Pretty Little Liars Season 4 Premiere Review: Same Lies, Different Season

Pretty Little Liars S04E01: "A Is for A-L-I-V-E"

Yes, the Liars have every right to be a little paranoid after suffering three seasons worth' of Mona shifting through her many personalities and torturing them with an organization and resources the KGB could only dream of. Of course, being with Mona mere hours after falling into an A trap where everyone almost died in a fire might put you on edge. These girls have every right not to trust the girl who's been challenging and manipulating them for the last—well, how long has it actually been?

But what I'm saying is that the Liars should look on the bright side. How awesome is it to have a buddy who knows everything about you and is desperate to get in your good graces now that you're all in the same boat? Did you see her get coffee and pastries and just rattle off everyone's orders? She has extra sets of your car keys in case you lose yours! She knows what you're thinking before you do because she's been psychotically stalking you for years! Even PRISM thinks she's been a little invasive!

Honestly, this version of Mona, the hyper-intelligent, reticent, unsocial-yet-determined-to-prove-herself-to-her-fellow-condemned version, is the kick in the tookus this series needed after letting Spencer close out Season 3 with a whimper. Supposing that Mona's honestly on the outside of the A Team now, we have an actual Bruce Wayne for our Batman analogy: Someone who's good with gadgets, can be popular and bubbly by day but calculating and ruthless by night, and pretty much made a name for herself in a black costume.

Makes you kind of wonder what the Liars are now that Mona is on their side? What can they do that Mona hasn't been able to accomplish with her inside information and doused-with-Chemical-X level of brainpower? Serve as bait?

One episode deep into Season 4 and that's basically what the Liars are: a playground upon which Mona gets to see the other side of the bullying. After so much bravado last season (particularly before Spencer withered into a pathetic wisp), the Liars seem to have lost their edge, backed into a corner by their antics. The disappointing thing is that no one seems to be learning any lessons.

The last message A sent them was "The truth will not set you free"—which, other than being one of PLL's few Biblical puns, rings more like empty intimidation in light of the sage rebellion Spencer exhibited in her mourning-for-Toby stage. Stop harboring secrets, and A will have nothing. Stop lying. Tell the truth. Call A's bluff.

Instead, they're playing into all the little traps, they have no vision as to how to protect themselves (wearing gloves while touching incriminating evidence shouldn't be considered "Hannibal Lector smart" at this stage), and they're grasping at the low-hanging fruit. At best, Mona is going to help step up their game. At worst, Mona's going to be dragged down by Ali's flighty friends.

Case in point: Everyone else seems to have their own non-A concerns, despite getting so close to Red Coat that they saw her face (and then immediately dismissed it because she looked like Ali). Emily wants to run away to California with Paige to escape A (because that worked out for J. Love in I Know What You Did Last Summer 2: I Know Harder). Hanna is one-track-minded on the video of her mom hitting Detective McCreeperson and not trusting Mona with the evidence. And Aria, as usual, is still struggling with her past abuse.

Season 4 is trying something new with Ezria: separating the two and addressing how hideously wrong it is that they were ever together. Moved-On Ezra is a lot easier to stomach than Pedo Ezra. He seems to be laughing a lot more, smiling for people, going to a stranger's funeral (seriously, why was he at Detective Creeperton's funeral?). Other than taking a job at Rosewood High (I guess Ravenswood isn't hiring), Mr. Fitz seems to be a lot more grown up than when he was doinking his student. And the situation has allowed Aria, for what seems to be the first time, to frame their relationship in terms of ethics and legality. She may have been in love, but coming out of the spell, she's realized she might have made a huge mistake. Seeing other people would probably be a good idea.

Spencer's still on the trail, like you knew she would be, and she's the biggest proponent of our Soap Opera Rules theory. Spencer's never seen a body, and she just saw a girl who looks just like Ali. If it looks like your manipulative best friend and you've never seen your manipulative best friend's dried-up old bones, then it might still be your manipulative best friend kickin' around and manipulatin'. Toby's let's-change-the-subject and girl-you-crazy conversation style whenever Spencer tries to speculate should make Spencer suspicious, since it's what he used to do when he was a Hoodie. But it's important to remember that Spencer is also the girl who basically built a bus from scratch in order to throw her friends under it last season, just so she could be with him.

But outside of those developments, "A Is for A-L-I-V-E" was a fairly mediocre season opener. PLL's premieres are where we look to see all the dominoes set up and, other than the clip of the Liars taking the police video from Wilden's car and A adding a new doll to her dollhouse, there's not much to the new dynamic or any new goals for the Liars to pursue. The objective remains the same: Find A in spite of our flighty dalliances with adolescence. The Liars don't seem to have any additional leads despite what should've been a very revealing season finale for them (even if it wasn't revealing for us), nor are the stakes any higher. I like that Mona is part of the team now, but everything else fell a little flat.


