by Melissa Parkin
The girls may be home, but the chance at returning to a normal life looks pretty bleak. Having originally planned to grab a cup of coffee to-go before joining Hanna at school for their first day back, Aria finds herself unable to leave The Brew. Ezra takes notice of her prolonged visit, seeing the obvious unrest in her eyes. She, along with the remaining Liars, can’t quite face the music just yet. Fitz reassures Aria that there’s no pressure to jump back into things if she isn’t ready. The pair decides to utilize their time by doing a little detective work. Posing as a police officer, Ezra calls the hospital in an attempt to get information on Andrew’s medical history. Though he doesn’t get anything solid from the nurse due to confidentiality, he does pick up on an interesting tidbit. The information regarding Andrew’s birthplace and date of birth are sealed…with the rest of his adoption records. Aria theorizes that Campbell could be lying about his age, and therefore could be old enough to be Charles DeLaurentis.
Given that her mother invited Sarah Harvey to crash at the Fields’ house for the time being, Emily stays home to play host to the frazzled kidnapping victim. Sarah’s anything but enthused about returning home to her own mother; she doesn’t feel overly welcome there. Apparently, Mrs. Harvey gave away all her daughter’s belongings, during her disappearance, for the sake of needing the unused space. Ouch.
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Spencer spars with Ali over Charles’s identity and takes the matter to her brother. Jason swears he doesn’t know anyone in the family by the name of Charles, but something clearly bothers him by the name. “Charlie,” he mutters. Apparently, that was the name of Jason’s imaginary friend growing up. One day when he was still little, Jason’s dad told him that “Charlie had to go away;” Jason never “saw” his friend again. Having seen the footage inside the Dollhouse of Jason and Charlie, Charles clearly isn’t make-believe.
Flying solo at school, Hanna runs into Dr. Sullivan, who is now consulting with the school counselors. After having a private meeting, this gets Hanna thinking. She tries to get the rest of the girls to attend a counseling session, knowing full well that all four of them need to talk about what they endured in the Dollhouse. Just as the Liars convene in the doctor’s waiting room though, Emily receives a message from the burner phone she gave Sarah in case of an emergency. A video opens up, showing Ms. Harvey fast asleep in Emily’s bed. Suddenly, a knife-wielding gloved hand enters the frame, pointing the blade at the unsuspecting Sarah. The video cuts out and the message, “Mention me and someone dies. You have 30 seconds to leave the room,” flashes across the screen before a countdown begins. Threats are nothing new to the girls, but the distinct lack of “A”’s signature sign-off raises a few red flags. If “A” didn’t send it, who’s threatening Sarah?
The girls flee the therapist’s office and rush to Emily’s house, only to find Sarah alive and well. The good news is short-lived when Mrs. Fields comes home with the news that Andrew’s being released from police custody. He has solid alibis for both Mona and Sarah’s kidnappings. The girls later run into Andrew on the street, and Aria tries to make amends with no success. Andrew explains the reasoning why he was gone during the time of the Dollhouse incident. He was doing everything he could to track down the girls,; he wanted to be the hero of the hour. Considering what the police and the Liars put him through, Andrew makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the girls.
The Liars finally face facts. Everyone in Rosewood knows what happened to the girls, but no one believes them either. They’ve been branded as pariahs. Hanna comes clean about her experience in the Dollhouse, and the rest of the girls admit to the same torture. As it turns out, Charles’s whole routine was really just a sick mind game. None of the girls’ decisions to hurt one of their friends actually resulted in punishment. The game was to simply test the girls, to push them to the breaking point where they would hurt their friends if it came down to it.
Determined to find answers, the four go to Alison’s house to search the premises. Aria comes across an old hidden picture containing Jason, Ali, Mrs. DeLaurentis, and Charles. Jason and Alison confront their father upon his return home about this discovery. Though Mr. DeLaurentis tries to dodge the subject, as he always does, his children won’t have it. They show the photograph to him, in which he finally caves. The conversation muffles as the camera view pans outside, showing a hooded figure lurking in front of the family room window.
More questions arise as the pool of suspects continues to widen. By this point, Mr. Biscuit could be Charles for all we know. Okay…not likely, but it’s a head-scratcher. “Songs of Experience” has its moments, but the episode is a little bit of a letdown following its stronger predecessor. The show spends most of its time connecting the dots to information that the viewers already put together. We already figured that Mr. and Mrs. DeLaurentis covered up any evidence of Charles’s existence. We saw the film from the Dollhouse. We know he’s not imaginary. The curve-ball over Andrew’s adoption was a welcomed twist, but Campbell’s rant outside the police station, along with his release from custody, pretty much killed the theory of him being “A.” Charles and “A” might not even be the same person. With suspicion everywhere, this could be anybody’s game. Maybe even one of the Liars’. Food for thought.
Pretty Little Liars - “Songs of Experience” Rating: B -