This week on Pretty Little Liars, the girls go on a college visit. Everything is just like that movie Animal House, except with more demonic sorority mothers, evil masks, hidden torture rooms and burying evidence in a shallow grave.
But besides all that, it’s wacky college hi-jinks galore! Like remember the one time in college you went running through a weird Children of the Corn maze only to totally get silly stringed? Or do you remember the other time you walked down the hallway from The Shining only to find the pink phone from the ’90s board game Dream Phone next to a bunch of werewolf claw marks? I don’t know, Pretty Little Liars pretty much nailed my college experience.
To be fair, though, for an episode of Pretty Little Liars, this is a bit light on the non-stop plot and heavier on interpersonal interactions. I feel weird typing that about an episode in which a character is literally attacked by a swarm of bees.
Is it just me or is ‘A’ basically a comic book villain now? I mean, Rosewood is already a small town Gotham City. No, seriously, think about it. It even has a mental institute that houses all the resident super villains and everyone who dies eventually returns wearing a mask. It’s perfect.
I guess that means Spencer is Batman, Aria is Robin, Emily is Batwoman and Hanna is whatever Batman character drives the Batmobile slowly into lakes.
Momentarily slowing down the plot presents the opportunity to explore a dynamic we don’t see as often on the show. Spencer and Emily are by far the two most level-headed and reasonable characters, which is why they’re often paired with Aria and Hanna. But putting an under-pressure Emily and a slightly-more-unhinged-than-usual Spencer together this week is a marvelous idea.
We don’t often see the girls fight with each other because they’re so busy fighting for their lives against the forces of darkness in Rosewood. So when the girls do take stabs at each other, it’s all the more shocking.
The great thing about their fight is how you can see it slowly percolating all episode. The issues slowly simmer along the surface until finally bursting into the huge fight outside the sorority house. Not only does the episode play a slow burn on their fight, but it also makes both of them simultaneously right and wrong.
Emily really is using her beautiful face parts to charm that creepy college adviser and Spencer really is being a huge snot about that “podunk college.” Which is why when their criticisms hit the target, they really do wound.
The base of their aggression, strangely enough, comes from the same place. Both Spencer and Emily are suddenly worried about their futures after their dream colleges have disappeared like the hallucinations you see after being stung by 70 air conditioner bees.
Spencer feels her brains would get her into the family school, but her stay in Radley has made her damaged property in need of a spin doctor. While Emily has always relied on her swimming skills, but with her injury she worries she might be too average to get into a good school.
So when Emily sees a chance to ride the coattails of Spencer’s expensive, fancy college adviser, she takes it. But Spencer is dealing by not dealing, instead throwing all her energy into uncovering the number left by Tippy the Bird. Spencer would definitely get into The Nancy Drew College for Plucky Girl Detectives.
On Ali’s Trail
At the college, Spencer finds a resident nerd and figures because he likes numbers he must have all the phone numbers on campus memorized, because that is a thing nerds do. “Oh man, remember that one summer I got so into Game of Thrones and also memorized the campus directory? I just couldn’t look away from the beautiful majesty of the 555 prefix,” said no one, ever.
It’s mostly just a great excuse to get Spencer to drop a ton of nerd references like Harry Potter (Spencer would totally be a Slytherin), Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.
The nerd thinks she’s such a Lannister, which seems correct because she is terrifying and sits atop a throne of money. Even the cultural references are foreshadowing that fight. Meanwhile, Spencer is like, “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?” and burns down the whole campus with the intensity of her crazy eyes.
While Spencer is on the warpath, Emily is actually taking the tour seriously. Once they roll up on the sorority party, Brandon, in a plaid shirt that says, “I like to give drinks to underage girls because I care,” is all over Emily. Brandon looks like what would happen if you crossed a frat bro and a ’90s sitcom dad, like Danny Tanner after playing Grand Theft Auto and balancing his stock options.
Unsurprisingly, Emily tries to make friends elsewhere. Upstairs, one of the sorority girls gives Emily the tour. “Here is our giant paddle. Here is our demonic mask dedicated to conjuring the spirit of our disgraced sorority mother Carla Grundwald. Here is our hymnal, where we sing songs about togetherness for visiting high school students. Also, every Sunday, we raise the spirits of the dead. You know, normal stuff!” Emily side-eyes this sorority girl in her polite, awesome way and flees.
