Remember when we thought A had already been caught? Pretty Little Liars season 3 made us think again! Refresh your memory of the new A and Red Coat with our ultimate guide.
The #PLLEndGame is drawing ever nearer, and we’re getting ready for the end of Pretty Little Liars by taking a look back at the past seasons. We’ve already tackled season 1 and season 2, and now we’re moving on to the third installment! We want to go back through every message the Liars received from A, the beginning of our favorite ships, every crazy theory, and even every seemingly meaningless moment, so we’re fully ready for the final 10 episodes.
We’ll be posting one of these “ultimate guides” once a week, until season 7B premieres on Tuesday, April 18, so keep your eyes on Hypable in the coming weeks. If you’ve never watched Pretty Little Liars before, we won’t spoil anything beyond the season that we’re talking about, so feel free to watch/read along with us! Let’s dive into all of the texts, videos, flashbacks, diary pages, and murders that made up Pretty Little Liars season 3!
Pretty Little Liars season 3 begins 5 months after Mona’s confession. Emily spent her summer building houses in Haiti, Hanna had a random list of things to accomplish, Aria took a photography class and Spencer took a full course load at Hollis. The question of who killed Maya, the mysterious Kahn party tattoo, and the first appearance of CeCe Drake were some, but not even close to all of the big ticket items in Pretty Little Liars season 3!
Last night never happened
The Liars meet to catch up after their busy, A-free summers. They’re all drinking, but Emily is taking in way more than the other girls combined. She apparently built up quite the tolerance over the summer, and is still devastated about Maya’s death.
Similarly to how it happened when Ali disappeared, the Liars wake up and Emily is nowhere to be found. She’s found standing over Ali’s open grave with a shovel in her hand. There’s no body in the grave. She has no recollection of how she got there, or of what happened. At first, they think she was just drunk, but they later find out that she was drugged.
Attempting to retrace her steps, they discover that she received a call from a blocked number at 11 (we later find out this was Paige) and a call from Spencer’s phone at midnight, which Spencer did not make. Hanna and Aria later see Lucas in the town square at 4am.
Since Rosewood has jumped to conclusions about the Liars before, they decide to go to Spencer’s lake house, and to leave a note saying they went there the previous afternoon. They all agree that “last night never happened.” Once Veronica Hastings calls and says there were no witnesses of the scene, they think they’re in the clear. That is, until they find pictures of themselves at the grave strewn all over Spencer’s car.
Pieces of Emily’s memory eventually start coming back, with the first one being triggered by a car. She remembers being in that car, and recalls that Jenna was driving. Jenna had supposedly been at music camp until the first day of school, but the Liars find out the camp actually ended on August 23. When Jenna asks Aria to accompany her on the piano, and she begins asking questions about that night, they get even more suspicious of her, and start to believe that she’s not blind.
When Aria finds a note in Jenna’s room with H. Cobb, a time and an address, the Liars go there (H. Cobb is a gun shop) to catch her. They see Jenna driving and confront her about lying about her eyesight. She confesses that the surgery worked, but she lied because it’s “the only protection she had.” She tells them she saw Emily standing in the middle of the road that night. She planned to take her home but she jumped out of the car at 12:30am. She says that she’s “still a target” and tells the Liars to keep quiet or she’ll expose them. She eventually goes public about her eyesight after Garrett’s mom falls ill.
Hanna is volunteering at the church rummage sale, under Ashley’s orders, when she finds the jacket Emily was wearing that night, even though they’d burned their clothes. Hanna finds out where the clothes came from, which leads them to a restaurant. While there, Emily remembers more things. She recalls a maze with the words, “I’m sorry I left you,” and an arm with a strange tattoo.
The tattoo shows up again on Holden, when Emily sees him at a church party. He tells her the tattoo is fake, and it’s from a party. He also says that he used to see Maya there, sometimes. Luckily, Spencer and Aria actually end up going to that party when CeCe takes them to meet her friend from U. Penn admissions.
At the party, they play a game of “truth” with Noel and Jenna, during which it’s revealed that Noel was with Jenna that night, and that they actually found Emily in a diner. Jenna says she lied because she was trying to protect someone.
