shut. The alarm is silenced.

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What do you mean he made paint from garbage? Stop talking! He sounds like a monster!

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When you say it out loud I finally hear how awful it is!

Hanna falls asleep somehow, and is awakened to the light of a battery-powered lantern and a Mona Vanderwaal who knows she’s Mona Vanderwaal. She tells Hanna they’ve got three minutes to debrief with the other Liars, so she needs to move her buns. Okay, and get this: Mona explains to the other Liars that every single night, the power goes off for three minutes while the generator recharges, and so every night for three minutes, for all the months she has been here, she has been methodically exploring this hell hole bunker, running full-speed in one direction for 90 seconds, and then full speed back to her bedroom for the other 90 seconds.

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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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