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'Pretty Little Liars' recap: 'Don't Look Now'

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Eric McCandless/ABC Family

Pretty Little Liars

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
ABC Family

After a couple weeks of almost normal episodes, I am shocked—SHOCKED!—at how much I missed crazy, nonsensical, terror-around-every-corner PLL. Spencer might have killed someone or something in the dollhouse? Bring it on! (Though it will probably end up being just as fake as the “torture.”) Aria is locked inside the darkroom at Hollis? Home sweet home! Before I make more references to things we haven’t covered yet, we do get more answers about Charles DiLaurentis this week, including an example of what kind of demented, terrifying thing he could have done to make his family virtually erase his existence. Yay!

“Don’t Look Now” opens like a busted piñata, just hurling information about Charles out like candy I can’t wait to eat. “Charles is my brother,” Ali tells the girls, as we flash back to her conversation with Mr. D and Jason. Charles was born 15 months before Jason—so they’re not twins—and, Mr. D says, “Your mother and I knew he was trouble from an early age.” By the time Ali turned 1, they knew it was too dangerous to keep Charlie in the house, so they had him institutionalized. You have a question? Ali’s there first: How could no one in Rosewood know there was a third DiLaurentis kid? They moved to town after he was sent to Radley. (Oh. Easy one.) Why didn’t Mr. and Mrs. D tell Ali and Jason? They wanted the kids to have a “normal childhood” (LOL) without Charlie’s antics as a distraction. “He would have consumed our lives,” Mr. D says.

But Radley didn’t give him the help he needed—instead, Charlie got worse. When Ali says Charlie must be the one who set her up for Mona’s (non)murder and kidnapped and (sort of) tortured her friends, Mr. D shuts it down quick: Charles is dead. He killed himself at 16, allegedly, with pills. Hanna takes the words right out of my head when she stops Ali there: “He’s lying…. No body, no grave, no proof.” Ali, always the rope in a tug-of-war between her family and her friends, is on her dad’s side at the moment. “He was ashamed of what he did,” she says. Mr. D tells her he was cremated, and Mrs. D took care of sprinkling the ashes without her husband since he was out of the country.

But Spencer has another great point, as she always does: “He responds to the name Charles,” and that home movie she burned obviously meant a lot to him. So what’s the logical conclusion the Liars draw? They need to find proof of Charles’s death. Isn’t it always like this? Oh, we just need this ONE piece of information, then it’s all solved. Oh, we just need to prove Andrew is A, then we’re good. We just need to figure out who killed Ali, then we’re fine. Yeah… not so fast.

Aria starts googling “Charles DiLaurentis death,” as if a notarized death certificate or New York Times obituary would just pop right up. Byron is home from wherever he is, but now Ella and Mike are nowhere to be found, because apparently there’s some cosmic rule now that no more than two Montgomerys can be in the house at the same time. Byron tries to talk to Aria about her torture and all that jazz, but she tells him she needs to go to the darkroom at Hollis. Alone.

Hanna is at home with Caleb, who’s been sleeping over (I guess when you’re the most present parent like Ashley is, you’re allowed to be the most lenient?). But “sleeping” isn’t really the right word—he just stays up all night to watch the cops change shifts.

Spencer is doing her own research at the Brew, when she finds out that an investment firm is buying Radley, and all the medical records are being sent away… to be shredded (because that is the logical thing to do with hundreds of peoples’ medical records, especially when a handful of them have either been murdered, died mysteriously, or disappeared). Then Spencer has a creepy flashback of the dollhouse: She’s covered in blood. It’s on her hands; it’s on her stomach, but she isn’t wounded. Throughout the episode, she continues to have flashbacks, and we see a bit more each time. Underneath the closet door in her dollhouse room, there’s a pool of blood that’s smeared all the way across the carpet in the room, as if a body were dragged.

Given that this is what’s going on in Spencer’s mind, it’s not that much of a surprise when Aria mentions she threw her anxiety meds away, and Spencer immediately finds an excuse to leave and start digging through Aria’s trash. If this isn’t the sign of a real addiction—or at least a real problem—I’m not sure what is. Covered in nasty garbage, she finds nothing but an empty bottle. Darn.

The girls meet up to find the Radley files, which are in a gigantic building with rows and rows of boxes labeled “FOR DESTRUCTION.” Emily and Hanna have a really weird conversation in the stacks.

Emily: I went to see Dr. Sullivan today. She asked if everything is okay between the four of us. Did you say something?

Hanna: I might have. So, is it?

Emily: We’ll get there.

