Pretty Little Liars "Bring Down the Hoe" Review: Cowboy Up, Hoedown

By Nick Campbell

Aug 21, 2013

Pretty Little Liars S04E11: "Bring Down the Hoe"

I've spent a few decades on this planet, including a good bit of time in the South, but never once did I learn a line-dance move.

Yet, despite no one on this show having any remote interest in country-western anything, these girls come out slapping and stomping like they were born and raised in Dillon, Texas. Hanna was led around by Travis the Starer, Emily engaged in a cute dance with Paige, and Spencer... owns a pair of overalls. They all have hats and Western shirts (Toby was even wearing that jacket that looks like it's straight out of Urban Cowboy), and it was like I wasn't supposed to believe they live in suburban Pennsylvania.

Pretty Little Liars has served up some pretty egregious scenes where something completely out of whack happens, like our characters dip into an alternate universe for a while where Adam Lambert shows up for a town-wide train lock-in and olympic swimmer Missy Franklin wants to go out of her way to visit a small town and give a pep-talk to a pretty little stranger. But watching Aria two-step, however boorishly, and in spite of her basic cultural snobbishness, was weird, man. Does the showrunner's cousin own a cowboy hat and plaid shirt warehouse? "Please, take these off my hands! I can't give them away!"

Although Jake looked like he was enjoying himself for possibly the first time since he and Aria started dating. It's been an up-and-down ride for me with Jake, given that he seems dead behind the eyes, and since I presume he has external genitalia, he's immediately a suspect on this show. But PLL really gave us the hard sell this week, with him showing up at school, being generally present, and, of course, that Prince Charming boot thing.

Jake knowing the perfect fit for Aria and sliding the boot onto her foot is supposed to be a nod to that Disney princess crap where this strapping man comes to rescue Aria from her troubled life. I would just chalk it up to saccharine fairy tale so that we feel like there's an actual dilemma when Aria has to decide between Jake and the Worst Idea. But there's something about Aria pointedly asking, "How'd you know my size?" that stuck with me. Sure, it could just mean that Jake is a natural shoe salesman (the obvious career path for someone who wants to be a professional martial artist), but it just reminded me of how Mona knows everything about the Liars. Though, even if Jake is a part-time Hoodie, he's still Better than Ezra and his sad stack of cups:

The hoedown notwithstanding, the episode was good at advancing the plot while setting up #WorldWarA next week (which, based on the promos, sounds like an upcoming dubstep festival). And if not the actual plot, at least some theories. The one you're supposed to be talking about is Cece and her bright red coat. It does seem too easy, doesn't it? That Cece has the coat (though never dons the thing) and has been a suspected Red Coat this season smells of red herring. We've been conditioned by this show to not only pick up on clues but also to string together the clues of omission. We see a dead body but we don't see a face; therefore, despite Spencer's reaction, it can't be Toby. Ashley is being shifty and seems to have all of the evidence needed to condemn her of murder, but we never see her doing anything to destroy that evidence; therefore she's not the murderer. Cece has the coat. It's sitting on her chair. She never puts it on. Is she Red Coat?

But it doesn't absolve her from getting stabby through the peepholes in the DiLaurentis house. She's definitely a Hoodie, if not a ring leader, and capable of causing at least as much mayhem as Alison herself, like catching Aria in the eye. Although this is assuming that there's only one Red Coat, just like we were led to believe there was only one A (when we know now that it's always been a team). We don't seem to know how deep the rabbit hole goes, how many people routinely dress in Alison's costumes and masks, or even if their fearless leader wears the same thing every time she goes a-bullying. That they see Red Coat often might just be another indication that this is another tactic of making other people adopt Alison's image. Or Vivian Darkbloom, as the case may be.

No matter what, though, Toby is a whiny baby and it's unconscionable that he still trusts A, whoever A is. I do like that this A has brought back the concept of "gifts," that rope-a-dope method of lulling Liars and S.O.'s into a false sense of security that, by doing A's bidding, you'll get a piece of the puzzle of your life. And then the police show up while you're trying to break into a car in the middle of Howdidyoufindme, Pennsylvania. It's been hard to like Toby for the past few episodes firstly because he's been a petulant sad sack about this ret-conned mommy issue. But also because he's never allowed himself to be one of the Liars. And that's weird, like watching Aria kicking around a Western bar.

When Mona was ousted from the A team, she could easily be identified as a new member of the Liars (it helps that a doll resembling her had been added to the growing collection of creepy doll likenesses). Despite the girls constantly pinning bad things on her—and, understandably, never putting much trust in her—we as an audience could group them together. Toby has always been on the outside. He's been able to join up with the Significant Others Brain Trust but, despite clearly being just as tortured by A as everyone else he knows, he never identifies with them. This investigation into his mother made that clearer than ever. "You told your friends?" he cried like the morose jackass that he is. Maybe he's playing the game (he knows that getting involved with all the Liars means A will take some kind of revenge), but he should know better that the game is rigged and, despite all his vampire powers, he will lose every time.

