'Pretty Little Liars' Recap: A Killer Surprise Party
'Pretty Little Liars' Recap: A Killer Surprise Party
Morgan Glennon
Morgan Glennon
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
This week on Pretty Little Liars, Paige throws Emily what turns out to be the worst surprise party ever. Meanwhile, Ashley Marin realizes house arrest means no wine and briefly considers going back to the slammer. I'm sure her cellmate could make a fine, aged toilet wine. Any port in an alcohol-free storm, right?

Meanwhile, Spencer is little more than a ghost haunting the outskirts of this episode, which is probably why not much of anything happens to move the main mystery forward. And in a shocking turn of events, Aria's storyline mostly revolves around a guy who is probably too old for her and yet seems to exclusively date high school girls. 

Serious question: do women over 18 exist in Rosewood? Why does every guy in town seem to be dating someone in high school? Does everyone just get out of dodge for college to minimize their risk of being run over with a car? In Rosewood, it seems like there are murderous high school girls and foxy middle-aged mamas with no middle ground. 

This is a question I'm dwelling on because there's not much else to really delve into about this week's episode. Which is not to say there aren't some good moments, most of which revolve around Emily. But despite the episode being crammed with multiple storylines, in true Pretty Little Liars fashion, most of the plots aren't really meaty enough to sustain even B or C stories.

Pastor Ted to the Rescue

For instance, as soon as Hanna has the first conversation with the miraculously reappearing Pastor Ted, it's obvious he's going to post Ashley's bail. Then Ashley gets out on bail thanks to a mysterious donor and yet the show pretends like we all didn't immediately figure out Ted was the culprit. 

At the end of the episode, when Ashley reveals to Hanna it was Ted and not her father that paid the bail, I'm pretty confident in saying literally no one in the viewing audience is shocked. Yet this subplot takes up a decent chunk of screentime and seemingly doesn't really move the story forward all that much. 

"He must really like you," Hanna says, stating the obvious. In Rosewood, you can tell a guy is really into you if he posts your million dollar bail. Either that or he's about to start using the Marin household as a front for his side meth business. 

But seriously, where did he get $100,000? They must really pay pastors well in Rosewood. Did he sell the new bronze church bell? Did he melt it down into bars? Does he have the stolen life savings of a little old lady tucked away in a pasta box in his kitchen? If so, he and Ashley really are meant to be.

A Heartbreaking Break-Up

Emily isn't too excited about her birthday, what with all the murder, jailings and torn rotator cuffs going around lately. But Paige is like, "iI we stopped partying every time someone gets wrongly arrested in this town, our year-round Halloween store would go out of business! Also, I hope you don't mind that all your birthday decorations are orange, black and shaped like bats." 

Paige invites Emily to a quiet night in at her aunt's lake house. "Oh great, nothing bad ever happens in this town near lakes! I'm in!" It's like everyone on the show this week suddenly has no idea how life works in Rosewood. Lakes are for drownings and sinking evidence, not for partying. 

First, though, Paige sends Emily off to Dominic Russo, a top-notch swimming coach for top-tier swimmers and Olympic athletes. Paige floats the idea that Emily might consider skipping a year and looking for swimming scholarships after she's gotten back into shape after her shoulder surgery. 

With the tiniest kernel of renewed hope, Emily Fields goes to see Dominic and gets that hope smashed flat again. Emily is having a terrible year and every time she sees a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to her future, something gets in the way. 

So Emily shows up angry to the lake house, wondering why Paige neglected to tell Dominic the severity of her shoulder injury. "Surprise! Happy birthday! We're fighting in front of everyone you know! Sorry about crushing your last glimmer of hope for a brighter future, but did you see the cake I bought you?"

Emily escapes from her party and the weird Shana/Jenna sting Aria and Spencer are running to go sit out by the lake. It's so peaceful, so calming, you can almost forget a corrupt police officer was shot to death nearby. If this lake could talk, it would have a lot of pointers to share about disposing evidence. 

Paige comes and sits down next to Emily and they talk about why she really wants Emily to swim so badly. See, Paige has done the long-distance math and realizes if Emily can't get into Stanford, their relationship probably won't last. Emily says they should face facts, next year they probably won't be together anymore. It's a really heartbreaking scene, and one played perfectly by both actresses. 

Frankly, it's one of the most realistic, and therefore saddest, break-ups the show has done. Usually, people end relationships on this show for very dramatic, life-or-death reasons. But the threat of a long-distance college relationship is a normal part of life for most high school seniors, and the realism of their hurt conversation makes the scene even sadder. 

Although, considering Paige's drowning tendencies, I'm not sure the location I would choose to pseudo break up with her would be next to a large body of water.

Killer Party

We don't see much of Spencer, but the bits we do see of her are tied to some of the most interesting plot parts of the episode. Aria and Spencer overhear Shana and Jenna talking about Alison. Jenna says she should have shared what she knows about Alison with the police, while Shana says she's trying to find "her." 

Aria and Spencer decide Emily's birthday party is the perfect excuse to lure Shana and Jenna for questioning. Paige is like, "Yeah, sure, whatever, I don't have time for this because I'm too busy having a meltdown. Do whatever, just don't kill anyone." Easier said than done, Paige. 

Jenna, upset and losing her sight again, is glued to Shana's side. Shana just wants to stay in good with the swim coach, so they show up to make an appearance at the party. Once there, Aria and Spencer try to separate the girls with little luck. Aria has a fight with Jenna at the party about finding out what she knows about Alison, and obviously the wrong person overhears the conversation.

Outside, as Aria has a moment with another useless love interest, a bored Emily sees someone floating face-down in the lake. It's Jenna, and she's been hit in the back of the head. 

Jenna nearly dies, and in the hospital Spencer confronts Shana to see what she knows about Alison. Shana says Alison is dead but that the blonde Jenna is afraid of is none other than CeCe Drake. For someone who hasn't popped up all season, CeCe is certainly getting a lot of name drops. 

Just why is Jenna afraid of CeCe? Is CeCe red coat? More important, will anyone realize that lake is the Rosewood Bermuda triangle of murder or will they just keep throwing parties there? 

Aria Gets Jealous and Ezra Gets a Lawyer

At this point I have to be honest: I feel like a bit of a broken record complaining about Aria's storylines. But here it goes, next verse same as the first: Aria is always stuck in hamster wheel plots involving love interests far from the central mysteries of the show. This week isn't exactly "cleaning up a wine stain" (the gold standard of useless Aria subplots), but it really doesn't progress the overall story of the show in any way. 

Basically, Aria and Jake aren't official, but he has very nice abs. Aria sees Jake at the party with another high school girl and gets jealous, even though they're not official. Jake is like, "Do you want to be official?" and Aria is like, "Let's talk about this after we drag a dead body out of the water, okay?"

Then Jake goes back to Aria's house in serious shell-shock, which is perhaps the most surprising thing I've seen on this show in a long time. I can't even remember the last time I've seen someone react in a normal way to the craziness that happens in Rosewood. Did he just move to town? There's a body, car or creepy paper-mache mask fished out of that lake every other day. 

Aria, for her part, is hilariously nonchalant about the near-death of someone she knows. "Oh yeah, bitches be drowning," she shrugs. Jake pulls the warm, fleecy hoodie closer around his shivering rock-hard abs. He practically rocks back and forth while Aria pats him on the back like he's being hysterical for no reason. I have to admit, this part of the scene is pretty great. 

Then they kiss or whatever, I tuned out thinking about what movie Aria and Jake will shill for on their next date. Did they ever go to see Insidious 2? These are the hard-hitting mysteries baked into Aria's storylines. 

Elsewhere, Ezra is jealous of Aria and Jake, but he's got bigger fish to fry. Maggie wants to go back to school in Seattle and take Malcolm with her. Ezra is shocked, even though he's the one who hooked up with a girl who can turn into goo and slide under doors, so he shouldn't be surprised she's not cool with staying in one place very long. Yes, I'll never stop making The Secret World of Alex Mack jokes. I'm not sorry.

Ezra goes to Veronica Hastings, the only lawyer in town, for legal advice. He doesn't want to lose Malcolm, but Veronica points out a legal battle will be costly and emotionally draining. Also, is it seriously possible that Ezra hasn't done a paternity test yet? Come on, Ezra, it's like you've never watched a baby daddy episode of Maury

Elsewhere in Rosewood...

-- "You snuck out of a mental institution?" asks an incredulous police officer of Mona. It's like everyone is new to Rosewood this week.

-- Caleb was going to sell his car to help Hanna raise money. He's a seriously good boyfriend.

-- Mona returns to Radley, back to her old room. Looks like the circle isn't quite unbroken yet. Do you think anyone at Radley ever latched that window? No? Me neither.

-- Red coat is outside a house and makes herself a little hiding spot under the porch. Did anyone catch whose house that was? 

-- 'A' is sending some sheet music for "Any Time" to Toby. What does 'A' want with Toby now? This new 'A' seems to be spending a lot of time focused on poor Toby.

What did you think of this week's episode? Did you think it was slow? What's going on with CeCe Drake? Are you a fan of Jaria or do you miss Ezria? Sound off in the comments!

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(Image courtesy of ABC Family)