Welcome, you clue-singing parrots, you grave-digging dogs, to the sixth season of Pretty Little Liars, the show that dares to ask the question: What happens when every blonde-haired girl in Pennsylvania is forced to wear a yellow tank top and act out The Hunger Games in Spencer Hastings’ backyard one never-ending Labor Day night? Ultimately, honestly, the answer is: lesbianism. Lesbianism is what happens. On a global scale. But in the space between the scissoring: clowns, masks, vampires, witches, puppets, fake cousins, fake sons, snakes, ice cream factories, empanadas, and more classic noir callbacks than you can shake a mannequin leg at.
I didn’t see the season six premiere because I was at A-Camp, and I missed you all desperately! I am happy to be back for real-time #BooRadleyVanCullen-ing starting this very night! This recap will be shorter than usual because I’ve still got a lot to catch up on from doing the queer glamping in the woods for a whole week, and I want to start rolling out my PLL recaps on time after tonight’s episode.
So, here we go. Short and sweet. LOL, JK. Short and terrifying.
Inside, there is another blonde-haired girl in a yellow tank top, hiding away in a dark, cement hallway, tallying the days she’s been trapped here. I could a billion chalk marks. She might be Bethany Young, or she might be Sarah Harvey, or she might be Cece Drake, or she might be Alison DiLaurentis, or she might be the grown-up version of one of those twins that terrorized Ashley Marin that one Halloween, or it might just be Cousin Nate in a wig and a mask. Who’s to say?
Outside, Emily does not try to scale the fence because Spencer screams at her to STOP IT so she doesn’t get fried like an egg. Charles is real mad, though. Women are for being puppets! How dare they act like some Pinocchios! So he shuts them outside and they’re forced to huddle under a tent made of prom dresses while the sun beats down on them and the rain lashes down from the sky. Mona and Spencer assure everyone they can last for three weeks without food, but also maybe not quite as long without water. When they’re just about to give up and die, the cellar doors spring open and the disembodied airport lady voice is all, “Please follow the lighted path to your doom. Please follow the lighted path to your doom.”
And of course, they get gassed and Mona gets Vandernapped right in front of their eyes.
When the Liars awake, they are lined up like they’re in a morgue, their naked bodies all covered up with single white sheets.
Emily: I wonder if we’re all laid out like corpses so Charles could take our photos and torture our families with them.
Spencer: Oh, honey. You are dehydrated. None of us have parents, you least of all.
Mona: Hello, everyone. It is me again, Alison DiLaurentis from the hole in the yard. Who would like some juice?
Everyone is freaked out but their only choice is to follow Charles’ directions and return to their individual rooms, where they each find a boggart, I guess, because man, they scream. Hanna’s boggart is a dead Caleb and a dead Ashley, both of them killed by that gun she couldn’t bury deep enough at the frat party with the plastic cup. Spencer’s boggart is her asking the Sorting Hat to put her into Ravenclaw and the Sorting Hat laughing in her face. Emily’s boggart is a video of every girl she’s ever loved leaving her by either getting murdered, or getting arrested for doing murder, or leaving town to keep from getting murdered. And Aria’s boggart is FanFiction.net, where every Liar is paired with Emily a hundred times in a hundred ways, and people only ever write her fucking Ezra.
It is three weeks later (wouldn’t it be funny if this was the big rumored time-jump?) and Alison DiLaurentis walks out her front door dressed alarmingly like her mother, same hair as her mother and everything, to address reporters about the kidnapping of her friends. She names Andrew Campbell as the perp and asks everyone to please just leave her alone for a little while. She was murdered by her own mom, pulled from her grave by a magic-eyed sorcerer, forced to ride a Greyhound bus around the country over and over after she crashed her airplane, reunited with Emily in homosexuality for one glorious night, framed for murder, jailed, beat down with an iron, trialed for murder, acquitted for murder, and now her friends have all been stolen away. I mean, she doesn’t have Ezra Fitz-style Real Problems, but she’s tired. She needs a little break.
Inside her house are all of Rosewood PD’s finest, including Tanner and Toby, and they’re like, “Thanks for letting us use you as bait to lure Andrew here. He’s for sure the bad guy.” Ali lets them think this was their idea and she’s happy to participate and she totally believes it’s Andrew, but she’s Alison Motherfucking DiLaurentis, so you know she’s got six games going on behind this one because she’s the only one who can save the Liars, has always been the only one who can save the Liars, and, as usual, the police are just harshing her hyperreality.
For example, the sound of a door opening fills the room and Toby nearly blows out Jason’s brains as he walks in carrying a sack of food from Wendy’s.
Ali’s phone rings and the cops get all their tracking gear set up and let her answer it. “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)” plays, which is amazing for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s by the Andrews Sisters. And also, this is the perfect Alison/Emily song, like, “I gotta go fight this war, but don’t make any postcard plans for Paris with anyone else while I’m gone, okay?” And the song was used in Private Buckaroo, which is a thing I’ve been thinking of calling Toby for a full year now. The cops trace the call and guess what? It’s coming from inside the house, because duh.
Tanner locks up Alison in the wine cellar and tells this one new lady cop not to leave for any reason whatsoever (spoiler alert: she fails at that job) and goes creeping through the house looking for A. What they find instead is a mannequin wearing a black hoodie and pig mask. Ali’s phone rings again. Tanner answers it. It’s just pig squealing noises.
When the cops return to the wine cellar, they find that the lady cop has abandoned her post and someone has broken a bottle of Pinot and absconded with Ali.
Ha! Nope! Alison and Toby foiled the cops! He’s the one who did the cyberhacking to make it look like A was calling from inside the house, and she’s the one who masterminded this whole plan and faked using herself as bait so she could escape and actually use herself as bait. This is great! This is so great! All along, we’ve been wanting to see the show flip it around and show what’s going on backstage at the Pantomime of Alison DiLaurentis! How her duplicitousness is part of a larger, unknowable plan for keeping her babies safe!
Caleb gives Ali some shoes with a tracking device in the heel. It’s halfway to a good idea. She needs to be microchipped.
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Reading your PLL recaps is like taking a graduate course in deconstructing feminist literature. I always feel smarter after I’ve read them, and like I understand the world a little bit better.
Seriously, though. I’ve had several conversations with my students the last few weeks about feminism and sexism and socio economic standing and racism and all of those things that teachers teach students, even though they say we really teach them “math” or “history” or “chemistry.” And I can feel your influence in what I have to say to them. You are helping shape young lives.
Also, I think your recaps should be required reading to accompany each episode.
Another also, I love that you seem to love Ali now, and I’m going to take the tiniest smidgen of credit for that one. Not all the credit. Just a sliver. ;)
Oh LAWD, you see it now! Alison is Dumbledore!
I’m not saying I’ve been waiting all week for this, but I’m not NOT saying it. Seriously though, I so appreciate your love for this show and the thought, time & love you put into each recap! Thanks for making me feel smarter for watching a teen soap!
– I notice that during the rainstorm that Aria and Mona are leaning into Spencer.
– “There’s something familiar about Charles. It’s like I vaguely remember hiring him to kidnap us all. Nah, I’d have to have an alternate personality to do that.”
– What did the girls see in their rooms?
— Aria saw a corkboard with a layout of how Ezra is a bad person.
— Everything in Spencer’s room had been moved a quarter-inch from where it was supposed to be.
— All of Hanna’s clothes had been replaced with Aria’s.
— Emily’s flannel plaids had been replaced with silk lowcuts.
– Something about how Spencer is reacting just seems strange. She never mentions how Charles might be her half-brother.
– Hanna wants her Mona back. Be still my heart.
– “-A has a soul.” “Say goodbye to your soul.” Can we please stop with the trite dialogue? I know you’re capable of much better.
The show doesn’t feel complete without your recap. Thank you for taking the time to write one despite your hectic schedule and all that glamping.
I’d love to know what two moments you think come close to PLL deploying the male gaze.
I also am interested in the way that Hanna was dressed when she came out of her boggart encounter. I couldn’t figure out why Charles had her in what looked like really bad thrifted clothes. I think I saw a hole in the shirt?!
I also would like to know about the two moments! And I do think it’s interesting that Charles seemed to have the most trouble recreating Season 1 Hanna, given that she herself was basically a recreation of Ali back then, right?
Hey Heather, could you pretty please with Tippi on top write a Fanfiction about the Fanfiction writing contest? It’s my lifeblood.
Also how dare my phone almost spell Tippi wrong?!? First Stahma to stagnation last week on Twitter and now this! Sacrebleu!
Also what were those two instances you were talking about up there? Anything to ever do with that guy we’re not gonna name this season, obviously, but what was the second?
i do love how pro-Alison this recap is lol thanks for writing it heather!
