Pretty Little Liars Episode 604 Recap: Burning In Water, Drowning In Flame

Because Radley is proven to be above reproach as a legitimate mental illness clinic and a studious keeper of accurate medical records, the Liars decide if they really want to know what happened to Charles, they have to steal his Radley file. It is not, as I mentioned, at Radley. Instead, it is in a warehouse awaiting shredding, the address of which Spencer finds out by ringing up Radley’s answering service and asking if she can please have Charles’ file.

The Liars want to go to there, Hanna especially. Emily wants to bring Sara, but Hanna slaps her right in the face when she suggests it because Sara is feral at best and Charles at worst. And Caleb isn’t coming either. Nobody’s telling anybody anything anymore; all lovers are getting the Paige McCullers treatment!


I can’t just kick a wounded lesbian when she’s down!


Why? You did it to Paige about a hundred times.

Spencer: Before we go to that warehouse, though, just out of mild curiosity, your anti-anxiety meds, how are they helping y’all with your anxiety?
Aria: I tossed mine.
Aria: …yes?
Spencer: Like your bedroom one that gets emptied into the larger bin outside on garbage pickup day, which is today?
Aria: …yes?
Spencer says: I have to go … to school … for a test … to get into college.
The Liars hear: Seussian nonsense words.

Spencer goes to Aria’s and rifles through the Montgomery’s filth, but there are no pills in Aria’s Xanax bottle. Spencer feels gross in so many ways when she realizes this. The Liars then head on over to the warehouse where the Radley files are stored to get their hands on Charles’ medical records and find out how Toby’s dumb mom factors into this thing. Charles’ file is a needle in a haystack, but these Liars know their way around a barn, so before long they’re holding Charles’ file, which: Only follows his psychotic progress into adulthood until the age of 16, but does include a visitor’s log noting that Carole Ward hung out with him sometimes.


Dang, Sirius Black isn’t even in the Ministry of Magic tonight!



Ugh, Kreacher! Foiled again by an elf!

Hanna: … the hell is Carole Ward?
Emily: Alison’s great-aunt who died when we were in the tenth grade.
Hanna: [pulls a face]
Emily: What? I love her the way a lesbian does. I remember everything; it’s our way.

Alison, meanwhile, is enjoying a delicious summer snack of PB&J and lemonade and quizzing Vernon some more about Charles. What happened to his ashes? Jessica scattered them down by that lake where Hanna drowned Lucas. Was there a funeral? No. Was Vernon sorry Charles died? No. Was he a little sorry? No. A tiny pang of remorse as gentle as the wind for the death of Charles? No.

It’s almost like Vernon wasn’t even Charles’ dad or something. It’s almost like that kid got so crazy so fast he’s another one of those Hastings/DiLaurentis hybrids.


Our relationship means the world to me.


Our relationship means the world to my future therapist.

Guess who’s waiting for the Liars when they get out of the Radley warehouse? Oh, it’s Caleb, and he is making DadFace at them, in addition to which: he has installed a tracker on Hanna’s car without her consent. Hanna goes HAM on him, yelling about how completely he has disrespected her autonomy and he’d better not fucking do it again. She does, however, continue to be his girlfriend because she loves him and is sympathetic to the fact that his love for her makes him frantic for her safety. And he does continue to be a series regular on this show. So, not the full Paige McCullers treatment then. (ZING!)

Guess who’s waiting at home for Emily? It is Pam and she is freaking out because Bethany is up on the roof flapping her wings right now and screeching about godzillas and Marion Cavanaugh like a common Radley hooligan. Pam wants to take Sara back to the shelter. Like no offense or anything, but sometimes street cats don’t make the best pets, especially in a home run by a woman who finds emotional comfort in the order that comes from vacuuming and counting the Tylenols twice a day. Emily doesn’t want to return Sara to the shelter just yet, which is a good thing for her to say, because Sara is creeping at the door, listening in and ready to do some bludgeoning if necessary.


I found weed in her backpack so I sent her to drug prison.




Just kidding, she’s on the roof.

Spencer goes to the Brew to buy some weed from Dede Drake, so she can calm down and stop remembering the time she was bathed in blood in the dollhouse, but Dede doesn’t have the drugs; she just has the hook-up for the drugs. But she’s going to bake Spencer some brownies from her very own stash because she’s a nice girl and also because she wants to smooch Spencer on them Ravenclaw lips.

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 991 articles for us.


  1. A thought occurred to me about the five year time jump: Emily has taken to wearing her father’s uniform. She also doesn’t have the money to pay for college. What if she enlists for four years, and then is finished with her enlistment when the time jump ends? This would also give her access to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. What if the first we see of Emily is her coming home wearing her full uniform carrying her duffel bag?

