Pretty Little Liars recap: Game On, Charles
Welcome back, Liars! It’s our first episode in the apparent “#SummerofAnswers,” and I just want to say off the bat that I’m so glad we spent almost the whole hour still in Charles’ dollhouse. As much as I obviously wanted the Liars and Mona to escape, I’m glad we didn’t start the season months later with a cursory explanation of what happened. Still, our “answers” didn’t really come this week—just a loooot more questions.
First question: There’s a new girl (well, to us) in the dollhouse, looking freaked out and a little feral, wearing that yellow tiered tank top Ali was wearing when she went missing. Rows and rows of tallies on the wall tell us this girl’s been here for a long time, but who is she? We’ll find out later.
The girls, still in their prom dresses, are locked outside after their attempted escape. We don’t know how many days Charles has left them out there, but it’s enough for them to make disturbingly serious comments about drinking their own pee. PLL has always been sort of terrifying, but this episode approached horror movie levels. After “A”/Charles (not really sure which to use at this point) lets them back in, he sprays a gas that knocks them out and grabs Mona. Next thing we know, the Liars are waking up on metal tables covered in white sheets, like they’re in a morgue. “I think ‘A’ wanted to make us look dead to send a message to our families,” Spencer says. Mona walks in dressed as a candy striper, playing her “Ali” role again.
When the voice on the loudspeaker says, “Please return to your rooms and find your surprises,” a newly defiant Mona says, “No!” into the security camera—but quickly obeys anyway, explaining that if you disobey, “‘It’ steals you in the night and puts you in the hole.'” Over the course of this episode, Mona gets pretty familiar with this hole.
Second question: What happened to the girls when they went back to their rooms?! After each of the Liars went into their respective rooms, they gasped and screamed in utter terror—and then the episode jumped to three weeks later. In the next dollhouse scene, the girls emerge from their rooms wearing their season 1 outfits, and Aria says, “We cannot talk about what we just went through.”
“I don’t know if I could even find the words,” says Spencer. Clearly, we aren’t going to find out what happened in those rooms for a while, but I’m not even sure I have a guess at this point. Did “A” show them footage of the worst moments in their lives? Of their parents mourning them? My first thought, which doesn’t really make sense, was of those jabberjays in The Hunger Games that can mimic your loved ones’ screams.
Back in the real world, Ali, rocking a demure new haircut, gives a press conference about finding her friends. Apparently, the police and press are going after Andrew Campbell, beyond any shadow of a doubt. He’s the prime suspect. This is a bit of a shock to me, because I feel like we only just realized he was sketchy at all when he was listening to their phone calls at the end of last season.
Third question: Maybe I’m slow… but how does Andrew go from relatively harmless background dude to number one kidnapping suspect so quickly? Later in this episode, Detective Tanner reads from one of Andrew’s notebooks that was stored in a police evidence file, where he writes about being disgusted by the girls, something about “Aria’s doe eyes” and Spencer being smug. Oh also, Andrew is missing, so Rosewood is on high alert.
The whole police department is camped out in Ali’s house, trying to figure out how to lure Andrew to Ali—because suddenly everyone also seems to understand that Andrew really wants to kidnap Ali. It’s nice to see the Rosewood P.D. on our side for once, but they’re a little less than competent, because Ali, Caleb, and Ezra easily fool them with a fake phone call, allowing Ali to escape the house and set herself up as bait for Andrew.
Super spy Caleb has somehow rigged a tracking device to a pair of shoes, which they give to Ali so they can follow her movements. Ali walks through the woods and finds a car with the GPS all queued up to lead her… somewhere, as Ezra and Caleb follow close behind. Ezra says, “I hope this isn’t a colossal mistake.” Yeah, same.
In the dollhouse, the girls are instructed to “Please proceed to Ali’s room and prepare for arrival.” A solid 10 minutes later, as they unpack boxes full of Ali’s actual possessions, Emily says, “Oh my God, I think we’re getting ready for Ali’s arrival.” Um, yeah. Did you not hear the robot lady on the speaker? That’s literally exactly what she said to you guys, but sure, pretend you had a revelation.
NEXT: The Liars discover The Lair
There are some newspapers in the boxes, where the girls learn that Ali’s murder conviction was overturned (since, you know, Mona’s alive). They also learn what their parents have been going through—Hanna’s mom has apparently been so distraught that she was sent to the hospital. But the biggest discovery is what Aria finds in the back of the closet: Mona has carved “HE’S GOING TO KILL ME” into the wood.
With that, Spencer finds an Etch A Sketch in one of the boxes and finally tells the others what she figured out in the finale: “Charles is a DiLaurentis.” Earlier in this episode, she tried to explain to them what it was like when she shared airspace with Charles (in the season 5 finale). “Something about him was really familiar,” she says, and compares it to meeting someone you knew when you were little, like a pen pal or a cousin. Or, perhaps, a neighbor boy you forgot you knew? Or potentially, if Jason and Charles are twins—your other half-brother?
Ali’s car runs out of gas just as it reaches its destination. She’s instructed to open the trunk, where she finds a “See You Soon” card signed by all the Liars, and a new outfit. If she doesn’t leave her old outfit (and those nifty tracking-device boots) behind, “A” says he’ll kill the girls. She starts walking into the woods, following a marked trail, but Ali is smart: She leaves her old boots pointed in the direction of her path, so Ezra and Caleb know how to find her.
The dolls in the dollhouse are getting antsy—and angry. They go on a hunt for Charles’s vault to find the things he loves so they can use them as collateral. Once they find the vault, Spencer plays the home movie we saw in the finale, with Mrs. DiLaurentis holding a baby (Ali?) and her two sons running around. But when the clip ends, Spencer does something different: She sets it on fire, holding it up to the security cameras so Charles can see. They burn a doll and set its crib on fire, until brilliant Aria says, “What if A’s not watching this?” (Lucky for us, we could see that he was watching, switching back and forth from the burning film to the footage of Ali wandering the clearing, looking for the place).
Suddenly, the fire is spreading too fast, and the Liars need to escape. They pull back a curtain, and there’s Charles, in hood and mask, staring at them from the other side of the window. SCARY. After Charles pulls the fire alarm, which allows the Liars to escape, they run through the halls to find Mona, who has been suffering down in a Silence of the Lambs-style hole since right after the candy striper incident.
The fire turns out to be a blessing, because smoke starts coming up from a door in the ground, and as it grows, it leads Ezra, Caleb, and Ali to the dollhouse. They fling the doors open just as the girls come bursting up, and a happy reunion ensues: Girls with boyfriends, Liars with police. As Spencer and Toby embrace, she says, “We know who it is. We have a name.”
“It’s Andrew, babe,” Toby says. “And we’re going to get him.” Yeah, Andrew is probably guilty of something, but so is this Charles character—Spencer, tell him!
When Emily asks Ali, point blank, “Who is Charles DiLaurentis?”—fourth question—she gives one of her enigmatic Ali faces. She could know nothing, or everything. (Although the preview for next week shows Ali asking her dad who Charles is, so maybe she doesn’t know.)
Oh and that random girl from the beginning? That’s Sarah Harvey, who has been missing since around the time Ali originally disappeared. Looks like she’s been in this dollhouse the whole time. This season’s shaping up to be a doozy.
What questions did I miss? Did you feel like we got any satisfying A-nswers this episode?
Four little liars and a being named “A” (who may or may not be the fifth little liar) try to live their lives in Rosewood. It’s complicated.