Pretty Little Liars Episode 612 Recap: Some People Have Real Problems, Emily

Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Hanna and Aria and Emily and Spencer returned to Rosewood at the behest of Ali to testify in Charlotte’s trial. Everyone said they weren’t scared of Charlotte anymore, except for Aria, and then they all retired to Radley (it’s a bar now) to get blitzed and pass out like they did in the barn the night Ali kept getting murdered in high school. Only this time it was a five star hotel and Charlotte is the one who who was killed.

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To President McKinley!

The Liars hop back into debrief mode like they never left this town. For starters, in case you missed it, there are two new men in their worlds: a Liam and a … dammit, I already forgot the other one’s name. Taylor? Aiden? Logan? Jackson? Oh! Jordan. A Liam and a Jordan. One of them belongs to Hanna and one of them belongs to Aria and potentially neither of them have revealed to these fiancés and boyfriends that they spent all twenty years of high school getting stalked and buried and breaking into hospitals and asylums and doll warehouses and throwing people’s therapy files into the river. Spencer doesn’t have a fiancé because every time she is on a date in D.C., Mona shows up, I think. And Emily also doesn’t have a fiancé because she is in the grip of Death.

After being out of college for one single year, every Liar (with the exception of Emily, who is more likely to catch Bubonic Plague than a break) has enjoyed astronomical career successes. Interns? No, sir! Spencer is a high powered lobbyist on The Hill, Aria is a wildly successful book publisher, and Hanna is something about a magazine. They all want to return to their jobs but also they want to abide by the law and submit themselves for questioning about Charlotte’s murder.

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I just thought, if maybe you’d grown out of Sparia fan fiction…

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I will NEVER grow out of Sparia fan fiction.

As much as we all would love to pretend that Sara Harvey has never existed, we cannot. And for reasons about which I am completely unclear. Everyone’s doing a fine job pretending Paige never existed. The Liars keep talking wacakdoodle smackadoodle about, “Oh, what if Sara tells the cops what we did to her?” And, “Do you think she really has a brain cloud and can’t remember her role as deus ex machina in the #SummerOfAnswers?” And, “Why won’t she take off those gloves?” She also keeps creepin’ around, wearing a veil, trying to be the new Jenna Marshall, glaring and scowling and there’s a servant with her at all times.

Aria is the one who decides to return to her work in Boston, but not before Hanna accosts her and tells her she knows Aria sneaked her ass right out of the hotel the night Charlotte was killed, and only hours after being the only one to testify that she didn’t want Charlotte to get out the hospital, and so.

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I’ve had sex with Emily as many times as you have.

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And Ezra Fitz thinks the world is unfair.

Ali visits Rosewood PD HQ, once her home away from home, and finds out the details of Charlotte’s death, which, again, the writers treat with all the aplomb of a shovel to the face. Our Trans Editor, Mey Rude, and I watched together as best we could last night, and here are some thoughts and feelings she had:

If they’re going to use the murder of a trans woman to make money and create entertainment, they should also acknowledge that trans women were murdered in the U.S. at a rate of one every other week last year. It’s weird, because on this show murder is something that happens really often, but when a trans woman is murdered, you can’t just treat it like any other murder on a TV show. I’m not saying that one murder is worse than another, but when a show has one trans character and they murder her, they’re sending a specific message. When a trans woman is murdered anywhere in the U.S., it makes all other trans women feel less safe, it makes all of us afraid, it makes all of us sad.

If PLL took place in the real world, Charlotte’s murder would have been written about here on Autostraddle, and on dozens of other websites. On the show, they mention that her murder is being talked about on some “blogs” and Twitter, but it would be much bigger than that. It would have ramifications that would change the lives of trans women all around the country. So I’d like it if the show would treat Charlotte’s murder like that.

How great would it be in PLL used this storyline to do something good? Spencer, being the savvy politically-minded person she is, could talk about ways to help trans women, donating to the SRLP or TLC or local trans organizations and fighting for politicians to protect trans rights. Emily, being a queer woman, could talk about how her community is affected by Charlotte’s murder and every other murder of a trans woman. Ali, being Charlotte’s sister, could talk about how the trans women who are being murdered are people who deserve love and happiness. And at the end of the episode they could show links to places where viewers can donate to help trans women while we’re alive. Pretty Little Liars has a chance to help, they should take it.

Unfortunately, this conversation was muddled from the start because trans women are murdered ALL THE TIME for NO REASON. But on this show, while Charlotte was getting killed, the Liars were sitting in a bar and calling her a psycho in eleven different ways because, hey, guess what, she locked them in a life-size doll house and tortured them. (Ridiculous trans trope number one: All trans women are insane, duplicitous villains!) And when you’re killing her and making Ezra Fitz into a hero; making Ezra Fitz express outrage that “people like Charlotte” never face consequences; giving Ezra Fitz, who stalked and preyed on his own students, a sympathetic backstory and the chance to stay alive and be redeemed, you’re whispering a really ugly thing into the world: “The trans girl deserved it.”

One of the best and most important things I read last year was an article in New York Magazine called “Why Do We Humanize White Men Who Kill People?” You should read it, the whole thing, at least twice. This part, especially, is ringing in my ears right now:

This point, made so sharply by Watkins, is a serious argument for why — even in this season of gibbering about over-the-top political correctness — we must acknowledge the real costs of small injuries perpetrated by institutions and pop culture, simply by continuing to put white men at life’s fulcrum. It matters because it shows us all the ways in which we live in a world made for and shaped around white men. And in aggregate, when the statues are of white men, the buildings and cities and bridges and schools are named after white men, the companies are run by white men and the movie stars are white men and the television shows are about white men and the celebrated authors are white men, the only humanity that is presented as comprehensible — the kind that succeeds and fails, that comprises strength and weakness, that feels love and anger and alienation and fear, that embodies nuance and contradiction, that can be heroic and villainous, abusive and gentle — is the humanity of white men. The repercussions of this kind of thinking? Well, maybe they explain some of what we see on the evening news.

Ezra will never face consequences. And to take that a step further, Ezra will get to walk around in a wounded, self-righteous huff making a distinction between himself and “people like Charlotte” and the audience will believe him, because we live in a real world where we manufacture reasons to believe white men didn’t commit the crimes they obviously committed, and where people of color and women (and trans women of color, especially) are punished for simply existing.

