By Alex Smith, Hollywood.com Staff
Hi. Pretty Little Liars is back.
I was a littler overzealous about the post-Halloween special, simply because I forgot that I wouldn't get to watch my girls for 12 weeks and instead had to wait another 87 months for their legitimate return. BUT. NOW. THE LIARS ARE BACK FOREVER!!! Or, umm, at least for the next 12 weeks. Do you all remember when the first half of Season 3 aired? Emily was an alcoholic! Everyone had weird haircuts! I feel like we've progressed so much, and it hasn't even been a full year. How are these people still in high school?
We're dealing with the aftermath of the Halloween episode, where people died on a Halloween ghost train instead of just watching Alison wander around a haunted house in a vaguely Gaga-Ke$ha-Sharon Needles costume she forced reanimated china dolls sew together for her. We definitely have jumped a little since the actual night of the Halloween train, because a lot is happening. Mainly, Hanna's grandmother has moved in. Porn Star Mom is completely missing in action. Actually, everyone's mom is missing in action did they go on a spa weekend together or something? Hanna and her gram give absolutely no explanation for the disappearance of mother. It is entirely possible that Porn Star Mom is filming porn in the porn district of Rosewood, Penn. If we're looking at the big picture of Rosewood, that wouldn't be the strangest thing to happen.
The episode opens with a hooded skateboard punk rolling through the streets, and I'm worried for a second that I'm watching some of crazy MTV skateboarding reality show. Okay, this is really bad night skateboarding. Like, bad for MTV reality show. What was the name of the guy from the original Laguna Beach who was always on his long board? Trey? Troy? TOBY? Regardless, Mona is suddenly sneaking into Hanna's room in the middle of the night. Hanna's hair looks incredibly good for being startled awake at 3am, and I couldn't be happier that Hanna is the first Liar we meet this "season."
Mona wants help from Hanna she's been released from the local mental institution, and Mona's parents have demanded that she return to Rosewood. Mona is a mess! I don't like demure helpless little Mona, mainly because Mona is at her best when she was manipulating everyone and designing her own hoodies for her birthday slumber party. Hanna says that Mona spent the last two years majoring in torture; this is almost true, but it is also impossible to pick your major in high school. Mona knows what's good, though she has new meds, so she's fine! Great! I want Mona to run a prescription drug ring at Rosewood High and take over the world. Hanna clearly isn't convinced by Mona's newfound sanity/innocence, but Hanna will always care about her old bestie. Hanna's amazing, mentally insane grandmother with the vague Southern accent breaks up the midnight meeting by screaming at Hanna through the door. Good work.
Back to the night boarder: Toby is chasing the skateboard punk in a large SUV, but Toby can't catch up with him. What is happening? It's the middle of the night, so I don't understand why there is so much action. It seems that this is a Sunday night? Slow down. Drop the crazy. Stop murdering people. I think we're meant to believe that Mona is the skateboarder, but that obviously is not the case. We shall see.
I can't stop smiling! I love this show! DRAMA! Emily's father has returned from Arizona/Vietnam/Space, and of course he's wearing a shirt that says ARMY across the chest. Of course! Dad is also installing a 24/7-alarm system on the house, which is just an elaborate way of Emily's parents saying that her lesbian girlfriend can't climb through the window for late night lesbian action. Okay, it's more protection from fake cousins that try to murder you inside a lighthouse, but still. Emily is forbidden from participating in the big school run, even though Emily raised $274 in pledges. Yes, Emily, that's a lot of money. I understand your pain. Big money, no whammies.
Spencer and Aria complain about how Emily is on severe military lockdown, and they're both wearing pretty aggressive glamsquad outfits for a local coffee run. Spencer wins best hair of the episode, only because judging from sneaks to later this season, Spencer's hair gets pretty rough, to say the least. Also, if this is a pre-school coffee run AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT (in the words of sweet Sweet Brown). Spencer and Aria would have to wake up at 4am to look THAT good and have THAT much time to grab coffee before school. Aria is giving hardcore accessory overload, and it's a good thing Ezra buys her a piece of jewelry later in the episode; all Aria needs is another bracelet-earrings-necklace trio before she sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Aria always makes dumb coffee. Her coffee looks really bad. Spencer's coffee looks fantastic, and Spencer says a lot of smart things. Everything is normal.
