In this episode of Pretty Little Liars, the girls are barred from Rosewood High’s prom but crash anyway and the Pretty Little Moms get wasted, commit a mild felony and get trapped in a basement. They grow up so fast! Also, ‘A’ finally takes off the mask, but we’ll have to wait until the finale to see the face underneath.

Wouldn’t it be great if ‘A’ just took off mask after mask after mask, like a Russian nesting doll of porcelain and paper mache, for the first five minutes? Alison mask, burnt Alison mask, Emily mask, Melissa mask, Caleb Phantom of the Opera mask, Mona paper mache head mask. Just mask after mask after mask until you literally just kind of give up and wander out of the room. Am I the only one who thinks that would be amazing? Probably. Probably I am.

Prom is the driving force behind this half-season’s penultimate episode, and it’s where we spend most of the time with the liars (and their awesome, boozy mothers). This episode knows that the audience came for the prom, and prom it delivers! In fact, there are two separate proms, with varying levels of budget, theme and creepy people in bunny masks. 

What is it with this town and masks? You’d think with a serial killer/kidnapper on the loose that Rosewood High would want some mild security and less masked people running around.

But this is a school that can’t even keep the liars from boldly walking into a prom they were publicly disbarred from. Security in this town is Toby and Lorenzo and a 21 Jump Street-ing Clark. It’s no wonder everyone is being murdered on the regular. 

The episode manages to both look back and also look forward into the future of the show. Showrunner Marlene King has been very open about the fact that when season 6 returns, there will be a time jump past college and the girls will all be older. This episode starts to set up some of the directions our favorite liars might be spinning off into. 

While the liars look forward, their mothers look back and realize just how terrifying and stressful their daughters’ lives have been. Seeing the mothers break and enter, follow a creepy noise to a dank basement without their phones and then get locked in really brings home just how far the girls have come since the first season. 

I mean, those were rookie mistakes. Even Aria doesn’t follow strangers into dark basements or out to murder cabins anymore. Even Aria knows better than that now. 

The finale will finally unveil the identity of ‘A’ (or Charles) and answer all the burning questions we’ve ever had for the series. But it was nice to spend some time with our favorite liars before the big unveil, to see them get all dressed up in beautiful and weird fairy tale dresses, and to watch them disarm an undercover police officer. You know, normal prom stuff.

15 Times Taylor Swift Lyrics Perfectly Described Pretty Little Liars >>>

Prom in a Barn

The episode begins with some great cutting back and forth as all the liars talk to their mothers about how they’ve been barred from attending prom for “security reasons.” You know it’s going to be a good episode when all four mothers exist in the same temporal location. 

Instead of going to the Rosewood High fairy tale themed prom, which looks like it was decorated using the GDP of a small country, the mothers will instead string up some twinkle lights in Spencer’s barn and throw them a prom there. 

“Haven’t we all nearly died in that barn?” Spencer asks, but her mom just shakes her head and hands her a disco ball. “Have Toby put this up, unless he just wants to stare at it for an hour and then stare at his own hand.” 

Speaking of Toby, he’s been put on suspension, as has Lorenzo. He is amazingly chill about it while Spencer frets. How much pot do we think is still left over in Toby’s system? 

“It’s maybe for the best, Spencer. It turns out my one week of police training might not have been enough to prepare me for policing the mean streets of Rosewood. Also, it turns out all the merit badges I earned in police training were scratch-and-sniff stickers.”

Unlike Toby and his probably chemically-induced calm, Lorenzo is still spitting mad about being put on indefinite suspension. Spencer tries to take up on Alison’s behalf and tell him that Alison is only occasionally the worst person in the world, when she is not being the best person in the world, but Lorenzo doesn’t care. 

Everyone also keeps acting like the skee balls Lorenzo was pelted with were made of broken glass and used syringes. He just got hit with a few balls; I think he’s going to live. Unfortunately, the thing wounded most of all is Lorenzo’s pride, and no amount of strong painkillers can shut him up about that. 

