This week on Pretty Little Liars,
Alison and Emily share an emotional reunion, Spencer burns bridges, Hanna throws plates at a wall to achieve closure and Aria eats cake.
The closing moments of the episode feature several teary liars offset with Aria giggling over whipped cream, really cementing her place as the show's Marie Antoinette. Aria's going to be taken down soon and taken down hard, but until then she's still off in her own universe while the rest of the girls are undergoing nonstop emotional trauma.
Even with the Alison reunion, the pacing of the episode is more laid-back than Liars
' usual mad rush of creepy, crazy action. This gives the show time to catch up to everyone emotionally, allowing for some nice, quiet moments with all of the girls.
Spencer is seemingly at odds with everyone in her life, from her father to Toby and Emily, while the seeds of doubt are planted in Aria's mind about Ezra. Although this is Aria, so it's not like she's going to listen until Ezra tattoos "serial killer for realz" on his forehead. Hanna is a rockstar, all makeouts and breaking things so she can finally get some closure on her breakup with Caleb.
Then there's poor, poor Emily. Emily is the linchpin of this episode, with her love for Alison still painfully raw and heartbreakingly on her sleeve. Is Alison really telling the truth, or is she just playing the girls off one another? We still don't know enough about Alison's situation to know for sure.
But we do know how perilously easy it is for Ali to reel Emily back in with some affection. Tell Emily she's your favorite one, and she'll walk solo into an abandoned factory even though she's nearly murdered on the regular. That's just the kind of person Emily is.
It's a sad, slowly paced episode that takes the time to let the characters' emotional moments land. Which doesn't mean there aren't still big revelations. Finding out Shana's true identity certainly answers a major question we've had for many episodes now.
And because this is Pretty Little Liars, the episode ends with a punching bag full of knives. People in Rosewood must have the best excuses for avoiding the gym.
The Truth About Shana
If I was Emily, I would never leave the house alone. I would always roll out with an entourage, or a protective detail, or a helmet to keep glass out of my hair. Nothing good ever happens to Emily whenever she's alone.
The trend continues as Emily lights a candle at church, only to have Shana sneak up on her like a Buffy villain. Just barely stopping herself from driving a stake through Shana's heart, Emily is shocked to find out Shana actually knows where Alison is.
Why? It turns out Shana was a childhood friend of Alison's who used to live next door to her grandmother. They've been friends since they were three years old and Alison convinced Shana to come to Rosewood to Nancy Drew her way into all the town mysteries. She's been getting close to everyone on Alison's list of murder suspects, which meant getting cozy with Jenna.
"Don't worry, Alison! I will bravely hook up with every hot girl in Rosewood High to keep you safe. I'm taking one for the team, for I am a great and noble friend!"
Emily has enough sense not to immediately trust Shana, so she asks her to find out from Alison what she said that other time Emily was almost murdered. Shana is like, "You might need to narrow down the times you were nearly killed." Once she delivers the goods, Emily throws herself 100% into a scheme to see Alison.
She does, however, tell Spencer that Ali wants to see her alone. Spencer doesn't think it's a good idea, because of all the near-murder that tends to happen around Emily. Emily is completely relaxed like, "Don't worry, I carry a hammer around with me at all times now. It's heavy, but I'm completely willing to bludgeon someone to death."
One of the episode's most heartbreaking moments happens without words, as Emily tries on several different outfits before her meeting with Alison and nervously puts on lipstick. Shay Mitchell has done such a great job with all of the material for Emily so far this season, but her mixture of dread and longing as she gets ready to meet Alison is especially poignant.
Shana drops Emily off at an abandoned warehouse. "Bye! Hope you don't get cut in half by an elevator or stabbed to death with glass or anything! Good luck!"
Shockingly enough, Alison is actually inside. This is probably the longest time we've had with Alison since we found out she was alive. She apologizes for being such a terrible person to Emily and dragging her around by the heart for so long. Emily wonders why Alison doesn't want to meet with Aria or Spencer, leading Alison to say she doesn't know who she can trust.
Notice how no one mentions bringing along Hanna "Let's dig a hole in plain sight and bury a murder weapon" Marin at any point. Harsh, but valid.
Alison says she thought she knew who 'A' was but she was wrong, and that she needs help to find 'A' so she can return. Then there's a bunch of loud clanging, like Mr. Magoo just walked into a pile of sheet metal. Knowing it's Spencer makes me very disappointed, since Spencer is usually much better at stealth.
