Pretty Little Liars “Songs of Experience” Review (Season 6 Episode 3)

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On the latest episode of “Pretty Little Liars,” the fallout of the “Dollhouse” events continued, as the girls planned to return to school and the cops continued their investigation of Andrew in “Songs of Experience.” As indicated by last week’s title, “Songs of Innocence,” this episode was of a piece with the last one, and, as such, played more or less as a continuation of that episode, with the girls each handling things in their own ways, only with one big difference: by the end of the episode, the girls were back together in full force to compare notes and figure out what their next moves would be.

In addition, the episode confirmed what most of us suspected, that Andrew was, in fact, not Charles, much less “A.” Well, unless it was all one big fake-out designed to take the heat of suspicion off of Andrew, but I don’t think that was the case. For one thing, the police had evidence that Andrew had hard alibis for the periods in which, respectively, Sara was abducted and Mona was “killed.”

But even beyond that, once the girls confronted him directly, he confessed that the real reason he’d been injecting himself into their lives was that he knew what had been going on and had been trying to help, in particular Aria, who he genuinely had feelings for. The plan was to do what the cops couldn’t and figure out who “A” was, thus serving as a hero for Aria, who he thought would be so impressed that they would be together after he came to her rescue.

Of course, what ended up happening was that she basically threw him under the bus as being Charles, which he was none too happy about- especially since he wasn’t. However, we did get a tidbit of interesting information which might come back later on: Andrew is adopted, which is why he might actually be older than he seems to be. (Or rather, it would account for the fact that he looks older than he’s supposed to be, though I always accounted that to the fact that almost everyone on teen shows actually is older than they’re supposed to be!)

At first, the girls thought that meant he was Jason’s age, and thus, could be Charles, but the fact that he has alibis for a lot of what was going on, as well as the fact that he was attending school during the time of their captivity would seem to indicate that was pretty unlikely. If so, that would be some pretty impressive multi-tasking!

But I think it’s safe to say that, while his telling Aria he was actually trying to help, not harm the girls might be a bit of a stretch- Aria, maybe, I’d buy, but not the rest- if those journal entries were any indication, he wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of the girls in general, and even less so of Mona, so I find it hard to believe he was truly trying to help as much as he claimed to be.

I’m not 100% positive Andrew isn’t still mixed up in things somehow, but I never really thought he was Charles in the first place, much less “A,” so no big shocker there. I really don’t think anyone was very fooled by the Andrew red herring, anyway, unless you’re too young to know better how this show works. The rest of us, I think it’s safe to say, knew the show well enough to know that the more obvious it seems someone is guilty, the less likely they are, or at least guilty of what it seems they are. The Andrew business was certainly no different.

That said, we did get some development on the whole Charles thing, albeit only a little. First, we discovered that Jason had a supposed “imaginary friend” named Charlie as a kid, but that his father told him Charlie had to go and he had dismissed it as one of those childhood things that is what it is. However, as Ali and the girls discovered, imaginary friends don’t tend to show up in photographs, much less on films, as the girls saw in the “Dollhouse.”

After Aria found a photo stashed away in a button jar at Ali’s house, the episode ended with Jason and Ali confronting her father with what she had found and his sitting them down to tell them something that looked pretty shocking- though we’ll unfortunately have to wait until next week to find out what. Also unfortunate: “A” and/or Charles saw it, too, as he/she was watching from outside, so he/she knows what they know, too.

Also worth a mention, Charles/ “A” also got up to his/her old tricks when the girls decided to pay a visit to their old psychiatrist, none other than Dr. Sullivan (Annabeth Gish), who returned to Rosewood for the first time in many a moon. The girls were all set to talk in depth to her when Charles/ “A” intervened and sent them a video message threatening Sara’s life with a knife if they didn’t leave Dr. Sullivan’s office immediately, which they did.

As to Sara, she was certainly looking worse for the wear, between flinching away from Emily when she touched her, and admitting she’d run away from home when she saw how her mother had essentially “moved on” in her absence and given away her stuff, and seemingly was upset that she wasn’t “happier” in light of her good fortune to escape from Charles’ clutches.

I know that many have been speculating that Sara might actually be Charles, or, at the very least, a plant by Charles to keep an eye on the girls, but obviously someone else was there with Sara on that video, and she can’t be two places at once, so that would seem to at least dispel the former theory. Also, it seemed like the show was trying a little too hard to make Sara seem creepy in that one scene where she was sitting in the dark when Emily came home. Still, she didn’t seem to have the same problem letting Emily hugging her that second time around, so…you never know. But Charles, she is not.

Though my Melissa theory seems less and less likely as time goes on, one I haven’t quite quit on is Cece, who, after all fits a lot of the descriptions of the real culprit: she’s blonde, like the kid in the picture; she’s close to Ali, her initials are C.D. and she’s certainly wily and duplicitous. Lest we forget, Mrs. DiLaurentis was also familiar with her, which could certainly explain why she covered up her potential assault on Ali that night. Further, shoring up that theory, why wouldn’t she, if Cece was actually family?

So, plenty of potential evidence to back that one up, which makes it move into my primary position of suspects- though I’m still not entirely convinced Melissa doesn’t figure heavily into all this somehow. We shall see. One that does seem dead in the water in light of new current events is that Charles is a transgender boy-turned-girl. I could absolutely buy it being considered in a pre-“Caitlyn” world- after all, this is a show that traffics heavily in Hitchcock allusions, and that wouldn’t be at all too far removed from the famed twist in “Psycho.”

But I’m afraid, what with the pop culture pendulum having swung around in the meantime since the show began (no pun intended…oh hell, maybe just a little- get over it), that the PC police would never stand for such a thing now, so even if that was the plan, count on them re-jiggering that immediately, if they hadn’t already.

The plus side is, there are so many theories floating around there online, that the show-runners have their pick of them to choose from. So long as it lines up reasonably with what’s transpired so far, it should be fine. I don’t know if anyone expects the endgame to line up perfectly- plot holes are virtually guaranteed at this point, right? But so long as it makes a decent amount of sense, I think fans will let it slide.

So, this was admittedly another transitional episode, but I suppose that’s to be expected, and even makes sense, given the circumstances. As I noted last week, if the girls had simply bounced back like nothing happened, that would have been much more insulting to viewers than the show taking a time-out for a few weeks to deal with it.

Besides, we got confirmation that Andrew wasn’t the one holding the girls captive beyond the shadow of a doubt (even if he was still involved on some level), and the girls had a key get-together in which it was also confirmed that none of them had actually hurt one another, as Charles wanted them to think. Instead, it was all a “game” designed to show them that no one was above turning on one another, under certain circumstances, intended to make them feel all the more isolated and alone.

Figure in the reappearance of Charles/ “A” while Andrew was still behind bars, as well as his/her appearance being in the same room as Sara (thus ruling her out as well, at least as outright being Charles) and we got some pretty solid developments overall, so it was hardly a pointless episode. I don’t mind transitional episodes if they serve a point, and this one did, so there you go.

Of course, as we saw in the promo for next week’s episode (skip this next paragraph if you skipped the promo), it’s hardly over. The girls might not have hurt one another, but there’s a chance they might have hurt others, which could be a neat development. Might they have hurt Sara, for instance? That could be interesting, to be sure. We also hear Ali say that her father claimed that Charles was dead, which, if true, could mean that the culprit isn’t Charles at all, but someone looking to avenge his death, which could also be interesting.

We’ll get into theorizing that stuff more next week as it develops, but until then, let me know what you think of the latest “Pretty Little Liars” and by all means, share your crazy theories below!