Emily doesn’t remember anything else until Dr. Sullivan hypnotizes her. At first, Emily sees herself at the grave, killing Alison. When she works through the memory, she realizes she saw A digging up the grave, and a blonde girl in a red coat watching. She says that “Red Coat” is in charge. Mona later reveals that she was there with Red Coat that night.
Who is A?
Obviously, when Pretty Little Liars season 3 begins, it’s understood that Mona is A. I mean, she did confess to it at the end of the last season. Things were pretty peaceful for the Liars for a few months, but soon, the texts started up again. They start by referencing “that night,” but eventually involve the same level of surveillance they were dealing with in Pretty Little Liars season 1 and 2.
Hanna is visiting Mona at Radley, looking to understand what happened, but she’s completely unresponsive. Mona is heavily medicated and is even having visions of Alison sitting in the room. Hanna might have stopped visiting, but Wren, who of course, is now a doctor at Radley as well, tells her that the doctors think her visits are helping. He also reveals that he volunteers at Radley because his own father was in a psychiatric institution.
During one of Hanna’s visits, after Hanna does Mona’s make up, Mona asks if Hanna is getting texts again, but she won’t say anything further. She does manage to steal Hanna’s tweezers, though. Mona starts talking again, soon after that, but still won’t give Hanna any straight answers about the texts from A.
After Maya’s death, the Liars went back to Mona’s lair, but everything was gone. The Liars rightfully took this to mean that Mona was not working alone. Lucas had been acting moody and strange ever since the masquerade ball, so he’s suspect number 1. He doesn’t help his case when he tells Caleb that Mona is only “the tip of the iceberg,” and also when Hanna sees him visiting Mona at Radley. We later learn that Lucas was involved, but he was being blackmailed by Mona since she caught him selling test answers. He eventually told Mona that he wouldn’t help her anymore, and he almost got hit by a car for doing so.
With Lucas being shady and Jenna lying about her eyesight, the Liars think back to the masquerade ball, when the two of them were together with the Black Swan. They originally thought that Melissa had been pregnant at the time of the ball, but Spencer does some digging and finds out that she wasn’t. She lost the baby after Ian’s death, but lied because it was just too much to handle at once. The Liars sneak into her apartment and find a feather from the Black Swan costume. Melissa says that she received a text saying to wear it and distract Jenna, or someone would tell about the baby.
Fresh out of leads, the Liars turn back to Mona, since she obviously knows the A game well. When Aria goes to Radley to ask if she’s responsible for the texts, she says that she’s not, but that’s not enough for the Liars. Aria and Hanna sneak back into Radley that night to get more info.
While they’re there, Mona escapes from her room, and they find her in the children’s ward. She’s repeating the phrases, “Miss Aria you’re a killer, not Ezra’s wife,” “where were we,” “Maya’s away sleeping sweet until Garrett’s all rosy, count on me,” and “no one to save Ali from evil.” Hanna figures out that this is a code, and it leads them to Maya’s website, www.massugar.com. The website doesn’t lead them to A, but it does help Emily figure out that Nate killed Maya.
CeCe Drake comes to Rosewood in Pretty Little Liars season 3, and she starts by befriending the Liars. She brings Aria and Spencer to a party at Noel’s to help Spencer apply to college, and confides in the Liars about Ali’s feud with Paige. She tells them that Ali used to call her “pigskin,” and the girls recall that Ali once had a huge bruise from her. Of course, this leads to Paige being the next suspect.
Their suspicions rise when they find the earring that Aria put in Ali’s casket in Paige’s purse. She had previously received its match from A, so it made sense that A would also have the other one. Emily never believes it, but Paige does start acting strange until the night the night that Nate dies.
That night, the Liars are setting a trap for A. Emily’s out at a cabin with Nate, but the other Liars are instructed to go to Ali’s grave. They make a plan with Caleb, and he brings a gun. When he realizes A is actually setting them up, he goes to find Emily just in time for him to get shot before Nate dies.
While the Liars are at the hospital, they see that Garrett is now free, since Nate was Maya’s killer. The whole night was just a ploy for A to get Garrett out of jail. At the same time that this is happening, we see Mona leaving Radley in a nurse’s uniform, and getting a phone call. After Garrett gets out, she tells someone that they could’ve stayed in if they knew Nate was going to get him out. When the other person turns around, we see that it’s Toby!
After Garrett gets out of jail, the Liars don’t hear from A for a while. Then, things start to really get serious on Halloween, aboard the Ghost Train. Someone feels up Hanna, pretending to be Caleb, someone tries to hurt Spencer, but Paige saves her, and somebody drugs Aria and puts her in a box with Garrett’s dead body! We hear two female voices trying to push the box off the train before the Liars rush in and save Aria. After Garrett’s death, they realize that A is targeting the N.A.T. club.
After Halloween, Mona shows up at Hanna’s in the middle of the night. She’s out of Radley, and she says that her parents are forcing her to go back to school (we later learn that she begged to go back) and she needs Hanna’s help. The students aren’t overly welcoming when Mona does return, but she does have one friend. The hotel clerk from the Lost Woods Resort is working as the school janitor. The Liars see a box of Mona’s things in his office, including Alison’s journal, which the Liars take some pages of. When they go back to get more, everything is gone.
The Liars get one of their first clues of Pretty Little Liars season 3 when Hanna is set up for a fake job interview. She sees Red Coat across the street before she goes in, and there’s nobody in the studio when she goes inside. Instead, she’s greeted by many mannequins and gets trapped within them, by A. Despite her terror, she does manage to find a key, which A dropped.
Unfortunately, Spencer soon finds a much bigger clue, when she unmasks a rookie A. While in Toby’s apartment, she finds a Radley badge with Toby’s picture, but the name, E. Lamb. She then finds Toby, black hoodie and all, rifling through her things, and breaks down after confronting him.
After that, she’s completely not herself, snaps at everyone, and spends all of her time trying to figure out why Toby would do such a thing, and if his motives could actually be good. She also hires a private investigator to follow him. The PI finds out where A’s key leads to, but all of the things are gone when Spencer goes there.
The girls notice that something’s off with her, but they think it’s just because she and Toby broke up. A threatened Spencer to keep quiet about Toby, and she keeps her secret until A locks her in her steam room while she knows Mona is out of town. She then tells the girls everything. Following up on A’s threats, Mona leads Spencer to a dead body with Toby’s tattoo, and says that he’s dead. Spencer loses it upon seeing the body, and is taken to Radley.
The Liars and Dr. Sullivan insist that nobody knows the body was Toby’s, but she knows what she saw, and chooses to stay in Radley. While there, she meets the real Eddie Lamb, the man who Toby had been impersonating. He tells her that they had a big problem with stolen badges and visitor passes, which was traced back to someone on the staff. He also makes it very clear that he does not trust Wren.
Caleb and Paige, determined to protect the ones they love, team up to stop A. Hanna overhears Caleb talking to Paige on the phone, so she follows Paige to a gay bar on ladies night. There, she sees Paige meeting Shana. Shana works at the costume shop which sells the Queen of Hearts costume that A was wearing on the Ghost Train, but she can’t help them. We also find out that Paige and Shana used to date, and Shana eventually starts talking to Emily, since they’re both swimmers.
Mona visits Spencer at Radley and tells her that Toby isn’t dead, and asks her, again, to join the A Team. This time, Spencer goes for it, since she needs to know what happened to Toby. Later, Eddie shows Spencer a board game that Mona was obsessed with, during her time at Radley. The board game has many markings on it, and seems to form a map.
The map leads Spencer to a window with a fake lock on it, which she presumably later uses to get in and out. The map also leads to something that Spencer has trouble finding, though. She goes out looking one night, and sees Alison. Alison basically tells her that A/Red Coat is a girl, and tells her where Mona’s treasures are. Inside a rocking horse, Spencer finds a nurse uniform, an Ali Dee badge with Mona’s picture, and CeCe’s visitor pass. Wren finds her and tells her that he authorized CeCe as a visitor, since CeCe told him that Alison got her kicked out of school, and she could help her get past Ali trauma.
Spencer has to prove to Mona she can be trusted by kidnapping Ezra’s son, when Aria was supposed to pick him up. Nothing happens to the kid, but Aria gets freaked out enough to break up with Ezra. Later, when Hanna’s babysitting Malcolm, he tells her it was Spencer that took him that day. The Liars set a trap using red coats to determine which side Spencer’s really on, and she passes.
