Pretty Little Liars "Love ShAck, Baby!" Review: Why Are We Doing This Again?

By Nick Campbell

Jan 15, 2014

Pretty Little Liars S04E15: "Love ShAck, Baby!"

Hanna made a decent point near the middle of the episode as the girls trudged through a forest on their way to the cabin that hopes to house their collective demise one day. She's biased because Alison's diary holds a secret-secret she doesn't want anyone to know but she was the first one to say that the "creative non-fiction with pseudonyms" doesn't bring them closer to Ali. This all-important journal, this supposed sight into the inner-depths of Alison, seems less like a collection of clues to help restore order in their cursed hamlet and more like damnable evidence against their current reason for being.

Ali is the worst and everyone knows it despite their varying levels of denial. Pretty Little Liars is a topsy-turvy, wholly unbelievable soap-iverse, but the most rational, logical realization any of these ninnies have come to during season 4B, maybe even the series, is that they need to start questioning why on this green earth they are trying to bring this harpy back into their lives. It was one thing when they were trying to find Alison's killer; now that they know she's alive and bouncing around town in a flight pattern to come home, they really need to re-evaluate.

Alison's diary has been A's working document for a reason. She kept a record of every terrible secret everyone had and cast her friends and family as silly, pedestrian characters in a tapestry rich with insulting language. It's the jackpot for someone looking to bully just like Alison bullied. Did you see her with Fat Flashback Hanna? It was almost like a cherub-faced military drill sergeant dressed in pink. Break her down by amplifying her embarrassment (accentuating that Hanna would let Mike, of all people, round a base or two with her on the couch) and then heaping on some guilt to top it off (Aria's brother! She's going to be furious!). Then build her back up by swearing to keep the secret because friendship, while making sure to snipe at the end by telling her she'll find love, it'll just happen later than it does for everyone else because she's a fatty. I get that Fat Hanna isn't the Hanna we know now. Fat Hanna had no spine, no self-esteem, no zingers. But you have to look back on those fresh wounds and think to yourself, "What the heck am I chasing here?"

You have to assume the reason that they're still chasing this dream is the same reason Walter White and Jesse Pinkman kept cooking meth. Alison being alive doesn't mean the search for answers to Ali's posthumous mysteries stops. It just becomes a humous search rather than a posthumous one. It's everyone's will to keep going. Not one of them has a tenable future right now. No one has a goal they're working toward. Ali's life and her life after death and her return from death are collectively the vacuum of their individuality through which they all pass. They move only by inertia.

Not that I'm trying bring you all down or anything. But these girls' lives are kind of pathetic and depressing. Spencer is dealing with an invasion into her life by the House of D as she contends with Papa Hastings and Mrs. Di Laurentis having secret talks (does Jason know?), which she immediately thought was about Pop-pop getting some afternoon delight. Aria is nailing her baby-faced teacher again, despite the abs she's supposed to be dating (is Jake on some extended karate tour or something?), and in spite of the fact that said teacher is almost certainly involved in the syndicate out to destroy her. Emily is apparently an orphan now. And Hanna is dealing with the fallout of #Haleb.

But if things are looking up for anyone, it's Hanna, who might have a brand-new boyfriend with Caleb chasing ghost tail. Travis is back like we knew he would be once they finalized the split. He's got that blue-collar, down-home charm that seems to be just the grounding Hanna needs as she deals with the fact that she was left for something that goes boo in the night. But at least it's something. At least Travis hasn't been implicated in the Rosewood sin that's been going around. Well, mostly. I mean, everyone's been touched a little bit. Phrasing.

For the small light in Hanna's life, I'm trying to ignore the fact that Ezra (skulking around like EzrA) just rummaged through her bedroom like a mobster henchman trying to deliver a message. In the past two episodes, the writers have really turned on the creep in Ezra. I'm surprised he doesn't just wander the streets telling strangers he doesn't care if it hurts and that he wants to have control. The show is going to run out of doorways from which he can glower at the girls and windows for him to peek through.

It's almost surprising how PLL is letting Ezra incriminate himself after pulling back on everyone who turned out to be a villain. Mona would disappear for long periods of time rather than have us see what she was up to. Toby would also disappear. But with Ezra, we're seeing all the dirty stuff he's involved with. All of that should stink of red herring to me, but he's going so deep that I'm having trouble seeing how the writers could backpedal him out of this. Although, as we all know, I also don't think it took much for him to turn heel, since he's been a creepshow the entire series.

But this week they had him listening to a recording of Alison. He was desperately snooping through the purse of a teenage girl (who's also reading The Tempest for what class?) and possibly hacking things through her computer. And I already mentioned the glowering. He's almost too A to be A. But what other angle does Ezra have to be really interested in getting his hands on the diary, having villain-to-villain talks with Mona, and keeping a cabin with a trapdoor under his bed that isn't being at least a Hoodie in the A Army? A desperate need for lip gloss, a friendly conversation scored deceptively, and a good old-fashioned sex dungeon? I'm open to suggestions.

