Only Pretty Little Liars—master of both scream-inducing shocks and sigh-inducing letdowns—could have a “big reveal” episode where “A” is metaphorically “unmasked,” while literally keeping his mask on. Though “A’s” identity, some guy named “Charles,” was a bit of a letdown (Seriously, isn’t it kind of a cop-out to introduce a brand new character as the girls’ master tormentor?), at least we were given a really satisfying surprise: Mona’s alive. For real this time. I’m starting to think the twist of this whole series is that everyone in Rosewood is secretly immortal.
One of my fears didn’t come true, luckily: I was really worried throughout this Twilight Zone-inspired episode that at the end, the girls were going to wake up from some collective fever dream, and they’d still be in the back of the paddy wagon on the way to jail.
But luckily, “A’s” custom-built, life-sized dollhouse, with all its security cameras and electric doors, is as real and as sturdy as a block of wood—and just as inescapable.
We begin “Welcome to the Dollhouse” with the girls in a van in orange jumpsuits, where prison vet Hanna is telling Emily, Aria, and Spencer what life’s like on the inside. There’s the lady in the laundry room who gives you information in exchange for hard work. Oh, and also, you’ll feel lonelier than you’ve ever imagined you could feel.
Then the craziness begins: The van crashes into something, and a person with a gun climbs into the back, shoots some sort of gas into the wagon, and climbs in. When the Liars wake up, each girl thinks she’s in her own room—but they aren’t their rooms, they’re replicas with concrete outside the windows and doors, blank pictures in the frames, and cheap furniture.
A sterile, woman’s voice comes over the loudspeaker, like an announcement at Disney World: “Welcome. Willkommen. Bienvenidos. Please exit your rooms, and follow the lighted pathway.”
Here is where it feels like The Twilight Zone, or perhaps Are You Afraid Of The Dark? (That show is single-handedly responsible for most of my doll-centric nightmares.) The girls walk down a gray, cement hallway into a replica of the DeLaurentis living room, where a masked blonde is playing the piano. I’m expecting Alison’s face underneath the mask because she’s wearing the yellow tank top Ali was wearing the night she disappeared—but it turns out to be a blonde Mona. “Mona?” she says. “I know it’s been a while, but I haven’t changed that much, have I? You guys, it’s me, Alison.” Clearly she’s playing some sort of game, but the Liars can’t tell exactly what it is.
After suffering so much after Mona’s death, Hanna is in no mood to play along. Mona/Ali sets up a tea party, and continues to say things Ali might say. Aria: “We really thought you were dead.” Mona/Ali: “Thank God for Mrs. Grunwald.” When the girls are asked to play a Mystery Date board game (please, don’t let this be like Jumanji!), Hanna loses it.
She yells at the security camera: “You can have us as your precious dolls, but if you do anything to hurt Caleb, I will kill you.” There are five of them, she says, but only one of “A”: “him, her, it, bitch!” It doesn’t matter who or what “A” is—Hanna Marin has had enough.
At night, Mona comes to Hanna’s room. She’s dropped the Ali charade and warns that they have only three minutes. Apparently that’s how long it takes for the power to come back on—the electric current that locks the doors shut. But this isn’t a moment of hope: Like the boys in Maze Runner, Mona has tried every possible escape route, traveling as far as she can before the power comes back on. If the girls aren’t back in their rooms by the time it’s back, she warns, “A” leaves you without food or water for days, blasting a siren so long and loud that you wish you were dead.
Meanwhile, there are some weird things happening on the outside—possibly even weirder than the Liars being trapped in a life-size dollhouse. Spencer’s parents start working with Toby, Caleb, and Ezra to find the girls, and find “A.” I know: PARENTS HELPING! Such a weird concept in Rosewood. But first, a little bit of mystery: Mrs. Hastings got a call from Melissa, and answered it “Melissa, there’s something you should know.” Cut to a scene of Andrew, in his only appearance this episode (as far as I could tell) listening to the phone call on a laptop. More on this in Season 6, I guess. Something tells me he’s not “Charles,” even though technically, he could be. “Charles,” when we see him later, seems skinnier to me? But Andrew would be strong enough to do all the lifting and throwing of human bodies, as we noted last week…
Anyway, it turns out that some grownups—especially a fast-talking, fast-thinking pair of lawyers—are exactly the type of people who can finally get through to Detective Tanner. Tanner, as Toby tells the Hastings, twists every piece of information you give her to fit her own bogus theories, and I think we are all getting terribly sick of this. The Hastings arrange permission for Caleb to hack into the highway security cameras and track the prison van, which “A” hijacked by “cyberjacking” it (i.e. treating it like a remote control car. More dollhouse stuff, yay).
The line that helped Mr. Hastings finally convince Tanner? “Haven’t you asked yourself how four teenagers could be this good at evading the police?” Um, THANK YOU! This very simple logic has been a long time coming.
NEXT: A teeny tiny “reveAl”