We open with the Liars and Caleb walking together through Rosewood after dark, as Hanna tries to convince everyone Noel Kahn is the source of their problems. No one seems to believe her, even after Ali confesses the secret dirt she had on Noel years ago: He’d pushed a sorority girl down the stairs at a party and his parents paid her family off. Hanna’s also hung up on A.D.’s “I SEE YOU” message on the back of the windshield, because it’s apparently one Noel himself had sent before. Finally, Hanna’s point is proven in a major — and tragic — way when a car speeds toward them and hits Caleb. And who might this terrifying, reckless driver be? Noel Kahn, of course. I was just about to tweet “Noooo!” a thousand times in memory of Caleb…until Hanna woke up.
Right, so all of the “scenes from this episode” we’ve been teased all week about Caleb getting run over by Noel were allll a dream. Fun trick, PLL! (Although don’t get me wrong, I am relieved.) This doesn’t exactly explain how Hanna knew Ali’s secret about the sorority girl, which seems to be true. Maybe she acquired some psychic powers from that cattle prod in the torture barn? Honestly, if something good came of her time there, it would be pretty nice. In the real world, Hanna keeps making sure Caleb’s okay, but he still is. And then he apparently gets all the Liars new phones. (Who wants to take bets as to how quickly A.D. finds their numbers? And if avoiding A was as easy as getting a new phone, wouldn’t they have done this…years ago?)
Ezra and Aria’s post-engagement bliss was shattered pretty quickly last week, when the FBI insinuated Nicole might still be alive. We don’t have any answers this week, but it gets worse: Aria tells Ezra about deleting the phantom phone call from Nicole off his phone, and that seems to confuse Ezra just as much as his dead girlfriend possibly coming back to life a week after he proposed to his old girlfriend. Emily tries to tell Ezra it was her idea to delete the call, but he isn’t having it — Aria deleted it herself, it was his choice. By the end of the episode, though, Aria makes a choice of her own: She cashes in the tickets to Italy they were supposed to use for their elopement and buys him a ticket to Colombia. I am not convinced this was the right choice… Helen Hunt didn’t leave her husband for Tom Hanks in Cast Away just because he wasn’t dead! (Bad example. I wish they’d gotten together.) I guess what’s meant to be will be…but even though Emily told Aria she can’t wish for Nicole to be dead, I admit I kind of do. Sorry!
Meanwhile, Ali and Emily both find themselves back at Rosewood High in strange ways. Ali’s returning to her teaching job (as Miss DiLaurentis this time…so I guess we’re still not getting that Mrs. Rollins scene from the initial flash-forward?) because she has no money, thanks to Archer. And Emily runs into Principal Hackett at the Brew, who recommends she apply for Rosewood’s open swim-coach position.
Ali’s return isn’t quite so smooth: The minute she steps into class, all the students stare at her ominously from beneath black hoodies. It’s apparently a prank, but it’s so vicious I first assumed she must have been hallucinating. Nope, just some evil kids who for some reason knew about A’s uniform?
Emily, meanwhile, runs into an old face on the way to her interview: Paige is back! And, surprise, she’s applying for the same job — even though, as Emily points out, Paige could get hired at a Division I college and probably doesn’t need a job at dinky ol’ Rosewood High. So, does she have an ulterior motive? They get a drink together later that night, where we hear just a little bit about what they were up to during the time jump. They were living together at Stanford, but broke up when Emily’s dad died (the breakup was Emily’s fault) and haven’t seen each other in three years. After the breakup, Paige focused on training for the Olympics, but when she got in a car accident, those dreams were shattered (along with a knee — ouch!). Wonder if that car accident was A-related? Anyway, everything seems friendly and Paige seems terrifically stable — until, of course, we see her spying on Emily and Sabrina through a window at the very end of the episode. Something tells me Sabrina won’t be around for much longer, if Paige can help it…
Spencer and Aria have their own mission this week: Apparently Dr. Cochran, whose name was in Mary Drake’s medical files, has an office not far from them. But when they get there, it turns out this is that Dr. Cochran’s daughter, and the only advice she’ll give them is to stay far away from her father. The next day, she calls Spencer, flustered and angry, and says she knows Spencer’s goons ransacked her office — but since they didn’t find what they were looking for, she might as well just tell Spencer so they don’t come back. (So for the first time in a while, they seem to be a step ahead of A.D., who isn’t happy about it.)