Whatever Ezra's deal is, the fact is that the Liars are a bunch of characters who've lost themselves in the mystique of Alison Di Laurentis. During that break after Alison disappeared and a body (well, I guess) was found, they all seemed to be on track for something: Spencer was going to crush school and head off to Penn, Emily was going to crush sports and some lady hearts; Aria was going to crush reading books and any small birds that could provide feathers for her jewelry. And now look where they are: They're husks of they're former selves, defined solely by the mystery of what happened to their horrible friend so long ago. You were better than that, ladies.


– "You chose this." Emily's disdain for Alison might be the most refreshing thing about Emily. The fact that she's leading the charge for forgetting about Alison now that they know she's alive almost makes me have faith in her as a character. And the fact that her accusations that Alison chose this life of bullying and running might turn out to be slut/victim-shaming makes it almost compelling.

– "Wow, that is so me of you." Spencer shined in this episode as much as anyone could in what seemed like a depressing melange of broken-down liars. From her kudos on Emily's obsessive organization to challenging her father when he definitely wanted her to cool it ("Yes, father") to hollering at a grieving mother to stop trying to seduce said father, Confrontational Spencer is one of my favorite Spencers, after Nuthouse Spencer and Shawn Spencer. And she did it all while wearing suspenders hanging from her waist. (What was that?)

– Ezra's chalkboard quote of the day: "It is one thing to mortify curiosity. Another to conquer it." That, as you might have guessed, is from Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, specifically the part where a friend of Jekyll's receives a deathbed package from one of their mutual friends which almost certainly contains untoward gossip about Jekyll, but the friend refuses to read it, trying his best to not think about what the letter contains and, instead, trying to hope for the best while suspecting the worst. It's a complicated emotion I'm not sure Aria is capable of having. Poor Suzy Clueless.

– Oh, right. Cece is still a thing.

– When Spencer called out Mrs. D for being a tramp, one of the women at The Brew was reading Confessions of a Hater, a book about an unpopular girl at a new school finding her college-aged sister's high school diary with everything she needs to know about becoming popular, which includes being horrible. Probably no connection here.

– Emily to Hanna: "This isn't spring break."

– Ashley's call that broke Ezra loose in the house: one of Ezra's lackeys/associates?

– The Liars remembered to take umbrellas with them?

– Aria hiding her naughties when they got into Ezra's cabin skeeved me out something awful. It skeeved Emily out, too.

– That "as long as you live under my roof" line from Papa Hastings had "Spencer moving in with Toby" written all over it. Loophole and now Spencer is going to talk to Mrs. D ALL DAY.

– How did we have an episode titled "Love Shack" and not even once did I hear "Rock Lobster"?

– Your Moment of A: Apple on the desk, diary by his side, and watching A hack into the computer in Emily's car. Technology was the worst thing to happen to these girls. Think of how much quieter their lives would be without cell phones being like portable bullies and the internet being the anonymous mechanism fueling their torture. I would say they should all just move out into the country and become Luddites if that didn't also sound like the beginning of a horror movie.

What'd you think of "Love ShAck, Baby!"?

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  • ohnoron Jan 19, 2014

    I'm just delighted by the arrested Development reference in this review. It made me happy :-)

    Ezra's sooo obvious, no way. It's probably still all Alison, that'd be interesting...

  • vcivi Jan 16, 2014

    I don't think Ezra is A, but working for someone, same person who Ali is so afraid off...
    I thought this episode Emily was really agressive...

  • ConnieTaylor1 Jan 16, 2014

    I stopped believing Ezra was A when he started looking thru Hanna's stuff.,,, A doesn't do his/her own dirty work..... That's what minions are for...

  • loomis8813 Jan 16, 2014

    My question is why didn't they take more things from A's lair or at least take 100s of pictures? Only Hannah had the sense that it my be useful to grab a few things. I don't remember anymore, but why did they leave the lair in the first place? For being so tormented by A for so long they seem to not actually be that concerned about A's identity or taking precautions. After all these years if their car broke down in the middle of the woods, wouldn't there first thought be A?

    I agree with the review about Allison. Even after all of this time, Ali holds real power over the girls. They still fear her and the revelation that she's alive seems to have brought a lot of their old insecurities back to the surface. In a way they have never had time to fully move on from her death/disappearance, and I think that as they have looked into the past they have begun to really question Ali as a person and question their relationship with her. They seem to be struggling with the question of wether or not they even want her to return and be back in their lives. She is still their friend but they have realized that she is also a crazy sociopath, who may not have cared about them in the first place.

