In this episode of Pretty Little Liars, Pastor Ted bakes Ashley a proposal cookie but she doesn’t bite, Spencer and Caleb break into a room of old Breaking Bad props, and it seems likely that someone is trying to set Hanna up for murder.

I guess it’s Hanna’s turn to be set up for a crime she didn’t commit. At least Spencer is getting a brief reprieve. Meanwhile, Aria has already forgotten about that time she accidentally murdered Shana, and currently her biggest concern is that her college essay will make her boyfriend angry. Oh, to live one day as Aria, carefree, giant feather earrings flapping in the breeze.

“Over a Barrel” feels like another episode setting up the rest of the season, and yet the episode doesn’t suffer from the heavy lifting of slotting storylines into place. Perhaps it’s because Liars is finally starting to play with new character configurations. Caleb has gotten more into the mix this season, helping Aria learn to hack and helping Spencer destroy murder evidence. Caleb is basically the liars’ go-to guy when they need to commit a crime. 

It’s fun seeing some of the guys pulled a little more forcefully into the story, especially as Toby finds himself boxed out of Spencer’s plans. While Ezra owning the Brew makes about as much sense as that time Aria became a kickboxer, it has at least given the character a somewhat believable reason to be around the liars that is not as gross as being their teacher. So I guess it’s a step up as far as Ezra is concerned?

I’m a little bit concerned that Liars is already retreading old ground with the murder setup storyline. How many times have we seen one of the liars nearly go to jail for some crime? At this point, the girls should have a jail frequent customer card. “If your card gets punched one more time, the next time you get arrested you get a free Pinkberry on your way to prison!”

Because Spencer just wormed her way out of Bethany’s murder, it feels a little repetitious to have ‘A’ set Hanna up for murder. Of course, on Pretty Little Liars things can change within the course of an episode (or within the course of five minutes), so I’m comfortable withholding judgement until I see how all this shakes out. 

With so many other interesting balls in the air, including Alison behind bars, I’d much rather the show take a different direction than to retread another wrongfully accused storyline. Although, to be fair, ‘A’ did say the liars would end up in jail with Alison. Maybe the plan is just to take them down one-by-one. First up: Hanna Marin.

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Don’t Open That Barrel 

As Spencer is handing new housemate Johnny eggs for his homemade paint, she gets a distressing text from none other than Mona. Unfortunately, it’s not really Mona texting from that great big hyperreality in the sky. Instead, it’s the alert system she’s installed in her laptop, which she had redirect to the liars instead of the police. Mona had the weirdest ways of showing she cared. 

Caleb tracks the signal to a storage locker, and he and Spencer set out to retrieve the laptop. When they get there, they bump into a teacher from Rosewood High School. “You look familiar,” the teacher hilariously says to Caleb. “That’s probably from my time as Rosewood High’s resident Phantom of the Opera. I lived in the air ducts around the school. I might have napped under your desk!” he says, while turning her discarded soda can into a shiv. In my mind, this is a talent I imagine Toby taught him from his time in juvie, although almost everyone on this show is some kind of felon. (Toby’s doo-rag: never forget!) 

Before she wanders off, the teacher mentions a weird smell coming from locker 1017, which she said is owned by a blonde girl. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know the girl and couldn’t really describe her. But Spencer’s eyes get that manic look they usually do when she’s convinced someone is a serial killer, since it’s further confirmation Ali is behind everything. 

Caleb and Spencer crawl through the ducts, Caleb’s home away from home, and end up in the creepy storage locker. As Spencer points out, everything is way too neat. The laptop is just sitting there, but there’s also a bunch of bloody clothes in plastic bags. Spencer mentions that they look like evidence bags, bringing everything back to Officer Holbrook as a culprit. They realize someone is building a case against one of them and storing the evidence for the right time.

Which is about the time Caleb notices a hazard suit in the background and crouches down to hide. What I love about this whole scene is that Caleb is totally terrified and hiding behind Spencer, and she’s just so nonchalant about the fact that they could be moments from getting murdered by Heisenberg. “Ugh, Caleb, if you’re going to get jumpy over every meth-cooking suit we bump into, this is going to be a long night.”

What they find behind the suit, however, is way more disturbing. It’s a barrel big enough for a body, and a lot of chemicals that will either turn a body into goop or preserve it. “So either she’s pickled or she’s dissolved?” Caleb asks Spencer. “Too soon,” Spencer says, looking legitimately horrified. 

The two leave the storage locker of leftover Breaking Bad props and head home, where Caleb looks into who took out the lease on the storage locker. Of course, this leads to even more bad news: it turns out Hanna is the one who knocks. ‘A’ has put the storage locker in her name, strongly implicating her in Mona’s murder. Looks like Hanna should have tread lightly. (Okay, I’m done with the Breaking Bad references, I swear!) 

When not breaking and entering, Spencer is freaking out over her future. She doesn’t really want to go to the University of Hawaii, since things like sunshine and joy make Spencer uncomfortable. However, she wants to get as far away from Rosewood as possible, but Toby is concerned about what that might mean for their future. Then Toby gets angry when he realizes Spencer and Caleb are tampering with evidence again. 

Here’s the thing: considering it took him all of one week to become a police officer, it’s really hard to take Toby’s commitment to the force seriously. Watching him in his little uniform is like watching a kitten walk around on two feet. It’s adorable, but also why is it happening? Toby originally said he wanted to join the Rosewood PD to help the liars from the inside, but since becoming a police officer he’s just become a real killjoy. “You used to love it when I destroyed evidence!” Spencer sadly points out. 

Then she talks to Johnny about the idea of skipping out on college entirely and just learning from the school of life. Of course, Spencer should remember that Johnny was looking through her trash just a few hours ago, so I think the jury is still out on how that whole “school of life” thing is working out for him. 

Aria’s Goose Chase

The stress of her college situation is making Aria unravel, especially when a receipt at the Brew prints out with her full Ezra-damning essay. You can tell Aria is on the edge because her giant feather earrings are slowly taking over her whole face. Aria’s in a real place right now. 

So she follows a bunch of texts that she assumes are from Holbrook, thinking he’s finally ready to break free from Ali and come clean. Instead, she just ends up banging into Jason, and she shares her Holbrook theory with him. Jason drops a bomb that Aria seemingly misses, which is that the police think someone helped Alison dispose of Mona’s body. And while Aria is focused on Holbrook, it seems more likely that the police are focused on the liars as Alison’s friends. 

The final leg of the Holbrook goose chase takes Aria to a flower store, where she’s told to deliver a bouquet of flowers to Hanna’s house. The flowers are from “Jason,” obviously a setup from ‘A’ to hold against Ashley. Hanna grabs the flowers out of Aria’s hands and spikes them like a football, then has Aria promise not to mention them to anyone else. Hanna thinks Alison is after her because she visited her in jail, a revelation Aria is not too happy to hear. 

Aria never does track down Holbrook, but a black hoodie at the end of the episode sits behind his desk and logs into the Rosewood PD mainframe using his password. Are the liars finally right about one of their suspects? Is Holbrook on the ‘A’ team? 

One Tough Cookie

Meanwhile, Hanna is trying to have a very awkward conversation with her mom, but Ashley doesn’t want to even deal with the fact that she bumped uglies with Jason the night before. A big reason she wants to forget about her lapse in judgement is because Pastor Ted is back and the giant hearts in his eyes when he looks at Ashley are starting to make her feel bad. 

Pastor Ted tells Hanna he’s going to propose to Ashley, and Hanna once again tries to get her to talk about the hookup with Jason. “Isn’t he your boss? Are you going to get fired now?” Hanna asks, and you can literally see that this is the first time Ashley even considered this scenario. Oh, Ashley, you really need to cut back on your wine, sweetie. 

Pastor Ted proposes via giant cookie and Ashley tells him she needs some time to think. “Your proposal bites,” she says, and runs up the stairs like an actual teenager. Hanna shoves the whole cookie into her mouth from the stress, and then kindly tells Ted that her mom cares about him but just needs some time to consider the error of her cougar ways. Ted looks like a sad puppy as Hanna gently pushes him out the door, then she gives her mom a hug. 

About 95% of Hanna’s life is spent trying to clean up the messes from her mother’s poor life choices. At least she hasn’t committed vehicular homicide or stolen money from any old ladies recently. God, I love Ashley Marin. 

Emily Moves On

Also in this episode, Emily ends up in a non-‘A’ related storyline trying to deal with the fallout of her breakup with Paige. Since Paige asked for space (being across the country isn’t enough space?), Emily has given up on her plan to visit for spring break. Instead, she’s sending Paige a care package of her stuff, except for the ratty t-shirt of Paige’s she keeps wearing to work. 

While not being sad about her breakup, Emily is raging against the machine, and in this case the machine is new employee Talia. Talia is all up in Emily’s grill about “helping” and “cleaning” and getting uniforms not full of holes. Emily looks like she wants to straight-up murder Talia with a coffee grinder and it’s amazing. Inappropriate rage is a good look on Emily. 

Of course, everything is a good look on Emily because of her perfect faceparts. Emily fixes the hole in Paige’s shirt and then sends it along with the rest of the care package, finally trying to move on. She also has a heart-to-heart with Talia about her breakup. Later, Talia tells Emily that casual is a good look on her, then follows up this comment by admiring Ezra’s booty. 

Talia is totally trying to figure out what team Emily plays for. It should be pretty clear where she stands considering the confused look on Emily’s face when confronted with the idea of Ezra’s butt being cute. Emily is really not all about that bass where Ezra is concerned. I’m calling Talia as a new love interest for Emily right now. 

What did you think of the episode? Is ‘A’ setting Hanna up for murder? Is Holbrook involved? Are Spencer and Toby on the outs? And what do you think of Talia and Johnny? Share your theories in the comments! 

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family. 

(Image courtesy of ABC Family)

Morgan Glennon

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV