Emily goes to the shooting range and unloads a million bullets right into the chest of a paper target. This day was always coming for Emily. Remember when she went bonkers with that pitchfork at the hoedown, just stabbing all that hay in the back of the truck with no regard for any kind of life? Her bloodlust has been insatiable since that lighthouse! I think she’d let her old boyfriend Ben turn her into a werewolf right now if he asked nicely!
Ali is wandering around the town square when she spots Toby and his new partner, Lorenzo, who is part of Rosewood PD’s New Faces program, which is a thing that’s all about hiring cops who are interested in being cops, and not child molesters. Or like maybe just guys who are into making investigating all the new faces a person can make when they wear masks over masks over masks, every day.
Alison: Hello, Toby.
Lorenzo: Well, I’m Lorenzo!
Alison: Have you been in town long enough to know my whole life history, or only the New Testament parts?
Lorenzo: Only time will tell!
Alison: Anyway, Toby. Like I said: Hello.
Toby: Spencer’s been through a lot. Thank you for loving her.
Alison: We’ve all been through a lot, and don’t patronize me for breathing.
WELL. THAT WAS WEIRD.
Pam catches Emily putting one of Wayne’s pistols back in the gun cabinet and flips out about how she’s going to have to start counting the firearms now, too, she guesses. She tries to get Emily to talk, but she won’t. She tries to get Emily to invite her friends over for hairless empanadas, but she won’t. She even invokes the name of Paige McCullers, because that’s how much sweet Pam has grown, and Emily says she already talked to Paige and told her to stay put in California, that leaving and staying away from Rosewood was the best choice she ever made.
There’s this part of me that’s like, “A team of invisible murder-ninjas couldn’t keep Paige away from Rosewood when she saw what was happening to Emily on the national news.” And then there’s this other part of me that remembers all the ways Emily (and fandom!) blamed Paige for everything, how Emily pushed-pushed-pushed her away, refused to be honest when it counted, refused to let Paige in, and the guilt cycle from the constant way they roofied each other, the kidnapping, The Alison Thing, and I just imagine Paige in therapy three times a week and her friends taking away her phone and forcing her to go on dates with other girls and swim a hundred hours a day to clear her mind and ease her ache. Maybe I’ll write that fanfic. I can’t stop thinking about it. I wonder how come she didn’t come back, for real. I wonder how come the boys stayed and continued to be a part of the story, and but Paige had to go.
I liked the way she went. It was perfect.
I miss her.
Hanna sits alone on her bedroom floor, and Ashley decides what she needs is her friends. But Hanna doesn’t want to see her friends. The thing about the dollhouse — the thing all these really well-done flashbacks are alluding to — is that Charles destroyed them by making them destroy each other. They had to choose who got water, who got electrocuted, who they loved the most, and if they refused to choose, everyone was punished.
God, this season is so good. Just pulling all this terrible shit the world does to teenage girls out of the ether and manifesting it physically, forcing us to watch and acknowledge it. This is probably my second favorite episode after “Shadow Play.” It’s so so so good.
Aria goes to the cops and lies about how she’s 100 percent sure Andrew is A. Even Ella is like, “Think through what you’re saying, and make sure you’re positive, sweetheart.” Because the cops know Andrew was a creeper with some sketchy, misogynistic ideas, but there’s no real evidence to tie him in with what happened down in the actual dollhouse. Aria’s dress is awesome, though. The most awesome. It just straight up says, “STOP MEN” on it. All of the weird little things that made Aria the most annoying and ineffective Liar are starting to grow together to make her kind of perfect. But then, she only just started forming into a real person when she finally broke it off with Ezra. She’s just getting started, so it makes sense that she’s a little bit behind.
Toby: I thought if I took you on this picnic in the woods, you might be up for some talking.
Spencer: Remember when that tree stump over there was a real tree that had Ali and Ian’s initials in it and someone chopped it down.
Toby: Or some making out?
