Meanwhile, Hanna and Emily set up a sting operation and almost get eaten by snakes. And Spencer falls down the Adderall rabbit hole even further, causing her to wear shower shoes and also disappoint her friends and family. But let's be honest, the shower shoes are the most traumatic part.
This is probably going to be a divisive episode, with those who desperately want Ezra cleared of wrongdoing in one corner and those who really like the twist of Ezra being 'A' in the other. I'll confess to being in the latter camp, and therefore am not sure how I feel about the prospect of Ezra being just some morally compromised journalist who takes advantage of Aria's gullibility and Rosewood High's startlingly lax screening process.
First off, I'm not actually sure the "Ezra is a journalist" angle actually makes a whole lot of sense. It does explain why he would continually risk his career to get close to Aria, since she was his primary source on the Alison investigation. It also explains, to a degree, why he had so much research pertaining to Alison just lying around.
It doesn't, however, explain a lot of his more sketchy behavior of late. For instance, if he was telling the truth and had "given up" the investigation when they got back together, what was with his murder cabin's underground lair of photographs and menacing chickpeas? Why was he having all of the girls followed even after he was back together with Aria? Why set up so many cameras and so much security? What kind of journalist writing a crime novel has cameras installed everywhere, especially since his main protagonists are teenage girls? None of it makes all that much sense.
There are two options: either Ezra was playing Aria and just telling her a more palatable truth, or the creative team has pulled out another Toby situation. When it's revealed Ezra is 'A,' I figure there's no way they can back away from it for a second time. What's next, Caleb comes back from cancelled Ravenswood and we'll find out he's 'A'? Maybe Paige is also 'A'!
Just like with Toby, they spent a lod of time allowing us to believe Ezra is the real deal. Unlike Toby, we've now had the rug pulled out from under us many, many times.
Of course, there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up before I'd buy the crime novel story. After all, we see Ezra and Mona talking right before someone grabs the coffee bag from the reptile house, and right before Mona shows up late to Mike's house. I wouldn't take Ezra off the list of suspects just yet.
All this episode does is muddy the waters, while giving Aria some genuine trauma to work through. One of the reasons I really love the idea of Ezra being 'A' is because it more closely ties Aria's often completely unrelated storylines (wine stain, never forget!) to the main narrative.
Finally, Lucy Hale gets the opportunity to really show off her chops, and that ski lift scene is fantastic. It looks like next week Aria will be giving in to her inner rage monster and trying to get Ezra locked up for statutory rape, the most reasonable thing she's ever done on the show.
But the question of whether or not Ezra is really 'A' or just another decoy will presumably linger over the rest of the season. We think we have answers, but it looks like we just have more questions. Who knows the truth? Only Tippi the Bird, and she's not chirping.
Spencer wakes up in Ezra's classroom in her pajamas, having sleep-driven to school, settled in at a teacher's desk and worked on Ali's diary. Even in her sleep, Spencer gets more accomplished than the average person. Ezra sees her disheveled in his class and is immediately concerned or threatening, depending upon your view of ol' Fitz.
Instead of taking a nap or a shower like a reasonable person, Spencer instead runs around the whole episode talking about how she's totally fine. She's just so excited, and so scared, and so hopped up on those sweet, sweet film noir hallucinogens. "No big deal, guys, I just dreamed we were all dames and crooks and even in the dream Aria dressed like a TV test pattern. It was great! I can stop whenever I want! I've never felt so alive!"
Toby returns to town, in a new zen place after finally ridding himself of his boring mother storyline. Toby's hair and steps have a whole new bounce, for he's finally free. He immediately hugs Spencer. "I missed your smell," he says to the obviously grimy Spencer. "Wow, Spencer, you really smell. Have you showered lately?"
When Ezra gives Aria a file showing Spencer had problems with Adderall before, she goes straight to the liars so they can hang the "Intervention" banner. Spencer lashes out and tells Aria that Ezra is, and I quote, "freaking 'A'!" but it doesn't seem to have the desired effect. Instead, she just seems crazy and Wren's prescription pads 'A' dropped in her bag don't help matters.
Even after Spencer turns over her stash, she still looks red-eyed and twitchy. And soon, she's looking for her next fix, leaving her friends to get eaten by giant snakes while she gets drugs from the academic decathlon captain. Literally every kid in Rosewood is secretly a murderer or a drug dealer, even the hot nerds.
Unfortunately, Spencer makes the very un-Hastings mistake of calling into the doctor pretending to be her mother to ask for a prescription. The mistake is especially big, because Spencer does this on one of the rare weeks Veronica Hastings happened to actually be home. "So this is what my daughter looks like. Were you always so strung out? I can't remember, I haven't seen you in about a year."
Veronica rats her out to Toby, who is pretty judgmental considering he was the one who precipitated her last trip to the mental institute. She missed a lovely dinner with Toby, but it looks like she's about to get a lot more on her plate than whatever he was cooking up.
Veronica Hastings is calling Spencer's dad to tell him about her relapse. And good things never happen when both Hastings parents are at home. I think their simultaneous presence in the house creates a vortex, and in this case it's going to suck Spencer straight into rehab.
The Reptile House
While it might seem Spencer has been discredited, Hanna points out there's still way more evidence in favor of Fitz being bad. All this sleuthing is hard work, which is why Detective Inspector Hanna seems to be slowly morphing into a human garbage disposal. "Can we get some donuts on this stakeout? Emily, grab the fries you just dropped and toss them into the street, I'll be back for them later! Detecting burns a lot of calories."
They decide to see if the Ambrose Pavilion clue will take them anywhere, and set up a sting operation to mention a meeting with Ali loudly on the phone in front of Ezra. His eyes bug out, like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, and as soon as Emily heads out of sight he begins twirling his mustache and laughing. Someone is getting tied to some train tracks tonight!
As it turns out, the Ambrose Pavilion is in the local zoo and in fact doubles as the reptile house. Hanna is not happy about this turn of events, suddenly throwing her gumshoes out the window in favor of getting away from the snakes.
"Emily, there are so many snakes here and neither of us came armed with a mannequin leg! We're sitting ducks!"
Of course, druggie Spencer shows up late to the party and they nearly get trapped in with all the poisonous reptiles. A creepy zoo worker lets them out, but not before they notice someone else in a blonde wig has taken the coffee grinds.
Later, Mona shows up at Mike's house late and seems almost guilty when a beaten-down Aria walks through the door. Was it Mona in the reptile house? It seemed like she was getting her marching orders from Ezra, so does that still make him 'A'? Or is their relationship even more weird and complicated?
Either way, love is softening Mona's crazy heart because it seems she wants out. But once you're a jet, you're a jet all the way. From your first threatening text message to your last dying day.
The Ski Lift
Aria is furious with Spencer, especially after what she said about Ezra. After all that time and internal angst, Spencer basically just blurted out the truth in the worst way possible. She mentions to Ezra that Spencer even attacked him, and his eyes go immediately crazy. I would wonder how Aria is missing all these instances of rampant crazy eye, but she's Aria.
But finally, Ezra makes a mistake Aria can't ignore. He mentions that Spencer went crazy after seeing a helmet and a tattoo, which are details Aria is pretty sure he shouldn't know. Slowly, ever so slowly, the rusty hamster wheel in Aria's head begins to turn. And once it starts, it begins to pick up momentum, causing her to question whether Spencer might be on to something.
So Aria goes to visit the beautiful and romantic murder cabin, where Ezra has cleaned up a bit since Spencer cottoned to his evil ways. Gone is the underground bunker full of computers and stalker photos. Even the world's most menacing can of chickpeas is gone.
Unfortunately, Ezra doesn't clean up well enough, because he leaves out a book called the Carnivore's Delight. It's amazing that Ezra would leave incriminating evidence in this book, figuring vegetarian Aria would never open it. Ezra might be evil, but he really does know Aria so well.
She finally opens it to find a story about Alison inside, confirming all her worst fears. With Ezra's security and some forgotten keys alerting him to Aria's presence, he chases her into the woods. Aria runs straight for a ski lift, because why wouldn't you in the middle of fall with no snow around?
I have so many questions about this ski lift. For instance, why does Rosewood have a year-round ski lift with no snow in sight? Also, who was working that ski lift if no one could hear Aria scream? And lastly, how did they ever get down? Did Aria just strap her feather earrings to her arms and fly down?
Ezra admits that he did know Ali and they had an affair because he thought she was in college, although he's now come to the realization that age ain't nothing but a number. He did think he had gotten her pregnant, but then became obsessed when he heard she had been murdered.
He came to Rosewood and got the teaching position to write a true crime novel about Alison. Meeting Aria wasn't a mistake, it was research. He says he wanted to be the kind of journalist that would do anything for a story. More like do anyone for a story, if you know what I mean.
Aria is suitably disgusted by all of this information, shocked that Ezra would have used her this way. Oh Aria, when you date your teacher, sometimes he turns out to be a jerk. That's just a chance you take when you date an adult willing to date a child.
Ezra says that when they were together, he stopped his investigation, but when they broke up he restarted. He claims he never lied to her about his feelings for her, even I guess while he was having all of her underage friends followed and photographed. That's real love, Ezra Fitz-style.
Also, if he stopped the investigation since they were back together, what was with the underground room of surveillance and chickpeas in the murder cabin? I don't buy it.
After using some of his horribly written story pages to glide down to safety from the ski lift (I assume) Aria shows up back at home in shock. It's been a very bad, no good day for Aria, but it's a very good performance by Lucy Hale.
What do you think? Will Spencer end up in rehab? Will Aria stab Ezra with a vintage letter opener? And is Ezra really 'A' or is his story true? Share your theories in the comments!
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family.(Image courtesy of ABC Family)