This week on Pretty Little Liars, Spencer’s family proves to be more screwed up than we ever knew, Emily is haunted by the ghost of Maya’s family, and Aria tries to take everyone’s love lives in her tiny elfin hands and make everything better.

Obviously, taking advice about your love life from the person who thinks dating your high school English teacher is the height of romance is a terrible idea. Ella realizes this, because she knows her daughter and also because she is awesome. Hanna tries to take Aria’s advice, but it ends up backfiring on her. But Aria’s heartfelt advice had a lot to contend with this week, like internet dating and the new ‘A’s murderous tendencies. So instead she just goes back to making earrings out of bits of chain and feathers and offering a comforting lap to cry on.

When their love lives aren’t blowing up around them, the girls make enough time this week for an Ocean’s Eleven-style break in heist of Melissa’s apartment. Like in any good heist film, the girls almost get caught and end up hiding in the obsessively color-coded closet. There they find confirmation of what they started to suspect: Melissa was the Black Swan. Does this mean that Melissa is going to go crazy and stab herself? She does seem to be having a love affair with giant, menacing knives this season.

By episode’s end, everyone is heartbroken and confused. Hanna and Caleb have broken up thanks to ‘A’s frequent flyer miles. Spencer is mentally tallying the cost of her future therapy bills. Aria is wondering how many chains in Rosewood are left to be turned into earrings or statement necklaces. And Emily is wondering if it’s finally time to let go of Maya. The only one not confused is Jason, who lies to Spencer about dropping the 50 thousand dollar reward for information about Alison’s body and offers to meet a mysterious someone on the phone. Who can it be? Another member of the ‘A’ team perhaps?

Swan Song

The girls spend all episode deciding that Melissa is definitely a serial killer. Hanna, as usual, is the one putting forward the theory that if Melissa lied about the date she miscarried it’s entirely possible she could have been tiny enough to be the Black Swan at the masquerade dance.

Spencer is ambivalent, because she’s always less likely to believe someone in her family is a serial killer than she is when it comes to random people in the town. If this was anyone else, Spencer would have already bugged their house and initiated a stakeout with Toby. I assume that’s the kind of stuff Spencer and Toby do for fun. Spencer places high-tech surveillance equipment while Toby whittles her a telescope out of a majestic redwood. Then towards the end of their dates they probably rifle through his sister’s medication, for the added romance.  They have the best relationship. I really miss Toby this week.

The girls convince Spencer to run a fact-finding mission on Melissa’s apartment. And by “fact-finding” I mean “breaking and entering”, thanks to the key Spencer supplies. After nearly being found out by Melissa, they notice a garment bag in her closet from a costume shop with a single black feather inside. It looks just like the black feather they already have from the black swan costume. They need to protect those feathers because now that they have two, Aria is definitely going to try to make them into a pair of earrings.

So Spencer finally confronts Melissa about the black swan costume and the miscarriage. She does this while Melissa is holding a giant butcher’s knife, so it doesn’t seem like the greatest idea Spencer’s ever had.  Melissa breaks down in tears and admits that she lost the baby shortly after Ian’s body turned up and she’s been faking ever since. Holy fake baby Batman, that’s a long time!

She explains that with all the increased scrutiny, she just couldn’t deal with another thing for the town to talk about. This is the weirdest explanation for a fake baby I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen more shows with fake babies than you would think. (“Welcome to the storyline family!” say Smallville and Glee.)

What about the black swan? Melissa received a garment bag with the dress and a note warning her if she didn’t go to the dance and distract Jenna than A would reveal her fake baby secret. This is a convenient explanation, but is it the real one? Is Melissa really a victim in all this or is she part of the ‘A’ team? 

For some added family dysfunction, Veronica Hastings explains that the reason she took on Garrett’s case is because the previous defense lawyer was going to call the PI the family ordered to look into Melissa after Alison’s death. The Hastings are such a normal, functional family. After learning this, Spencer just wanders around the town aimlessly. Considering that Rosewood leads the nation in serial killers per capita, this is maybe not her best idea.

Hot Mama

While Emily is dealing with her dead girlfriend and Spencer is finding out that her family is part of a massive cover up and Hanna is breaking up with Caleb so ‘A’ doesn’t kill any more members of his family, Aria is getting her mom on an internet dating site. Do you ever sometimes wonder if Aria is even on the same show as the rest of these characters? Aria’s problems are so hilarious when you compare them with everyone else’s. “I wish I could make out with my boyfriend in public! Maybe my mom should start dating again?” Meanwhile in the next scene someone is being hacked into pieces or doing shots off a body bag.

Despite Hanna coming up with the best online dating name of all time (Hot Mama) and Ashley Marin giving some great divorce pro tips, Ella is not ready to move out into the dating world just yet.

I Walked with a Zombie

Emily meets Maya’s cousin Nate, who just moved into town to start college at Hollis. He also dropped off the shirt Maya had gotten for Emily before her murder. It was a shirt for the movie “I Walked with a Zombie”, the film they went to see on their first date. Because this is Pretty Little Liars I’m going to assume this shirt has a deeper, hidden meaning. Certainly if there was going to be anybody on this show walking with a zombie it would be Emily, seeing as how all her girlfriend end up six feet under.

Nate and Emily bond over their memories of Maya and their love of swimming. When Nate confesses he’s considering leaving Rosewood because everyone can’t stop talking about Maya’s death, Emily offers him friendship. He tells her Maya wouldn’t want her to hold onto her memory forever, but Emily seems to be having a hard time letting go.

The Breakup

Hanna is upset that she’s not allowed to see Mona anymore at Radley. Not even Wren and his sexy British accent can charm her into any visitation rights. It turns out these were all revoked after her Caleb-visit freak-out. Hanna and Caleb continue to get into fights about Hanna going to see Mona. Hanna is like “I don’t understand why you don’t want me to see my friend! Is it that one time she ran me over with a car? Or that other time she tried to throw Spencer off a cliff? Because all friendships have their rough patches Caleb!” Caleb just gets angry and storms off.

Between setting up online dating profiles and questioning her choice of “Roger that”, Aria decides to help Hanna out with some love life advice. The continual team up of Hanna and Aria this season is my favorite, because it’s like the blind leading the blind. Only I have more faith in Jenna’s competence than either of them.

Aria tells Hanna to let Caleb in on the fact that there’s a new A. Just when Hanna is about to explain this, however, she gets a text saying A just attempted to murder Caleb’s mom in Montecito. So instead of telling him the truth, Hanna just gets all shifty eyed and Caleb breaks up with her instead. It’s very sad and both actors sell it really well, so I hate to be that person but didn’t we see this storyline already with Toby and Spencer? 

The Reward

While all this is going on, Jason has also returned looking more like a life-sized Ken doll than ever. The power of this show is in having so many moving parts going on at one time that it literally takes approximately three hours to explain the first twenty minutes of an episode to someone. Jason is back and furious that his half-family is defending the maybe-murderer of his formally evil, now dead, currently zombie-walking sister. Got all that?

So Jason is putting up a 50 thousand dollar reward for anyone with information about the disappearance of Alison’s body. And it looks like he’s got a good lead, especially since he already wrote out a check. But who is it and will it incriminate the girls? And is the creepiest police officer not currently in jail onto the girls and their lake house ploy?

A-Tag: ‘A’ is in Montecito, hopping a plane back to Philadelphia. But before the flight boards, ‘A’ is kind enough to restore visitation rights to Mona. See, even after nearly running someone off the road, ‘A’ is still a pretty good pal. ‘A’ has layers!

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Who is Jason talking to? Did you believe Melissa? Will Hanna and Caleb get back together? And will the police put the pieces together about the girls alibi? Sound off in the comments!

Morgan Glennon
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of ABC Family)

Morgan Glennon

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV