This week on Pretty Little Liars
, Alison never makes an appearance but her specter looms large, Caleb wraps up Ravenswood
and then dives into the wonderful world of product placement, someone is about to sell the liars up the river to Detective Tanner and Melissa finally spills the beans about her secret. And boy, is it dark.
Pretty Little Liars
, as a show, runs on a constant engine of never-ending, yet ever-changing, mysteries. So when the show clears up a huge mystery like it does this week, the show deserves some props. Not only does the Bethany Young piece of the puzzle fall (at least somewhat) into place, it also makes sense with most of what we know thus far.
More than just checking off a box and answering a question, the episode makes Melissa's confession deeply emotional. The way the scene is shot and blocked, with Spencer standing in front of her sister, highlights the ties and the love in this often fraught relationship.
Melissa has talked for seasons about how she's done a lot to protect Spencer, and now we finally know exactly what depths she was willing to go to keep her sister safe and out of jail. Without even knowing it, she actually killed a complete stranger. This show can get dark, but Melissa's secret is pitch black.
Just like everything else on Pretty Little Liars, this answer brings up even more questions. Why was Bethany wearing Alison's shirt? Did Spencer really hit her over the head with a shovel? If not, who really attacked Bethany? And why?
The biggest question, however, revolves around Alison's culpability. Did Ali set up Bethany to die in her place, making it easier for her to disappear? Has Alison been 'A' all along? And will she really throw her distrustful minions under the bus now that they won't get in line? It's amazing how chilling Alison can be when she doesn't even make an appearance in the episode.
Caleb is drinking himself to sleep every night, muttering about his cancelled show, buying Ouija boards and then leaving them all over the house while whispering "Go see Ouija," and at this point it's officially freaking Hanna out.
"He's just being so weird, Spencer. He started crying yesterday while Casper was on ABC Family's Saturday Fun Day. I can't take all the drinking and all the moping and all the product placements anymore!"
Spencer immediately thinks that Toby is the answer, instead of the actual sober coach she knows, because Spencer is in love and thus blind to Toby's weak spots. "Who is going to make the cutest police cadet in all the land? You are! Yes you are!" she coos to him on the phone, while Hanna gives herself a frontal lobotomy in the background.
Toby puts on his public servant hat at the restaurant and immediately comes clean to Caleb about the intervention. "Who died and made you Oprah?" Caleb asks, a line I am officially stealing to use at any and all of my future interventions. "Your show!" Toby replies, and Caleb curls under the table weeping.
Listen, if you were really into Ravenswood, I can see how it would be nice to get closure on that story. I didn't make it to the end of Ravenswood, so I'm not sure how much closure you all got with "Fireflies are wishes your heart makes!" or whatever that was, but I can see the appeal of closing out the story. But in such a big pre-finale episode, I'm not really sure what they were thinking devoting so much time to wrapping up an old spin-off and making sure we all know to go see Ouija in October.
Toby tries to set Caleb straight with his new police skills, but Caleb gets up and bounces almost immediately. "I think I just failed my first public servant test," Toby says sadly, while Spencer pats him gently on the head.
Back in Caleb's Cabin of Outdated Appliances and Regret, Hanna is waiting in the dark like a serial killer. "This always works for Spencer!" she says, before telling him to come clean. He finally does, exposition-dumping some facts about Ravenswood and fireflies and Miranda the sexy ghost.
"You could have left out some of that stuff about your ghost girlfriend," Hanna says, "But you're in Rosewood now. Because you have no other choice and your show got cancelled. Also, I love you and we're in this together. Now, tell me more about this motion picture called Ouija! It sure sounds like something we kids will want to go see around Halloween!"
A Dark Confession
Staging inept interventions isn't the only thing Spencer Hastings has going on this week. She receives a note from Melissa and a package from the Philadelphia International Airport, where Papa Hastings has packed her off to London again.
Liars is a fast-paced show, and every minute is usually packed with drama, emotion and action. Which is why it's so great that the show slowed down to give this confession scene time to unfurl and give it the dramatic weight it deserves.
It's also why it was so nice to return to the tape later, to allow Spencer to have the honest conversation with her sister she's never been able to have with Melissa in person. Both performances, from Torrey DeVitto and Troian Bellisario, are pitch perfect and amazingly effective.
On the night Alison disappeared, the most busy night of the year in Rosewood, Melissa was skulking around some bushes because where else would she be? On tape, Melissa quotes Shakespeare's The Tempest because it's important to be the smartest person in the room, even when confessing to murder.
She saw Spencer drag her sad Charlie Brown shovel away down the road after her Adderall-fueled confrontation with Alison and then immediately noticed a body on the ground. The body had been hit in the head and had on Alison's yellow shirt, so Melissa jumped to the conclusion that Spencer had killed Alison.
Instead of getting parents or the authorities involved, or even checking the body's identity, Melissa just kicked the body into a shallow grave and buried her. The bad news for both Melissa and poor Bethany is that she was alive at the time she was buried, meaning Melissa in essence killed Bethany Young.
"Our family has a gift for self-preservation," Melissa says, "But there's a point where you go from survivor to predator. I guess that's what happened to us." While Spencer cries, Melissa says goodbye and that she loves her sister. It's very effecting, and even more so later when Spencer talks back to the screen.
Alison or 'A'?
As the episode begins, the girls are stopped just as they're about to go to the police by a picture of Alison visiting Hanna in the hospital from season 1. This picture, they realize, will deeply undercut their story about not knowing Alison was alive all along. "I mean, sure, officer, it looks bad, but haven't we all slow-danced with a ghost from time to time? No?"
The girls soon begin asking the obvious question: is this 'A' trying to keep them in line ... or Alison? After all, 'A' had originally told Alison she wasn't allowed to leave town, but she's gone fishing with her dad at the moment. They wonder if she struck some kind of bargain with 'A'.
Of all the girls, Emily has done the most dramatic about-face when it comes to Alison. Now she's even beginning to miss Paige and the relatively normal relationship they had. In the face of Alison, a little light drowning just seems playful.
Emily turns to Ezra, the only person she knows who's just as creepy as Alison, for help. "Oh, great, you trust me! Sorry about all that spying on you! By the way, love the outfit you wore three weeks ago." Emily tells Ezra to sit down and step back because she's only using him for his spy equipment. "You'll come around eventually! I know where you live. Right where you live..."
Ezra looks into Cyrus and finds some aliases, as well as ATM camera footage showing Alison paying him money. Emily thinks it's the money she paid him to confess to the kidnapping, but Ezra isn't that sure. Emily says Alison has an amazing gift for knowing what a person wants and knowing exactly what they're missing. "Girl, don't I know it," Ezra nods and Emily just gives him a death glare.
After seeing Melissa's tape, they all wonder how Bethany could have gotten Alison's yellow shirt. The girls seem to suspect Ali, which would possibly make Alison complicit in a murder. Just how dangerous is Ali, really?
What Does Mona Want?
Meanwhile, Aria is freaking out because Mona is back skulking around Mike. Geez, you forget a sibling for two years and they never let you hear the end of it! Mona shows up at the Montgomery family's film noir dress-up because Rosewood cannot ever turn down an opportunity for a good costume event. At the movie, Aria whispers something catty to Mona, which has her crying in the bathroom.
Mona explains that she was only ever trying to protect herself, which makes no sense but since she's talking to Aria she somehow slides by on this. She warns Aria that when Alison gets done killing Mona and stealing her ice cream earrings, she'll be coming for the liars next.
I like that Mona is trying to appear more approachable by wearing as many ice cream cones as possible, but I like even more that it seems to be working for Aria. "Your giant absurd earrings make me want to trust you for some reason."
Mona also drops some hints that she knows exactly what happened in New York, but backtracks before she reveals too much. Pitting Mona and Aria in a scene together is really unfair to poor Aria, who until recently was only involved in this show to babysit and order Chinese takeout. Aria's really undergoing a trial-by-fire this season.
Detective Tanner's Taunts
Detective Tanner would be horrible at parties, wouldn't she? "What a lovely cheese spread! So who do you think killed Bethany Young? Because I have my bets on one of you! Great shoes, by the way."
The girls are beginning to freak out, since they can't come clean with the police and yet Tanner is so obviously on to their guilt. Aria gets twitchy about the eyes every time Tanner emerges from a nearby store or pops out of the bushes or jumps dramatically out of a garbage can. "Just wanted to have some girl talk. About murder!"
Tanner goes to see Byron and he finally directs all his righteous indignation in the right place, but it seems like it might be too late. Tanner definitely suspects all of the girls of something, noting that investigations rarely get more complicated instead of less. Byron says he expects the police to do their jobs, which is hilarious because the Rosewood police have never solved a single crime in all of recorded history.
It turns out one of the girls is scheduled to have a heart-to-heart with Tanner soon. She won't tell Byron which girl it is, but the liars figure out by process of elimination that it must be Alison.
As the episode ends, Emily slips and calls Alison 'A'. Is Alison really the one who has been tormenting them all along? How involved in everything is she? Will she really turn against the girls and sell them down the river? And what will Spencer do now that she's learned the truth from Melissa?
Elsewhere Around Rosewood...
-- Emily wants to reconnect with Paige, but Paige is all dressed-up and going out to the movies with a cute new girl. It's like everyone's worst nightmare: your ex looks fantastic and you're at work looking messy. Poor Emily.
-- The police are looking for a connection between the girls and Bethany Young, which they have conveniently supplied with their jaunts to Radley and horse farms. Whoops?
-- Man, Mona's Army was a real missed opportunity this season, wasn't it? That hashtag made promises the show didn't keep.
What did you think of the episode? What will happen next week? And how about that confession!? Leave your theories in the comments and let's hash it out before the finale!
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)