At BHU, we thrive under pressure. And the pressure is building to a breaking point. And someone's about to snap. And kill.

Season 1, Episode 1
Pilot Screencap 1
Air Date March 20th 2019[1]
Written by I. Marlene King[2]
Directed by Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum[3]
Episode Guide
'Til Death Do Us Part
(Pretty Little Liars)
Sex, Lies and Alibis

Pilot is the series premiere of Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists.


Everything about the town of Beacon Heights seems perfect, from its top-tier college to its overachieving residents—but nothing in Beacon Heights is as it appears to be. When the high-stakes environment pushes the residents to a breaking point, someone snaps and kills someone. As they work together to solve the murder mystery, it soon becomes clear that behind every Perfectionist is a secret, a lie—and a needed alibi.[4]


SUNDAY: Welcome to Beacon Heights University, begins a dialogue as shots of the campus at night is shown, where one of them shown is Music Hall. A woman bids Dylan Walker, a gifted cellist, good night whereas her companion comments that he'll stay up all night. Dylan, hard at working playing, notices blood on his finger as he swipes his electronic notes. Unfazed, he continues playing. Elsewhere on campus, an athletic Caitlin Park-Lewis, dissatisfied with her jogging minutes, checks the time. Bothered that it's three in the morning, she continues running and later passes McCormick Hall, where Ava Jalali, the narrator and an aspiring fashion designer, resides. She is still up sketching, but crumbles up her drawings in frustration after her pencil breaks. Ava warns the high-stakes pressure will drive someone to kill, as shots are shown of a crime scene and a trio running from police sirens.

In the Oregon mountainside last at night, Alison is being chauffeured and is asked why she’s in Oregan by the driver. She responds she is now a faculty member of BHU, and doesn’t know a soul in town. Arriving her new house, she begins to hear these ominous noises around. Shaken, she opens the basement door and turns on the lights. Seeing nothing, she closes it and is surprised by Mona, who calmly states that she brought pie.

Mona sets the pie on the table and sits as Alison asks why she's here. Mona responds that she also works at BHU for recruitment and admissions, having come back to the States to devote her time on her passions - game design - after the reasons why she was in France escaped her. Alison is still not following, so she elaborates that ten months ago she was hired at BHU to refine their faculty selection process, and chose her to come. Alison is angered she wasn't told, but admits she wouldn't have come if she did ask. Mona admits she wanted to come here for a fresh start, and it was easier to gain people's trust when you haven't given them enough reasons not to. Alison relates - Emily loves her but is struggling with the past. Sometimes they're happy, sometimes they're not, which is why Alison is ready to shed her past as a mean girl. She wants to help the students, and Mona says she will as she begins to pack up the pie. That's when Alison notices Beacon Guard, which Mona explains it's the school's security system. She says she'll give Alison a tour tomorrow as she packs the pie, and asks Alison to store it for later. As she leaves, Mona, looking the mirror, comments that Alison is as determined as ever.

MONDAY: Mona and Alison begin the tour, with Alison commenting on the philanthropy of the Hotchkiss family to build BHU from the ground up. They pass the Taylor Hotchkiss Memorial Garden, dedicated the Hotchkiss daughter who milled herself a year ago. Alison asks how Mona knew her, to which she says she simply searched her up. Mona adds that Alison is now living in her house, but the furniture is all brand new much to Alison's distress.

In a lecture hall, Alison introduces herself through the students' interactive e-board as Professor Granger's new TA. Their summer assignment was to read a book by one of her favorite authors, and asks for someone's opinions. Dylan raises his hand, eloquently responding he was struck with the idea of isolation and refers to a scene in the book. Alison agrees, noticing a distracted Ava Jalali on her laptop. She calls on her, and Ava says that Dylan is always right much to the laughter of their peers. Alison presses for more, and Ava gives an intellectual but vague and incomprehensible answer. She explains she didn't have time to read the book to grow her YouTube channel. Alison understands but says she has to come prepared next time. Caitlin raises her hand, saying it comes down to if it's okay to murder a murderer. Alison asks if she thinks so, and Caitlin says it is if they hurt a loved one. Nolan Hotchkiss cheekily says no one will hurt him. Bothered, Alison calls on him, to which he arrogantly says payback's a bitch and they derived what they got because the did terrible things. He slyly says she'd appreciate the world view, much to Alison's subtle shock. As class ends and Alison gives their homework assignment, she stops him and asks why he thinks she knows about payback. Nolan states that his mother will tell her she's here because she reminds him of his sister, but it's more than that. He leaves, leaving Alison more confused than ever.

As they step outside, Nolan tells Caitlin he needs her at his parents' place for dinner. Caitlin tries to reason with him that she'll already be at his mother's welcome back party later and has other plans, but Nolan pleads with her until she can't say no. Before they depart, Nolan calls out Dylan to say the arrangement to do his and Ava's homework will stay. Dylan says he can only do Nolan's as he needs the time to focus on getting a summer symphony chair. Ava tells Nolan not to worry but Nolan insists Dylan is smart enough to do so. He kisses Caitlin goodbye and Ava promptly leaves soon after. Caitlin notes that she thought it would be different this year because of Taylor, which Dylan adding that she even cried at the funeral. Caitlin says she can help Dylan with what Nolan has on him, but Dylan sharply states they all fake friends and only hang out to make it look like he has the perfect posse. He leaves, mentioning he has three papers to write as Beacon Guard watches above.

Mona is walking through campus when Alison startles her, asking what she knows about Nolan Hotchkiss. Alison is furious he of all people could know her past, but Mona wants to know what he said. Alison changes her mind and is about to leave but Mona swears she didn't tell no one. She says Nolan is super smart but doesn't belong here - he could be dangerous. Mona warns her to stay away from her, leaving Alison alone until she spots Nolan looking at her from a distance.

TUESDAY: By her riverside house, Alison is grading papers until she notices the slight rewording and identical formulating of Ava Jalali's paper to Dylan's, and finds another copy in Nolan's. Looking up the plagiarism policy, she takes off her glasses in disappointment and stands up to go to one of her moving boxes, taking out a picture of her and her family. Smiling, she notices a rip in the wallpaper, and covers it up with the frame.

Dylan's boyfriend Andrew arrives at his and Dylan's shared apartment, and sighs at a sleeping Dylan hunched over his cluttered work station. Picking up one of the plagiarized papers, Andrew laments on why Dylan keeps staying up late doing Nolan and Ava's work. Dylan defensively says he was helping friends with their homework, with Andrew sarcastically remarking it's history now. He mentions he could get Dylan expelled but Dylan insisted her offered. Kissing him, Andrew says saying yes to them was the best thing to ever happen to us but Dylan interrupts him and saying he promised himself he was never going to get serious with anybody un til he met him. Rubbing noses, Andrew presses on and asks why he hangs out with Nolan still, but his boyfriend says he has classes.

Caitlin, naked in bed, in practicing her Latin and wails to her shirtless boyfriend Jeremy Beckett that she shouldn't have gone to dinner and fears she will fail her test. Jeremy kisses his girlfriend to calm her down but Caitlin has to ace this test, with Jeremy adding that she always does. Jeremy tells her she puts too much pressure on her, understanding that but what he doesn't understand is Nolan. In a flashback, going home from Jeremy's, Caitlin's confronted by Nolan, who needs Caitlin to continue being his girlfriend as a disguise to continue to be with Ava, as his mother disapproves of her family. He threatens to leak photos of her Senator mother's infidelity, which could destroy her political career. With her mother planning to run for presidency, Caitlin can't risk it, even when Jeremy offers to talk to Nolan to keep her and her mothers out of the situation. Caitlin however says she'll talk to Nolan to set some limits.

At the Hotchkiss residence's poolside, Ava types away on her laptop admits she feels bad about Dylan's doing her work as they're in enough pressure as it is. Nolan, wearing only swimming trunks, saying pressure is typical of BHU and says she needs more time to do what she's currently doing - writing a code to enable pop-ups on her YouTube channel to bypass user privacy settings. Nolan says she could hire people to do thank for her, outsourcing it but Ava insist on doing it herself. She wants people to think of her she they hear Jalali, not her father. Nolan says they will, with that internship at Vogue happening. He says he was born into this perfect family where he has to be the best at everything, but she's going to be somebody. Ava's grateful he believes in her as they share a kiss. Standing up, Ava takes off her robe and dives into the pool with Nolan on her trail, as they share romantic moment that leads him to take her top off.

Later as Nolan dries himself off, he finds her mother Claire looking down on him form the balcony, where she mentions she met Ava on her way out. Nolan insists she's just a friend he has a couple of classes with, and a relieved Claire says he doesn't need her family's drama. Claire continues to talk that his couch wants Nolan to lead an extra practice this weekend. Nolan says he doesn't have time - Claire, surprised, tells him he's worked so hard to be captain and doesn't want him to throw it all away. Nolan wants some time for himself, but his mother dismisses what he wants and assures him he can handle it. As Nolan heads upstairs Claire mentions she wants to speak to Ava at the party. As soon as Nolan is gone, Claire take out her phone and demands she wants active surveillance on BH-5. The caller says that's code for her son, to which Claire is completely sure she wants him on watch.

