This week on Pretty Little Liars,
Alison's journal reveals some harsh truths as the girls try to put the pieces together. But don't worry, in Rosewood there are always more lies just waiting around the corner.
Meanwhile, both Ezra and Alison are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Whisper Ezra's name on the breeze and he'll be standing behind you seconds later, in your house, rifling through your computer, rolling in your sheets to gain your scent so he can track you down. You know, normal teacher-student stuff.
It's also still impossible to tell whether Alison's scenes are real or just really emotional dream states. The one thing we do know is that if you say Alison's name three times she'll crawl in through your window like Beetlejuice ... or Voldemort.
What's great about Alison, besides everything, is that she wrote her journal in code like a Cold War-era KGB spy. Even before Alison was on the run for her life, she lived like everyone was always watching. Which is fair, because in Rosewood someone usually is peeking through your window. I'm assuming the town has no neighborhood watch because, seriously, the town is neighborhood watch.
Upping the Ante
This is a really great episode that balances action, a creeping sense of dread and some solidly emotional character moments. What's great about the double reveal from last season is that it opens the show up to pursue new storylines while injecting energy into some dragging plot threads. Now, instead of complaining that Aria's main concern still seems to be her love life, I can worry that Fitz might hide her under the floorboards in his murder cabin.
The reveal that Alison is in fact alive has given the show even more depth and pathos since its midseason return. We've always gotten flashbacks of Ali's time with the liars to explain their history, but now we get to really dive deep into their ambivalent feelings about their former friend.
Two lines really perfectly encapsulate Alison's relationship with all of the liars. The first is when Emily points out that Alison simultaneously called her desperate in one story while admiring her loyalty in another. The other is when Alison both shames and blackmails Hanna. She tells Hanna that she'll one day find love and someone who will appreciate her, it just might "take longer than for the rest of us."
Ali is all about backhanded compliments. Just because the words are comforting doesn't mean they're not also insults. And just because she insults her friends doesn't mean she doesn't also love them. Alison is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is to say Alison is a teenage girl. I've always loved the way they've shaded Alison's personality as being not wholly evil. Alison is often a terrible person, but she's also a complicated person.
Injecting her back into the show is a brilliant move that allows the girls to evaluate their complicated relationships with her. It also allows us to see how much the liars have grown over the seasons. There's plenty of action, scares and drama, but what's made the first two episodes of this season so good are the emotional stakes.
Also, I'm never going to stop laughing at Ezra's sudden 180 into Hannibal Lecter. Ezra Fitz, you are a gift.
Homeschooling by Ezra
Speaking of Ezra, he's skulking like it's his job (and I guess it is) all over the school. He sees that the girls have stolen the diary from his Ravenswood Beautiful Mind lair and he obviously wants it back. He zeros in on Hanna when she puts the diary in her purse. "Target acquired! I'll get you, Hanna Marin, and your wine-guzzling mother, too!"
In class, Ezra is standing in front of a quote about curiosity when Aria comes in to talk about their kiss. She says it's not fair to Ezra or Jake, but she seems conflicted. While Aria gives in to romantic angst, Ezra is sharpening a ruler into a shiv and asking her questions about her night out with the girls.
"Perhaps you should take Hanna somewhere quiet and secluded to cheer her up? Perhaps somewhere in the woods, where no one would hear Hanna scream? These are just suggestions, mind you!" Then Ezra turns into a bat in a puff of smoke and flies over to Hanna's house. Aria can't for the life of her remember why she broke up with such a dreamboat. "Clearly," she thinks to herself, "Ezra is the whole package."
However, Aria doesn't want to tell the other girls about her renewed interest in Ezra, yet Spencer immediately picks up on what's happening. It's that Sparia mind meld.
Ezra stops by Hanna's house to tell Ashley she needs to make up assignments, but really he's there to invade Hanna's privacy. Ashley misses this recon mission while on the phone at her new job. When she returns, Ezra is lounging in a chair with his book, looking like nothing so much as a nerdy Bond villain. If only he'd had a cat to pet in that scene to make the imagery complete.
Drama at the Murder Cabin
In Alison's diary, they find an entry about the Busy Bee Inn, an abandoned inn Ali has been using as a hiding place. Why wouldn't Alison have safehouses all around the greater Bucks County area? However, a road trip to the Inn doesn't go so well.
The liars' car breaks down and Emily has no idea how to fix it, despite being nominated as a mechanic for the second time in the last few episodes. "Just because I wear a lot of leather and vests doesn't mean I moonlight as a mechanic. Just like Spencer wearing those overalls doesn't mean she's secretly a farmer."
