This was the best episode of Pretty Little Liars to date. This was an actual episode of television with very severe emotional repercussions for all of our characters and very real developments for all of Rosewood. I am exhausted for this journey, in the best way possible. I am still in awe. I am obsessed. I love this show so much. I think I’m still crying and/or my brain exploded.
You guys. The summer finale. Like, can you believe that we’re here? I cannot believe it because I am addicted to this show in an unhealthy way. My entire day, leading up to Tuesday at 8pm, revolved around PLL. I texted someone all day with fake A messages. All of those texts were atrocious but I didn’t care. The BETRAYAL opens with a really fantastic thing: the PLL flash-forward, rivaled only by the old Alias flash-forward (I’m serious). Basically, Emily is half-talking to a policeman about being deceased and Hanna is crying more than anyone has ever cried. Oh boy.
TWO DAYS EARLIER, everyone is hanging out in Spencer’s kitchen and wearing clubbing outfits while whispering about Emily’s mental state. Like, Aria — your shimmery neon blue robot skirt needs to be put away until after midnight. Spencer is rocking some kind of dress thing with donkeys on it, and Hanna is wearing horizontal stripes. Right. The Three Liars are planning a Paige Intervention for the Lesbian Liar. Spencer compares Paige to Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, which is maybe the biggest compliment possible for someone like Paige. Also, Hanna and Aria act like they have never heard of Basic Instinct, which is a huge joke because everyone knows about the leg crossing in the white dress. Please. I was at a bar once with Basic Instinct on the television and everyone in the bar fell absolutely silent during the leg crossing. True story, I swear.
Emily arrives for said intervention, and she looks really upset. I have never seen Emily this upset, and I feel like she is rather uptight and looks upset almost all the time. However, I do really like Emily’s acid wash shirt-blazer, so she does win Best Dressed at her own intervention. Garrett’s trial is going on, and Emily is pissed that everyone is so anti-Paige and not more RIP Maya. Later, Hanna has a conversation with Aria about keeping secrets: “Secrets tear us apart.” Hanna is keeping it under control with wise words while all this crazy surrounds her. Everyone is worried about Emily because she skipped school. Leave those interventions to A&E, girls.
Paige is STILL. WEARING. THOSE. UGLY. HOOPS. Are you KIDDING me, Paige. I have talked to you about this literally every single week since you reappeared in Rosewood and you do not listen to me. Spencer and Paige share dirty threats in the middle of the school hallway, slammed locker doors and all. Emily finally tells Paige that the other Liars think Paige is part of Mona’s A Team, and Paige is super nonchalant about everything. The only thing not super nonchalant about this scene is the super chalant (that should be a word, no?) lack of lesbian chemistry. C’mon. And then. AND THEN. A IS TEXTING PAIGE! OMG! WHAT!
NEXT: STAND DOWN, BITCHES.
Back at school, Aria is eating a wrap in the cafeteria courtyard, which is the most substantial meal that has ever appeared on this set. Hanna discovers that Emily also skipped Spanish class. (“Yo hablo sicko,” according to Hanna.) Hanna makes a reference to her blood being smeared all over Ali’s anklet, and I’m left wondering if we ever resolved that? How did Hanna evade that police blood test? Is that still an issue? Am I forgetting something? Did PornStarMom sleep with someone? It doesn’t matter, because A sends everyone a text: “STAND DOWN, BITCHES.”
Next thing we know, it is almost a commercial break and Mona is sneaking out of the psych ward dressed as a nurse. Yes. That’s right. Mona is wearing a nurse costume from a WWII period film but, hey, she looks like a sexy WII nurse. Mona is so crazy. Go do your dirty deeds, Mona. A begins sending a lot of things, including pictures that Spencer reads on her iPad. Essentially, A has to be Paige because A is showing that she can blame the Ali body theft on the three Liars without involving Emily in all the drama. Too obvious, but Spencer is on a witch-hunt and the girl needs to see Paige either sink or swim… Hanna hears someone inside her house and decides to pick up a furry pink lamp as protection. Turns out it’s just Caleb, and he also comments on Hanna’s choice of weapon. Hello, Caleb! Hello, Caleb’s beautiful forehead scar! If Caleb dies at the end of this episode, I kill everyone.
Emily gets a call from… Angie? What the hell? Looks like Angie works at the town’s big coffee shop, and Hanna borrows her phone in an attempt to knock some sense into Em here. Emily is actually going to the Lighthouse Rock Inn (bad name, creepy name) for the weekend with Nate. Hanna actually says, “Thanks, Angie” when Angie returns to retrieve her phone. Angie! You deserve a spin-off! Hanna is all L8R SPENCE G2G, so Spencer goes on a short stroll around Downtown Rosewood, giving a poster for the Halloween Ghost Train Party a forlorn gaze through some shop window… until Toby magically appears!!! TOBY IS BACK!!! PLL loves to spin the camera around reuniting couples, which makes me vomit from motion sickness just as much as it makes me wish I had my own teen werewolf to kiss in the middle of the town square while a camera spins around me.
The only storyline that really could have waited until the 12 winter episodes was the whole Ezra-Aria-Maggie baby ordeal. In short: Maggie shows up at Ezra’s apartment because she was “in the neighborhood” (right), Maggie pretends like she is meeting Aria for the first time, Aria’s eyes are as big as possible, Maggie looks old. Ezra leaves his current girlfriend and the girl that he got pregnant to have a solo conversation, and then asks if the conversation was weird. Umm. The end. Also, Larisa Oleynik plays Maggie, and Larisa also played Alex Mack back in the days of The Secret World of Alex Mack, a.k.a My Favorite Show When I Was A Baby.
We get back to important things, such as Caleb having a GUN and Hanna wearing a BLUE ROBE. Caleb’s forehead scar is now the only thing I watch whenever he is on camera, so I may have missed a few details here but I think Caleb agrees to get rid of the gun only to hide it in Hanna’s dresser. Not the best hiding spot, buddy boy! You should use a lasagna box! Bringing a gun into the scene was PLL’s way of showing how serious things are getting also invoking the Rule of Chekhov.
NEXT: Let’s talk about sex…
Here are the notes, verbatim, that I took during the following scene: MONA MONA MONA MONA MONA BLACK HOODIE MONA OMG PSYCHO SCARY BATHROOMWITH SCRIBBLES ON THE WALLS SHE UNDERSTANDS WHAT SHE MUST DO. You can decode that however you wish. I was not kidding about things getting serious, because the rest of this episode just does not stop.
Suddenly, we’re back on Spencer and Toby basking in some afternoon soft-porn glow. And by basking, I mean having sex. They do the deed. It happens, replete with Toby’s naked torso and Spencer grabbing fistfuls of bedding. I kept politely asking Spencer to display her breasts, until I remembered that we’re on ABC Family and I’ve been watching too much True Blood this summer. This sex scene is all sunlight and humping and sunlight and curtains and sunlight. There’s also a montage, which highlights Nate putting a blanket over Emily while she relaxes at cabin complex and Aria looking as pouty as humanly possible while Maggie and Ezra share frosted pound cake. I laughed out loud at Aria’s pouty face because it was so amazing. More Teen Choice Awards for Lucy Hale, please and thank you.
We’re done with the sex, but Spencer and Toby are not done with moody faces and sunlight shots. Spencer is wearing Toby’s v-neck in a moment of post-coital self-conscious bliss, and Toby promises he did not get a job in Bucks County only to be away from Spencer. I love you. I love you, too. Something is a little off because Toby keeps his eyes really open while hugging Spencer goodbye, but I’m guessing he can just sense the moon rising and his transformation back to werewolf approaching.
Fast-forward to nighttime: The Liars sans Emily wait to meet A at Ali’s (empty) grave, while Caleb waits in the bushes and communicates with Hanna via some kind of walkie talkie iPhone app. I want that app, stat. Emily is sleeping in the creepy cabin until she gets a call on an old rotary phone, where a scary modulated voice screams: “YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE, GET OUT.” I screamed. I screamed for the rest of the episode. Everyone at the cemetery knows that Mona is fashionably late, but Paige is not capable of understanding such a concept (HA, a Paige fashion dig!); the troops start calling Emily and Nate, trying to figure out what exactly is going down. Emily shows us that there is no cell service in the cabin. Emily finds the old letter in Nate’s duffle bag that he promised he would give to Maya’s family roughly 873 episodes ago. I KNEW THAT LETTER WAS DOOMED, I KNEW NATE WAS NOT RIGHT IN THE HEAD, I KNEW EVERYTHING WAS WRONG HERE. Still screaming.
NEXT: Nate is not so great!
Breakdown: Nate comes back from gathering firewood. Nate has yellow paint on his shoes. Emily checks through her old pictures, notices a hiking shoe with yellow paint from Maya’s pictures at her old camp. Emily knows that Nate is wrong. Emily goes to get fresh air, except Emily is really desperate for cell service. Nate finds Emily in the woods. Nate is giving us the creepiest smile ever. Nate is ready to kill. Nate killed Maya. Nate stalked Maya. I screamed through all of this, I am still screaming right now.
The girls at the cemetery know something is very wrong because no one in the entire world will answer their cell, but searching for the Lighthouse Wood Inn proves that two exist: one location in Bellmore, the other in Bayhead; Caleb heads to one location, the ladies to the other. Nate forces Emily to watch a goodbye video from Maya, and explains that Maya was a tease and he had to murder her when she couldn’t give him what he wanted. He threatens Emily, saying she did the same… and reveals Paige, bound and gagged in the closet; Nate wants to take away something else that Emily loves. I always say how PLL mixes big scares with high-energy camp, but everything in this summer finale was packed with palpable tension. My heart was attempting to burst out of my chest. Insane stalkers on teen soaps really freak me out. Remember Oliver on The OC?
Aria, Spencer, and Hanna arrive at the inn, and it is surprisingly another mysterious spot around Rosewood that is in the middle of the woods. Great. Nate has been planning his big Emily/Paige ordeal for months, and reveals that his real name is Lyndon James – no relation to Maya, only that he was in love and ready to kill. It is possible that Jenna saw Nate/Lyndon and Maya together, and that’s why Jenna was creeped out to the max and why Nate/Lyndon needs to move fast. The Liars are not at the correct cabin complex, which means everything is in Caleb’s hands! And Caleb brought his gun! Caleb to the rescue! Caleb!
Suddenly, Emily sees a chance to escape and races from the cabin, running up to the top of the lighthouse. This is one of the craftiest, electric scenes that this show has ever accomplished, aided by the horrifying spinning light at the center of the lighthouse. Emily frantically searches for service and is finally able to connect to 911, until Nate/Lyndon attacks her before she can place the call. The ultimate fight scene commences, with slaps and struggles and Emily crying and people getting kicked to the floor. It ends when Emily stabs Nate with his own knife; Emily is aggressively sobbing, and Nate is on the floor in his own blood. Whoa. Caleb final arrives and wraps Emily in the biggest hug, but does the worst thing when he places his gun on the lighthouse ledge. PLL takes us down to the bottom of the lighthouse, and shows the flash of a gunshot amid the rotating lighthouse lamp. Amazing. Screams. Amazing. I can’t even be funny about this because this was all too amazing. I have chills about this lighthouse fight scene just thinking about it.
NEXT: The new A is…Obviously I assumed Nate shot Caleb to death, hence Hanna’s hysterical sobs in the beginning of the episode. I was almost hysterically sobbing during the entire commercial break after the lighthouse scene because everything was just too intense for my fragile heart. Turns out, Caleb was shot once in the ribs; it looks like he will probably pull through. Nate/Lyndon, however, is definitely dead. PLL cheated by only showing the one stretcher in the opening scene of the episode! I’m not even angry, that was so smart! Paige tells the police that she went to respond to A’s anonymous text in the middle of the cemetery, but Nate/Lyndon grabbed her first. So, what was supposed to happen in the cemetery? Hmm. The Liars are all crying and hugging and wrapped up in their secret love. Spencer and Paige share a moment, but there’s still a lot of space between them. Literally, and figuratively.
The Liars are reunited while they wait for news on Caleb’s surgery, as no one is fighting about sketchy lesbian girlfriends or mysterious non-abortion secret visits or anything else. I still don’t fully trust Paige, but I guess she was kidnapped by a murderer and tied up in a small closet, so I’ll give her a break (for now). The Liars all get a blocked phone call from A: “EMILY, I OWE YOU ONE.” Huh? WELL. Garrett walks in with Spencer’s Mom a.k.a Mariska Hargitay, and Mariska explains that Garrett is now a free man due to the Nate/Lyndon ordeal. It is clear that Garrett did not kill Maya. Damn you, Garrett. Damn your crooked grin. Garrett is clearly a part of Team A, because A loves Garrett’s freedom. Uh OH.
THE FINAL SCENE. The second black hoodie walks with Mona as she sneaks back into her psych ward, still wearing that period nun disguise; maybe Mona is auditioning for the second season of American Horror Story? Mona explains that Paige unknowingly has access to Maya’s cell phone, and that revealing this grand old detail in the middle of the cemetery would have caused the band of Liars to implode. Oh well, the Nate/Lydon drama worked better for everyone! Mona says goodbye. The other A turns. THE OTHER A IS TOBY. I REPEAT, THE OTHER A IS TOBY. I MEAN, THE OTHER A IS TOBY. The best twist this show has ever executed. Flawless. Sobbing. Beauty. Disaster. Other words.
I feel so bad for Spencer (SHE DOESN’T KNOW AND SHE JUST GAVE IT UP BIG TIME FOR THE MAN OF HER DREAMS), and I also feel truly betrayed. I couldn’t even change the title of my recap because the title of this episode/the entire marketing campaign behind this summer season was just too perfect. The extra A clue at the end of the episode was just another teaser for the wonderfully unnecessary Halloween party, this year surrounding a costume ball that happens on a train. Okay, see you there. If I can find all the pieces of my brain, I will definitely see you there. This has been such a rewarding journey. I am at a really wonderful place with my four Liars and with this show in general, even if I need to rest in my bed and calm for breathing for the next 17 days. We’re really going places. Hanna is a part of my soul now. You all are part of my soul now. That might sound as creepy as something Nate/Lyndon would say to Maya/Emily right now, but you know what I mean. I hope to see all of your very soon. I don’t even know how to end this correctly because I’m such an emotional wreck. Take your secrets to the grave, lovelies.
[Image Credit: ABC Family]