I love your deep critical analysis of this show, but I can never get over the fact that this show has failed in portraying Ezra’s predatory nature accurately and CEMENTING it as such. It’s such a glaring problem that I’m reluctant to sing this show’s praises as much as you do. You do, however, remind me why I’m still so gravitated to this show and these characters, even when the twisted plots get so convoluted that I feel like throwing in the towel.
I getcha there — after it was revealed what Ezra’s motives really are I was done with him for good, and I hoped Aria would be too. But she’s not the smartest liar in the bunch, and she did grow up with Byron as a dad…she’s still got some shit to work through.
Growing up with Byron as a Dad #aproblembutnotarealproblemlikeEzraFitzhas
I struggle IMMENSELY with Ezra every episode. The fact of him makes my soul feel like it is on fire, and not in a good way. I still haven’t reconciled it. I wish he would go away. :(
Me too. I wish the girls were older, or he was just a friend because sometimes he’s a very enjoyable character but the nature of his presence on the show is wrong on so many levels. I was so excited when the writers made him A but all the fucking noise from the Ezria fans undid everything, and as a result made me lose a LOT of respect for Marlene & Co.
I am still wondering why the girls didn’t make a shank out of the shit they had in their room, and together jumped Charles (in a “Blood in Blood out” style) during the creepy prom night, instead of pulling such an elaborate plan? They are always unarmed, not even mace… not even a pocket knife.
Thank you very much, your recaps are amazing ! I would love to watch this with you, it must be so cool :D
Also, sparia is so strong this season 8D
Heather, I love your recaps. I can’t tell you how many times I check to see if they have posted. It’s like a new gift weekly. Although, I do have to comment on your obvious exclusion of Ezra in your recap. While I understand how much you despise this character and his story line I find it perplexing that you wrote him out of your recap. You have handled the tough subjects and undercurrents of the show so perfectly, leading your readers to not only follow the content but the context of the show. Your writing makes us laugh and cry and think and think and think. To sing Marlene (and crews) praises of this amazing show but not include one of the main characters in the recap because the story line is disgusting seems weak to me. I would think you would trust Marlene and her story telling. She has gotten it right so far. Please tell the whole story. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Your recaps always have scathing insights that I could never imagine no matter how hard I love and try to analyze this show. But I disagree with something here. I don’t think the main theme of the show has ever been male discrimination/”power” over women, not UNTIL the Dollhouse. The way I’ve always seen it, the theme has been the discrimination of women at the hands of other women.
For years Alison shot these girls down and did whatever it took to break them, and make them nothing compared to her. She was the glass ceiling that they could never break through.
Then ‘A’ comes onto the scene and does nearly the same thing, only with the voyeurism that you mentioned of Charles in this recap. But who was this manipulator? Mona.
And even after Charles took over, we still had the antagonistic female figures of Red Coat and Black Widow, as well as the extreme influence Alison continued to have over their lives.
Up until now, the male gaze has been an overall minor topic, exhibited only in the NAT Club, Wilden, Ella’s muffin-man, and to a greater extent in the confined space of Season 4B with Ezra.
You mentioned how girls are taught that their sexuality and self is to be controlled by others, and YES this is most often done by men. But who wanted Emily to be ashamed of her sexuality so she’d be kept in line? Who wanted Spencer to feel like a “skank” for finding pleasure in Ian? Who wanted Hanna to be ashamed of her body? This was all Alison. I’m not saying I have ANYTHING against Alison now, but how can it be denied that the entire backbone of this plot was constructed with girl-on-girl antagonism?
I think the exploration into why females would seek to control each other when they already have a common enemy in the male sex is just as interesting and much more prominent on this particular series. I think your Tina Fey quote goes along with that much more.
I’m not trying to take ANYTHING away from the sick fricking, ridiculous hardships females have endured under males throughout history. I just don’t see much evidence at all that this has been a MAIN concern of Pretty Little Liars. Not until they identified ‘A’ as a male.
I agree, but I think all of that stuff was maybe a red herring – like women are bitches to each other, but because men cast them in that role… Maybe I’m wrong.
Heather, I love you! People have always been surpurrised at how much TV I watch – fur quite a while, I was that nerdy girl whose only furiends are books, and I’ve grown into the nerdy woman who still has literature at the centre of her life. But people look down on TV, and find it weird that if I’m not reading something “high-brow” I’m binge-watching all the shows. The truth is, TV has saved my life. Honestly, really – I’ve been in such dark places and TV has got me through, it’s filled up the gaps until I was okay again and it’s made me so much less alone.
