This week’s episode starts off with last Tuesday’s closing thought: Andrew might not be as guilty as the Liars want him to be. If Sara was trapped for two years, they wonder, how could Andrew have been with her in the dollhouse when they saw him at school every day? As Spencer puts it, “You can’t exactly ask for a hall pass to go feed your hostage.” True, Mona was apparently stalking them in season 1 while happily attending Rosewood High and shopping (shoplifting) with Hanna, but the dollhouse seems a bit too elaborate to have been left unmanned while Andrew was a participating member of about 9,000 Rosewood afterschool clubs. I laughed out loud at the Rosewood Yearbook’s title: Rosewood High: Best Years of Your Life. Oh yeah. The very best.
Someone who’s probably not pictured in that yearbook? Sara Harvey, who is hanging onto Emily and Mrs. Fields like a lost puppy. Emily skips school to hang out with her, then gives her a burner phone (because we all keep those lying around) so Sara can text her whenever. Some brief notes on Sara: I don’t think the actress is that great, they do her makeup like she’s the girl on iZombie (or crazy Spencer), and I just want her to get out before she does something really insane. Yes, I’ll admit, I’m kind of curious about her past—she tells Mrs. Fields her mom gave her things away after Sara was missing for a year, but it wasn’t out of mourning, it was just because she needed the space. But I’m not curious enough for this random girl’s problems to become a priority, when the DiLaurentis family is seeming more screwed up than ever.
But first, let’s check in on how the girls are coping post-torture this week. Hanna seeks out therapy from the one and only Dr. Sullivan, who, you’ll remember, Mona threatened extensively when she was “A.” Dr. Sullivan must have some sort of death wish if she’s coming back to Rosewood after all that, and trying to work with these same girls. But again, Hanna seems to have the most normal post-torture reaction: therapy! She promises to round up the rest of the girls for a session.
Ezra convinces Aria to play hooky at the coffee shop. After the years of off-and-on (and that whole “Ezra sort of dated Ali, and knew Aria was in high school when they first hooked up, and stalked all the girls” thing), sometimes I can’t remember if they’re together or not anymore. But they are. Aria is still torn up about Andrew, the guy she thought she knew, and Ezra calls the hospital pretending to be a detective to try to get information about Andrew. It turns out they can’t even find out his birth date because [drumroll, please] ANDREW WAS ADOPTED.
Pause. If he were adopted, Andrew could be Charles. If he were adopted, Andrew might be a completely different age than we’ve thought (he has always looked a little macho, even for a farm boy). If he were adopted, Andrew might have a reason to hate the DiLaurentis family for giving him up. Alas… if only it were that easy.
Here’s something that might be easy: Ali and Lorenzo. They run into each other again: Lorenzo wants Ali to coach a girls’ soccer team. Ali doesn’t think it’s such a great idea: “Being a leader of girls hasn’t worked out for me.” Toby watches them through the window of a coffee shop, brooding. Later, Toby tells Spencer Ali needs to keep away from Lorenzo. Spencer tells him people can change, but Toby disagrees: “You know she has a history with cops, and anyone else she can use. … If you can tell me you completely trust her, I’ll drop this whole thing.” Good point, Toby, good point. But can’t Ali and Lorenzo just be together? Can’t we just get a little glimpse of the fun, teen show this used to be when Hanna and Caleb started dating, or Emily and Maya? Much later in the episode Spencer and Ali have a girly chat on the porch about Lorenzo, and how Ali might want something to happen with him. It made me so nostalgic for the old days. It’s a sweet, real conversation, and I’m still a little shocked at how badly I want Ali and Lorenzo to have a normal relationship. Wouldn’t that be more shocking at this point than more torture, or another death?
But we need to back up a bit, to Spencer and Ali fighting. Spencer wants Ali to push her dad until he tells her who Charles is, Ali wants to drop it, so Spencer goes straight to her half-brother. Jason, at first, says he knows nothing about a Charles DiLaurentis. But at the last minute, he seems to have a flicker of memory. “No, it’s a coincidence,” he says, dismissing it. Spencer prods, and then he says he knew a Charlie when he was little. But then he drops a bomb: “Charlie doesn’t exist.”
