Pretty Little Liars Episode 720 Recap: Act Hetero-Normal, Bitch!

An hour before the Pretty Little Liars series finale, I was sitting on Riese’s back porch drinking a beer and trying to remember what my life was like back when I wrote my first Pretty Little Liars recap in 2010. I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t remember. Seven years doesn’t really seem like that much time, but I hadn’t met Stacy, my soon-to-be wife, back then. I hadn’t left my home state and my hometown and moved across the country, or moved back across the country again, northward. I hadn’t become inextricably bonded with these brilliant, beautiful babes who make Autostraddle a reality. I hadn’t stopped apologizing for having opinions or for taking up space in the world or for being a woman. I hadn’t even come out to my grandparents. But most of all, in 2010, I’d never typed #BooRadleyVanCullen onto the internet and pressed Tweet.

Here’s the joke: Pretty Little Liars was obsessed with To Kill a Mockingbird and A was very clearly, and at the very least, a vampire. Boo Radley. Edward Cullen. I had no idea how hashtags worked, that’s for sure. (Or jokes either, I guess.) Twitter was this whole new world and no one else I knew was watching this show that summer, which seemed like a shame because it was riffraff banapants in the best possible way, and it was gay when hardly anything else was, and so I said, “Hey, tweet with me” and y’all did — and together we changed the world.

When I started writing about Pretty Little Liars I was living in the town where I grew up, the town where I’d always lived, and I was so bone-deep lonely my whole spirit ached with it. I dated a lot of nice girls but none of them were like me. I hung out all the time with my best friend since childhood, but she’s straight and just doesn’t move through the world the same way I do. My sister has been with me always, but she has a family and a kid and novels to write and TV was never really her thing. The day I sent #BooRadleyVanCullen out into Twitter’s wild and new desert, it lit up the queer sky like a bat signal, like a beacon — and suddenly Tuesday nights became my refuge, the one hour every week the frost around my brain and my heart thawed and I laughed and cheered and cried with you; for the first time in my life, sharing space with my people.

The inside jokes were so easy. Every silly thing I said, you ran with it and made it fifty times better. Every nickname, every imaginary plotline, every crackerjack theory. I said it and you said it better. You Photoshopped it. You sang songs about it. You wrote it into your stories. Soon, our language made it into other writers’ recaps and reviews, and into broader (straight) fandom. Our hashtag was the cleverest, funniest, most engaging place on Twitter and so of course the Pretty Little Liars‘ writers and directors showed up to hang out there.

We talked; they laughed and they listened; and they spoke back to us inside the show. I’d never seen anything like it. I’ve still never seen anything like it. The magic didn’t last — the draw of ad revenue from shocking reveals(!!!!) and trending topics, and the publicity of Teen Choice Awards was too strong — but I was there with you and I witnessed it too. For a handful of years we were in that writer’s room. We were on their minds. We were in their hearts. The network and the studio came with mandates. Ezra blah blah and lay off the lesbianism. Nothing pure ever survives a hurricane of money. But when it was the Wild West we were heard and we were beloved. Our counterculture shaped pop culture.

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It shaped me too. My family had told me to never come out to my grandparents. They were worried it would rip us all apart, and it wasn’t an unfounded fear. They love me with their whole beating hearts, but my grandfather, especially, is just about as conservative as they come in the Southern Baptist church. It was almost midnight when I came out to them. They were asleep in their recliners in front of the TV when I let myself in. I’d sat in the driveway with my sister and watched Paige McCullers on YouTube on my phone ten times in a row — “If I say it out loud, if I say, ‘I’m gay,’ the whole world is gonna change” — and then I went inside and said it for myself. 31 years old.

I watched that scene again on repeat a couple of months ago sitting on a sidewalk in Manhattan. It’s been a year of unending doctors and tests and scans and ultrasounds and blood work and outpatient procedures and fights with my insurance company. I still don’t have many answers, but on that particular day I’d gone in for an MRI and while I was inside the machine my IV exploded. The dudes who’d shoved me in the tube didn’t tell me why the alarm was clanging and when they pulled me out and I was covered in blood they both just shrugged. “You should know whether or not it’s cancer in two to four days,” one of them said, without bothering to look at me or give me anything to clean myself up. My arms and face were sticky with dried blood and sweat when I left, and I felt so exposed and so vulnerable and so unsteady on my feet I just sat down. I leaned back against the brick wall of the hospital. I put on my headphones and I pulled up Paige McCullers.

The strength I drew from that scene that day was the same strength I drew from that scene seven years ago when I came out to my grandparents. Because of the power of story, yes, but because you are connected to that story. A wellspring of affection and courage and laughter and hope.

I’m not always so strong by myself, but when I think about that scene I think about the thousands of coming out stories people have shared with me because they were inspired by it. I think about the recap I wrote that people still quote back to me. I think about Lindsey Shaw crying on the phone when I interviewed her and Shay Mitchell offering to send me soup. I think about how I met my dearest friends and so many the internet’s now-favorite queer writers because #BooRadleyVanCullen brought us together. I think about the night I opened myself up to you as I never had before and you raised $10,000 in an hour to save the life of my beloved dog. I think about how when I was in the darkest depression of my life you worked tirelessly to help me win a social media competition. I used that prize money to find my way to a new state, a new city, a new home. I don’t think I ever told you that.

I won’t play-by-play “Till Death Do Us Part” for you because it was messier than Rosewood’s worst wigs and it’ll break my little tender butch heart to dwell on how a show that burst into the world as one of the most subversive, feminist things on television ended up being the most heteronormative codswallop imaginable. (Codswallop. It’s British. Get ready for it.)

The first hour was a one-year time jump that required 30 minutes of inexplicable exposition, all of which revolved around where each Liar stood in relation to marrying the first person they ever slept with and also where each of those #ENDGAME couples stood in relation to giving birth. They are all, I will remind you, no more than 24 years old. LOL, except for their former teacher, Mr. Fitz!

Emily and Ali are living together with the whitest babies you’ve ever seen in your life. Aria and Ezra are getting married tomorrow and she can’t have children, which Ezra shockingly makes all about himself. (I wonder how old Malcolm is now. Maybe they could kidnap him as their first felony as a married couple.) (Look, okay, don’t worry, they’re going to a fertility clinic the absolute fucking second they get home from their honeymoon in “the south of France.”) Hanna and Caleb are still married and she’s lying on her back with her legs in the air after sex to try to help the sperms swim easier. And Toby and Spencer are doing Scrabble as foreplay … for now.

