Characteristically clever performances and a real sense of pacing and stakes -- unsurprising, given that the episode was directed by Roger "Cruel Intentions" Kumble -- and this late in the season, it's nice to feel that ramping-up danger and momentum that usually leads to lots of Noel Kahn and/or Hanna getting run over by cars.
Spencer is shocked to find that Melissa's the one barging into the room on that slowly resolving video of Caleb's, putting her firmly back into the A category. After she spots her sister getting into Garrett's car and lying about it, Spence loses her mind and ends up drunk at Wren's place, which is amazing. Melissa eventually shows up (still pregnant, and possibly the baby is Garrett's now?) and lures Spencer out to the barn without her phone.
Which would be scary enough, because Melissa is sketchy as hell, except that Hanna is simultaneously discovering that the Vivian Darkbloom clue also leads back to Melissa, who was working at the now-abandoned law firm whence the original A's texts were coming (back when it was just Alison getting stalked). Something Spencer might want to know before going with her sister to a second location.
Hanna's also got this entire other storyline going on where Mona is getting the A treatment, specifically being blackmailed over her shoplifting to turn in Ashley for sleeping with Wilden that time. It's Mona, so of course she ends up taking the fall for her precious Hanna, but it doesn't seem that A is quite done with her yet either.
Spencer is of course pissed when she finds out that Aria's been seeing Ezra this whole time while commiserating with her over Toby, but Aria gets paid back double when Ezra reveals that he might take the NOLA job after all. But Ella -- who's pretty clearly in the know at the beginning of the episode -- eventually shows up at their love hideaway and finally gets them to explain their weird love affair over tea. In any other situation, probably this would be unrealistic, but Ella's a good mom and Aria's a good kid and Ezra is clearly arrested in some major ways, so props to Mrs. M for thinking outside the box. Especially if it means sticking it to stupid Byron in some way.
Meanwhile, Emily's still in her Maya holding pattern, even after Paige returns with a cute new human-being haircut and reveals that she's officially out of the closet. Emily's not sure how to respond to her aggressive courtship, but in the last few moments of the episode, the cops show up with what is hopefully some truly grisly news about Maya's whereabouts.
Next up: Only three more episodes until A is revealed! What?
Actually, no. First, go read Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, because it will change your life.
Ashley Marin slept with dreamy-but-mean Detective Wilden to get her daughter Hanna out of a shoplifting charge. Later, she stole money from an old lady and kept it in the pasta cabinet, where nobody would think to look, because of carbs. Hanna ruined some weddings, had real bad luck with cars and boats, and is dating a werewolf.
Ella Montgomery kind of secretly knew that her daughter Aria was still holding hands and doing strange paper bag sex rituals with a man-child, but held her tongue -- until Aria nearly caused a martial arts expert to die of an aneurysm from her constant harassment and questions. Into this mix comes a third fellow, Jonah, an acquaintance of Vivian Darkbloom, who does not exist.
Emily Fields was off the swim team for arbitrary shovel-related reasons, which was especially brutal because their Sisyphean season never ends; her horrible girlfriend Maya vanished into a cloud of ultimata and whining, but psycho-haired former stalker Paige was waiting in the wings. On that note, everybody tried to drown everybody else at least once. At least four conspiracies -- spanning all ages, genders and socioeconomic levels -- are in play to hide the truth of Alison DiLaurentis's life and death. Everybody also at some point or another hooked up with Jenna Thing, who eventually went blind and is now -- the lucky so-and-so -- dating Noel Kahn, whose love and eventual dastardy has sent Mona Vanderwaal into whole new realms of insanity and sudden unforeseen skills.
Spencer found out that Jason DiLaurentis is her half-brother, and used this information -- as she uses all information -- to try and solve various murder mysteries that she likely will never solve, because she is a crazy person and because her family members have a habit of vanishing suddenly for long periods of time, leaving her in an empty half-lit house that more and more resembles the Cavanaugh Place. The only bright spot, now that her lover Toby has run for the hills, is an incredibly hot young British doctor named Wren.
Sometimes people are named things like "Wren," or "Thayer," but to be honest it's not very often that this happens, even in Rosewood.
Liars: "Wait, so you just randomly have two grand that you're going to give to this sketchy corporate spy?"
Aria & Spencer: "Yes, and you can't come."
Emily & Hanna: "Why not?"
Aria: "Because see above RE: Sketchy Corporate Spy. You two are the weak links, this guy already knows me even if he thinks I'm Alison, and Spencer is supplying the money."
Liars: "Which, whence?"
Spencer, off her game for once: "Um, It's fr... Portfo... Investme... Prosti... I have a relative. Relative."
Aria: "I mean, it's a bargain at any price. And once we all get murdered it's not like we'll ever have to pay this money back."