Warning: This recap contains spoilers.
Of all of the shocking revelations to come out of “Pretty Little Liars” winter premiere, the fact that Aria — lover of poetry and soy lattes — did not get into Oberlin, takes the cake.
I’m kidding, but only sort of, because I’m not sure we learned anything we didn’t already know (or at least, suspect). But this is A we’re dealing with, so it follows that we’re just getting started.
Something tells me that Mona would have gotten a kick out of seeing her mother slap Alison DiLaurentis. As the Liars — wearing their most funeral-appropriate attire to date — looked on in horror, Ali brazenly showed up to Mona’s funeral service to “pay her respects” and explain that she had nothing to do with Mona’s death. Mrs. Vanderwaal disagreed, punctuating her slap with an exasperated plea: “You murdered my daughter. Where is her body?!”
Mona’s body, last seen in the trunk of an unidentified car, is still yet to be found. Luckily for the Liars and especially Spencer — out on bail, but still suspected of murdering Bethany Young — there were secrets Mona didn’t plan to take to the grave. Some of those secrets are on her hard drive, which Caleb can’t seem to hack. Aria reasons that if they can prove that Ali murdered Mona, they can prove that Ali likely is responsible for Bethany’s murder.
The group devises a series of plans that make me think they should go join Officer Toby at the Rosewood Police Department. Spencer and Emily go straight for Ali’s alibi — that she was at Thanksgiving dinner with her father and Jason. “I know she’s your sister, but so am I,” Spencer tells Jason, who looks like he already knows what Spencer is going to say next. “She set me up.”
Hanna works a more supernatural angle. She decides to call Mrs. Grunwald because, as she tells a disapproving Caleb, “she’s a psychic — a real psychic, not some card-flipper at the carnival.”
Grunwald brings her steely gaze to Rosewood, meeting Hanna in front of Mona’s empty chamber. Hanna provides one of Mona’s stuffed animals (that’s how it happens in movies, I guess) and Grunwald gets to work. Let’s file everything she says under Stuff You Do Not Say To A Grieving Person. Especially this:
“She isn’t in Rosewood. She’s in the dark. She is not having an easy passing. Betrayal. Betrayal and loss — her soul is caught, bound, she is surrounded by earth and insects and cold. There’s no peace. Only fear.”
Aria was worried about her brother, who was acting a bit too nonchalant about his girlfriend’s death, but she was also a bit consumed by her own (albeit, related) troubles. She suspects that A tampered with her college applications (hence that rejection letter from Oberlin) and asks Caleb to teach her a thing or two about hacking so she can find out if her suspicions are valid.
Aria also ran into the most danger this episode — Ali asked to chat and scared Aria so much she blew her safety whistle (an amazing moment in PLL history, for sure). She had an even bigger scare when A’s trademarked hooded visage cornered her in Ezra’s starter home, wrapped her in plastic and stapled said plastic to the wall. After five seasons of PLL, I barely blinked at this. Fortunately, A isn’t so good with a staple gun and Aria is fine.
A is good at stealing, though, and Aria loses Mona’s hard drive. Even in death, Mona’s not one to lack a Plan B — of course she installed cameras in her home. Spencer and Emily discover this when they break into Mrs. Vanderwaal’s house to find and/or plant evidence. Spencer finds what the police didn’t — a small camera installed in an air vent — with a perfect vantage point to the crime scene.
The video, which Lt. Tanner and Toby later play for Jason, shows someone who looks a lot like Ali delivering the blows that killed Mona. Jason, apparently moved by Spencer’s sibling speech, confirms that it looks like Ali and that Ali wasn’t with him at the time of the murder.
Ali comes home to a disappointed-looking Jason and police sirens. Jason does let his sister try to escape through the back door, but the Liars are there, waiting to block Ali from running. Tanner arrests Ali and shows up later at the Hastings house to deliver the good news: They believe Ali murdered Bethany and Spencer is off the hook.
Convinced that Ali is A, the Liars gear up to rest easy and plot their escape (escApe?) from Rosewood. It’s especially appealing to Emily, who was forced to say goodbye to Paige. She adorably bought a ticket to Atlantic City just so she could get past the gates at the airport to try one last time to convince Paige not to go to California with her parents. Paige says she is “tired of fighting” and gets on the plane.
What happened next was so predictable I’d like to see Hanna reciting passages of “Terminations” in next week’s episode as penance. But it was also very PLL, so wash. As Ali tosses and turns on her prison-issued mattress, a fireworks display starts up outside and the girls ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ like they did at the end of the Christmas episode right before A was all “hey, I’m still here!”
We know what happens next. A huge red ‘A’ lights up the sky and then a deluge of fireworks fall to the ground, clearly aimed at the group. The scarlet letter throws a serious wrench into the Ali as A theory and we’re basically right back where we started.
As Ali said right before the cops took her away: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Lingering questions: Does Grunwald know who killed Mona? If Ali isn’t A, who is? Did someone tamper with Aria’s college applications (not to mention, Spencer’s)? Who stole the hard drive from Aria? And what are they going to do with it? Exactly where is Detective Holbrooke and his “assignment”?