How Spencer continues to be the best, I don't know. But the rest of the Liars really helped her out this week by lowering the bar of excellence.
While Spencer continued her descent into conniving madness, the rest of the group was not only judgmental (Emily) but also participated in sitcom level antics (Aria, Hanna). And then Spencer jumped on Mona and tried to choke her out.
Of the non-Spencer stories, Emily's was easily the most annoying, mostly because Emily was at her most annoying. I expect that moral browbeating from, well, Spencer, but I don't exactly feel it's appropriate for Emily to huff and puff about exploring sexual boundaries, particularly since Andrew is one of the least suspicious men in Rosewood and Paige tried to drown Spencer. I hear you, Em, this isn't like the Spencer Hastings you know, but take Hanna's advice and cut her some slack.
Her storyline was made more frustrating as she became a passive played in the theater of exposition. Emily's basic trait as a passive character makes her a relative ghost as it is, but we basically could've followed Jason searching for the photo after her hot tip and not missed her at all. The message from A (about Jason needing booze for later) was weak foreshadowing even by A's standards, and I could've done without Emily's whimpering while trying to climb out of the elevator, particularly since normally a physical challenge for an athlete like her shouldn't pose too much of a daring obstacle. What happened to our stoic Emily from when Paige was freaking out? I didn't mind the panic after the elevator fell, but shaking like a leaf when faced with the task of sliding out seemed inconsistent.
But at least Emily was caught up in the A drama. Maybe Spencer is handling enough of the A stuff to cover most of the group, but PLL gave Aria and Hanna a break this week as Hanna pursued a doomed father-son relationship for Caleb and Aria found herself possibly involved in an age-appropriate relationship (the horror!).
I was happy that the Jamie story developed further than Caleb getting excited and him not showing up. The episode constantly hinted that Hanna's obsession with establishing a relationship between Caleb and his real father was due partly to her own damaged relationship with her dad, which was fine, though the show hasn't really worked on Hanna's disconnect with her father in a while. Since she doesn't have a whole lot of A nonsense to deal with, it seems like she has a lot of time on her hands to play paternal matchmaker and, in a story that we all knew was doomed, she reared an ugly head when it was revealed Jamie stole from the collection box. Maybe. Unless Ted paid him an advance from the box since that money is for the church and Jamie is now a church employee. Hanna's horror at Jamie pulling out the be-diced five might have been her using a Jump to Conclusions mat.
And then there was poor little Aria, helping out Cece who was trying to help her out. There's speculation that Cece could be the Blonde in the Red Coat and, to me, this might be the closest thing to suggest that (other than a history with Ali). Very early in the series, A seemed like a guiding figure in their lives, even if she was using slightly malicious methods. The goal seemed to be less about needlessly torturing the girls and more about coaxing them through blackmail to let go of their secrets and live freer lives. Aria hanging on to creepshow Ezra is only holding her back (especially with our knowledge that he's probably maybe on the A team), and Cece helping a sister out by giving Aria alone time with Little Fitz, while not as conniving, is in that same vein.
The kiss they shared was almost welcome to me. A sense of relief that there's light at the end of the tunnel (even if that light is the speeding train of a scorned Ezra) made me feel like there's a future for Aria that isn't just her being part of that dysfunctional relationship. I know there are so many Ezria 'shippers out there but, even if you don't think their romance is super creepy, you have to admit that her obsession with him has done nothing but hold her back as a developing character. Her relationship with Ezra (and her dead-animal fashion sense from early seasons) define her.
And then there's Spencer. There was a fear early on that A found that thing Spencer was afraid to lose and all that effort of making her the force of change in the contract between bully and victim would be for naught. Luckily, the writers kept her true to character. The trick with making such a clear change in direction for someone on the show while still being consistent to the character is making sure one can see the distilled virtues and flaws within the change. You have to still see the prototype. And while the threat against her friends would be enough for Emily, Aria, or even Hanna to cower in shame, Spencer leapt on Mona's throat like a mama bear protecting her cubs.
While Spencer is certainly cunning enough, her manipulative side needs work, and I like that we're seeing her going through these growing pains of being the white-hat version of A. Obviously she has Wren wrapped around her little finger and she came this close to showing an almost nude Andrew her cupcakes, but she has a long way to go before matching the prowess of someone as trained and experienced as Mona.
What's strange is that, just before Spencer leapt into action, it almost seemed like Mona and Spencer weren't even having the same conversation. It was just one of those cartoon battles where the characters pull out bigger versions of their guns to intimidate the other. It left me with the odd feeling that Mona doesn't know how far gone Spencer is, like she's out of touch. Well, she's in touch now.
"What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" wasn't a seminal episode and maybe the closest to filler as this show gets. But any episode that ends with Spencer pouncing on someone is at least worth watching.
– I get that you're hurting, Spencer, but what's up with the cat sweater? You look like a rec center art teacher.
– The question shouldn't be, "Why are you Mapquesting Amish Country?" It should be, "Why are you using Mapquest?" Is Apple Maps THAT bad? When Emily stopped the strip trivia session, am I terrible for thinking, "But, Em, you like cupcakes"?
– Yeah, you should totally make fun of Hanna's decorum and then make out with her at church. Caleb is like school in the summer: no class. OH BURN.
– Glad to see that Bruce, the scary watermelon baby at Cece's boutique, is still adorning the walls. When Aria was asking for something round that could go in the photo, I really wanted her to suggest a watermelon. Just some recognition as to how weird that thing is. Why does no one address the watermelon baby?
– The obvious big question from this episode asks where Jason disappeared to after being incapacitated by the elevator crash. How did he abscond from the hospital? Was he taken? Who on the A Team could carry him? Toby is a strapping young man, but Jason isn't exactly a fragile waif.
– The final hoodie scene where they played spin the bottle with spirits might be the most surreal of all the final hoodie scenes to date. Even more than when one of them was trying to eat french fries with thick winter gloves.