“You already [know what happened after I left the barn]. The four of you combined. You remember more about that night than you think you do.” WHY THIS STATEMENT MAKES SENSE - the bolded part at the end omg! (NOT MINE)
Firstly, let me clarify a few points on why this statement feels like such a big plot hole to us, the audience, who know about the NAT videos, the details about the other characters, and the events after Alison was buried:
1) Alison only knows what was happening from her perspective. While this feels like an obvious statement, it must be stated. We as the audience know the story from multiple perspectives: Melissa, Jason, Garrett, Byron, CeCe, etc. This adds a significant dimension to the events of that night, but Alison would not have known these other perspectives because she drove away from Rosewood early the next morning. In other words, Alison is only saying that the girls know about her experiences from her perspective. We’ll look at these experiences more in-depth in a bit.
2) Alison clearly isn’t thinking about all the extra details that happened that night (it was a traumatic night last year when she suffered a serious head injury—she might not even remember all of it) because she tells Hanna that “it won’t make a difference” to tell her the truth. This shows a certain hopelessness toward her situation. Why use the little time she had to talk with Hanna by trying to tell her an extremely complicated story with an even more complicated backstory when, to Alison, it really wouldn’t have made a difference to her situation? At this point, she would still think it was A who had hit her, following through on killing her (as A had texted they would do earlier that day). She also still wouldn’t know who A was because Mona had only recently started being A again. Plus, there is the added complication of her mother protecting the “murderer” instead of her daughter. Not only does Alison not know how to defend herself if she were to return (and she only barely escaped with her life last time after using all of her skills to try to outmaneuver A), Jessica burying Alison would have eroded any small amount of trust Alison had that her mother would protect her. The belief that the truth “wouldn’t make a difference” also reveals Alison’s blindness to the girls’ situation dealing with A. Ali had some strong narcissistic tendencies in all of the flashbacks we see of her, and we can see them come through strongly again here. Because the details don’t make a difference to her, they also don’t make a difference to the girls. Because Alison has proven some people aren’t A to herself, she didn’t think to share this with the girls (Alison was amazing at learning secrets; she was horrible at sharing secrets). As Maya pointed out, Alison was always in the middle, the center of attention. She enjoyed making other people orbit around her. This kind of mindset wouldn’t just go away after a year of isolation. We can, though, see that Ali does care for the girls—she herself understands that returning to Rosewood is dangerous as she says in her conversation with Hanna (she could be killed if she’s discovered by A or in serious trouble if discovered by the police), yet she does so repeatedly to keep an eye on the girls and save them a number of occasions. It is good character development that Ali has a limited perspective even though she is portrayed as knowing all. She has strong narcissistic tendencies that keep her from understanding what the girls need.
3) Ali herself did admit to Hanna that what happened to her was complicated. Interestingly, she makes a connection to Algebra in which you must find X. What could be more complicated than finding X? Finding A. (Perhaps a little clue from the writers?) So let’s get into what happened that night to see if we can unravel what Alison meant:
Toby: The first person Ali sees upon leaving the barn is Toby. From the video A sent the FBI and the blood stain later found on Toby’s jacket, the girls know that Alison and Toby were together because Alison was wearing Toby’s jacket (as Hanna can testify because she “can inventory each piece of clothing in all of their closets”. Now, it wouldn’t seem like Alison could possibly know that A sent this video and that the FBI showed the girls (unless she is somehow in on this kind of information). She can, however, know that Emily has been hanging out with Toby. They publicly hung out at The Brew, and Alison has clearly been keeping a close eye on them since she knows to come back to check on Hanna, where Emily is and that she needs to be saved from the car fumes, when Spencer needs to be saved from Ian, and even when Aria is in a drugged state because of Meredith. She also knows Toby well—as a master manipulator, she would know that it matters to Toby to clear his name to one of his only friends; of course he would tell Emily about that night to prove his innocence. Alison very likely assumed that the girls know that Toby and she met up and that Toby saw her get into the car with someone else (this last point being important because Toby needs to prove that someone else saw Alison after he saw her alive).
Ezra: Alison had a confrontation with Ezra about her lying about her age. Alison, not knowing that Ezra purposefully met Aria to write his book, could very likely assume that Ezra had told Aria about his past relationship with Alison. This would be expected for Ezra to share, which is why it was later so hurtful to Aria to learn about.
Ian: After meeting Ezra, Alison and Ian filmed the video at the Kissing Rock and Alison threatened him with the NAT videos. Hanna specifically asks Alison if she went to meet up with a boy (because that was who Alison was and what Alison did). Alison does not refute this, just that it wasn’t Noel. Spencer and Emily found the tree with “Alison loves Ian” carved into it (which Alison likely knew they had discovered), and without knowing that Alison and Ian had just been together at Hilton Head, the dots could be connected that the boy Alison went to meet was Ian. Alison herself had shared that she was into older boys. It also isn’t far-fetched for Spencer to connect Alison’s threatening behavior that summer to her relationship with Ian. Alison and Spencer had been fighting that summer because Ali had caught Spencer and Ian kissing and was threatening to tell Melissa. Spencer was shocked by this behavior (“I thought you were my friend!”) because this was atypical Ali behavior. Ali was a bully, but she loved her secrets and she loved knowing her friends’ secrets. Spencer could have realized that Ali had acted like that because she wanted Ian for herself and therefore needed Ian and Melissa to break up—Melissa learning that Ian had kissed her little sister was a sure-fire way to get that without Alison having to reveal that she had been with Ian herself.
