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"Pretty Little Liars" Midseason Finale Recap: The Lady Killer

Kelly Hanelt |
August 29, 2012 | 4:47 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

We knew the "A" team was working all season towards a major move, we just didn't know it would be this devastating. "Pretty Little Liars", ABC Family Tuesdays at 8. (Image courtesy of ABC)
We knew the "A" team was working all season towards a major move, we just didn't know it would be this devastating. "Pretty Little Liars", ABC Family Tuesdays at 8. (Image courtesy of ABC)

Did you see that coming? All episode long, “Pretty Little Liars” had us more than convinced that we knew who the betrAyer was, until they pulled a 59th minute twist in revealing that the “A”ccomplice was/is none other than...
Are you ready for it?

I’m warning you, turn away now unless you want to be spoiled like a rich kid on Christmas!

Ok, here goes

It felt great to get that out into the open. Hear me Internet? IT’S TOBY. TOBY CAVANAUGH. T.C. is Too Creepy. Ha. It fits. Now that I am done blowing your minds with just how … mind-blowing this reveal was, let’s waste no further time and get down to business on “PLL’s” midseason finale, “The Lady Killer.”

A tragic scene welcomed us into the episode. As EMT’s rushed two people (one alive, one not) into ambulances, Spencer and Aria did their best to comfort a devastated Hanna. A few feet away, Emily and Paige were being questioned by the police about their relationship with the deceased. Emily’s hands were covered in blood. Hanna’s face was dripping with tears. Someone was dead. The entire world was wondering – what the hell just happened?

Rewind two days prior. Aria, Spencer, and Hanna were camped out in the Hastings house trying to collect evidence against Paige. They fooled Emily into coming over for an apology, but really meant to hit her with an intervention about the true nature of her girlfriend. They figured that Paige must have Ali’s body, but where was she keeping it? And if she did all of this to win Emily over, why did she drug her? Why did she drug herself? Spencer explained that Paige's mo all “Basic Instinct”, making herself look like a victim, so she would never be suspected as the perpetrator. And her reward for all of “A’s” deeds would be having Emily all to herself, like she always wanted.

As the girls finished deducing Paige’s motive, that very motivation showed up at Spencer’s doorstep for her apology. Unfortunately for Emily, the “I’m sorry” she was looking for was more in the tune of “I’m sorry your girlfriend is a murderous psychopathic stalker.” She told her friends that they were out of their freaking minds and tried to leave. Hanna pulled out Meredith’s second earring, telling Emily that they found it in Paige’s purse. Even if she didn’t believe their words, the earring couldn’t lie. This still wasn’t enough for Emily, and she departed with a deadly scowl on her face. If looks could kill.

At school, Hanna realized that Emily took the day off. She was so mad with her friends from that morning, she couldn’t bear to face them at school. While Hanna felt massively guilty, Aria was struggling with a different kind of guilt – the kind that stems from failure to tell your boyfriend that he has a secret son. Aria explained the whole situation to Hanna, who immediately advised her to come clean to Ezra. Could you imagine how he would react when he found out that Aria kept this from him? Hanna told her friend that Ali was wrong all along. Secrets don’t keep people close, they tear them apart.

Inside, Spencer had a locker-front showdown throw down with Paige. All pretenses of friendship gone, Paige chastised Spencer for hurting Emily so much. The girls exchanged an escalating series of threats (both essentially trying to protect Emily from the other), until Spencer said to Paige “I know who you are.” Emily’s girlfriend immediately backed down, slammed her locker, and ran away. Hiding something Paige? Or did Spencer just have really bad breath?

Next we saw Paige, she was snuggled up with Emily, complaining about Spencer’s awful ways. Emily told Paige that her friends thought they knew what was going on, but they were wrong. Emily wanted to know if she could trust Paige. “You can trust me with your life,” Paige answered. Emily confessed to Paige about there being a second “A”, and Paige was hurt to find out that she was prime suspect #1. Just then, Paige got her very own text from “A”, calling for a meeting in the Rosewood Cemetery Saturday night, or else ________ would get hurt. Paige’s obnoxious thumb was in the middle of the text, but I assume we are meant to believe the text applied to Emily.

It seems like Emily was the universal tool of leverage this episode, because back at school, Hanna, Aria, and Spencer received their own text from “A” saying: Stand down bitches. Play it my way and Emily stays safe. Now, what does that mean?

To quote Hanna’s line earlier in the episode, “things just went from worse to worser” as viewers saw Mona striding right out of the sanitarium dressed like a 1960’s nurse. It was all very reminiscent of the recent “American Horror Story: Asylum” promos. Make of that what you will.

