'Pretty Little Liars' recap: 'O Brother, Where Art Thou'
Charles' birthday party goes awry.
Anyone else breathing a little sigh of relief knowing the summer finale is in sight? It’s not that I don’t love the show — though at this point, my “love” might be better described as Stockholm Syndrome — but I just want to see Charles’ freaking FACE. And even though for six years it’s felt like the Liars were getting “so close” to discovering “A’s” identity pretty much every episode, this week it actually did feel close. But of course, not close enough.
Let’s recount this action-packed episode, boring parts first: A girl named Claire comes around looking for Sara. Emily had apparently spoken to Claire once before—though for the life of me I cannot recall when that scene supposedly happened—and during that past chat, Claire told Emily that for everything Sara gave, she took two things away. Emily is tight-lipped at first and pretends Sara is at work. But I guess something about Claire’s speech (“Sara and I had some hard times, but she was my friend. No one deserves what you went through. I just want to see her.”) changes Emily’s mind, and she decides they can all meet up after Sara gets out of therapy.
They get cookies, and Sara and Claire are clearly excited to catch up. This, by the way, kind of blows up my theory of Sara being Bethany, since there’s someone who apparently knew her as Sara, doesn’t it? Emily is both super jealous, and also probably feeling protective since Claire didn’t have the nicest things to say about Sara when they met before (SERIOUSLY when was that?). She gets angry when Claire invites Sara to stay with her—an invitation Sara takes, explaining that she’s put Emily and her mom out for too long. That much is true, but I’m mad anyway! I don’t know if I just feel sad for Emily or if Sara was growing on me or what (I know—CHECK ME INTO RADLEY!), but I’m a little sad to see her go. Maybe I just like her haircut.
Onto the action: Ali, mysteriously back from wherever she disappeared to last episode, is in the car with her very sweaty, very mad father, who I finally realized looks familiar because he is the human version of Sam the Eagle. Ali begs to know why her father is taking her away, and he explains that they’re going “Someplace safe.” She finds the card from Charles and reads it, without Mr. D even trying to stop her. “He’s alive,” she realizes. “And he’s coming for us, isn’t he?” ALI. HE HAS BEEN COMING FOR YOU FOR SIX YEARS. I thought you finally understood that.
Meanwhile, Hanna and her mother are discussing college, as is bound to happen when you have the only present parent on the entire show. When Hanna was in the dollhouse, Ashley applied to every scholarship out there — which gave her hope, and a reason to look toward the future. This makes so much sense, because the Marins are normal. I guess the Hastings were also kind of active in looking for the girls, but where are they now, huh? Siberia? Mariska Hargitay Lookalike Camp? Ashley should have gotten custody of the other girls years ago. Anyway, she/Hanna won a $30,000 scholarship from a place called The Carissimi Group, which Jason recommended because Mrs. D used to donate there all the time.
Hanna has a strange feeling because the name sounds familiar, so she does some research, and finds out that the group is connected to Radley. In this week’s edition of This Connection Is an Enormous Stretch, But Fine, she learns that “Carissimi” means “beloved,” which she immediately connects to Charles’ epitaph, “Beloved Son,” as if literally every other grave on earth doesn’t bear some version of that inscription. She basically comes to the conclusion that The Carissimi group must have been Charles’ bank account through Mrs. D, and begs Ashley not to take the money, but Ashley deposits the check anyway, because they need the money and she’s not insane. Or maybe she is! That would be a twist. (She’s not. Her crazy days are behind her, I know it.)
Toby is back! From his “police seminar,” which is a real thing that infant police officers get to attend. Spencer is instantly evasive, even though Toby pulls a line like a swanky ’50s detective: “We don’t do secrets, you and me.”
