Pretty Little Liars "I'm Your Puppet" Review: One of Us, One of Us

Pretty Little Liars S03E23: "I'm Your Puppet"

After witnessing Malcolm's adventure, I think there are three things we need to teach our young people: (1) how to eat an ice cream cone without getting it all up in your chin bandage, (2) laughing that hard at marionettes only encourages them, and (3) you've gotta have just a little bit of stranger danger.

I'm just saying that a boy should be concerned if his heretofore unseen caretaker eats popcorn while wearing leather gloves. Why do the hoodies insist on eating the greasiest food possible while wearing the gloves? That's a red flag to me and should've been a cause for alarm to Caleb's son—I mean, Ezra's son—Malcolm.

Even though "I'm Your Puppet" was the penultimate episode of the season and we should be concentrating on all the things PLL did this week to set the table for the two-hour finale next week (and we will), I would be remiss not to at least call attention to how funny this episode was. I mean, even Emily had a laffer ("Cars don't float. If they did, pilgrims could've driven here.") and she's the Official Liar Stick-in-the-Mud of late.

The one-liners seemed to rain down during the first half-hour. Hanna had her usual comedic attention ("Where do you sell a hot bell anyway?") with Aria pouring it on with the melting comment. Interestingly, Emily's best role on the show is of the straight man, someone to ground the scenes, the Moe to Aria and Hanna's Shemp and Larry. And then remember that line about Em and Shana and "Ex and the City"? Okay, so they weren't all winners.

But that's the classic Pretty Little Liars rope-a-dope. The show lulls us into a false sense of vaudevillian security before showing us a dead body used as a tool for A's terrorism. I'd like to know who created that mask before PLL appropriated it, who thought that was a charming thing to wear for a costume gala rather than a deeply frightening item on s a base and animal level.

While Aria and Hanna certainly had their own troubles with A this week, they were mostly man-troubles that were easily resolved (and basically were by the end of the episode). The Liars left holding the loose ends are veterans, the deserving-of-attention Spencer and the shocking upstart Emily.

Emily is the new driving force for external A investigations. She's the one who pushed them to use the Candystriper guise (which seemed like it was ripped right out of Barney Stinson's playbook) to get a picture of the dead body and politely suggest that her mother give her information about whatever the police found out from sifting corpses from the ground.

My first instinct was to roll my eyes at how the show rolled Em's Toby arc into this season after only hints and subtle suggestions that the two were still friends after he figured out his abs were not going to help him infiltrate the group through Emily. But after coming to the understanding that she changed her life under his watch, it's understandable that Em needs to see this through, and it shows great restraint on the writers' part not to spell it out for us like we're dimwits. Emily never said she was looking for Toby's body because she needs to know just as badly as Spencer. I don't think it'll break her like it did Spence (insert shot of Emily sipping brown liquor alone at a kitchen table), but I do think Toby is a relevant motivation. And, let's face it, Aria and Hanna aren't leading the charge of anything.

But, as has been the case for the past few weeks, Spencer was the one who revealed, unraveled, and acted the most. In one fell swoop, she: figured out Mona's game, uncovered Mona's secret stash of escape products, implicated Cece "Mother of Bruce" Drake even more deeply in the schemes designed against herself and her friends, made Wren more of a villain than his usual child-smooching grossness does, and placed Melissa among the ranks of those accused of treachery. Seriously. All of that just from knocking the head off a rocking horse.

The thing that will make tongues wag, though, was Spencer pulling out a black hoodie of her very own. Through an audio flashback, we put it all together that Spence accepted Mona's offer to join the A-Team. It's no wonder that she was willing to join up. What is her life right now but a shattered image of what she thought it used to be? It probably wasn't a surprise to many of you that Spencer signed on, though her motivations are questionable. Is this clearly the next step for her in order to find a way to be close to Toby again (assuming Emily's proto-evidence was enough to cast a shadow of doubt over what Spencer saw), or is this just a way for her to bring the A Operation down from the inside?

It's her hoodie hug that makes me wonder if it's as much the former as it is the latter. In any case, it'll be interesting to watch her transform from victim to bully, both physically (watching her don the hoodie and gloves for the first time) and narratively (you have to assume torturing Aria, Hanna, and Emily is, like, 83 percent of what associates of The A Corporation, LLC, do with their days, and Spencer handing down that punishment will be something to watch).

Just as much as loved ones are being used as puppets in A's game against the Liars, they're being used as puppets against us. The story is being wielded in a way that prevents us from being able to surmise what's going on or what next week will bring us. I wouldn't even put it so far past the show to treat the gloves or the hoodies as a metaphor, a symbol that whoever's wearing them is one of the unidentifiable minions we can't see because a hand would reveal too much. Maybe the gloves aren't supposed to be actual gloves but purely a way to keep the mystery going, the equivalent of blurring out a person's features. Probably not, though. Probably they're purely to annoy me.

I'm looking forward to the finale next week and have no idea what to expect. I like that.


– It's weird that Spencer didn't just mention how she knew it was Toby. "The tattoo, you guys. It's the tattoo. That's how I know." Seems simple enough.

– Shana still trying to get it from Emily. It's almost like A says, "Well, that Toby thing really blew up, huh? It's what we get for trying to saddle the only person in this group who asks questions. Egg on our faces." Now they're preying on poor Emily. Poor, gullible Emily. But, to be fair, Shana is pretty foxy and convinced an Olympic swimmer to make her way out to Rosewood. That ain't free, Em.

– I didn't say anything about Ezra and his creepy habits earlier so people could read this review and not feel like I was maligning, disparaging, or otherwise indicating my malice toward this fictional character. What I will say about Ezria being on the outs is HA HA HAHA HAHAHAHA. It's the first smart decision Aria's made in quite some time. And, in case you were worried about Malcolm, it's probably okay that Aria is leaving him alone with Ezra and Maggie. Ezra only seems interested in girls between puberty and age eighteen. Malcolm should be just fine as long as he doesn't listen in on any tutoring sessions. "When a teacher and a student love each other very much… "

– Eddie, I like you. "Hey, sunshine" is the phrase of the good guy to a nice lady. Please don't turn out to be a creepshow.

– The apothecary/plague doctor mask at the Scuro Carivale ("Dark Carival"):

...possibly our new favorite villain, Wren?

– The Lying Game Season Finale Review [spoilers ahead for a show that's not PLL. If you're planning to catch up, you should skip this bullet point entirely]: Oh. Em. Gee. Did you see how Cordilia is actually Sutton's mom? And Sutton knew about it the whole time!? At least it didn't take eight miserable seasons for us to find out who the mother is? Oh! HIMYM burn! And that marriage! Talk about unholy matrimony, am I right? Sorry that no one reviewed The Lying Game this season. It's just that no one asked about it. Oh well.

– Did they choose Faust just for the "deal with the devil" joke while Spencer looked at her two tickets? Are we to believe that Spencer was the one who picked Malcolm up from karate?

– "Oh, honey. You didn't even know me when you knew me." Ali is particularly condescending and Southern grandmother-y when she shows up in Spencer's dreams.

– Fake Rish was just plain outclassed by Troian Bellisario in that Radley scene. Mrs. Hastings needs to just head back to Europe.

– I was hoping for buried treasure, not basic board-game maps and a window with a janky latch. I wanted to see the doubloons A uses to fund this operation.

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