And from worser to worserer – as Hanna, Aria, and Spencer sat around Hanna’s house being anxious, “A” bombarded them with two anonymous emails. The first called for a truce, telling the girls to bring Maya’s bag to Ali’s grave at 10 pm that night. Attached was a picture of the three of them, not Emily, standing above Ali’s dug up gravesite with a shovel. The second came with a picture of Ali’s body bag, threatening to leave them with the evidence if they attempted to tell Emily about any of this. As if they weren’t creeped out enough already, the girls heard someone lurking around downstairs in Hanna’s house. You can relax though, it was just Caleb, coming to check in on his ladylove. Upon seeing “A’s” emails, Caleb determined to accompany the girls to the meeting. No way he was letting Hanna go there without protection.

Despite the giant fustercluck that their lives were disintegrating into, Spencer and Hanna still had time for a charming little lunch outside. They made a call to Em, who told them that she was going to the Lighthouse Rock Inn with Nate over the weekend. Despite Em’s persistent anger, Hanna and Spencer were still glad she was leaving town so she wouldn’t get caught up in the “A” drama about to go down. All of Spencer’s worries dissolved after lunch when she was unexpectedly reunited with Toby. That’s right. Toby. Let’s try and be happy for them folks, because Spencer has never seemed happier in the history of this program as she did in Toby’s arms. She apologized for all the secrets. Toby said she didn’t need to. “Spencer, I know who you are.” He said. Seemed romantic then, but seeing as these words were a direct echo of Spencer’s earlier threat to Paige, you can color me creeped out.

At Emily’s house, her mother tried to dissuade her from leaving with Nate that weekend. She wanted to be able to support her daughter before Maya’s trial started, but Em retained that all the support she needed was from Nate. This was their way of honoring Maya before everything got messy with the trial. “He’ll take care of me,” Emily promised. In more ways than one, we’ll come to see.

Hanna’s earlier warning about the price of secrets rang true with Aria as she couldn’t even spend idle time with Ezra without feeling overwhelmingly guilty. Aria was just about to come clean to her boyfriend when an unexpected visitor came knocking on Ezra’s door. Oh, hello Maggie! It was clear from the look in her eyes that Maggie recognized Aria, but when Ezra introduced them, Maggie pretended that it was their first time meeting. The three were trapped in awkward small talk when another person knocked on the door (Just a neighbor this time), giving Aria an opportunity to ask Maggie what she was doing there. Maggie blamed it on curiosity, though admitted that she wasn’t ready to tell Ezra about his son. Aria said she wasn’t ok with that, and Maggie told her that she didn’t know the whole story, and wasn’t really in the position to be making demands since she was keeping secrets too.

Hanna came back from her shower (with a full face of makeup… how is that possible) to find Caleb packing a gun into his backpack for the meeting later that night. Hanna flipped a new one on him and demanded that Caleb leave the gun behind. He conceded, stashing the firearm in one of Hanna’s drawers until he could pick it up again Monday. Hanna worried that everything was working out too easily and Caleb reminded her that the odds were in their favor – there were 4 of them, and 2 “A’s”.

Only 2? Maya stopped in a sketchy bathroom to change into her old “A”ttire, black hoodie and all, before picking up a phone and receiving instructions from head “A”. What is the “A” team planning for tonight?

Back in Spencer’s house, she and Toby celebrated his homecoming by finally doing the dirty deed. More in love than ever? Or just a serious method actor? Either way, Spoby seemed like they were on cloud nine. Apparently one to hit-it-and-quit-it, Toby wasted no time getting out of Spencer’s house afterwards. She hugged him goodbye. He looked majorly conflicted. He said “I love you.” She said it back. It was all so emotional.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Mystery Inc. team prepped for their “A” showdown that night. Hanna grabbed Maya’s bag from Em’s closet. And Caleb grabbed his gun from Hanna’s.

But the “A” team was making plays too. We were treated to a glimpse at “A’s” new lair, complete with a million photos of Ali, dolls, a baby doll mask, and one new creepy-as-all-hell clown mask (wondering if that will be making an appearance during the Halloween episode?), while Mona took a look around for herself. She turned to another “A” and told them that there was a change of plans.

Hanna, Aria, and Spencer arrived at Ali’s grave, giving Maya’s bag to Caleb and sending him up into a nearby tree to be their watcher.

Emily was taking a nap in her and Nate’s cabin when she was woken up by a phone call warning her in a distorted voice, “You have one minute. Get out.”

Back at the grave, the girls realized that they had been set up. There is no way Mona or Paige would be this late. They decided to go and find Emily, splitting up between the two closest Lighthouse Rock Inn locations. They went to Bay Head. Caleb went to Belmar.

Instead of heeding her cryptic warning, Emily wandered around the empty cabin, and (randomly) decided to go through Nate’s backpack. She found that Nate has been carrying around a letter that she wrote to Maya. But before she could jump to any conclusions, Nate came back with two arms full of firewood. As he set up the fireplace, Emily noticed yellow splotches on his hiking boots. She flipped through Maya’s pictures on her phone and found the same boots in one of the pictures of Maya at juvie camp. Finally putting the pieces together, Emily faked sick and told Nate she wanted to go outside for some fresh air.

Emily ran through the woods trying to find cell signal, but she found Nate instead. And he wasn’t so willing to play nice this time. Having gotten Emily back to the cabin, he played a video that Maya recorded for Emily the day she died. In the video, Maya explained that she was staying at Noel’s cabin, but was coming back to Rosewood. She wanted to make things right with Emily. Oh yeah, and she saw her stalker from camp at a party. He had found her. Maya insisted that none of this mattered because she only wanted to be with Emily. Nate paused the video and asked how anyone couldn’t fall in love with that smile. He revealed his love for Maya, and his rage at Emily for taking her away from him. His revenge? To do the same thing to her, except with Paige. He opened up the closet to reveal a terrified Paige, tied and taped up so she couldn’t escape. Nate performed a moving monologue for Emily, professing that he thought that maybe he could move on from Maya with her, but she played him just like Maya had. As Nate grabbed Paige from the closet, Emily ran to a different chair, stealthily snatching up her cellphone in the process.

Emily warned Nate not to kill Paige, telling him that her friends knew where she was and that he’d never get away with it. He didn’t care. He’d been planning this for months. He thought that Jenna saw him with Maya, and now that her parents were coming to town for the trial, he had to be gone. It was time. He held the knife to Paige’s throat and explained to Emily that Nate St. Germaine didn’t exist. He is Lyndon James. (L.J. – like on the knife in Maya’s bag). As we saw Hanna, Aria, and Spencer pull up to a cabin in the middle of the woods, Nate heard creaking outside. But uh oh! Wrong cabin! The girls found an empty Inn, while Emily found an opportunity to run away and lure Nate away from Paige.

Emily ran through the woods trying to find service, finally finding herself on the top floor of a lighthouse. Just as she was able to put a call through to 911, Nate caught up to her and attacked her with a knife. They struggled and fought, and her phone was crushed in the process. The knife flew out of Nate’s hand. Emily snatched it up. They struggled and fought and struggled and fought some more. Nate had Em pretty much stuck and in a defensive impulse, she stabbed him. Nate went down. Caleb came up the stairs to find a hysterical and bloody Emily. He put the gun down and hugged her to comfort her. The view panned to outside the lighthouse and BAM!! Gunshot!

This brings us full circle to the opening scene of the episode. Hanna cried as Caleb was lifted into the ambulance. Emily and Paige answered questions to the police about their connection to Nate. Paige got away from her officers and went to comfort Emily, but Emily walked straight past her to Hanna. The two friends embraced while Spencer made sympathetic eye contact with Paige. She wasn’t involved after all.

At the hospital, Mrs. Fields told the girls that Caleb was alive, but still in surgery. An announcement came over the loudspeaker calling Mrs. Fields away, and all four girls got a blocked phone call at the same time. Over the phone, a distorted voice (yes, the same one that warned Em earlier) said, “Emily, I owe you one.”

As the girls continued to wait in the hospital, Mrs. Hastings came out of the elevator with Garrett. She walked over to Emily and offered her sympathy about what had happened that night, but wanted Emily to know that she helped free an innocent man. Because of Emily, Garrett Reynolds is out of jail.

At dawn, Mona walked back to the asylum with a black hoodied friend. She explained their plan of framing Paige for Maya’s murder with Maya’s phone that they planted on her. Even though that plan fell through, everything worked out excellently with Nate. Mona flashed her nurses ID, granting her access to the hospital, and bid adieu to her “A”ccomplice, who turned to the screen and finally revealed himself to be…. As we now well know… Toby.

In the final “A” scene, “A” (maybe Toby, maybe not) called and asked (in the same distorted voice) for two tickets to the Halloween party train.

That’s it until October 23rd.  Thankfully, “PLL” blew our minds and left us with endless amounts of questions to hold us over. First of all: why, Toby, why? Is he a double agent? Is Maya? Are they both? Nate never explicitly said that he killed Maya, so is there more to the story there? And who the hell shot Caleb? The entry wound was from the front, so the odds that it was Nate are slim to none.

Because all the anticipation is too much to bear, ABC Family was nice and released a promo for the Halloween special. Last year’s was a huge game changer, will this year’s be too?

Reach reporter Kelly Hanelt here.



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