Season 3, Episode 15 of Pretty Little Liars brought us an unexpected battle of the brains, a strange new bond between Aria and Meredith, and a late night stroll in the woods, followed by a PG-rated sleepover for Paige and Emily.
Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched Season 3, Episode 15 of Pretty Little Liars (unless you don't care about spoilers).
When last we saw Aria and her dad, Byron was falsely accusing Aria of setting a fire in the Rosewood High storage shed, injuring his girlfriend (and former mistress and present lady friend) Meredith in the process. But, at the beginning of this episode, things appear to be back to normal, as Byron has gone from angry sass-monster dad, back to his other personality, puppy-eyed regretful dad. We open with Aria sitting in her living room watching Night Must Fall in the dark. This makes perfect sense because all teenage girls relax by watching TCM – seriously, haven’t these girls heard of Twitter? Byron comes in, sad and doe-eyed and comments that he thinks he’s seen the movie. Of course, that was just his segue into his apology, after which Aria does behave like a teenage girl and turns the volume up on the TV, ignoring him. As Byron leaves, he cryptically tells Aria, “I have seen this. That guy keeps a severed head in a hat box.” Spoilers, dad!
Meanwhile, the rest of the Lying Gang is back at Rosewood High, hoping to find the mysterious innkeeper/janitor Harold’s stash of A things. I’m not sure who set up the lighting fixtures for this basement, but you would think for a janitor office, they would be a little better maintained. While the girls struggle to find a light switch, a hooded figured runs out of Harold’s office, looking very A-like and scaring the girls. They find the light switch, only to reveal someone (read: A) has cleaned house, save for Ali’s journal, and left the girls with a simple note inside it: “Keep moving ladies. Nothing to see here. –A”
The girls regroup at the only coffee shop in Rosewood, all talking about losing sleep with their character-appropriate dreams (Spencer fussed over the academic decathlon; Hannah had gum in her, etc. etc. But what is Emily dreaming about perhaps? We’ll never know). Mona, who is also at the coffee house (when do these people go to school?), approaches the girls and tells them that Harold has been stalking her, which is why he took the job at Rosewood High. She believes it was Harold who started the fire, but there’s no way to know for sure, as he has “gone completely off the grid.”
Hannah confronts the ever-jittery Lucas, and tells him that she knows he was the A in the basement. While he is afraid Mona’s video apology has convinced everyone she’s back to normal, Hannah insists that, “no one is sipping her cuckoo juice.” Frankly, I’m cocoa for cuckoo juice, but apparently she didn’t consult me. Lucas tells Hannah that he set the fire in the storage shed to try and hurt/scare Mona. “As long as Mona is back here, we’re not safe,” he says.
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Despite staying under the radar in the Season 3 winter premiere, Paige is back, but much less collected than last we saw her. She is obviously still reeling from Halloween, and tells Emily that her parents have insisted she come straight home from school. Emily hopes to reassure Paige by bringing up a party in the woods some girls from the swim team are throwing. Something tells me a party in the woods won’t be the most calming of activities. Also, what parents want their kids on lockdown during the day, but are totally cool with sending them off to a nighttime party in the woods?
Aria and her mom are chatting in an empty classroom (one of many at Rosewood High) about Ali and the night she disappeared. Aria’s mom recounts that they had come home from a party with a bottle of wine she snuck home in her purse, which she intended to save. Byron, ever the party animal, opened the bottle, getting his wife good and liquored up before she stumbled off to bed. Meanwhile, Meredith walks by the classroom and looks very suspiciously at mother and daughter having a conversation.
Spencer has been stressing over who will be named the captain of the academic decathlon team, but is confidently unopposed, after a faulty bicycle nut sent her opponent, Brad, to the hospital. Sounds like the work of the A Team, perhaps! Also, looking at these outfits, “academic decathlon” at Rosewood High is code for “hipster cotillion.”
The AD team has one more member to announce, however, and (surprise, surprise) it’s Mona, who is not only actually kind of brilliant, but has been campaigning for the captain’s position herself. The club puts it to a vote, resulting in a tie, which calls for a Spencer/Mona nerd off! Spencer wishes Mona “good luck” in a voice that is eerily similar to the villain from Taken.
Fellow teammate Andrew approaches Spencer after the vote, removing his hipster specs to reveal (gasp!) he’s handsome! Spencer, however, is not fazed by this Clark Kent level of deception, even when he tells her to “put on your Hastings face and spank her like I know you can.” Calm down there, Clark. Spencer also receives an encouraging note from A, who tells her to “quit while you’re ahead, bitch.”
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Aria’s mom and Meredith have a very awkward conversation, as Meredith assumes that Ella’s classroom chat with Aria earlier had to do with Meredith’s burnt arm. Noted: fires in Rosewood can only attack one body part at a time; thankfully, Meredith must have covered her eyes with her arm.
The girls converge in Aria’s room to discuss her mom’s account of the night Ali disappeared. They find, however, that the page in Ali’s journal referencing that night was stolen from Aria’s left boot, where she hid it.
