And what a homecoming it was — like the Pretty Little Party Crashers version of a Harold Pinter play, but with creepy dolls, roofies, tracking implants and hallucinogenic gummy bears.
Just read that last sentence back and tell me this isn't the greatest show on television right now.
Last week, Ken got his card from Charles asking him to throw this party, and Ken's first instinct was to dig up his son's supposed grave in the hopes of confirming his passing. After whatever he found in the ground there, Ken's next move was to grab Alison and get the hell out of town, to hide in a hotel somewhere, hoping to wait out Charles' birthday in the hopes that everything would be just fine afterward. Classic Kenny D.
But Alison doesn't take well to being stashed away for her own protection, just like nobody really wants to be shoved in someone's dollhouse. So she applies a method that's worked well for her in the past: sleeping pills! After slipping them into her dad's coffee, she sneaks out, gets Mona to give her a lift, and she informs the Liars of something that it took them a lot longer to figure out: Charles is alive, and he's coming home. And if Kenneth isn't going to be there to greet him, then Charles is going to meet up with the next saddest man in the DiLaurentis family: Jason.
Everything clicked for me in this episode as far as finally feeling sympathetic for Jason in a way that I just never did fully did before. The reveal that the slick lawyer next door is his actual father and that the crippling self-doubt he's felt all his life was partially caused by the manipulated memories he's had of his older brother who suddenly disappeared when he was young (whom he found out was real, and then dead, and then alive again in a short span of time).
Charles was always the "beloved son," even when his existence was hidden away, and Jason was something else — a disturbing after-image, almost. I get how that could lead to an inner void, one that a substance addiction could grow out of. It almost makes me want to forgive Jason for convincing his high school bros to help him film underage girls in their bedrooms back in the day.
But Jason is looking for a sense of belonging, something that maybe Charles can relate to — and we see that when Charles reaches out to Jason with his red balloon and little blue plastic frog. "Come alone or not at all," reads Charles' invite to Jason.
It's funny how Jason and Charles are mirror images of each other in a way, even if they're not twins. But now Charles is coming home, and even if we don't know what his face looks like, he seems more comfortable slowly coming out into the open, accepting his identity. Granted, we don't know his full story yet, but more and more I'm starting to believe I. Marlene King, who's been saying for a while now that the "why" of A is possibly more interesting (and potentially heartbreaking) than the "who."
As for the party itself, it was beautiful chaos indeed. The Liars have de-chipped themselves, Spoby have been reunited, and Spencer has convinced Toby to follow Jason to his rendezvous with his big bro in an old abandoned arcade (of course) and turn this party into a surprise party — and one in which A might stand for apprehended. So there's Charles, the black-hooded shadow looming large over Jason. Insubstantial and ready to become real. And then Toby and his partner come bursting in, guns drawn, ready to corner Charles.
It's not that Toby and Lorenzo would need help screwing this up, but they get it, as Toby has swiped Spencer's pot gummy bears, gifted to her by Sabrina at the Brew, and he starts chomping away on them. Thankfully, they don't really kick in until he finds himself in that nightmarish Chuck E. Cheese's-ish birthday party gone wonderfully wrong.
And before you can even make a joke about Toby tripping balls, he collapses into a blurry, neon mess as A fires projectiles at him and Lorenzo before making an escape as the rest of the cops that Alison called come swooping in. My love for PLL honestly comes down to the divide between genuinely wanting answers to the show's ongoing mystery versus being OK with never finding out if it means more scenes as fun as this.
Or if it meant getting more scenes like the last one in this episode, with Ali and Jason together back at home. Jason's ready to fall into a glass of whiskey, and before Ali can finish talking him out of it, they find another old home movie waiting for them up in the attic. And up here they find themselves blowing the dust off an old memory (rather than watching their older brother blowing out the candles on his cake), one of them as kids, celebrating at an arcade with a "cousin" named Freddie, with Freddie almost certainly being Charlie. And there's a note waiting there with this broken-off piece of Charles' soul: "I wAnted to trust you."
Poor Jason. It's got to be hard knowing you let down the reflection in the mirror, just as it was finally becoming real.
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