Choo-choo! Here comes the Nightmare Express with Auntie Aria trapped in a box with a dead man!

Fiiiiine I’ll tell you more about Emily and Alison. Number one, while we were watching this episode Riese said that they’re dressing Alison like someone who shops at Talbots and will never have sex again. And THEN they put Alison in this sweatshirt with a slobbering dog on the front of it and I thought Rachel was going to run into traffic. She said the sweatshirt is confirmed biphobia. Also I think Alison is wearing a wig? I don’t know. I just know everyone who ever made fun of Paige’s Lego man hair and Spencer’s post-time jump head situation needs to rethink their bangs power rankings.

While all the other Liars are having sex by crawling on top of each other and literally licking each other’s nipples, Emily and Alison are lying side by side and smooshing their cheeks into each other and clanking their knees together and poking at each other’s feets. At one point there’s a hand on a bare back. Maya died for this!

I like your new sex toga.

You are so sexy I could just boop you on your wittle nose.

Baby, you know I love it when you put your ankle on my knee.

All of which is to say, Pretty Little Liars never solved the deep and elusive mystery this show was building toward for seven seasons: Lesbian sex? HOW? HOW?!?!!!?

Pam gives Alison Emily’s grandmother’s wedding ring so she can propose and you never really get a good look at it because Alison holds it in front of the kooky dog face the whole time, but according to Emily, it’s really beautiful.

PUG LIFE

While the Liars are enjoying their Race to the Altar, Mona has returned from Radley and has moved in with Caleb and Hanna, who I think are still living in Lucas’ loft. She is the only one who has kept her eyes on the prize! She layers masks of everyone’s faces over her own face and goes creeping around in the dark to meet up with A.D., who is … Spencer’s twin sister. Alex. Alex Drake. Her mother is Mary Drake and her father is Bert from Mary Poppins. It is, quite literally, the only way to explain her accent. It’s “Indubitably!” this and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” that, and next thing you know Spencer’s locked in yet another elaborate underground bunker.

What happened was Alex was working in this bar in London and Wren came in and lost his goddamn mind because all he ever wanted was for Spencer to tie him up and boss him around, and so Alex was happy to oblige there at least. He told her about Spencer and from there she found out that Peter Hastings took baby Spencer directly from Mary Drake’s vagina in the asylum, wrapped her up in Radley baby blanket, and carried her out into the parking lot in 1944 where Veronica was waiting. Didn’t even stick around to find out there was a whole other baby in there. Mary sold off Alex and instead of leaving her home alone to be raised by her older sister and a pack of wild hyenas, like what happened to Spencer, these parents bought Alex and dropped her off at the orphanage where Tom Riddle grew up.

Just one, I’m a few. No family too. Who am I?

After finding that info, Alex tracked down Charlotte and for a couple of years it was all double dates and signature scents with those sisters and Wren and Archer Dunhill. But then everyone died and so Alex had to come to town and spend the fifty gazillion dollars she made bartending setting up this underground lair (with an overground house surrounded by like papier-mâché trees and a sky made of poster board).

Alex kidnaps Ezra too, for some reason, but sadly does not kill him.

When Mona explains about Spencer having a twin sister, the Liars shrug like “Sure, okay” and follow her to the brand new dollhouse. Once they arrive, it turns into a standoff between Alex and Spencer; both of them say they’re the real Spencer. Okay and like Spencer’s horse knew right away Alex was full of shit. He wouldn’t let her come near him with his saddle. Toby? This motherfucker had actual sexual intercourse with Alex and didn’t know it wasn’t Spencer. But they leave the horse out of it and let Toby decide. He asks what Spencer’s favorite poem is in this book she gave him one time and real Spencer knows and so that’s settled. Mona goes, “I’ll call 911!”

Move over, Mona Lisa; there’s a new bitch in town.

Reader, she does not call 911. While the rest of these ding-dongs stay in the town where they were stalked and tortured and murdered repeatedly throughout their childhoods, popping out babies and pretending to like Ezra’s home brew, Mona moves to Paris and opens a doll shop and smooches on some French guy. In the basement of this glorious hellscape of a business she’s got a dollhouse where she keeps her Liar doll souvenirs and also Mary and Alex locked up behind some glass like a zoo, sipping tea and wearing party frocks. Vive la Vanderjesus!

The Liars promise to stay friends forever and promise their kids will be friends forever too. It seems like a very dumb idea. Two of those kids, at least, are made up of half-Wren Kingston, who one time shot his girlfriend in the collar bone so she could have the same scar as the twin sister Wren was actually in love with so when she took over that twin sister’s life no one would ask any questions. Also I believe one time Wren took out Jenna’s eyeballs and put a whole different set of eyeballs back in there.

#Mommi

Now that they’ve raised their children and released them into the wild, Pam and Veronica and Ashley and Ella pack their bags and move to Italy to open a winery and live out their days as the poly family they’ve always dreamt of being. They’re still unclear about how to have lesbian sex, but they’re getting closer to figuring it out. One day maybe. For now Tippi the Bird sings them to sleep, a ceaseless canticle of their favorite phone numbers; a bottle of pinot never far from of reach.


I can’t count the number of people who’ve told me over the years that my Pretty Little Liars writing impacted their lives, but I want you to know that any goodness or warmth or love or light I put into your world was visited back on me a thousand fold. I can’t remember what my life was like when I wrote my first Pretty Little Liars recap because my life was fractured and desolate beyond recognition back then. I have never been so sad or helpless or alone. I’m whole now. I’m surrounded on all sides by a love: a partner I’m going to marry, a workplace that sustains my soul, and friendships I treasure in my deepest heart. I’m whole because you — all of you — helped me chase the Dementors away. Pretty Little Liars may be over, but you have given me a lifetime of memories to power my Patronus. I love you guys. I really, really do.

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 1061 articles for us.

71 Comments

    • I would’ve loved for Maya to turn out to have been in witness protection or something even if it made no sense. Anything would’ve been better than her being dead. But Emily would never leave Ali for Maya, or for anyone.