Byron is back to being creepy dad, and interrupts the girls as they throw her boots around looking for the missing pages. They make some half-hearted excuse about looking for a shoe; Byron remarks that Aria used to hide her Halloween candy in her boots, and after he leaves, Aria realizes aloud, “He knows.”
Speaking of creepy, now that Toby appears to be part of the A-Team, his evil face quota has jumped up tremendously. While Spencer is left wondering (or not so much wondering) why Mona would pick the Academic Decathlon out of all the clubs in Rosewood, Toby goes off to meet with his unnamed boss, looking back one last time at Spencer to scowl.
Hannah is determined to get to the bottom of Lucas’ involvement with Mona and the rest of the As. Lucas explains that Mona was blackmailing him for selling test answers, and when he tried to get out, Mona (but as we know, Toby) tried to run him over with her car. Lucas plans to start homeschooling to avoid interacting with Mona, which will unfortunately probably only perpetuate his extreme awkwardness.
Meanwhile, Byron and Meredith are fighting in the Montgomery house because, apparently, Meredith lives there now? He grabs her burnt arm forcefully, but after noticing Aria, shuts her bedroom door to block her from the argument. Are sympathies for Aria’s new mommy arising?
Back in Pailey land, Paige and Emily are searching for the aforementioned party in the woods, to which no one seemed to have given the two former most prominent members of the swim team proper directions. On the way, Paige finally snaps, telling Emily, “I can’t do anything since Halloween!”
She reveals that her parents, in fact, aren’t being protective, and she is having trouble dealing with the aftermath of that eventful night alone. Referencing their first date, Paige admits she put on her brave face for Emily because, “you like strong women, right?”
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To calm their nerves, the girls logically go for a walk in the dark, misty woods.
Back to Spencer and the nerd-off has commenced, and Spencer appears to be dominating. She is clearly channeling her inner Charles Dickens with that outfit, as is most of the Academic Decathlon club, who are holding this competition in their poorly lit school at nighttime with no faculty advisor present. Just another day at Rosewood High. Later, Spencer loses to Mona on a question we earlier saw her prepping with (evil?) Toby. Looks like that’s what happens when you let your guard down with Mona.
Aria, meanwhile, appears to be getting along swimmingly with new Meredith mommy, feeling sorry for her after the altercation with Byron. “My dad... I have never seen him that angry before,” she tells Meredith. Meredith reveals that she confronted Byron after she repeatedly caught him going through Aria’s things. Trying to determine what all the fuss was about, Meredith found the missing journal pages, connecting Byron and Ali on the night of Ali’s disappearance. She then explains that Byron argued with Meredith that night, suspecting she had something to do with Ali’s blackmail scheme. Afterwards, he left to go see Ali. And the plot thickens.
Paige and Emily return to the car holding hands, and Paige seems to have calmed down.
Emily notices a flat tire, or as she and girls everywhere put it, “car’s funny.” As Paige gets ready to change a tire (go, Paige!), she notices that it was slashed. A hooded A-like figure runs into the woods, and Emily chases him, but to no avail.
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Narrowly escaped, the hooded figure is revealed to be (evil!) Toby. Paige and Emily go back to Emily’s where Paige spends the night. After some reassuring words, Emily kisses Paige goodnight, and they go to sleep (in separate beds – this is ABC Family, after all!)
At the Academic Decathlon after party (first time those words have been written in the same sentence), Hannah has some fireworks in store as well. Finally fed up with Mona, she lashes out and tells Mona that she is done with their friendship.
Still reeling from her devastating upset, Spencer realizes that Mona is perhaps even more dangerous than before. “She can take us down right out in the open,” Spencer notes. Spencer either means that Mona can kill them, or she can continue to beat them in questions regarding post-Soviet Russia. Either way, in Spencer’s eyes, it’s bad.
Paige still seems flustered as she and Emily recount the night’s events. She’s concerned that Emily chased a dark clothed figure into the woods, and I am concerned about Paige’s braids. Emily suggests Paige go see a therapist, advice that she probably should have given Paige after she tried to drown Emily in the pool (Remember how that happened? Because they don’t seem to.). But let’s hope that opens the door to bring back Dr. Sullivan (Annabeth Gish)!
Back in the Montgomery house, Meredith is still playing mom, taking care of Aria, who is feeling under the weather. Aria’s suspicions about her father have come to a head, and the two decide to do some snooping of their own, as he is (conveniently) leaving for his business trip. They aren’t the only ones curious of Byron’s whereabouts, however. As he leaves his office that night, a hooded Mon-A tells someone over the phone, “He’s leaving. I’ll call you back.”
In the final A moment, a figure donning the standard A uniform (black hoodie, black pants, evil lurking) buries some masquerade masks, implicitly the ones stolen from Harold’s office. The A Team seems to have expanded, with Mensa Mona at the forefront. Who is this mysterious figure, who doesn’t seem to know how to bury things properly? Could it be Byron? Lucas? Mona herself? The drama continues Tuesday nights on ABC Family.