[The following story contains spoilers from the midseason finale of Pretty Little Liars. Read at your own risk.]
Pretty Little Liars executive producer Marlene King warned us that the midseason finale would include a major shock, but that didn't keep our jaws from hitting the floor when we learned in the final seconds of the episode that Toby Cavanaugh (Keegan Allen) was the betrayer.
"I thought there was going to be a bigger backlash," King admits to TVGuide.com. "But even though people are upset about it, they seemed thrilled to be surprised. I got a lot of 'I hate you, but I love you' tweets."
Keep reading for more on the summer finale, including whether Toby is actually a bad guy, when Jenna will return, if Nate is really dead and how a new webisode series will factor into the show.
Did you always know Toby would be involved?
Marlene King: No. I did know Mona (Janel Parrish) would be, but not with Toby until early on when we decided to not kill him, as in the books. The theme we explore all the time on the show is "what appears to be isn't." So it was really fun to develop a character who really was the moral compass of the show. There were points at the end of Season 1 where we said that Toby is the only character in Rosewood who had never lied, and that was a truth to that point.
Did Toby ever really have feelings for Spencer (Troian Bellisario)?
King: That's the story we're going to tell [in the next part of the season] and you'll get a better sense of it.
What was the motivation behind their big sex scene?
King: It helped to keep the surprise, but also I feel that, for Spencer, it was the right time. Toby had been gone for several weeks and she was the one who wanted to wait. And for her character, not knowing he's on the A Team, it made sense for her to want to consummate the relationship. She thought she might've lost him forever until he showed back up in town.
Will we ever see the scene where Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) ends up shot play out?
King: Maybe. We're still talking about it.
Why didn't Emily console Paige (Lindsey Shaw) after the shooting?
King: Paige knows these girls are four best friends and the show is really about the friendship and their unconditional bond. So, Paige made the sacrifice in that moment. She saw Emily (Shay Mitchell) and Hanna (Ashley Benson) really needed each other, so her doing the body block and getting the police's attention was her way of saying, "I get it, I understand," And Spencer's look in subtext was, "We're so sorry."
So to clarify, Nate (Sterling Suliemon) was Maya's killer and he's dead.
King: He's definitely dead and yes he is definitely Maya's killer.
Regarding Ezra (Ian Harding) and Aria (Lucy Hale), how long before he finds out he has a child that Aria knows about?
King: Even though there wasn't resolution there, it opened up and fuels ourstory. What I thought to be interesting was that the "Ezria" shippers felt like, 'Oh no, Maggie is nice." They were expecting her to be a bi--- like Jackie, and here she shows up seemingly very nice with a secret of her own and asking Aria for help.
Jenna (Tammin Sursok) was absent this episode. Will she be back?
King: Not right away, but she's definitely still alive in our world.
And the newly freed Garret (Yani Gellman)?
King: He's back in action and a very important part of the Halloween episode.
Will time have passed before Halloween episode?
King: Enough time for certain injured people to have healed.
What can you say tease about the Halloween episode and the second half of the season?
King: I would say check out the webisodes. The next one is starring Jason (Drew Van Acker) and CeCe (Vanessa Ray). We know they have a history, but we've never seen them together on the show. All the webisodes are intriguing and insightful and we know it's a long break for our fans. So, we're hoping this gives them a little candy to eat until then.
Will the webisodes have clues viewers need in order to follow when the show returns?
King: They won't be lost in Season 3B if they don't watch, but I'm certain there are clues and there's texture and there are moments that are fueling storylines going into 3B. We're introducing a character [played by Aerial Miranda] in the webisodes that has a significant role in Season 3B.
What would you say is the theme of 3B?
King: It's that Mona is back. Now we see Mona has found a way to get in and out of Radley, the old "A" who we all miss will be very much back and present in the girls' lives.