She tells them that her initiation is to “deliver the girls” for Mona and Red Coat, who’s in charge. She had invited them to a party at a fancy house, but the party didn’t exist. They then form a plan together to expose Mona and figure out who Red Coat is. Toby gets brought into the plan when Spencer tricks him into meeting her, and he reveals that he was only trying to help.
The A Team makes arrangements for Red Coat to fly in near the house, and everyone arrives. When things start going down, the Liars corner Mona and Spencer and Toby go outside to catch a glimpse of Red Coat. Spencer thinks she sees Alison, somebody sets fire to the house and traps Emily, Hanna, Aria and Mona in there, and Toby is knocked out (and left with the lighter).
Hanna wakes up after passing out from the smoke and sees Alison dragging them out. Mona says that she saw her too, and that she pulled them out. Spencer tells them she also saw her. They then believe that Alison is alive.
Mona tells the Liars that she never knew who Red Coat was. She made a deal with them and they gave her ways to get in and out of Radley, but then Red Coat stole the game. Back in town, they see Wilden’s car, which Hanna and Aria had pushed into the river, after Ashley hit Wilden. The car is playing the video from that night, but shows Jenna and Shana dragging Wilden’s body away. Emily also saw Jenna and Shana meeting with Melissa, earlier that night and talking about the “party.” On top of that, Jenna and Shana meet in the park, and Jenna says, “you know what you need to do.”
The season ends with all five girls looking in the trunk of Wilden’s car and gasping, after getting a text that says, “you’re mine now.”
Who killed Alison?
At the end of Pretty Little Liars season 2, Garrett went away for the murders of both Alison and Maya. At the beginning of Pretty Little Liars season 3, Spencer starts getting calls from Garrett. She reluctantly meets with him to figure out what he wants.
Right before Ali’s body was taken, the prosecution had petitioned to have the body exhumed, and Garrett says he knows who took it. The catch was that he wanted Spencer to convince her mom to represent him. He says that somebody she knows well has her completely fooled, and that people lie, but medical records don’t.
Spencer doesn’t ask her mom to represent Garrett, but it doesn’t matter, because she starts representing him anyway! Spencer finds out that she took the case because the witness list included the PI that she’d hired to protect Melissa.
Garrett’s mom falls into a coma, so Garrett is let out to see her. Spencer sees him writing a note for the flowers, so she sends Hanna in to investigate, knowing people in comas can’t read very well! She finds a note under her bracelet that says “April Rose has the proof,” and they replace it with a note saying to meet at the church.
Jason offers a $50,000 reward for anyone who can give him information about the body. He tells Spencer he withdrew the offer, but after she leaves, he’s seen with a check for that much money. Together, Spencer and Jason find out that April Rose is an antique shop, and they go there. They find an anklet that Alison never took off, and they hand it over to the police. Apparently they’d been looking for it for two years, and it had blood on it that doesn’t belong to Garrett or Ali. That, along with Nate’s confession, is enough to get Garrett released. Wilden shows up to the church after finding the note that Hanna left and accuses Hanna of helping Garrett.
Garrett shows up on the Ghost Train and tries to tell Spencer what he knows. He says he was out in Alison’s yard with Jenna, and he and Ali pretended that he killed her, since she was blind. He didn’t kill her, but Jenna thinks that he did. He also says he saw Alison having a heated discussion with Aria’s dad that night!
From Alison’s diary, they learn that Byron was paying Ali to keep quiet about Meredith. This leads the girls to believe that he might’ve killed her to shut her up for good. After a lot of drama with Meredith, Byron tells Aria that he’ll tell the police everything that happened, so she’ll believe that he’s innocent. She tells him not to, since she believes him. He also says that he saw Melissa talking on the phone that night, asking, “do I have to call 911 to get your attention?”
After Nate dies, Emily receives a box of Ali’s old things that he had from Maya’s room. In the box, the Liars find notes about Ali’s “beach hottie” from Cape May. None of them know who she’s referring to. When Em finds a picture of Ali and CeCe from that summer, she asks CeCe who the beach hottie was, but she says she doesn’t know.