Mike Montgomery is also back! He comes to Aria, freaking out because he hasn’t talked to Mona since she was “dead.” Aria says she didn’t tell Mona not to contact him. He goes to talk to Mona, who feels stupid because her fake-death plan with all the blood vials didn’t really work, and after some very soap opera-worthy dialogue (“Yeah, I’m pissed as hell at you.” “Yeah, it matters.” “Not to me, not now. All that matters is that you’re alive.” “Look at me, Mona.” *kiss*), they decide to give ol’ M&M another go.
Jason is also back! Lorenzo comes over to see Ali, but Jason tells him they’re out of town. “I tried calling her a couple times. She usually calls me back right away,” Lorenzo whines (a little). Jason goes into big brother mode: “I didn’t know you had a ‘usual,'” he sneers. There’s a creepy red balloon bobbing in the background, and when Lorenzo leaves, Jason finds a little blue plastic frog and an invitation for Charles DiLaurentis’ birthday party, advising him to “Come alone or not at all!” My notes at this point in the episode read: “WHAAAAT! What what what what!” so clearly, this was a great scene. PLL is at its best when there is danger around every corner, and this card, paired with Mr. D’s from last week, gives us a definite indication of at least some sort of action!
I am surprised at Charles’ openness, though. It seems like he’s totally fine identifying himself now—yes, it’s to his family, but really, he’s just going to walk around a heavily-patrolled house leaving notes with his full name written out on them? With red, floaty balloons? He might as well walk around wearing an “A” on his back, right? There were cops in the driveway, not to mention a Lorenzo on the porch. No one thought to look at the single red balloon on the porch? AMATEURS!
Ali is also back to her ultimate, crazy self. At the hotel with her dad, she steals his phone and calls Spencer, asking her to make sure Jason is safe and to get him to change his mind about meeting Charlie. Then… she gives her dad decaf coffee AND DRUGS HIM WITH SLEEPING PILLS. Not a normal thing to do to your dad, who is trying to protect you from a deranged psychopath who tried to drown you when you were a baby. And has been trying to kill you for six years. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Why don’t these girls want protection!?
NEXT: Goodbye, tracking devices!
Spencer, at least, decides she has to tell Toby the truth—with the caveat that Cavanagh (ha) can’t tell Tanner for a whole day. Someone needs to protect Jason, and it might as well be the gun-and-badge-toting someone she’s sleeping with (when he’s in town). Toby spazzes a little bit about not being able to tell, but then he agrees. The Liars, in the meantime, have been slicing the XXL animal microchips out of each others’ necks. Toby convinces Lorenzo to go with him, and after they leave, the girls decide they can’t just sit around and wait (yeah feminism!). Or as Emily puts it, “I didn’t let Hanna perform surgery on me for nothing.”
Back in crazytown, Mona picks Ali up from the hotel where she’s left her father unconscious, and Ali immediately calls 911: “My name is Alison DiLaurentis. My friends and family are in danger. I know who ‘A’ is. His name is Charles DiLaurentis, and he’s my brother.” Okay, this cracked me up. You think the 911 operator just immediately knows what you mean when you say “I know who ‘A’ is”? I guess Rosewood is a small town, but still… that was funny. Also, the police just go to Ali’s house like idiots and walk around saying, “There’s no one here”—until they spot the birthday invitation lying there.
While all this is going on, Jason is alone at the address Charles wrote on the invitation—which, by the way, is on Wallaby Road, a.k.a. almost Wallaby Way from Finding Nemo. Weird choice, writers. It turns out to be an arcade, and Jason walks around calling, “Charlie? Charlie, you here? I came alone, just like you asked.” Eventually, a dark shadow looms larger, and our “beloved” hooded figure comes closer and closer. It seems like the brothers are finally going to reunite—seriously, I thought they were actually going to get to share a brief moment—when Toby and Lorenzo bust in and wreck everything.
Toby, though, is kind of wrecked himself: That stoner baker from The Brew slipped some pot gummies into Spencer’s bag earlier, without her knowing, and Toby found and ate them himself before heading out on this mission. His vision goes all blurry and neon, and as Charles starts launching projectiles all over the place, Toby and Lorenzo both go down easily. The Liars rush in and three of them run straight to Lorenzo’s side (um, what? It only takes one person to ask, “Are you alive?” and the others could have gone after Charles… alas), and then the grown-up police finally arrive to take everybody home.
