This week on Pretty Little Liars,
things get pretty surreal when the girls visit a mask maker, Emily gets plaster in her hair (better than glass, I guess?) and 'A' plays the ultimate "yo mama" joke on all the liars.
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You know things are going to get creepy and atmospheric on Pretty Little Liars
when writer Joseph Dougherty and director Norman Buckley join forces. The episode is drenched in darkness and menace, with characters often literally emerging from the shadows.
My favorite moment of the episode is the claustrophobia of the black screen before the mask maker removes the plaster from Emily's face. Then to drive the visual point home, Emily wonders if that's what it was like for Alison to be buried alive. Creepy, atmospheric stuff.
The episode is a little slower-paced than usual (by Pretty Little Liars standards anyway) as the dread of 'A's plan settles around the girls. None of the girls feel safe this week, as 'A' starts systemically targeting mommy dearest.
What's the Mask Hiding?
Except Spencer, because Spencer has at this point basically ceased to have parents. It's been forever since we've seen all of the Hastings at the same place at the same time and I'm starting to wonder if Melissa is a shapshifter.
Whatever she's doing, it's working for her. While Spencer walks around most of the episode looking like some combination of Katniss from The Hunger Games and Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, Melissa knows to come correct in an amazing fitted blazer. Melissa is making evil look good.
The scenes with the Hastings sisters are some of my favorites, just because of the scary intensity they reserve for conversations with each other. The Hastings are incapable of a normal conversation, so everything they say is weighted down under five metaphors and a death glare.
"Did Spencer just accuse me of murder or kindly inquire into my internship prospects? I have no idea, I should probably remind her of my dead fiance who tried to throw her off a bell tower. Great! Successful sibling interaction!"
It should come as no surprise in an episode all about masks that Melissa would reappear. Of all the characters on the show, Melissa's mask is perhaps the most impenetrable. How is she involved? What does she know? And why did Hanna find a Satanic-looking mask of her face?
Those aren't the only questions on Spencer's mind, as she tag-teams up with Toby to uncover the mystery of his mother's death. Other couples go to see movies or frolic on the beach; Spencer and Toby don matching catsuits and break into mental asylums.
When Pretty Little Liars ends, they could totally have a spin-off of the girls as a new kind of Charlie's Angels. Toby's Angels? Emily could be the muscle, Spencer could break into buildings, Hanna could dispose of the evidence and Aria could clean up any and all wine stains. Call me, ABC Family!
Again, some great acting from Keegan Allen as he confronts the fact that there might not be more to the story of his mother's death after all. Except Spencer proves herself the ultimate Nancy Drew after all (how could you doubt her, Hanna?) when she notices the roof below would make it impossible for his mother to have fallen straight to the ground.
I'm not sure why his mother needs to steal a key at all, though; it's pretty common knowledge that the windows of Radley are open at all times. All she has to do is follow the board game to the creepy doll hospital at the end of the hall, turn right and then push open the obviously unlatched window.
The Smoking Missing Gun
Meanwhile, Caleb is back after apologizing to his father and checking out his new Ravenswood trailer. Hanna is still freaking out about her mother, and Caleb thinks she should calm down because of course Ashley Marin didn't kill anyone. Right? "My mom might have hit him a little with her car," Hanna says, not as comforting as it sounded in her brain.
Soon, the evidence seems to be piling up against Ashley. The only proof she was in New York at the time is that the company took everyone to the musical Anything Goes. Except a convenient card attached to some flowers proves Ashley wasn't actually at the musical.
Do you think there's a Hallmark card for "Sorry I couldn't make your play, I was busy killing a guy?" I'm sure if there was one, it would be sold out in all of Rosewood's pharmacies.
Meanwhile, Caleb goes rogue, tracking down Hanna's dad and asking him about the Ashley situation. It turns out Ashley showed up in Rosewood asking Papa Marin for cash, and very likely took off with the gun he had locked in his desk drawer. The "Oh crap" look on Caleb's face pretty much says it all.
Ashley is certainly not helping herself, though. She spends all episode skulking around in the shadows, talking behind closed doors and generally acting as if she's about to bedazzle "Shot Through the Heart and I'm to Blame" on a T-shirt. Hanna really needs to give Ashley another lecture on getting rid of evidence and staying cool.