They then find out that Ali thought she was pregnant that summer, and was worried that the guy would kill her. Things heat up when Emily finds a picture of Detective Wilden in Cape May at the police station. When she goes back to snap a picture of it, it’s gone.
Alison’s body was found in the ice on the Ghost Train (gross) so Jason has it re-buried in a mausoleum. They all go to say goodbye, again. Spencer wasn’t going to go, since it happened right in the midst of her Toby brokenness, but she shows up and tells Jason about Ali being pregnant, and says that Wilden was the father.
Jason tells Emily that he remembers a picture of Ali from that summer that they could possibly match to the one of Wilden, so they go to his dad’s (who recently came back to town) apartment to look for it. They find a picture of Ali, Wilden and CeCe on a boat. When Emily had asked CeCe about Wilden, she said she’d never heard of him. Emily and Jason get stuck in an elevator on their way out, and the picture disappears. Jason gets taken to the hospital, but somehow escapes.
Before he leaves, Jason tells Em that he saw Melissa talking to CeCe the night that Ali disappeared. When Wilden shows up at the Brew, Hanna mentions CeCe to him, and she later sees him fighting with her. CeCe gets angry with the girls and says that she’s scared of Wilden since she believes he killed Ali, but can’t turn him in because he’s a cop. She says that the night Ali disappeared, Ali called her about the videos, saying that Melissa wanted them. The last thing she knew was that Ali went to go get the videos. She also reveals that it was Melissa who took the picture from Cape May.
Wilden meets with Ashley and tells her to get Hanna to stop accusing him of things. Ashley stands up for her daughter, as always, and tells Wilden to back off. He then pulls her over and threatens Hanna, so Ashley runs him over with her car. She believes him to be dead, but he shows up a couple days later. When the car shows up in their garage playing a video of Ashley, Hanna and Aria push the car into the river, but as I mentioned before, it comes back.
After the whole Red Coat/fire debacle where the Liars realize that Ali might be alive, we see a hand sticking up from her grave, and another hand pulling someone up.
Who killed Maya?
The Rosewood Observer theory is that Garrett killed Maya because she found things that linked him to Ali’s murder. However, as we discussed previously, Garrett is eventually let go when Maya’s real killer is caught.
At the beginning of Pretty Little Liars season 3, Nate shows up at the Brew, where Emily works, and asks for her, saying he’s Maya’s cousin. They bond over their love of Maya, and he even brings her a T-shirt from the movie that Emily and Maya saw on their first date.
Nate becomes interested in Jenna, and they go on some dates, but she eventually blows him off when CeCe calls her, asking why she’s dating her boyfriend. After that, he gets really aggressive when he tries to give her a birthday present, and she refuses to accept it. He then kisses Emily and gets super clingy with her. When Emily mentions that Jenna can see, Nate panics.
Hanna finds a note that Maya wrote to Emily on her porch. The note is from the day she died, and says that she’s not going to run anymore, but that she’s going to come back for Emily. Putting together more pieces from that day, the Liars find out from an eye witness on Garrett’s case that Maya got into a car with Garrett at 9pm.
After they find out about Noel Kahn’s parties, they start looking around him. Hanna and Em go to his cabin, where they find Maya’s bag. In it, they find her bus ticket, proving that she never left Rosewood. Spencer also checks out Noel’s locker, but he catches her. Spencer later gets an email from Noel with security footage from his cabin from the night she died. On the video, they see that Maya arrived at Noel’s at 10pm, after she’d met with Garrett. She left around 1am, when Garrett had already been arrested.
When Emily’s at a hotel with Nate, she sees his shoes in a picture from Maya’s website, and realizes he’s not who he said he was. He reveals that he’s actually Maya’s stalker and he killed her, and he was mad at Emily for taking her from him. He opens the closet to show that Paige is in there, and he says that he’s going to take what Emily loves from her.
Emily runs to the top of the lighthouse, where Nate attacks her. She stabs him and he dies, but not before he can grab Caleb’s gun and shoot him in the appendix. Caleb arrived just in time, because they had been planning to trap A that night.
For a refresher on the friendships and relationships in Pretty Little Liars season 3, go to page 2. To catch up on every message from A, every A scene, and more, go to page 3!