Pretty Little Liars Season 5 Review “Taking This One to the Grave”

Pretty Little Liars Season 5 Episode 3 Surfing the Aftershocks (12)

Well, we can’t say we didn’t know it was probably coming sooner or later. On the latest episode of “Pretty Little Liars,” things got deadly once again, and this time there’s no doubt that the person in question isn’t coming back. (Needless to say, spoilers ahoy.) In the aptly-titled “Taking This One to the Grave,” someone finally crossed a line with “A” and paid the ultimate price: death.

We started out on Thanksgiving Day, normally a day of food, family and festivities. Not so much in Rosewood. As Hanna, Emily, Aria and Ezra cling to one another, it’s clear something serious has gone down. But where’s Spencer? Cue the freaky text message, as per usual: “It’s all your fault”-“A.”

Cut to: 36 hours earlier, as Ali comes into the police precinct to take a lie detector test to once and for all prove her innocence in the whole Bethany thing, with Holbrook observing. (Tanner was MIA this week, so she must have been following up a lead in New York or something- or maybe Roma Maffia had a gig.)

Meanwhile, Mona read up on French Literature -“Le Grand Meaulnes,” which translates here as “The Wanderer” and revolves around, according to Wikipedia, “the search for the unobtainable, and the mysterious world between childhood and adulthood.” Naturally, she did so as she listened to French music, in this case, “Ne me quitte pas,” which means “Don’t Leave Me,” which is what a lot of her fans, myself included, would be saying soon enough, le sigh. We catch a rare glimpse of Mona’s mom, and it seems the girls are paying her a rare visit, much to her happiness- for now.

The girls have gotten wind that Ali is taking the lie detector test, and want to know what she said this time, and if it incriminates any of them, and figure if anyone can find out, it’s Mona, which became a bit of a mantra throughout the episode. Besides, as Spencer said, quoting Churchill (which only Mona caught, but of course): “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Mona’s mom, wonderfully named Leona Vanderwaal (Sydney Penny), voices her concern about Mona in light of Ali’s return, worried that Mona might be backpedaling into trouble again- and a potential mental stability relapse. Hanna admits that all of the girls are scared of Ali at this point, Mona included. It was really sad seeing how happy Leona was to see Hanna and the girls, clearly hoping that they would help Mona through tough times and perhaps forgive her for her past trespasses, especially thinking back after what happened later. Poor woman.

On the plus side, Mona did finally apologize to the girls for taking her issues with Ali out on them, and though you could tell Hanna was getting there, Aria and Emily clearly weren’t quite ready to let it go. Sadly, though, when Mona put out a “Code A’ to her army, hardly anyone showed, save Lucas- it would seem that Ali had turned them against her, which we would discover later was all too true when she and a host of others met in an abandoned barn to plot who knows what.

Mona’s theory seemed pretty dead-on to me: Ali was a full-blown sociopath that sought in others what she couldn’t find in herself. Spencer’s smart; Emily’s loyal; Hanna’s admiring; and Aria’s compassionate- that’s why she picked them to befriend in the first place. Now that she was back, she’d picked up the “A” mantle from Mona, down to doing the same kind of things she did, including manipulating others and tormenting the girls. Of course, Mona learned a lot of that from Ali in the first place, so it’s not like Ali had to change much of her usual MO to do the “A” thing. In Mona’s opinion, Ali was playing a game, but the girls weren’t playing along, which was not helping matters, causing her to step up the game by doing something big- but what?

Until she can find out, she advises the girls to act normal, and tell no one, including their “bed buddies” (LOL). Later on, hilariously, Mona would bring Caleb into things because she accurately predicted that Hanna would be the one to crack and tell their boyfriend. All of this hushed intrigue did not go unnoticed, notably by creepy twins Cindy and Mindy, who we would later discover were on Team Ali. I like how the show had a little fun this season with all the twin stuff, between real twins Cindy and Mindy; the matchy-match pairing of Sydney and Jenna; and, of course, Ali herself, long rumored to have a twin, but thus far, not on the show, though we do know that Bethany was dressed exactly the same as Ali was on the night of her death, so there’s that.

Meanwhile, Ali was rallying her minions, down to obtaining a whole new line-up of right-hand girls to replace the ones taken from her, albeit of their own accord. Mona had a run-in with her, clearly seeing what Ali was up to, but too afraid to do anything about it without back-up, which, of course, Ali was responsible for taking away from her in the first place. I rarely feel bad for Mona, but I certainly did here, especially since, as the episode went on, it was becoming clearer and clearer that she was going down.

Besides, as nasty as what Mona did was, you have to admit she was a pretty nifty villain, one that you loved to hate, and sometimes hated that you loved. We’ll all miss her in our own weird way, won’t we? (Just me? Okay, what can I say? I always did have a soft spot for crazy women. But I digress…)

After some amusing silliness with Toby- excuse me, Officer Toby, who was clearly reporting for booty- um, make that duty– in his finest uniform (Spencer gave him a sweet pocket watch which read: “You are my Once Upon a Time”- say it with me now: Awww!); and Ezra, who was scheduled to have Rosewood’s most awkward Thanksgiving dinner ever with Aria’s family; we moved back to the action, as Mona and Lucas infiltrated the police station, downloading various stuff about the Ali case, including the video files of her lie detector test.

More silliness followed, involving Emily’s heretofore unvoiced boundless love of Christmas, which I have to say, was freaking adorbs. Hanna said it all: “Read her boobs. The girl loves Christmas.” (Emily had a shirt that said just that, to my eternal amusement.) She even names her decorations! Gotta say, loving this new facet of Emily. I also really like that she was a fairly devoted Christian as well, which was not necessarily a given, what with her predilection for the ladies, which doesn’t always go well with Christianity, to say the least. Too bad “A” did something sure to make her cringe at Jesus for all the wrong reasons from here on out at the end of the episode.

As it turned out, Ali didn’t necessarily say anything that wasn’t true in her test, as she simply confirmed that she knew about Spencer’s pill addiction and that she agreed to keep it on the down low when she caught her with them. Of course, Ali also said she had nothing to do with Bethany’s death, which may not expressly be true, even if she didn’t do the actual killing herself- as we know from last week’s episode, that would have been Melissa. Later on, we saw Holbrook talking to Ali alone, which we didn’t hear what it was exactly, but I’m assuming it was that Ali passed her lie detector test and had been cleared, as that was confirmed later on in the show. Whatever the case, judging from the question the cops were asking, they were clearly suspecting Spencer for Bethany’s murder, big-time.

Still, more info was needed, so it was again Radley time! I love me some Radley intrigue, so I was all aboard the crazy train to crazy town. As Aria kept everyone’s attention in the right direction, Emily stalled Ali at her house, but nothing gets by Ali, so off she went to try and figure out what the other girls were up to while Emily was keeping her occupied. Ali made it clear that she knew that the girls think she’s “A”- or the new “A” as it were, post-Mona, though I’m not entirely convinced Ali is “A,” I must say- so that cat’s out of the bag.

Meanwhile, Mona and Spencer dressed as nurses and infiltrated Radley’s files, grabbing all sorts of stuff, including tapes of Bethany’s private psychiatric sessions. Upon listening to one, we discovered a bombshell: it seems that Ali’s mother, Jessica, was having an affair with Bethany’s father, and Bethany knew all about it. It was clear from the tape that she wanted to confide in Ali, but was worried that deceit might run in the family, which we know all too well to be true.

Was it possible that Ali lured Bethany to Rosewood on purpose, in order to take her out, only to get sidelined herself and have Melissa mistakenly finish the job she intended to? It’s certainly possible, and as one of those people that has always maintained that the real mastermind behind all of this insanity was one or more of the parents, it was nice to be right for once, especially after being somewhat off on my Melissa predictions. (Hey, she did do something bad, so I wasn’t entirely wrong- and that doesn’t mean she didn’t do other stuff as well- but clearly she knew something was about to go down, which is why she left town in the first place, to distance herself from the smell of smoke, as it were.)

While Holbrook showed up at Radley, asking questions, including some to a highly alarmed Aria, the other girls got out while the getting was good, going out the back and regrouping with Hanna and Caleb, who were staked outside. Spencer got a frantic call from Toby, who she was supposed to meet, and a crash rang out, and it looked for a hot minute that it might be Toby that was going to bite the big one, and just when he was getting somewhere with this cop thing.