She gives Spencer her father’s address, and Aria and Spencer arrive at the building and find a pervy old man who “needs” whiskey in order to talk to them. His job at Radley Sanitarium had been to get rid of babies who were born and…shouldn’t have been…so Mary Drake was his patient twice. The first time was when she had Charles, which he says he gave to Mary’s sister, Jessica. (Aria stupidly interrupts to whisper “Charlotte” to Spencer. Yeah, Aria, we got that.) But the second baby, years later, was “underweight” and “tenacious,” and was taken to county family services. So basically, it was last seen alive, and no one knows where it is now. And he doesn’t remember if it was a boy or a girl. Oh, and side note: No one’s seen Mary all week, so obviously no one’s had a sec to ask her about baby number two.
Before they leave, though, Dr. Cochran gives them a strange message to relay to his daughter, should they see her again: “Tell her that she can run from me and our history all she wants. She can even pretend to be someone completely different. But in the end, she’s going to want that family more than anything. You can’t deny human nature. You always return to family in the end.”
Boy, if that doesn’t sound like the story of Charlotte DiLaurentis herself! And possibly, probably, A.D.’s story, too. Think maybe A.D. connected with Charlotte somehow during the time jump, and that’s why they’re so mad about Charlotte’s death? Because she was the only sibling they’d connected with? Hmm. Either way, by the end of the episode, we see Spencer alone in her house, poring over old family photos. Tenacious…underweight…sound familiar?
But there’s another interesting element at play. When Ali gets called to the principal’s office — which I don’t think is how principals actually summon teachers, especially not in the middle of a lesson — she notices a file cabinet in his office for student records. So after hours, she sneaks in and pages through the Class of 2012 files to look for Noel Kahn’s, but all she finds in his folder is a note from A.D. — “I warned you bitches. Do you really want to end up dead?” But before she reached the K’s, Ali flipped past another folder that caught my eye: LISA COCHRAN. Since no detail on this show is really that random, I have a hunch this Lisa might be vaguely important. L.C. isn’t A.D., of course, but I doubt it’s a coincidence that a name we heard a lot tonight just happened to make its way into a prominent filing cabinet. Any guesses?
Now for another familiar face: Hanna gets a visit from Ravenswood favorite Mrs. Grunwald! Grunwald says she had a dream that “left me quite unsettled,” and she was compelled to come warn Hanna that she sees “a darkness around you and Caleb.” Hanna, obviously remembering both her dream and her super fun torture-barn experience, is very disturbed. She’s even more unsettled when Mrs. Grunwald, at the Radley, tells her the pain of patients who died here “radiate through these walls” and “the cries of anguish still echo.” Yikes! Not what you want to hear about your favorite boozy brunch spot, but it is Rosewood after all. Mrs. Grunwald tells her the source of the threat against her is very close — and of course, conveniently, Noel is standing not too far away.
Hanna’s glass drops to the floor and shatters, prompting Noel to come over. Then Mrs. Grunwald appears to read Hanna’s memories, or impart some sort of vision — essentially, her nose starts bleeding like Eleven in Stranger Things, and it seems pretty clear she’s making a connection between Noel Kahn and the person who tortured Hanna in that barn. So was it Noel? He’s certainly sadistic enough for the job.
Hanna still can’t seem to convince the other Liars to look deeper into Noel, so by the end of the episode, she takes matters into her own hands. She calls someone on a cell (old phone or new phone?) and says, “The deal’s on. I get you the money, you give me the keys. Tonight. And then you forget you ever heard from me. My name, the location, this number, all of it. Do you understand? DO YOU UNDERSTAND? Good. The less you know about this, the better.” After the call, she goes and tells Caleb she’ll be off the grid for a couple days when she goes to New York — which, in addition to literally being built on a grid system, isn’t exactly Antarctica when it comes to phone service, but whatever. Caleb asks to come with, Hanna says no, and they have a poignant hug goodbye. Hanna leaves and ends up in a dingy room with newspaper and a roll of duct tape, which she methodically starts using to cover the windows. Is Hanna losing her mind? And if not, what could she possibly be planning?