Blarg. Why are you doing this, show? WHY.

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Hey, girl!

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Hey … guy … who looks like every other three-episode guy on this show.

Hanna’s fiance, Jordan, is rich and British (UPDATE: he is Australian; my inability to tell men apart extends to accents, apparently; everyone sounds vaguely British?) and he meets her at her hotel with all kinds of New York delicacies and tells her she doesn’t have to worry about getting caught up in the time-warp and zany police shenanigans and murder escapades of Rosewood, PA ever again. Okay, he’s a white man with money and he’s going to fix this thing and they’re going to fly home to New York have sushi and get massages and … whatever people do on the Upper East Side. Count their diamonds and groom their unicorns. Well, Hanna thinks that all sounds very good and she cannot wait to get out of here and return to her life of majesty in the thriving first class industry of magazine publishing.

After blowing off a visit to the cemetery with her mom to see her dad’s grave, Emily heads over to Hollis Medical Center to get some kind of mystery blood treatments. The doctor is confused about how she lives in Rosewood and Malibu and San Diego all at the same time, and Emily explains that she’s still in school and also a bartender and also she had to come to Pennsylvania to weave a hundred lies and check in on the lesbian colony she started in high school. The doctor says Emily really needs to stay in one place to finish her mystery treatments and Emily says she will do that because she really just needs this thing to work.

As if that’s not horrible enough, when she arrives at the parking meter, post-op, her credit card isn’t working and she doesn’t have any cash. So she’s dying and she’s broke! Luckily, Sabrina (from the Brew, the one with the pot gummies that almost got Toby killed by tennis balls in that arcade that time) arrives with a couple of dollars and a half-queer (at least) smile in Emily’s general direction.

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I am a black woman who has lived past the age of 17 in this town, can you even believe it?

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No, actually.

Emily follows her to the Brew, where Sabrina is the manager now, because I don’t know if you’ve heard but Ezra cannot even percolate a cup of coffee anymore because something sad happened to him.

Emily: Hey, uh, I’m sure you noticed I’m Pretty, but I’m wondering if you heard I’m also a Little Liar?
Sabrina: Is that code for something gay?
Emily: No. My gayness is the least coded thing about me. What I mean is, I’m going to need you to lie if anyone comes in here and asks you if you saw me leaving the cancer hospital.
Sabrina: Ahhh. Yeah, you know, I had cancer too. It was very scary. I didn’t want to have to lean on people, but it helped me heal when I did.
Emily: My thing is maybe cancer, but also maybe it’s yellow fever or Ebola or my literal blood is infected with some kind of post-apocalyptic hemorrhaging fever poison.
Ezra Fitz: [stumbles down the stairs in a drunken stupor, knocks Sabrina over as he smashes his way out the door to throw up in the street] SOME PEOPLE HAVE REAL PROBLEMS, EMILY!

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Yes, I do want to make out. But first, let’s binge Making a Murderer.

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That’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard.

Things aren’t going so well for Veronica Hastings (relatively speaking). Apparently, some bloggers got wind of the fact that another girl got murdered in Rosewood and even though she wasn’t technically buried in Veronica’s tulip patch this time, Veronica did have a connection to her, due to she was sisters with one of the girls who was buried in Veronica’s tulip patch one time (before being resurrected) and also the sister of her husband’s bastard son who is infamous for being both the first man to survive a head transplant and the first man to survive falling down an elevator shaft. Hot takes are everywhere on Twitter! Caleb arrives to do damage control. At first he offers to rig the voting machines (which, while impressive, has nothing on rigging a receipt machine to print out an entire college application essay), but then decides to just work some hacker magic to produce thousands of retweets with a different spin on Veronica’s murder web.

Spencer thanks him with a flirtatious smile!

Her grin doesn’t last for long, though, because she soon realizes that the specific way Charlotte was killed is the exact way Spencer wrote about in one of her criminal justice classes in an essay on how to commit a perfect crime, and now she’s sure she’s going to be framed for Charlotte’s murder. Which: Hahahaha! A perfect crime! Spencer still doesn’t even know to shut the blinds when she’s dragging a dead body around her living room! She’s never even worn gloves to pick a lock! Her DNA is all over every piece of forensic evidence in the entire Rosewood PD HQ vault! The perfect crime! That’s like Lexa writing a paper on the subtle intricacies of empathetic interpersonal human communication. Like Shaw writing a paper about playing by the rules. Like Jessica Jones writing a paper on how not to be gay for Trish Walker.

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I’m just saying, fan fiction is totally legit now. Sparia. I think we should publish some of their stories.

In Boston, Aria canoodles with her new beau, Liam. On the sly. Because their office romance is forbidden. Oh, Aria. She tells him she saw Ezra Fitz when she was in Rosewood and he’s decided to give back the advance on his book because he’s too stricken with manpain to write anything of substance at the moment. When their boss calls them into a meeting and Aria reveals this tidbit, her boss assigns Liam to the case immediately, assuming that a little man-to-man rebel rousing is what Ezra needs to get his blood stirring. Aria protests that Liam is twenty years too old to get Ezra’s blood stirring, and that if she can just have another couple of days, she’ll get something out of him. She’ll dye her hair pink again, if she has to, okay? She’ll kill a pigeon and make some earrings, just like the old days. She’ll pretend she doesn’t understand the significance of that green light in Gatsby because nothing makes Ezra happier than Explaining Things To Women.

Both Liam and Aria’s boss know Ezra was her high school teacher; they do not know he was also her chickpea purveyor.

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May your kingdom come, Vanderjesus. May your will be done.

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On earth as it is on the planes of Oblivion.

Ali has decided to host a dinner for her friends to suss out which one of them murdered her sister. It’s marvelous, actually. A total Ali move from the days of yore. She says the most passive aggressive pre-meal prayer I have ever heard in my life, seeking Jesus’ council and protection as she roots out the traitor in her midst, quoting various versus from Leviticus about the punishments she is entitled to rain down on the person who betrayed her. But it’s not all vengeance and bloodlust! Everyone gets to meet Jordan for the first time, and it goes just fine. I mean, he bosses Caleb around enough to agitate Spencer — who may or may not have made sweet Ravenclaw love to him on a train in Madrid, years ago after their eyes met across the platform and she was but a lonely scholar and he was a reverted hobo — but mostly everyone’s just thankful Jordan brought a bevy load of booze to share with the group.

