Pretty Little Liars "Turn of the Shoe" Review: Dead Birds Sing No Phone Numbers

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Pretty Little Liars S04E02: "Turn of the Shoe"

Why are they foisting Jake on us? He went from kind of douchy impediment for Aria meeting up with Holden to possible rebound love interest in impossible time. From the short time we've spent with him so far, he's been only a machine for delivering the kind of on-the-nose but unknowingly poignant jokes adults not in the know (read: Ella) make about the situations the girls are in. And it seems like they really want us to want them to be together even though (1) he's awful and (2) that would set some sort of land speed 'shipping record.

Love Boat holds all the 'shipping records by sea.

I'm not saying that I miss Ezria, obviously. Because I think Ezra and Aria are better for each other as characters and for my stomach apart. Ezra has given off a far less pedo vibe in these two episodes (his time with Spencer is only marred by the context of history, not by what he actually does) and Aria is finally getting into a storyline that doesn't lean heavily on a man.

But at least with Ezria, particularly in the beginning when there was still the element that Ezra might not be a total creepshow and wrestled ethically with dating his student, there was some sort of electricity and a build. Ezra and Aria sat at the bar and talked about their hopes and dreams and it made that leap from two strangers ignoring the fact that Aria was at a bar to a couple of good-looking kids rounding bases in a bathroom possible. Banter: the lifeblood of this show that makes it more palatable.

But this Jake character. He can only be really lame and fizzle quickly as an ephemeral distraction while Aria learns some story-important self-defense or a doom that we'll roll our eyes at during every appearance. I'm really hoping for the former. If only because I want to see Aria cut A down with a karate chop and don't want to see another Rosewood creepster squirm his way into the cast. We have enough, thank you.

Jake aside, the episode itself was a bit more satisfying than the season premiere, mostly because we're starting to chug on some important themes for the season. At least we can hope. Aria taking self-defense because she views herself as the new weakest link, the "smallest" one, is a nice way to (hopefully) begin to focus on her instead of with whom she is creating sacred ground. Spencer has to finally deal with the fact that the events of being bullied and chasing a phantom who turned out to be partially teamed by her boyfriend is taking a toll on her academic standing. Emily and Paige continue to develop their hare-brained scheme to not only get into the same elite school on a full-ride for swimming (when was the last time Paige swam?) but will also get a cute dorm room together. And Hanna. Well, Hanna just continues to be the best.

Hanna's always been awkwardly and awesomely confrontational, so telling off Shana with absolutely no provocation is par for the course. I also really like how Hanna swipes the parrot to show her friends and then just leaves it with Spencer but she couldn't be bothered to take care of it (or just take it back to Jessica's place). But now she also has to tangle with the fact that her mom is implicated with Rosewood conspiracy, what with her muddy heels and general ambivalence to glee that Wilden is dead. Ella and Ashley seemed to be the last on on this Ali Wagon for Rosewood Grown-Ups, and, since the Halloween episode where Ashley saw dead people (maybe), we've been waiting for some amount of guilt to rain on the Marins. It was either going to be guilt or Ashley was going to start her own spin-off where she becomes a medium.

Of course, Ashley's guilt might just be because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, victim to A's ever-expanding bullying portfolio. As we watch her tap out texts and reacquaint herself with her OTP, all the wine, you get the feeling she's probably involved in some way with Wilden's demise but that she isn't an independent agent.

While the dominoes are slowly being put up, I'm still missing what I hoped would be the end result of having Mona within the Liars' clique: Liars on the attack. Other than Hanna confronting Shana to the soundtrack of Aria's embarrassed pleas, everyone is still quietly suffering A's lingering presence. Some of that has to do with the group not trusting Mona still and I applaud the show not dismissing the deep-rooted mistrust. But what does Mona have to do to win them over? Even getting strangled seems like it could be a ploy if you think about it. The fact that A is basically supernatural doesn't help the belief that everything about Mona's victimization is staged. My hope is that something happens soon so that Mona can be fully incorporated into the Liars system and she starts to put together a plan of attack while Spencer lays it all out in snack food.


NOTES

– Part of me looked at Spencer stacking French fries and carrots and wanted to tell the Other Liars Brain Trust, "Spencer's being weird. Shut up, you guys! This could be worth something!" But then I realized that, to them, Spencer is probably always a little weird. Especially post-Arkham.

– "We never saw a body!" Yes, Hanna. Yes. And it looks like Mrs. D didn't, either.

– Hanna calls the Mobile Lair (Mona's RV) the Hatemobile. More and more Batman-like references.

– The quote on the blackboard behind Ezra is from The Grapes of Wrath: "How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him—he has known a fear beyond every other." This reminds me of the Spencer with nothing to lose and it makes me sad to see her basically gone. I miss those crazy eyes.

– "It's good to have a second choice even if your heart is set on something else." At first, this seemed like actual wisdom from Ezra and a relief that he's moving on from jailbait Aria, possibly doing some work to help repair his character. But the context of his history then made it seem like he might be hitting on Spencer. I don't think he was. I'm just saying I could see how one would think that. Ezra wouldn't know what to do with Spencer.

– To be honest, I figured the pills Emily took would lead to a drug test and some repercussions from the school. But I suppose prescribed painkillers probably aren't banned substances. I definitely didn't expect that I would be cringing at the sound of hitting your head against the pool. Ick. Also: What was up with the swimmer POV cam?

– You have to hand it to Pretty Little Liars for trying its best to make a 15-year-old holding her breath feel dramatic. It was still the silliest manipulation Ali has attempted over the course of the show. But they tried their darndest.

– How many of you thought, when the bird went missing, that it was Aria? Show of hands. I did. I figured we were going to see a nice pair of feather earrings and a beak necklace next week.

– Why does Aria think she needs to school Mona on A? Mona was A. I think that gives her a little more insight into what she can do or say with A's spies watching. Go back to your kick-punch-kiss class, Aria.

What'd you think of "Turn of the Shoe"?

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