Back in the early days of Pretty Little Liars, friends and I always used to joke that the first 50 minutes of each episode were almost eye-rollingly boring, but then the final 10 were so ridiculously terrifying they forced us to tune in the following week. Those days have been slipping away for a while now, but after this week, I feel like they’re finally gone. So much went down in tonight’s episode — yes, especially that seemingly fatal car crash in the last few minutes — it’s going to take the careful sleuthing of a thousand PLL fans to figure out what’s really afoot now.
The episode opens on Hanna slipping a $40 fake engagement ring onto her finger. So I guess she’s not planning on telling the girls about her breakup just yet? She’s also sporting something else we didn’t get to see last week: A back covered in burn marks. When Aria sees them, she tries to ask Hanna what happened in the Torture Barn (an accessory to the Torture Dollhouse: available soon at a Toys ‘R Us near you!). “We were all in the dollhouse,” Aria says. “I know what you’re going through.” Hanna, clearly, doesn’t want to talk about it: “It’s not the same,” she says.
The girls are still having a hard time believing Elliot is the one hurting Ali (sometimes I forget that we, the audience, know more than they do). Finally Emily reminds them, uh, if Elliot isn’t the one hurting her, wouldn’t Ali have called her husband and doctor — not Emily? This seems to convince them they need to get Ali away from Elliot — ASAP. Spencer decides to go to their old police connection, Toby, to see if he can find a connection between Elliot and Mary Drake.
When she gets to Toby’s, Spencer sees Yvonne, who very maturely explains she wouldn’t mind Toby helping her — if he’d just tell her what he was doing. (Doesn’t seem like that outlandish of a request to me, but then again, I understand why they always have to keep things quiet, obviously.) Anyway, Toby isn’t available just now: They have family coming over to celebrate their engagement, Yvonne explains. Now Spencer notices the bling on Yvonne’s finger (can we still say bling?), and quickly congratulates her and gets out of there.
Seeing Toby and Yvonne’s happiness inspires Spencer to confront Caleb about how distant he’s been since Hanna’s kidnapping. (That sentence sounds ridiculous when I read it back over, but there it is.) Caleb explains that he felt responsible, since he was supposed to keep her safe. Spencer, ever the mind-reader, says, without blinking: “Yeah, but she’s back now and you still seem distant. I keep asking myself why. You two were alone together that night. Did something happen?” Caleb says they kissed, and Spencer is understandably angry. She also gets to yell, “We’re not in high school!” which I think must be immensely satisfying for these 20-something actresses to finally say.
The other girls are at Welby, which appears to be even worse than Old Radley ever was, since Elliot was able to put some sort of Hannibal-Lecter mask over Ali — and also since he’s able to torture her and inject her all the time, and nobody ever notices. Case in point: When the Liars confront Elliot’s boss, Mr. Freeman (ironic), and express their worries that he’s abusing Ali it takes legal threats on the Liars’ part to get Mr. Freeman to even check on her. Apparently she looks normal, and she’s only taking one drug. Great!
To add to the case against Elliot, Spencer calls Jason, who had no idea Ali was at Welby, despite ostensibly signing off on the decision. Meanwhile, the other girls are mad Spencer hasn’t asked Toby to look into Rollins and Mary Drake yet. She brings up a very interesting point, which, thus far, only applies to Toby: He’s engaged. He’s really not connected to the girls anymore except as friends. To what extent is he really obligated to be involved at this point? He used to be involved because ‘A’ blackmailed him and Jenna and all that, then he was dating Spencer. But now… what? Shouldn’t he be allowed to be free?
But back to the task at hand: Freeing Ali. A week late, the girls realize, oh wait, perhaps the fact that Aria and Ezra saw Rollins opening up a locked trunk in the bedroom might be important? Perhaps Aria, who knows where he hides the key, should investigate? So they go, and in the trunk Aria finds some syringes, a bunch of jars of drugs, and an array of old-fashioned tools that look like they’d give you about eight different strains of tetanus. She snaps photos of everything — plus a cryptic recipe of sorts and a credit-card bill in the room — and narrowly escapes Rollins’s return thanks to Hanna and Spencer’s stalling. Of course, this couldn’t have gone that smoothly: Aria drops the key into the wrong lamp thing. Or as Huw Collins, the actor who plays Rollins, tweeted: “Oopsy, wrong sconce!”
While Aria was risking her life and a few diseases, Spencer and Hanna were having a heart-to-heart outside. Spencer asks where Jordan is, Hanna says he’s swamped at work, and then Spencer dives in. “Caleb told me what happened between you two,” she says. Hanna is sorry, and Spencer says she should have told her she wasn’t over him. “It was a huge mistake,” Hanna says. “Caleb is my past, and Jordan is my future.” Is this something she still believes? I highly doubt it… but I also hope we haven’t seen the last of Jordan.
Back at the home base, the girls are sifting through Aria’s photos and trying to figure out clues. There’s a charge on his credit-card statement for an Amish bed and breakfast, which lines up with the week Ali went to Elliot’s family farm. Aria wants to see if anyone in the community will talk to them, while Hanna has doubts. They go anyway. Have they never seen one of those horror movies where everyone in the small town is somehow in on a crime? You know, when the group closes in around an outsider and that outsider is never heard from again?
In the car on the way to the middle of nowhere, Aria confesses to Hanna that she broke up with Liam and is basically with Ezra now. She asks Hanna if she’s going to tell Jordan about what happened to her, to which Hanna is like, uh, obviously not. “I want to forget the hell that I went through, not re-live it,” she says. “If I do, I’ll never stop crying.” Sounds like an honest answer to me.
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The next time we see them, Hanna is saying, “Well, that was a waste of time,” and Aria is like, “How was I supposed to know they wouldn’t give us any information?” (Maybe because that’s exactly what Hanna said before you went?) But then they see a young Amish girl watching them, and Hanna goes for it.
The girl, Eliza, says she’s not allowed to talk to the English, but she keeps doing it because she thinks Hanna’s pretty. “You look like my dolls,” she says. “What dolls?” Hanna asks.
“The ones Charlotte gave me.” Oh. Jackpot.
NEXT: “This is Alison — she’s my favorite.”
Eliza proceeds to get out all her dolls, which are Barbies with the names of all the Liars. “That’s Emily. This is Alison — she’s my favorite.” Why is Alison her favorite? “She looks like Charlotte.” Through Eliza, they find out Charlotte and Elliot came to town all the time — and she once saw them kissing, even though she wasn’t supposed to tell. The little secret-telling session gets broken up quickly, though, when a man comes near and Eliza tries to hide her Barbies, because “We’re not allowed to have dolls with faces.” Aaaaand queue my new set of recurring nightmares about faceless dolls! Unfortunately, they don’t get out before the old man sees them and says, ominously, “I think it’s best you go now.”
On their way out, Hanna sees a bunch of tools hanging on a fence and stops dead in her tracks. She has flashbacks of her time in the Torture Barn, and finally explains to Aria that one of those tools, a cattle prod (which Aria identifies insanely quickly) is what her captor used on her. “Elliot will pay for what he did to you, I promise,” Aria says. Be careful what you wish for…
While they’re in Amish country, Spencer has been poring over Aria’s photos from Elliot’s trunk. The recipe she found wasn’t exactly edible… turns out, it was a recipe for latex. Yeah, latex — as in, what those impeccable masks of Hanna and Wilden were made out of. Say what you will about Elliot, but we have to admit the man is clearly the most talented mask-maker in Pennsylvania, if not on this entire planet. She takes a quick break from research when Caleb wants to talk about what happened earlier — and they talk about how they both want to be together, Hanna aside. But Caleb likes Spencer, and Spencer loves Caleb, so they seem to be at a crossroads. A bad, cheesy, rom-com crossroads: “I want to be with somebody who thinks about me first thing in the morning and last thing at night.” Spencer, you’re better than these lines! Caleb begs for another chance, but Spencer doesn’t think she can give it. (I have a feeling she’ll give it.)
While Spencer’s doing that, Emily has plans of her own — and they involve crashing Toby and Yvonne’s engagement party to get Toby to do some police-database hacking for them. After that, Emily and Spencer look back at the drugs. One of the jars is almost gone, and it used to be full of a drug similar to speed that can cause “delusions and thought disorders” with high, frequent doses. Spencer puts two and two together, and realizes “Ali wasn’t crazy when she went into Welby, but he’s making sure she is now.”
Then, Emily confesses to taking Spencer’s evidence folder to give to Toby, and the girls discuss why and why not to talk to the police (guess which side they landed on there). Elliot sends them an “S.O.S.” text and a pin of his location — but somehow Aria immediately realizes it’s probably Ali sending those texts, and not Elliot. That’s definitely not the first conclusion I would jump to, but luckily she’s right.
Good-guy Toby is doing the Liars’ dirty work instead of hanging with his new fiancée, but Yvonne doesn’t seem mad… just disappointed, maybe. It might be worth it, though, from what he finds: Elliot Rollins got a moving violation in Rosewood… in 1958. Um, what?
Ali’s fake-sleeping in the passenger seat while Rollins drives her in the woods, with his creepy Amish tools packed away in the car. But when the car stops, she springs awake and bashes his head into the window, then gets out of the car and starts sprinting. Ali has been a fighter this week! Between her escaping from Rollins and Hanna escaping the Torture Barn on her own, is this season going to be more about the girls saving themselves through sheer forces of will? Either way, I’m super impressed.
The other girls had been in another vehicle following Elliot’s car, and they’re still racing when they realize Elliot’s GPS dot has stopped. Ali runs straight past them, but by the time they pump the breaks, Elliot is directly in front of the car — and they can’t stop fast enough. In a flash, he flies over the hood of the car and lands with his head, eyes unblinking, smashed through the windshield. There doesn’t seem to be any indication this dude is alive… especially given the panicked, grave-digging scenes from next week (ostensibly what we saw in the season 7 trailer).
So here’s my main question: Is Rollins dead? (Or is he a ghost from 1958?) On one hand, it seems…obvious. But on the other hand, Mona once came back from the dead after we saw her corpse. And also, if Rollins was the best mask-maker of all time, couldn’t he have put a mask of his own face on somebody else and made them drive Ali out into the woods? I know it’s far-fetched, but remember when he was wearing that Wilden mask? That WAS Wilden! Remember when Hanna was hanging in the bell tower? That WAS Hanna!
Another question: Where was Mary Drake this week? Did she finally realize that if she has the exact same face as her murdered sister, Jessica, maybe she should stay on the D.L. in this small town?
Also, where’s Sara Harvey? Did I forget something? Last I remember she was super suspicious, and now she’s just absent? I want your answers — and your theories, please!