Pretty Little Liars recap: Burn This
As some pieces start coming together, others go up in flames.
Well, Liars, clearly we’re approaching the end of another season because everything is starting to go berserk: Spencer’s dad is back in town (never a good sign), love triangles are continuing to triangulate, there’s a creepy new character who will surely invade my nightmares, and highly unrealistic disasters are exploding all over the place (literally).
The beginning of this episode is all about weddings: 1) None of the Liars understand Ali and Dr. Rollins’ Aria-officiated elopement. 2) Evil Emoji left some unsettling dual-purpose threats in the form of messages on wedding placecards, which not only serve to relay his or her messages — “Give me the killer…” “By election night…” “Or you lose.” — but also prove that Evil Emoji was at Ella and Byron’s second wedding and borrowed Aria’s camera for long enough to set up and execute this whole thing. Oh, and 3) Hanna isn’t really feeling her upcoming bridal shower because having “two monsters” after them really puts a damper on things. I’d say that’s fair.
Spencer is still dealing with the fallout from the Yvonne Phillips abortion leak, which Caleb took the blame for because he’s a living angel. But she gets a lecture from a face we haven’t seen in so long I almost couldn’t place him: her own father, back from… Where was he supposed to be? London with his favorite daughter, Melissa? Off bonding with his son, Jason? (Is Jason ever coming back, by the way? Or is he already back? Is he the person who really killed Charlotte? Whoa, getting ahead of myself.) Anyway, Mr. Hastings tells Spencer she needs to release a statement distancing herself from Caleb. Spencer’s like, “Yeah, right. By the way, tell Melissa to text me,” and Mr. Hastings says that she went back to London. The “office” needed her. A likely story.
Aria is over at Ezra’s, and they’re kind of adorably awkward in their interactions with each other (let me forget the pedophilic origins of their relationship for a sec). Finally, he tells her he pitched the idea to editor Jillian that he and Aria would co-write the book — basically Aria would write the woman’s voice, and Ezra would write the man’s voice. Jillian loved the idea, Aria loves the idea, and Ezra conveniently says he wants Aria to do it because he wants to do justice to Nicole’s voice, and he’s too close to the truth of the situation. Aria will give the book some creative distance.
What a perfect solution to what could have been a very horrible problem. In fact, it’s so easy and such a win-win all around, it didn’t even occur to me as a plausible solution before. Is this too good to be true? Or is the “bad” part going to be that obviously Ezra and Aria will fall back in love and then maybe Liam will…sabotage them? Maybe just be sad? Liam is happy for Aria, but when Aria tries to tell him that Ezra didn’t know he was going to pitch the idea of co-writing until he said it, Liam calls B.S.: “It wasn’t an accident — he didn’t fall off a bicycle. He made a decision.”
He’s right, of course, but here’s my problem with Liam: We have reasons to like Spencer and Caleb together. We have reasons to like Hanna and Jordan. We even have reasons to like Ali and Rollins, I think. But I really could not care less about Liam. I’m not really seeing a spark…so as much as I’d love the show’s message to be, “High school relationships won’t last, especially if you were dating your teacher,” Aria just seems like she’s better with Ezra. What happened to that martial arts instructor guy? They had chemistry! Bring him back!
Speaking of chemistry, Toby goes over to Spencer’s to confront her about Yvonne, and of course, Caleb happens to walk into the room. Spencer tells Toby to let Caleb explain, but Good Guy Caleb doesn’t want to explain, even if it means making his best bro hate his guts. Caleb says he’s “sorry Yvonne is hurting,” but “I did what I had to do,” and Toby responds by… clocking Caleb in the face. OUCH. Later, as Spencer ices Caleb’s face, we are treated to some wonderful lines:
Spencer, with ice pack: Do you want me to do this or not?
Caleb: Not! I keep saying not and you keep ignoring me!
Also, when Spencer suggests going to the police about Sara Harvey:
Caleb: What do you want to do? Tell the police to slap cuffs on a girl with no hands?
Spencer: She has hands!
Ahhh, so good. But the main point is that Caleb says he’ll always protect Spencer and that he’d rather have Toby hate him now than blame him later. What a martyr.
It’s been a weird couple days (or however long a period has passed on this show) for Caleb — earlier, Ashley Marin saw him unsuccessfully try to get a room at the Radley, and after finding out that the hotel was his last resort, invited him to stay in the guest room. (He didn’t take her up on it, yet.) Hanna is understandably furious, despite the fact that she’s living in Lucas’ swanky “smart-loft,” where everything — heat, air conditioning, lights, the fireplace — is controlled by an iPad (this is foreshadowing, by the way). Even though I know this isn’t true, I’d also like to think of the “smart-loft” line as a super meta-reference to the Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House, which starred a young Ryan Merriman, who PLL viewers will know as N.A.T. Club founding member, Ian. Anyway, Hanna yells at Ashley for liking Caleb more than she likes Jordan, and Ashley protests that she just knows Caleb better. Hanna says she hasn’t tried to get to know Jordan at all.
Spencer and Mona have a confrontation at the Brew, now that all the Yvonne stuff has gone down. Mona is outraged — she’s gotten fired from the Phillips campaign, and it’s all Spencer and Caleb’s fault for leaking the information, she thinks. “Accusing people of something you’ve done?” Spencer says. “That does have kind of a ‘Vintage Mona’ quality to it.” Are you sure you want to get on Mona’s bad side, though, Spencer? This is a girl who literally came back from the dead (I don’t care what the PLL showrunners say. They showed us Mona’s dead body in a trunk; then they made her alive again, and I’ll never get over it).
Then things start to get serious: Old “A” liked to focus the harassment on one Liar at a time, and Evil Emoji seems to think the same way. This week, it’s Aria. Tanner shows up at her door and tells her she fits the description from an eyewitness on who placed the call to the DiLaurentis house from the Two Crows Diner. Aria says she already gave her statement, but Tanner pulls an ol’ cop line and says, if she’s really innocent, she can cement that by going down to the station and being in a line-up. She does the line-up, is released, but then conveniently sees Sara Harvey nearby. So she heads back to the station to confront Tanner, asking if the “eyewitness” was Sara Harvey. Tanner obviously won’t name names, but Aria spills coffee onto a folder on Tanner’s desk to get Tanner to move the folder, thus giving Aria a chance to see the witness statement underneath (because a real cop would definitely leave this stuff lying around for the suspect to potentially see). The statement refers to an “attractive brunette” — so every actress on this show besides Hanna really fits the description — but who also carried a keychain of pink dice. Tanner asks if Aria wants to fill out a complaint form, and — in a good moment of realism — Aria starts, “Complaint form?! Five years ago, you found me underground…” but then composes herself, asking to be taken seriously, at least. Tanner assures her that she does…but says she doesn’t need to act on every accusation right away.
NEXT: Emily pulls a Nancy Drew
Meanwhile, Emily has been hearing the rattling sound of the car that tried to hit her 35 times last week all over the place, so she goes to an autoshop to investigate. It’s full of old, scary biker dudes and one creepy mechanic named Patty. She asks if there was a gray SUV there, but Creepy Patty just says, “I can’t help you,” and shuts the discussion down. But Emily won’t give up: Maybe she feels like she has a new lease on life after dodging death repeatedly like some sort of immortal video game character. She sneaks around the shop and finds the car under a tarp, with white paint scratches all over the bumper. She snaps some photos, but Patty catches her. Emily doesn’t lose her cool, though: “This is the car I was asking about,” she says, confidently. “Do you know who drove this?” Patty is like, “Maybe I lent it to a friend. I can’t remember.” So Emily tries something else: She pulls up a picture of Melissa Hastings and asks if this was the driver. “That’s not her,” Patty says. “You need to go.” HER — safe to assume the murder-y “A” is a woman?
Later, while everyone is at Hanna’s bridal shower, Spencer is caught up at home getting lectured by Absent Father once again. “It’s nice to see how much you take our little chats to heart,” he sneers sarcastically. Dude, you can’t just come back here after a whole season and expect her to listen to you! He basically says he’s not asking Spencer to stop seeing Caleb, he’s telling her. Even though she is a 23-year-old lobbyist who can make her own choices and has been dodging various murderers for the better part of a decade. He says something about Caleb not sharing the same value system as their family, and I wish I had a GIF of Spencer’s utterly shocked reaction: “Oh my god — you can say this with a straight face?” The conversation turns to Melissa: “She can kill someone, and you just shuttle her off?” (Earlier, Emily had a really perfect line about Melissa getting some sort of “fugitive discount” on the airfare.) Mr. Hastings explains that Melissa didn’t kill Charlotte; she was simply being blackmailed about the person she really killed, Bethany Young — and the blackmailing started before Charlotte died. In fact, Melissa had just passed along the money the person asked for the night of Charlotte’s death. She and Dad were both “spooked” and thought Melissa would look guilty, which is why they didn’t go to the police. Think that’ll hold up in court? “Sorry, your honor, we were too ‘spooked’ to confess.” I hate these people.