Aria manages to bluff her way into making the girls believe Ezra's murder cabin actually belongs to her Uncle. "Oh, yes, my Uncle loves typewriters and eating artisanal cheese by candlelight, and painting watercolors of the train he tried to toss me from. Normal stuff!"
Hanna stomps off in search of service for her phone and Emily follows along after they hear a rustling in the brush. Emily's fearlessness is really amazing. I guess once you've stabbed a crazy pervert in a lighthouse, everything seems relative.
Elsewhere, Spencer and Aria get locked in the closet while 'A' steals Ali's journal. These girls get locked into small spaces so often you'd think they would have claustrophobia by now. Why don't they just put tape over every doorjam? Why doesn't Spencer always carry around her lock pick set?
When Travis finally comes to bail them out, all of the liars are ready to defend themselves. Living life the way these girls do, you learn quickly how to turn regular household items into weapons. "This isn't just a fire poker, this is a tool to impale someone trying to throw me off a bell tower!"
Later, Hanna lies and tells Travis a raccoon got into the cabin and scared them. I don't know, I think a raccoon is much tougher than an Ezra Fitz.
Unfortunately, now 'A' (or Ezra) has the partially decoded journal and the liars fear they might have given him a huge clue to Alison's hiding place.
The Cradle Robber
The best part of the whole section on "the cradle robber" is that it could have been about any male on the show. But as it turns out, Alison's coded story is about Hanna.
All episode, Hanna is acting panicky and weird, especially about the contents of Alison's diary. Spencer flips her lid on Hanna, like once upon a time she didn't hide the fact that she knew Toby was on the 'A' team for weeks.
Of course, Hanna is in a vulnerable state after her breakup with Caleb. She tries to shrug off the breakup as nothing, but the rest of the girls immediately know there's more to the story. Emily, the expert in having her heart put through the meat grinder, is quietly supportive, while Spencer remains extremely pushy. Finally, Hanna spills the beans that Caleb left her for another girl, and as the episode closes her facade crumbles with Travis and she breaks down into tears.
But that's not the only trauma for poor Hanna. We find out the secret Hanna wanted to keep was that she was "the cradle robber," since she once hooked up with Aria's younger brother, Mike.
In flashback, we see a devastated Hanna being confronted by Ali. She says she's not as pretty or skinny as the rest of the girls and so she's afraid she'll never find love. Ashley Benson is so good at playing Hanna's insecurities, and she's the kind of actress with the ability to make you instantly sad when she cries.
Aria's reaction is the most amazing part. She's like, "Whatever, it's just Mike. I haven't seen him for, like, two years. We keep him up in the attic now, like Jane Eyre." Mike has the most exciting off-screen life. Also, apparently at least one of the Montgomerys can keep a secret.
Elsewhere in Rosewood...
-- Toby's Radley storyline lives on, unfortunately. Spencer's dad says Toby's mom fell from the roof by accident and Radley covered it up because there was another patient on the roof with her. It was an accident, not murder. Never mind that a mental institution just lets patients wander up to the roof.
-- Spencer freaks out when she sees her father talking to Jessica DiLaurentis. It turns out Mama D. is getting a divorce, but Spencer isn't feeling her father's lies. She really rips into Alison's mother, and eventually decides to move in with Toby instead of deal with her father. It's been so long since we've seen Jason, wouldn't it be funny if he finally returned played by yet another actor?
-- Emily and Alison share one of my favorite scenes of the episode when Emily dreams (or did she?) a conversation with Ali. Alison says that Emily always saw the best version of her and mentions that she saved Emily twice. "I know I hurt you the most," she says. Having Alison back is worth it, if only for all the lovely scenes she always has with Emily. Theirs is by far the most complicated, hurtful, strange and interesting relationship on the show.
-- Ezra is watching a video on his computer, but we only hear the audio. It's Alison's voice, talking about the need to disappear and not be Alison anymore. What does it mean?
-- Aria's journal nickname was Suzy Clueless, showing that Alison might have been a horrible monster but she was also an excellent judge of character.
-- Spencer says they can't trust her father's motives for wanting to close down Radley. "There's something we don't know," she says. Toby points out there are plenty of things they don't know, although apparently how to properly prepare flan isn't one of them. "There's also plenty of things we do know. How to break into buildings. How to volumize. How to grave rob."
What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked by the Hanna and Mike reveal? Is Ezra really 'A'? Will they find Alison at the Busy Bee Inn? Share in the comments!
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)