This week on Pretty Little Liars
, CeCe Drake is everywhere and nowhere, much like 'A', while we discover new information about Alison. It's amazing the amount of molten crazy packed tightly into one tiny blonde girl.
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Emily bonds with Ms. DiLaurentis over relationship woes and then discovers someone has been sleeping in the basement like the Phantom of the Opera, keeping track of the house through holes in the ceiling no one bothered to notice.
"Ouch! What did I just stub my toe on?" "Oh, those are just the mysterious giant holes in our floorboards. I have no idea where they came from, but I thought it was best to just leave them there. Hey, want to hear a fun story about my dead daughter?" It's suddenly not surprising Ms. DiLaurentis doesn't get more visitors.
While Spencer continues to help Toby unravel the mystery of his mother's death, Hanna's stress about her mom's situation begins to slowly transform her into the Incredible Hulk.
Getting Closer to Red Coat
After weeks of the show spinning its wheels and staying mostly in one place, this is the first episode in some time to give us real forward momentum. (And also quite a few nightmare-inducing moments.) A lot of credit can be given to the smart way the episode deploys the ensemble, effectively using everyone from Ezra to Wren and Veronica Hastings.
Last week felt like a lot of C-plots strung together to make a borderline boring episode
. It was like the television equivalent of jungle juice, the strange mixture you only drink in college, which is made up of every alcohol left over after the frat party. It was like they just threw all the leftover storylines in a blender and hoped something palatable would result.
This week feels like a marked step in the right direction. Mysteries are taking large steps closer to the light, and it feels like we've discovered some valuable information about Red Coat. Also, as much as I love me some Ashley Marin and her many ingenious ways to use pasta, the episode really benefits from taking a break from the Wilden case.
Hanna, and by proxy Ashley Benson, have had some strong moments throughout the Wilden arc. But with the Ashley situation essentially stuck in stasis, the show is wise to take a step back and refocus on some of the peripheral players in the game like Wren, Mona and Veronica. A showdown between Veronica Hastings and Mona wasn't something I realized I needed to see until it was happening, and then I couldn't imagine what could be better.
As a bonus, the storylines that don't interest me as much this week (mostly involving Ezra and Jake) both hit the notes they need to quickly and efficiently. Temporarily freed from his relationship with Aria, Ian Harding is actually getting to play off some of the other characters in the show for practically the first time. It's surprisingly fun to see how he reacts to Emily or, as in this week's episode, Spencer's gentle concern.
Wearing 'A' Mask
But the real reason I love this episode so much is because we finally get another Alison flashback. I can't even tell you how much I enjoy the Alison flashbacks, because it is as much as Hanna loves destroying evidence or Emily loves plaid. I love them a lot.
Early in the episode, Caleb describes 'A' as being "everywhere and nowhere," a force impossible to fight. This week, the character who is seemingly everywhere and nowhere is CeCe Drake, mentioned constantly and yet still missing in action.
In the flashback, Alison is playing the piano (just like 'A' did last week) when her mother rushes into the room and tries to break all the bones in her fingers. Parenting: it's done differently in Rosewood.
Ms. DiLaurentis is so mad because she rushed to Radley and met with Dr. Palmer only to discover the person who was "a danger to herself and others" wasn't Alison but CeCe wearing Ali's clothes. She forbids Alison to hang out with such a toxic person, while Alison just seems shocked and impressed that CeCe went through with the prank.
Later, the girls mull over Ms. DiLaurentis' words about Ali and CeCe's obsessive friendship where they practically wore each other's personalities like a mask. They wonder if the Ali masks were made for CeCe, which is a really high level of weird even for Rosewood.
What I love about Alison flashbacks isn't just the improbable amount of things Alison manage to accomplish before her death. It's peeling back the many layers of Alison's craziness like a psychotic onion. With every flashback, I'm forever impressed with the levels of both Alison's weirdness and time management skills.
What exactly was Alison's tie to CeCe? Was it just friendship or something more sinister?
Shocking me down to my very core, Aria takes a break from going to Jake's karate competitions and dodging Ezra's sad calls to do a little detective work. It's shockingly rare for Aria to be even tangentially involved in the main storyline, so I'll take anything I can get.
Going to Philly on a tip from Caleb, Aria bumps into CeCe's old roommate, who assumes she is one of Alison's crazy gang. Aria doesn't seem to put too much stock in the mention to CeCe being mad about a long-ago frat party, but it seems like a pretty big clue is dropped here.
In a flashback long ago and far, far away, we watch Alison most likely push some girl down the stairs at a frat party. The roomie says CeCe had always assumed the rest of the liars were in on that particularly awful prank.
Was CeCe Drake the girl that was pushed? Or was that girl someone important to her? Is that the reason CeCe has it out for the liars? And if so, does that mean CeCe is definitely Red Coat? Everything certainly seems to be pointing in CeCe's direction, but on Pretty Little Liars
that could just mean she's a Red Coat red herring.TV's 14 Biggest Breakdowns: Where Does Spencer Fall?>>>
A Shrine to Alison
Other teenagers peer pressure you into drugs or alcohol or watching terrible MTV reality shows. The liars, however, pressure you into living with your dead friend's emotionally unstable mother. Things are just different in Rosewood.
Emily goes to live at the DiLaurentis house since her place is still smashed up, but it is the creepiest place on Earth. Alison's room is exactly how it was before she died, right down to her clothes hanging in the closet. The liars give Emily a pat on the shoulder and then leave her in this terrible house of horrors because everyone this week is an awful friend.
However, this does give Emily a chance to bond with Ms. DiLaurentis, who is going through a painful divorce. Since the situation with Paige is extremely murky, Emily can relate to feeling like you're growing in different directions. "I couldn't have asked for a better person to love her than you," Ms. DiLaurentis says in the sweetest line of the night after Emily explains her relationship is with another girl. Obviously, Emily's big crush on Alison isn't as subtle as she thought.
Some of the set dressing in Alison's room is really interesting and, if you recorded the show, probably deserves a pause. Off in one corner is a poster showing two blonde girls, perhaps a hint about the weird relationship between Alison and CeCe?
Lately, some of the horror imagery has been a bit lacking, but this week brings the creepy back in a big way. Wandering around Alison's room, Hanna misses Red Coat's sudden reflection in a jewelry box. (The mirror really does have three faces, just like the title of the episode.)
As the episode ends, a handy man makes a disturbing discovery in the DiLaurentis house. Someone had been sleeping in the basement. Emily is completely freaked, but Ms. DiLaurentis just shrugs because no one in this town has normal reactions to anything. It's like she's told she has an insect infestation. "Oh, there's a stalker living in my basement? Eh, I think my stories are on. You take care of it, Emily, you're good with stabbing people, right?"
As she wanders upstairs and Emily plunges the basement into darkness again, there's a sudden stream of light. It's coming from holes made carefully above the sleeping bag. Someone has been watching what's going on in the DiLaurentis house.
"I'm so glad I'm staying here now," Emily thinks. "I have the best friends."
What's Wren Planning?
Having sensed a vulnerable underage girl nearby (there must be some kind of bat signal in Rosewood), Wren has miraculously returned. And just in time, because it was starting to freak me out to see other doctors actually practice medicine in Rosewood.
Wren is trying to reconnect with Mona, who just isn't feeling it. Apparently, the trust is gone. When Hanna comes to see him requesting to see Mona, he tells her another blonde girl had been to Radley the night before already. Was it CeCe? Can Wren even be trusted?
My favorite part of this scene is when he tells Hanna that Radley has had some budget cuts and isn't up to its usual stellar security levels.
So ... do they just leave the door unlocked and let the patients kill each other out in the yard now, Hunger Games-style? Are all the patients abusing their paper mache privileges and making busts of their own heads in order to cavort around town? How could Radley possibly have less security now than when no one realized they should lock the windows?
Finally, however, we have confirmation Wren is seriously bad news. He talks to someone on the phone about taking care of his end of the bargain. Then he sends Veronica Hastings to go see Mona. "How did you get in?" Mona wonders. "Oh, I just walked right in. In fact, I don't even think your door is locked. The whole hospital was empty. I passed a tumbleweed on the way here."
Unfortunately, despite being a really awesome scene, Veronica's badass smackdown of Mona also makes things difficult for Ashley. Someone told the judge she coerced Mona into the confession, making it important for Veronica to step down as Ashley's lawyer.
How will Ashley survive? There's only two lawyers in Rosewood, both are the Hastings' parents, and neither can be in Rosewood at the same time, like Superman and Clark Kent. Ashley is screwed, and Hanna storms out of Spencer's house after Hulking out with rage.
In Radley, Wren leads a menacing arts and crafts session where he puts a red coat on one of the images in the drawing he showed Mona earlier. How is Wren involved in all this? And what underage girl will be the next target of his dating attempts?
Elsewhere in Rosewood...
-- Toby gets another mysterious package from 'A' about his mother, sending him back to Dr. Palmer. The doctor doesn't give him much information and the scene is mostly an excuse for Keegan Allen to get a little emoting in. This storyline with Toby's mother has hit an absolute crawl, and I'm eager to see it finally tie into the main narrative at some point soon.
-- Ezra finds out he's not actually a baby daddy after all. In his apartment of pain and harsh lighting, he and Maggie both look like blood-drained extras from True Blood. He's upset because he really bonded with Malcolm and now loves the little boy. If only Ezra was lowbrow enough to watch Maury, this all could have been avoided. I can't wait for Ezra to write an XOJane column called, "It Happened To Me: Alex Mack Cheated On Me and All I Got was This Paternity Scare."
-- Aria and Jake are getting serious, as evidenced by the fact that she's gotten him to start eating vegetarian burritos. No, that's not a euphemism. First, you start eating Aria's organic vegan Mexican food and the next thing you know you've sold your television to buy a vintage typewriter. It's all downhill from here, Jake.
-- Caleb is really starting to freak out about the whole 'A' situation and it's putting a strain on his relationship with Hanna. Hanna, it must be noted, is also not in a great head-space considering everything that's happened with her mother, but she's at least logical enough to realize nothing good has ever come from talking to Rosewood PD.
What did you think of this week's episode of Pretty Little Liars? What is Wren up to? How will Ashley find another lawyer? Will Ezra and Aria get back together or will she stay in vegetarian bliss with Jake? Sound off with your theories in the comments!
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(Image courtesy of ABC Family)