Anyway, Spencer finally gets to the bridal shower, and the Liars are off in the corner talking about blackmail and threats and murder while Hanna’s nondescript “New York friends” drink wine and don’t notice at all. Mona arrives, whom Ashley had been telling Hanna to invite, and brings a sweet present — a scrapbook she and Hanna made in eighth grade about their fantasy weddings. Ashley invites her to stay, against Hanna’s wishes. Ashley tries to make them play an icebreaker game, “How well do you know Hanna and Jordan?” Turns out no one can answer any questions, from where H & J met to where he proposed, which is really heartbreaking and makes Hanna stop the game, calling it lame. (And hurting her poor mother’s feelings.) But THEN — Hanna tries to do something on the smart-loft iPad, and the whole apartment starts blasting angry heavy metal music while the screen shows a malfunction. Then in a flurry of disasters, the lights go out, the air conditioning blows so hard that it knocks over a gift bag of glass that shatters (I did not realize there were A/Cs or house fans that were this powerful, but whatever. Maybe it was Ravenswood sorcery), and THEN the fireplace turns on full blast and Aria falls into the flames. OMG? This was almost as bad as last week’s car chase. I don’t think it tops it, but it’s insane. Also, when Aria goes to the hospital for SECOND-DEGREE BURNS, only Hanna and her mom go, and the other Liars stay to clean the apartment…which seemed weird to me. Why didn’t they all go?
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It’s clear who’s to blame, though: Evil Emoji is true to his or her name, and sends a text, “You didn’t take me seriously, so I thought I’d light a [fire emoji] under your a–.” STOP. USING. THE EMOJIS. Is Evil Emoji actually some 13-year-old we’ve never met? Actually, no, because 13-year-olds know not to use emojis in this weird way if you want to be taken seriously. This isn’t supposed to be like solving a puzzle in the back of Highlights magazine or something. Emojis aren’t code. Just use words, Evil!
Maybe it was because Aria didn’t need the company, I guess: Ezra came ASAP, bearing fashion magazines and snacks and extra clothes (his clothes — oops! Not…) and being totally sweet to Aria. She comes close to confessing that her burns weren’t an accident but doubles back and changes her mind. They bond for a while, but the Liam comes and ruins the whole thing. (He’s nice, but his presence ruins it.)
Spencer gets a text that Toby has a second to meet, so she runs to the Brew — but then we get a serious Spoby flashback. It’s sophomore year in college, Spencer’s Georgetown dorm looks as dreary as the Torture Dollhouse, and they’re waiting for a pregnancy test to show its results. Toby is hurt because Spencer is acting like pregnancy would be the worst thing in the world and something she’d definitely end while he sees it as possibly just moving up their life timeline. It turns into an argument about Spencer not thinking Toby’s being a cop is good enough and how they’re really not on the same page about the future. Looks like the test was negative — when she meets with Toby in the present, she explains that she didn’t want him to think she was judging Yvonne for a decision she almost “had to make” herself — but so was the prognosis for their relationship. What a sad break-up — and also reminds me a lot of Hanna and Caleb’s. It’s interesting that both of these big relationships broke up because the women were choosing their careers/futures and the guys weren’t moving along as quickly.
Anyway, back in present time, Spencer says the thing about not judging, and then confesses that “A” is back — well, “just some copycat version.” She tells Toby that Caleb just didn’t want to put Yvonne and him at risk but that, unfortunately, Yvonne ended up being collateral damage. It’s funny how — even if it weren’t true — I feel like these girls could use “A” as an excuse for absolutely anything (to the people who knew about it, at least) and they could get off so easily. Toby completely understands and asks how she’s doing. Spencer then asks how Yvonne’s doing, and Toby says she’s amazing and really strong. “I guess I have a type,” he remarks on his way out. Sweet — maybe a little flirty — but sweet.
- Hanna tells Ashley she realizes she’s been the one keeping Jordan from everyone, not the other way around.
- Spencer calls Yvonne and says if she ever needs to talk, she’s here.
- Emily and Mona finish throwing out charred trash from upstairs, and as Mona walks away, Emily notices that this “attractive brunette” has…a keychain of pink dice. “Was it you?” she asks. Mona says she can’t talk about it there, and Emily says, “Get. In. The. Car.” She is not messing around anymore.
- Back in the auto shop, Creepy Patty has put the SUV’s bumper back to normal, and when she’s done, reaches under the car to pull out an envelope full of more $100 bills than I could count in a few seconds. I have a horrible feeling that we haven’t seen the last of her.
So, here we are. Do you guys like Liam? Am I crazy? Will Yvonne call Spencer? Why did Mona call Charlotte?! Is Caleb going to stay in the guest room? Was that smart-loft tornado scene as cheesy and strange as it looked? (Yes.)