  1. Your PLL recaps have often made me cry and this one made me cry the most of all. Thank you for being so wonderful, thinking about television with so much intelligence but also love and empathy and for writing so many amazing things. You’re the best! <3

  2. I must take issue with your latest biased Emison comments in your recap. You endlessly wax poetic about Paige and the important part she played in your coming out process yet you intentionally short shrift a couple who mean so much to so many young girls who are questioning their sexuality. I understand you prefer Paige over Alison but you’re supposed to be an advocate for more visibility for lesbian and queer characters on television. For you to continually bash a couple who by all appearances end the series in an incredibly positive place – deeply in love, engaged to be married, and yes, believe it or not are madly in love with their daughters and their homelife – where’s the advocacy for this happy couple? You reduced the proposal scene which I think is one of the most beautifully written and acted proposals I’ve seen on TV to a sarcastic comment about a pug sweatshirt. It’s sad that you feel the need to constantly undermine this couple and in doing so undermine young lesbians who may find the same hope and joy you found in Paige. You don’t sound like an advocate for the LGBTQ community, you sound like (excuse the term) a butthurt shipper.

  3. Y’know, I started watching PLL mid-season 3 because I was ridiculously stressed about my final year of high school and whether I’d actually get to go abroad for college, i.e go somewhere I could be out instead of in a glass closet that no one would acknowledge. It was a nice form of escapism, thinking about these silly brave teenage girls and what they’d get up to, but your recaps made it a whole other level of importance for me.

    I’d devoured a lot of tv recaps before (hello Glee and Buffy), but I think yours were the first that taught me a lot about what viewers bring to a show mattering as much as what the show thinks it’s doing. I had abstractly understood the concept of “no work exists in a vacuum” in seeing it wielded in arguments that were meant to tear down shows, but your recaps kind of showed the flip-side of that – that bringing one’s own frameworks could elevate a show beyond the cheesy thriller it was.

    I guess that’s a lot of words to say thank you, so, you know – thank you.

    • This is such a good observation: “I had abstractly understood the concept of “no work exists in a vacuum” in seeing it wielded in arguments that were meant to tear down shows, but your recaps kind of showed the flip-side of that – that bringing one’s own frameworks could elevate a show beyond the cheesy thriller it was.”

  4. Your recaps of this show changed the way I watch and think about television and about the media i consume. Thank you so much forever for writing and tweeting and trying and mostly for just being your wonderful self. <3

  5. Oh, Heather.

    I have so many things I want to say, about 2010-2017 and growing up out of my twenties and bursting out of the closet I’d made myself and learning the words ‘toxic masculinity’ and revisiting adolescence through the lens of ABC Family and specifically your recaps, Heather. Stuff about finding the words for what happened to me as a teen girl and what happens to lots of teens, and the ways I was able to rewrite those years in different terms because of what you wrote online…

    And so much of it ties in to stuff about the power of the Internet, and the good old days of AfterEllen, and very sappy stuff about how all we have is each other and how your journey from AE to Autostraddle brought me over here as a reader, and my own journey from a closeted person who was so scared of other queer women I’d actively avoid their company, someone so uncomfortable in my own skin I couldn’t say ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ in a whole year of therapy sessions, to reading Autostraddle, to becoming myself, to being Queer Girl, to coming to camp, to being more me than I ever had been, and it’s all tied up with this stupid show that ended up fucking up so hard, but really it’s about what you did with it, it wasn’t PLL at all, it was you. IT WAS YOU ALL ALONG.

    So, yeah. You’re one hell of a writer and human and I’m so glad PLL brought your voice into my life at just the right time.

  6. I found your recap when I googled Pretty Little Liars to find out what the heck it was about. I was even more confused after reading it because I didnt know any of the inside jokes yet haha. But I fell in love with the show and with your writing and I found a community in the BooRadleyVanCullen tag. Thank you for everything, Heather! <3

  7. “Alex kidnaps Ezra too, for some reason, but sadly does not kill him.”

    UGH WORD

    This recap was perfect and beautiful and made me cry.

    As an Emison shipper I remain wildly devastated that they ended up together in the end and yet never got to see them kiss with tongue or get on top of each other!!!!

  8. Sorry to hear about your health issues, Heather.

    NGL, the finale left a bad taste in my mouth (Mona dollhouse included), but the show had such a steady decline in queerness and interesting/well written character moments that it’s not a surprising letdown. Like for a lot of people this show and its recaps helped change me as a person (and yes, I have that Lindsey Shaw anecdote you mention saved somewhere on my computer haha), so it’s been difficult to accept that a show that could be so smart would take such a serious nosedive. And I think I’d be a lot more upset if my other coming out show, Steven Universe, wasn’t such a consistently awesome joy to behold.

    But anyway, I’ve processed through the 5 stages of grief lol, and I can now accept that the show was never going to top the Dollhouse, and that my friend didn’t know how right she was to stop after the fourth season.

    Thank you for these recaps. I already miss that lil raccoon.

  9. Thank you, Heather. You will always be one of my favorite writers.

    As I see it, the next chapter is clearly a show called “The Real Pretty Little Lesbian Liars of Ravenswood,” an Ilene Chaiken/I. Marlene King co-production. The fun begins from the start as everyone watching must drink just to get through BETTY singing the opening theme song.

  10. Heather! How did you make me laugh and also cry??!

    I was back home for the summer from my first year in college when I started watching PLL. I was still pretty closeted and I was extremely giddy there was a hot lesbian on this show. Your recaps brought me so much joy when I couldn’t talk to anyone about being gay or share my love for this show. It still blows my mind that now I work with you every single day on this very gay website and I’m incredibly honored to be your friend! Thank you for all the work you’ve done! <3

  11. Heather, I know I already shared my “your PLL recaps changed my life” to you, but I just have to say it again– THANK YOU.

    On top of the mountain of joy and comfort and bravery that your writing about this show (among other things) has brought me, I am glad to now add this anecdote to the pile:

    I was reading this recap while finishing off my night routine, and out of nowhere, for the first time in years, “I’VE GOT GLASS IN MY HAIR” popped into my brain clear as day. It was quickly followed with an image of Tippi the Bird. And I laughed so hard that I completely choked on my toothpaste.

    So, thanks for that, too.

  12. I’m so emotional right now. Your PLL recaps have meant so much to me Heather. I’ve read some of them over and over. They’ve been a comfort for me when I was lonely and scared and needed them badly. I’ve never been able to do the #BooRadleyVanCullen tweeting and that’s a big regret of mine. Thank you so much for all you’ve given us. Just about every show I’ve ever loved that wasn’t cancelled too early, stuck around too long and got bad. PLL got really bad and that hurts extra because of how good it was at it’s peak. But the community we created around the show will last and that is a wonderful thing. I love you guys.

  13. Oh I meant to add, I think we should remember Jessica Mae Harder today. She loved Paily intensely and was big in the fandom. She was Mama Paily on twitter @PailyArmy and she passed away in May 2015 of kidney disease so she didn’t live to see the Liars get out of the dollhouse. She was a huge Lindsey Shaw fan and was important in helping get the book of fanart and essays from fans about how much Paige meant to them to her.

  14. Thank you for your recaps Heather, they really added to the experience and I’m hoping there will be a new awesome queer show soon that I’m going to want to watch and that you will recap!

    Anyway.. I was disappointed by the last episode. This show has been on such a decline the past 3 seasons and I’ve only been watching as a guilty pleasure because I’m just so invested in the main characters themselves..

    Not only do I agree about the heteronormativity (all these babies and weddings at such a young age is ridiculous to me and I just personally find it a not very empowering message that “yay I’m pregnant” is your happy ending) , the queer sex scenes are so bland and tame compared to the other ones, and I actually really like Allison, well at least in the first seasons, before they took her personality away.. but in addition to all that, I’m annoyed by the A.D reveal (even though Spencer is my favorite) because I see it as a Deus ex machina.. I mean I understand how they tied the ends and how it could work but I’m annoyed by the fact that it’s just a whole new different character we never invested time in, how is that a reveal? Anyone feel me? As problematic as CeCe was to be a reveal, at least it made more sense storytelling wise because it was a character we had already actually spent time with on screen you know? So for me just saying oh it was just caused by this whole new different character that you didn’t even know about isn’t an interesting twist. Without mentioning that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that basically all of the blame in PLL is placed on basically women with a mental illness! What kind of message is that :/ I was actually hoping that finally reveal would be Spencer’s Dad, not only is he a character we were already familiar with, but it would’ve been easy to find him a motive tied up with all this, and at least then it would put the blame on a straight white man instead.. but yeah, I’m not surprised since PLL kept screwing up that way for 3 seasons. Like you once said it’s just disappointing because I feel like this show had the power to be so much more and send a more empowering message to young women and it didn’t.

  15. Heather, I don’t want to invade your personal business but I just wanted to send my get well wishes and hope you find the cause and treatment soon. Also congratulations on getting married.

    Now onto the show. You may not remember your 1st recap but I remember reading it. I tend to get over excited about TV and reading your recap like “yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking” was a breath of fresh air. It’s good to see in reading this recap that hasn’t changed.

    Why did Alex kidnap Ezra? Did Alex really have the genius to build that stuff? These girls are still only 23/24 and they act like middle aged women, they’ve become their mothers.

    Getting through the very looong finale (they really didn’t need that 1st hour) I walk away a little more satisfied than I thought I would be, still many questions because you know I like to throw logic in the mix, and a little annoyed disappointed by Emily ending up with Alison. I will never understand that.

    Any glimmer of acceptance I had for Emily and Alison got thrown out the window with Alison’s ridiculous proposal. I don’t want to strike up a heated debate with any Alison supporters, this is my opinion. Here’s the problem I had with the proposal…Alison said how Emily loved her when she was a terrible person, she loved her when she was depressed. then she goes on to say that Emily made her a better woman because she searched for one and Emily looks for the good in everything. And when she goes in for the proposal Alison asks Emily “do you promise to do that every day for the rest of our lives” and Emily says “yes” and I said “WHAT?!”
    Let me see if I can explain my issue with what Alison said. If I was Alison and Emily has loved me through thick and thin like Alison rambled off my question wouldn’t be to Emily “do you promise to keep doing that” it would be “I promise to keep trying to be a better woman and worthy of all the love you’ve had for me for years. to be the woman you and those babies deserve”. Do you see what I mean?

    Anyway that really bugged me as you can see because that’s really the only issue I had with this show. I mean of course the whole Alex Drake thing made no sense but the shows over and I can’t be bothered dissecting all that. I will say this Marlene said that the other 2 options were Mona (but I understood why they didn’t go with Mona) Melissa and Wren but she didn’t know if she could get them well she did get them for the finale and just like they explained the whole Alex thing in flashbacks they could’ve explained either Melissa or Wren in flashbacks too, they had 2 hours.

    And finally I will just say the show ended on Mona smirking, that’s it the end. What scene with the next generation?

    • Fitz was kidnapped because he was about to figure out that Spencer wasn’t Spencer. He thanked her for some reservation she suggested he make (maybe the balloon ride) but since it was Alex and not Spencer he thanked, she had no idea what he was talking about, so out of suspicion/concern he started pressing her for answers, and that’s when she knocked him out and kidnapped him.

      I was under the impression that Alex paid some random board game company or tech savvy under the table to create the game, much like she paid a random fertility doctor to impregnate Ali.

      The way I interpreted it was that Ali asked if Emily promised to keep doing it because Ali wants to keep trying to be a better person than she used to be, but is afraid she can’t do it if she doesn’t have Emily’s love and support. But yeah, I too reacted and thought it was strange. Your willingness to be a good person shouldn’t be on the condition that you have someone to be a better person for, especially not if you have kids.

      But in the end, I was never a shipper either way, none of Emily’s girlfriends ever made me think “wow, she’s totally perfect for Emily,” I just wanted Emily to have a happy ending, and Emily probably couldn’t have dreamed of a happier ending than having the girl she has been in love with since Brownies reciprocating her feelings.

      • “Fitz was kidnapped because he was about to figure out that Spencer wasn’t Spencer.” I think you’re giving Ezra a lot more credit than he deserves. This is the same guy who when Aria was acting shady AF working on the AD team made it about him going off with Nicole.

        • I’m not the one giving him credit. The show is. He said within the episode that he got concerned about Spencer when she didn’t know what he was talking about when he thanked her for the reservation tip, so he followed her and asked her more questions, so she had to kidnap him. Maybe he wouldn’t have figured out that it was a twin, but he did think something was off about her, and she couldn’t risk him spilling it to the other liars.

