Well, this episode’s purpose was definitely to build tension—but not to come to any conclusions. Kind of figured this was the point when black-hooded “A” appeared right smack in the middle of the show, as opposed to showing up in the last 10 chilling minutes. (I mean usually the last 10 are chilling. Tonight, not so much.)
Let’s get to it then. We open with Ali in conversation with the Liars, as they discuss why the TV news / police don’t just use age progression software to figure out what Charles would look like now. (Yes. Duh. I think someone brought this up in the comments before, and you get a prize.) “Maybe someone could put a face to the name,” Spencer says, and Hanna, firing on all cylinders as usual, says: “And maybe someone can put a fist to that face.” LOVE IT.
Ali is understandably conflicted about her “brother” the whole episode. She tells more about the arcade birthday party from the home movie: “Charles gave me his frosting. How does that turn into vicious?” Charles (well, “Freddie”) cried when it was time to leave, and said it was the best birthday he’d ever had. But Hanna won’t take Ali getting all sentimental about a sadistic serial killer. “I’m sorry, Alison, this must really suck for you, but I’m not going to sit here and help you give ‘A’ the benefit of the doubt.” Go. Hanna. She tells them she’s only saying what everyone else is thinking, and no one argues—not even Ali.
Hanna continues to take matters into her own hands, as she and Spencer visit The Carissimi Group to try to return Hanna’s scholarship money (oh, and to try to snoop around). At the super secure office, they meet with a “Rhys Matthews,” who tells them it’s unlikely they’ll get to speak with his boss, Mr. Carissimi. Rhys only has a conference call with him once a week. Hanna snaps a photo of him to show the others. This Rhys fella seemed creepy, as all new characters on this show do, but to be honest, I got Drug-Free Dean vibes from him before Spencer and Hanna exclaimed that he “looks exactly like a DiLaurentis.” I guess it’s the eyebrows? I just feel like he can’t be Charles because… he’s good-looking. But hey, for every demented John Wayne Gacy, Jr., there’s a handsome Ted Bundy. Still, it would be too easy for them to come face-to-face with him at the front desk of The Carissimi Group, right?
While Spencer and Hanna are doing some hardcore research, Aria and Emily are having some girl talk about prom. Aria wants them to go as friend dates, but Emily wants to ask Sara. Sweetly, Aria suggests they go as a group. All this talk might be moot, however, because apparently the school emailed the Liars’ parents and strongly suggested the girls skip prom this year. It’s unsafe for the other students, I guess… even though just living in Rosewood seems to up your chances of being randomly murdered by like 75 percent. Although I guess your chances of “rising from the dead” are higher than they would be in a normal town, too: Mona… Ali… Charles…
Aria’s mom (she drew the extra-Montgomery short straw this episode and is obviously the only one to appear, while dad is, at one point, “upstairs” and Mike is at a “sports banquet”) is afraid of letting Aria go to the photography gallery show that comes with being a finalist for that fellowship, but Aria convinces Tanner to put extra police presence at the gallery. This means nothing can happen, because “A” mostly only shows up when the girls are alone and in dark forests or basements…. EXCEPT THIS TIME!
Cut to a scene of black hoodie “A” watching security footage from inside said photo gallery. This is about midway through the episode, which is basically unheard of—”A” never appears this early! But wait, there’s more: In comes RED COAT “A” to sit down next to black hoodie. This. Is. Crazy. Even if one of them is Charles—WHO IS THE OTHER ONE? My money is on CeCe or Mona, but then again, who even knows? Maybe Jason made contact with Charles after the failed birthday party after all, and he put on the red coat (or cape). Jason was absent this episode, so it’s possible. Either way, I think it’s safe to assume this was the “ally” who brought Charles the birthday present at the end of last week.
The gallery is crawling with police, and all the Liars are there to support their formerly pink-haired friend. Too-close Clark is there too, because he’s a finalist as well—although he has no family there to support him. Kind of sad, but mostly scary. Aria asks Ezra to prom “as a friend,” but before he can answer, Emily’s Australian friend Nicole sidles up to Ezra—clearly, there’s something going on between them. Ezra tries to play it off later (“I knew she liked photography!”) but it’s pretttty obvious he’s finally got eyes for someone his own age—despite the raging jealousy he showed over Clark and Aria earlier at The Brew.
NEXT: “A” has a special message…
Soon, it’s time to introduce the finalists, and Aria is first up. As the spotlight flashes to the wall to unveil Aria’s creepy doll photos… A GASP RUNS THROUGH THE CROWD! Aria’s doll photos aren’t on the wall: Instead, there are four tall portraits of the Liars, unconscious, lying naked (covered in sheets) on those metal operating tables from the dollhouse. Look, I don’t want to say these are better than Aria’s art… but they might be better than Aria’s art. Anyway, everyone gets some frightening PTSD/flashbacks to torture-time, and the show closes as police begin their investigation.
Tanner immediately starts decoding the message underneath the photos: “Stolen Dolls (No Son Lindas).” Her tone seems eerily calm to me, but maybe it’s always like this. She explains to Aria and Ella that the Spanish phrase can either mean “They aren’t pretty” (which is a total lie because Aria looks super amazing at the gallery), or “They aren’t Linda’s”—Linda being Tanner’s first name. Apparently Tanner grew up in a bilingual household—okay, this is like on The O.C. when we would get away from the teens’ problems and start talking about the parents’ problems, and I literally cannot make myself care, but I am trying—so “A” is trying to prove that as much as Tanner can find out about him, he can also find out about her. She might be reading a little too deeply into this, but then again, “A” rarely does something without over-calculating every tiny piece. Ella is finally acting like a mother again: “He did this to these girls! He was in this building!” But Tanner calmly says she has to go back to the precinct.
While all this is happening, Ali has been playing housewife for Lorenzo, who got injured last week in the arcade. She’s made him soup, she does his laundry… It’s all very cute, until evil Ali emerges from her soft sham of a shell. Lorenzo tells her she can leave because he’s about to take meds that will knock him unconscious, but says she can come back with his spare key. (So he’s their age, but has a career and his own apartment? Yeah, he’s NOT their age.) Ali being the type of girl who drugs her own father, it’s not too shocking what happens next: She steals Lorenzo’s police ID and uses it to enter a nearly-deserted Rosewood Police Department—presumably, almost all the cops in town are at the gallery?
Ali scopes around Tanner’s office, where words like “JEALOUSY,” “BRILLIANT,” and “PUNISHMENT” appear on a dry erase board. Andrew Campbell’s head has a big X through it. Why even leave it on the board?! Clearly they’re making a lot of progress. She’s sifting through an evidence box, landing on a silver baby rattle, when who else but Tanner walks through the door. This honestly might have been the most shocking moment of the episode for me, because Ali NEVER GETS CAUGHT. Anyway, Tanner tells her she crossed a line, and says, “This is the last place I expected to find you,” which I don’t believe for one hot second. A great comedic moment: Ali says she didn’t touch anything, yet she’s still holding the rattle. Oh, you dummy.
Then Tanner and Ali try to psychoanalyze Charles a bit: Ali thinks he kept the rattle because maybe he feels bad about trying to hurt her when she was a baby. Tanner bursts that bubble real fast: “In my experience, murderers can be as sentimental as mothers. Personal items can help them focus on their victims. To your brother, that is a piece of you: as intimate as hair, teeth, or skin.” That is disgusting, but very true, and makes a lot of sense. Still hard to tell whether Charles deserves sympathy or not, but from that description, I’m leaning toward “not.” (Plus there’s all the murders and torture and stuff.)
Spencer, Emily, and Hanna are still working hard to figure out what is going on in this twisted universe they call home, so they follow Rhys “DiLaurentis” Matthews to AN ABANDONED DOLL FACTORY. What kinds of towns actually have abandoned doll factories just sitting around? Is Pennsylvania a really big state for doll collecting? How many creepy doll stores and creepy doll factories can there be within driving distance? The girls, smartly, stay in the car this time, but they still stick around long enough to see Over-Eager Clark enter the factory shortly after Rhys. Would Clark look good in a red coat? No. He’s too new, and too random. I doubt he’s really involved.
So, Lorenzo is probably getting fired because of Ali. She tries to explain that Tanner said they were going to use “lethal force” on Charles when they see him next: “They’re going to kill my brother, and I don’t even know him.” In another great line from this episode, Lorenzo says, “I’m one of them, Ali.” He wishes she would have asked him for the card; she knows he would have said no. I think it’s safe to say Alorenzo / Lorenzali is broken up. See, they had a stupid name anyway, so they had to break up.
Somewhere across town, the only present Mama Bears this episode, Ashley Marin and Ella Montgomery, are convening—next to a kitchen window, obviously. “The police are not doing enough,” Ella says. “We need to do something…. We have to protect our girls.” Red coat “A” is watching through the window. Why does nobody ever turn toward the windows?!
The police ARE doing something, though: We see Tanner zooming in on security footage from the gallery, where an un-hooded figure is approaching the wrapped up pieces of art which I assume are the Liars’ death portraits. It’s only the back of a head (and it sure does look like Rhys’ head), but it’s something.
Finally, for the last glimpse of “A”: Black hoodie is in the backseat of a limo, with a case of filled syringes. Yay. When the partition rolls down, who’s driving? Red hoodie “A”, of course. And s/he’s got two tickets to Rosewood’s prom. Theme: The Enchanted Forest. Early thoughts for next week… Does it really have to be another school dance? I am so sick of haunted school dances… but fine. Fine. The season’s almost over, I guess I can take one more freaking dance. But I swear, if anyone is wearing a mask, I’m going to stab my TV.