Maybe it was the silliness of the hoedown in the middle, but this episode didn't really feel like it was setting much up for the summer finale next week. You expect a penultimate episode to have more "what!" "oh my gah!" "how did?!" moments. But, besides Cece sitting outside Ezra's door (presumably to get evidence in order to blow up Aria's relationship with Jake) and Toby getting chased by cops, there was no archduke assassination equivalent to start #WorldWarA. What has been a fairly plodding season has led to a weirdly uneventful build. Here's hoping for some jaw-dropping moments next week.


– What this episode did bring was the much-needed return of banter and one-liners. Sometimes it's hard to remember that these girls are friends, not just a support group. It started with Spencer's "I'm eating this" at the beginning of the episode, continued through Aria's "See, I told you she has the best flashlight" and then went right into Hanna's one-liners. I missed those from bummer Hanna lately. "Yeah, even Emily."

– Anyone else feel like Tanner sitting with the girls was about to break out with a, "What's up, girlfriends?" Also: What happened to Detective Nicey-Nice?

– Although Aria almost certainly meant that she knows a double life when she sees one because of Ezria, it's only going to fan the flames of the theory that Aria has split-personality disorder and is actually A/Red Coat/every Hoodie/Mona/the devil.

– It always amazes me that pertinent information doesn't come to light for the Liars until something innocuous sparks their memory. Emily comes up with the most plausible theory to date because Ali essentially told her everything while painting her nails? What kind of systematic repression of memories are these girls suffering? Did Alison put them all through A Clockwork Orange levels of behavioral therapy?

– Travis the Starer. The deus ex machina that may just save Hanna's mom's life. Then again, that just makes him suspect, too. It's too convenient. But at least he works. Caleb, get a job.

– Aria about to be stabbed by a needle. Spencer? Calm as a Hindu cow.

– Who do these girls think they are that they just ask a stranger for his truck? "Hey, old man! See how cute we are?! I'm wearing this tiny shirt under my overalls! Eyes up here. Listen, we need to steal your truck full of hay. I know, I know. But hear me out. It's so we can possibly run over this other girl. No! Listen! We just want to steal your truck and maybe murder someone! It's either that or we beat them to death in the back with a hoe. So. Your choice. Also, I don't know how to drive stick, so your transmission is screwed. Where are the keys?"

– Your Moment of A: Awwww, that hoodie is knitting a tiny wittle sweater! For her cute/disturbing wittle dollies. And then he's stabbing them! Oh, the humanity!

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  • SesseKitty Aug 26, 2013

    Yeah the dancing. It was incredibl...y stupid. Oh god... I'm just speechless.

    Jake is giving me the weirdo vibes too. I really don't want Ezria back but at the moment Ezra as a character is more enoyable to watch than Jake. Could they already reveal what kind of psycho Jake is and get on with it?

    Emily is just dim enough to actually forget such an important bit of information and need some ugly nailpolish to remind her. "Oh yeah, that friend of ours that was killed. She told someone pulled a gun on her. I don't why this took me 3 years to remember, totally slipped my mind."

    Travis came up rather sudden but I guess they are trying to find a new hunky for Hanna fast since Caleb is going to ghost town. Travis was okay, will see what comes of that. Is it all just a ploy by A or does Hanna just always score the nicest and best looking guys in the show?

  • KayWatkins Aug 25, 2013

    Oh yeah, and it felt like half the ep was watching line dancing. What on earth was up with that?? Did they really need to waste so much time on that??

  • KayWatkins Aug 25, 2013

    Um, yeah, I'm done. After next week's finale, I will officially cancel my series recording. I haven't been watching from the beginning, I watched the seasons back to back on Netflix and then joined live last season. I stuck around thinking maybe, just maybe there'd be some kind of end in sight but it just keeps going and going and it's getting old QUICK. 2 steps forward and 4 back and absolutely no resolution to anything. I don't like these pairings they keep forcing on us - Emily and crazyeyes Paige, Aria and the pedofile and Spencer and the man child. I was able to tolerate Jack but now that they're trying to get Ezria back together I'm just done.

  • chris17blue Aug 26, 2013

    ha-ha kudos for saying the thing about Emily and Paige. their whole relationship is so forced, and it just doesn't work at all. I loved Emily and Maya though :)

    I'm willing to keep watching if the finale gives us some actual answers and it leaves me satisfied and wanting more. the only reason I may quit watching is if Alison is in fact dead. that would totally suck.

  • KateSullivan Aug 25, 2013

    So I kind of think if I am satisfied with the answers I am interested in...basically what happened to Alison and is this her kinder twin and whether there is a rationale explanation or even a crazy one why whoever ia so focused on the Liars especially when Jenna seems on the outs with A and hers was the only legitimate beef (though Toby has one too)...I'm done.

    And Emily just because you are an obsessive and controlling girlfriend doesn't mean Aria has to be one..did you not pay any attention to that break up? Itsnot her job anymore to take care of the man baby Ezra. Plus let her focus on Jake she has her own ssuspicions of him she needs to concentrate on especially if he is on A's side..he actually can do physical damage.

  • MaschaC91 Aug 24, 2013

    Just have to say one thing: this episode was WEIRD. Maybe I should watch it again before the next episode. Can't wrap my hands around it yet. Feeling confused.. I don't know. It felt weak, but maybe if I watch it a second time, things will come to me, maybe I'll even like it. ;) Not my favorite episode, the line-dancing and cowboy clothing was just too much for my simple Dutch mind ;)

  • Alastor7800 Aug 23, 2013

    My favorite moment was Aria saying to Spencer that she has never put her boyfriend before her friends when it comes to fighting A. Considering that she's rarely involved in one of their plots and that her storylines are only about dating boys, I think we can say that she has a great sense of humor.

    But again the all episode was involuntary comical. I get that they want to do some embedded marketing sometime ("oh look it's insidious 2! let's watch it and talk about it for 5minutes even if it has nothing to do with this show!") but what is a 5 minutes synchronized dance supposed to advertise exactly? women shoes?

  • missemma Aug 22, 2013

    Hanna what were you thinking?!? You're my favourite Liar but you were super stupid this episode... why would you give Travis back that money right out in the open, now that he has given a statement to the police possibly exonerating her mum, I can just see the sort of blackmail photo and torture that A is going to set on Hanna now, will Radley have another inmate soon?? Just take a chill pill and listen to Caleb, he's the only reasonable person in the know with some perspective on the situation.

    Toby, Toby, Toby, when are you just going to disappear?!? I never liked you but now you are just a whiney bitch, can you go and die for real...I don't understand how you can keep drinking the A coolaide like it's a truth potion, you were part of the A team, really if you had half a brain you would not be trusting anything you get from A, you better not get Caleb in trouble with the cops cause of your issues.

    Aria is totally going to go back with Ezra, there will be several episodes with her 'battling' with her conscience over breaking things off with Jake but now that Malcolm and Maggie are out of the picture it's only a matter of time. Don't know why they branched off with this story, there could have been so much more fun/drama if Wes had tried to steal Aria away, even more so if it was to bring Ezra brokenhearted back to the family fold and then he dumped Aria's ass ASAP, so many missed opportunities.

    Emily....ugh no comment worthy, you are SO BORING!!

  • LadyJaye13 Aug 22, 2013

    Reading some of the other comments, what if Mrs. D is actually A. They put that whole her knitting a sweater thing at some point recently....and then we see A knitting...fairly obvious linkup BUT it would be really interesting if she had lost her mind and became a victim. Or she could already have been involved like Aria's dad was before Allie died. Just thoughts.

  • -H Aug 22, 2013

    CeCe is not 'Red Coat' but she's definitely 'A'? but not the 'A' that knows a lot about Toby's mom death?...Red Coat didn't lived in Ravenswood, so how did she 'magically' escaped despite all the stabbings? why would she 'hide' in that haystack anyway... at this point I'm more interested in the 'A' team motives than whoever they are.

  • inbar777 Aug 22, 2013

    First of all this episode had a lot of dancing in it and I ask myself why , why must we be exposed to this , this isn't glee people .

    Also jake "dead eyes" and aria how can I put this …I actually started to long for some ezria , the guy is usually a snooze fest but in this episode he just looked like a guy who's ready to snap , something is really wrong with that dude and I'm not even talking about the boots he bought aria which was more weird than romantic that's for sure but the guy has been leaving creepy vibes all over the place .

    Looks like hanna is going to have a new love interest, I kinda like the actor who plays travis but I will definitely miss caleb

    Have you noticed that aria's doll is shorter than the rest, A and his sense of humor also another useful fact he/she can knit somehow I really can't imagine ezra ( has to be member of the A TEAM)doing that. also the photo that A sent toby of that car did anyone notice it was parked next to a red barn much like the one Emily was locked in season 2.

    Also red coat hiding in the hay reminded me of the movie termors I kept waiting for red coat to jump out and eat one of the liars.

  • CaitlinRice Aug 22, 2013

    THANK YOU!!! I knew that freaking barn looked familiar and I couldn't remember what it was from!!!!

  • inbar777 Aug 22, 2013

    happy to help :)

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