NOTES

– After watching just a few minutes of the episode, I asked myself, "How many ways are they going to pack DON'T TRUST MONA beats into the first act?" I'm glad it ended with Mona's coffee-run turnaround and my favorite line of hers for the whole night (referring to how she drove Emily's car without taking her keys): "Yeah, I have my own set."

– The game of Third Degree felt like a lot of fan service for people whining about not getting answers (the rest of us are jaded by The Island). So we took a spin through some important if not terribly enlightening details of the Liars' recent history. In case you missed any of it: Mona didn't get the Wilden's car out of the lake, but she did plant it at Hanna's house the time she learned about the video; Shana knew Jenna before she came to Rosewood and Mona thinks Shana's into Jenna; Shana and Jenna are both afraid of Melissa; Cece visited Mona at Radley and Mona thought it was Ali (she was on a lot of meds back then); Lucas gave Emily the massage in Season 2 ("Touched by an Angel"); Mona recruited Toby when he got the job in Bucks County; Mona didn't push Ian off the bell tower but she wishes she knew who did.

– Poor Creeperton McBadCop. Who's going to skulk around Rosewood now that the A Team has lost a good chunk of its Hoodies and Wilden's a dead pig? It's not going to be Holbrook, Detective Too Good to Be True. I do like how he addressed Wilden's take on professionalism as bordering on pedo-stalking, but Holbrook's going to end up dead or a bad guy, right?

– The wind blowing the tarp away from the body so everyone could gander at the corpse was classic Rosewood PD. They must get their training from the law enforcement on The Following.

– A certainly went through a lot of trouble finding five elementary school kids with uncanny Liars likenesses so they could carry around dolls and throw around the name "Alison." I mean, the casting, getting them all to live in the same place or at least agree to the story that they reside in the same trailer park as Mona's lair, and then depending on them to deliver their lines... that's some serious long-game commitment, my friend. She even gave them almost-inappropriate clothing to wear. Just like the Liars!

– Speaking of inappropriate clothes, is mesh over your cleavage enough modesty for a funeral?

– Ali's mom is a creepshow. There's something wrong with Mrs. D.

– Why can't Emily's parents be in the same place at the same time? Is there a two-parent limit per episode? And Creepy Mrs. D took up one of the slots? I noticed that we didn't see sick Ella or even hear tell about what Byron is up to.

– Did Ezra's advice to Aria sound like a reworded "you need to get under someone to get over someone," or is that just my bias toward him being the worst?

– So, in the middle of Aria's daydream nightmare, I figured out it was a dream because the principal said it was a felony for Ezra to date a student, at which point I recalled our ongoing discourse here about whether or not he was committing statutory rape when he was consecrating his bed (since the show is set in Pennsylvania, it turns out he wasn't). So I guess what I mean to say is, thanks for spoiling it with your stupid rational discussions, you guys. Way to go.

– Why did Hanna have her mom's phone?

– zOMG. That last shot of the Queen of Hearts looking into the mirror! Half of it was burnt off! We have our Two Face!

– I know I talk about Lost a lot and I'm trying to get into a program to help me quit. But it's interesting to look at the parallels between Mona and Ben Linus. Bringing a former adversary—one who's manipulative and has a history of hurting you—into your community is risky, but it makes for great storytelling.


What'd you think of the premiere?

Comments (62)
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Hanna doesn't have her mom's phone- the phone was with Wilden's corpse in the coffin. Hanna asks Spencer why she's calling from her mom's phone.
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Exactly! :)
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that was confusing
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Writers make up your mind on who you want A to be and what she wants to do... too much loose ends. If I remember correctly if red coat say if she's Queen bee A wants to kill them why bother to save Liars from the fire? And why during the finale there was supposed to be a party but no guests showed up? I'm still watching PLL but sometimes it's too silly *sigh*
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There never was a party. It was Spencer's idea to get the Liars in one place, under the pretense of a party at the lodge.
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love the premiere, I am getting more and more impressed with Ashley Benson she is amazing!!
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So the Pretty Little Liars season premiere stars .... THERE IS AN EFFING PIG IN THE TRUNK ? Nuff said
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Um, guys? I think the dead pig was meant to be symbolic of Wilden. Wilden's a cop? He's dead? Dead pig? You guys getting it? :)
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Yeah I get that , but you simply cannot resolve a cliffhanger and make the audience wait a couple of months to just see a dead pig regarding it's symbolism , it just doesn't work in my opinion . Specially after the letdown of the last season finale .
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How was it a letdown?
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I think the pig was there so that A could film the girls all guilty looking at the crime scene, while Wilden's body was under the pig's the whole time, since no one would bother to check a trunk with a dead pig inside. Then A removed the pig, left only Wilden and in the video it looks like they saw Wilden's body, since it's filmed from the front of the car, so there's no evidence of them actually seeing the pig, therefore making them look guilty for Wilden's death.
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Ikr?! The pig was such a let down! I expected there to be a body in the trunk instead of a dead pig. Then again, it did deliver a random WTF moment which is what PLL is good at doing.
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The last scenes of the ep were identical to the last scenes of the pilot (funeral, detective who seems to know the girls and wants to interrogate them, A text) ! I thought it was a shame and showed a lack of imagination :S. I loved the part where Mona revealed everything she did and knew and the "i got my own set of keys of your car" line was brilliant! It was nice to have a few answers for once, good job guys :)
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Am I the only one feeling let down?

Basically Mona is A, but she knows nothing. She doesn't know who killed Ian, she doesn't know who killed Garret, she doesn't know who drugged Aria....like really?

I just assumed she was responsible for apart of those things, but no? I mean, I'm just really confused. There's just so many things unexplained, and many things that don't make sense. Why did Toby join A claiming he was protecting Spencer, if Mona has never really done anything to physically harm the girls? Who tried to kill Spencer (steam room)/Aria (train) and what reasons did she/he have?

We still don't know anything! At this point, I'm ready to quit watching. Nothing exciting happened in the premiere. Shame on you PLL writers!
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you ever is RED COAT is the True "A" Toby join "A" was explained in the episode I do believe the "A" has his mother!! as for you tried to off Spencer and Aria IMO RED Coat now here is a bigger question what is going on with the TRIO of Jenna, Shana, and Melissa are they part of the "A" team or is one of them RED COAT or is the TRIO on a collision course with "A" and how will "A" respond!! IMO great episode
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she does know who drugged Aria, it was Wilden and Melissa. It's not new that there is a A team and not just one person behind all of this. And she did try to physcially harm the girls, she kinda ran over Hanna with a car! haha
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Meh, they didn't show Melissa's face on that video Mona had, so I'm inclined to believe she is lying until it's proven....

Still, we don't know why were they trying to kill Aria? What does she know?

There's just too many unanswered questions, and I'm growing tired of not knowing. I bet the writers don't even know who killed Alison or if she's really dead...lol <

And this is the 4th Season people! Enough is enough. :L
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I'm kind of in the same place as you. Tired of all those mysteries and secerets but can't quit watching! I'm sure they don't even know how they wanna end it but I had the very same feeling with Lost and loved it anyway, so why not ;)
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I spend the immediate aftermath of every episode wondering why I'm so freaking addicted to this show when it always seems like nothing happens. Then a day or two later I'm pissed a week hasn't already gone`by. So they either have fantastic subliminal messaging or I'm that in love with Keegan Allen, which seems like the more likely option.

Now I guess I can't be mad at the show's producers and writers because they did say we'd get answers they just didn't specify whether they were answers to questions we really cared about... That being said, I didn't hate this episode. I feel like they've had better premieres but I understand they can't put everything on the table right now. I am kind of excited to see how the whole dynamic with Mona lasts through the next few episodes.
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Man I love your recaps. Every episode is the same, one step forward and three steps back. Pain in the ass if you ask me.

Loved the Ben Linus reference, but he's still waaaaaaay creepier than Mona will ever dream to become.
Two things to add that I totally agree with: Hanna's cleavage and Detective Too Good to be Truth.