  16. I loved PLL when it started, and still found lots to like about it even as the post-Mona-as-A era brought diminishing returns. It was witty and campy and ridiculous. I still smile when I think of Drunk Emily not needing any help getting into the car, or Ashley Marin’s charming felonies, or the way that creepy Flashback Ali had a cryptically sociopathic comment for every occasion.

    Over time the emphasis on plot twists over character consistency degraded everything they’d set up, and the Ezra problem got worse with each passing episode. And then I couldn’t watch it anymore after the Charlotte revelation. But I have read every one of your recaps since, because long after I stopped trusting I. Marlene King it still felt satisfying to read about these characters through the filter of your perspective, Heather. Thanks for that.

    It’s too bad, if by now unsurprising, to hear that PLL ended on such a conservative note. The Emison storyline reminds me of Sarah Schulman’s point about lesbians only finding value in straight America when we reproduce. The concept of three other 24 year olds obsessing about marriage and babies makes me think that Stephenie Meyer was secretly hired as a consultant. What a waste.

    At least BooRadleyVanCullen transcended the disappointing show that birthed it, and I am grateful for your recaps and the discussions they provoked. Friends share critical analysis: that’s what keeps us close.

  17. Watching the first ten minutes of PLL back in the day finally gave me the power to break free of the desperate need to watch anything on TV just because it had lesbians in it.

    It’s probably the first/only show I’ve ever kept up with just from recaps, first Lizz’s fashion caps, then Chelsea Steiner’s and finally Heather’s glorious tenure. I think I have been a healthier human for consuming the show this way.

    Thank you for sticking through this ordeal for our entertainment, which is a sentiment I feel after pretty much all recapped shows wrap up. I have no doubt that all your words on the show are a transformative work in themselves, and I really hope one day we can get a show that’s worthy til the end of you writing about it.

  18. Because the autostraddle reviewer forgot that she’s writing for the LGBT Community and not the PAILY shipdom. Here’s what I think of Emison Ending in PLL:

    AT LAST. EMILY AND ALISON FINALLY GOT THEIR SHIT TOGETHER.

    They’re playing house with the babies that nobody asked for (even Emison fans) but love enough because these girls were “theirs.” After years of mutual pining but never acting on it, they feel so bold to make a booty call right in the middle of their conversation with friends. Lesbian Bed Death, what is that?!

    Aside from the fact that they have the hots for each other, they are totally in tune (because duh! Best friends!) enough to know that one hesitant kiss from Ali forces Emily to stop and asks for what’s wrong. Oh wait, this has been the theme for the entire series…. Emily knows what Alison feels and constantly wants to check if she’s okay. And Alison, despite her previous devious plans, tries to assure Emily that she loves her.

    It may took Alison 7 years to be a good person but she did because of Emily. So good that she can’t even lie to hide a romantic proposal. So we get one with a pug shirt, and atrocious bangs that would have been so awful if it weren’t for her eyes devoid of any pretenses.

    Okay, okay the proposal was about Alison… so maybe that sucked for some. BUT can anyone not hear what it truly meant?!

    It was a confession of her imperfections and how she thinks the woman in front of her is. And she’s asking for a chance to be with this perfect person because without that person, who would she be? So excuse Alison for loving and needing Emily so much so that she proposes in her sleep shirt for fear that she would be send off to the couch with the pug print to keep her company.

    Of course, Emily says yes. Then, the show forgets that they’re together so they sit and stand far apart during their friend’s wedding. At least Hanna wrapped up the show with acknowledging everyone’s happy. 1 friend dating. 1 wed. 1 pregnant. 2 engaged.

    But let’s ignore that the LGBT couple that got endgame and have a healthy relationship. Let’s also ignore that they’re best friends since forever despite knowing that many closeted teens dream of this life. Let’s just focus on that pug. YUP.

    • Exactly! It’s surprising to me that those who have watched this show for seven seasons did not understand nor appreciate what Ali was trying to convey in her proposal to Emily. They were destined from the beginning and all of Emily’s other gf’s were mere placeholders. “Pip gets Estella in the end.”

      • So my biggest issue with Emison at the end of the day was the complete lack of chemistry between Emily and Allison by the end of the show. I know the two actors in real life are friends, but Sasha P NEVER looked comfortable during their scenes when it came to showing affection. And it did seem like it was always focused on what Emily could do for Allison. Allison never explained what she loved about Emily that wasn’t in relation to herself. That’s not healthy. It felt like Emily was going to always take care of Allison and her needs will never be met. The whole idea as long as my partner is happy, I’m happy. That only works for so long before you realize that’s not going to work.

        I am not and was never a Paily fan. That relationship again put someone unhealthy and abusive with Emily and she just loved them because awww they were struggling with coming out so trying to drown me is reasonable.

        The only relationship I loved for Emily was Mya. There was actual chemistry between Shay Mitchel and Bianca Lawson, nothing seemed fake. They genuinely loved each other. It wasn’t Emily being infatuated with an emotionally abusive person.

        I actually liked Emily and Allison in flash backs but once Sasha became a series regular, she seemed so flat and unattached and just not a good actor.

        Can we also note that Sasha was 15 when she started on PLL and Shay was 21…..why did they have kissing scenes?

        • Completely agree with everything you said. there was no chemistry between the actresses at the end. They kept forgetting they were playing a newly engaged couple and their body language and blocking were completely off. Or even with their babies; it honestly felt that they were babysitting. Heather has always focused on the good in the show and at the very end, with THAT finale, focusing on the good means just not even addressing the terrible because so much of it was so epically awful. I feel like uber A in the end is Marlene, and we are the harassed liars who have endured 7 years of shenanigans for little payoff, lol. The proposal was epically selfish, Alison is still broken, and barely a shadow of her former glorious self. I was so here for Emison or any good story honestly but this is insulting even to Emison shippers.

        • Worse: Pieterse was apparently 12 when they first started shooting this show. It’s all so ooky, and it never looked otherwise between those two. I wish it had been otherwise, but it just never looked real.

        • “Can we also note that Sasha was 15 when she started on PLL and Shay was 21…..why did they have kissing scenes?”

          Sasha was more like 13/14 when they filmed season 1. However, if you watch the scene with Ali and Emily in the library, I’m not sure that their lips are even actually touching. And in season 2, the kiss they shared was also a very slight peck. First time Sasha had a deep kiss with anyone on the show, she was 18, or at least almost 18.

