Okay, so this week, what we start with is less a confab and more a collective panic attack: Immediately after getting the group text of Tyler’s corpse, the Final Girls race to the visibly grungy school bathroom, where they cycle through the five classic stages of Liardom:
- Appealing to authority (Mouse says, “Okay, now can we please go to the police?”)
- Denial (Imogen and Tabby’s immediate “No!”)
- Bargaining (Faran’s “Can’t we just send it to the cops anonymously?”)
- Acceptance (… of the fact that A’s got them by the throat)
Now you might think by “acceptance” I mean Noa’s defeated “Well then what can we do?” or Imogen’s “We can take a deep breath!” or even Tabby’s “To paraphrase Heathers: Our teen angst now has a body count.” But no: I’m referring to Faran coming in with her signature bluntness to note that, sure, Slasher A has now killed two people, but to be fair, they were horrible people. (“Just saying!” — the Faran Bryant motto.)
And so the Final Girls are backed into a corner: They’ll have to keep doing what A’s told them to do (stay quiet) and hope Imogen and Tabby’s still mostly bubblegum-and-shoestring investigation eventually nets them something useful.
To that end, Imogen has a plan. If Slasher A is tied to Angela Waters (sure, probably) and is also the sixth pseudonymous “A Waters” signing the Radley visitors’ book to visit Rose (“A definite possibility!” — the Imogen Adams motto), then figuring out who that mystery visitor was will give them all the info they need to take Slasher A down.
Unsurprisingly, Imogen isn’t the only Final Girl making astounding leaps of logic in this episode, a fact Tabby immediately proves by sharing the broad strokes of her and Imogen’s summer rapes. This isn’t the leap in logic — telling the other girls now fits Imogen and Tabby’s post-traumatic arcs and slots fairly naturally into the larger mystery’s overall rhythm with Angela’s own history of rape having just been discovered during the pair’s road trip to Rosewood. What’s more, the team behind the camera wisely elects to have Tabby rehash the details off camera, bringing the audience back in only when she’s done, and the others can express their deep empathy and unwavering support. This all makes sense! This is good!
It’s what bookends this smart and kind scene that sets off the logic alarms, as Tabby prefaces it by saying she and Imogen have something to share with the rest of the group “that may or may not be related to A” (??). It then caps it off by revealing she has a plan to catch “whoever did it” (???) by infiltrating the school’s upcoming blood drive to steal blood from all the football players for an off-the-books paternity test. That’s right — it would seem as though Tabby and Imogen have gone from a very shaky “Do you think it could possibly have been the same guy who attacked us both?” in the last episode to “It was absolutely the same guy who attacked us both, and he was definitely a football player!” in this one.
Tabby! Citation desperately needed!
And not just on that last point, either. Because as much as it’s meaningful that Tabby and Imogen share this awful connection with Angela, that meaning doesn’t lie in how the connection might be part of Slasher A’s motivations (not least because it would be so completely incoherent if it did?) but rather in the fact that, as Tabby herself has pointed out to all the film bros who talk down to her time and time again, the threat — and often reality — of sexual violence is something that hangs over all teen girls all the time. It hung over Angela in 1999, Alison DiLaurentis in 2009, and Tabby, Imogen, Noa, Mouse, Faran, and even Kelly Beasley today. That’s the connection! And considering how thoughtfully the writers incorporate Kelly into the Final Girls’ “Losers Club” both during and after the blood heist later in the episode, this is a depressing truth they definitely understand.
Unfortunately for all of us, though, the constraints of Original Sin’s ten-episode season means those same writers have to perform some staggering feats of narrative contortion to get the girls from Point A (“who’s after us because of Angela Waters”) to Point B (“is for the blood drive, where we’ll discover which Millwood High jock is a serial rapist”).
On that note, Imogen plays the “we used to be friends” card to coax Kelly into getting Nurse Simmons to “let” the Final Girls help out with the blood drive, where they’re planning to swipe blood samples to compare with the DNA of Imogen’s unborn child. I guess this isn’t the worst plan? But honestly, Imogen, this whole conversation was still a waste of both your and Kelly’s time: If there’s one thing a single faculty member organizing a schoolwide event of ANY kind will always desperately need, it’s more willing volunteers.
In any case, this blood-drive scheme of Tabby’s does, at least, give us two silly (but useful!) montages — first of the girls tearing all over school trying to recruit as many of their fellow students as possible to come, second of them tearing through the boys’ locker room to swipe samples from any of the football players who might have chosen not to donate their DNA to the drive itself (because of steroids).
As for how they’ll translate all these stolen (and fully unlabeled) DNA samples to finding the boy who assaulted (they’re convinced) both Imogen and Tabby? That’s for Marjorie the no longer nurse to know and the girls to never find out.