Again, I love your recaps!
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your right, Hanna's cleavage was kind of outrageous! Did you see her sheer skirt with denim shorts underneath??! haha Very funeral material :)!
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Her outfits are always a big wtf
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So Mona told Hannah that it was her in the Halloween train dressed as Caleb... was she walking on stilts? How on earth is that possible? Didn't Hannah realize that fake Caleb's height and built were completely different, especially when they were so close that they almost kissed? This show kills me, so stupid yet so fun...
Also, in my part of the world, if I wore THAT to a funeral I'm pretty sure they'd throw stones at me or something...
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I loved the "so close to having our first kiss" line. :)
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"Stop harboring secrets, and A will have nothing. Stop lying. Tell the truth. Call A's bluff."
Nice idea in theory, but the epsiode after they do all of that they'd have to cancel the show
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Dude, did I miss something?? Last I heard, Jason had vanished from a hospital bed after a near-death experience with A and an empty lift, and now suddenly he's in "The South" doing up old Mrs. D's house?
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preeetty sure she was lying
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Oh yeah I got that, but why did Emily ask in the first place? They were all there when he went missing from the hospital. He hasnt showed up since, but she just assumes he's fine, and asks his Ma where he is? In the town where everyone dies?
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because even after all the messed up stuff that happened to them, those girls are still naive teenagers :S. It's like "omg A was filming us while we were stealing from a dead detective's car??" of course she was!! duh!!!
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Is Ali a zombie? I STILL want to know what that shot of a hand rising from Ali's grave and then being pulled out was about. Hell; it's possible, considering PLL is getting a spinoff with a SUPERNATURAL premise. Maybe the liars will start working voodoo to take down A, or vice versa.
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oh yeah i forgot about that out of the grave shot! Maybe she isn't dead after all ! ^^
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Yes; maybe she's UN-Dead. ;O
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I can't believe the almost-kiss between Toby and Alison was not mentioned in the review. Or the fact that Toby was such a dork in the past... how did he go from geeky to creepy to sexy? I hope we get some more info on that back story. In all honesty I really enjoyed the season premiere despite the fact that the pig in the trunk was a HUGE disappointment. I felt that we got enough answers to keep us slightly satisfied and enough questions to keep the story going. I can't wait for the rest of the season!
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Even creepy Toby was sexy Toby in my opinion. I can even forgive Do Rag-Juvie Toby haha. :D
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Haha Juvie Toby was ridiculous in my opinion! They wanted to make him look badass so they had to put a gangster hat! haha!
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I think it was more along the lines of "Crap! He had loner kid hair then! We need to cover it up! Just give him a do-rag!"
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Hanna didn't have her mom's phone, Spencer did.
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yeah she did, "why are you calling me on my mom's phone?"
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Hanna had Hanna's phone. Ashley's phone was on Wilden's body. Spencer took Ashley's phone from Wilden's body. Spencer had Ashley's phone.
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It makes sense that Spencer had Ashley's phone, calling Hanna. I think Hanna's phrasing, "Why are you calling me on my mom's phone?", was a little awkward. Would've been clearer if she said, "Why are you calling me FROM my mom's phone?"
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I thought the new detective was just trying to seem more trustworthy than Wilden. Even if the dead cop's notes where borderline stalker creepshow, no competent cop would just dismiss those girls as victims and not possible suspects, given their involvement in literally all the fishy activity going on in this town. Then again, Rosewood PD definitely trained with The Following cops (brilliant comparison).
Overall, I liked the season premiere. However, I found it so frustrating when the Liars just kept on wondering who that woman in the lace veil was instead of going up to her, following her, trying to talk to her - anything instead of just talking about how strange she is. Come on girls, be more proactive.
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Team Mona and Spencer working together!!Either in order to take down A or working for her!I don't care!
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So worth the wait!The review not the episode!I liked half of it ,the other half was filled with wtf moments!
WTF were these girls wearing at the funeral?a)This is a small town and people talk and b) they were supposed to be undercover anyway i.e. try NOT to attract attention to themselves!
I like parallels and the pilot's similarity with the s2 finale was done well,but in this ep,this trick was poorly executed .There's a fine line between doing sth similar yet different to the 'original' episode and lacking imagination,therefore doing the same thing over and over again and as a result it feels forced .Mark my words:the next ep is going to be 'The Toby Thing'.
Are Toby's mom and Ali's mom 2 different people?They looked the same to me. Just ask 1 of them to color her hair,show!
The last scene with A:WTF!!!
Question:if Cece wore the red coat when she visited Mona,isn't it safe to assume she is the red coat girl and not Ali?So,she's the one who the girls saw in the s3 finale,too?
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i agree, i'm pretty sure red coat is Cece
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I think Pretty Little Liars is easy to enjoy if you just let the idea go that you will know who is Red Coat or Whether Alison is alive or it's her twin sister. This show has led us to believe Alison is alive or a ghost or someone else entirely. When I first started watching I was like everyone else looking for clues; but the show just dragged on with the mystery; every clue they have revealed has led to more secrets; more suspects and more deaths.

I was afraid that this show would go the way of Twin Peaks "Who killed Laura Palmer" or the huge outcry from viewers when the killer wasn't revealed in Season One. Most didn't watch the BBC version so they didn't know that's what happened in the original. However what made PLL stand out was the Liars and they're drama. It's just a soap opera with a mystery that leads to deaths that may gives us answers to at least who killed that person. What drew me in was Hanna and her Mother's drama of stealing money and man traumas. Aria and Ezra, Spencer habit of sleeping with men her sister had; Emily's lesbian drama, Jenna was great when she was relevant & blind and I always suspected Mona of being A or on the A team because her character had no relevance but was always in our face.