Meanwhile, Aria finds out that her creepy doll photos have captivated and terrified the judges into awarding her the main prize. Right after graduation, Aria will be off for a summer internship in LA. Aria seems both excited and nervous about the prospect; not sure if the Charles of it all will be cleared up in time for her to go. “Of course it will,” Ella assures her. “It’s only one episode until the finale, silly!” 

At prom, all of the liars look amazing, but none as amazing as Emily. Emily took the fairy tale theme and she ran with it so far and so fast that she is but a speck in the distance. She has gone full-on evil queen, with an actual crown on her head. All the other girls have done a modern spin on the fairy tale theme and Emily was like, “Screw it, I’m going literal.” It looks like she pieced her outfit out of the remains of Aria’s wardrobe. 

Ezra is there, for some reason, taking pictures of the liars. “I mean, it’s weird to go to prom with all my former students, but it’s totally normal to go to prom in a barn with the teenage girls I spent years spying on.” Never change, Ezra. 

Aria is briefly freaked-out when she thinks Ezra will be following her to LA, because who wouldn’t be, since the whole point of leaving your hometown behind is so that you don’t end up as your former English teacher’s child bride. But Ezra tells her that he’s just going to Habitat for Humanity a few weeks early, and the stopover at LA is only on the way to Thailand. 

In the barn, the girls sit around on their phones judging the outfits of those posting photos from the Rosewood prom. They all assume Alison is on her way, not realizing that Alison has actually followed text messages from Charles luring her to prom. That is, until they see Alison in the back of one of the prom photos. Then it’s liars to the rescue! 

The liars sitting around their lame prom snarking on outfit photos posted on Instagram is maybe the realest this show has ever been.

Pretty Little Liars Recap: Red Coat Returns and ‘A’ Surprises Aria >>>

A Fairy Tale Ending? 

Alison is hell-bent on seeing Charles at this prom, for reasons that still seem murky and unclear. Alison barely seems to care whether Jason lives or dies or is chopped in half by an elevator. Why does she suddenly care so much about Charles, a brother she’s never met who has probably spent the last several years tormenting her? 

Perhaps we get somewhat of an answer when Spencer finally catches up to Alison. Alison wonders why Spencer is concerned, saying Spencer barely likes her. Spencer seems cut to the very core, even though one time she red rover’ed Alison right into police custody. “You get someone arrested one time!” 

Alison says she wants to understand why Charles has done the things he’s done. She wants to know why Charles hates her so much. This is maybe the most I’ve ever bought into the idea of Alison caring about Charles. 

I almost understand her obsession with Charles because of all the people who want her dead; it’s the one she never tortured before. Just think of the suspect list of all the people Alison has wronged and all the people who have legitimate reasons to want her in the ground. She’s blackmailed and harassed and blinded half of this town. And the person who has been nonstop torturing her is the one person she’s never actually done anything to at all. 

While Alison wanders around accosting weirdos in masks, the rest of the liars take the time to have a few slow dances with their various love interests. “I mean, since there’s a little downtime in the plot, let’s dance!”

Sara Harvey shows up at prom for Emily, even though she had been originally planning on attending her own. She tells Emily that no matter what happens, she really cares about her. That sounds like something you say when you’re hiding something and/or about to betray someone. 

Spencer tells Toby that her valedictorian speech she’ll never get to deliver at graduation was about what a great guy he is. Toby cements his best boyfriend status by being touched and not mentioning the whole drugging incident once. Toby is like a fairy tale prince, if Prince Charming ever wore a doo-rag and went to juvie. 

Meanwhile, in setup city, Caleb returns from New York City to slow dance with Hanna and then drop a bombshell. He wasn’t trying to track down ‘A’; he was getting a high-paying job working computer security. The salary is enough to pay for Hanna’s tuition plus a place in the city, so the two can finally leave for their big city dreams after graduation. 

While all the girls are dancing, setting up future season 6 time-jump storylines and trading meaningful looks, Alison continues to trail every fashion disaster in a red cape. Finally, Charles just snatches her off the prom floor because it’s not like he has all day. 

While the liars run around looking for Alison, they bump into Clark, who reveals that he’s an undercover cop. “Looks like you were safer than you thought,” Emily snarks to Aria. Who knew Emily and Aria would be such a delightful pair this season? I could watch a whole episode of Emily just throwing nonstop shade at Aria. 

Alison and Charles are finally face to face, and Charles removes his mask. Alison gasps, shocked at what she sees. But which familiar face is behind that mask?

Best Pretty Little Liars Quotes from “FrAmed” >>>

The Realest Housewives of Rosewood

While the girls are tracking Alison, following clues, crashing proms and disarming undercover cops, their mothers are getting progressively more drunk. This seems to be about on par for the general level of parenting in Rosewood. 

The Pretty Little Mamas start into the wine pretty early in the evening, spurred on by Veronica Hastings. What is it with this family and substances? Let’s just be glad Veronica never got into the pot gummy bears. 

They start on fairly safe ground by talking about their daughters, but soon it veers off into strange, Rosewood-only type of territory. You start a conversation with an adult woman in Rosewood and it starts off about their kids, but before you know it you’re talking about bastard children, cheating husbands and mistresses buried in your azalea garden. This is why no one ever asks “How are you?” in Rosewood. 

“And that’s where the dog dug her up,” Veronica says nonchalantly. This is the exact moment the other moms realize trouble is brewing and the exact moment I fall even more in love with this show. What other show can have a character toss off a line like that so flippantly? It’s right up there with “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I killed a guy.” 

Emboldened by wine, Veronica Hastings goes to the straight-up crazy Spencer place and decides to visit Kenneth to find out if he killed his wife and dumped her body in the Hastings backyard. “Do you know how hard I worked on those azaleas? I will have my revenge!” 

At the DiLaurentis house, Veronica runs around the house challenging Kenneth to a duel while Pam Fields runs after her wiping fingerprints off everything. 

They’re all startled at the sudden appearance of Rhys Matthews looking for Kenneth. He also seems to have become magically un-British in one episode. Like their daughters, the Pretty Little Moms all jump to the conclusion that they just met Charles because they’ve never seen television before. 

With the Clark reveal, does this mean that Rhys is involved in law enforcement in some capacity? How does that tie into the Carissimi Group? I’m over-thinking this, aren’t I? 

The Pretty Little Moms hear a sound from the basement and immediately go to investigate because they are new to being terrorized every second of their lives. Somewhere in a murder cabin or dollhouse or dungeon or tied to some old-timey train tracks, their daughters all simultaneously roll their eyes. 

Of course, they get locked in the basement and of course none of them thought to bring their phones. This whole storyline shows how expert the girls have become at dealing with these dangerous situations by contrasting our teenage professionals with these dumb dumbs stuck in a basement. 

Ashley Marin tries to sneak out of some kind of vent and then drops back into the basement fully filthy and shivering. Outside, it is thundering and lightning and a light drops to the ground and shatters. “How will we get out?!” the mothers wonder, while in the background there’s a window, like, right there. Maybe the window? Just spit-balling. 

Needless to say, seeing all the moms get drunk and get into trouble has to be one of the highlights of the whole series so far. I think the show really missed a prime spin-off opportunity here. Instead of Ravenswood, I think we would have all much rather watched The Real Housewives of Rosewood. Which mom do you think would be the first to randomly decide to start a singing career? My vote would be Ashley. 

On the finale: The moms begin to acclimate to life in the basement, until the Others arrive. Rhys Matthew turns up, but this time with a Jamaican accent. Lorenzo goes to declare his love to Alison and is killed when a small child throws a wiffle ball that hits him in the shoulder. Charles takes off a mask to reveal another mask to reveal another mask until finally Alison realizes Charles is just the raccoon from Lesley’s lab. Sara takes another shower. 

What did you think of the episode? Who is Rhys Matthew? Do you believe Clark? What’s up with Sara? And finally, who is Charles? It’s your last chance to guess his identity before the finale, so leave your best guess in the comments! 

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family.

(Image courtesy of ABC Family)

Morgan Glennon

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV