The Last Temptation of Aria Montgomery begins in this episode of Pretty Little Liars, titled “Power Play,” as A.D. and her lackey Sydney WhatsHerFace give Aria the chance to come over to the winning side. Meanwhile, Emily has some twisted relationship drama, Spencer’s continued search for Mary Drake unearths plenty of secrets and Hanna uncovers some troubling information about an old friend.

This episode certainly isn’t resting on its laurels! The season finally feels like it’s propelling forward, as answers seem to beget new mysteries.

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And Baby Makes Three? 

So let’s start with the bad: it turns out that Alison is actually carrying Emily’s fertilized eggs, a plot twist everyone called about one second after we found out Alison was pregnant. There’s really nothing particularly great about this storyline. Most of the audience had already come to this shocking conclusion before the characters did, leaving the show to play catch-up.

Therefore, watching Alison nauseously stumble through the baby store while flashing back to Emily’s missing egg storyline just kind of elicits a sigh. This plot point isn’t fun bonkers, like when Hanna has to perform surgery on a mannequin with her face. And if the show is indeed planning on pairing Emily and Alison together before the finale, it certainly undercuts any possible romance with a serious dose of weirdness. 

A Race for Love

Speaking of Emily’s love life, this episode sees Emily shouldering the main romance plotline. Unlike the meandering Marco subplot of the previous episode, Emily’s romantic drama is at least grounded in characters we’ve known and cared about for a few seasons. Back at the high school, Emily bumps into a distant Paige, who reveals that she’s gotten a job offer from Iowa University. 

Wow, Paige must have really crushed it during that one week she was Athletic Director. Emily, by contrast, is already showing up to work 45 minutes late. I’d like to use this moment to point out that Emily went ham on a high school student two episodes ago just for missing practice once. Double standards are no one’s friend, Emily. 

Paige explains that ever since she returned to the “act normal, bitch” halls of Rosewood High School, she’s felt like she went right back to being a teenager. Emily tries to convince her not to leave, but Paige has pretty much made up her mind, especially since she knows that Emily and Ali are keeping secrets again. Emily says that when she saw Paige return to town, she thought the two of them would give it another try. It’s funny when you realize that when Paige initially returned, Emily was dating Sabrina. Watch out, Paige, Emily ain’t loyal. 

Later, however, she sees the pamphlet for the medical abortion in Ali’s bag and realizes that everyone has demons, even mean girls.

So instead of accepting the job offer immediately, she bumps into Emily again outside the school and they discuss Paige’s difficult decision. The pair reminisce about how they used to make all their decisions in college by racing each other, and soon they’re back on their bikes riding as fast as they can. Suddenly, Paige disappears, and when Emily stops to find her, Paige tells Emily that she’s already made up her mind and they kiss. It is very cute. 

The only way that love declaration could have been any more Paige McCullers would be if after the kiss, she kicked over a garbage can in celebration. 

Of course, the Emison baby of it all is probably going to put a wrench in the reunion somewhat, as Alison tells Emily what happened. As the episode ends, Emily and Alison both look freaked-out and violated.

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The Dark Aria Rises

The best part of the episode, for the second week running, is Aria. I’m not sure Aria has ever been the MVP of so many episodes before. And all she had to do was take a step down the path of betrayal! 

She begins the episode freaked-out in Ezra’s apartment after Nicole randomly shows up. Apparently, she didn’t murder Nicole with a butcher knife but did let her go upstairs and go to bed. She tells Ezra that it’s going to be pretty hard for him to continue neglecting to tell Nicole about his fiance when she notices all the bedazzled clothing and feather earrings lying around. 

Later, Ezra tells Aria that he told Nicole the truth, a truth he had originally withheld from her on the advice of her doctor. Nicole said she just wanted Ezra to be happy, and Ezra assures Aria that he feels comfortable with his decision. ‘

Later, however, Aria shows up at his apartment to see book pages everywhere. Nicole apparently threw the book when her parents came to take her back to the clinic, and in the margins of a page she sees a note that Nicole scribbled about a memory that kept her alive in captivity. Aria, obviously, is feeling a little weird about this whole situation. 

Of course, Aria having Ezra drama is nothing new on Pretty Little Liars. Aria has been trapped in a never-ending cycle of Ezra drama since the show began. What is new is that Aria is now being tempted to the dark side, and she’s never seemed to be more ready to snap.

After a video call from Ali, Aria gets a video call from A.D., who shows her the file that Jessica DiLaurentis kept on her. A.D. says that whatever is in the file will cause Ezra to reconsider his choice of her over Nicole and mentions that it could also send Ezra to jail. The show keeps tempting us with sending Ezra to jail, but they never do it. I’ve been burned too many times, Pretty Little Liars, but I still want to believe. 

Aria freaks out and yells that she wants out of the game, which prompts A.D. to text her a location for a meeting. So Aria just wanders off, leaving Ali to find out that she’s pregnant with Emily’s baby by receiving a bracelet with Emily’s name on it. It used to be that shocking bracelets on this show were made of human teeth. A.D. might be a jerk, but they’re not as inventive with jewelry choices. 

