*All of our episode recaps contain spoilers*
Oh Pretty Little Liars, how I missed you and awaited your return with bated breath. Okay fine, I breathed through my nose; but that is only because I knew you would make me catch my breath multiple times and, lo and behold, you did. In fact, so disproportioned were my inhales to my exhales that my chest still hurts. You don’t believe me? Let me show you.
Are you ready? Inhale: A direct continuation from the season five finale, the episode began in the Dollhouse, but in the unfamiliar room of an unknown doll. She was styled to emulate Ali and imprisoned in a room far less adorned than those of the Liar’s. The only embellishment was a wallpaper of tally marks – an indication of the length of her captivity. Though it was difficult to discern much from the glimpse we got of her, her emergence is a sign of what is yet to come.
Keep holding your breath: Hell hath no fury like a Charles scorned. Exacting the retribution he thought fitting, A prolonged the Liar’s time in the garden by preventing their re-entry into the dollhouse. It was both an effort to regain authority and a calculated assault on their spirit. Judging by Hannah’s hankering to suck on a pee ice cube and Emily’s willingness to lick sweat off a jockstrap, the two of them were the most badly injured. Prior to the onset of the attack, Spencer disclosed her encounter with A in the vault, telling the Liar’s; “There was something that was really familiar, like when you meet a penpal or a cousin, or somebody that you knew when you were really little”. Seriously? If that was an attempt to tease us with regard to A’s identity, it just annoyed me. That is not a feeling; not even a Hasting’s feeling, and I say that knowing full well that that family is a breed of their own.
Okay, you can exhale, but only because you look a little blue. A good host always welcomes their guests warmly, and upon the girls return to the dollhouse, Charles greeted them with a knockout gas, sparing only Mona. They later awoke in the dollhouse’s morgue, which A utilised by making the Liar’s look dead in order to send a message to their families; or so Spencer believed. How fortunate they are to have her cryptic connection to Charles. Never one to do things half-heartedly, he even dressed Mona as a candy striper and got her to dispense medication, juice and, unbeknown to him, another bout of rebellion. When Charles instructed the girls to go back to their rooms, Mona told him no. He gave her another chance, before pulling out the big guns – one, two, three chimes. It was a warning that, if they did not return to their rooms, he would steal them in the night and put them in the hole. And so they did, screaming in terror at the sight inside. Inhale!
Exhale: Ali is working with the police! Wait, hear me out. Tanner is as useless as ever, but Ali has managed to use the detective’s incompetence to her advantage. Speaking to the public, she artfully wove a message to A in her address, asking him to meet her at the infamous kissing rock. To the unassuming ears of the Rosewood PD, the speech was just what they intended it to be - a guise. As Ali put it “If we don’t poke the bear, it’ll just keep hibernating”. So by making Ali appear vulnerable, they were poking the bear. In actual fact, they were poking thin air, and Ali anticipated as much. Working with Toby, Caleb and Ezra (one quick inhale off the record for the return of the beautiful Fitz), she hatched a plan to throw the police off the scent.
Now, while I explain the plan, you are in charge of your own exhales and inhales. No cheating! Pretending to be A, one of the four called Ali and stayed on the line long enough for the police to pinpoint the caller’s location – the DiLaurentis house. They hid Ali in a guarded room and went in pursuit of A, only to find a mannequin styled in a similar fashion. To make matters worse, the officer on guard duty had left Ali unattended at the sound of the commotion, providing her with ample opportunity to escape. With her safely out the house, they implemented the next phase of the plan –the misleading scent. Toby told Tanner that the song from the call was called “Don’t sit under the apple tree”; causing Tanner to believe it was a message about Campbell Apple Farm. So nice of you to lower your morals for us Toby; if only you had done it sooner, we might not be in this situation. With the police on a wild goose chase, the other three went to meet A.
Were you honest? Okay, exhale. In anticipation of Ali’s arrival, the Liars were released from their rooms. It is of course too much to ask that the writers of the show divulge information without delay, so we did not find out what had happened to the girls during their three-week confinement. They were tasked with preparing Alison’s room and, dressed in the fashion they wore prior to her disappearance, were quite literally visions of their past. Lying in wait in Ali’s room was a collection of stolen belongings from her house, as well as a newspaper reporting on her release from prison. As for Mona, she was evicted from the room and relocated to the mentioned hole; but not before she managed to carve a message into the wardrobe regarding her probable demise. Inhale!
And hold it! So the bear did indeed come out of hibernation, but only long enough to leave a car for Alison at the kissing rock. And a careful bear it had been. The car was programmed with directions and filled with only enough petrol to reach the destination. Upon her arrival, she was instructed to go the boot, where she found a card signed by the Liar’s and a change of clothes. She continued on the designated route by foot, leaving her old shoes pointed in the direction she had taken. Actually, why am I making you hold your breath? She is fine! Before she ventured off alone, Caleb gave Alison the just mentioned pair of shoes, hiding a tracking device in the heel. This meant that he and Ezra were behind her the entire way, and they found her with ease after she journeyed into the forest.
Oh, that’s why: The Liars are playing with fire – literally. In order to make the dollhouse a home, Charles had stolen various things from each of the Liar’s bedrooms, hoping to make them feel more settled. He even gave Hannah a Rosewood Observer reporting on the state of each of their families. The knowledge that they were barely hanging onto hope reignited the fight in the Liar’s, and they decided to attempt escape again. They changed tactic this time, resolving to fight fire with fire. The plan was to get into A’s vault so that they could then use what was inside to bargain their way out. And they did exactly that. In a turn of luck, they found a way into the vault and began to set alight his childhood memorabilia, including the treasured home video. He watched on in turmoil, unable to choose between his past and the capturing of Alison. Eventually he made a decision and chose his past, setting off the fire alarm and thus allowing the liars to escape. And so the dolls, Mona included, fled the house and were met by their loved ones on the outside.
I’m not finished yet: I have thus far failed to mention the identity of the bear, who apparently transformed from a troublesome cub to a dangerous grizzly in the interlude. At the end of season five, Andrew Campbell was portrayed in such a way that he aroused suspicion, but we could not definitively say he was A. Now he is the prime suspect and has been missing for the same length of time as the Liars. What’s more, the police have a diary of his, in which he wrote of his disdain for the girls. Perhaps patience is the key here because I don’t know how we ended up at this door. Maybe Ali does, but when Emily asks her who Charles DiLaurentis is, her answer is her typical troubled expression. Helpful, real helpful. And finally, we know the identity of the doll I referenced at the start of the recap! It is Sarah Harvey! INHALE.