In Season 3, Episode 1: “It Happened ‘That Night,’” the Liars have just spent the summer apart and decide to have an end-of-the-summer sleepover to catch up, but the night doesn’t go according to plan (shocker!). The girls wake up in the middle of the night to discover that Emily, who is still heartbroken over Maya’s death, is missing. They find a drunken Emily standing over Alison’s (Sasha Pieterse) empty grave, a shovel in her hand. It doesn’t take long for the girls to realize they have been set up. They flee to Spencer’s family lake house out of town to create an alibi for themselves. If anyone asks, they were there all night!
Things only get worse from there for our Liars. Though their lake house alibi sticks (for now), the girls begin to get terrorized by “A” again and realize that, even though Mona is stuck inside a mental health hospital, they are still not safe from Team “A.”
It’s been a rocky season for our favorite brainiac. For much of the season, Spencer was dedicated to the investigation into Ali’s death and the identity of “A.” This search for truth is constantly causing conflict with the people she loves.
First, her mother agrees to defend Garrett (Yani Gellman), who is on trial for the murders of Alison and Maya. Then, the Liars discover that Spence’s sister, Melissa (Torrey DeVitto), was the black swan who seemed to be working with “A” the night of the masquerade ball in Season 2, Episode 25: UnmAsked” (Melissa claims she was blackmailed into it).
Through it all, Spencer keeps looking for the truth, even if it means suspecting the ones she loves, but she hasn’t had such an easy time getting over the reveal that Toby (Keegan Allen) is part of Team “A.” She pulls further away from the other Liars and when she stumbles upon what she believes is Toby’s dead body (we’re not buying it) in the Rosewood woods, finally breaks. She is admitted to Radley Sanitarium and joins the “A” team. It remains to be seen whether Spence has truly abandoned the Liars or if this is all part of an elaborate plan to learn more about Team “A” and the identity of their leader, Red Coat. The season finale finds her freshly released from Radley and seemingly playing for the “A” Team.
Spencer isn’t the only Liar who has had to confront the possibility that someone she loves could be involved with Ali’s murder. In Season 3, Episode 13: “This Is a Dark Ride,” Garrett confesses to Spencer that on the night Ali was killed, he saw Aria’s dad, Byron(Chad Lowe), and Ali in a heated discussion. Aria doesn’t want to believe it, but when Garrett is murdered minutes later, the rest of the Liars don’t know what to think.
It is later revealed that Ali was blackmailing Byron, claiming she would tell Ella (Holly Marie Combs) about her husband’s affair if he didn’t pay her. Byron convinces Aria he didn’t have anything to do with Ali’s murder in Season 3, Episode 16: “Misery Loves Company” when he offers to tell the police about the blackmail.
The existence of the “A” Team isn’t the only secret Aria has had to keep this season. In Season 3, Episode 11: “Single Fright Female,” Aria learns that Ezra has a seven-year-old son, Malcolm, he doesn’t know about. The boy’s mother, Maggie (Larisa Oleynik), asks Aria not to tell Ezra about the boy’s existence. Aria wavers between keeping her promise to Maggie and telling Ezra the truth for much of the season, but Ezra eventually finds out in Season 3, Episode 17: “Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Inferno. Things between Ezra and Aria have stayed complicated for the remainder of the season. Aria is unsure if she can handle becoming a parental figure to Malcolm, and tells a shocked Ezra that she can’t do “this” anymore at the end of Season 3, Episode 23: “I’m Your Puppet.”
Hanna has an especially difficult time dealing with the betrayal of Mona. In the early episodes of the season, she visits Mona at Radley and keeping the visits a secret from the other Liars and Caleb (Tyler Blackburn). Frustrated that Hanna is still keeping secrets from him, Caleb breaks up with her in Season 3, Episode 4: “Birds of a Feather,” but they eventually get back together again in Season 3, Episode 9: “The Kahn Game” when he discovers that “A” is still threatening Hanna.
Hanna is particularly freaked out by “A”’s threats that she will tell the police it was the Liars who dug up Ali’s grave as Team “A” has some of Hanna’s blood. In Season 3, Episode 7: “Crazy,” Detective Wilden (Bryce Johnson) implies that Hanna’s blood has been found on new evidence. Hopefully, Wilden doesn’t use this as leverage against her in hopes of finding his police car, which Hanna pushed into a lake in Season 3, Episode 21: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”At the time, Hanna thought her mom had killed Wilden in a hit-and-run and wanted to eliminate any evidence “A” could use against them. Whoops!
Hanna also has some Haleb drama to deal with. In Season 3, Episode 18: “Dead to Me,” we met Caleb’s father, Jamie. Hanna was instrumental in getting these two to work things out, even getting Jamie a job fixing the old bell at the church. Unfortunately, “A” tricks Hanna into believing that Jamie is actually stealing from the church, causing Caleb to push his father away.
Emily started the season at a real low point, still struggling with the unsolved murder of Maya. After getting drunk and finding herself, shovel in hand, at Ali’s empty grave, she has been trying to figure out what happened to her that night. In Season 3, Episode 5: “That Girl is Poison,” she discovers that she was drugged.
Emily’s romantic life is equally chaotic. She begins to explore her feelings for Paige (Lindsey Shaw), but is also drawn to Maia’s cousin, Nate (Sterling Sulieman). In Season 3, Episode 12: “The Lady Killer,” she discovers Nate is not who he claims to be. He was actually Maia’s stalker from True North, Lyndon, and killed Maia when she fell in love with Emily. He kidnaps Paige and intends to kill her in front of Emily. Emily ends up killing Lyndon in self-defense, but not before he shoots Caleb. (It’s ok. He survives.)
Paige and Emily start dating, but Emily is still plagued by memories from the night Ali’s grave was dug up and the night she killed Lyndon. In Season 3, Episode 18: “Dead to Me,” Emily undergoes hypnotherapy with Dr. Sullivan (Annabeth Gish), and remembers seeing a woman in a red coat at Ali’s grave that night. With Spencer struggling, Emily becomes the leader in the search for “A.” She initially refuses to believe that Toby is in Team “A” and that he is dead. When the police find a body that matches his description inSeason 3, Episode 23: “I’m Your Puppet,” she begins to accept that her friend Toby might be dead.
Season 3 has very much been about the exploration of the expansion of “A” from one vengeful person to a whole team of cyber-stalkers. We know that Mona and Toby are a part of the team, and now Spencer has joined the ranks. In the season 3 finale, we will learn of multiple members more. But who is leading this team?
In the final episode of season 2, Mona tells a mysterious figure in a red coat that “she did everything you told me to do,” implying that the red-coated figure is the brains behind Team “A.” This has been the ongoing mystery of season 3, as Red Coat keeps popping up. Showrunner Marlene King has promised that Red Coat will be revealed in the season 3 finale. It is yet to be seen if Red Coat is “A” or what connection she (or he) has to Ali’s murder.
Catch the next episode of Pretty Little Liars on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family.