Feeling betrayed by Emily, Alison runs for the elevator and takes off. Emily immediately tears into Spencer, who says she was just there to protect Emily but obviously listened to 90% of their conversation.
Spencer raises a valid point, which is that Alison doesn't have a great track record when it comes to manipulation. She thinks Alison is trying to pit the liars against each other, and if that's the case, it seems to be working. Emily stomps off in a broken rush, leaving Spencer behind to cry and kick things.
There's Something About Radley
Meanwhile, Toby's boring Radley storyline soldiers on. In a desperate ploy to escape this plot, all of Toby's hair has congregated to the top of his head in an attempt to leap to freedom. Although Toby and his father both sign the Radley settlement papers, I somehow doubt this is the last we'll hear of this tedious storyline.
Although, on the bright side, the settlement does have a gag order. So if the storyline was just never mentioned again, like that time Tyra and Landry killed a dude on Friday Night Lights, it would make perfect sense. Fingers crossed that gag order works.
But Spencer's problems continue, as she and her father are having a real falling-out over Jessica DiLaurentis. While her father at first tells her he was only talking to Jessica because Jason was back in rehab, it later turns out Jessica is on the board of trustees at Radley. In Rosewood, all roads lead back to Radley eventually.
Hilariously, Spencer's father has a chef come to the house to prepare a home cooked meal for Spencer's mom, who is returning from offscreenville. What's great about this is that I can't remember the last time both of Spencer's parents were in the same room at the same time. I'm starting to think Spencer's parents are the same person and that's why we never see them together. I mean, I guess it has to be hard being the only two lawyers in a town with the impressive crime rate of Rosewood.
Throw a Plate for Closure
Hanna starts the episode cleaning out her closet, which for Hanna is a neon blinking cry for help. She doesn't want to talk about the breakup with Caleb, but she does want to play pool with Travis and get her flirt on. While Travis tries to resist her charms, owing to the fact that she's very much on the rebound, the guy is only human.
So Ashley Marin, greatest parent on the planet, takes Hanna to blow off some steam. If a few seasons ago you had told me the best parent on this show was the one who stole a little old lady's money and ran over a police officer, I probably would have believed you because of how terrible the parents are on this show. But still, Ashley Marin needs some kind of parenting award.
Apparently, there is a whole store in Rosewood dedicated to throwing plates against the wall. That ... makes perfect sense, actually. If there was any town weird enough for such a business to take off, it would be Rosewood. I'm kind of surprised they were supplied with plates and not masks or baby doll heads. They seem to have a surplus of both in that town.
After hours of needless violence, wanton destruction of property and huffing ceramic fumes, Hanna is finally ready to say goodbye to Caleb. She leaves him a voicemail telling him that, despite everything, their year together was still the best of her life.
Punching Bag Full of Knives
While Spencer, Hanna and Emily deal with big emotional turmoil, Aria is once again torn about her love life. Will she choose Ezra and his peaceful murder cabin in the woods? Or will she choose well-adjusted, perfectly-muscled Jake? I'll give you one guess who she chooses.
Afterward, Jake sees Ezra on the street freaking out at a blonde girl in a car. He yells that she made a huge mistake and that "This isn't over!" Then he pounds on her car as it drives away. It looks very much like CeCe Drake was the person behind the wheel, but it was just a little too dark to tell for sure. Jake is like, "Really, I look like I was an extra from Magic Mike and Aria left me for this guy?"
Going to give Jake back his necklace, Aria is dragged down by her guilt and also the Native American dreamcatchers she calls earrings. I'm pretty sure small communities of birds could take up residence in those things and she wouldn't even notice.
Jake tells her Ezra is trouble, which causes her to question his Philly excuse. He makes up a lie about trying to get visitation rights to Malcolm, which Aria immediately buys because she's Aria.
Later, while they eat cake, Ezra giggles thinking about all the knives he shoved into Jake's punching bag. Jake, here's a pro-tip: shirt off, shoes on. It's served Toby well. His bloody foot at the end of the episode is something I didn't need to see.
What did you think of the episode? Do you believe Alison's story? What will happen to Shana now that she's in 'A's' sights? Share your theories in the comments!
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)