Jenna was unfortunately missing from this entire episode (since she inexplicably switched schools oh, wait, maybe she switched schools because everyone loved making fun of the manic blind bitch). However, Jenna's absence is barely noticed whenever Hanna's Grandmother enters. Did this woman fall from God's wondrous hands into our undeserving laps? I sure hope so. Grandma tells a story about Cousin Heshie, where Heshie tried to feed nails to his parents as cereal. Grandma loves telling stories about the ancestors! Anyway, Hanna is going to her grandmother to see if Mona has changed/can be let back in. Grandma clearly things Mona should be a friend again, seeing Heshie's change of brain, but I also think Grandma is way off her rocker. Remember when Hanna blacked out in the girl's bathroom at her father's wedding reception? And Grandma picked Hanna up from the airport? What an amazing episode.
We now reach our great bullying sub-plot, because every show with a lead actor in high school is contractually obligated to show something about bullying. Those TV writers sure are ingenious. Mona 2.0 is a sad little puppy, waiting on the steps of the high school while people call her weird names. They say awful bully catchphrases like, "You shouldn't be here." That's a serious threat! We get a nice shot of Aria's butt as she climbs the stairs to the school and makes janky eye contact with Aria, but that's about it. Inside the actual school, Jody from Center Stage is teaching for Mrs. Hoobalajooli is on maternity leave. Aria asks someone to "please stick a fork in my neck." Let's do it!
In class, Aria is blatantly texting in front of the teacher, and Meredith takes Aria's phone away from here. Taking Aria's phone is literally the worst idea in the history of modern teenager only the worst teacher actually took phones away during class, and a substitute would 100 percent never put herself under that kind of scrutiny. Especially on day one. The Liars have a mini-Mexican standoff with Meredith/Jody after class. I get that Jody's career as a dancer faltered when she became too old and injured her knees, so she changed her name to Meredith and started sleeping with Aria's father, but she shouldn't take her anger at youth out on the four baddest bitches in town. Sorry not sorry.
Someone put a cow brain in Mona's locker, with the note: "TAKES ONE MAD COW TO KNOW ANOTHER." I don't understand why a high school bio lab would have cow brains instead of just the standard cow eyeball. My favorite part of this scene is a very terrified girl taking a video of the entire ordeal on her iPhone. PLL is so hip. On the flip, Emily is literally so stupid. I can't even talk about how stupid she is because it makes me feel more stupid and then I start to sink to her level. Something weird is going on between Mona and Lucas; smart Hanna picks up on the connection.
There's this weird thing throughout the episode where "Mona" tweets in the bottom corner of the screen, making a wonky acrostic. It looks like you can go online and watch more of Mona's pity-party "I'm being bullied" video that she posts on Facebook during the episode, but you had to watch The Lying Game for all of the clues and I would never do that to myself. Even to help all of you.
Boyfriend life: Caleb is lurking around, and Hanna wants Caleb to grill Lucas on his limp; someone was stabbed in the leg by a screwdriver on the Halloween train, and Hanna's main suspect is clearly Lucas. I doubt Lucas would just downright confess his attempt to help murder Aria, but maybe that's just me. Toby likes to go on runs with Spencer, take his shirt off, and get in hot tubs with his girlfriend after taking his shirt off post-run. Character progression! I don't want Spencer to be hurt by her current boyfriend. I wanted her to get with Jason instead, but it seems Jason is also a creepy asshole. Oh well.
Emily spots the man that worked the front desk at the Lost Woods Resort as THE NEW ROSEWOOD JANITOR!!! That's scary as all hell. His name is Harold, but we might as well call him Norman Bates (even though I used to have a crush on Anthony Perkins and I would never have a crush on this fool). Hanna thinks, "Maybe creepy Harold has a creepy twin." No, Hanna NO. Creepy Harold has a bunch of Mona's stuff in his haunted basement office. Horrifying. My cat's name is Harold, so I don't like this sub-plot very much.