Spencer: Alison and Spencer then have a heated argument at Spencer’s home in which Spencer separates herself from Ali’s orbit. After this argument, Spencer follows Alison with a shovel. This is when Ali discovers that Spencer is “speeding” and sends her back to the barn to sleep. This confrontation is important because it reveals that Alison is no longer wearing Toby’s jacket. This makes it apparent that A was clearly trying to frame Toby for Alison’s murder by planting blood on his jacket (How was this blood obtained? Why did A have Toby’s jacket since we last saw Alison wearing it?).
Garrett/Jenna: Garrett pretends to kill Alison by hitting Spencer’s field hockey stick against the tree to fool Jenna. This is a great example of a moment Alison would not have thought about in making her statement that the girls knew what happened to her that night. She had proven that Jenna wasn’t A, and there was clearly some kind of trusting relationship between Alison and Garrett (Alison nodded to signal that Garrett could pretend hurt her). Plus, this was one of the few unplanned moments of the evening, so it wouldn’t have stuck in her memory as being as important.
Byron: The next person Alison met was Byron to blackmail him for a second payment for not telling Ella about his affair. Alison had been pushing Aria to tell her mother about the affair. Toward the end of that summer, Alison had even convinced Aria that Byron and Meredith were back together (this was why Aria trashed her father’s office). What seemed like Alison acting as a moral compass was really Alison toying with Aria because she knew her well enough to know that Aria was the “fixer” in her family and would not be able to emotionally handle telling her mother (it wasn’t until Aria realized that it was more compassionate to tell Ella about the affair that she was ready to share her knowledge). Aria knew Alison as well, though, and knew what Alison was “capable of” (as Alison herself says to Byron). Alison abused people when she learned their secrets; this was true of how she treated her friends (fat shaming Hanna) and acquaintances (Noel’s girlfriend left him once Alison discovered her boob job). Aria could have guessed that Alison wouldn’t just let that huge of a secret rest, even if it were an adult. She had access to Byron to learn that he had seen Alison the night she “died”.
The attack: After thinking she had escaped A’s threat to kill her that night, Ali walks back to her house (though what was she going to do? She was spending the night with the girls in the barn, so it doesn’t make sense she would be going to sleep in her own house) where she is sabotaged from behind by CeCe. I think that Spencer was somewhere nearby when this happened. After Alison sent Spencer back to the barn earlier, we know that Spencer did return because Alison waits to see if she receives any more A messages while watching the girls sleep in the barn. This means that Spencer left the barn a second time because in the pilot we see her return to the barn, saying she “thinks she heard a scream”, which would have happened after Alison saw her sleeping. I think Spencer was nearby when Bethany was attacked and thought it was Alison like Mona and Melissa had. At first it seems like Spencer left the barn a second time because she’s investigating the scream. However, there are three reasons this explanation doesn’t work for me:
1) if Spencer had left upon hearing the scream, she would have most likely woken the other girls to go with her,
2) if Spencer went to investigate, she would have encountered Melissa burying Bethany, and
3) Spencer’s flashbacks later in the season seem like they’re trying to show us that Spencer witnessed the attack. Her flashbacks are a drug- and trauma-addled combination of her near-attack on Alison with the shovel and the sounds/sights (for example, the blood spray) of the violent real attack with a shovel.
Fueled by her half memory and fear that she had done something, these two memories could have easily become connected. The issue here is that I cannot think of any reason why Alison, who would have already been pulled from her grave and on her way to the hospital with the Grunwald, would think that Spencer witnessed an attack and thought it was her. Perhaps this is an example of the writer’s giving us Spencer’s flashbacks to make the connection since there isn’t any other connection they can make.
Alison did not know who hit her, and she would not have known what else was happening that night. Plus, even though Alison reveals herself to the girls, she clearly doesn’t want them to actually believe she’s alive: she always shows up when they are in a partial dream state (except when saving Spencer’s life, in which case Alison hid her identity). When Alison says that they know what happened, she’s not talking about the Grunwald because she doesn’t want them to realize that she was saved.
From Alison’s perspective, this is why she thinks between the four girls they know what happened:
-Emily has befriended Toby, who Alison could count on to tell Emily about his role that night
-Aria is in a serious relationship with Ezra, who should have told her about his relationship with Alison and that he saw her that night
-Hanna learns that Alison had gone off to meet a boy, Emily and Spencer learn about Alison and Ian’s relationship, and Spencer knew about Ali’s odd behavior forcing her to tell Melissa about the kiss
-After learning that Toby loaned Alison his jacket, Spencer would know that Alison was no longer wearing this jacket during their confrontation
-Aria is Byron’s daughter, knows about his affair, and knows how Alison abuses other people’s secrets
-Spencer likely witnessed the attack on Bethany – how does Alison know this?
People often get hung up on the word “remember” here, but this (mostly) makes sense to me. It was a year ago. These are random details, and the liars are not good about making connections and digging deeper into the information they have. Mostly, I think that that comment is said for Hanna to pass on to Spencer, who really does “remember more than [she] thinks she does.”
Me: so we were interpreting the word ‘remember’ wrong! Essentially, Alison meant that they have enough RESOURCES to work out the important parts from her PERSPECTIVE. Brilliant post! Thank you @skinnyappeal-blog :)