If you didn’t catch Tuesday night’s episode of Pretty Little Liars, you may want to fake an emergency and leave work early today. Or catch it later on your DVR. Either way, stuff went down this week.
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read until you’ve watched Season 3, Episode 16 of Pretty Little Liars, or if you don't mind spoilers.
The episode opens on a very sick Aria getting some TLC from her three most loyal friends. We really know Aria is sick because she’s drinking Meredith’s special herbal tea and not wearing makeup. While I try to get over the fact that we won’t be seeing any of Aria’s ridiculous outfits that I secretly want to be able to pull off, Hannah is consoling her friend with three seasons of Saved By the Bell on DVD. Don’t try and figure out if these girls are actually old enough to know what that show is. It will only upset you. The Liars are discussing Byron and Meredith, and it seems they are just as unsure of who to trust as we are.
Next, we get our first real look into the behind-the-scenes action at A-quarters. Mona and Toby are discussing the Liars, as they both suit up, A-style. As they strategize their next move, we learn that neither Mona nor Toby is in charge, when she tells him that the Liars, “need to know that she’s in charge.” Roll credits!
Emily and Toby (my favorite les-bromance on the show) are making small talk in Toby’s apartment, which is sadly nicer than mine. Toby seems to be trying to solidify his trust with Emily, albeit his subtle jab when he downgrades her literary metaphor for the Liars’ friendship (The Lord of the Flies) to a Hardy Boy’s book (Thick as Thieves). But, after he asks Emily to lock up, she calls Spencer saying that he’s on the way and she has the keys. Are the Liars hot on his heels?
Back at Hannah’s, Caleb offers little help as Hannah tries picking out an outfit for an interview, pointing out, “I’ve had this hoodie since I was 12.” I’m sure there’s a group that could recommend a good hoodie shop if he needs to pick up a new one, but sadly, I think it only sells black ones. As she goes to try on a dress for him, she overhears Caleb whispering to someone on the phone about Hannah and Mona. Hannah is on her ballsy streak, so she confronts Caleb, even calling him out when he tries to claim he was talking to his mom, as it’s 4:30 am in California. Keep in mind, this means it is 7:30 am in Pennsylvania, where these two teenagers are hanging out in an empty house, but that’s beside the point. He explains that he’s just worried about Hannah (aw) and makes some cute comment about her outfit (double aw), so all is forgiven.
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In case you’ve forgotten, Toby has abs, as his obligatory towel shot confirms. We learn that Spencer has to go to a dinner event with her family, and will be missing their anniversary. Spencer’s mom enters, seemingly unfazed by her daughter’s almost naked boyfriend, and offers to help Spencer pick out an outfit for said dinner. You would think these girls would be able to dress themselves by now! Toby leaves, but not before Spencer’s mom reminds him that he forgot his shirt. He is still wearing a towel, but I guess pants aren’t as important. When he’s gone, the Hastings ladies discuss the surprise dinner Spencer is throwing for Toby, as the family event is just a front. Since Toby is pretty much evil now, this may not end well.
While Aria sleeps on the couch, Meredith, who inexplicably still lives with the family she helped to destroy, searches the house. Aria stirs, and the two talk briefly about Byron, Ella and the missing diary pages, which appear to interest Meredith a great deal. Still feeling under the weather, Aria falls asleep mid-conversation. Seriously, what does this girl have? Meredith makes an “I’m secretly evil” face that even Toby would be jealous of. Later, we learn that she took the comatose Aria’s phone.
Back at school, Paige and Emily are having a picnic of sorts in the courtyard of their school. Paige “wasn’t up for going out” (or also, had school), so Emily made all of her favorite foods and brought them for lunch. Paige tells Emily she made an appointment to go see a therapist that afternoon, per Emily’s suggestion.
Hannah abruptly ends their date for “some girl talk – not girl-on-girl talk, just girl talk.” Smooth, Hannah. Hannah tells Emily about Caleb’s weird early morning phone call and asks Emily to follow Caleb after school, since Hannah has her interview. After Hannah gives Emily the play-by-play of how to trail someone (keep them in sight; stay far enough behind them; come on, Em, haven’t you watched a movie?), Emily agrees.
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Spencer is preparing her dinner with Toby, complete with a bottle of red wine, the final touch for any successful high school anniversary dinner. Acting very domesticated in the kitchen, Spencer opens a drawer, but doesn’t seem to notice a “Radley Sanatorium” badge with Toby’s picture lying in it. Will Spencer learn the truth about her beau?
Hannah walks into an overly-mannequin-ed shop for her interview, but isn’t met by anyone at the door. Maybe do a Google maps search prior to your interview next time Han. As soon as Hannah realizes this may not be the right spot, she is attacked by a hooded A figure, who leaves after pushing a row of mannequins onto Hannah. Always-reliable A leaves Hannah with a colorful threat: “Next time you’ll be left faceless.” Petrified Hannah finds a key on the ground with a tag marked “A,” possibly dropped (or planted) by her assaulter.
By now, Emily is an expert in the following and spying game, closely trailing Caleb as he enters a coffee shop. She is pulled away by a text from Spencer alerting her of Hannah’s attack just before Caleb meets the person he came here to see – Paige! Now I’m not sure, but I don’t think Caleb is a therapist. The two confide that they are worried about their respective ladies, and considering Toby is evil and Ezra isn’t around to take care of his apparently dying girlfriend, they are totally winning the paramour contest. They vow to keep the girls safe by trying to find all of Mona’s secrets, naively unaware that the A team could be following their every move.
Hannah, Spencer and Emily regroup after Hannah’s A-ttack, and Meredith continues to ransack the Montgomery household while Aria sleeps off the bubonic plague. Wait, that’s not Meredith! In another pseudo-dream appearance, Ali is in Aria’s room, looking for the cryptic note she kept in the back of her doll’s neck. She tells Aria that she sees everything now, including A, and remarks specifically that she’s surprised Spencer hasn’t figured it all out yet. Could another Hastings woman be at the forefront of the A team? Is that’s why Spencer’s mom is letting her teenaged daughter have a private, drunken dinner with her once suspected killer boyfriend? Disappointingly, there’s no kiss between the girls in this dream appearance by Ali, but like her encounter with Emily, she seems to imply to Aria that she isn’t, in fact, dead. Ali warns Aria not to drink her tea because “Meredith is looking for these pages, too.” And just before leaving, she asks, “You know why I picked you, right?” Aria doesn’t, and neither do we, but we sure want to find out!
Frazzled from the dream Aria awakens, and just to be safe, dumps out her tea. This isn’t that bold of a move considering she’s been asleep for a while, so it was probably getting cold anyway. But when she tries to leave her suspicions are confirmed when she discovers her door is locked from the outside, a feature I’m surprised a suburban bedroom would have. Later in the episode, Aria tries to pick the lock, but no dice. Realizing she can only defend herself, she breaks her mirror and creates a shank from the debris. And Aria has won this week’s badass award.
As Hannah and Emily stroll by the pharmacy they overhear Meredith inside trying to get her prescription of Marzipan refilled – wait, no... Quazepam. It seems doctor-patient confidentiality isn’t too much of an issue in Rosewood, as two girls standing outside can clearly hear her get denied for the refill. Frustrated, Meredith grabs a handful of comparable over-the-counter drugs, and frantically throws them at the pharmacist, who gladly rings this woman up, despite the fact that she appears to have some sort of substance abuse problem.
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Back to wearing clothes, Toby surprises Spencer with flowers and finds the A key on her counter. She quickly makes up a cover story about a storage unit Melissa has, a name that hasn’t come up lately. Another Hastings woman, could she be the ringleader of the A team?
Back at the Montgomery’s, Aria wakes up to a terrifying looking Meredith gripping Aria’s makeshift mirror-knife so tightly that her hand is starting to bleed. Aria, you had one job, and that was to stay awake. Meredith reveals she’s crazy and obsessed with finding the missing pages from Ali’s diary. Thankfully, Meredith is a yellow lab and gets distracted by a clap thunder and flash of lightning giving Aria the chance to escape. Aria makes it downstairs and tries to call for help but the line is dead. Forgetting about a second stairwell that the Montgomery’s apparently have Aria is startled and gets knocked out by crazy-eyed Meredith.
Emily and Hannah, who have been commenting on their inability to get in touch with Aria all day, finally decide to go to her house. Side note, the frequency of rainless thunderstorms in Rosewood is reason for concern. They search the Montgomery house (Rosewood’s new favorite hobby), but don’t find Aria. Instead, Meredith comes in looking like one of the Children of the Corn grew up and she's holding Aria’s phone. She says Aria is downstairs in the basement looking for flashlights and they should all go check on her. Girls, never let someone who isn’t blinking follow you into a basement. They do however, and Meredith locks the door behind the Hanna and Emily who find Aria passed out on the floor. Seriously, Aria, get it together.
Hannah and Emily get Aria to wake up and she tells them that Meredith is crazy-sauce. Through the barred window--again, did this house used to be a prison or something?--they can see that Byron has come home early. Inside, Meredith tells him, “Aria knows everything... and her friends know too.”
Byron comes down to the basement, to find the girls ready to defend themselves with makeshift weapons, a big theme in this episode. He assures them, “you don’t need to be afraid of me,” and since Emily is taller than he is, I agree. He explains (via flashback) that he went to Ali the night of her murder (during another meteorological phenomenon) to call off the blackmail. Ali reminded him of her plan to reveal his affair but he left aware of his fate. Before he went, however, he saw Melissa arguing with someone on the phone. Could she be the woman in charge after all?
Back in the present, Byron tells Aria that he planned to reveal everything to her mother, but Ali’s whole disappearing and then ending up murdered thing kind of put a wrench in the works.
Wearing his all black A-pparel, Toby sneaks into the Hastings household looking for the key marked “A.” Spencer comes out of the shadows, and after a good slap, reveals wordlessly that she found his badge from Radley and has known ever since. Just then, her mom comes home and calls out to Spencer, allowing Toby the chance to escape. Spencer breaks down crying to her mom in heartbreaking fashion.
Aria and Byron are sitting by the fire, which totally makes everything that just happened okay. Aria shows her dad the missing diary pages, but doesn’t respond when he asks her if she thinks he had something to do with Ali’s murder. Desperate to prove he’s innocent (or possibly bluffing), he tells her he is going to the police to tell him everything he knows. Aria tells her father she believes him and burns the missing diary pages.
Devastated, Spencer goes to Toby’s apartment, begging for an explanation. Kept out by the chain lock, she breaks down crying to the strains of classical music emanating from his apartment. In the closing moments, the A minion inside is revealed to be Mona, sipping wine and enjoying what should have been an anniversary dinner for two. Still, Mona may be evil, but she’s not in charge. Is it one of the Hastings women? The decidedly missing Ella? Samara? Ok, probably not, but we can hope! Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8:00 ET on ABC Family.