Hanna and Caleb tell each other how happy they are for each other that they’re each so well-adjusted. They seem very sincere. I wonder if Hanna knows about Madrid.

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Your friend Sara, I told her she could move into your shower.

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After dinner, Emily meets her mom for some coffee and some lies. The problem is that Hollis Medical Center calls and Pam sees it on Em’s phone, so Emily says she’s looking into grad school there, despite the fact that she hasn’t graduated from regular college yet and cannot afford to pay for grad school (or to park her car) because she has used all the money her dad left her to pay the doctors to cure her blood pox. On top of those many worries, Emily sees Aria’s little feets creeping up the stairs to Ezra’s apartment so she has to add that to her plate of troubles.

In said apartment:

Aria: Where’s your book? You’re going to cost me my job.
Ezra: Don’t care.
Aria: Remember when we sneaked around the night Charlotte died? Did you double sneak after I went back to my hotel?
Ezra: Who knows.
Aria: What’s wrong, sweet gentle innocent baby lamb?
Ezra: I’m angry that good guys like me get tortured and bad guys like Charlotte get to walk around with no repercussions.
Aria: Oh, okay.
Ezra: And I blame you, the victim, for the fact of guys like me, the predator, being miserable.
Aria: Our wedding is going to be so romantic and the TV event of the season!

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I’ll be honest, I liked watching Ali’s sex tapes more. Right, Em?

The Liars minus Aria gather round to watch security footage of Aria and Ezra doing their wanderings on the night Charlotte died. Aria tells them later that Ezra for sure didn’t go home because he didn’t look at her when he told her he went home and he’s always not looking at her when he’s lying, which, amazingly, means that he must not have made eye contact with her for the first two years of their relationship. Oh, if only Spencer hadn’t written that Perfect Crime essay! Well, Hanna goes right ahead and deletes the security footage, which will of course result in footage of her deleting the security footage being layered over footage of Caleb and Spencer boning on the Spain train, and the end product being projected onto the jumbotron at the next Eagles game.

Ali skips on down to the police station and tells Lorenzo she thinks one of the Liars killed Charlotte.

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Emily visits her dad’s grave and breaks my heart into ten thousand pieces, sobbing and telling him about how she didn’t finish school and she’s dying of the cholera of the brain and she’s trying to make it right, and then she hears a crackle and looks over and sees Sara Harvey standing in the graveyard too and my heart mends itself back together in the shape of a cold, black, impenetrable rock.

Thank you to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for the screencaps and for trying to hard to convince me, weekly, that Emily is going to be okay. 

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. I think I see a Joe vs the Volcano reference in here, and if it is, I love you. Even if it isn’t, I’m still going to tell you that despite Joe vs the Volcano being a truly terrible movie, I still cherish it and I think it’s because Meg Ryan on that boat is probably one of my roots.

    On a more serious note, great recap. Especially every thing you said about Ezra, and how the show has treated him in comparison to Charlotte. This show has put us through 6 years of nightmares, but the scariest I have ever felt while watching was last night, seeing the look on Ezra’s face when he saw Charlotte. Every single woman has seen a man look like that. Every single woman has been scared when seeing a man look like that. But this show is STILL playing Ezra as the sympathetic guy, the one we are all supposed to root for, and they are convincing another generation of girls that they deserve the treatment they get from guys like that. And you are right, they are sending a very heavy handed message about how we are supposed to view Ezra versus how we are supposed to view Charlotte, and it makes me ill.

    Six years ago, it seemed that this was a feminist and queer beacon. They seemed ahead of their time with the stories they were telling and how they were telling them. Last week it occurred to me that perhaps the problem is PLL pushed the world around it to grow faster, but then it didn’t grow itself. Somehow PLL has become outdated in the world that it helped create.

    • I think that is exactly correct. I think we moved forward as a culture and PLL actually took a step backwards when it chose to prioritize SHOCKING TWISTS over authentic, responsible storytelling. In that way, they have been felled by their own sword, because they did help to push the culture forward. I also think, ironically, that social media — which came to life right along with PLL and is the thing that has catapulted it to such great heights — also became the way queer women found each other and began sharing stories and decided to stand together and refuse so much of the patriarchal bullshit we’ve been brainwashed with our whole life. Your greatest weakness really always is your greatest strength, huh?

  2. Easy way to remember: Aria is dating the guy with glasses that have clear glass in them and Hanna is dating a guy whose accent means she can’t understand 50% of what he says.

  3. I get that shows effect those who watch them and should be aware of the messages they are sending, but I think for this show its a far stretch to say its perpetuating transphobia. The show didn’t kill off Charlotte because she was trans, neither did the character who killed her. They did it because of the crap they she put them through, she was a monster, and not because she was trans, but because her family taught her how to be one.

    As for Ezra, I’ve never felt bad for him. He’s always been a douche since the first episode.

    I guess that’s where my point comes in. Different people see stories differently. We relate to characters and emotions differently. I see Charlotte and a misunderstood human being that got the short straw in life and family, and Ezra as a whiny, moxie-less man. Some people agree with me and see that characters that way and some don’t. and that’s life.

    • That’s not really a defense of the show. they didnt need to make charolette born charles. They chose to make the villian trans. They chose to demonize her so that they could kill her. This isn’t real life where charolette just happens to be trans. That was a decision made by a group of people in a writers room. A decision abc family had to okay. There were a lot of steps along the way for someone to step in and stop it or to ask if the writers were aware of just what they were doing. This isn’t spilled milk it’s a jug of milk thrown through a window.

      • Yes, for me the problem isn’t that a dangerous, violent, cruel, evil woman was murdered on a show (a show that’s hardly realism anyway) — Big Bads are fair game in a show with a huge body count. The problem is that they made her trans in the first place.