Toby is really mad at Spencer about the candy drugs, so there is a chance she is going to run crying into Drug-Free Dean’s arms next week. Stay tuned.
Ashley had the best summation of the whole series while lecturing Hanna: “That is not your job! You are a high school student!” This is a line we could use more often. I was also laughing earlier in the episode when the girls were planning a possible Charles confrontation, because literally every time they plot something, somebody brings up calling the police, and everyone else lists all the reasons they can’t. Every single time. It’s like the writers use PLL Mad Libs to write their scripts, and just change around which character says what (this time it was Aria who wanted to call the cops).
At the Montgomery house, where a completely invisible Byron has supposedly already talked to Aria, Mike tells Aria she’s really brave. “Then why do I feel so scared all the time?” she asks. Aria, it’s because somebody is trying to kill you. All the time. Someone has been threatening you for six years. Making voodoo dolls of you for six years. Actually kidnapping you and hurting you, on occasion. If you’re so scared all the time, why are you still going into dark rooms by yourself?! Also I loved that Mike’s response to “Why am I so scared all the time?” was “I’ll leave you alone.” Seriously? Alone time is probably the last thing someone needs when she’s telling you she’s terrified every minute of her life, but I guess he was lost in lovey Mona dreamland. Oh also, Aria is a finalist for that photography fellowship, which I think means she hasn’t actually gotten it yet.
Back at the DiLaurentis house, Ali finds Jason drinking scotch, and tells him not to ruin his life for Charles. (I guess Dad is just back at the hotel, still unconscious.) “You don’t know what I remember, do you? … Every memory I do have, they tried to erase,” Jason says. He always ends up being the most sympathetic character to me. His life might be the most screwed up out of everyone’s, what with the secret parentage and the whole “Oh honey, the brother you remember was an imaginary friend the whole time.” Also, your mom’s dead. Also, you thought your sister was dead, and then she wasn’t. Then, you found out you had a brother, found out he was dead, and then found out he wasn’t dead… Yeah, I think Jason deserves a glass of scotch.
He doesn’t have time to drink it, though, because a child’s voice calls from upstairs, “Jason! Come play with me!” They go up to the attic—you know it’s an attic because there are a bunch of empty picture frames hanging crookedly—and there’s another old-timey projector. (Why does this family take all their home movies on projectors? What year is it? They’re like a decade younger than I am, and all my home movies were at least on cassettes… come on.) This time, it’s a new video: The three kids are a bit older than in the video from the dollhouse, and they’re at the arcade on Wallaby Way Road. Jason and Ali realize they remember that day—their mom took them out of school for a “second cousin’s” birthday, and they had to promise not to tell dad. Charles runs toward the camera, and Mrs. D’s voice says, “Freddie, are you having a nice birthday?” He looks so happy: “Yeah!” But then his tone changes to a fearful one, “When do I have to go back?”
“Go! Go have fun,” Mom says. Next to the projector, they see a note in Charles’s red-marker handwriting: “I wAnted to trust you.” Break my heart, Charles! Now I just feel bad for him. I don’t even care about all the attempted murder. This is really heart-wrenching. I also feel pretty bad for Mr. D, being left out of even these tiny, secretive family memories.
But perhaps the biggest shocker of all comes in the last scene, where a hooded “A” is opening a birthday present: It’s a giant, blown-up picture of the three DiLaurentis kids from the home movie. A card reads: “Happy Birthday. — Your friend and Ally.” Okay, at first I thought the writers were just pulling our leg and changing the way we spell “Ali,” but as some astute commenters have pointed out, the card was from your “ally”… like, your friend in battle. Mona? Lesli? Cece? A Liar? Jason? I want it to be Jason, so they can have a brother bond again.
I can’t wait for next week.