Hanna watches Mona's Facebook bullying video 147 times in one day. Spencer talks about Mona having a resume for her crazy, which I believe is jargon that this show has used before (still not complaining). Caleb finds out that Mona lied - she BEGGED to get back into Rosewood, while her parents wanted her in a different program. Hanna's grandmother sings the National Anthem at the big school run, and she's almost as good as the famed Whitney Houston performance. Almost. Hanna proclaims that Gram is singing, "Because she can." TRUTH. Like, why do I love Hanna so much? Every she says is pure gold. The Liars ditch the run (as any smart high schooler would naturally do), only to sneak into Creepy Janitor's office; Harold is writing a letter to Mona in Alison's old journal, which is very bad in very real world pedo-creepy way.
From the journal, we flip to a nice flashback: Aria has been coping the entire episode with the thought that Byron, her father, was the last person to see Alison alive. Did Byron kill Ali? What was their relationship? Aria has been using sneaky passive-aggressive Carrie Mathison interrogation techniques on her father, but to no avail. Byron shows his violent side. Flashback Alison is blackmailing Byron. Flashback Alison is making weird innuendos about wiping feet on people. Unless I misheard. I always mishear.
The girls escape the clutches of Creepy Harold, only to jump from the frying pan into the fire. I think that's the right saying. Maybe it's flipped. I'm talking about a literal fire here. The swag bag post-run tent is on fire, and someone is screaming. I was hoping that Mona would just die already in this rightful blaze of glory, but it seems Jody/Meredith was burned in the "accident." Mona clearly set the fire. Jody/Meredith will clearly be far too burned to ever dance again. Is Jody/Meredith the new Jenna?
Byron (what an awful name, I can't ignore it any longer) interrogates Aria about trying to hurt Meredith. These parents are literally the worst they are always yelling at their daughters while their daughters are dealing with secret babies and down-low murderers! "These kind of secrets come back to haunt us, " growls Byron. "WHAT ABOUT YOURS," screams back Aria. You go, girl. Aria then politely asks her father to close her bedroom door. I don't like creepy parents, that sort of thing just gives me a lot of weird terrors.
Spencer stops by Jason's house to talk about Mona, while Jason relaxes on his porch with his unbuttoned shirt and his loud bug zapper. As soon as Spencer walks off, Mona appears from the shadows and helps Jason treat his wound. His wound that looks an awful lot like the infected puncture hole from a dirty screwdriver on a Halloween ghost train that featured Adam Lambert as the musical guest. OMG. More importantly, Mona is a vampire that likes to wear red heart sweaters. She was definitely hanging up in bat form by the bug zapper. Just wait for that reveal.
Black-hooded maybe-A, probably the skateboard, is shown in the post-episode clue stealing bike parts from a fat kid's bike at night. That's just really rude. Speaking of rude, my rude friend changed the channel to New Girl aka The Zooey Deschanel Show before I could see scenes from next episode, so I can't even get a brief hair preview for next Tuesday night. Unforgivable, I say. I hope Emily gets murdered this season. She annoyed me tonight, and I would enjoy a shocking Liar death. I hope PLL does an episode this season where Spencer gets swine flu and has a fever dream that she's in Dirty Dancing with Jason. I hope all these parents work out their Xanax prescriptions. I hope the moms return soon. I hope Emily gets back to work at the hippest coffee shop in town. I hope a new coffee shop opens up to rival Emily's workplace. I hope Emily gets drunk again. Maybe I don't hate Emily as much as I thought. I hope this portion of Pretty Little Liar's outrageously successful third season is the best thing ever shown on television. I have a feeling this show will still be airing new episodes when I am 87. Forever and ever, amen.
Bonus: Here's a video of Hanna/Ashley Benson wearing a cheap wig and dancing while James Franco lip-synchs to Bieber's "Boyfriend."
[Image Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC Family (2)]
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