I thought they already got there when they talked about the fake torture, etc.? No? Ugh. Anyway, Aria finds the Charles files just as easily as she found that photo of him in the button jar last week, but there’s no paperwork past his 16th birthday. Actually, there’s nothing before age 13 either, so we have a slim three years to work with here. His doctor recommended an increase in “Zylotrol,” which Spencer the drug whiz says is for severe depression. There are two visitors on Charles’ log: Mrs. D and Carol Ward, Ali’s great aunt … who died when they were sophomores.

Pause for a quick question: If there were files in Radley labeled “DiLAURENTIS” this whole time—the whole time Mona was in Radley, Spencer was in Radley, Toby was snooping around Radley, DON’T YOU THINK SOMEONE WOULD HAVE FOUND THEM? Please, for the love of Pete, somebody explain this to me.

Caleb meets the girls outside the building—uninvited. “What did you do, follow me?” Hanna asks. “No,” Caleb says. “I put a tracker on your car.” Okay, Hanna thinks this seems a little controlling, but let’s be honest here. If I were just kidnapped and tortured, you better believe every single person I know would have a tracking device hooked onto me, implanted in my scalp, my tooth, anything. Everyone I know would have to know where I was at all times. That’s the only way I’d feel safe. I’ll be honest with you, my mom has a GPS tracker on my cell phone as I type this, and I really don’t mind it. It’s nice to know someone out there would know where I was if someone took me (well, and my phone) off to a remote torture dollhouse on a farm. This is the same question I have with Aria not wanting her dad to drive her to the darkroom. Wouldn’t you want your parent or significant other to know where you were at all times?

Here we have a little montage, shuffling back and forth among Aria and her dad, Caleb and Hanna, and Emily and her mom. Dad and Caleb want to know where their girls were, Mrs. Fields tells Emily that she found Miley Cyrus Sara standing on the roof staring at the sky. “I think we acted too hastily in having her stay with us,” Mrs. Fields says, in what might as well be one of those Captain Obvious commercials. Also, no one apparently cares about Spencer, who isn’t included in this little montage. Instead, she goes to the Brew to ask the new bakery girl for some pot brownies to take the edge off. Better than trash-covered anxiety meds, I think. Stoned Spencer could end up being hilarious.

NEXT: Jason’s mysterious memory


Meanwhile, Ali and Jason, who in the past 24 hours have not only learned that they had a third sibling, but who have also had to turn around and mourn that sibling’s death, continue to bond. Jason is discussing the psychological repercussions of having a brother who your parents told you was your IMAGINARY friend, who disappeared and is now dead. “Would you be okay if you were told your whole life that something you’d seen, with your own eyes, wasn’t real?” Jason asks. “They made me doubt myself.”

When Ali tells him their Aunt Carol had visited Charlie, Jason remembers a time when he was fleeing from Detective Wilden (Oh gee, remember Wilden?), and thought he could go stay at Aunt Carol’s abandoned house. But when he got there, Mrs. D was there, planting flowers on the front porch. “I think I’d like to stay here for a little while,” he told her.

“You can’t do that,” she said. “Plumbing issue.” He pushed it—it’s only one night!—and she pushed back, shutting the conversation down. So, Aunt Carol’s house: Definitely where Charlie was living. But was he living there before or after he allegedly killed himself?

Hanna, Spencer, Jason, and Ali go to Aunt Carol’s to investigate. Why are there so many dirt roads in Rosewood? Aria goes to the darkroom at Hollis instead, because the best thing to do after you’ve been kidnapped and tortured is to go be alone in a nearly pitch-black room. Emily is with her psychotic new girlfriend.

Let’s go with Aria to the darkroom: She’s developing some extremely horrifying close-up photos of dolls that might as well be from the opening titles of Are You Afraid of the Dark? or American Horror Story, whichever you think is scarier. As she reaches for a jar of chemicals, she sees a tube of pink hair paint, with a post-it note on it. Oh no oh no oh no. “You’re my doll, bitch. —A,” it says. Time for Aria to have a flashback, which (in the summer of answers!) explains not only why she suddenly had pink-dyed hair again in the dollhouse, but also why her hair was suddenly short. Charles/A left notes for her in the dollhouse instructing her to dye it, because she was his doll. When she refused, she woke up the next morning to find her hair cut short, with the ends of her hair scattered all over her pillow. A new note: “Dye it now, or lose it ALL.”

So that explains the hair, guys! But now Aria is locked in the darkroom, just like old times! After screaming and pounding, a Michael B. Jordan lookalike named Clark lets her out (someone had put a wedge in the door!) and helps her calm down, and they look at photos together. She sure finds new love interests easily, especially with Ezra still around. Can someone tell me definitively whether Aria and Ezra are still together or not? Thank you.