Spencer: Remember when Hanna got hit by a car just over that hill.
Toby: Or, like, we could even sit here in silence.
Spencer: Remember when you faked your death and I found you body in those leaves over there.
Spencer: Remember when I got caught in that bear trap out here, when I was wearing the wedding dress made of finger bones?
Toby: What do you want me to say?
Spencer: Nothing, I want to go to Stanford and start a life with Paige.
Pam catches Emily at the shooting range again and takes her home and makes her hand over all her guns, knives, sabres, nunchucks, throwing stars, boxing gloves, tasers, maces, war axes, magic wands, magic staffs, hand grenades, acme dynamite, and, yes, her pitchforks. Emily is so mad about it! So mad! Pam’s like, “You’re going back to Annabeth Gish!” And Emily’s like, “So I can get carjacked by a doll again, but without any weapons to chop of its horrible doll head this time?! FINE, MOM! FINE!”
Aria and Spencer meet up to tiptoe around the fact that they were forced to torture each other, but Aria finally blurts out that she’s so sorry, sorry for pressing Spencer’s button. It makes sense that’s what Aria would do; not because she loves Spencer the least, but because she assumes Spencer is the strongest. And Spencer would choose Emily for the same reason. And Emily would always choose Hanna to get the water because she would know Hanna was always choosing everyone else for water, and never herself. And Hanna would give Spencer the water always, because she would know everyone was assuming Spencer was the one who could handle the torture. The thing none of them are grasping is that the act of being forced to torture each other was way worse than the actual torture they received. And now they’re in the shame spiral.
They could all use Paige’s help with that.
When Spencer leaves, she sneaks one of Aria’s sleeping pills.
Things are going a little bit better at Hanna’s. She’s fallen asleep on an air mattress with Caleb and so Ashley and Caleb are just watching her rest, finally, and thanking the stars they have each other to tag-team to keep her safe.
Ali goes to church, which is so perfect. (Goooddd, I am out of time. I’ve been so stupid sick this week. I want to talk about Ali in church and Ali as a queer woman, and how she tried to squash Mona’s faith and Paige’s lesbianism out of them, back in the day. Remind me about this on Tumblr or something. This feels so key to Ali.) So Ali goes to church and sees Lorenzo there, right, and gets really rude with him afterwards because she’s expecting him to make a joke about how she should have burst into flames when she walked in the door, because that’s the most elementary of all possible understandings of Ali, but he says that redemption is a thing everyone is after, and we all look for it in different places. Later, they bump into each other at the Brew, and he offers her some sliders. I don’t trust him or like him, but I do like little hamburgers. I wish Ali would take the whole plate and go to Emily’s with it.
Instead, Emily is wandering around outside by herself in the dark, and guess who’s hiding in the (sadly un-smashed) trash cans like a raccoon? It’s Sarah Harvey. Her mom doesn’t want her around anymore, for some reason, so Emily invites her into the safety (hahahahahahaha!) of her home. Pam never feels better than when she’s taking care of people. Maybe it’ll be good for Sarah and Pam, maybe they can be the mother and daughter each of them needs. Emily drops off Sarah with her mom, sneaks back outside, and starts whittling throwing spears out of tree branches.
At the end of the night, the Liars finally call each other to talk about everything. Their love for each other, how sorry they are, how amazing Aria’s dress was today, how she’s wearing a wonderful shirt right now that just says “BARF,” and everything Sarah Harvey did and didn’t say.
Ali rifles through an old photo album. Some pictures are missing. It’s weird that she never noticed before, but maybe that’s because she spent her entire childhood just trying to stay alive. Maybe the missing pictures were of Charles. Maybe they were some of those weird shots Jason took of the inside of Aria’s nose.
Thank you to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for these amazing screencaps! I promise this week’s PLL recap will happen tomorrow. Promise, promise, promise. If I have to dictate it to my girlfriend while I quietly die from whatever horrible, blinding cold this is that I have.