NEXT: More about Charlie
Spencer reports to the girls, who are waiting outside Dr. Sullivan’s office for their group appointment (anytime Dr. Sullivan is alone, I think she’s about to die. Anyone else feel this?). Charlie and Jason were friends when they were little, because Charlie was Jason’s imaginary friend. And what’s eerier than that? One day, Mr. DiLaurentis told Jason Charlie “had to go away,” and then Jason never saw him again. So Mr. D. was definitely lying—and is definitely hiding something about Charles.
Just as Spencer is finishing the story, Emily gets a “FaceChat request” from Sara on the burner phone. It’s a video of Sara, sleeping, as a gloved hand lowers a knife over her body. Then a black screen: “Mention me and someone dies. You have 30 seconds to leave this room.” Guess therapy will have to wait… again.
The girls race to Emily’s to check on Sara, who’s emerging from the bathroom after her millionth shower of the day. All’s well for about 40 seconds, until Mrs. Fields comes home and tells the girls Andrew Campbell is getting out of jail. How is this possible? Well, as you might remember from last week—the cops have no case against him. Apparently, Farm Boy has an alibi for the night Mona was taken, and when Sara Harvey went missing, he was having his appendix out. “That person is still out there,” Mrs. Fields warns. “You girls need to take precautions.” Aria is still clinging onto the idea that Andrew is Charles—”He could have made the call!”—but even she seems to know the even more terrifying truth. As always, the girls are still in grave danger.
It’s time to tell the truth to someone else who’s in danger: Ali. They tell her about Charlie, and she replies, “Jason always said something was missing from this family. I always thought he was talking about himself, being left out of photo albums… But maybe he wasn’t the one that was removed.” They hunt for Ali’s parents’ secret hiding places in the house, looking for any proof of Charlie’s existence. Aria, of course, finds a photo hidden in a jar of buttons, where she used to hide stuff when she was a kid (naturally?). The photo shows Mrs. DiLaurentis with baby Ali and the two blonde boys—it was clearly taken on the same day as the home video Charles played in the dollhouse, the one Spencer burned.
The girls find themselves in front of City Hall, just as Andrew is being release from jail. He is livid. “Do you know where I was the three weeks they were trying to find me?” he yells at Aria. “Looking for you! I was going to be the hero. Instead I get arrested… Because I wanted to help you. Because I didn’t believe what people said about you and your friends.” After a sufficiently awkward exchange in which Andrew references graduation and the girls say, “If we graduate.” Andrew says, “The school wants you gone as much as the rest of us.” And then a zinger: “Other towns have nice toxic dumps. Rosewood has you.” Ouch.
In Andrew’s wake, the Liars have a heart-to-heart, the therapy session they needed earlier, but without Dr. Sullivan. It turns out each of them thought she was the only one with those torture switches in the dollhouse—because none of them were ever shocked. So for the commenter from last week who thought “A” was only fake-torturing them, YOU WERE RIGHT! I so, so wish there was a prize to give you! “The point was, we thought we hurt each other,” Spencer says, realizing. “That’s what Charles wanted us to know: There was a point that we would do it.” Don’t worry, Liars, anyone who’s heard of Milgram’s electric shock experiment won’t be surprised this was possible—and those people weren’t even at their breaking points. They were just following arbitrary orders.
The best scene, as usual, was saved for last: Ali sits alone in the living room, sliding the photo of the two boys into a glaringly empty slot in the family album. Jason walks in, and they exchange a quiet “Hi” before Ali shows him the photo. This scene gave me goosebumps. Finally, I don’t know why it’s taken this long, but the family feels real to me. Think about what they’ve been through! Ali was kidnapped. Jason’s father isn’t even his father. Mrs. DiLaurentis buried her daughter alive. Mrs. DiLaurentis is dead. And now, with the revelation of Charlie, the darkest secret in their trove of shadowy lies is finally coming to light. I felt more of a bond between Ali and Jason than ever before—it’s like this glaring hole between them, a possible third sibling, either dead, missing, or sadistic—is, understandably, pulling them closer.
When Mr. DiLaurentis comes home, Ali and Jason hound him until he can’t wiggle out of answering. “Who is the other boy in this photo?” Ali asks. Mr. D. sits down and starts talking, but all we can hear is Ali’s “WHAT?” And as the broken family tries to talk to each other… a hooded figure watches from outside the window.
FINALLY I’m not disappointed by every episode! Finally it feels like we’re getting somewhere! I hope we’re not disappointed.