Back at Aunt Carol’s, Spencer has yet another flashback, where she’s looking at the bloody carpet and closet, screaming into Charles/A’s security camera: “What did I do?! What did you make me do?!” Spencer asks Hanna if she remembers everything Charles made her do. “Yeah,” Hanna says. “Don’t you?” Spencer explains that she could never sleep: In a real, bona fide torture move, a buzzer would go off every time she started to fall asleep, so she was incredibly, incredibly sleep-deprived. Then one night, he did let her sleep—but she woke up to that bloody scene. “What if I really did hurt somebody?” she asks. This is familiar, too, terrifyingly so: Remember when Spencer, and everyone in her family, actually thought she killed Ali? Good times! I’m pretty sure Spencer didn’t kill someone in the dollhouse—if it was real blood, I wouldn’t be surprised if it belonged to a possum or a raccoon or something. But, good fear tactic, Charles/A. And this was not fake torture—sleep deprivation can seriously screw you up, and quickly, too. Look it up if you want to have some real-life nightmares tonight.

Aunt Carol’s house looks sufficiently abandoned, and there’s no electricity. But then Ali and Jason stumble across a headstone that reads “CHARLES – BELOVED SON.” Looks like Mrs. D must have lied to Mr. about having Charles cremated, unless it’s a fake grave, which Hanna and Spencer are convinced it is. “I’ll prove it!” says Hanna, grabbing a shovel and beginning to dig. Ali and Jason cry for her to stop, and Jason points out that there are roots and viney plants growing around the headstone, so “A” couldn’t have just planted a decoy tombstone there to keep them from barking up the “Charles is alive” tree. Spencer is all “oh yeah, the roots are proof,” but I still don’t buy it. How hard would it be to wrap some roots around the grave? RELATED: How hard would it be for Mrs. D to plant a real tombstone as a real memorial, without actually having a body down there? NOT VERY HARD! In fact, it’s also not very weird!

But the show is already sending us down a new route: If Charles is dead, “A” must be someone who was close to him. Charles spent nearly his whole life in Radley, so it must have been someone who was in Radley with him. Which is exactly what we need.

Let’s buzz through some final scenes so we can focus on my favorite one: What Charles Actually Did. Ezra tells Spencer her problems will still be there when the pot wears off. Hanna tells Caleb she needs some space because his keeping tabs on her is suffocating her. I cannot talk about this potential break-up more at this time because they’re my favorite couple and I will cry. Aria starts to tell her dad about how her room in the dollhouse looked exactly like her real room except for the dirt windows, which is a nice, cathartic scene. Emily takes Sara to the pool for a night swim because Sara told her now that she’s out of the dollhouse, she wants to go to the beach and swim in the ocean. They did NOT kiss, even though I’m pretty sure they’re about to be in love. Either that, or Sara might kill her. I’m spinning out theories here.

Now for Charles: Ali and Mr. D are sitting in the living room, and Mr. D says, “You should know why we put Charles in Radley.” When Ali was 11 months old, while Mrs. D was in the garden with Jason, Mr. D put Ali down for a nap in her crib then went to turn the grill on outside. When he came back in, he heard her screaming—his chin trembles as he tells the story—ran upstairs, and found her in the bathtub with scalding water filling the tub fast. And there was Charles, just standing there, watching her slip under. (!!!!) “I don’t want to hear any more,” Ali says. “Let him rest in peace.”

This is what I’ve wanted to know during the whole series, even back when I thought that they were going the “Ali has a twin” route. I was dying to know what the evil kid actually did to be banished to a sanitarium so early, for so long. I guess attempted boiling/drowning of your baby sister pretty much checks that box.

In the closing scene, “A” is eating taffy (is this a clue?). “A” has a tracking device on ALL of the girls—definitely something he could have implanted in them at the dollhouse—and all the blinking red dots are safely in their homes except for one: Emily, who’s at the pool. See, this is why I think other people should also have your tracking device code, or whatever—someone else needs to know at least what “A” knows, and hopefully more! Ugh!

This is already a very long recap, but here is a list of questions I would like to have immediate answers to as this Summer of Answers continues:

  • Is Charles really dead? Could he be metaphorically dead? Are we talking about his soul? Because that, I’d believe.
  • Who or what’s body was in Spencer’s closet in the dollhouse?
  • Is Sara evil, or does she love Emily, or both?
  • What happened in Sara’s past?
  • Is Sara really Sara?
  • Will Stoned Spencer be fun?
  • Why can only two Montgomerys be in a room at one time?
  • Where were the Hastings and Toby? Why does Spencer suddenly only have Ezra caring about her?
  • Are Aria and Ezra dating or not?