In this episode of Pretty Little Liars, titled “Oh Brother,Where Art Thou,” Toby downs a bag of pot candies and goes on a bad trip at an inopportune moment, the two most terrifying people in Rosewood bond on a car trip, Sarah Harvey packs her bags in order to date Emily, and Charles returns for a disastrous birthday party. It’s his party and he’ll pelt you with skeeballs if he wants to!

With the focus on Charles and the trauma from the Dollhouse, this season has felt narratively tighter than ever before. Perhaps it’s because we’re in the “Summer of Answers” and know we’re heading towards a big revelation. Perhaps it’s because the season is shorter and the writers need to pack more plot and craziness into each individual episode. At this point in the season, the crazy dial has practically been broken from turning it up to 100 in every outing.

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Thus, we get an episode where, in no apparent order, Mona and Alison bond, Jason nearly meets Charles, Hanna and Spencer look up tutorials on how to de-microchip themselves, Alison drugs her own father, Hanna gets a scholarship from ‘A’ University and Toby eats so many pot gummy worms that he practically makes sweet love to a pinball machine. 

On any other show, this would have been enough crazy to sustain an entire season. Pretty Little Liars has always operated on a different level, but this season, there’s really nothing like it. 

We’re getting closer to solving the mystery that is Charles, who is seemingly very much alive. Meanwhile, the girls are still processing their trauma, while some imagine a life free of Rosewood. 

This season has been very emotionally rich and at times even slow in order to process what the liars went through in the Dollhouse. Now that we’re close to the end of the season, however, the deep emotions of the beginning of the season are being replaced by mystery and non-stop action. It’s the show’s unique gift that it can balance the crazy and the personal so deftly.

So is Charles really alive? And who is his “greatest ally”? Can Mona be trusted? Is Leslie Stone out of the show for good? Is Sarah Harvey trustworthy? We have so many questions and only a few episodes left to wait for the answers. Until then, I’ll be watching Toby tripping balls on repeat. 

Happy Birthday, Charles

Charles is back, and obviously that makes up the biggest and most dramatic part of this episode, which begins with Kenneth DiLaurentis spiriting Alison away in the middle of the night after Charles’ creepy birthday card. 

“Hey, dad, what about my brother, Jason?” “Jason who?!” Kenneth says, sour face pinched into ever more sour contortions as he speeds out of town.

Meanwhile, the liars are on Leslie alert, waiting to meet up with Ms. Stone and her amazing array of fake hipster glasses in Mona’s bedroom. Why do you think Leslie needs that many pairs of fake glasses? Is she single-handedly trying to turn Rosewood into Williamsburg or something? I still have a lot of questions about the previous episode, and not even the angriest raccoon will stop me from pursuing them. 

Mona tells the girls that Leslie is flaking and also that she is very, very fragile mentally. In the background, Aria takes a pair of hipster glasses out of her purse, puts them on and imagines her new life as a photographer in California. “I’ll need a beret,” she mutters to herself. 

With Emily and Aria off slowly losing their minds in new and unsettling ways, it’s up to Hanna and Spencer to Nancy Drew their way to some answers about their microchip. True Detective season 3, anyone? They look up YouTube tutorials about taking out microchips, like most teenage girls do during sleepovers. 

Can you imagine how terrifying these girls’ search histories would be? (Search term: How to remove a microchip? Search term: How many showers is too many showers? Asking for a friend. Search term: Can you really put pot into gummy worms? Search term: How many photos of dolls is too many photos of dolls? Also asking for a friend.) 

While Alison and Kenneth are away, Jason gets a card from Charles telling him to meet for a birthday party alone. Jason is like, “Wait, is that why my dad left me here to die?” (“I love all of my children equally. Except for Jason; I’ve never cared much for him,” says Kenneth.) Jason is determined to meet “Charlie” and remember the memories he’s destroyed with drugs. Jason and Spencer really are related. 

Later, Alison calls the liars and lets them know that Charles is alive and he’s coming back for his birthday. The liars gather and, as usual, Emily and Aria want to stay out of it, while Hanna and Spencer want to set a trap like Wile E. Coyote.

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Officer Toby Goes on a Trip

Earlier in the episode, Toby returns from his “police seminar” to a very happy Spencer. What do you think Rosewood police seminars are like? “Step one: try to solve a crime. Step two: hey, is that a hot teenage girl? Step three: hit on said teen girl. Step four: profit?” 

Spencer and Toby agree to no more secrets, even as Spencer is keeping multiple secrets from Toby. How could this go wrong? 

When the Charles of it all becomes overwhelming, Spencer suggests to the girls that they skip calling the police but call Toby instead. He has a badge and a gun and no common sense; he’s the perfect one to call in an emergency! Love makes us so blind. Love and pot-filled gummy worms. 

Toby is immediately furious that Spencer would ask him to keep the secret about Charles from Detective Tanner. So you want Spencer to be honest with you, unless she’s telling you something you don’t like? Cool story, bro. 

He’s also hilariously uninterested in why all the liars are bleeding profusely from the back of their necks. I guess at some point you have to learn to pick your battles with these girls. 

(Can I just note how sad I am that we don’t get a scene of the liars slicing each other open and digging out tracking devices? Could you imagine the college entrance essays they could write? They are developing so many life skills. Thanks, ‘A’!) 

Toby refuses to have the liars tag along but does take Jason’s GPS and promises to go find him solo. Then he grabs a bag of gummy worms that tumbles out of Spencer’s bag when she goes to find a tourniquet for the back of Hanna’s neck so she doesn’t bleed out. 

Little does he know that these gummy worms are filled with a secret ingredient: pot. Let’s be honest, isn’t this bad trip kind of what Toby gets for taking someone else’s candy without asking? That wasn’t your candy, bro; enjoy staring at your hand for the rest of the week! 

Crashing the Party

Jason shows up at an arcade and sees a shadowy outline. It’s Charles and he’s there to party! Also, maybe to kill Jason and wear his skin as a suit. The night is young! (And full of terrors.) 

While Toby and Lorenzo head over to the arcade, Spencer snaps and decides to go looking for Toby as well. If only she had something to calm her down, something like candy filled with drugs. This episode of Pretty Little Liars is like a Halloween Trick-or-Treat after school special come to life. 

Meanwhile, Alison drugs her father with sleeping pills and escapes into Mona’s waiting car. (There’s a lot of drugging going on in this episode.) Mona says picking Alison up is the least she can do, which it really is after setting her up for murder. Alison, for the first time ever in the history of this show, just directly calls the police and tells them what’s up. Mona is like, “What is 911? I don’t understand what you’re doing.” 

At the arcade, Jason and the shadowy figure formerly known as Charlie are playing skeeball and playing paddycake and basically just living it up. Before they can get their “Best Bros Forever” matching tattoos, Toby and Lorenzo show up and ruin the party. Buzzkills.

Of course, this is the moment all the drugs suddenly hit Toby’s system. “Charles, dude, have you ever just, like, really thought about rainbows, bro? Like, I mean really thought about them?” Toby says, attempting to handcuff a pinball machine. “I can taste colors.” 

Shockingly, Charles gets away from the unstoppable team of Confused Guy Being Pelted by Skeeballs and Guy Tripping So Hard He Has Entered the Matrix. Before the liars know it, the rest of the police are busting in and ruining any chance they might have had to catch Charles.

In perhaps the best scene in this or any other episode, Spencer goes to see a shaky and sweaty Toby in the police station. He’s basically sweating glitter dust. I think you might be able to get a contact high off Toby by looking directly into his unfocused eyes, that’s how high he is. 

First, Spencer apologizes for the drugs and then, amazingly, she mentions that if only he hadn’t taken so many they might have caught Charles. Toby is literally down the rabbit hole frolicking with Alice in Wonderland right now, in an actual police station surrounded by cops, and Spencer is most worried about losing Charles. I could not love Spencer any more at this moment. It’s not humanly possible. 

Later, Alison comes home just in time to stop Jason from breaking into the scotch. They hear the voice of a child and go upstairs, where an old home movie is playing. They remember it as the day their mother took them out of school for a second-cousin’s birthday party and made them promise not to tell. 

Of course, this “cousin” was Charles. He wanted to trust Jason, but now he can’t. And the DiLaurentis kids are starting to realize just how deep the hole of dysfunction leads when it comes to their family.

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Elsewhere Around Rosewood…

— Mike and Mona tentatively get back together, just in time for Mike to go off and become a Teen Wolf.

— Speaking of Mona, is it just me or does she seem shadier than usual lately?

— Aria decides to stop photographing creepy dolls, which is easier said than done in Rosewood. I mean, to be fair, what else is there to photograph in that town? Grown men hitting on children? She gets upset after the Charles situation, but there might be light at the end of the tunnel because it turns out she’s a finalist in the photography contest. 

— Sarah Harvey meets her old friend Claire again and they bond. Claire offers to put her up and Emily immediately bristles in a way that is very possessive and creepy. Sarah explains that she wants to move out not to leave Emily behind, but because she wants to date Emily for real without parental supervision. Somewhere offscreen, Pam Fields clutches her water bill and cries tears of joy. 

— Hanna has gotten a scholarship to college, but the “fund” providing the money is probably some kind of front for Charles. At the very least, it has ties to Radley and also to Jessica DiLaurentis. Hanna doesn’t want to take the money, but Ashley has already deposited it. If Hanna were smarter, she would just look in the lasagna box because that’s probably what Ashley assumes “depositing in the bank” means.

— In the end tag, ‘A’ gets a gift from an “ally” and it’s a portrait of himself, Jason and Ali as children at the arcade. So who is this ally? 

What did you think of the episode? Who is working for ‘A’? Do you think Toby was high enough to taste colors or write a psychedelic children’s book? What’s up with Hanna’s tuition? Do you trust Sarah Harvey? Share your theories in the comments!

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

(Image courtesy of ABC Family)

Morgan Glennon

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV