We went into tonight's Pretty Little Liars knowing someone wouldn't survive the night because of the previews from last week's episode. I foolishly went in thinking it would be someone that we had known for a while, someone we cared about. Honestly, with only eight episodes left, I was ready to start saying the goodbyes gradually. I was being naive. We'll get to who died later, but for now let's just say, I'm 100% confident your favourite character is safe...for at least another week.
In one of the eerie flashbacks of Ali (Sasha Pieterse) wearing the yellow shirt we'll never be able to erase from our minds after approximately 8.8 million scenes from that night, she said "secrets keep us close." But the Liars called BS pretty quickly (at least for them), and realised their secrets were actually tearing them apart. So why are they keeping the game a secret from everyone now? AD didn't even mandate they keep "Liars Lament" quiet. Over time they have told a lot of people including their parents, police officers, therapists, and most notably their closest friends and partners bits and pieces about A. Why can't the people who know basically everything, like Caleb (Tyler Blackburn), Toby (Keegan Allen), Mona (Janel Parish), Paige (Lindsey Shaw) and Ezra (Ian Harding) be let in on this final challenge?
Considering they have had the game for days and still don't understand how it works, what is involved, or even questioned how that magical phone stays charged for days and days, the girls need help with "Liar's Lament." They might have moved on during the five years they left Rosewood, but AD did not. While the girls were starting careers, graduating college, helping with political campaigns, falling in and out of love, and trying to get past the pain of high school, AD thought up the most twisted game for the Liars, complete with tangible playing pieces instead of dolls.
There may only be five playing pieces on the board game, but it's almost like AD wanted all of the original players back. A messenger of sorts dropped a life size doll replica of Hanna (complete with a sewn on face) at
Lucas' Hanna's door while Caleb was there intentionally. If you think about it, in high school, AD wasn't just playing with the girls, but everyone in their lives. AD probably misses their high school partners just as much as they do. By announcing that Hanna (Ashley Benson) was once again being threatened, AD was forcing Caleb's hand. He was going to help play.
What about the rest of the characters from Rosewood past? Well, Ezra is still in New York taking care of Nicole (Rebecca Breeds). And, Toby was busy getting married in a spontaneous ceremony to Yvonne (Kara Royster). As soon as Yvonne woke up from a coma, Toby gave her back her engagement ring, and asked her to marry him now. Honestly, wanting to push up the wedding after almost losing Yvonne is one of the more realistic relationship plot lines the show has ever had. But, that doesn't mean it was meant to be, at least not for AD. While they were finishing up their post wedding dessert, Yvonne died. The episode didn't reveal if AD poisoned something at the wedding (the desserts? the flowers?) or if her death resulted from the car crash that put her in a coma in the first place. But I can guarantee AD is responsible. She doesn't want her pawn pieces to move on, literally out of town, or figuratively with their lives.
Toby should know that the stakes are much higher this time around, and probably doubly worse for people who once joined the A-team, good intentions aside. The creepy doll that AD left for Hanna and Caleb says to look in the appendix to keep playing the game. I can't believe that Hanna read the appendix of every book in the loft before anyone realises that it meant the appendix inside of the creepy doll. Of course, AD loved playing operation as a kid — they've only been playing a game of life and death ever since.
Inside of the doll was a dress for Hanna to wear to her big client meeting with Lucas and the investors that night. The dress was both revealing and culturally insensitive, just the thing to get the investors to back out and stop Hanna's career before it officially began. You could literally feel Hanna deplete during her turn of the game. She said it herself that it took away her independence and her confidence, two things that she's sacrificed routinely for A. But tonight's episode, just like last week's, felt different to me.
Before this episode I really thought that A and AD were the same person, but tonight has possibly made me change my mind (hence me all of a sudden using AD instead of A in tonight's recap). In A of past season's, the Liars were being played with, but they were also stars of the show. They were dolls. A was playing with them, but they would never permanently hurt them. They were A's favourite toys. Now, the Game feels like the favourite toy, and the Liars feel more or less disposable. Perhaps because A and AD are truly different villains? For the first time, the Liars seemed like playing pieces, something that is shiny but easily replaced, instead of prized possessions.
And the other playthings from high school, Toby and Caleb, showed how disposable they really are. Toby ended the episode on the ground crying over his dead wife while Spencer comforted him. Caleb also ended up in the hospital. He spent a whole day trying to figure out how they game operated and ended up with nada. Instead he was poisoned by Liar's Lament, or his name for it, "some toxic version of Candyland." Turns out underneath every single building on the game is a built in booby trap, and under door one was some unidentified poisonous gas. Thank goodness he is okay, because otherwise I would be writing an ode to Caleb right now.
Because Hanna rushed to Caleb's hospital room, she didn't go to the meeting with the investors and consequently lose her deal. AD's magic-never-dying phone let her know that she had lost her turn, and her "prize." (What exactly is going to happen to her puzzle piece if she doesn't get it?) And this is when Hanna brought up one of the more devastating parts of this game, it's not fair. She wasn't just being a five-year-old pouting about losing, but pointing out something obvious. The game has favourites. Spencer (Troian Bellisario) had to say hi to Toby to get her puzzle piece, but Emily and Hanna both had to possibly sacrifice their careers and limited incomes. Is this because AD is perhaps Spencer's twin sister after all?
The extended focus on the tangible board game tonight was better than all the time it set up extending storylines around characters we just don't care about. Let's start with Sydney (Chloe Bridges). Considering this is one of eight episodes left, do we really need to bring her up again? Her interest in Emily (Shay Mitchell) and then her loyalty to Jenna (Tammin Sursok) were boring back in high school, and I don't really care about her more now, even if she is involved in AD's game.
Next up: Nicole. If Nicole's whole storyline was to get Ezra out of Aria's (Lucy Hale) life, so she could be with either Holden (Shane Coffey), Jason (Drew Van Acker), or any other slightly less creepy man, I would be okay with it. But, that does not seem to be the direction we're taking this. Not only do we learn that Aria has not even spoken to Ezra since he left, but apparently he isn't doing such a good job taking care of Nicole either, since she was able to cross state lines and end up visiting Aria. Did something happen to Ezra? Is he A and he has just been using Nicole as an excuse to continue being puppet master?
The only good news is that Aria mentioned that Sabrina (Lulu Brud) quit. I guess that means we won't have to waste time with another character we never invested in? Instead, let's have more Lucas (Brendan Robinson) time. It was great to have him back, if only to fuel the Lucas is AD flames, and to remind me of his weird living situation — where is he living right now? Apparently, he is in town, yet he didn't stay in his loft that he is letting Hanna crash in. Where exactly did he stay? An AD lair, perhaps?
The previews for next week promised "new answers to old mysteries." I highly doubt we are going to get answers to all of our unanswered questions, but we will at last learn who killed Mrs. DiLaurentis. And, hopefully, we will learn whose finger was sent to Rosewood P.D. at the end of this episode. Because, in all honesty, there are quite a few bodies with cases that deserved to be opened again.