Pretty Little Liars "Mona-Mania" Review: You Don't Really Believe That, Do You?

By Nick Campbell

Jan 16, 2013

Pretty Little Liars S03E15: "Mona-Mania"

As a man well beyond the age and gender demographic for this show, there are a few things I rely on to steel myself against the ridicule of my friends and family NOT watching a show whose titular characters are both "pretty" and "little." One is that, deep within the camp and adolescent drama, there is a mystery to be untangled and a puzzle to piece together. Two: That mystery or puzzle has a 65 percent chance of being a spectacular train wreck. And three: PLL makes some impressive allusions.

Harper Lee, Ibsen, Gilbrad, Arthur Miller, and a great quantity of authors fill the blackboard behind the teachers and the hands of the students on this show. My GoodReads list is filled with PLL picks, sometimes to my occasional embarrassment. But it's only because they wouldn't understand!

I bring this up because the quote on the blackboard in "Mona-Mania" offers some perspective as to who is involved in the A team and why. If you missed it, it's from 1984 by George Orwell (admittedly, a common book to read in high school), where an apology for betrayal occurs:

"[T]hey threaten you with something, something you can't stand up to, something you can't even think about. And then you say, 'Don't do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to so-and-so.'"

The character (I'm trying not to be spoilery here) continues on about how the mere admission that you'd rather see a terrible thing happen to someone else than have it happen to you helps you cope with what you may have done to that other person. A line that didn't appear on the blackboard: "And after that, you don't feel the same towards the other person any longer."

That seems to be the part that most of the members of the A team haven't gotten to yet. Lucas and Toby are clearly still tripped up on their respective ladies, Hanna and Spencer, but are contributing to their torture. Blackmail is a key bargaining tool, so far instrumental to both Lucas's inclusion in the Cheap Black Hoodie Squad and to Byron possibly having killed a sixteen-year-old girl. So it stands to reason that everyone participating in the A team is there because they're being held there by some awful thing they did.

So they join up, pick up their stock-issue hoodie, and torture these girls because they'd rather Hanna, Emily, Spencer, and Aria feel the mental anguish than have to suffer it themselves. It's a twisted way to position these people. As we've seen, basically every man on this show has some blackmail-able skeleton in the closet.

That "don't feel the same" part has shifted, instead, toward the Liars. These are cagy women now, steeled against the constant onslaught of bullying. Girls who were so scared of what A could do to them have to now remind themselves not to be cocky. Emily, our fragile little petal, chased down a hoodie (named Toby) in the woods when she saw one. And, the thing is, if it weren't for Paige pointing out how brassy that is, we wouldn't've thought twice. "Get him, Emily!" we would've cheered. Not, "hey, you're in the dark, by yourself, with nothing to protect you but Paige's inconsistently large chin. Run away!"

Think about how far these girls have come: Aria dug around in her family and teamed up with Meredith, Hanna confronted Mona head on, Emily was like a released hound when she saw A, and Spencer—well, it's hard to tell if Spencer has raised her game or not since she's always kind of like that.

Unfortunately for the Liars, and hopefully good for us, is that Mona's pretense is thin and everyone is prepared for her to be openly hostile toward the girls. Spencer's realization that she doesn't have to hide behind A anymore since everyone knows about it is a scary thing. As long as there are others who were convinced by her video (no matter how ridiculous it was) or are too scared to stand up to her, she can maintain her reign of terror, even if she's only second banana. I fully expect that by the end of the season, these girls are going to be so tough and resilient that a broken-bottle deathmatch could erupt in the hallway and, afterward, the remaining Liars (Aria would definitely go down in that scenario) would retire to the bathroom to talk about how Mona is kind of a skank. Not that they've used "skank" to describe someone frequently or ever. But that's just how flippant they could be nowadays.

The basic conclusion you could draw from "Mona-Mania" is this: While the boys are cowering in fear of their young lives being ruined (and, let's face it, these are teenagers so their fear is probably hyperbolic compared to reality), the girls are getting brassy and fearless against the bully that has them all under her thumb.


– Intentional or not, the writers did a really good job or showing Mona being terrible at pretending to be weak and vulnerable. For someone who's maintained a professional sense of subterfuge for so long, she's really bad at coming up with excuses. The vice principal let me use the computer lab? Harold was stalking me because I talked to him a couple times? You had a lair at his motel. A FULL-ON LAIR.

– "Is being captain brainiac really that important?" No, Hanna sweetheart. But you have to consider your audience. It's not about being the captain for Spencer. It's about winning and destroying all comers, shaming them so hard that they cry. Maybe they pee a little. Spencer would love it if they peed a little.

– I hear a lot of talk about Mike but I don't see a whole lot about Mike. Is anyone taking action about how involved he is with A?

– I hate that my television education (re: sitting in front of one for my entire eyes-open existence) tells me that, when a girl feels "queasy" but hides it within the larger, unrelated conversation, it means that she's pregnant. I've already had to come to terms with Ezra having spawned with Alex Mack. I can't take the Ezria baby. It's too gross.