  2. – Does Janel Parrish know that we call her the VanderJesus?
    – I wish to once again bring up the point that if Mona didn’t know about Charles DiLaurentis, then who left the anagrams behind the mirror in her room? *cough*Spencer’sAlternatePersonality*cough*
    – I don’t think that Radley is the type of place that would accept small children.
    – I see Spencer’s next hook-up. I meant for drugs. She’d never cheat on Aria…except with Melissa.
    – It was Spencer. She killed Charles and ate his soul. That’s why she’s covered in blood.
    – Oh Spence, you have it so bad. Digging through the trash for a fix.
    – Spencer is giving me Helena feels in her flashbacks. I need that screechy music.
    – Okay pot girl, give Spencer some meth instead. I really want to see that.
    – Apparently the DiLaurentis aunt’s house is in Ravenswood.
    – I don’t like Emily taking new girl swimming. That’s for her and Paige.
    – “Why would he do this?” Did you miss the part where your father institutionalized him because he was dangerous?
    – “Hi, my name is Aria. For the last few years I’ve been terrorized by a series of anonymous people, and for the last three weeks I was kept in an underground bunker and psychologically tortured. But I just want you to know that I completely trust you, person who I’ve never met before.”
    – Next week looks like The House on Haunted Hill at Radley. Please make this a Spencer centric episode.
    PS – Spencer is -A.
    PPS – A short Pretty Little Liars noir fanfic of mine.

  3. I think it is important to say that swimming and riding bikes weren’t important to paily they were important to Emily. So yeah she should swim with other girls. Emily was always Paige’s happily ever after but not vice versa. Just like Ali was always Emily’s happily ever after but not the reverse. I think the show is doing a good job of showing how unhealthy Sara/Emily is bc it’s such a caretaker relationship but I just hope Emily can have a healthy, mutual, relationship set in 2018.

    • THANK YOU. Emily can still do things she likes with other people. And should. She didn’t send back her recreational activities in that envelope with Paige’s CDs and old shirt. Like, goddamn you guys.

  4. SOOOO much happening in this season already, but I think the answers to most of the questions brought up in this episode are rather obvious, and I was frustrated the Liars couldn’t figure it out:

    (FYI I am not spoiled on anything after this episode, so this is all pure speculation based on what we learned in this episode.)

    Q1. Is Sara lying about something.
    A1. Duh. Check the title of the show.

    Q2. Are Sara and Emily going to make out?
    A2. Duh. Look at Shay’s face.

    Q3. Did Spencer murder someone?
    A3. I’m thinking no. I think Hanna was right, that A just covered her in blood to make her THINK she’d done something terrible, like with the electric shocks. Spencer’s one weakness is her mental instability. Getting her to stop trusting her own min and memories is the quickest way to break her. I don’t think Spencer inserted the trackers, I think A probably did that when they were knocked out and lying naked in those sheets.

    Q4. Is Charles still alive?
    A4. Duh. Ali, roots on a gravestone mean nothing. LISTEN TO HANNA. A built an underground lair. He can make a few tree roots. So what if there was a funeral. Mona had a funeral. Ali had TWO funerals.

    Q5. Does Mr. DiLaurentis know Charles is still alive?
    Q5. No. This one is harder, but I think the episode made it rather obvious that Jessica faked Charles’ death to get him out of Radley, and Mr. Dilaurentis believed her and had nothing to do with covering it up Mr. DiLaurentis was OUT OF TOWN when it happened. He just HEARD all about Charles’ supposed funeral and cremation second-hand from Jessica. This would also give Jessica motive to cover up the fact that Charles’ attempted to murder Ali. She buried her own daughter alive (thinking she was dead) to hide the fact that she’d faked her son’s death. PLUS it gives Charles motive to then come back to town and murder his own mother to stop her from turning him in.

    HOLY CRAP. THIS IS THE THING THAT MR. HASTINGS AND MELISSA KNEW THAT SPENCER DID NOT KNOW. REMEMBER THAT?! Mr. Hastings and Melissa must have figured out that Jessica lied about Charles having died! They know he’s still alive! Oh my god this show is just the greatest thing ever.

  5. ALSO: I think Spencer is going to be a lot happier with pot brownies than with Adderall or those anti-anxiety meds. I get that this is still an ABC Family show, and they can hardly go around being like “oh my god, pot is a wonder drug, go smoke some weed, kids!” They’ve already been shown to be pretty anti-pot with Maya being sent off to drug camp and all. But still.

    I would really like it if maybe Spencer eating pot brownies was not treated as an after school special on the dangers of drugs and instead treated as a genuine option for the treatment of sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. I know this is probably a long shot, but oh well. At least we have Spencer going to Radley and having noir fever dreams to look forward to if they do go the after-school special route.

    (PS. Ya’ll may not know this, but up here in Canada, our Supreme Court recently ruled that medical marijuana can now legally be sold in the form of pot brownies and other ingestibles. Just saying.)

  6. My Wednesday morning recap followed by netflixing the new ep ruined by Netflix apparently not knowing what date it is and not putting the episode on. Also I once had a girlfriend who found out we had been on dates and to places I’d been with an ex, to do stuff like bike ride/swim and she was not happy…like really not happy. So aside from the defiling of Paige’s memory of it all she may be setting herself up for a major argument that not even a request on local radio can fix.

  7. Heather, your recaps change my life every time. I take comfort in knowing that if I was ever imprisoned in a federal penitentiary, Piper-style, at least my loved ones could print out your recaps and mail them to me, and I could sustain myself on the meat of their genius.

  8. “Spencer: Spencer has certainly executed a man with less evidence; let’s go to Aunt Carole’s and see if we find any Cheetos bags under the porch!”

    Spencer would totally talk about herself in the third person while she’s high on pot. Spot on Heather!

  9. “Our relationship means the world to my future therapist.” YES.

    Great recap as always!

    Also, it looks like Alison’s non-blonde roots are growing in (they were especially visible at Aunt Carol’s house). Another facet of her physical transformation/wardrobe update? Maybe she is done with being a blonde.

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