Things you want: pizza, friends, lazy Sundays, puppy parties, accolades on a job well done, safety.
Things you don't want: poverty, bitter disappointment, to be hit with a sock full of quarters. And last on that list: Spencer Hastings coming after you with nothing to lose.
Time had come for one of the girls to break down. With everyone's everything caught in the balance of A's schemes, from the "caped crusaders" trying to rescue Hanna and Emily to Aria and Spencer's creepy men probably and definitely, respectively, party to a large-scale bullying plot against them, the Hastings girl was probably the last one that A wanted to come knocking on the door.
Someone's house is going to burn down by the end of the season.
Troian Bellisario was a different person in "Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Inferno," like a real human who didn't belong in Rosewood. Of the serenely perfect caught in the whispers of guilt and secrets, it's easy to look like the gritty, jaded bag lady in town: Just don't wear makeup and constantly say the things the audience has been thinking for years. In the world of PLL, that's tantamount to wearing a tinfoil hat and pooping on the sidewalk.
I'm glad it's Spencer for so many reasons. While disillusionment would suit each Liar differently (Hanna would clumsily try to get even, Emily would come off pouty, Aria might kill an actual bird with her bare hands), Spencer is the only one who seems like an actual threat to A's evil empire. Technically, she always has been, what with her obsessive nature sucking the other girls back into the fold from their coital distractions, though their stumbling two steps behind A has never amounted to getting the better of their enemy.
That's why Spencer's breakdown is so interesting. It gives her new purpose. The fact that she has nothing to lose (her family is absent, Melissa might be in on everything, Toby is a hoodie, Mona is chief decathlete) means she has new perspective on tackling her A problem. What's left to expose for Spencer? She was right when she told Aria that, hey, maybe if they stopped lying and keeping secrets from everyone, A wouldn't have anything to fuel the witch-burning. She even went a step further: "I think we should stop blaming A for everything that goes wrong in our lives and start blaming ourselves." Aria's counter: A is not their tough-love life coach.
Allow me to digress on that topic. In the beginning, there were times when A did seem like a life coach, just someone that wanted the Liars to unburden themselves of all the dark secrets they harbor and to keep them humble. It was always in the worst way possible (there's no need to make a former fat girl shovel cupcakes into her mouth), but it progressively got more malicious and mean-spirited as the bullying continued to the iteration of A we're under currently—one that actively hurts, maims, and kills people. Is A your tough-love life coach, Aria? Maybe in another time s/he was.
Back to my point, however, of Spencer's breakdown being interesting. It was an act of contrition. She actively said, "Maybe we deserve it." While coming to terms with how she was sleeping with the enemy, A transformed from a faceless sociopathic entity to something more nuanced and capable of reason. If Toby could be part of it, how bad could it have been? That's flawed thinking, since Toby is a creepshow, but the admission that there might be a lesson here to learn was a different direction for the girls. It led to Spencer re-examining her options and reaching out for help beyond the resources of her softheaded friends.
In fact, this episode was full of honest acts betraying their Liar titles. Emily and Aria put their heads together and realized, after a brief visit from our MIA Watermelon Baby boutique owner Cece, that maybe they shouldn't just hold on to every piece of evidence, that it's time to incorporate other agents of justice—the professional ones—to help out. When Hanna showed up and questions Emily's motivation, she replied that she was doing so because she can end this. It's no longer about containing the damage caused by their bully. It's about ending it altogether and going on the attack though less sketchy means than their DIY bumbling. How were they to know that Wilden might be in on it, too? Oh, right, because he has a penis.
But even Hanna, after she returned home from her lesbian bar adventure, was incredibly forthcoming about her actions and motivations. She spilled on everything just short of A still being around and kicking, but that much information without playing the skulky get-out-of-my-beeswax teenager was a nice change of pace. Combine that with Aria's act of faith last week by burning the diary pages to show she believed Byron and you have some girls who might be all growns up. Well, they still look like babies, but at least they're making some progress.
– Why can't Emily's mom and dad be in the same house at the same time? Wait, when was the last time we saw them together? Hmm.
– Aria wants to know whether Meredith can be treated at a facility far, far away. Of course not, silly. That girl is going right to Radley for lessons in going from cray to criminally cray.
– That flashback to juvenile hall was ridiculous. Why was Toby dressed up like Prison Mike?
– Spencer was full of good points. Why should you care about Ali? The more you talk about her, the more horrible she seems. She blackmailed everyone, treated people like garbage, and cultivated an abrasive personality so poisonous that it passed on to people by mere association. What are you all honoring here?
– It's not often I get to talk about good acting on this show with so, so many laughable, embarrassing, awkward performances (I'm looking at you, Detective Wilden). Troian Bellesario, however, nailed that I-want-to-get-out-of-the-car-but-I'm-still-crying-put-on-my-makeup-let's-go-no-I'm-crying-again scene. But the award for best performance goes to Ashley Benson and her "I'd have it made if I were gay" adventure. The information gleaned from her story could've been expressed in ten seconds but, if the writers had been more ruthless about what went into the episode, we wouldn't have gotten to see all those examples of the things that make Hanna great: accepting the Flirtini, going into stealth mode, handing over her ID knowing full well she was going to get kicked out. And then afterward, Hanna's mom: "What's a pink drink? Is that code for something gay?" Beautiful.
– I love that, even at a young age, Byron and Ella thought Aria was flighty enough to walk right into the fireplace.
– There was a time when I would've cheered for Ezra ditching Aria on the street. But now it smacks of Toby leaving Spencer a while back and it doesn't feel as sweet. He's still creepy and probably the worst member of the A Team—if he is, in fact, among them. I kind of hope he is for his sake. Without criminal insanity, he's just awful. So awful.
– Blowtorch to Hanna's bobblehead? That seems unnecessary. But good news: It looks like someone made a design for Pretty Little Liars Bratz dolls!