But there's more trouble brewing for Hanna, her mom and the rest of the liars. A trip to the Rosewood police department uncovers a giant whiteboard covered with pictures of the liars, their families and their connections to Wilden.
It looks more elaborate than the color-coded terrorist network red string connections Carrie puts together on Homeland. When do we find out Holbrook has been surveilling and secretly falling in love with Ashley Marin?
Holbrook kicks Hanna out before she can take a cell phone picture of the board, but it definitely spells nothing but trouble for the liars. As does Melissa coming in for a friendly chat.
Plaster in Her Hair
After finding a creepy mask within a creepy mask in Ali's things, like the Russian nesting doll of nightmares, the girls follow the trail to a weird cabin in the woods. "Should we talk about this plan first?" Aria wonders. When Aria is your voice of reason, you are officially screwed.
Inside the cabin, past Hector Lime's life-size mannequin girlfriend or whatever is on the front porch, the girls look around his art studio. Hector explains that he made a cast of Alison's face and made her copies, because he wanted to use her as Joan of Arc. But before he gives up this information, he asks for something in return.
"What do you want?" Emily asks. "Your face," Hector replies, like a person about to make a lampshade out of Emily. "Oh, so something totally normal and not serial killer-y! Awesome!"
Why does Emily always seem to attract the craziest people? Cursed by her own beautiful face, Emily heads back home picking plaster out of her hair and probably wondering if the glass in her hair was actually a step up. Sure, Hanna got that creepy mask of Melissa's face, but at what cost?
But that's not even the worst of Emily's day. Earlier, Emily went to her doctor to get some medication for her shoulder. I actually gasped, out loud, when the doctor didn't turn out to be Wren. You guys, there is another doctor in Rosewood? I never knew! I never suspected!
She lets slip that she had a bad reaction to hydrocodone in the past and then can't backtrack in time. This causes Pam to eventually blow a gasket, grabbing Emily's arm to drag her to the car in front of the whole high school. "Yo mom, can we talk about how I'm a pill popper maybe a little later in private?"
This gives 'A' ammunition to report Pam to Family Services, and between Emily's bum shoulder, her ulcers and her impressive police record, Family Services is actually paying attention. Emily's father is even making a return appearance since he got a call as well.
'A' taunts Emily with a picture of her mother behind bars, so all-in-all this has been a pretty terrible day to be Emily Fields.
Vienna Waits for Ella
Her storyline isn't quite "cleaning up a red wine stain," but Aria once again gets a real snoozer compared to the other girls. She's connecting with marital arts teacher Jake, even though he doesn't like classic movies and typing up pretentious poetry on a typewriter like Ezra.
Jake thinks variety is the spice of life, which sounds good when you're 16 but won't sound as great when Jake tries to make her do Jaeger bombs with his frat bros and then watch a bunch of Bruce Lee movies.
But Aria is no dummy this episode, especially when she sees an opportunity to get her own mother out of dodge. Ella's hot boyfriend gets a cooking fellowship or something and invites her to come along, but she drags her feet because of her children.
Oh Ella, Aria is dating 30-year-olds and Mike is probably living underground with the Rosewood mole people or something for how often we see him. I think we can all agree you deserve some pastries with your hot boyfriend in Vienna.
After seeing the problems Hanna and Emily are going through with 'A' targeting their mothers, and getting some threatening messages herself, Aria tells her mother to seize the day and go.
She pretty much packs her mom a care package of feather earrings and stud accessories and then shoves her out the door. Aria is obviously going to miss her mom (you would too if your alternative parent was Byron Montgomery), but she's obviously safer far, far away.
Elsewhere in Rosewood...
-- "Are you sure what you got from the bird was a real phone number?" Toby asks Spencer when she's unable to find any information on the number from Tippy. That might be the first time that sentence has ever been uttered on television.
-- Hector wants to make Emily into a Medusa statue. But man, if looks could kill, Emily would have frozen that guy to stone.
-- As Hector puts his creepy hands all over Emily's beautiful face, Aria grabs a hammer behind her back. Looks like those self-defense classes are actually paying off!
-- In Rosewood, paper mache is a million dollar industry.
What did you think of the episode? What does it mean that there's a mask of Melissa? What happened to Toby's mom? Will Emily's mom end up in jail? And did Hanna's mom kill Wilden? Share your theories in the comments!
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)