Pretty Little Liars Recap: Keep Calm and Watch Your Carry-on

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Spencer packs her bags. Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC Family
Pretty Little Liars
Episode Title
Bloody Hell
Season
5
Episode
21
Editor’s Rating
3/5

We are only three episodes away from the big A reveal, and everything and nothing make sense in Rosewood. Now that the girls have some clarity on Mona’s disappearance — or, at least, more information — you would think they would be doing more than just visiting Ali in prison in a pseudo-attempt to make amends. Where is Leslie? Where is Holbrook? Lt. Tanner definitely has something to do with this. No doubt all three of these figures will pop in the coming few weeks, but right now the puzzle pieces feel extremely scattershot. I need more, Liars scribes!

This week, we were introduced to a new mystery character named Varjack, a new link to A with minimal background to whom Hanna and Aria were hipped when they visited Cyrus in the hospital. Cyrus (under his previous alias Hank Mahoney) is laid up because of a car accident. In which he was set on fire. On purpose. He can’t give the girls too much information, because he is in a gauze body cast and can barely speak. He writes down the name on the back of a bandage, but the girls initially read it as “carjack.” After they leave, Hanna notes that it’s a V and not a C and reminds Aria of Ali’s Holly Golightly fascination. So, this “Varjack” (well, probably “Varjak”) has to have some intimate knowledge about the Liars, or at least Ali. But did we get anymore about him? Alas, we did not. (Let the “Wait, maybe it is Ezra?” conspiracy reignite!)

Sadly, I won’t be here to uncover this with you guys. With the conclusion of Parks and Recreation last night — NYC, that loud, harrowing cry you heard all of tonight? That was me. My apologies — I step back into the dark; next week, Jessica Goldstein and the Power Rankings return. Thanks for allowing me to lend a helping hand the past few weeks. It’s been a blast. And now, your final PLL Aggro-List:

1. Wren and Melissa’s roommate, STFU.
Mrs. Hastings is fed up with Spencer’s recent poor decision-making skills and doesn’t trust that their ex-tenant Jonny’s connections at Oxford will be meaningful, so she ships Spence across the pond. The desperation is so strong that they’re using a connection from Melissa Hastings’s detested long-term British boyfriend Wren Kingston. When Spencer arrives at their home, she’s greeted by Colin, their “flatmate.” He is insistent on Spencer understanding they do not live in an apartment. Cookies are biscuits, sweaters are jumpers, there are lifts and loos, not elevators and bathrooms. But don’t worry, he’ll “bugger off” if she wants. He's so aggressively British with her, I was surprised he didn’t lightheartedly call her a “cunt.” But, goodness, did she need a distraction.

2. #SpencerFreaksOut 
Perhaps one of Spencer Hastings’s most underrated qualities is her ability to keep collected in high-anxiety circumstances — unless, of course, she’s bingeing on Adderall. Even when the other girls begged her to stay put in Rosewood after their visit to the Chester County Women’s Facility, she just packs her bags and does what is expected of her. Despite the high stress, she laughs charmingly at her Oxford interviewer’s corny Euripides jokes … and then blood starts leaking out of her bag. A has sent her to London with a bon voyage gift; we just don’t know if what’s in the vial belongs to Spencer, Emily, Mona, or Hanna. Needless to say, she completely melts down. Her fear is warranted and then totally exacerbated when she gets an A text: “Keep calm and watch your carry-on. There’s more blood where that came from.” 

Mrs. Hastings, who also visits Ali in jail and has apparently agreed to be her “honesty coach,” finds out some sketchy, albeit still unrevealed, information that could potentially get Spencer in trouble. She will stay in London. 

3. Shattered glass slippers for Emily.
Emily is greeted outside of the Brew by Claire Handleman, the contestant coordinator for the Glass Slipper Pageant, who informs Emily of a litany of beauty-contest responsibilities. (Damn you, pesky pancake breakfasts.) While trying to get some of her shifts covered, Talia tells Emily that she’s quit the Brew, laid some real talk on Eric, and now they are separating. Mrs. Fields — seriously, how could I have forgotten Emily’s mom’s name when she is has the same name as cookies? — is out of town, so Talia is invited to crash.

She goes to find Emily rehearsing at school to return a key and the two end up dancing together. First, it’s Emily’s routine and, after Talia has a mini-meltdown, the two slow-dance. But the intimacy of their afternoon is ruined when Ms. Handleman shows up to tell Emily that part of the requirements for entering the pageant is to be “of good moral character.” Emily initially takes this to be about her homosexuality, but it is really about her involvement in Ali’s case. This, however, inspires Talia to softball-blackmail Ms. Handleman vis-à-vis ye olde “innocent until proven guilty” clause and suggests they just send Emily a check. I can’t tell if this is another red flag or if Emily is finally with someone badass enough to support her. We shall see.

4. Ali makes literal use of her “correctional facility.”
This week, we got a better look into Ali’s life in the clink. Her in-house job is working in the laundry facility, which is filthy enough that she can doodle on a lint-covered table while she watches the jumpsuits dry. When she’s called out to meet another visitor — the aforementioned pop-in from Mrs. Hastings — we see that she’s written “MONA.” This would be dubious any other time, but now we know Ali is not A or even in cahoots with A. In fact, A is threatening Ali, too. First, a can rolls into her cell containing a miniature Ali doll and a note that says, “You’re already over a barrel. Wanna be in one, too? - A.” (Which definitely — well, probably — means Mona was turned into a science project a few weeks ago.) Later, in the laundry room, she finds her “MONA” scribble now has “Told everything” written underneath it. Is this what Spencer’s mom found in Ali’s file? 

It’s clear that Ali is ready to come completely clean. At the end of the episode, Hanna, who was absent from the initial Liars visit, goes to see Ali and apologize for roasting her the last time around. Instead, Ali gives Hanna a tearful spiel about how much she regrets trying to control the girls, even down to what they wore. In jail, she has no control over anything and hates it. This seems to be the thing that will truly make her fight to get herself out.

5. Can someone just please cut Aria a damn break for once?
Aria, who was looking a little bit too hyped about the release of Fifty Shades of Grey with her weird bondage collar-as-suspenders situation at the beginning of this episode, cannot keep a hold on anyone in her life. Dad leaves, mom leaves, Ezra leaves, and now Mike is missing. When the girls confess to knowing everything Mike told them, Ali begs that he testify because he is the only person who can help get her out. A terrified Aria hires Mrs. Hastings — for a dollar an hour — to be her lawyer, discreetly telling Mrs. Hastings a vague version of what she knows. It doesn’t sound good for Mike, especially if his knowledge would constitute as impeding a police investigation in court.

Aria goes to look for her brother at home, so when he’s not there, she climbs onto one of his bench-press machines so she can look at his schedule, which is posted high on his wall. The A kicker, if you will, in last week’s episode featured someone sneaking around Mike’s room. Well, whoever that black-clad figure is, the one that concludes every episode, s/he was there to mess with the nuts and bolts in the machine. It collapses and Aria falls off, likely spraining her ankle. But what luck! Andrew is there just in time to see it happen and lend her a shoulder to cry on. I was feeling kind of bad for him, after his attempt to ask Aria to an art house screening of All the President’s Men fell flat, but coming to her rescue had some perks. “For a petite girl, you sure bring a lot of chaos,” he tells her. “I like tough problems: math equations, complicated girls” — and then the two finally kiss. We’re now three for four in new Liars romances. Anyone taking bets on the sanctity of Hanna and Caleb, or nah? And where was Caleb this week ... ?