In this episode of Pretty Little Liars, Hanna tries to get the girls to go to therapy, but therapy for the liars means finding pictures of imaginary friends in button jars. We all work things out in our own way, I guess.
The hunt to discover more about the identity of Charles DiLaurentis continues, and it’s a bumpy ride of people being imaginary and then real and then maybe dead? It’s all very confusing to the liars, who are still just trying to deal with their Dollhouse trauma the best way they know how.
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The Liars Begin to Heal
Alison continues to have real human emotions, which is both comforting and worrisome to Spencer, who has almost forgotten how to talk to Alison like a normal person and not in operatic metaphors. “Oh, you like a boy? That’s it? Are you running a long con on him in order to steal an airplane and DB Cooper with some stolen money? Is ‘church youth soccer’ code for some kind of drug smuggling operation?”
Much like the previous episode, “Songs of Experience” is a much quieter episode of Pretty Little Liars than we’re used to. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of the girls’ time in the Dollhouse, and the show is demonstrating that this trauma won’t just be swept under the rug in an episode so they can charge headlong into the next mystery. (Remember that time Aria killed Shana? That’s okay, she doesn’t either!) The show is committed to showing realistic fallout from their time in captivity, and the reverberations show in each scene.
The episode has a very consistent feel with “Songs of Innocence,” which makes sense since it shares the same writer-director duo in Joseph Dougherty and Norman Buckley. The two really bring a sense of emotional realism, as well as a healthy undercurrent of disquiet, to the episode. The girls are all struggling to heal, but everything is just off kilter enough for the audience to be sure their nightmare isn’t quite over yet.
We’re beginning to make headway on the Charles of it all, while Sara Harvey is left of center enough to leave the audience wondering if she’s just a broken girl who likes pixie cuts or if there’s something deeper and more dangerous to her story. Dre Davis is doing a good job of walking the line with Sara, making her seem vulnerable and truthful in the same moments that she seems suspicious.
Their time in the Dollhouse has changed the girls, but it hasn’t weakened their bond like Charles intended. The great thing about Pretty Little Liars is that, at its core, it’s not a show about romantic relationships or about mysteries. It’s a show about the unbreakable friendship between these girls. We rarely see shows on television about female friendships, which is why it’s so refreshing that Liars is all about the importance of their bond.
This season, that friendship might be shaken and there might be cracks in the foundation, but the liars always find their way back to each other, and that’s what’s important. Perhaps the best scene of the episode sees the liars finally coming clean under that glowing streetlight.
They didn’t need Dr. Sullivan to piece them back together; they just needed to drop their defenses and be honest with each other. Obviously, honestly is not a strong suit for these girls, but by getting real about their experiences, they take the first step on the path to healing.
Hanna Wants a Shrink
Hanna wants the girls to go back to school together, but she’s pretty sorely disappointed when no one shows up. Emily is busy with Sara Harvey, whose horrible mother apparently threw out all her clothes while she was missing. Aria is busy with Ezra, drinking coffee and pretending to be cops. Hey, that’s Toby’s job!
Hanna bumps into Dr. Sullivan, who always seems to be conveniently around when the girls have experienced an especially traumatic event. “Someone put up the therapy bat signal, which in Rosewood is a mask on top of a mask on top of a creepy doll. I knew to come right away.”
In an empty classroom (Rosewood High can’t even afford to give Dr. Sullivan the use of an office for, like, five minutes?), Hanna talks to Dr. Sullivan about her problems. She says that ruining their friendship was the big win for Charles, and she wants to schedule some time for all the liars to meet and talk through their issues.
“Get in the car, we’re going to therapy!” Hanna yells, rounding up the girls and bringing them to Dr. Sullivan’s office.
Before they can talk about the Charles of it all, however, they get a threatening FaceTime from ‘A’ promising to kill Sara if they talk. ‘A’ is getting into interactive media now, I guess. “Texts are so 2010, man. I’m going to start livestreaming my threats using Periscope. It’s the future!”
Later, it turns out the girls don’t need Dr.Sullivan to heal; they just need a little honesty. They finally start talking about the unmentionable thing, which is that they were all subject to ‘A’s’ Milgram Experiment with the switches.
While they all had to pick someone to be shocked, they discover none of them were actually ever harmed. Spencer says the point was to pull them apart and to let them know that they could be pushed to a point where they would hurt each other. They all seem disturbed but also relieved to finally have things out in the open.
It’s a great scene with some fine acting from all the girls. It’s obvious each of the liars has been carrying around a lot of guilt about what Charles forced them to “do” to each other in the Dollhouse. The idea was to break apart their bonds, but not even psychological torture can pull them asunder.
When you’re a liar, you’re a liar all the way, from your first paper mache mask to your last dyin’ day!
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Detective Aria is on the Case
For a tiny person, Aria has enough rage to power the greater Bucks County area. Ezra, seeing her righteous anger, asks if she wants to do something illegal. Obviously, the answer is yes.
The two call up the hospital pretending to be cops (because this is Rosewood, after all, so of course a cop would call asking for a prep’s social security number) in order to get Andrew’s records. While Ezra looks surprised on the phone, Aria makes a voodoo doll of Andrew out of feathers, spikes and her BARF t-shirt. “The North Remembers,” Aria whispers to herself.
It turns out Andrew was adopted, which is one of many, many reasons Detectives Perving Mervin and Tiny Justice aren’t able to get the records they were after. (#TrueDetectiveSeason3)
With this juicy morsel of guilt, Aria flies off to tell the girls that Andrew totally did it. Aria’s investment in Andrew’s guilt definitely makes sense, as a guilty Andrew means the nightmare is finally over. It is interesting to see someone else play the Spencer role for a change, while Spencer just looks tired and doesn’t even have the energy to accuse Alison of anything particularly nefarious. Girl really does need a good night’s sleep.
Later, they learn that Andrew is being released because he had a solid alibi for when the girls were taken and also for when Sara Harvey was kidnapped. I still think he’s a narc because Andrew Campbell appears to age at least five years between each episode. He comes out of jail as a 35-year-old investment banker with a real roid rage problem.
Aria tries to apologize to him about all the lying to get him wrongfully incarcerated. I guess Hallmark doesn’t make a card for that one yet. But Andrew is not hearing it at all. He throws it in her face that he was trying to rescue her when he was apprehended, then calls the girls the town’s toxic waste dump.
Sorry these four girls ruined your plan to be a hero by being physically and psychologically tortured for a month. No, you’re right, Andrew, you’re the real victim here.
Although, Andrew’s assertion that the high school is going to graduate the girls just to get them out of the school is probably the most realistic explanation for how any of these girls are getting a diploma. I don’t think they’ve been to class in about two years. I guess it’s hard to concentrate on Algebra when you’re trying to decode a phone number being sung by a cannibalistic bird.
Spencer is, as usual, confronting Alison about the Charles thing. Alison is standing by her father’s assertion that he doesn’t know a Charles, but Spencer isn’t buying it. Alison seems particularly bruised when she realizes everyone will always see her as the manipulative person she used to be.
Certainly Toby does, when he asks Spencer to warn Alison from hanging out with Lorenzo. It’s a little too late for that, since Lorenzo wants Alison to teach the girls’ church soccer team. “I can teach them how to change their identity and hide a body, but I’m not sure how much I know about soccer.”
The episode is full of nice moments between Alison and Spencer, which is a surprising change of pace since they’ve always had the most contentious relationship of the bunch. Spencer’s been through some things now, and while she’s still Spencer, she’s also much less high-strung. Maybe this is what allows her to see past the mystery of the moment and to notice how vulnerable Alison really is. Their moment on Alison’s porch is friendly in a way scenes between the two almost never are, as Alison subtly divulges her interest in Lorenzo.
Meanwhile, Spencer talks to Jason about Charles, who has a sudden attack of childhood memories. It turns out that he didn’t know a Charles, but he did have an imaginary friend named Charlie. At some point, Mr. D told him Charlie had to go away, and Jason didn’t think much more about it.
Convinced that Jason’s imaginary friend wasn’t that imaginary, the girls take a tour through the many secret hidey-holes of the DiLaurentis house. I’ve been watching the new season of Orange is the New Black and I think there were less hiding places in Litchfield Prison than in this house.
While Spencer and Alison bond, Aria is drawn to the siren allure of the craft room. “I can bedazzle so many jean jackets!” she thinks, picking up a jar of buttons. Inside, she finds a picture from that same trip to the Campbell farm of Mrs. D and those two little boys. Detective Aria is really crushing it in this episode. Of course, the professional bedazzler of the group would find the clue hidden in the craft room.
As the episode ends, Alison decides to confront her father with the picture and find out how this imaginary friend took on a corporeal form. She places the picture back into the photo album (where another picture is still missing) and then she and Jason confront their father.
From outside the window, we watch with ‘A’ as Mr. D crumbles and tells the truth, and Alison lets out a confused and disgusted “What?” I know how you feel, Alison. We all know how you feel.
Elsewhere Around Rosewood…
— Sara Harvey has pretty much taken up residence at the Fields household. When Emily returns home, she finds Sara in her room with a snazzy new pixie haircut provided by Pam. “I came in like a wrecking ball!” Sara sings seductively at Emily, who has zero chance of not falling into this love trap.
— Hanna’s imaginary friend was named Mr. Biscuit. This is perhaps the most important piece of information we learn in this episode.
— After an emotional fight with her mother, Spencer finally breaks down and takes the pill she stole from Aria’s room. Does this mean we get another film noir episode? I’m in favor of a Valley of the Dolls hallucination this time, if we can cast in votes.
What did you think of the episode? Is Andrew completely innocent? If not, how is he involved? Will Spencer fall back into old habits? Can Sara be trusted? And just what is the deal with Charles? Share your theories in the comments!
Catch Pretty Little Liars every Tuesday at 8pm on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)