Alison proves herself the definition of an unreliable narrator, Hanna discovers and then abandons kale, Aria can't escape being on the actual show no matter how much she wants to and Alison finally pushes the girls to their breaking point.
. Thus far, we haven't had many murder attempts, and there has been a serious dearth of cannibalistic birds and evil singing dolls. No one has been sent to Radley against their will or found out their boyfriend is evil or used a shot glass to dig a shallow grave for a murder weapon. In
Pretty Little Liars Episode 5.10 Photos: Alison Makes More Trouble>>>
Yet this stretch of episodes has also been incredibly interesting and infinitely watchable. Adding Alison back into the mix has given the show a renewed energy and a renewed menace. The girls came back to Rosewood to find their friend group fractured, right at the moment they need each other the most. Alison's presence also brought out new sides to the liars and in particular jolted Hanna in a new direction.
The girls not only have to worry about 'A' now, they also have to worry about if they can trust Alison at all. She's the very definition of an unreliable narrator. You can never quite believe what it is she's telling you. It's no mistake that Hanna seems more at ease with Mona, who literally ran her over with a car, than with Alison. Ali is far more frightening than Mona will ever be, even with her adrenalized hyper-reality because it's never clear what's true and what's lies with her.
It isn't even always clear if Alison herself knows. Was the story about Cyrus true or just another ruse? She has a scar, but did Cyrus give it to her? Does she use parts of the truth to build her lies or do her lies eventually obscure her truth? Alison is such a terrifyingly great character because she's so hard to pin down.
Sasha Pieterse always manages to make Alison vulnerable and tough simultaneously, so you never know if it's an act or the truth, or some combination. Alison's whole life is like performance art, just layer upon layer, until you never know what's real and what's part of the show.
It was only a matter of time before she lost the girls. Put more succinctly, it was only a matter of time before even Emily could no longer overlook her lies. Emily was always going to be the last holdout given her feelings for Alison, but even she could no longer look the other way while Alison put them all in danger.
With the liars and Alison at cross purposes, are they now more vulnerable to 'A'? And what line won't Alison cross to save her own skin?
Alison Makes an ID
The man in police custody is named Cyrus, and as it turns out, Alison does know him. She confides to Emily that he's the one who gave her the gnarly scar on her leg. When she was moving from place to place as a vagabond with fantastic hair, Cyrus stole her stuff and knifed her in the leg. Because this is Alison, she makes Emily promise to keep this information a secret. The way Alison uses the girls and subtly pits them against each other is both scary and genius.
Emily is furious at Spencer, who is holding tight to the blackmail material and wants to turn over the documents to the police. "She's hurt!" Emily tells Spencer, who rolls her eyes so far back they basically disappear. Emily assures Spencer and the other girls that Alison isn't going to make a positive ID, but Spencer thinks Ali is a ticking time bomb just ready to explode in their faces.
After an uncomfortable run-in with Ezra, Alison and her father accompany Detective Tanner to an old hide-out, where Alison used to lay low while on the run. In flashbacks, we see Alison and Cyrus holding hands, right before he knifes her and takes off with her stuff. Is that really how it went down? Can we even believe flashbacks anymore when it comes to Alison?
Ali breaks down and says she could never forget this location, but by the time Tanner calls in, the positive ID Cyrus is in the wind.
A furious Emily confronts Alison, reminding her that the girls stick together. Alison claims to have a plan to lure 'A' out of hiding, but Emily suspects Alison will throw the liars under the bus in order to carry out her plan. She can't believe she stuck up for Ali and stood by her despite all the evidence. "I wasted so much time on you," Emily says angrily. "I'm so done with you." You know it's serious when Emily and her Bambi eyes turn on you.
Later, Alison meets Cyrus in the woods in her Vivian Darkbloom wig to give him what looks like some money and send him on his way. It seems like she set up the whole situation in order to give her story some credibility and get Tanner off her back. She advises him to use his one chance to start over wisely. "Like you used yours, Ali?" he asks snidely, before driving off.
We once more see the dark side of Alison, threatening Cyrus and seemingly in control. How much of the repentant Ali is an act and how much is real? And what happens when Alison realizes she no longer has control over her old friends? Being on the wrong side of Alison has rarely worked out well for anyone.
Hastings Family Secrets
Meanwhile, Spencer is bringing back her blackmail loot to the house in order to hide it in her secret hiding space. "No one will ever be able to find this, even though one time I was almost steamed to death like a dumpling in my own shower. But this time is different! This time, I made a secret compartment in my chair that's impossible to ... well, hell."
Just at that moment, as if on cue, Melissa Hastings appears out of the woodwork to talk about groceries. No part of me believes that Melissa knows nothing about the missing tape, or that she has ever or will ever go grocery shopping.
When Aria comes over later, Spencer shows a tape of Melissa handing documents to someone and saying to "do it." Aria is shocked Melissa might be on the 'A' team, because for the last five seasons Aria has been sitting in Ezra's apartment with a paper bag over her head eating Chinese food. "Are you new here?" Spencer's eyes seem to say, but instead she just pats Aria on the hand kindly, because you never know when you might need her to get out a wine stain.
Later, Spencer confronts Melissa directly, asking exactly what secret it is she's been hiding. "You can't just ask someone about their hidden murder secret, Spencer," Melissa says, appalled. "That's so rude."
Melissa advises Spencer to get out of dodge before the forces of darkness surrounding Alison bring her down too. She offers to spirit Spencer away with her to London or some other exotic location, but Spencer isn't biting. Melissa claims she's done everything to protect Spencer and show her what a toxic person Alison still remains.
"Couldn't you have just told me that?" Spencer wonders. "That's not how we do things in the Hastings household, Spencer! We have dramatic flair in our DNA. Being melodramatic, keeping secrets and covering up murders is what we're best at. Why fight genetics?"
Before the episode ends, Melissa makes a taped confession for Spencer. What is she confessing? What secret has she been hiding? And does it have anything to do with Bethany?
Hanna Goes Green
While the rest of the girls are trying to keep Alison from sending an innocent man to prison, Hanna decides it's time to cut out the 'A' madness and be a normal teenager.
Apparently, what the kids are doing these days is eating kale, taking selfies and auditioning for a part in the chorus. "I shall be like the normal people!" Hanna declares dramatically to Caleb. "I shall eat this lettuce and make this organic smoothie, and pretend to care about the arts!"
For his part, Caleb just goes along with this plan because he's still pretty sad about his show getting cancelled, so why not attempt to go for a run with Hanna? Spencer watches Hanna amble away like an injured baby deer, confused about why a person would run for pleasure. In Rosewood, you run because you're wearing a designer wedding dress in the woods and a serial killer is giving chase, not because you want to detox several weeks of binge drinking.
At the audition, Hanna is psyched to be normal until she sees Mona van der Beyonce doing perfect vocal warm-ups. Hanna grumpily sits down and waits for her name to be called, at which point Mona faints.
"I woke up like this," Mona mutters softly, then immediately asks for her purse. "Don't look inside, there's nothing to see inside, there's no nefarious evidence of wrongdoing inside, just hand over my purse. Once again, nothing to see inside the purse. I really hope you don't look."
Hanna looks in the purse, because her old FBI training sometimes kicks back in at weird moments, and sees a mugshot of Cyrus. Hanna looks over at Mona and nods to herself, and forgets about "normal" because Agent Hanna Marin is on the case.
As it turns out, it doesn't take long for Hanna to track down Mona with her specialized technique of casually strolling into strangers' cars. Mona is "blue snarfing," which sounds like some kind of drug Spencer would take between Adderall-induced classic Hollywood hallucinations. Instead, it's just Mona hacking into the blue tooths around town to find out what Tanner is up to.
Mona claims to be terrified of Alison and says that her fainting was the real deal. Hanna is suspicious, mostly due to all those times Mona has tried to kill her, but also a little bit relieved because Mona's craziness is like a balm to Hanna's stormy soul. "Finally, a level of insanity I'm comfortable with," Hanna thinks, right before they hear Alison has made a positive identification
Can People Change?
The question of whether or not people can really change has been a big one this season. Has Alison really changed, or is she the same manipulator she's always been? Can Ezra change, or is he still the guy who set up spy cameras all over town? Every time the show seems to come down in one direction, they throw us off the scent again.
In this case, Aria tells Ezra very pointedly to stay away from Alison and not to make waves. Ezra listens to this advice, nods to himself and then quickly goes to harass Alison. Aria is furious and takes off in a huff.
"Why are you really so mad about this?" Ezra wonders. "I mean, you seemed way less mad about all that spying, and let's be real, that was way worse. Too soon?" In my mind, Aria backs her car over him as she peels out of the parking lot, but sadly this does not happen in reality.
In reality, Aria talks to her mom about Ezra and how upset she was when she thought he was going to die. Now she's left with all these things she wanted to say to him, but with the knowledge that people don't really change. Ella says people do change because now Byron knows how to make pancakes. Listen, Ella is the greatest, but I'm not sure I would take life advice from her. Unfortunately, it seems as if poor taste in men just runs in the Montgomery family.
Of course, Aria has bigger fish to fry for once on this show. Perhaps the best thing about this season has been just how involved in the actual storyline Aria has become. She's investigating mysteries and being harassed by diabetic Radley patients and murdering people! There are plenty of reasons why I don't want Ezra and Aria to reunite, but the biggest is because it's been so fun having Aria on this show called Pretty Little Liars for a change.
As She!Hulk Emily thunders in the house, her eyes alight with the fire of a recent heartbreak, Aria looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Emily is now wholly on board with the plan to burn Alison before she has a chance to drag them under, but that plan has some scary repercussions for Aria. "We have to cut ties with Ali now," Emily advises. "Tonight."
Deep inside, Aria yearns for the days when her most difficult problem was how to make out with her teacher in plain view of the whole school without getting caught. Those were the days.
Elsewhere Around Rosewood...
-- Caleb is a good boyfriend this week, going jogging with Hanna, pretending to like kale and being understanding when Hanna lies about being with her other boyfriend, Mona.
-- "Would you wear this?" Ella asks Aria about a sparkly skirt. "Yes, which is why you shouldn't." Finally, a form of Aria's fashion advice I can get behind.
-- In the tag, 'A' is watching a dog show and folding clothes. One of the items? A candy striper uniform.
What do you think? Should the girls give up on Alison? What's Melissa's secret? And just who is on the 'A' team? Share your theories in the comments!
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)