Pretty Little Liars Season 5, Episode 18 — To Catch a Whisper
Credit: Eric McCandles/ABC Television Group © 2014 Disney    
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Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars Season 5, Episode 18 — To Catch a Whisper

Is it just us or was Pretty Little Liars very, very meta tonight? Every other line seemed to be a philosophical treatise on the nature of Rosewood and PLL as a show. And it was awesome. In fact, this episode included some of the best scenes we’ve seen on PLL in a long, long time.

But it wasn’t all Poe and whisper-catching machines. PLL gave us some concrete (for this show, at least) developments in the “A” game: Mike Montgomery may be working with Ali. Detective Holbrook is not Ali’s minion. And the Liars now have a tape of one of Bethany Young’s thoroughly entertaining rants about a lying beeyotch she knew. Here’s everything that went down in Season 5, Episode 18 (“Oh, What Hard Luck Stories They All Hand Me”).

Wherein Hanna Fights Back Against Rosewood Creepers. Guys, that Hanna v. Holbrook scene was everything. It was as if Hanna just binge-watched the first five-and-a-half seasons of PLL and was waiting to tell off the first creepy older guy who gave her so much as a sideways glance. Hanna straight-up refuses to be a victim in this scene, outwardly subverting several horror cliches by doing so. First, when Holbrook pulls Hanna over for speeding on a dark, seemingly abandoned stretch of Rosewood, she gets out of her car with a tire iron. In this scene, we can best describe her mood as irritated. She isn’t scared. She isn’t guilty. She is annoyed, and it is epic. Second, when Holbrook tries to guilt her for what he perceives as Alison and the Liars having ruined his life (i.e. getting him suspended), she calls him out on his own shady actions: “You don’t get to play the victim here. You're the grown ass police officer. She's just a girl." Then, she drives away with a steely glint of self-appreciation in her eye with “The Rebel” by The Unknown playing in the background.

There are TV moments that transcend their scene and episode and series to speak to some larger social issue, and this was one of those moments. It was meta for the show itself — which has an unfortunate history of pairing older men with younger girls in creepy, creepy ways — but it was also empowering on a broader cultural level. This is a show about young women constantly struggling to gain and maintain power and control of their own lives in a world doing everything possible to make them powerless victims, the objects to be acted upon. We love PLL because it addresses a very real struggle (albeit in hyperbolic ways) while simultaneously giving these young female characters the opportunity to be the subjects of their own story.

Wherein Flashback Mona Plans Her Perfect World. Elsewhere in the Hanna storyline, our girl spends some time with Mona’s dear friend Lesli, who was in town to see the Liars. This prompts Hanna to remember simpler times when she and Mona were besties, “A” had yet to make an appearance, and Ali was still M.I.A. and presumed dead. But just because “A” wasn’t officially on the scene yet, doesn’t mean Mona wasn’t already laying the framework. When Hanna asked what Mona would do if Alison ever returned, she viciously explained her dream scenario: Ali would return to a town where no one remembered her and would eventually be locked away in Radley forever. During this festive sleepover, Mona also wished for a time-stopping watch that would allow her to control others: “They wouldn’t even know they were being controlled. That’d be the best part.” Is this PLL’s not-so-subtle way of hinting that Mona may still be pulling the strings? After all, isn’t faking one’s own death a way of stopping time — at least when it comes to others’ perception of you?

Pretty Little Liars Season 5, Episode 18 — To Catch a Whisper
Credit: Eric McCandles/ABC Television Group © 2014 Disney    

Hanna’s time spent in Mona’s room leads her to discover a tape hidden within the spine of Mona’s Edgar Allan Poe anthology. On it? The audio from one of Bethany Young’s sessions. In it, the Radley patient is complaining about an evil bitch she knows. One who is able to manipulate those around her — especially men — into doing her bidding. The Liars assume Bethany is talking about Alison, but we’re not so sure. It all seems a little too obvious. Then again, we may have just been distracted by trying to figure out which actress Bethany’s voice sounded like in an effort to determine which character’s twin she might be. Though Bethany didn’t sound a lot like anyone, there was a certain cadence to her voice that reminded us of Mona. Could Mona be the one with a secret twin?

Wherein Aria Falls Into A Gumdrop Trap. It is so awesomely in character that Aria would only think about checking in with her brother when it is an official Team Liar mission. And you know she might have blown this one off completely if not for Ezra’s out-of-town status this week. Anyway, when Spencer peeks a look at her mother’s top secret lawyer documents, she discovers that Mike Montgomery has visited Alison in jail and orders Aria to investigate. Rather than asking her brother about it, Aria is forced to feign an interest in his life and make small talk about his choice of movies.

When that crackerjack plan doesn’t work, she follows him to a creepy dock on the Rosewood lake. This is where the gumdrops come in. Mike leaves a bag of them on the aforementioned dock, then leaves. Aria immediately investigates further, only to be discovered by Mike. He refuses to answer any of her questions, but does imply he comes out to the Rosewood dock a lot. Could the gumdrops be some sort of message? Did he get a clue that Mona might still be alive from the old timey movie she told him to watch before she “died”? At this point, we assume everything in Rosewood is a clue — especially gumdrops — but we don’t get any concrete answers from the youngest Montgomery. We do see him signing into the prison to visit Ali again come the end of the episode. Could Mike be working with Alison?

