Previously on Pretty Little Liars, The Liars escaped from the dollhouse bunker of infinite nightmares with the help of Alison, Caleb, and zero Rosewood police. Spencer cracked the code of their kidnapper and discovered that his name is Charles DiLaurentis, a person Alison has never heard of apparently, at least according to her face when Emily asked her who the F he is and where the F he came from. The Liars didn’t leave Mona to burn alive in the dollhouse, a drastic improvement over their behavior toward her before she died; Spencer even wrapped Mona up in her arms and held her close like true love or best friends or gal pals or study buddies or some other intimate thing. Also, Sarah Harvey was in the dollhouse and she got free after the Liars torched the place, dressed like everyone dressed like Alison.
The Liars are hanging out together at Rosewood General, without Mona, but they all look really good, so maybe Mona already gave them their hospital makeovers and bounced to get back to the business of hyperreality. (I hope Mrs. Vanderwaal is writing Alison an apology note for punching her in the head at Mona’s funeral, just P.S.) The Liars talk about how Andrew is Charles but also isn’t Charles and maybe they shouldn’t even say the name Charles to Tanner & Co. at this point, due to their astounding and comprehensive incompetence at being police. Aria wants it to be Andrew, needs it to be Andrew, goes full Spencer about how it has to be Andrew. Remember how great Aria got last season? Well, spoiler alert: She’s actually going to get even greater.
The Liars wonder if they should toddle on down and say hi to Sarah Harvey, but decide to let her rest for a minute. Not everyone recovers from Being Alison DiLaurentis as fast as Cece Drake.
Anyway, Andrew is definitely not Charles. The reason I know this is because the police think he is Charles and also the police just caught him. And by “police” I mean “Toby,” and I’m saying that in quotes as a compliment because RPD is just the worst and Toby is okay, y’all, especially since he finally figured out the best way to protect Spencer is to free Alison and get the fuck out of her way. He does get way too rough with Andrew, though, before his new partner finds him and tells him to cut it out.
Okay, and get this. I love this more than just about anything anyone has ever been said on this or any TV show, or in real life. The police found some of Andrew’s journals, and in them were his sociopathic MRA ramblings about how Mona and Spencer represent “the feminization of society” and that’s why he’s been such a creep-ass stalker at the Liars. He’s been trying to thwart a matriarchal society in Rosewood! I was talking about some things I wished PLL would do differently one time — because we need to be honest and critical of the art we love the most too! — and this girl I know was like, “PLL is never going to be the feminist utopia you want it to be!” And so then this happened last week and I was like, “… or is it?!”
Anyway, Toby and his new partner take Andrew down to the precinct for questioning. All of Charles’ surveillance shit was at his apple farm, anyway.
Ali has seen the loves of her life dragged from fires in bunkers and fires in cabins and fire in barns. She decides she’s going to come out swinging for answers instead of tiptoeing around them, so she straight up asks her dad who Charles is. He’s like, “WHERE DID YOU HEAR THAT NAME?” And she’s like, “Oh, so you do know it then, and it makes your face turn purple and the veins in your neck bulge out. Good to know.”
Emily’s first stop on the PTSD Express is a visit to see Sarah Harvey in the hospital. If they’re all going to be suffering emotional shrapnel in their brains, why not use their vividly torturous memories to do a little crime solving, eh? She wants to know who Sarah is, where she came from, how long she was down there and what Charles forced her to do. Were all those yellow tank tops there when she got there, or did they keep coming in individual shipments from like Target? Did she ever hear Charles’ voice? Did she ever see his face? Did he look like the lifeguard on the cover of every Sweet Valley High and Baby-Sitters Club book ever written? Like, is he Jason DiLaurentis’ actual twin?
Sarah doesn’t want to talk about it. She doesn’t want to talk to Emily at all. Which: Fine, totally valid. But I’ll bet you five dollars and a box of Lucky Leon pig-shaped cupcakes that she tries to get her pants on Emily’s pants before this season is over.
At home, Wayne calls Emily and apologizes for not being able to come home and protect her like that time he scaled the wall of Rosewood High when it came to life in the night and tried to murder her. She’s okay with it. Pam’s here. Pam’s here to count those pills and make that worried face and flinch every time the dryer buzzes because she’s just waiting for the next car to smash through the wall. Emily hangs out in the attic for a while, sniffs around her dad’s gun cabinet, puts on his army jacket like straight out of Joseph Dougherty‘s super amazing The Week In Rained, shreds my goddamn heart to pieces.
Spencer can’t sleep. She’s flashing back to her time in the dollhouse, to the worst things she’s ever had to do. She’s alone and she’s afraid and so she gets out of bed, opens the door so the hallway light shines in, and lays back down with her eyes wide open. The next morning, Ali comes to visit.
Ali: Well, my dad says he doesn’t know who Charles is. Whoa now, hey now, what is going on with your eyes?
Spencer: Let me put this to you delicately: Your dad is lying sack of shit!
Ali: For real, Spence, blink.
Spencer: Charles is a DiLaurentis! You are a DiLaurentis! Your dad and Jason are DiLaurentises! Your family is so fucking weird about twin shit! Somebody knows something!
Ali: You want me to big spoon you so you can take a nap?
Spencer: Fuck off.
Ali: Honey, you need to sleep.
Spencer: Well, I can’t sleep because my mom wouldn’t fill my sleeping pill prescription!
Ali: Hey, remember that time you were almost one of the people who killed me on Labor Day because you were addicted to pills?
Spencer: You don’t know anything!
Ali: I know about your noir dream.
Spencer: UGH I HATE EVERYONE.
At the Brew, Aria is messing around with some camera equipment when Ezra drops by to tell her she should write down her memories in her journal, publish it as a memoir, and craft a screenplay out of it. Like, “At the expense of all morality and the health and safety of the people you claim to love, make writing a book the most important priority in your life. Trust me, there are no repercussions for the dubious and illegal shit you’ll do.” Aria tries to blow off his advice politely, then more firmly, and finally she just snaps about how she’s not interested in contributing to the torture of her own soul by reliving her memories in any form, no matter how artistic those forms may be. And also, stop telling her what to do, okay? That goes for Ezra and that goes for all men! Stop fucking telling her what to do! Does she need to wear that message on a dress to make you understand? Okay, then! That’s what she will do!
This show is hitting its major themes full force and unapologetically right now; it’s so great! Remember in season three when Jenna said, “This is the new deal: I feel a lot safer when I’m in charge of what’s happening to me”? And last season when Paige was all, “I’m just curious, do you ever wonder when you became the very thing you’re afraid?” I keep clinging to both of those moments, because they represent the totality Pretty Little Liars so well. This season, especially, wants to know what happens when you’ve gazed into the abyss long enough that the abyss has started gazing back into you.
Speaking of which, Hanna has decided to shred her room to look like a new thing in a new world where A doesn’t have an exact replica of her surroundings hidden in a torture chamber underground in a state park. It’s good because it’s so Hanna. Ashley is like, “Let’s bring in new, brighter paint! Let’s get whiter, prettier furniture!” But Hanna lets Ashley and Caleb know that she’s more interested in sleeping right here on this floor and dealing with the stripped down reality of this new room. Paint won’t cover up the fact that the safest space she ever knew has been violated and destroyed. She’s going to lie here and deal with that truth and conquer it, and then she’ll pick out some new wallpaper.