Pretty Little Liars Recap: Holbrook Back!

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Spencer (Troian Bellisario) and Johnny (Will Bradley) discuss his secret machine. Photo: Eric McCandless/Disney Enterprises
Pretty Little Liars
Episode Title
Oh, What Hard Luck Stories They All Hand Me
Season
5
Episode
18
Editor’s Rating
4/5

Excuse the tardiness on the PLL Aggro-List. My cat was sick and being a mom takes precedence over recapping. Speaking of moms, where the hell has everyone but Mrs. Marin been? Since Mona was murdered, Mrs. Montgomery, Mrs. Hastings, and Mrs. Emily’s Mom (that’s Emily’s mom’s name, right?) have all been completely out of the picture. Well, that was until "Oh, What Hard Luck Stories They All Hand Me," last night’s very-over-the-top-titled episode. Mrs. Hastings is “making chummy with Ali’s lawyers” so that Spencer won’t be a part of the trial. Haven’t we decided that after Spencer’s little mini-jail tour and Hanna’s possibly present DNA in the storage unit, the latter is the one who has to worry about being called in on an assist? Do you guys think Mrs. Hastings was this intrepid about Mr. Hastings’s affair with Mrs. D? Did we all just realize that the familiarity between these families, now that Mrs. Marin has slept with Jason, is kind of overkill? (Shout out to Mrs. Emily’s Mom, who totally doesn’t engage!)

But guys! GUYS! This was the best PLL episode of the winter season, right? Since it started back up after Christmas, it’s been all lackluster foreplay. Now we’re getting new, suspicious characters (why the hell is Hanna so open with Leslie? Would you get that buddy-buddy with a murdered pal’s friend you’d never heard of before?), Holbrook has finally reappeared (and is being punished for fudging Ali’s lie-detector test, too!), and Spencer’s mom is back to her shady ways.

A friend of mine has told me she needs these recaps because she’s confused about why Aria and Mike’s mom has been totally AWOL since Mona was murdered — seriously, if my son’s girlfriend ever gets merc'd, I am holding his hand everywhere he goes for two years, minimum. Never let me have children. My shitty parenting aside, last night’s episode took place in a clinic in Rosewood and needed a ton of people in its narrative to be great. Now let’s get into the tiny town’s aggro-economy.

1. Johnny is the plug.
Post-A Rosewood is pretty much the Secrets Capital of America, and Johnny has figured that out, upon his return, more quickly than anyone. Ezra has hired Johnny to create an art piece for the revamped Brew, and it’s a perpetual-motion machine that records people telling it secrets that can later be heard, presumably, by strangers. We all know how this is going to end. A may still be M.I.A. but there’s no way they aren't going to come back thanks to this installation.

Mrs. Hastings is also Über-pissed at Johnny — reminder, he’s living in their backyard — because he is a college dropout, and she is convinced he's the reason Spencer hasn’t been opening her college acceptance letters. Part of me thinks that Mrs. Hastings should be a little bit more empathetic to her pseudo-drug-addict, tortured child, but apparently Spence has been thinking about college since the first grade. (We all know she’s been thinking about it since pre-K, right? Right.) It’s possible Johnny is the only safe person in Rosewood, though, and the writers are doing right by using him to push the show along.

2. Mike hasn’t been a good dude in a minute, so why are we so upset about it now?
Aria’s brother Mike pissed the Liars off to holy hell when he started canoodling with Mona last season. The viewers were expected to take that as a suspect move on Mona’s end, but after last night’s episode, there might actually be something up with Mike. Spencer’s mom has a copy of the visitor log from the place where Ali is locked up, so Spence snaps a photo of it (natch) and shows it to Aria — because Mike has visited Ali in prison. Aria’s response is totally spot-on, though, because who wouldn’t go see the person who has been accused of killing their paramour? She thinks Mike has only gone to see Ali to spit in her face, but rando redhead Leslie later tells Hanna that the night before Mona’s murder, she overheard Mike speaking aggressively with her. This doesn’t bode well with Aria, so she follows Mike into the woods when he sneaks out of the house that night, only to find that he is leaving bags of candy on a bridge for some mysterious person. Part of me wants to believe that it is a mourning ritual, but I’m certain ABC Family wants me to believe something else is up, which is why we see Mike going back to visit Ali at the end of the episode.

3. Emily and Talia, sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
For all you anti-Paige-ers out there, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Last week Talia came out to Emily and disclosed some special feelings. Emily has been recently inspired to let go of Paige, whose parents shipped her out to California to evade Rosewood insanity, but this week Em really, really let go. And Talia has some moves, let me tell you. Granted, the Brew’s kitchen is tiny and secluded, so it's already primed for intimacy, but when Talia ties up Emily’s apron after the straps come loose and holds her by the waist for an extra few seconds, Talia’s aggressiveness is fully realized — still, it's gentle in its own way. Emily uses Johnny’s secret machine to tell Talia that she might be feeling something, too, and they finally kiss. Has anyone written a piece about how positive this show is for LGBT youth? I’d like to read it.

4. If we’re only allowed one Liar Mom per episode, Mrs. Hastings is the best one to have.
Fine, fine, Mrs. Hastings didn’t do much this episode so much as she was just around, but that she's now working with Ali’s lawyers means we’re going to learn a lot more about the Liars’ involvement in the case in the next few weeks. It also probably means nothing is going to happen to Spencer. Remember how Mrs. Hastings hid Melissa’s pregnancy so perfectly? Or how long she concealed that Jason is actually their half-brother? Keeping Spencer out of the clink (for the second time) is nothing for Mrs. Hastings, and it’s clear from this episode that she’s going to be more helpful in figuring out the inner A-workings of this case than the Liars’ intrepid attempts at investigation ever have. She gets the intel that it was Ali’s blood in the storage unit, so we know the girls will be safe … for this. For now.

5. Holy Holbrook!
“So much for family emergencies and special assignments,” says Spencer of Holbrook’s return to Rosewood. We didn’t get too much out of him until the end of the episode — save Hanna and Caleb seeing him pack up his stuff at the precinct after being suspended — but what we’ve been thinking the whole season has been proven false. Holbrook hadn’t returned his undercover car yet, and afterwards, he pulls Hanna over when she’s done nothing. He tells her that he’s been holed up in a hotel room for months because Tanner doesn’t want him around. There is someone else working with Ali and he is determined to find out who. It’s yet another plot point that could have been revealed during all the drawn-out ones in the past few episodes, but at least now things are starting heat up again. Shout out to Hanna for still hitting Holbrook in the balls even after he’s told her he’s not working with Ali.