Warning: This recap contains spoilers.
You know, you can’t spell Alison without A.
I’m not suggesting that Ali is the elusive, dangerous figure terrorizing us for the past five seasons, but in the wake of learning that Ali tapped Noel to stage a fake break-in at the Marin house, it looks like the Liars are finally starting to see their friend for who she really is. Dilated eyes and all.
Spencer asked a lot of questions in the first few minutes of the episode, but didn’t get many answers. Why is Ali working with Noel? Why would she do that to Hanna’s mom? And why was Hanna — who complains to Spencer and Emily that “even the doorknob” smells like Ali — smelling said doorknob?
Hanna’s been carrying a flask and drinking with abandon at Caleb’s hideaway and it’s pretty clear that she needs help. Aria is preoccupied with her mother’s upcoming wedding and the fact that her mother’s groom-to-be might be a huge creep. She barely has the time to warn Ezra, via text, that Tanner is asking a lot of questions about him and his relationship with a certain Shana Fring.
That leaves Spencer and Emily to look into Ali’s connection to Noel. They end up discovering another connection: that of Jenna and Sydney. Emily was on fire this episode, breaking into Noel’s locker and then his car, dressing Sydney down when she found out about her friendship with Jenna. Jenna also has her own run-in — with Ali, who offers condolences for Shana’s death and says, almost convincingly, that Shana meant a lot to her too. “How’d you turn her against me?” Ali asks. Jenna replies without missing a beat: “I didn’t. You did.”
Spencer’s trip to the opthamalogist (following last week’s horse kicking incident) set several events in motion. First, a trip to Caleb’s to confront him about his role in Hanna’s drinking. I had expected this episode to delve deeper into Hanna’s drinking problem, but it left the whole issue pretty open so I wonder if we’ll see more about it in the two episodes leading up to the finale (er, #FATALFINALE)
Spencer’s visit did make for some heartwarming dialogue. “I always thought you were the best thing that ever happened to Hanna,” she tells Caleb. They went thisclose to mentioning ‘Ravenswood,’ but thought better of it.
At the eye doctor, Spencer gets her eyes dilated (because duh) and her vision gets hazy just in time for Jenna to walk in with … Jenna. That’s according to blurry-eyed Spencer. Emily, who has found incriminating pictures of Ali during the time she actually wasn’t kidnapped in Noel’s possession, meets Spencer in time to identify Sydney as Jenna No. 2. No word on why they were wearing identical outfits, but the resemblance was uncanny.
Emily did not take kindly to the revelation that Sydney had been friends with Jenna all along. As she called Sydney out on her deception, Spencer played the humorous sidekick, telling Jenna: “When you ask the organ grinder a question, you don’t really want to hear from the monkey.”
Another person Spencer didn’t want to hear from, but did is A, who delivered this terrifying message,via Spencer’s eye chart, replicated here for dramatic effect.
To be honest, if we could see A, there would be no PLL (or would there?). But that’s beside the point. With A’s taunting and the photos and Ali tape that Emily found in Noel’s car, Sydney looks pretty hard to trust.
We learn that Sydney knows Jenna because she was a volunteer at the school for the visually impaired that Jenna once attended. She takes a typical high school romantic comedy approach when apologizing, telling Emily “I didn’t expect to like you so much.” Emily holds no punches telling Sydney that she’s taking the assistant swim coach position she dangled in front of her last week.
“I want to see you underwater long enough for you to feel that twinge of panic when you need air and you can’t get it.” Emily tells her. “I want you to feel what it feels like to be sucker punched.” Sweet Emily Fields, we hardly knew ye.
Speaking of sucker punches, Caleb manages to get Hanna to open up about Zack’s advance. Then Caleb “I’m not here for a latte” Rivers promptly finds Zack and punches him in the face. When Zack gives him a note he believes to be from Hanna, Caleb realizes that it goes deeper than Zack just being a creep — A’s involved.
Things aren’t going so well for Ella, either. As Aria suspects more and more that Hanna was telling the truth about Zack coming onto her, she raises her suspicions with her mother. Ella doesn’t take much convincing — turns out Zack had a similar incident before they returned to Rosewood. She calls off the wedding and has a pretty sweet exchange with her ex-husband, Byron, who lends her his shoulder to cry on.
Hanna, also in need of a (non-Ali) shoulder to cry on, gets a visit from Aria, who tells Hanna that it was never that she didn’t believe her, but just that “she wanted to believe something else more, that my mom could find someone again, be happy.” There are tears and hugs.
As Ashley Marin and Ali return from the engagement party that never was, Hanna’s mom gets a call from Rosewood police, who want to talk to Ali (and apparently do not care whether she has a legal guardian present). They tell Ashley that a person is admitting to the break-in at her house.
That person isn’t Noel, who stalked Spencer when she tried to hide Ali’s photos and tape in her family’s cabin — a dark, creaky cabin that she went to completely alone. Noel waited patiently under a furniture cover that didn’t appear to have any breathing holes, just a tear large enough to showcase one of his blue eyes. Spencer looked genuinely terrified to discover Noel there and defended herself with a fire poker stick. Looks like Noel is going to need medical attention. The encounter wasn’t only scary — it was enlightening, with Noel confessing that the photos and tape were “insurance” against Ali. “Our friend likes to throw people away when she’s done using them,” he tells Spencer. Spencer kept possession of the photos, but made Noel very, very angry.
Angry enough to send a fake kidnapper to Rosewood to unravel Ali’s story? Perhaps. Ali didn’t seem to recognize the strange guy who knew detail of her fabricated kidnapping. But she did seem to be considering letting him run with the story. Careful Ali, that’s a lot of power to bestow upon a stranger. Or anyone really, at this point.
Lingering questions: Obviously, who is the guy who just showed up? What does Ali have on Noel? Is Sydney being genuine with Emily? Are they really going to kill off a Liar in the finale? CAN UCME YET?