It's been five months since Jenna sent Garrett to jail and Mona was institutionalized. Everybody's been off doing summery things -- Aria spent the summer being pretentious, Spencer was hardcore and uptight, Hanna had zero accountability and Emily has become a mean crazy drunk -- but now they are back, and getting lame A messages like "Show me your boobs." But after Emily is lured out in an Ambien haze and discovered next to Alison's open -- and empty -- grave, the whole thing starts up again.
But as the girls scramble to keep this latest Shovel Discovery from ending their lives as usual, we learn they've been keeping secrets too. Emily's distraught over Maya's death and having secret meetings with Toby about it. Aria's parents are finally calling it quits, so she's decided to force her mother to interact with Ezra as much as possible. Spencer's hiding secret calls and a possible alliance with Garrett, and has also set up camp in A's old lair at the Lost Woods Resort.
And Hanna? Well -- beyond her newfound dedication to expanding her vocabulary, with fabulous results -- she's been visiting Mona, with Dr. Wren's encouragement, trying to snap her out of her fugue state. By the end of the episode, she's half-succeeded: Mona's now cognizant enough to be keeping company with Alison's Ghost, if not fully speaking and spelling again. (Next week, it seems, the Lambs will begin screaming in earnest.)
All these secrets and more come out once the Liars get back on the trail of the Black Swan -- and a very sketchy Lucas -- and realize that Mona was never working alone. (Nevermind that Mona told Spencer this over and over the whole time she was flipping out; you already knew Spence wasn't listening at the time.) Oh, and Emily's memory has begun stuttering again, this time putting her in a convertible That Night she was found hunched over the grave, having borne witness to things too horrible to yet recall.
But while putting together the Lair clues -- everybody in bikinis except Aria, who is of course wearing overalls -- in a nifty way, they receive a bunch of threatening photos of themselves at the latest crime scene and an even more threatening text: "Mona played with dolls, I play with body parts. Game on, bitches. -- A"
So I guess it's all true: Mona and Jenna are both going to end up double or triple agents, and both Red Riding Hood and the Black Swan are still in play. Aria might finally get a visit from the Goon Squad after two seasons, and Toby will continue to take off his shirt. But why does Veronica Hastings keep showing up at random times looking like she's attending the Oscars? When is Jenna Thing coming home? When did Aria decide to give up songwriting, pottery, poetry and the theatre for photography? Whence the Montgomery divorce? What did Emily see That Night? And what of Noel Kahn?
Mona led our ladies on a merry chase, involving talking dolls and Black Swans and so very much hustle. Byron had trouble dealing with his daughter's inappropriate relationship, while Spencer was working overtime to get cool with her newfound brother Jason -- and the mysterious NAT Club of which he, Jenna Thing and Garrett were members. Garrett went to jail, Mona went to the mental hospital, and Jenna is no longer blind. Mona's troubles were tough on Hanna, but not as tough as Emily took Maya's murder.
FIVE MONTHS LATER
Errbody gettin' tipsy and staring at the Spooky Barn while they fill us in on their summer activities: Emily built Habitats for Humanity and became a full-time alcoholic, Hanna took a cooking class and learned a new word -- girl, I missed you so bad -- while Spencer took a full load at Hollis, and Aria is suddenly a gifted photographer. I guess they didn't have a summer program in Poetry/Singer-Songwriting/Pottery/Fashion-Mishappery, which is really the area where her talents were starting to blossom. That class was full up, so Photography it is.
But then, this whole show being about the torture of being looked at, maybe that's the best thing for her. Like how Serena was able to so swiftly fuck up being Gossip Girl, but with the added frisson of how pretentious/precious/precocious photography can so quickly get. I bet you anything it's just 100 percent Victorian lace and dolls and the occasional nostril, in a sepia tone. "I call it, ophelia on the waterfront i coulda been a contender. This is what's called Mixed Media."
A Text: "Show me your boobs! -- A"
Liars: "We are so over A! But thank God it's just been shit like this. We shudder to think what would happen if we were somehow thrust once more into a glittering web of lies and shame from which there is no escape. Show me your boobs is strictly JV."
Emily: "I should show some motherfuckers my boobs. Fuck it."
Liars: "We do not comprehend your full and total breakdown, despite how it is obvious."
Hanna: "We support your alcoholism."
Emily: "It makes me bring everybody down and bring up Maya for no reason."
Liars: "Um, a toast to dead Maya. Off to that Old Folks' Home in the sky."
Everybody is, like usual, asleep on each other's butts. Except the door is hanging open and Emily has taken her plaid-shirt crazy out into the forest, where she is... Oh dear. Apparently Emily has decided to dig up Alison's dead body? Emily, you magnificent nutcase! Said it before, say it again: Always thought Aria would be the first to crack.