– "I have dinner with my boss" is the worst excuse for a teenager to make his exit that I've ever heard. Along those same lines, Lucas's test answer scam is better than the gambling debts arc but not by much.

– How often is Mona going to offer Hanna baked goods? We get it. You got her to eat a bunch of cupcakes. Geez. Talk about living in the past.

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  • sodapopgirl721 Jan 17, 2013

    is anyone going to write about the lying game this year? anyone? bueller? bueller?

  • sasou82 Jan 17, 2013

    OMG! I would oh so LOVE it if Aria was pregnant! I am kinda getting bored with her relationship with Fitz and that would really shake things up! In other news... I have been hoping since we found out about Toby being on the A team that maybe he could be redeemed. I know everyone is saying that he is bad for good, but I have still been hoping against all hope. But, everytime I see him doing something else "A"-holey (trying to run over Lucas or slashing Paige's tires) my dreams are dashed just a bit more. I loved Toby and Spencer... but I can't wait to see how she reacts when she finds out.... I can't wait til next week since Caleb will be back... I missed my Caleb fix this week!

  • AllieAllie Jan 17, 2013

    Wait-when was it revealed that Mike was involved in this?

  • NicholasCampb Staff Jan 18, 2013

    He's not. OR IS HE? No, he's not. There's no evidence that he's involved in any of this. OR IS THERE?

  • inbar777 Jan 16, 2013

    I starting to think I'm the only person who didn't immediately think that aria is pregnant, that thought didn't even cross my mind because I think a baby plotline would be so unnecessary and quite frankly the girls have enough on their plate has it is, I mean they can't even be in normal relationships unless their keeping it a secret or I don't know dating one or possibly more of the A team (yeah I'm talking about you ezra) .to be honest I just thought that merdith person is totally poisoning aria I mean are we suddenly suppose to trust her because aria's dad so creepy right now he looks so guilty that we ignore her , I don't think she was telling the whole truth and I wouldn’t drink some special tea from that women either, cause aria started feeling bad since merdith spent the night at their house and merdith obviously dislike aria on what we can learn from her cold stare plus she kinda accused her for setting her on fire ,let's face it she hates her, I guess it just a theory but come on she definitely put something in that tea.

  • riot Jan 16, 2013

    I think one of my favorite things was the facial expressions of the girls whenever Mona tried to tell them something.
    Also in the next episode Spencer and Toby's anneversary is coming up, and somethings going to happen. I'd like to see how A would mess with the girls on their birthdays, I mean have any of the liars celebrated their bdays? I can remember Caleb, Jenna, Mona...but none of the Liars or even Ali's bday or maybe i'm just forgetful.

  • mcepin3 Jan 16, 2013

    Aria pregnant? Yeah,I don't think would mean,they would have to(for the lack of better term or word) fat her up...and I don't mean just her belly. When someone is pregnant,they gain weight and Aria seems to have minus zero size,so giving her fake belly wouldn't cut it:D(this whole thing is more or less a joke,so don't take it so personally or seriously).

    Is there really a reason to make Byron so creepy towards Aria? Finally Holly got some screne time...woot,woot:P

  • CaitlinRice Jan 16, 2013

    I highly doubt that she's actually pregnant because:

    (SPOILER ALERT? I never know what people consider spoilers anymore.....)

    Several months ago, someone asked Marlene on Twitter about an Ezria baby. And she said not in season 3 at least. We're still in season 3 and since Marlene is NOT Ryan Murphy (says one thing and does another), I think it can be pretty safe to say something else is going on.

  • rasa_radz Jan 16, 2013

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that Aria might be pregnant when she felt "queasy". My second thought, soon after the first, was that someone is trying to poison her, which I think would be kind of a great plot line. Besides, I highly doubt they'd make Aria pregnant when there's so much else going on, and I just don't think the writers want such a heavy weight storyline.
    Also, I like the idea that they're revealing the purpose of the A team's actions from the closing credits pretty soon after now. Like with the kid getting into that accident last week, and them making it clear that happened so Mona could get into the braniacs team. I can't wait to see what explanation they'll give us for (badly) hiding those masks near the tracks. Unless they were showing us something that happened in the past, like around the Halloween party.

  • inbar777 Jan 16, 2013

    I think A hid those masks like that on purpose because it's probably going to be some clue to mess with the girls in my opinion, because when someone wants to hide something he should at least have the decency to bring a shovel. just saying.

  • Taccado Jan 16, 2013

    Wow, that was a pretty deep analysis.

    But what ever happened to CeCe Drake?

  • NicholasCampb Staff Jan 18, 2013

    She was probably eaten by Bruce, the Watermelon Baby.

  • Llostris Jan 16, 2013

    I hope Aria really has a flu. PLL doesn't need a teenage pregnancy plot.

  • gamrgrl007 Jan 17, 2013

    I'd take her being slow-poisoned or something to her being pregnant. But it obviously isn't 'just the flu' since so much was made about it.