        • Again, Ali’s verbal expression of love, the proposal, was a throwback to Great Expectations but in her words. Ali SHOWED Emily how much she loved her when she agreed to carry Emily’s babies but had yet to tell Emily she was in love with her. Did Emily want her eggs stolen? No. Did Ali want to be impregnated against her will? Hell no. But they did choose to bring forth life together. Like beauty, chemistry is in the eye of the beholder and this may not be the preferred couple on this lesbian site but I do wonder why two main female characters on a show geared to straight teenage girls who 1) End up together by choice 2) Start a family by choice and 3) Pledge to love each other forever – is not given the same attention as the endless beatification of St. Paige.

    • Because the commenter forgot that Heather isn’t writing for the entire community and is actually writing for herself and from her point of view, here’s what I think about your comment, it’s rude.

      If you want to see shows reviewed a certain way write your own or offer constructive criticism, but don’t be a dick about it. Anyone can start a wordpress blog or write a Tumblr post, why don’t you start there. Just because Heather writes from her POV doesn’t make her recaps any less valid or true. Not every LGBTQ viewer wanted Emison as endgame, for very valid reasons. Also, many LGBTQ viewers identified with Paige and Paily. I’m sure there are plenty of reviewers who cheered Emison’s storyline, so maybe don’t get all bent out of shape because of how Heather chose to recap. Not everyone in the LGBTQ community ships the same stuff.

    • I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but LGBT television critics don’t simply exist to serve ships or root for any and all f/f couples. They look at representation as a whole. Paily wasn’t the point of this review. Heather’s discussion of Paige isn’t about that ship -it’s about the character’s painfully relatable process of accepting herself and coming out, because it illustrated how the reviewer was touched by the show.

      Many of us didn’t even have a favourite ship, because PLL did such an awkward job of depicting Emily’s relationships with everyone (even Maya). It didn’t even matter who she ended up with (and this reduction of every show to its romantic endgame is dull as hell) but that none of her romances were treated as well as that of Aria and her deceitful statutory rapist. It’s great that Emison struck a chord with you and that Emison shippers were satisfied with the finale, but that doesn’t mean Heather is obligated to make that the point of her review.

  19. This finale was a disappointment in so many ways, and yet I still teared up at the final scene with the girls. PLL for me has always represented friendship, both in the liars ride-or-die (literally) relationship, and in all the amazing internet friends I’ve made in the past seven years. I wouldn’t have any of that if I hadn’t read your review all those years ago and decided to watch. Thank you Heather, and I hope the next show you recap doesn’t break your heart quite so much.

  20. Heather Hogan, you are a true wonder in this world. These recaps and #BooRadleyVanCullen changed the way I interacted with TV. It is the thing I will miss the most about this show. You helped shape an amazing experience with an often insanely ridiculous show and I can’t thank you enough.

  21. Heather, you made a safe space for us to be and to grow and be funny when we didn’t know that was possible. I remember tweeting along BooRadleyVanCullen when it first came out, and a few straight friends asking me on twitter “what is that it sounds dumb.” and I just screamed because OF COURSE THEY DIDN’T GET IT. When you featured some of my tweets in your AfterEllen recaps, it was like being seen in a world where no one in real life saw me. BooRadleyVanCullen saved my life, literally, and I can’t believe it’s been 7 years of following your success like a proud friend, I am so happy you are happy, Heather. You deserve it.
    I stopped watching PLL after the Charlotte reveal, but I had to come back for this final recap, I was here for your first words on PLL and wrote that I loved them, so I had to come back for your final words and tell you I still love them. Thank you for this journey!

  22. I have so much to say, so many feelings about this ridiculous, hilarious, hot mess of a show, both good and bad, but mostly, those feelings all come down to this:

    Thank you, Heather.

    Thank you for introducing me to this show 7 years ago when I was still closeted and desperately searching for some understanding and representation of who I was or could be. Thank you for your recaps, which were always, from day one, better written than this show. Since the beginning, you understood this show and these characters better than their own creators, and I think you respected them and cared about them more than their creators ever did. You took this show more seriously than the creators ever did. Thank you for your insights, your analysis, for helping me understand things better.

    Thank you for #booradleyvancullen. Thank you for creating a community around this show. In 2010 I was closeted, and watching this show alone in my room with my headphones on and the door closed. But by 2013, I was watching the show with a group of queer friends. For four years, we’ve gotten together almost every week to watch this show, and read your recaps, and follow along with everyone’s tweets, occasionally dressing up in cowboy gear, making each other t-shirts with Spencer’s face and PLL quotes on them and baking each other A-themed birthday cakes. And we’ve maintained that ritual right up until the finale this week. Thank you for introducing me to some of my best friends.

    But also, thank you for calling out this show when it slipped. Thank you for standing up for us when the show let us down, for standing up for your principles when you could have just gone along to get along and maintain the relationships you had with the PLL creative team. Thank you for getting ANGRY when this show was so hurtful. And thank you for sticking it out until the bitter end with us, no matter how far the show sunk. Thank you for the energy and the toll on your mental and physical health that that took.

  23. The first time I read PLL I was 14 and staying with my Grandmother, desperately trying to distract myself from my apparent queerness with whatever YA fiction I could find. I was so furious that this hetero-seeming book had a gay storyline when all I wanted was to forget about it. Fast forward to to secretly watching the show online and deleting my search history like I was doing something wrong. From being in denial, to the closet, my first queer relationship, subsequent breakup and finally finding my feet alone, it’s so weird to be over. The last episode/seven seasons were a mess but I can’t help loving it and the community that exists around it.

    I was totally convinced Hanna was finally going to leave Caleb for Mona for a beautiful second though.

  24. The end of your recap was 100000000x times better than the end of this damn show. I loved it so much, I used to tweet about it (and I never tweet) but yet I’m the end it all went horribly wrong.

    Props to the horse for being like “HELL NO are you coming near me” and also long live Mona.

    Thank you for your writing Heather, I’m glad that some really great things came out of this for you <3 I will miss your recaps though and hopefully something comes along soon which is worthy of the Heather Hogan treatment!

