Spencer, Emily, Hanna and Aria are convinced Ali murdered Mona

By Michele Corriston
Updated January 06, 2015 10:10 PM
Eric McCandless/ABC Family

Are the liars finally getting closer to the truth?

Tuesday night’s winter premiere of Pretty Little Liars had some satisfying plot points, tying up threads left dangling from the fall finale and Christmas special. But as usual, Rosewood’s most unlucky residents didn’t get the happy ending they’d been hoping for. (Spoilers ahead!)

The episodes flashes forward three months from Christmas, and the girls are mourning villain-turned-victim Mona (Janel Parrish) at her empty casket funeral. The liars wear purple leis over their chic black dresses – except for Ali (Sasha Pieterse), who’s fashionably late in a bright floral getup. But it’s not her funeral-inappropriate style that offends Mona’s mom.

“Where is her body?” Mrs. Vanderwaal wails, slapping Ali across the face.

Now that’s how you start a season.

As Spencer puts it later, “We all wanted to stuff Ali’s body into that empty coffin.”

So yeah, pretty much everyone is convinced Ali murdered Mona – except the police.

Instead of digging deeper into the alibi of the town’s most famous pathological liar/biggest bully/faux missing person, the cops are circling Spencer (Troian Bellisario), who could be headed back into the slammer after Bethany’s parents petitioned the court to revoke her bail.

But … what about the letter? In the Christmas special, the girls and Toby Rear Window-ed the hell out of the DiLaurentis family home, discovering a missive that proves Ali knew Bethany as more than just a Radley patient her mom was oddly obsessed with. So why aren’t the authorities jumping all over the evidence? Detective Holbrook is doing his best to show Spencer forged it, though he’s “out on a temporary assignment.” (Sure, that‘s not suspicious or anything.)

Meanwhile, Toby – also, conveniently, a cop – has discovered a newly unsealed statement by the late Jessica DiLaurentis alleging that she saw Spencer in the backyard with a blonde wearing Ali’s clothes that fateful night. Something is rotten in the town of Rosewood!

Teen hacker Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) is trying to crack Mona’s laptop, but it’s super encrypted, making it a tough task even for a teen genius/delinquent. Still, he redeems himself by sharing a quart of ice cream with Hanna (Ashley Benson), proving once again he is the best boyfriend and piece of man candy on this series … until he warns Hannah against asking Ravenswood’s resident psychic, Mrs. Grunwald, to help locate Mona’s body. Obviously, she goes against his advice.

What Grunwald says while clutching Mona’s stuffed puppy inside her crypt could have clues about where her killer ended up dumping her body … or where she is, supernaturally speaking: “She isn t in Rosewood. She’s in the dark. She s not having an easy passing. Betrayal. Betrayal and loss. Her soul is caught, bound. She is surrounded by earth and insects and cold. there s no peace, only fear.”

Yikes. At least Hanna and Grunwald’s little heart-to-heart also led to the greatest exchange in PLL‘s very quotable history:

Grunwald: “How can you live in such a psychically constipated environment?”

Hanna: “I eat a lot of fiber.”

Aria (Lucy Hale) tries to help Caleb access Mona’s computer, but when she brings it into the Brew – which is Ezra (Ian Harding) and Mike’s new male-bonding construction zone – A attacks her out of nowhere, stapling her into a cocoon of plastic tarp and stealing the computer.

All we saw was a black hood – but was that Ali? She’s definitely seen walking around Rosewood with a big bag minutes after the assault.

Emily, apparently the only liar really worried her BFF is going to jail, offers to plant Ali’s stolen hairbrush in the Vanderwaal home so she’s implicated instead of Spencer. But when the two sneak into the house, plastic gloves on their hands and their hair in “We mean business” buns, they discover something even better: a secret camera facing Mona’s door, right where she was bludgeoned to death.

Hanna convinces Mona’s mom to ask the authorities to do another sweep of the house, and they find a tape showing Mona being beaten by someone (Ali? CeCe Drake?) whose face is hidden by a mess of blond hair. It’s enough to convince Jason to confess that Ali was missing for a time on Thanksgiving day and could have killed Mona in that window.

Ali comes home to police cars in her driveway and her old gal pals blocking her escape route through the woods. She’s arrested for the murder of Mona and suspected in the death of Bethany, meaning Spencer is officially off the hook – but Ali she do it?

“A set me up. You’re letting A win,” she spits. “Who’s gonna protect you when I’m gone? If you do this, you’ll all be next.”

And it looks like she was right. Just when Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily (Shay Mitchell) think they’re finally free, A puts on an ominous fireworks show, the sparks landing way too close to the liars. Did Ali bribe St. Bridget’s church into the pyrotechnic warning? Or is A really still out there?

Until next week, liars.

Elsewhere in Rosewood …

• Mike gives a heartbreakingly cute speech about how he’s sick of people eulogizing his girlfriend Mona as a sweet angel: “She wasn’t nice. Anyone can be nice. There will never be anyone like her. Ever.”

• Paige and Emily are donezo after she flew out to California to be with her parents and escape all the drama.

• In case you missed it, Ezra now owns the Brew. Congrats to Aria on her renewed coffee perks (the old owner is her mom’s skeavy ex).

• Hanna has a sweet flashback to Mona reminding her that she’s smart, a nice moment that kind of makes up for her being A back in the day. Shout out to PLL‘s music supervisor for choosing 2007 jam “Seventeen Forever” by Metro Station for the nostalgic background music.

• Aria hasn’t gotten into Brown, or Oberlin … or any college, for that matter. Was she really rejected, or is A also behind this? Still, something tells us she’ll always have a spot at Hollis.

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family.