Pretty Little Liars Season 3, Episode 1: ‘It Happened That Night’

You can’t just jump into Pretty Little Liars‘ third season and expect to understand what’s going on. With that said, this is a show that needs to be watched by all, because for the past two seasons, it’s been the best angst-filled drama on television. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the first 47 episodes, or you simply need reminding of what’s happened thus far, here’s my 140-character summary of the first two seasons:

OK. Time for Season 3. Let’s go.


The episode starts with Rihanna’s “S&M,” which seems slightly inappropriate for ABC Family — that is, unless you are already hip to the fact that there is nothing family-oriented about ABC Family. After a few bars of the song, the viewer learns that we are now five months past “the incident” that took place at the end of Season 2. The girls have gathered somewhere creepy (of course), at night (of course), and in the middle of a storm (of course). The girls are going around talking about their summer activities and starting to get drunk. Actually, to be more accurate, Spencer, Hanna, and Aria are drinking and Emily is getting drunk. She claims she’s gotten “pretty good” at that, which one can only assume is a reference to the grieving stage she’s still in from losing her old fling Maya.

Then, out of nowhere, the girls get a sext that says “Show me your boobs.” They aren’t rattled by this, because it’s from “A,” and they’re not rattled that it’s from “A” because they now know that “A” is Mona and Mona is locked in a mental institution. So they put their phones away and Emily keeps drinking. They keep talking and decide to cheers to their upcoming senior year, which Emily soundly ruins, solidifying herself early in this season as the drunkest, buzzkilliest (still hottest) member of the Pretty Little Liars.

But she wasn’t done.

As the lightning storm (of course) woke them up from their drunken stupors, they realized drunk Emily was gone. Where was she?

Just at a cemetery. With a shovel in her hand. Next to Alison’s grave. Which had been dug up. Classic drunk Emily.

But as we learn, something bigger is going on. When the girls look at Emily’s phone, it says she got a call from Spencer that night, which Spencer says is impossible. Unless someone was in her house. Uh-oh, this graveyard/drunk Emily thing is starting to look like a setup. The girls rightfully panic and rush out of the cemetery.

Back at Spencer’s house, she makes less-drunk Emily take off her clothes and burn them, which at this point in the history of Pretty Little Liars is par for the course, even though I’m sure flannel fibers found in the chimney will somehow match with fibers found at the grave, but WHY SPECULATE NOW?

The girls, sensing something weird is going on at Spencer’s house, head up to a lake house. When they wake the next morning, Spencer’s mom calls and informs the girls that something horrible has happened at Alison’s grave. It’s been dug up. But there were no witnesses. The girls’ reaction to this news: a mix of sadness and relief. You know, like this:

Drunk Emily feels bad because she assumes if she hadn’t been such a drunk, she wouldn’t have blacked out, gotten abducted, and been placed at the scene of the crime. The girls consider telling the cops, but in true Pretty Little Liars fashion, they decide that last night never happened. Their alibi: They got up to the lake house a day early, roasted marshmallows, talked about senior year, and then went to sleep early (like all 17-year-olds with a house to themselves, liquor, and secrets would do). Nice, girls. Real nice.

The next three minutes are of Aria and her fresh-faced, creeper ex-teacher Ezra being touchy-feely, so I’m going to ignore it and pretend it never happened.

Much more exciting is the retail therapy scene between Spencer, Hanna, and their moms. This scene wouldn’t be that important had it not been the first “UNKNOWN NUMBER FOLLOWED BY A LIE” phone call of the season. The first of many, I’m sure. Welcome back, “UNKNOWN.” It’s been too long.

After Spencer’s lie, Hanna tells a lie, saying that she’s going to see a therapist when in fact she’s en route to go see Mona. More like Pretty Big Liars, amirite? (Horrible.)

Hanna arrives at the institution and proceeds to talk to Mona, and then at her, searching for answers to no avail. Mona just looks right through her, which causes Hanna to gather her belongings and walk out of the room. Before she can get out of the institution, however, she runs into someone she knows, and they question each other about why the other is there. As they walk away, the camera flashes back to Mona’s room and she isn’t there. Uh-oh. This isn’t good:

Oh, there she is, behind the door, being the creepiest human alive:

Spencer’s back at her apartment, hanging out with her man, the shirtless potential vampire Toby. Spencer is getting so riled up by his chiseled body that she seems to offer up her virginity at that very moment, but Toby brushes it off, claiming she won’t feel that way once he puts his clothes back on (implying that he has internalized how good he looks). This bums Spencer out. Poor Spencer.

Her thwarted sexcapades are short-lived, however, because she gets a call from UNKNOWN for a second time. Secrets, Spencer. So many secrets.

The first school scene finally takes place, we see Hanna’s man (a Tim Riggins look-alike) for the first time, and then three-fourths of the girls have another awkward encounter with Lucas. Also, the girls can’t find Emily, but later we see Emily is outside of the school looking in, perhaps nervous to face the school in this post-Maya world. Aria goes to the bathroom and has a panic attack in the stall because she thinks she saw “A” and that she has come back to kill her. After a full-fledged freakout, Spencer and Hanna come into the bathroom and deliver two classic lines to make her feel better:

Spencer: Bitch Crazy.
Hanna: Someday, we will all have jubilation.

This is the greatest show on Earth.

We then get a succession of one-on-one scenes: first Spencer giving her mom the cold shoulder, then Aria and her mother (Piper from Charmed) talking about Aria’s relationship with a grown man, and then, puzzlingly, a coffee date between Emily and Toby. Very confused by the last one. Where is his girl Spencer?

Oh, just in her car (of course). At night (of course). In the abandoned lot of a creepy motel (double obvi). She leaves the car, walks into the woods, and hears something rustling in the brush (duh). She keeps walking and enters an abandoned house. After her fourth time getting called by UNKNOWN, sitting in front of her laptop, she answers and says “I’m listening.” SPENCER, WHAT HAVE YOU GOTTEN YOURSELF INTO?

After this, a whirlwind of events takes place. Ezra, Aria, and Aria’s mom decide to go get dinner, Mona finally reacts to Hanna in the mental institution (but that was triggered by her imagining Ali sitting in a vacant chair behind Hanna), and we finally find out who was calling Spencer. It was Garrett, calling her from prison. After an unproductive conversation, Spencer walks out, but not before Garrett screams, “I know who took the body.” And the plot thickens.

Just as this is happening, Emily goes on a run and sees a familiar car. She has a flashback, then gets a text: “I bet you remember me.” She has another flashback and realizes it’s the car that took her to the grave site. Then the car speeds off, confirming that suspicion. She tells the girls that she’s starting to remember things from that night, which causes Hanna to come clean and tell the girls that she’s been visiting Mona. Which then causes Spencer to come clean and say that she has something to show them. Which then causes Hanna, Spencer, and Aria to come clean and tell Emily that there’s some stuff they’ve been hiding for a while now, as to not add to her grief.

What comes out of all these interweaving lies is that “A”/Mona might have had someone helping her. A SECOND SHOOTER, if you will.

And just as this is happening, Spencer’s car alarm goes off. Inside the car, thousands of pictures of the four girls at the grave site from that night. AND THEN A TEXT.

“Mona played with dolls, I play with body parts. Game On, Bitches. -A”

Good lord. This is crazy. Phenomenal way to start the season, you liars.

Filed Under: ABC Family, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert