Well, they’re still pretty and they’re still lying… But the fab foursome aren’t so little anymore. This five-year time jump is like a PLL expansion pack: Now, with more cursing! Now, with more hangovers! Now, with bangs! Before we get this recap started, let’s just get our bearings and sort out some of the new from the old.
• Spencer has bangs.
• The “Freeform” commercials… Don’t even get me started.
• Radley Sanitarium is now a swanky hotel, which Ashley Marin promises is totally free of ghosts (yeah, right).
• Everyone curses.
• Everyone drinks.
• Everyone has a job.
• The Liars’ texts show up on screen now, à la House of Cards or Sherlock. So edgy, Freeform!
• Emily’s dad died. Hasn’t the girl been through enough?!
WHAT’S THE SAME:
• Everyone — especially Hanna — still has awesomely cheesy lines.
• Ali and Toby still live in Rosewood.
• Lorenzo is still with the police force.
• Ezra still owns The Brew.
• My eyes still glaze over when Spencer and Mrs. Hastings talk politics.
We begin the episode in the hallowed halls of Rosewood High, where disembodied Liars’ voices repeat some of their best lines throughout the years (“Yes, I know the dead girl who isn’t dead anymore!” “It’s not about betrayal; it’s about revenge.”), until finally we’re in the classroom with Ali. I’m not 100 percent sure how Ali can be a teacher, given that she missed most of high school because she was on the run from “A” / Charlotte, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say she finished school, then breezed through college.
After class, a man named Dr. Rollins (remember in the preview from the end of last season, when Ali writes her name as “Mrs. Rollins”?) comes in and tells Ali, “The judge set a date for the hearing.” He warns her that her friends “may not be sympathetic to your cause” — then we cut to each Liar in her own career, reading a letter Ali has written and sent by hand.
Spencer, naturally, is a political lobbyist; Hanna works for a big-time fashion designer; Aria works at a book publisher; and Emily is a bartender. Ali tries to make her letter all sentimental (“I wanted you to see these words on paper and not on a screen,” she writes), but unfortunately, Ali, it doesn’t seem very heartfelt when you write all of them the exact same letter. Oh, well.
Turns out Ali wants the Liars to come home to testify on Charlotte’s behalf. Ali wants to bring Charlotte home, but she needs the Liars to say they aren’t afraid of her and that they would feel safe even if she were released from the hospital. (In a really quick scene, Charlotte asks Ali, “Do you think they’re still mad at me?” Uh, given the fact that you tortured and almost murdered them constantly for four years…they might be a little mad at you, yeah.)
When the Liars finally reunite in Rosewood, what’s the first thing they do? Take a million selfies, of course, because this is Freeform!! And cool youths looove selfies! (Is this getting old yet? That was my last one, I swear.) They spend a bit of time catching up: Aria cheekily tells Hanna her engagement ring looked bigger when she posted it. (Related: Who’s this Jordan character? I’m going to kill him. Haleb forever.) Emily met some Italian girl and took an extra year to finish college — but really, she tells Toby later, losing her dad made it hard for her to see the point in anything at all. Aria is dating an “adorable” guy named Liam (HEMSWORTH?!). And Spencer was with an ambassador’s son for a while, until there was a regime change. She’s too busy to date (or maybe still pining over Toby).
Then it’s time for the girls to catch up with their parents. Emily’s mom is with a guy named Frank, but they’re “taking a little break” right now. Ashley Marin either owns the new hotel that was once Radley or at least has a very cushy job there (feel free to clarify in the comments, please!). Aria and her dad talk about Ezra — who did go to South America with Emily’s hot Australian friend Nicole, but then Ezra got sick and went home, and Nicole got kidnapped by revolutionaries and was never seen again, leaving Ezra very depressed and late on writing his second book. Veronica Hastings, meanwhile, is doing very well: She’s running for state senate and was apparently inspired to get into politics by Spencer. They have a very boring fight over whether Spencer is or isn’t a lobbyist. I’m just going to say it — grown-up Spencer is a little bit lame. I’m sorry. The other girls weren’t particularly thrilling tonight, either, but I almost fell asleep when Spencer was describing her job.
She redeemed herself when she went to visit Toby’s outdoor wood shop, and they bonded over the fact that they both curse a lot at work because “it’s very therapeutic.” (This is to show us that they’re adults now, if you haven’t been paying attention). Toby tells Spencer that he and Caleb are even better pals now: “We’re the brotherhood of ex-boyfriends. We’ve got to stick together.” He’s building a house, apparently, which Spencer assumes is for another girl — but let’s get real: Toby totally watched marathons of The Notebook and Sweet Home Alabama while Spencer’s been doing big-girl things in D.C., and now he’s building a house to try and win her back. I know it. He offers to buy her dinner before she leaves town, and she says yes.
Finally, the Liars meet with Ali to talk about what she wants them to say — but they aren’t totally willing to be on her side. Emily reminds her that they’re lucky to be alive, but Ali only says, “That’s why your statements mean so much!” She thinks that since they heard Charlotte’s story, they’ll be more sympathetic. They think their scars might beg to differ. Sara Harvey (ugh) apparently isn’t allowed to testify because of how her own criminal charges were resolved, but good old Mona, Ali says, “demanded to be heard. She’s going to talk about the dollhouse and being tortured.” I love the matter-of-fact way Ali says “the dollhouse and being tortured.” Wouldn’t you think that torture would make a pretty strong case for keeping Charlotte locked up?