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

DiLaurentis House of Imaginary Friends and Factual Horrors


Adoption papers? Ashley Marin, though? I thought you’d choose Pam Fields.


Unlike you and Melissa, I don’t want to make out with my siblings.

Jason: Can you imagine thinking one thing is true about your brother and then finding out a whole other horrible thing that changes your understanding of the entire world?
Ali: Like finding out he’s got a stash of videos of you and your naked 12-year-old friends?
Jason: You have no idea what it’s like to think you can trust and parent and then be betrayed by them.
Ali: True, I’ve never watched my mother shovel dirt on top of me from the bottom of a grave she dug with her own hands.
Jason: I have suffered so much. I fell down an elevator shaft one — WAIT A SECOND.
Ali: What is it?!
Jason: One time I jumped out of a fifth story hospital room window after falling down an elevator shaft, so I went to Aunt Carole’s because I wanted some of her meatloaf and also all of my bones were broken and I needed a place to rest, and Mom was there! But she wouldn’t let me inside! I’ll bet you it was because Charles was in that house, and he was alive!
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!

Ali and Jason invite the Liars to come to Aunt Carole’s house. They all agree to go, except for Aria, because she took some horrifying photos of ghoulish baby dolls with real human skin for faces and she wants to develop them alone in the dark at a school building that eats small children for dinner sometimes. The doll photos cause her some PTSD.


La la la totally normal Instagrams.



There’s a cute boy in the dark room and his name is Clark and he tells Aria she’s got a good eye for photography and there’s a guy outside named Ezra who wants Clark to ask Aria if she wants to journal about her time being kidnaped.

What Aria remembers in the dark room is that Charles cut off her hair and made her dye it pink like from endless Labor Day.

Is Charles obsessed with recreating Ali’s death day because he wants to bond with his sister over how Jessica killed him too? Or is he obsessed with recreating Ali’s death day because he wants to reenact it and make sure he kills her for good this time?

Oh, also Emily doesn’t go to Aunt Carole’s because she’s gotta make sure Sara stays off the roof, or else Pam’s calling Sarah McLachlan to come get her and take her to the pound first thing in the morning. Over coffee, Sara tells Emily she went to go see her mom, but her mom tried to burn her alive in the yard like a witch, the way she burned all her clothes and books and shit when Sara got kidnapped and/or checked into Radley under the name of Bethany Young.


Look away.

Emily: You remind me of someone I know. Want to go swimming?
Sara: I remind you of your love Paige McCullers and you want me to defile the memory of her?
Emily: No, you remind me of the fake cousin who kidnaped Paige McCullers and forced my hand in committing my first homicide, but it’s hot as balls and I want to go swimming.

They do. I don’t want to talk about it.

At Aunt Carole’s the Liars and Jason sneak around and don’t find any red coats or anything. No parrots. No maniacal wall scribblings. Spencer has another one of her bloody flashbacks, taking it far enough to remember screaming at the Eye of Sauron up in the ceiling about, “WHO DID I KILL? WHO DID YOU MAKE ME KILL?” Hanna comes to her and soothes her and pets her face and tells her she didn’t kill anyone. It was just the five of them down there, plus feral Sara, and they all made it out alive.


“Beloved brother.”


Well, at least Mom liked one of us.

In the yard, the Liars find Charles’ grave, and of course Hanna grabs a shovel and starts digging. Ali is like, “STOP! There is a dead DiLaurentis down there!” And Hanna is like, “Half of all DiLaurntis graves are empty. That’s science. Now get out of my way!” There’s a large scuffle between the DiLaurentises and the non-DiLaurentises and ultimately they stupidly decide not to dig up Charles’ imaginary body.

Hanna goes home and Caleb yells at her some more about how she can’t just keep disappearing. She goes, “You mean to like a whole other show? Yeah, that’d be really inconsiderate of me, wouldn’t it?” And she storms out, leaving him to stare broodily out the window at the fireflies.

Aria goes home and tells Byron about the dollhouse and he’s like, “Wow, that sounds like a harder core version of what my deranged mistress did to you and your friends. Remember that? In the basement in that storm? LOL, life is so weird.”

Spencer goes to the Brew and Ezra won’t let her have the pot brownies Dede Drake made for her because he is the worst. 


May Father’s Day be a glaring reminder you need to use condoms.

And finally, Vernon comes clean to Ali about why Charles had to go to Radley in the first place. When she was a baby, Charles set in motion an elaborate plan to murder Ali. First he rigged up some speakers out in the yard of Alison yelling for help, which sent Vernon and Jessica running outside. Once they were out there, a net fall down from the swing set and trapped them. And then an army of remote controlled bees began attacking their faces! And while they were trying to get free from the bees and the net, three-year-old Charles boiled pot after pot of scalding water, carrying each one carefully to the bathtub, where Alison was hanging from the shower rod, sitting inside a cauldron. He intended to boil her to death!

And that’s how come he landed at Radley.

The Risen Mitten tracks the Liars because Spencer installed GPS pellets in their heads, I bet, and eats some taffy because The Risen Mitten has a soul and gets hungry like you and like me.

Nicole (@PLLBigA), thank you for the wonderful screencaps and for talking me off the ledge of Emily’s house the other night after that pool scene. XOXO. 

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor 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 890 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.

      • I a theory on another forum that Charles might have been the secret that Melissa and Mr. Hastings were being all sketch about a few seasons back… like right before Melissa went to London? Though I suppose that secret could have also been that Melissa buried Bethany Young alive. But since I still hold that fake Miley Cyrus (sorry, I refuse to learn the new girl’s name) is actually Bethany Young- I think the idea that Mr. Hastings/Melissa knew about Charles and was trying to protect Spencer is very alluring.

        Also, it was already said, but yeah the Hastings and the DiLaurentises knew each other before the Ali’s family moved to Rosewood. It’s a random, small detail that wasn’t important before now. I was told that it gets mentioned somewhere late season 2. But there it is.

    • “I don’t think that Radley is the type of place that would accept small children.”

      Back in Season 3 we saw actually saw the abandoned children’s wing of Radley. Remember when Hanna and Aria went to see Mona and she ran into to her hideout to gave them Maya’s cursed website’s url via secret code?

  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. Oh wow, all your interpretive-dialogue just reminded me of all the super fucked up things Ali and the Liars have gone through because of their families. Christ. I’m glad you’re at least able to keep track of everything.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.)

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. “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!

  10. “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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