Autostraddle does that too, because I’m with the characters and I’m with you all, and it’s not just me thinking these things. I read something in the “about” page saying that AS know anything can be talked about intelligently – man do you manage that! It’s like efurrything lurking in my brain, all the thoughts I have about this show that I think maybe I could turn into a blog, you’ve had them too, and it’s not just me taking it seripussly / also taking the piss. And I love that you can do all that and have an amazing sense of humour, and queer efurrything.
I don’t know anyone purrsonally anymore who watches this show, but I was just sitting there thinking “omg, they’re all season 1 them, but wtf is hanna wearing – is she season 3 cut-leg her, done really badly…Heather will understand this, and it won’t just be me!”. I’ve had this niggling thought that Marlene could purress the red button and just explode this show into all it could be, all that purrtential that was lurking in the background, all the strength, the female bonds, the resilience, the sinister silences, Hanna being Hanna. I knew there COULD be something like this, but I wasn’t sure ABCF would LET it exist.
But, my goodness, now there’s this Female Gothic nightmare, but it’s also a good dream, because we’re seeing them rip back the veil – THIS IS WHAT WE’VE BEEN SAYING GUYS. When I was studying for my finals (I did English, can you tell?) I listened to a lecture on revenge tragedy, and the professor said “subtlety gets purrivileged ofur unsubtlety, but is it always better? we furget about revenge tragedy because the “psychological realism / interiority of Shakespurr is just deemed BETTER, but doesn’t the UNSUBTLETY have something to say?”. It’s like, yes, we all have brains, but the world views us as these interchangeable purrts, these figures with no interiorkitty. That’s why meta-theatre is so impawtant in those plays – it reminds us that power structures turn efurryone (espusscially minorkitties) into just a body on a stage, and anyone could be playing that purrt. And I love that the show has kind of done that fur this…the literalisation almost has more to say than befur – it’s not denying the interior, it’s just making it clear how the world / the patriarchy view these women. It’s like there’s always been this undercurrent going on, until we got to this, and I’m loving it.
Like the yellow tank-top,anyone can stand in fur Alison – does it matter who is there? And women are squashed into these roles – Mona is being punished fur being Mona, fur not being an idea of an idea of a woman. And that’s what happens to women all the time, isn’t it? Like Butler says, we punish people fur not purrforming their gender correctly. Or Audre Lorde – “if I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive”. All women are in that pit to a certain extent. All being eaten alive, sometimes by others, sometimes by the realkitty of themselves that fights with that external archetype.
Also, on what Tammy said – I want to become an acatemic, and I want to teach people the things you teach us here. Yes, I’ll be teaching literature, but I’ll be telling people it’s okay to be them and trying to change the world just a tiny bit whilst doing it. You give me hope that that’s pussible. You make me want to set the world on fur, but more impawtantly you make me feel like I CAN <3
The show pushes its roots as deep as it can. Yellow Top of Doom = saffron robe (arkteia; Cult of Artemis). Fur indeed — bear, however, not putitat.
First time I read your recap. I always heard about it, but haven’t paid that much attention until the guys from Bros Watch PLL Too read a paragraph of this recap on their podcast. It was the part about the dollhouse representing how the world treats us to be whatever it wants was to be and how Charlie really is “familiar” in the real world. I felt obligated to search for it and read it and I’m glad I did!
Normally, when it comes to feminism, homophobia, racism and any subject like that, I get so angry that this kind of ignorance exists and it’s still so present in our lives, that I prefer to try not to think about so much or my head will explode. Also, I’m brazilian and for some reason here I feel we are even more behind on the fight against all of that, most of the time ignorance seems to be winning and have no shame about it… It even became bad to say you’re a feminist, that’s how brainwashed women are, that men don’t even have to fight against us, we’ll do it for ourselves to save them the trouble… So yeah, all of that gets to me in a way I have to keep reminding myself there is good in the world.
Still, I’m happy I read this recap, because the connection you made from PLL (which is a show that I love and surprises me in the best way over and over again… Also, Emison and Paily S2 ) to the “male gaze” and all the webs that still fights to have us so tangled in it… You made me see it in a whole new way and I admire you already for that!
I know I’m not gonna miss any of your recaps from now on!
Ok I’m not even done with the episode yet but like I AM FURIOUS ABOUT THE FACT THAT THOSE GIRLS WERE NAKED. Like, what kind of pediphilia shit was that? It made me really upset. Felt super unnecessary and really grossed me out. This recap is really really good though.