  25. Dear Heather, I read your recaps since 2012 and I don’t watch PPL after the 3rd season but I always read you recaps. I’m from Russia, so life and love was really hard back then. My heart was broken many times, because no one could see the future for two girls in Russia. Your recaps helped me to learn English, because I wanted understand all of your jokes and read about things I couldn’t in Russian (we didn’t and even now don’t have many (good) texts about TV series, too, that’s why I’m trying to write myself about them). And I laugh really loudly every time when I read your texts even in public. I have read Pride and Prejudice for the first time because you commented on smth with a quote from it.
    And one day one girl came to me and said she loved me and she was very aware of who she was. I was scared and hopeless so I wanted to say No. But I wanted to share with somebody your texts and all the awesome TV you write about. So I told her to read your beatufil recaps because she liked TV series as much as I do (Qeer as Folk was her favorite). And then I just wanted to discuss it with her. So eventually I said Yes. And every Valentine Day since then I wanted to write you my endless words of gratitude.
    Life is not very safe and pleasant in Russia (but people around me are awesome and Internet exists). It’s like your last six months in USA but for our last 10-12 years, I’m angry every day and feel powerless. But I have the love of my life and I like TV series the same way I did when I’ve found you and I like your recaps even more. So It felt very appropriate to me to register here for the first time today, not only to read you but to say you the Big Thank You. I’m very happy to know your life’ve changed for the better, too. I wish you well with all my heart. I hope for many years of reading your recaps to come. Be healthy and rich and happy please. (Literally from Russia with love))

  26. RAMBLY DISCONNECTED FINALE THOUGHTS:

    Remember when this show was just about Allison going missing? PLL was never really grounded in reality but as time has gone on it has turned into some sort of Orphan Black-Orange is the New Black-Gossip Girl hybrid, and somehow more problematic than all of those shows.

    There was WAY too much discussion of sperm/insemination. Any lengthy discussion of sperm is basically too much for me. Especially in this teen drama?!

    It’s just generally so weird that they’re all trying to have babies at like 23-25 years old. They have been out of college for 2 years. They have been out of high school for 6. I am all for people living their best life but you don’t have to immediately have a baby with your high school boyfriend. Take some time to figure out your life, girl. You’ve been through enough.

    In this regard, Spencer was the most realistic because she was just riding horses, working a decent but not glamorous job, having ill-advised hookups with her on and off again bf, and discovering a long lost sister. Like we all have in young adulthood!

    Toby having sex with Alex Drake made me immediately think of the episode of Buffy where Riley has sex with Faith in Buffy’s body, and now that I’ve pointed out the incredible similarities between these doofus hunky blonde bfs, I can’t unsee it.

    I was so upset at the way they did Mona dirty. For the umpteenth time. This was a rehash of season 2’s finale/season 3, and the writers doubled down on “Hanna has to choose between Caleb and Mona.” Unfortunately not ending with a Mona/Hanna declaration of love or a polyamorous relationship. In fact, they seemed to punish Hanna for being a forgiving and considerate person towards her friend. Those 2 characters deserve so much more…

    Finally… Was Allison TEACHING A BOOK THAT HER FRIEND WROTE ABOUT THEIR LIVES??? In high school?? You don’t do that! You maybe teach a book that YOU wrote, if you’re a textbook author, but you don’t allow kids to speculate about your personal lives. Also, Ezra was a teacher at the school too! (But everyone works at the school, I guess. Even Jenna).

    I miss the queer antics and friendship and bonkers plotlines of the earlier seasons, but this show has really gone off the rails. I’m glad it’s over, honestly. Now I can devote my time to better trashy shows.

  27. I forgot to mention: thank you to Heather. Your recaps made it possible for me to only watch approximately half the episodes, which is really as much as I can take. And they have always been consistently funny and incisive. This show doesn’t deserve you.

  28. HEATHER.

    This is not a new story, but regardless it’s also mine! Like Yvonne I stumbled on your recaps way back when. I remember looking forward to them after an episode premiered and avidly checking for them to see what fresh & hilarious takes you had that week. I remember snorting, chortling, and bursting out into laughter at my desk, on the bus, walking down the street, and all alone in my apartment. I remember when PLL would premiere I’d be super excited, and then I’d remember “heather’s recaps will also be back!” I found myself watching the storylines and characters through your lens, which honestly made the show much more entertaining (i.e.–looking for the next insane thing aria wore) I DIDN’T EVEN USE TWITTER, but I would search for #booradleyvancullen and like, pretend to know what I was doing because I really wanted to engage with the community, even though I didn’t know how. I still felt a part of it though, because the community you built was full of amazingly funny and inclusive people who made you feel like you belonged.

    Then I found Autostraddle because you started to write recaps there [here!], and wow, I guess that has also lead me to being a part of this community and group, so technically you have impacted and changed my life and I feel really lucky to have been on this journey with you. I’m honestly so fucking grateful to know you and work with you–you are an incredible human and I’M SO GLAD YOU ARE ON THIS PLANET.

    Your PLL recaps were always hilarious and intelligent, and I will truly truly miss them. Thank you. I love you. 1 MILLION HEARTS for you Heather Hogan. YOU GO HEATHER HOGAN, YOU GO!

    <3

  29. Heather!

    I love this so much. I haven’t watched the finale, and don’t know if I ever will, but this feels like such a lovely send-off to a show that meant so much to so many of us.

    I, like so many other commenters, was a totally different person (and totally in the closet) when this show came out. When I made a twitter account back in 2012, it was because following #BooRadleyVanCullen had given me the courage to talk back to the creator of my favorite show. To say, hey, I love this, Emily means so much to me, but it’s kinda fucked up that you killed this much-loved qwoc character and all the straight white people made it out fine. It’s funny, that turned out to be kind of foreshadowing of all the times that we would be forced to hold two things in our hands at once, to look at and appreciate the wonderful things that this show brought us but also to recognize the many, many fucked up things that it would go on to do. But the most important thing to me is that I never ever would have been able to articulate those thoughts and feelings without you, Heather (and everyone else at Autostraddle and AfterEllen and on twitter who pitched in and gave their funny and smart observations).

    I’m a completely different person today than I was 5 years ago. I remember when, my junior year of college, I found out after the fact that Riese had come to my college to give a talk, and I was so sad that I’d missed it, but also I was even sadder that, if I had known about it beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have had the strength to go (all by myself? what if someone saw me there?). This past Saturday, I was at a bar with a gaggle of queer lady friends after the Autostraddle pride party, and I looked around and felt so happy and so grateful. And guess what? Exactly half of those people I had met through #BooRadleyVanCullen!

    I can never say thank you enough, but I can tell you that your recaps, and this one in particular, are to me what that Paige coming out scene is to you. I’ll read it when I am sitting on a Manhattan sidewalk and I need strength, when I am about to do an impossibly hard thing. Thank you thank you thank you.

  30. I’ve been thinking about Paige McCullers a lot lately, and her coming out scene/arc.

    I realised I wasn’t straight seven years ago (incidentally when PLL came out, though I didn’t start watching it until at least 2014). I’ve always been very comfortable with the fact I wasn’t straight – even though I struggled to find a label I felt fit me. I sort of took it as it came, identifying as queer and bisexual and coming out in small ways to certain people – but recently I’ve started to identify more as gay.

    I never thought I’d have a problem saying “I’m gay” but I haven’t said it out loud yet, to anyone. If it comes up I’ll say something like “I’m… not straight”. Every time I think about saying it my heart starts beating faster and I get this awful lump in my throat. I often think about Ingrid Nelsen crying in her coming out video, and I really truly think I will cry when I finally say it out loud. It’s not that I’m scared of how others will react (though I do have some fear about coming out to my dad); it just fills me with emotion that I don’t even fully understand.

    Mostly I think about Paige when this happens because she reminds me of you, Heather. She gives you strength and you give me strength. I read this article at work and it nearly made me cry right there in my office. I don’t know how to talk about PLL with anyone in my life because to me it doesn’t exist outside of these recaps. The language, the inside jokes, the deep love of storytelling that I could never put my finger on until I started reading Heather’s work. These recaps changed my life. I read them back on AfterEllen when I was bingeing the first four seasons, and then when they ended there I followed Heather to Autostraddle and I’ve never looked back. Your writing is honest to goodness some of the best I’ve read, and I always always love hearing your thoughts and feelings about the power of stories.

    It has also introduced me to all of the other fantastic people at Autostraddle. I came here for the funny, poignant PLL recaps and ended up discovering a whole world and community that made me feel less alone, made me laugh, made me cry, and taught me so much.

    So from the bottom of my heart, Heather – thank you. Thank you for letting us into your life. Thank you for putting light back into the world at every opportunity. I know it isn’t always easy, but it means the world to me (and, I’m sure, many many others). You are my hero and you are who I want to be when I “grow up” (I’m 25). I can’t wait to keep reading your work and wish you all the love and happiness this world has to offer.

  31. last time at Mass, our priest explained how to abandon yourself in the hand of God in the way of Bl. Charles de Foucault. He said you had to renounce to your own will and desire, to renounce to your sense of logic and rationality, to not want having a meaning in life, and to just accept whatever comes to you.

    Well, this is a perfect explanation of how I watched PLL in the last 2 years. Renouncing to any sense of logic and rationality, accepting whatever comes to me.

  32. I chose to interpret this whole reveal as an ode to Orphan Black. Made it much more enjoyable.

    Also chuckled at the Sparia shout-out by Alex.

    Anyway, I’m going to miss your recaps so much, Heather! You’re truly one of the wittiest writers I’ve ever come across.

  33. Despite the show becoming an utter shambles that I had to force myself to watch each week, it does feel like the end of an era! Thank you so much Heather for all of your recaps- they made the show so much more than it ever would have been, and they created a space for important dialogue and lots of laughs. It was always so clear how much you gave to them so I am just really pleased they helped you so much too.

  34. Ali could’ve copied the things she said to Paige in 7×15 and it would’ve been a better proposal. Like how she talked about how she wants to be the person that Emily sees when she looks into her eyes. Instead we go the “do you promise to make sure I don’t screw up”-speech. Emily shouldn’t have to “promise” that, Ali should willingly try to be a better person, especially now that she has kids.

  35. “I like your new sex toga,” haha! GOLD. Even people at actual toga parties wear fewer sheets than Emily and Alison do in the two or three “sex?” scenes they’ve had over the entire seven seasons. I mean, I know it’s “new” ground they’re trying to tread lightly, I guess, but… geez.

  36. Heather, I have so loved your writing on this show. I still get into heated discussions at parties defending a show that makes young women and their friendships important. PLL is my favorite queer tv show, even with all of the gross and terrible mistakes the writers made.

    Your work is so so important and has really allowed us to build such a community around PLL and queerness.

    Thank you for holding the show accountable.

    Thank you for calling them out on all of the transphobia and dead naming.

    Thank you for loving the good parts just as much as we do.

    Thank you for never ever letting Ezra off the hook.

    Thank you for everything.

  37. Just read this. I found your PLL recap when I was googling PLL stuff shortly after one of the first few eps aired. It was perfect timing – your writing was spectacular and the Emily, Maya then Paige storylines were what I needed to see myself onscreen and feel less alone. Months before I even got the courage to sign up for an AE/AS account I was reading your recaps. I ended up giving up on PLL for the last two seasons. But I would occasionally still read your recaps. Because they were so good. I am one of those people for whom your writing of one Paige McCullers resonated deeply, and yup, much of your writing during the Paige era will stay with me forever. I have so many quotes from you I keep stored, most are from your PLL recaps.

    I look back on 2010 when you started and I was in my very late 20s, just discovering who I fully was. I was sad, confused, alone and lonely too. I still haven’t found my partner (yet), and I’m not out to most people in my family and most friends from my home country. However, much has improved. For instance, my straight friends know about me and accept me for who I am. My queer friends are good people to hang out and have fun with. I am not hesitant to talk openly about my relationships, crushes or queer life with most people I surround myself with. Even some coworkers know about me. I go to Pride most years. And have even gone to not one, but two World Prides! In 2010, I never would have thought that I’d be going to queer events regularly, with a group of friends, that I’d know all the queer spots, that I’d have dated women (plural), that I’d feel fairly comfortable to be out. In my own city, i.e. the city where my family also lives.

    I also have your previous site and Autostraddle to thank. I’m in my mid-late 30s now and life is so busy that I don’t visit this site near as much as I should. But I am thankful it exists and serves as a community for people like us, a safe place to visit. A place to come to, to feel better and less alone. Much like you re-watching the Paige scenes or me re-watching couples I adore, I personally nowadays tend to come here when I need a little strength or to be inspired. Or, and this was the reason today, just want to find out who are the latest queer women on TV!

    Once again, thank you!

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