    I think the show has too much going on right now, and needs to dump some of the extraneous plots. Jake, Toby's mom, for example. It would be neat to see them take it in a new direction (like Allison returning back to civilization and rejoining the group). It's tiring watching characters who are clueless. I have found that I stopped caring about most of the mysteries and even have a hard time trying to keep them all straight.

  • chris17blue Jan 16, 2014

    Bottom line: I'm just never going to like Hannah. No matter how many scenes of "poor", "fat" and "desperate" Hannah they feed us. I can never like the person that she has become. She's just as bad as Alison USED TO BE.

    Emily to Hanna in 1x14
    : “Why are you dancing with Lucas? … You’re torturing him. You know he worships you and you’re never going to look at him that way. … Alison did the same thing to me. Makes you feel powerful, huh? … It’s too bad she’s not here tonight. Alison would have been really proud of you.”

    Yes, let's all forget about the fact that she bullied a boy who is in love with her, a boy that she made feel worthless. (because of selfish reasons) And please don't tell me that she didn't have a choice, she had a choice. She chose to torture this boy over her mother not going to prison. Lesser of 2 evils right? *le sigh* She's nothing like Alison ... (lmao)

    Let's all forget that Hannah keeps mistreating her friends. Tells them to "shut up", straight up ignores them and she makes them feel worthless.

    Let's forget that she slapped Jenna (who was blind at the time) so hard that her glasses flew right off her face ...

    Also let's forget about the fact that she keeps referring as other girls as bitches. (same as Ali)

    But yes, let's all just forget and ignore that, grab your pitch forks ladies and gentlemen and let's demonize Alison once again ...

    Because God forbid anyone says something bad about Hannah. She can do no wrong. She's a saint.

  • BellaBellini Jan 15, 2014

    I'm extremely conflicted about the possibility of Ezra being A. I love Aria and Ezra's relationship. Yes, I know it's technically wrong and is probably a bad influence on teen viewers. But I'm an adult and Pretty Little Liars is a guilty pleasure for a reason dammit! If Ezra is A, then Ezria will be over forever :(

    On the other hand, PLL is a million times more exciting now that Ezra is A. I was genuinely shocked by the reveal last season. I don't expect PLL to shock me anymore. So more of that please. Ian Harding is also doing a great job playing a villain. He amuses me, terrifies me, and makes me sad at the same time. #PoorAria

    But we all know the real villain is Marlene King. EzrA could be a red herring. I don't want him secretly working to protect the girls in some way. That would be super lame, even though I'm an Ezria fan.

    I also saw a theory that he's really writing a book about the liars and is just being a creepy researcher. That would be boring and disappointing as hell. And wasn't that already done on Gossip Girl? I can't remember because Gossip Girl was so boring.

  • chris17blue Jan 15, 2014

    Too much Ali hate in review. Sorry, I disagree with everything said about her.

  • LadyJaye13 Jan 15, 2014

    Ok this whole episode was just stupid. Dear writers can we please let the Hanna Caleb breakup digest before giving her a new and totally obvious love interest? No seriously! What is with all of them having to be in a relationship ALL the time?

    Finally Emily does something other than pout and look confused and actually suggests that it makes no sense for them to still be into this but then she runs off to meet Ali? WTF?

    Ezra is so not A. This is just a red herring and I can feel it being a clunker of a in it will suck.

    Spencer is not a hero for the way she talked to her dad. He may be doing something shady but what teenager is allowed to talk like that? At least we see she practices on her parents before mouthing off to her friends and strangers.

    Why do we care that she gets carsick when reading? This must be an upcoming something.

    This show is chasing its tail right now. Just outfits, posing and one liners. Very little sense.

  • TVmakesmehappy Jan 16, 2014

    I'm thinking they mentioned Spencer getting carsick as an explanation for why she took pics of the diary, presumably so she could read it later. So now that they don't have it anymore, they'll probably find another clue in the pages that Spencer took pictures of.

  • LadyJaye13 Jan 16, 2014

    Ok, that's a good point. I was feeling really lousy about the last episode so I didn't think that way. That makes sense. :)

  • nikavajnhandl Jan 15, 2014

    I think he's helping Alison. She wants her journal back, he got it for her. She wanted to show the A room, and Ezra got pissed when he figure out girls didn't found out there what they've should.
    Maybe (ok, probablly) this is the lamest theory ever, but still:)

  • nick218 Jan 15, 2014

    Except he didn't get it, A did. It never showed Ezra being the one who took it, it just hinted it was him. A sent a message about having the journal, so if Ezra ends up having it it would strongly point to him actually being A, which he isnt!

  • sarahmoore84 Jan 15, 2014

    Doesn't anyone else think there may be some tie with Rosewood and Ali? Or even Ezra? I hate that they took Caleb... makes PLL border on supernatural. Poop.

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