It’s also, apparently, not for the rest of the Y2K Mom Squad to find out, as Marjorie keeps her lips fully zipped about both girls’ assaults when the moms meet later that week to whine about how their daughters — whom they’re all actively failing in truly massive ways — just won’t stop asking questions about Angela or looking for answers elsewhere when the moms refuse to answer. I mean, the nerve of teenagers today!!
Given that Sidney is finally in the Slasher A hot seat this week, having had a copy of The Scarlet Letter dropped on her doorstep stuffed with a note reading “SILENCE KILLS” (as well as a library card filled with the signature “A Waters”), you’d think she might be on the verge of softening in regarding the long-term value of silence. But no. Not only is she still mad at Tabby and Imogen for continuing to investigate, but she’s also revealed to have been practicing some extremely potent willful ignorance about the fact that something as bad as what happened to Angela must have happened to Tabby too.
Which is all to say, when Corey and Elodie tell Sidney to snoop on her own daughter(s) to find out what they know and stop them before they make any breakthroughs, she doesn’t say no. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find anything helpful. Unfortunately, what she finds is even worse: Tabby’s hard drive full of illicit naked jock footage. Not that the confrontation that unspools from this discovery gets either Haworthe anywhere, with Tabby daring her mom to “just ask!” after establishing that she knows full well her mom won’t. (“See something, say nothing!” — the Sidney Bryant motto.)
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only parent-daughter confrontation that goes poorly this episode, with Mouse utterly failing to get Elodie (who’s currently living in a motel) to consider the possibility she’s the one failing their little family; Kelly having to face her drunk, self-hating dad after coming home late from what seems to be the first night of peace she’s had since Karen died; and Mouse (again) failing to get the recognition she suddenly wants from the bio dad she just learned exists. If we expand the net to count parental figures and/or memories, we also get Faran butting heads with Madame Giry about the fact she can’t rush healing and Imogen butting imaginary heads with Davie, who, she realizes via soup-kitchen flashback, knew that Rose Waters was in Millwood as recently as a year ago.
This is all an enormous bummer. What’s worse, Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner, which, in Pretty Little Liars tradition, means things can deteriorate. But before we get to that, let’s take a moment to appreciate the few good things that happen to the Final Girls lives this week — for example, their night out dancing with Kelly. So much bonding! So much warmth! Or, for another example, when Chip cheerfully volunteers to accompany Imogen for a Thanksgiving-week shift at the soup kitchen and asks nothing of her in return. And who could overlook literally any scene with Ash, who Mouse decides looks like a cute greaser with his sleeve rolled up for the blood drive? I’ll even allow an inch of praise for Wes telling Tabby to “fuck ’em” and still make her reverse–Scarlet Letter student film after the principal shuts her down for “inappropriate content.” Yes, Wes. But our bar is low!
How low? Well, here’s where Thanksgiving finds each of our girls: Mouse leaving a silent meal with her cool mom to go be rejected by her bio dad (see above); Noa discovering a sachet of what she presumes are steroids in Shawn’s gym bag; Kelly looking to dissociate entirely from her own existence by hooking up with Greg (as Karen!); Tabby finally telling her mom about what happened to her at the bonfire party over the summer; and Imogen getting chased through Angela Waters’s old house by a knife-wielding Train Yard Joe, who appears both to have been Slasher A all along (the mask is hanging from a hat hook in an upstairs bedroom) and to have been keeping vigil over Angela’s corpse for so long it’s been mummified.
Imogen makes it out of the house alive, but because this is a ten-hour slasher movie (sorry, Kathryn!), she only stays away long enough to gather the other Final Girls and a handful of butcher’s knives before going right back in. Unfortunately, that’s all the time Train Yard Joe/Slasher A needed not just to clear the mask and corpse out of the house but also to go back to Joe’s train car and stage* his suicide.
Okay, no can they call the cops, Imogen?
And finally, she says yes.
• *I know this was presented as a real suicide, what with the note he left behind matching the sixth Radley signature and Imogen finding Davie’s defaced senior yearbook in his possession, but I have serious doubts! Not least because of the episode’s kicker …
• … “Crazy Joe was A: Could it really be that simple?” / “Based on every horror movie I’ve ever seen … it never is.”
• The blood-drive portion of this episode is obviously a nod to Pretty Little Liars season five, episode 19, “Out, Damned Spot,” but with an inverted scheme — rather than the girls inadvertently serving their blood up for someone else’s nefarious purposes, it’s the girls swiping the “donated” blood samples for their own scheming ends.
• SlAsh Count: 1