Spencer is all about trying to find out if someone at the party knew Alison but to little effect. That is, until she looks for Emily upstairs and finds that the upper floor of the sorority house is in fact that never-ending hallway from House of Leaves.
After being pushed into what looks like a torture chamber with a single hanging light bulb, Spencer spots a bubblegum pink phone and plugs it in. She immediately calls Aria, who freaks out upon seeing the number they’ve been searching for since Tippy went MIA.
“Who is this?” Aria asks. “It ain’t Tippy the Bird,” Spencer says, cementing my new default answer whenever I am asked that question.
The room is creepy for a lot of reasons. Why does a sorority have a hidden room that looks like set dressing from Zero Dark Thirty? Why would Mr. Boardshorts be calling Alison from a sorority house? And what are those scratch marks on the walls?
Hanna’s Got a Gun
With all the reasonable people off on college visits and Aria busy rediscovering the fact that she has a brother, Hanna is left all alone this episode to go on a paranoid spiral. Ashley is acting more guilty than ever, even looking to Veronica Hastings for help.
“I have skeletons in the closet,” Ashley tells Veronica. Later, Hanna breaks into her mom’s locked closet to find a gun wrapped up in a Hermes silk scarf.
This is the exact moment that Hanna snaps. She just loses her mind. Her eyes go crazier than we have seen anyone besides Spencer, and you just know she’s about to go destroy some evidence. She shoves the gun into her bag like it ain’t no thang and then hightails it to Spencer and Emily’s location.
When she bumps into Spencer at the party, she begins to unravel in a crazy, paranoid fever delirium of fear. “I’m sorry, did you just say you have a loaded murder weapon in your purse?” Spencer asks. “Try to keep up, Spencer! Where is the nearest lake? Where is the nearest lasagna box? My God, even an angel hair pasta box would do in a pinch!”
It is at this juncture that Spencer decides to take her eyes off her clearly emotionally unstable friend. Even Emily, upon catching a glimpse of Hanna, has the good sense to go find out what bad idea she’s currently committing to.
With no one there to talk her off the ledge and high off inhaled Cheetos fumes, Hanna grabs the first thing she sees and heads off into the woods. “I’ll just bury this gun in my mom’s scarf and no one will find it! No one will know, even though I know I’m being watched at all hours of the day and night, and my mom will never have to get a buzz cut and wear orange! Everything will be perfect! Rainbows! Unicorns!”
Hanna has gone off the deep end and is literally digging a hole under a cover of trees with a beer stern like someone on hallucinogenic mushrooms.
It is at this exact moment that the police come up and find Hanna desperately trying to bury a gun. Not a great look. They arrest Hanna and the final shot of the episode sees a shocked Spencer and Emily watching as their friend is put into a police car in handcuffs.
“Maybe Hanna and her mother can share a lawyer,” ‘A’ advises. Apparently, both already share a pretty terrible track record when it comes to destroying evidence.
Guess Who’s Back?
Once again, Aria gets the short end of the storyline stick, literally sitting out most of the A and B storylines to get stuck in a family melodrama plotline. Of course, when your storyline also involved your mom being attacked by bees, it’s kind of hard to complain that nothing ridiculous happened. Plus, Aria gets in some solid punning: “four wheeled hive.”
More importantly: Mike is back! Remember Aria’s younger brother Mike? He hasn’t been on the show in about two seasons, but this week Aria just strolls into the living room and Mike is sitting there playing a video game.
“Where have you been?” Aria asks. “Oh, for the past year? Just sitting here pretty much. No one has talked to me or looked at me until now. I was starting to think I was a ghost!” Mike says, relieved.
Then the two get into a fight about whether Ella should stay or go. Mike wants Ella to stay, because of how his other family options are Aria and Byron. Aria wants her mom to go before she gets carried off in an eagle’s beak or something. They are at an impasse.
Aria convinces Byron to talk to Ella, but we still don’t know what she’ll ultimately decide. But it’s clear ‘A’ is gunning for parents and Aria is desperately trying to get her one decent parent out of harm’s way.
What did you think of this week’s episode of Pretty Little Liars? How is ‘A’ connected to that sorority? Did Ashley kill Wilden? What exactly was going down at that sorority anyway? And do you trust Brandon? Share your theories in the comments!
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(Image courtesy of ABC Family)