Wherein Spencer Totally Freaks Her Mom Out. The majority of Spencer’s storyline this episode involved her totally freaking her mom out by admitting that she is considering not going to college. At this point, this choice feels more like a Spencer mini-breakdown than anything else, but we respect Spencer’s desire to take a minute to think about what she really wants. So much of her life is out of her control. She confides in her friends that she feels as if she is the one making Toby’s life so hard. (Not fair to herself, but OK.) The Liars are no closer to finding out who “A” is. And, soon, the Liars will be leaving all of this behind for something else. Sure, the last few years in Rosewood have been hell on Earth, but Spencer has been in this epic game of cat-and-mouse for so long that she doesn’t know anything else. We understand why she is freaking out about college. What does college even mean when you’ve been living in a seemingly eternal state of fear, paranoia, and adrenaline? How does one transition out of that, even if allowed the chance?

Pretty Little Liars Season 5, Episode 18 — To Catch a Whisper
Credit: Eric McCandles/ABC Television Group © 2014 Disney    

While Spencer inwardly considers her future, she outwardly spends more time with Hastings estate lodger Jonny, who subsequently spends his time making a whisper-catching machine for The Brew. It’s actually very cool, even if Jonny’s smarmy refusal to tell Spencer what it is makes us hate him a little bit. In another one of the episode’s super meta moments, Jonny explains that his device was “inspired by Rosewood. This whole town is strung together with whispers.” The contraption allows one person to speak into a microphone and whisper a secret to someone sitting on the other side of the room. Or, as described by Jonny: “It’s like a perpetual motion machine powered by secrets.” OK, Jonny.

Wherein We Learn We Can Ship Emily With Anyone. Seriously, who doesn’t this girl have chemistry with? We’ve been reluctant to jump on the Emily/Talia bandwagon. We’re still not over that Paily airport goodbye scene and we were totally OK with Ems being single for more than five seconds. But it is a truth universally acknowledged that every Rosewood lesbian is in want of an Emily. And why wouldn’t they be? She’s great. While the other Liars are busy stressing about Alison and Mike and Mona, Emily refuses to put her life on hold for the “A” game. (Maybe she knows PLL has been renewed for two seasons.)

Don’t get us wrong, Emily does not shirk her Team Liar responsibilities. (Unlike some Liars we know…) She’ll be there to save her friends from deadly ice cream-making chambers, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have some emotionally-raw heart-to-hearts/makeout sessions on the side, you know? The way Emily manages to be vulnerable and take chances with her heart after everything she’s been through is god damn inspiring. The moments when she opens up to Talia in the whisper-catching machine and goes in for a kiss are some of the best of the season because they demonstrate just how emotionally self-aware and brave Emily continues to be. This character, guys.


  • Mike’s insistence that Lesli give him Mona’s Poe book suggests that he knew something was hidden in its spine, right? Is this because Mona told him? C0uld he have been the black-gloved figure at the end of the episode looking for the tape?

  • Talia and Jonny were seen chatting in this episode. Friendly conversation or potential “A” Team collusion? Maybe both?

  • Do we believe Holbrook when he said he has been subjected to an internal review these past few weeks? And was he really suspended or was that just an elaborate ruse? We still think he may be working this case undercover…

  • According to Lesli, Mike was angry with Mona the night before she died. Perhaps because she let him in on her plan to fake her own death? Yep, we’re still peddling this theory.

  • We finally found out that it was Alison’s blood that was found by the barrel. Could this be another twin clue?

  • Could Lesli have put the tape in the spine of the book herself? This could explain her somewhat unexpected trip to Rosewood. Perhaps, like Mike, Mona gave Lesli orders about what she should do upon the event of her death? We’re just spitballing here...

Other Things to Discuss:

  • “We are some distance removed from OK.” — Spencer, on the sad state of Spoby

  • Spencer’s mom is allowed to be a consultant on the Alison DiLaurentis case? We suppose this makes just as much sense as letting Toby investigate the Ali case.

  • “And ‘A’ is aggressive aggressive.” — Hanna, on “A”

  • Was it just us or was the music especially on tonight? Between “The Rebel” and the lengthy scene with Ingrid Michaelson’s “Girls Chase Boys,” not one musical note was wasted.

  • “Asking if he found anyone there acting suspicious.” “Aside from you?” Ha! This exchange between Hanna and Aria made us laugh out loud, even after having seen it in the promo

  • We loved how Emily was super cautious about giving Lesli Hanna’s location. Girl knows how to protect her fellow Liars.

  • “The last time somebody’s old friend came up at The Brew, it was CeCe.” The Liars are being rightfully suspicious of the new faces in town. Maybe one of the reasons this episode worked so much better than other recent ones was because the Liars were back to being clever again.

  • You’d think Spence’s mom would know better than to leave documents unattended around Spencer.

  • “They reject you with a one-page letter. Saying yes requires more paperwork.” Gotta love the Hastings family wit!

  • “You have to keep your future properly aligned.” “Then I’ll go to a chiropractor.”

  • “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” — Caleb, assuming that all metaphorical (and literal?) bridges will be burned rather than simply crossed.

  • “He was probably just going there to spit in her eye.” — Aria defends her brother

  • “You do realize there was more than one Mona inside of her, don’t you?” — Hanna, being insightful

  • “I don’t want to figure it out. I just want to know.” — Spencer’s life mantra

  • “Unless it’s simple and we just thought it was complicated.” — Spencer on Ali’s apparent turn to evil. Are the PLL writers trying to tell us something?

  • Funniest quote of the entire episode, from Hanna again: “We’ve been barking up the wrong henchman.”

What did you think of Season 5, Episode 18? Sound off in the comments below!

Kayti Burt is a contributing writer for Wetpaint Entertainment with a penchant for all things pop culture. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!