Fortunately, Toby was fine, albeit injured and laid up in a cast and wheelchair, which naturally Spencer blamed herself for. She didn’t have much time to stew, though, as the cops showed up at the coffee shop and arrested her for the murder of Bethany. Paige also informed the girls about what she saw with Ali and the farm, noting that Ali has an army of her own now. The girls in turn notified Mona, who told them that she knew for a fact that Ali was “A” and could prove that she lured Bethany to Rosewood purposely to kill her.

Naturally, the girls hightail it over there, but they are all too late, as a hooded blonde snuck in and proceeds to kill Mona, albeit off-screen. By the time the girls get there, there’s no one home, but a whole lot of blood left behind and signs of a clear struggle. The cops are called, and a crowd gathers and we’re back to the beginning of the episode. As the girls freak out, Ali looks more smug than concerned- which may just be Ali being Ali, let’s face it (how about that evil look she got on her face when she thought Emily was about to beg for her forgiveness when she started to walk away?)- but most everyone else looked horrified, including Mona’s lone partner-in-crime, Lucas.

We end with “A” at Emily’s putting Mona’s doll in place of the Jesus in the Nativity Scene outside her house, putting Jesus in the trunk with a clearly deceased Mona, leaving no doubt to her fate. “A” then puts a customized snow-globe on display inside Emily’s house, with a photo of the girls inside. Somehow, I’m guessing Christmas will no longer be Emily’s fave holiday after this, though Lord knows what “A” has planned for Christmas itself.

So, who did it? Obviously, the fact that we saw blonde hair on the killer means the show clearly wants us to think that Ali did the deed, but I’m not so sure about that. I do think Ali’s up to something- isn’t she always? And I don’t disagree with Mona’s assessment of her as a sociopath, to be sure. But would Ali have brutally massacred the girl in her own house as brazenly as the killer did? I’m not so sure. If anything, why get your hands dirty when you can get someone else to do it for you? Hey, it worked out that way the first time around, despite the way things turned out with Ali herself.

The question is, though, who in the world could Ali get to do something like that for her? Blackmailing someone to confess is one thing, but compelling them to murder someone? That’s pretty hardcore. About the only one I can think of that Ali could possibly talk into such a thing would be her father, and that’s a maybe at best. Even then, it seems more like he’d lean more towards getting her arrested or something, not killing her. It could be that Ali gets her sociopathic tendencies from him, though I always thought it was more of her mother’s side of the family that had the crazies. Her father seemed genuinely concerned for her, but not psychotic. Who knows on this show, though?

So, discarding that theory, which I do think is a safe bet, that means that the killer is actually someone else entirely, with entirely different motives. Could be Bethany’s father, for instance. He would certainly have motive to want Mona kept quiet, given what she knew. Although how he knew she had the info she had is beyond me, but then again, who isn’t spying on someone through illegal means in this show?

Sure, Mona probably would have known enough to protect her phone from being tapped, but maybe it was her room that was tapped instead. I certainly hope the girls stashed some of the other stuff Spencer and her found elsewhere, because if not, “A” has all of the evidence now. On the other hand, I don’t think they grabbed it all at Radley, either, so maybe there’s still hope. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Other possibilities: Byron, the Film Noir buff, who might have found out that it was Mona who told on him about the affair he had and broke up his marriage; Mike, Aria’s brother, for similar reasons; even Ella, for that matter, though she seems more unlikely than the other two, especially since she was the one wronged in that equation, so why would she flip out on Mona? Noel also has a creeper vibe, and he’s done crazy stuff for Ali in the past, so that could be another possibility. I’d say Jenna, but what would she have against Mona? Ditto Melissa, and she was out of town, anyway. I’d include Cece in that status, but she could conceivably be back in town by now, and she’s certainly done crazy things for Ali, too. Lots of possibilities, definitely.

So, what did you think of the big mid-season finale of “Pretty Little Liars”? Who do you think killed Mona? Will you miss her? Is Ali really the new “A”? Or was she never “A” in the first place? What will the real “A” do next? Will Emily let it ruin her Christmas? (Don’t you do it, Emily!) Will Spencer go down for Bethany’s death, or will Melissa come to the rescue and bail her out with a confession that she did it instead? Sound off below, and see you for the big Xmas episode!