What I miss is when the liars where liars and a little slutty. Lying, stealing, cheating and manipulating, now they are victims that are A's puppets. Gone are the sassy chicks eagerly fighting back; now we just have them always one step behind A. Some of the stories have also dragged on; I was happy when I thought Ezra was getting locked up because he has committed statutory rape knowingly and Aria really needs a new love interest. Seeing it was just Aria imagining what was about to happen pissed me off. That means the story will continue to drag on going back to season 1 where he's teaching in her school and cue the sexual tension. (Totally bored)

Please let Hanna do something awful because she's gotten pretty boring and losing her boyfriend to the new spinoff so can we get her a new man stat. I like Mona and the tension she brings of is she good or bad. Jenna seemed as if she's the next to be bumped off or will it all be another twist.

Finally as the "Villains" continue to die off; they are quickly replaced Alison's mom, the new detective and I seriously think that Spencer's sister won't be as bad as we think she is; for now this is a show I still look forward too because I'm already mentally prepared we will not find out who A is until the final season; but you gotta give me some other drama to tied me over until then. What I saw last night was just signs of repeating some stories over again.
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Jenna asked the girls to tell Toby she was sorry she hurt him, in case something was going to happen to her. I think she meant that she LITERALLY hurt him, that she was the one who hit Toby in the head in the forest in ep 3x24. Maybe to keep him away from the fire? Melissa, Shana and Jenna obviously set the house on fire, but Melissa probably planned it all, while the two others were resistant. Maybe Jennas arm caught fire because she helped save the girls?
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First of all, what a let down with a pig being in the trunk. I thought I'd be in for a real surprise when I tuned into this episode of PLL. Oh well.
I like this new dynamic of Mona being with the Liars. I laughed when she said "Yeah, I have my own set." Although, when Mona was revealing all she knew, I couldn't even remember half of what she was talking about. Took me about five minutes to work out who Shana was and I still can't recall 'Lucas' massage'.
I've read a lot of theories of who could be behind the black veil. Cece? Red coat? Melissa? Psycho Meredith? Emily's girlfriend? Eh, who knows.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FLASHBACK OF TOBY AND ALISON? Um, are we just supposed to believe that he had a comb over and then grew his hair into a shaggy mess after Ali died? It made no sense to Toby's character at all.
I know that Ashley Benson dyed her hair brown at one point of filming and we were to expect a wig, but c'mon. IT LOOKED SILLY.
Overall, this was a pretty mediocre episode. Not what I was expecting at all. I was hoping to see my mouth in an O shape every minute, but instead it was just non-stop eye-rolling... as per usual.
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yeah the wig was way too noticable! It's like come on people, you have a budget right?! Why the hell are you using this lousy wig?? And those headbands and beret were as ridiculous!
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Yeah, I still don't know what the hell that Lucas massage was.
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It's from way way back. I had to sit there for a minute, then I remembered. Can't say I cared all that much about finding out who did that one.
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Yeap, just like the other forgettable things they said...
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Did anyone notice that both nights
The series' first episode when Alison went missing spencer was awake and she told the liars she can't find her anywhere
and in Season 3 the first episode when Emily went missing spencer was the already awake and she told everyone that she can't find Emily
now my favorite Liar is Spencer but that just seems fishy to me
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I wonder what they were trying to make us think by showing us Jenna's scar on her hand... Did she set that fire? Is she the half-burnt queen of heart? Or is Melissa responsible for it (and that's why she's scared of her)?
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Maybe it happened when she was blinded?
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Melissa is so "dirty" I even think she killed Ian herself!!
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I love Hanna....with her "Speak English!",her choice of clothes->wtf was she wearing around head?? I couldn't stop laughing.
I think Hanna destroyed her phone,no?
Moved On Ezra over Pedo Ezra...lol ! Ezra now has chance to hit any student,since,if not all,pretty sure some know about those 2 and may "blackmail" him,but he wouldn't put much of a fight.
Maybe Mona is a spy and she doesn't even know it. When Hoodie placed her doll inside,I thought message was,she's in.

Poor pig...why not just throw detective in trunk,no need for pig to be there.
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No episode of PLL is complete without at least one "WTF is Hanna wearing?!??!" moment. Someone could do recaps of just the weird stylists' choices for this show.
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There are several actually! I admit to reading them to pray they worn something I can afford that's still available haha.
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Agree about the thing around Hanna's head I thought "OMG the breakdance phase is back"
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I laughed at that like LOL WHAT IS SHE WEARING xD
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