Remember season two of Friday Night Lights, when it became clear that NBC put their grubby little hands into the writers room and demanded More Naked Teenage Bodies! More Swimming Pools! More romance! More Murder! Murder? Yes, Murder! Murder on a show about football. Right, and obviously the writers were trying to execute their brilliant vision around the stupid network, and when NBC finally was like, “Ugh, just do whatever you want,” Landry and his dad took that murder car to the dessert and set it on fire and no one on the show ever spoke about the events of those 12 episodes ever again?
Last night’s Pretty Little Liars felt like that. And what rose from the ashes, like a blind clue-spitting Phoenix, was our beloved show. I don’t know if it’s a blip or if it’s gonna stick, but for 42 minutes, I gasped and laughed and clapped and air-punched and hollered and whooped and my blood was alive again for Rosewood, PA. This should have been the 6B premiere. It had almost everything.
Here is a truth to be universally acknowledged: The best episodes of PLL are always Mona-heavy and Ezra-light. That dude isn’t just a creep; he’s narrative dead weight.
“Hit and Run, Run, Run” opens where this season did: The Liars are digging a hole in the woods and yelling different murder and legal words at each other, crying and muddy and frantic. It’s Rollins’ body they’ve got to get rid of. Hanna’s just sitting in the car, staring through the hole in the windshield thinking about how, for once, the blood that was spilled on the hood of a car was not hers. She gets out and offers to help dig, but they think she’s too stunned to do it properly. It’s Ali, though, who seems the most messed up, splayed out on the ground in her white hospital gown, silent and distant.
The plan is that they’re going to bury this motherfucker and then make it look like he skipped town. Everybody has a role to play, even Ali, who has to go back to the hospital and pretend she never left in the first place and doesn’t know where Rollins is. But how are they going to get her back in there? For some reason, Emily knows the nurses don’t check on the patients at nighttime, so as long as they don’t make a ruckus strapping Ali back to the bed, they won’t be spotted. Okay, but how are they going to get inside the building? Still half-comatose, Ali has had it with amatuer hour. She walks to her dead husband/torturer’s grave, thrusts her hand down into the fresh dirt, and pulls out Elliot’s hospital badge.
Who’s the Grunwald now, bitch?
The Liars squabble all the way back to Rosewood. They argue about why anyone is going to believe Rollins left town, which is one of the funniest things anyone on this show has ever said. Every single one of the Liars’ parents leave town at all hours of the day and night with no warning for years at a time and no one ever questions it. Emily says it’s the perfect crime and everyone should relax. Hanna says, “Nobody thinks of everything” and the look Ali gives her when those words come out of her mouth. Like, girl, did you not live through the first four seasons of this show? Baby Ali thought of everything a hundred times over. She had sixty-five zillion dollars cash money hidden in various nooks and crannies all over the state of Pennsylvania. She had a hundred flash drives hidden in a hundred dolls. She had an airplane.
Once they make it back home, everyone gets down to business. Aria’s going to return Alison to NuRadley Too. Spencer’s going to put Eliot’s jacket and bag on a one-way train to Philly. Emily’s going to pack said bag (sans bone saw, one imagines). And after all that, Aria and Hanna are going to return to the car and torch it.
Aria, whose competency always skyrockets when Ezra is absent, manages to get Ali strapped back into her bed and get that Hannibal mask on her face without triggering any alarms or piquing the suspicion of any nurses or stealing anyone’s paintings of Godzilla like what she did to Big Rhonda when she tried to help out at the last mental hospital she visited. Of course, as soon as she gets Ali bolted to the bed, she starts interrogating her about Charlotte.
No, Ali did not kill her sister. She confessed to Charlotte that she and Elliot were sleeping together, which was normal and fine. She did it on top of the Rosewood Presbyterian belltower, though, which was not normal or fine; the Angel of Death treats that place like Santa treats the North Pole. And then she bounced and left Charlotte up there and then Charlotte died.
I’ll tell you what, though: I do not think Charlotte is dead. They’re flashbacking her like Ali. I think she’s alive! Maybe in France! Maybe working on a new signature scent! Maybe she’s camping in the Amazon, defending herself from lethal snakes with a mannequin leg! WHO KNOWS!
It pains me to say so, but Spencer and Hanna do not do as good a job as Aria with their next steps, and it’s because they’re being stupid about Caleb. Hanna’s still in love with him, but she doesn’t want that to be a factor in Spencer’s decision to stay with him or to not stay with him, so she says that kiss was just one small PTSD mistake that anyone who’d been locked in a shack in their underwear and doused with gasoline might make upon their escape. Caleb comes to the door during this fight and Spencer can’t let him in because she and Hanna are (supposed to be) cleaning up a crime scene. So he just cries through the door about the night they kissed the first time and Hanna has to hear it and Spencer has to hear Hanna hearing it while also hearing it and trying to process it for herself. It’s actually very tense and heartbreaking. Hanna and Spencer haven’t been locked in rooms together enough.
Spencer tells Caleb to leave and he does and there’s still murder mud everywhere. “God, if Mr. Muzari could see me right now, I totally would’ve gotten the part of Lady Macbeth,” Spencer says. And later: “Timing is for figure skaters and comedians. You either love someone or you don’t.” You know, just in case you were wondering if Maya Goldsmith wrote this episode.
Spencer fucks up phase two real bad. She goes to Emily’s bar and drinks too many martinis and eats a lot of olives. This random guy buys her a drink and even though she knows she’s got business to do, she lets him because he doesn’t flinch when her answer to “What have you been up to tonight?” is “Burying a body.” She almost has some drunk sex with him in an elevator, but changes her mind when she sees her reflection and remembers that her friends are counting on her to cover up a murder. Of course, she’s useless, driving-wise, at that point so she has to call Emily to come and get her.
Emily: You had one job!
Spencer: Well, my boyfriend kissed another girl, so.
Emily: Yeah? Basically every girlfriend I’ve ever had has been murdered right in my face, and I still kept it together enough to finish the crimes I promised my best friends I would commit!
Spencer: Yeah, but you’re a TV lesbian. You already know everyone you love is gonna die. Hermione Granger doesn’t get cheated on!
Emily: Spencer. This is Caleb Rivers you’re so busted up about. He’s a half-ghost cursed by fireflies. He’s a reformed feral hobo. His uncle-dad is a bean farmer.
But Spencer won’t hear it. She’s mad at Caleb and she’s mad at Hanna and she cares more about that than she does about the fact that she’s putting her friends in danger of spending their lives in prison. Forgive me, reader, but she is acting like very early says Aria. I love her. This is not a good look.
Aria and Hanna try, at least, to do better. They go back to the spot where they hid Rollins’ car (near that one tree that looks like a place the Keebler elves would live), but the car’s not there. They search under the shrubs and in the treetops. Alas, nothing. Just when they’re about to give up and surrender themselves to the sea, Rollins’ car pulls up. Brand new windshield. And you know who steps out of the driver’s seat. YOU KNOW WHO. It’s Mona Vanderjesus Vanderwaal.
Listen to this glory: When she heard Ali had gone berserk, she knew something weird was afoot, and assumed, as usual, that it had something to do with a man in an authority position. Lo, she tagged Rollins’ car with a GPS chip and wiretapped his cell phone and figured out he was British and also a monster. Last night, when she was casually perusing the various vehicles she monitors, she noticed that Rollins’ car had been sitting in the woods for about 12 hours and she realized the Liars probably killed him and fucked up disposing of the body, so she went ahead and decided to fix it herself.
Aria legit goes, “You’re just inserting yourself into other people’s homicides for fun now, or…” And Mona’s like, “Only y’all’s, doll.”
Do you understand what I am telling you? Mona saw Hanna doing a “cracker jack job” covering up a crime and so she swooped in and committed the crime for her and better than Hanna ever could. Sometimes you poke the bear; sometimes Mona parachutes in from a private jet to kill the bear with a molecular-deconstructing galactic laser pistol. That’s what love is.
Okay, but it gets even better. Now that she’s confirmed that these idiots are doing what she thought they were doing, she calls a brunch meeting and — over mimosas — explains the proper way to cover up a murder. Burning the car was a stupid idea; they need to leave it at the train. Also, they need to search the car for Elliot’s burner phone because she only heard his side of his nefarious conversations and they need to know who he’s in cahoots with.
Brunch is interrupted by the familiar click-clack, click-clack of a blind girl’s cane. The way this was directed and edited! It’s a regular click-clack, and then a slow-mo click-clack with an echo, and then it’s Jenna Marshall on our TVs once again.
Jenna is in top form. She IDs everyone by their voices, and says she came to see Toby for his wedding. When they ask her why she’s staying at the Radley, she’s like, “Oh, didn’t you hear? My house blew up.” And THEN she says she’s going to visit Ali in the hospital to return the favor from when Ali visited her the thousand-hour day she lived before she was clubbed in the head that night in her backyard and buried alive. The blind hospital! Remember that? Toby was in jail with the doo-rag at that time. Jenna says she feels nostalgic — and, girl, so do I!
Hanna and Mona have a heart-to-heart about Caleb while Mona is doing her hacker magic on Rollins’ phone. Mona knows Hanna called off her engagement because she knows Hanna’s wearing a fake diamond because of course she does because nothing about Hanna escapes her notice, particularly clues about Hanna’s status as a betrothed person. They tag-team to retrieve Hanna’s missing bracelet from the backseat of Rollins’ car. And then they luck into finding his missing burner phone in a secret compartment under his floor mats.
His name isn’t Rollins, what do you think about that? His name is Archer and he’s burner phone pals with Jenna Marshall. We know this because the phone rings and they answer it and don’t say anything and Jenna Marshall goes, “Archer?! ARCHER?? This is Jenna Marshall! Are you there?? ARCHER. IT’S JENNA.”
Toby also lucks into a thing and it’s the knowledge that Elliott Rollins isn’t the real Elliott Rollins because that guys is 100 percent dead and Ali’s husband has stolen his identity. He tells the Liars this while not going home to his fiance. So now the RPD have an extra reason to look for Archer’s dead body.
When Ali wakes up in the hospital, there’s a shadow in the doorway. It looks like her mom and walks like her mom and talks like her mom. But it is not her mom. It is her mom’s evil twin, Mary Drake. Mark Drake says she’s in charge now, which frankly seems exactly like the policy of a mental hospital in Rosewood. The main doctor goes missing? “You know, I stayed at the Lost Woods Resort last weekend; the lady that runs that place really seems like she knows how to be a manager!” And now she’s the CEO and attending physician of NuRadley Too.
Thank you, always and forever, to Nicole (@PLLBigA) for these glorious screencaps!