Andrew comes back to hear Dylan playing his cello, who frustratedly stops. He asks why he stopped, to which Dylan replies it wasn't perfect. Andrew comes over and says he will get the spot, and says he can already see him on the Symphony, wearing a two-button Brioni. And after his concert, they'll retire to Andrew's boss' mansion. Andrew recently applied for an architecture internship, to which Dylan congratulates him on. Dylan asks if he really has a shot, to which Andrew wholeheartedly agrees.

WEDNESDAY: In a lounge, Ava remarks to Alison that she's never had a problem with her work. Alison responds that she doesn't think the beautifully written paper is Ava's, as she admitted earlier that she didn't read it. She asks the young student if Nolan or Dylan wrote it. Continuing on, Alison says she read Ava's file and asks about her father. Ava sarcastically states a man who embezzled millions won't be found, and her mother simply bailed. In a flashback, an FBI agent presses Ava on the whereabouts of her parents. Ava doesn't know, but because the house is still hers she tells the agent to get out. Once she leaves, Ava, making sure she is alone, opens a wooden panel underneath a window and finds a bag in it - filled with millions of dollars and an apology note from her father. Back in the present, Ava announces she has a part to go to. Alison objects, but Ava makes it clear to leave her and her 'friends' alone and let it go. Disappointed, Alison opens her laptop, sensing she's being watched. Mona is seen outside, looking at her.

Arriving at the luxurious Hotchkiss estate for the Welcome Back party, finding Mona acting as receptionist and greeter. She urges her to try to champagne, but Alison sends a jab if that's another part of her job. Mona turns away as Alison makes eye contact with Dylan, whose playing with a group. He immediately looks down. Exploring more, Alison finds an office and looks out the window, concerned at the sight of Nolan pulling Caitlin back. She's interrupted by Claire, who remarks her daughter used to love coming here to watch the parties. Alison tries to introduce herself but Claire knows already - she was quite impressed by her scholarship application. Alison asks why, to which Claire notes there are many, including her journey from mean girl to mentor. Alison notes that the students here are under a lot of pressure, and she hopes to help them. Claire exclaims that that was the reason her daughter became a teacher - in fact, Alison reminds her of Taylor. Flustered, Alison gives her condolences. Claire says it inspired her to keep her students safe - she adds that Alison will be safe here, too, much to Alison's discomfort.

Outside the party, Nolan and Andrew are conversing, much to Dylan's anger. Watching as Nolan makes his way up the steps, he confronts Nolan and asks why he was talking to Andrew. He advises him to calm down - all Andrew was saying was how good things were since he and Dylan moved in. Nolan is happy for them but Dylan cuts him off. He smirks, remarking that Dylan looks hot while he's angry. Dylan venomously says he has no idea what he's like when he's angry, and warns him to stop messing with his relationship.

In front of the house, Claire announces a group picture, gathering Caitlin, Dylan, Nolan and even Ava for the picture as Alison watches on. She notices Ava trying to hold Nolan's hand but he tucks it away in his pocket as Claire watches. They disband after the picture is taken - Ava and Nolan go in different directions but Ava keeps looking at him.

Away from the party, Caitlin tries taking a call from Jeremy but is interrupted by Alison, who compliments how provocative her paper was. She was so intrigued that she took a look into Caitlin's file, asking her if she plans on taking her mother's Senate seat. Caitlin says that's the plan. Alison thanks her again for her work, commenting it made her think murder was justifiable. Caitlin jokes that she was too inspired by an ongoing fantasy. Alison asks if it's about Nolan. Surprised but keeping her cool, Caitlin replies that they're happy together. Alison continues to drill - is she lying because she's afraid of him? Caitlin tells her she's only make things worse by asking questions. Alison tries to calm her down, saying she used to be like Nolan and can help her. Caitlin, frustrated, admits he'll do whatever it takes to prove to his mother he's her perfect son. Alison adds even making Caitlin be his fake girlfriend when he's interested in Ava. Shocked, Caitlin leaves.

Nolan sneaks away from the party by following a path near the woods by the backyard infinity pool, but not without being noticed by Mona. Using an app to make sure Beacon Guard is out of range, he makes a phone call. He tells the person he sees to see them, but their response makes him say he was afraid of that. He explains his mother ordered surveillance on him and Ava, and they need to meet immediately.

THURSDAY: In a meeting with Dylan, Alison compliments his way for words, which gave him and his forged papers away. She asks if Nolan is manipulating him, if he had something on him.

In a flashback, Dylan asks Nolan why he decided to take business ethics, which Nolan says was something he could take to his mom about in their long dinners. Dylan says it's cool they do that, which makes him miss his family back home. Nolan replies that he has Andrew, and asks if that's a thing. Dylan clarifies that he's moving in next week and they're exclusive now. Slyly, Nolan turns around and states if they're to hook up, they'll better do it now. Flabbergasted, Dylan says they're friends but Nolan has seen the way he looks at him. Dylan wants to finish a paper but Nolan wants him to kiss him. Nervous, he awkwardly does, making Nolan smile and he pushes him up the wall while making out. Taking their shirts off, they move into the bedroom.

Back in there present, Dylan insists he didn't write their papers. Alison tries to help, bringing up thats he's here on a music scholarship and it'll be a shame to lose it. Dylan pleads she shouldn't push this - he grew up in a small town where music was not just his outlet but his identity. Alison says he'll be expelled if she reports it. Wanting to help but seeing his denials, she gives him twenty-four hours to tell her the truth.

Ava hurriedly struts to her dorm, apologizing to the photographer outside for being late and she'll have her model ready. Inside, Ava loudly exclaims to her model about to time crunch and asks if she's ready for barging in her room and discovering her model and Nolan having sex. The model says it's not what it looks like but Nolan disagrees. Turning around, Ava waits for them to cover themselves and Nolan goes to leave. Ava retort if that's it and if he was ever gonna give her an excuse. Ava cries that they were good together but Nolan says it was all about the sex for him and he's gotten bored. Ava yells that he isn't acting like himself and can get past this - but Nolan replies that desperate isn't a good luck on her with a smirk. She tells him to get out, and proceeds to break down.

In her office, Alison googles the Hotchkiss family, discovering their affluent and royalty-like status. She finds Taylor Hotchkiss' obituary, shocked by their similarities.

In a remote area in the Oregon wilderness, Nolan steps out of his car and brings out some bags as he heads inside the cabin, unaware another car has arrived. He announces to a blonde that he broke up with Ava dejectedly, which she says that when it's all over he can explain he did it to protect her. The blonde is revealed to be Taylor Hotchkiss, who has faked her suicide. She says if Ava doesn't believe him she'll talk to Ava herself. He asks if they've made any progress. Taylor explains Hotchkiss has begun changing their security protocol, so any feeds she sends too him are weak and won't last. They know Hotchkiss is spying on a select group of students but they need the why to bring them down. Nolan says he might know someone who can help, but Taylor adamantly says its too dangerous but Nolan insists. Caving in, they hug goodbye.

Alison decides to google Taylor's suicide, but she's denied access. Frustrated, she notices a dodgy Dylan sneaking away.

In the woods, Ava stares at the sky as Caitlin and Dylan arrive. Caitlin remarks that she knows this place, as Nolan used to bring her here, as well as Ava. Dylan asks why she's brought them here, and she announces that she's done with Nolan and wants to stop him and her torment over them. She says Alison offered to help to which the other three say as well. Dylan says he has twenty four hours until she reports him for plagiarism, to which Ava says they should do it now and with Alison. Dylan says with or without her all their secrets come out, and what he has over him is bad. Caitlin says there has to be other ways to shit him down, to which Dylan says they could kill him. Ava notes that Nolan wouldn't do so that easily while Caitlin admits she daydreams about him dying. Dylan states murder can be justified, and says Nolan should drown in that pool of his. Ava says he should get a heart attack while hooking up with some girl, while Caitlin jokes that they should push him off the roof of Thorne Hall, giving him a second or two before being impaled on the gates' spikes. They laugh and Ava exclaims they're terrible people. Suddenly hearing the crush of someone's step, she says they should get out of here.

Then, Mona is getting into her car, and begins to addict her rearview mirror. She says she thinks she's going a very good job, "don't you think?" despite being alone. As she begins to pack up, she's frightened by the site of Alison banging on her car, demanding why she's here.

Alison tells her it's just Nolan but everything here that's shady, especially Taylor Hotchkiss and the similarities they share. Mona says she's overacting - Alison was selected before Mona knew of Taylor and it's a coincidence. Alison asks if she's learned anything from Rosewood - there's no coincidences. Mona reluctantly admits Taylor supposedly cracked from the pressure placed over her, which is why Alison is here - to help people like Taylor before Claire and BHU lose someone else.

Heading back to campus, the trio are ready to depart. Ava thanks them for meeting her tonight, and Caitlin tells her that she had fun tonight. Dylan notes that if there was no Nolan, they could have been friends. They agree, and big each other goodbye as they head their separate way, but not without looking back at each other. As the scene pans out, Nolan is observing them leave over Thorne Hill. He is joined by a mysterious person, and tells them that it was the safest place to meet. He apologizes for his past actions, and says time that was running out. He confesses that it isn't about him, but Taylor whom he discloses is alive. He pleads that they need the person's help. The person rushes to him, to Nolan's shock. Simultaneously, Alison, back in her house, notices the cut in her wallpaper after picking up a family photo. Ripping it up, a chilling message appears - "THEY'RE WATCHING", just as she hears the police sirens.

Running up to Thorne Hall, where an ambulance awaits among a scene of shocked and concerned onlookers, Alison finds Mona and asks what's going on. She states it's Nolan, he's dead as Alison looks upon his body, found impaled on the spikes outside Thorne Hall's gates. Ava arrives next, breaking down crying as Caitlin appears next to her. She locks eyes with Jeremy, who shifts to Nolan's body. Dylan is the last to show of the three, telling Caitlin it's just like she imagined it. Andrew is seen in the crowd, looking at murder scene.

Mona enters a ladies' bathroom, yelling at a girl to get out. Confronting her reelection in the mirror, she demands to know what happened, if this is their fault. A video of her appears on a large screen, and a woman tells Mona to go to her safe place. She shifts Mona's feed with her tablet, revealing a large screen with dozens of current BHI security camera live streams as a brightly lit, modern room pans out with four more people observing the large screen.

Main Cast

Special Guest Star

  • Chris Mason[14] as Nolan Hotchkiss: A natural born leader, Nolan is the heir to his family’s empire. Though he puts forth the image of a golden boy, Nolan is actually a manipulator who uses his friends and family to maintain his image. Not a big fan of authority figures or the word “no,” Nolan isn’t used to losing.

Supporting Cast

  • Evan Bittencourt as Andrew Villareal[15]: Dylan’s “nerd-chic” boyfriend is deeply committed to his architectural studies, spending what little free time he has cooking and being with Dylan. He is the supportive and well-adjusted boyfriend of Dylan, who is successfully navigating the world of the Perfectionists – for now.

Guest Cast

  • Sarah Siadat[16] as Hotchkiss Tech
  • David Chattam as Driver
  • Dawn Greenidge as FBI Agent
  • Ashley Wright as Model
  • Bransen Sands as Photographer


  • It was originally unknown if the episode would be named Pilot, but was later confirmed.
  • This episode will take place two years after 'Til Death Do Us Part.[17]
  • On December 4, 2017, it was confirmed that Alison and Mona were going to be billed as series regulars. [18] [19]
  • The first death of the season occurs in the Pilot, and the first murder in Beacon Heights.[20]
  • According to Sofia Carson, the show will not premiere until 2019.
  • On February 15, 2018, I. Marlene King tweeted a line from the episode that said, "What are you doing here?"[21]
    • A few weeks later, another line was tweeted, "Welcome to Beacon Heights, Alison."[22]
    • On June 18, 2018, a line from the pilot was tweeted out that read, "Why am I really here?!"[23]
    • An Alison and Mona line was tweeted by Marlene King on July 21, 2018, that read, "Did you learn nothing in Rosewood? There are no coincidences!" [24]
    • On December 12, 2018, Marlene tweeted out another line saying, "What the hell, Alison?!".[25]
  • The official first-day of shooting for the pilot began on March 12, 2018.[26]
  • Reshoots took place on December 5, 2018.[27]
  • The teaser trailer was released on May 14th, 2018.
  • The official trailer was released on June 21st, 2018 on the show's official Facebook and Instagram pages.
  • Caitlin's last name was changed from "Martell-Lewis" to "Park-Lewis" between the Pilot and the second episode.
  • Janel Parrish's favorite line from the Pilot is Mona's first ever line in the series, "I brought pie!".
  • Sydney Park's favorite line(s) from the Pilot is a scene from Nolan Hotchkiss' welcome back party, when Alison says, "So, you're gonna follow in the footsteps and become a senator like your mom?" to which Caitlin responds, "That's the plan!".[28]
  • A behind the scenes video that included clips from the Pilot was released via US Weekly and can be found here.
  • On Friday March 15, 2019 the show's Instagram page revealed a travel to Oregon Sweepstakes. [29]


  • Based on a headline in a behind the scenes photo, it would appear Nolan will be the Perfectionist dying at the end of the episode.[30].
    • Despite being credited as a series regular in press releases for the show, Chris Mason is actually credited as a Special Guest Star in this episode.




Behind the Scenes


1x01 Music


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  30. File:Nolan's Death Confirmation.jpg


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