    • yeah i think the problem is that it’s SO RARE that there is EVER a trans woman character on television at all, and when there is one, she almost always falls into certain tropes: she’s deceptive, pathetic, depraved or deserves violence against her. trans people are a very very very small minority in this country and most people don’t know (or don’t know that they know) a trans woman and television and movies are their only contact with trans women. so these tropes very well can make up somebody’s entire impression of what trans women are. i know that this is true because i experienced it myself — every idea i had in my head about trans women were from the stories i’d seen in movies and on tv talk shows, which lead to me easily becoming a trans misogynist without thinking about it too much, you know? as far as i knew, i knew exactly zero trans women. i’d never had a trans woman as a teacher or a boss or a friend or a colleague or a teammate or a co-worker or a roommate. i know i grew up during a time that is not nearly as open as the times we now live in, but it’s not like the times we now live in are THAT much better for trans women. and if i hadn’t grown up to be an editor of an LGBTQ website, when — if ever — would I have become aware that my views were disgusting and inaccurate?

    • Well, but a story doesn’t have to say overtly malicious things about a group of people to perpetuate harmful stereotypes about them, right? Our entire culture is shaped by media portrayals and pop culture perceptions of different groups of people. It’s easy for Fox News to convince the majority of its viewers that black people are inherently criminal, for example, because those are the messages their demographic of viewers have consumed on TV and in movies and in books for most of their lives. Just like it was easy to deny gay people their right to marriage equality for the longest time because the very few stories about gay characters in mainstream culture painted them as deviants and predators and psychos with mental deficiencies. (Support of marriage equality in the United States grew in absolute direct proportion to the number of gay characters on TV.)

      So PLL doesn’t have to say, “Trans people are psychos! Trans people deserve to be punished!” out loud to perpetuate those ideas. What PLL is doing is repeating the most used and most harmful tropes about trans women, which reinforces our cultural ideas about trans women (especially when there are so few good characters to counteract these negative portrayals), which leads to real life violence against trans women.

      Take a look at this article Mey and I put together at the end of the year; I think it will help you understand the problem a little bit better.

      • Heather,

        I’m just curious about what direction you would have liked to see the show go after the big “reveal” over the summer?

        Obviously, in a perfect world, the writers would not have perpetuated the harmful stereotype that trans women are dangerous and deceptive but unfortunately they did. So what would be your choice of where to go next in terms of the Charlotte storyline?

        Would you have liked to see all the girls forgive Charlotte for the way she mentally and physically tortured them for 3 years?

        I am in 10000000000% agreement that Ezra should be villainized and cast as the disgusting predator that he is but shouldn’t Charlotte as well? She tortured these girls in a way that is really unimaginable, perverse and terrifying.

        I guess what I’m wondering, and perhaps why I’ve been finding myself frustrated with the most recent recaps, is shouldn’t Charlotte have to pay for what the liars endured? Wouldn’t it feel unrealistic for all the girls to forgive and forget about the horror that was their high school experience?

        • I should clarify: when I say Charlotte should pay for what she did, I was not implying that it is justice that the character was killed off. I more so meant that her actions should not be diminished as less severe than they were.

        • This is a great question. I don’t know the answer to it. I think, yes, of course, Charlotte should be held responsible for what she did to the Liars. And I also believe no victim of abuse should ever be forced to forgive her abuser. I just have a hard time sort of isolating that experience when it exists inside this narrative where Ezra Fitz continues to be humanized and even hero worshipped at times. (When, like you said, he is one billion percent a predator.) I can’t marry those realities together. I think maybe the answer is that the decision to make Charlotte trans and then kill her when this real world pandemic of violence against trans women exists, juxtaposed with the pattern of using the deaths of queer women to advance the plots of other characters (you know, even the way they are humanizing Ezra is through violence against an entirely different female character), juxtaposed with what they continue to do with Ezra means I’ll probably never be okay with PLL again and it will never return to the place it once held in my affection.

          However, I do know that no one wants to read recaps from a person who hates what they’re recapping, so I think you’ll find the tone of this week’s recap a little more bearable as I look for ways to find humor in the good and bad parts of this show. I hope so at least.

          • Thanks for answering! I hope you didn’t take my comment as my disliking your recaps. I love that your recaps often include something other than the shows plot.

            I think I better understand the tones of these recaps now. When Charlotte is juxtaposed to the horrendous person that is Ezra, it seems almost perversely comical that the writers ignore their similarities and let Ezra continue on living a normal life with the chance of redemption.

            Perhaps my real frustration is that I feel like PLL has somehow robbed me (and all other viewers) of the chance to really hate “A” and the opportunity to see how the reveal played out. Not only have they added to the trans character trope, they’ve shifted the focus from the liars dealing with all this trauma to a petty murder mystery that thus far only seems to serve the purpose of exemplifying how hard Ezra has it.

            Was is wrong to hope the time jump would focus on a little Liar revenge, Vanderjesus style?

            I hope this season redeems itself somehow and makes it a little easier to find the humor for your recaps!

          • I was wondering, do you still hate Byron? Given his instincts about Ezria were right on the money. Of course, his conduct vis-a-vis his mistress was less than admirable, but is he still “the worst person in the world”?

          • I hate that whole “fathers guarding their daughters’ virginity” thing, but I was VERY wrong about Byron.

    • I completely agree with both Heather and Riese, and I’d like to also add this: When you look at who the target audience of PLL is, it’s a very different demographic from Transparent, Sense8 and OITNB. A lot of PLL’s viewers probably only saw one trans character on tv last year, and it was Charlotte (maybe they saw unique on glee too?). So when the only fictional trans woman you see is first portrayed as a crazed murderer and then as a murder victim, it’s hard to ignore that. Believe me, when i was younger, i only saw trans women as either murder victims, jokes, creeps or crazy people (or a combination of those things) and it made me afraid that there was no chance for me to have a happy, safe life if I wanted to be a trans woman. So when you’re the only tv show showing a specific group what trans women are like, and you decide to use some of the biggest, worse trans tropes, it’s definitely a problem.

      • I was thinking about that – isn’t it enough that trans people who watch TV (which most people do) have to see themselves through these fucked up stories, where they’re constantly misrepresented and mistreated? How pop culture affects public perception of groups is important, but personal stories like yours are probably also way too common (for people of colour, trans people, queer people, underclass people, etc) and that’s fucked up and awful in itself!

    • Also the other bad guys all have other characters of the same or similar demographic to balance them out. For every cis woman that played the role of a bad guy there are other decent representations of cis women. For every cis dude who was a bad guy there are some decent cis guys. The only trans woman is a fucking monster. No balance. No one to remind the audience that CeCe is the exception not the rule. You know maybe, like us, the writers see CeCe as just another woman who just happens to be trans so they thought it wasn’t necessary to balance her but does the broader audience? Here at Autostraddle I don’t need to see “and trans women” when discussing women’s issues because I know that the writers and the vast majority of readers know that means trans women too. At AS I don’t need people to clarify that they don’t mean all trans women when they are mad about whatever new stupid thing Caitlyn Jenner has said. PLL’s audience is much broader though and includes a lot of people who know little to nothing about trans people and likely don’t give two shakes about learning positive things about us. All they see is the monstrous (insert trans slur here) terrorizing their favorite characters and that’s what they take away from the CeCe story line. They don’t see a monster who happens to be trans. They see a trans monster. That’s what bugs me about it anyways.

    • I feel similarly about Charlotte’s murder, and I think it’s possible that in the writer’s minds, they were making Charlotte more “normal” if you will, taking away the idea that being trans makes her something other. Unfortunately, I don’t think this was the best way to accomplish this. While I can appreciate that they specifically did not make the murder about her being trans, and that they did not make her instability about being trans, I think there were still better ways to make her seems just like everyone else.

      Maybe this season, Emily will punch Ezra in the face like she did Sara.

  4. I was so hoping that would be the title of this recap! Then I realized it could have already been the title of like 90% of your recaps and figured you’d probably already used it. But here we are!

  5. Heather, Hanna’s fiance is Australian. Hahahaha.

    Super pissed that PLL has killed off or gotten rid of several interesting female characters and replaced them with straight white male boring as fuck characters. Like, why show why????!!!

  6. “return to her life of majesty in the thriving first class industry of magazine publishing” THANK YOU

    this recap made me laugh several times, all ezra commentary and picture captions are so very on point.

  7. I haven’t watched this week’s episode and I didn’t read this entire recap because I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do about continuing to watch this show or not. But it’s funny that I used to think the actresses seemed too old to play high school students and now it’s five years later and I think they seem too young to be doing what they’re currently doing. Except Emily who, like you said, nothing ever goes right for, so it’s totally believable that she’s in her early 20s.

  8. This time jump is like when Glee hired new kids to be the old kids and tell the same old stories, only this show hired the old kids to be new versions of the old kids and to tell the same old stories.

  9. Awesome Heather! Reading this was cathartic. Loved the “Joe VS The Volcano” reference too. That’s one of my favorite movies. :)

  10. I still think there’s a big question with this show when considering Ezra. Does the show realize what it’s doing?

    This show can be so spot on when it comes to feminism (the male gaze) and so off (Charlotte).

    I often think the writers hint at Ezra’s hypocricy and disgustingness. I’ve pointed out before, they had the “Did Ezra ruin Aria’s high school experience by having a relationship with her” storyline right along side the “Aria’s mother’s fiance hits on Hanna” storyline, and then “Hanna telling off a cop for being with Ali” moment. They’ve had the NAT club, where creepy older guys filmed teenage girls. And then they went and made Ezra an even bigger creep by having HIM stalk the girls.

    Is the point to point out that Ezra doesn’t get punished for his misdeeds? Why have him be the one to say the line “And Charlotte gets to walk around free.” That line could have easily gone to Toby (who sucks for a various amount of reasons, but he’s not as awful as Ezra). If it’s not clearly hypocritical?

    I mean, I know there is the other side, and Marlene thinks we like characters to be redeemed. No. We like Mona. And we had the potential to like Charlotte given Vanessa Ray. And the alternative is that all of this is just so Ezra looks like a good guy. (Has a sad backstory, is the one that talks about justice..etc..)

    But the other messages we get, I think suggest the definite possibility that this show points out truths about a patriarchal world. The show makes us uncomfortable with those truths. And the show has the five main characters fighting against those truths. But this show, despite all of it’s wackiness, has never fixed those truths. It’s a social commentary.

    And maybe (hopefully) that will be the end result of Charlotte’s story. That in PLL fashion, the show points out the uncomfortable truths of what a patriarchal system does to trans women. And that the show makes us see the wrong, and makes us uncomfortable. That is a potential redeemable path for PLL.

    The problem of course, is that this is more subtle than it needs to be. Because despite the fact that I think there is ample evidence that the writers are desperately trying to convey that Ezra’s privilege. That he’s horrible. That he’s a hypocrite. I think part of the reason that it’s a commentary, and they can’t fully express it is because of Ezra’s popularity. That those of us that study these issues. That recognize how disgusting..and true to life..this character is, views him the way the writers want us to view him..teenage girls do not. They made the man a stalker and sexual predator and teenage girls still see him and Aria as the best ship of the show. I suppose that’s the scary society we live in.

    Of course, I could be reading too much into what is being said. Giving the writers far too much credit. And maybe I am, but maybe the important thing is that the show can be easily read that way.

    As for the episode. Ali’s prayer was everything. I’ve always felt, if some of the girls must go for a boy, then those characters should just share Caleb. Because he’s the only decent option. So..maybe that’s what this whole Caleb/Spencer thing is about? As said, I hate Ezra. And..they didn’t need to leave Emily’s medical issues a mystery. They better tell us next show. (I’m gonna guess she caught something from traveling though.)

    • My guess is that it varies from writer to writer (and director to director). They can’t change the story or Ezra’s role in it, but it does seem like some of them try to throw in a little subversive commentary, while others do things like present Ezra/Aria as a great love that was cruelly denied by society or something.

      They really do seem to think his taking that bullet for the girls more than covered the whole book/stalking thing, though. That’s pretty heinous.

    • I think Ezra is supposed to be both a good and bad guy. I think the extent depends on the writers and director for any given episode. In anime & manga and cartoons & comic books, the nature of a character is often interpreted somewhat differently depending on who wrote and who drew the episode/issue. On occasion, something wildly out of character and/or disturbing occurs, or something profound that adds another layer to a character occurs. PLL definitely has a lot of feminist themes (Spencer even says she’s a feminist in 3×13), so you can’t write off the anti-patriarchal moments as things that just happened as one-time things rather than broader messages (and the Zack thing happened in the books as well). So, I think some writers/directors focus on Ezra the sweet guy that Aria sees and others focus on Ezra the problematic wealthy white guy who never gets held accountable for his actions or even called out on them. CeCe was mentally disturbed mostly due to her father being transphobic and institutionalizing her at a young age, her mother not standing up to her father, and her brother (and Ian and Garrett) filming underage girls without their consent and running an underage girl prostitution ring. I think it’s clear that the PLL universe is a man’s world, but it’s a reflection of our world and as such it’s not obvious to everyone that men run the show. The PLL men get away with everything and many of them have hit on underage girls who grew up to be women who rely heavily on men (even in subtle ways like Emily only telling the truth about her life to Toby).

  11. I didn’t watch last night, but I really want to know what the writers are thinking by having three of the four girls be so successful and well-adjusted. Is it supposed to be some satire/joke/commentary/whatever? Or do they really not realize they’re writing overly successful stories for their 22/23 year-old-characters while their PAs are probably 22/23 and existing on Ramen?

    • I mean, it is a fantasy world. Ezra can afford to keep a small business afloat from afar. Ashley financed a designer lifestyle with lasagna boxes and randomly working for Jason DiLaurentis or something. The police department can afford to hire every young man in Rosewood, no matter how inept, just to keep male privilege intact. Etc.

  12. Could you at least try to get character names right? Nicole is the dead girlfriend. Sabrina is the possible coffee love interest.

    • Indeed! I changed that almost immediately after the post went up after a hot tip from Twitter. Have you refreshed this page since noon-ish? Maybe that’s the issue. Let me know if that doesn’t work for you and I’ll see if I can rectify this technical glitch.

  13. I agree that the murder epidemic of trans women is terrible and shameful and wish they had picked someone else to be A.
    However, I think it is a stretch to insist that characters who spent years being stalked and tortured by someone set up a civil rights campaign in her honour. Especially as they are still under suspicion of her murder.
    And given your point about the repercussions in the media of portraying any trans character, wouldn’t linking Charlotte’s murder with real-life murders of trans women make her seem emblematic of them, which she categorically isn’t?
    I hope they point out Ezra’s hypocrisy soon, though. The girl who died looks eerily like Aria and a paramilitary kidnapping seems too neat.

    • I just commented above and wish I had gotten to this comment first because it’s exactly what I was trying to say but couldn’t get the words out. It seems as though Charlotte’s past actions are being made to seem less severe by the suggestion that the liars somehow honor her after death.

  14. Emily will be fine. Spencer has diabetes (referenced in 4×6 and 5×1), and she’s well-adjusted. :)

  15. It makes me so sad that kind of like there being glimpses of the old Liars in these new Liars, there are glimpses of your old brevity and love for this show in this recap. I’m sorry, Heather, that it has let you, and us, down so badly.

    Still – I laughed out loud more than once, and not for the first time, I read the recap before I watched the show, because I truly don’t know if I would have stuck with it this long if it wasn’t for your recaps. For me it’s like Screen Studies at uni, or reading the Cliff Notes about a novel – you don’t see the nuance and the true meaning until you start to take it apart, and you do that so well, Heather.

    How they managed to fuck up such an awesome show so badly beggars belief. I am hanging by one silvery thread to see if they can redeem themselves. (Except about Ezra. I actually feel slightly sorry for Ian whateverhisnameis having to play that guy. Every time I see his face, it makes me feel ill.)

  16. – I’m starting with this, because I can NOT stress it enough: Spencer is a Slytherin. All the best characters on “Pretty Little Liars” are Slytherins: Spencer, Melissa, Mona, Jason, Spencer’s Mom, etc…
    – Aria has a boyfriend, Hanna has a fiance, Spencer has something with Caleb that makes me dry heave, and Emily has cancer. I see how it is “Pretty Little Liars”.
    – “I’m going to go take a shower.” Emily, you’ve gone to the dark side.
    – “Spencer, stop being paranoid.” 1) How long have you known Spencer? 2) Did you forget…Rosewood?
    PS – Next episode Melissa is back to romance Spencer away from Caleb.
    Emily, you misheard. It was Naomi who got cancer.

  17. The way the show talks about writers is so weird. Aria’s boss’s comment; ‘No writer is ever in a good place,’ – something like that – was so bizarrely smug and self indulgent, like writers have an excuse to be whiny, sulky, self-pitying assholes because they feel things so much more deeply than the rest of the world. And they produce pretentiously named books like ‘Ostinato’ so it’s all completely excusable, a necessary by-product of artistic genius. It felt like the PLL writers saying ‘Ezra’s pain may be OTT but it makes sense because he’s a writer.’ No.

    Ezra is so entitled he doesn’t just feel he has a right to his own suffering, but to other people’s. ‘This is the person who made your life a living hell and I’m not going to say that I am sorry that they’re dead because I’m not…’ Is he actually accusing Aria of not allowing him to feel all the feelings he has about HER pain? How is he not mortified at being such an abhorrently weak person when he’s surrounded by young women who have been through a thousand times worse and are still standing? And who weren’t turned into monsters by it? How does he feel justified raising his voice at them in anger in the promo, telling them to get out, when he knows they’ve been intimidated and traumatized by men INCLUDING him for years?

    If the PLL writers were turning up the asshole in him on purpose, I’d be so impressed. But I have a bad feeling we’re actually meant to feel bad for him. I feel bad for poor abducted Nicole, but not her whiny boyfriend!

    • I actually love the title Ostinato. A pattern that repeats, often in the same tone? That sounds a lot like how the Liars end up in ‘time warp’ situations. Funerals that echo each other, drunken slumber parties along the same lines, 3×1 intentionally recreating an updated version of several scenes from 1×1 which took place a year earlier to the day in Rosewood time, etc.

      I think Ezra is in an especially annoying mood the same way he was in a terrifying mood in season 4 – to make him look guilty. These mean/scary qualities are a part of his personality but thankfully not his usual self. ‘Normal’ Ezra is a cocky and pretentious guy who goes to poetry readings and collects vintage movie posters; ‘normal’ Ezra may or may not be romantic depending on what one’s idea of romantic is. Whiny, entitled Ezra crops up occasionally in the form of him doing things like telling high school Aria that she needed to get a job as a photographer’s assistant to help pay his apartment bills despite the fact that she was in high school (Did he want her allowance money too?), if he were to get evicted he could move in with his mother, Aria didn’t live with him, and their relationship was somewhat a secret anyway on account of it being illegal. That’s not mean exactly, but it came from a patriarchal and sanctimonious place. Then there’s the disturbing side of Ezra, where he wants things and has to be in control, so he goes to extreme measures like threatening lawyers and stalking and talking Aria into trusting him more than her friends. In 6×12, I got the impression that we’re supposed to see the side of him that mansplains to Aria the awfulness of kidnapping when she has faced the reality of it and he hasn’t. That we’re supposed to see that Aria feels bad for him almost getting kidnapped/murdered and feels bad for Nicole actually getting kidnapped/murdered, but it’s exhausting for her to put up with that full time (her boss almost demoted HER because of EZRA’s laziness) and she’s moved on (at least for now). I interpreted the ‘No writer is ever in a good place’ part as Aria’s boss saying that Ezra has no excuse for slacking off so get his butt to work like everyone else in the publishing house does. Ezra truly is a mixed bag and I think on a regular basis we’re supposed to like him/pity him and dislike him simultaneously.

    • If the show-writers have a plan for Ezra, and it involves showing him to be the creepy, self-pitying dude he has always been, that would make me so fucking happy.

      (I didn’t even hate Ezra up until pretty late, but the recaps and discussions here have made me realise how horrible he is. It’s so obvious when you think about it, and I’m still holding out hope that the people working on the show are somehow… thinking about it.)

  18. Heather, let me once again commend you for slogging through this pile of shit to bring us a recap that, despite the terribleness into which the show has descended, is still insightful and funny as HELL. Thank you.

    IMO, nothing can redeem the show for killing off Charlotte. BUT, I could MAYBE accept Charlotte’s death if it turns out that Kenneth DiLaurentis killed he, AND if the show sufficiently explains that he did so because of his transmisogyny. If it turns out that Ezra killed Charlotte, I will BURN THE WORLD DOWN because Ezra does not get to be pissed at Charlotte, Ezra has no motive for hurting Charlotte, Ezra does NOT get to say shit like “people like Charlotte get away with things” WHEN HE IS THE POSTER MAN-CHILD FOR GETTING AWAY WITH THINGS. Ugh. I hate Ezra. My money is on Mr. D being the murderer, because that is the only answer I will find acceptable.

    In other news, I already hate Hannah’s fiancee; Spencer and Caleb are squicking me out a little and I would really like to know what’s going on there; Emily will be sleeping with Sabrina by the end of the season, obviously; and FFS show, we know none of the liars killed Charlotte, we’ve been through 6 seasons of this shit already, so please stop trying to frame Aria and pretending like we don’t know how this works.

    UGH. This show makes me so angry. How did PLL become Glee – HOWWWWW!?

  19. I don’t know if I can ever truly express how much joy it gives me whenever someone calls Ezra out for his hypocrisy and general grossness. I thought SOME PEOPLE HAVE REAL PROBLEMS was the height of his awfulness but now he’s complaining about “people like Charlotte” not facing consequences when his status as a white man in Rosewood is practically a get out of jail free card.

  20. Coming back to the show this season is like getting into a warm bath but then it eventually goes cold and you can’t be bothered getting out but you’re not terribly comfortable but you can’t work up the energy to move. I’m so happy to see the four of them again but…oh man.

    There were some small bits that got me in the same way the show used to – Emily’s scene at the cemetery, Ali’s delicious prayer before dinner – I reeeeally hope the show does more good things.

  21. The one redeeming thing about this show is I don’t think Emily’s sick. There’s not quite enough urgency in her “This has to work” line and similar ones, and when Sabrina brought up cancer to her she looked awkward not worried about her own sickness. I VOTE this is some sort of fertility testing and treatment and maybe she really is back with Paige and they’re trying for a babby! Maybe that’s just wishful thinking, but I watched the episode and conversations really closely and the words “sick” never were quite uttered and there are other reasons she could be doing all of this.

    Also not that we care, but that was Kenneth at the end right? With the limo?

    • We don’t know who went to the cemetery, but we know it wasn’t Sara. She had already visited the cemetery and she didn’t bring flowers. She just stood at Jessica DiLaurentis’s grave in contemplation. You don’t see the name on the grave in that scene but you can tell what tomb it is in the final scene because of the flowers that were at the headstone before Sara got there. The person at the end leaves white roses and one red rose on a fresh mound of dirt next to Jessica’s grave. There isn’t a headstone attached to the dirt. All you can see of the headstone to the left (Jessica’s headstone is on the right) is “LIVES OF MANY”.

      • Scratch that. I’ve been informed that bodies are buried before their headstones are placed, so the roses were for CeCe and Sara was visiting either CeCe or Jessica’s grave.

      • I figured she might be trying to donate her eggs as a desperate attempt to get money (solidified by her bank card being declined and dodging her mom’s statement about the money her dad left her). But I agree, I don’t think she’s sick.

    • I’m late to the game here, but I don’t believe Emily is sick either, though my thought was a little darker – Paige is sick and Emily is having treatments done to prep her for a donor procedure. Apparently this is a thing (I googled when I first had the thought) for bone marrow in some instances and maybe for other things too? Idk why my mind went there, I guess because it’s such a soap opera-y move and…hey, it’s PLL.

  22. Your wonderful snark re: Ezra Fitz makes the mediocre performance of these past two episodes a little better.

  23. Has this show fallen off whatever train track to hell that was season 6a? *a most emphatic yes* will I ever stop reading heather hogan’s most masterful recaps? *never* they give me life and strength and the will to keep on. Heather, my greatest wish in life is that one day you will write and produce the queer show of our dreams!! Power to you!!!

  24. Everything else has been pretty well covered by the recap and the comments. So can we take a second to talk about the grossness of Spencer and Caleb?

    Here’s the thing- we don’t need another show where we have female best friends hooking up with their best friends boyfriend/ex-boyfriend/significant romantic interest. It’s tiresome, and frankly sends out a harmful message. The core of the show has always been the friendship between these four women. It was a thing the show understood more than just about any other show targeting the same demographic. The message was clear: Friendship is important. Friendship is powerful. And the bonds of female friendship can be a thing of magic.

    On the other side of it, A Caleb/Toby friendship has been a thing the show keeps telling me to believe.

    Look, I get that these characters have grown up. I get that the writer’s are entering that phase of television where the show has peaked and they’re grasping for ideas and going into tired, weak, unbelievable storylines to keep it going. However, let’s not throw everything good down the toilet in one season. Forget shipping, don’t mess with the most beautiful thing the show ever gave us: The friendship between these women.

    Also, Caleb was the one good boyfriend on the show. In a sea of creeps, it was nice to have one good guy. So that’s a bummer. Especially when they’re clearly still setting Caleb and Hanna up for an endgame. Boning her friend kind of puts a damper on that. Just saying.

    • Ooh, I’ve been yearning for a Spencer/Caleb hookup forever now because chemistry! Though Spencer/Random Senator Lady is my OTP.

  25. Ezra’s brain must have been soaked in A LOT of corn liquor for him to have forgotten the bevy of felonies HE committed against the liars.

    We should petition to add a character who just pops in whenever he’s talking about his manpain to put him in his place.

  26. Here’s my guess. Emily burned through the money her father left her when she dropped out of college. Now she can’t go back to school, since she’s broke, so she has to find a way to make some money without her mom/the liars finding out. The medical treatments are her harvesting her eggs for money.

  27. I’m waiting a few weeks maybe more, before I start watching, and taking the time to read these recaps and digest before I face the inevitable continued betrayal.
    If they “Naomi” Emily I’ll not be surprised. I’ll be deeply saddened but not surprised.

  28. I remember when Heather hated Byron Montgomery because he didn’t like that his daughter was dating her high-school teacher. Byron was the worst person IN THE UNIVERSE, because, apparently, he was trying to control his daughter’s sexuality. I don’t remember reading that someone had a problem with Ezria, the things they did in their little bubble were all adorable, Ezbian was a thing, Ezria was endgame certainty. Now, everyone hates Ezra, and I find it hilarious. Yes, we found out later on that he knew exactly who Aria was when he met her. But, the fact is, everyone was aware he was HER HIGH-SCHOOL TEACHER from the start. And for a good long while no one seemed to have a problem with it.

    • I haven’t read all of Heather’s PLL recaps, but it seems like she’s hated Ezra for quite some time. The Forever Young Adult blog, who recap PLL in a similar feminist-progressive fashion, have hated Ezra and Byron since day one. AS, FYA, and AfterEllen are frankly the only T.V. recap blogs worth reading (unless anyone has any recommendations), whereas Ezria fans tend to be teens on Tumblr. It’s hard to say which Rosewood men are the worst because the only decent ones are Caleb (although he’s not perfect – he gaslit Spencer in this episode, for instance), Ted, and Wayne (deceased). Officer Maple was on that list until we found out that he let CeCe go in exchange for a cash bribe. Darn. I’d say the worst thing Byron did was tell his teenage daughter to apologize to his mistress/his former student. But as bad as that is, he’s not even the worst father in Rosewood. Tom Marin didn’t even bother to show up for the father-daughter dance at the high school, and he didn’t seem to apologize for that either. Almost-step-dad Zack hit on two underage girls whilst engaged. Peter Hastings and Daniel Cavanaugh are always, like, out of state. Daniel let his daughter rape his son for, like, a year. Nick McCullers made his daughter live in fear of his anti-gay agenda. Raymond Collins turned his orphaned niece away. Jamie Doyle abandoned his son. Kenneth DiLaurentis institutionalized his daughter because he was ashamed of her. I can’t even.

      • To be fair, plenty of girls on the show are hardly saints. Including the PLLs. Off the top of my head, there’s Spencer flirting with her sister’s fiancees.

        • Wren massaged and later kissed Spencer, an underage girl, while he was engaged. Ian kissed an even younger Spencer, and Ali, while he was engaged. Jenna was a rapist, so she’s probably the worst. But generally, the behavior of the boys/men in PLL is more disturbing than the girls’/women’s behavior by leaps and bounds. Even guys who are supposed to be non-creeps, like Lucas, are total creeps, like Lucas kissing Hanna in her sleep and massaging (a nude) Emily without her consent.

        • Yeah, Spencer was “hardly a saint,” when her sister’s lovers keep statutorily assaulting her.

          • I believe that Spencer’s wholly unhealthy Hastings competitiveness with her sister was at the root of those incidents. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact those guys made a move on a most definitely underage girl.

    • …I know my memory is pretty awful, but I’m pretty sure hating Ezra is not even remotely new around here.

      • I was referring more to the contrast between early recaps and now. Back then, Ezria was mostly good fodder for comedy. Very well written comedy, which is why it sticks in my mind.

  29. I wish HH would stick to writing recaps in her recaps. I hated the trans story but there it is. If Autostraddle and HH thinks ill causes trans murder (fair amount of faulty reasoning in last two diatribes but can’t be bothered), stop recapping?

    Because HONEST, Heather, you were king, queen, and jack of all resellers but not so much as diatribes. Can we just ride the story to where it takes us? NOT necessary to bark like a whingeing seal in every recap as preliminary to recapping about how wrong the trans thing was and is.

    If proclaiming lack of support is necessary every damned town, you and Mey write up a short “The Management wishes to state that” paragraph for inclusion at the beginning of the recap and get on with recapping. Or stop recapping. Or write a single heartfelt diatribe and link to it.

    Because I feel that it was you or the god of recapping Clifton Himself who said no show owes us a story. I saw the Charles/Charlotte thing limping toward us from at least the prom. I think you did too and many others who just couldn’t bear to believe it.

    Marlene, the Chaiken of bubblegum TV,has a PLAN, and–I am guessing, since she “reassured” fans of the show that Ezra and Aria are “endgame”– she will soon be whipping off the Wal-Mart tablecloth to reveal none other than the erstwhile stalker and his clearly his prey as long time supervillains or some such.Charlotte has been martyrized and I reckon this means she will be redeemed via flashbacks.

    I mean, look at Mona. She is the WORST but a single screech of anguish was heard from here to Sheol when she died that time and old gals like me latched on to every hint that she was alive. This show is NOT an epic battle between Good and Evil but between lesser and greater personalities. (A further example of how ordinary values N/A: the mourning of fans for erstwhile psycho Ali with Heart of Stone.

    So step away from the soapbox, and get back to recapping this hot sweet mess like it’s Season 1 again. I was reading your recaps long before I watched this show in order to understand your recaps. I have read each and every one and this is the first time I have ever quit three paragraphs in.

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