Aria goes to the meet-up and gets into a limo, which seems like a dubious choice that could definitely lead to death in Rosewood. However, it turns out that in the back of the limo is Sydney WhatsHerFace. “Who are you again?” Aria more or less says when Syd announces that she’s A.D.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that someone else is calling the shots for Sydney, but she makes Aria a tempting offer instead. Aria can join the A.D. team and sell out her friends in order to keep her secrets. Aria protests that she won’t do it, but you can tell that whatever dirt A.D. has on her has Aria seriously spooked. Syd tells Aria to consider joining the winning side, and Aria gets out of the limo more confused than ever. “Where is my poisoned salt water taffy when I need it?” 

As the episode ends, Aria shows up to a liar’s huddle, where they all immediately demand to know where she was when Ali was getting her bad news. Aria lies and says she was with Ezra, showing that she’s at least considering the offer for the time being. As the board game whirls to life, the girls are convinced that it’s Aria’s turn next. But instead of landing on Aria, the game bounces back to a bewildered and angry Hanna. 

Aria is silent, not mentioning anything about the meeting with Sydney as to why she wasn’t chosen. As the girls file out, Aria receives a text: “Made a decision yet?” It seems like Aria is definitely being tempted to the dark side. 

There are many things great about this, but chief among them is that Aria hasn’t always gotten the most interesting storylines. By and large, Aria tends to get the romance stories while the rest of the girls are off Nancy Drew-ing all over town. Whenever Aria does get to be a part of the main plot, however, it’s always seriously great. Unhinged Aria is always the best kind of Aria, and she’s been holding on by a thread during this half-season. 

Add to that the fact that Aria is actually the perfect liar to turn to the dark side. After all, she’s spent seven seasons cleaning up wine stains while the other girls are getting steamed to death by their own showers. Aria’s status as barely on the show is now the perfect cover to do shady A.D. tasks without getting caught. After all, who wouldn’t believe that Aria would totally abandon a friend in the middle of a dangerous task for Ezria drama? Aria is basically the perfect sleeper agent. The rest of the liars will never see her coming. 

Lucy Hale has said that before this half-season, she finally requested a storyline for her character, and I think we’re seeing it play out now with this Dark Aria tale. Will Aria really sell out her friends to save herself? How much darker will she get? Will she continue to Hulk out and throw things at glass objects?  I can’t wait to see more of the Last Temptation of Aria Montgomery to find out. 

Who Killed Jessica DiLaurentis? 

Meanwhile, Hanna is finally being less pissy with Spencer. As they snoop around and talk about what a bad idea it is for Spencer to date a cop, Hanna finds the card for the private investigator Peter hired to find Mary Drake. Spencer fills Hanna in briefly on the conversation she had with Peter earlier when she busted him for being back in the US but not coming to visit his shot daughter. Peter is never winning that Dad of the Year award. 

Hanna tells Spencer that she should call the private investigator and find out what he knows about Mary Drake. While Spencer is hesitant, Hanna plows on ahead and gets an address from the PI. But they’re both shocked when they show up at the address and it’s Pastor Ted they see. 

I’m not sure I understand some of the characters they chose to bring back for the final season. I mean, Pastor Ted feels even more unnecessary than Holden. At least Holden makes a mean mushroom puff. 

Ted immediately lies about having seen Mary Drake, as Mary slithers out from behind him right after the girls leave to make sure he didn’t give her away. Of course, Pastor Ted ain’t loyal either, and he runs to Hanna to tell her that he was letting Mary crash on his couch. Apparently, back in the day he and Mary dated, and he later found out that Mary had his baby. That baby was Charlotte.

All of this, by the way, makes my head hurt. Is anyone in Rosewood not a love child? I need a chart just to keep track of who is related to who. I’m pretty sure Peter Hastings and one of the DiLaurentis sisters sired every single person in Rosewood. 

Pastor Ted then goes on to say that Charlotte went to his camp for troubled youth, where she only had one friend: Lucas. Hanna’s eyes just about pop out of her head. This certainly makes Lucas even more suspicious than he already was, and he already had the creep factor dialed up to 11. 

Meanwhile, Peter freaks out at Spencer about going behind his back to the PI. He tells her that Mary is dangerous, and we get a flashback to that time Jessica appeared behind Spencer in her room. It turns out that wasn’t Jessica but rather Mary. She wanted to see her daughter and she also wanted to get revenge on Jessica for everything. 

Peter tells Spencer that Mary killed Jessica and tried to frame Peter for the crime. Spencer puts it together that this means that Peter knew about Charlotte before the dollhouse, and Peter is like, “Whoops!” It must be so exhausting being a member of the Hastings family. I’m surprised Peter can even remember what he’s been lying about lately. 

What did you think of the episode? Is Lucas on the ‘A’ team? Will Aria truly switch sides? Did Mary really kill Jessica? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Pretty Little Liars season 7 airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform. Want more news? Like our Facebook page

(Image courtesy of Freeform)

Morgan Glennon

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV