I've spent a few decades on this planet, including a good bit of time in the South, but never once did I learn a line-dance move.
Yet, despite no one on this show having any remote interest in country-western anything, these girls come out slapping and stomping like they were born and raised in Dillon, Texas. Hanna was led around by Travis the Starer, Emily engaged in a cute dance with Paige, and Spencer... owns a pair of overalls. They all have hats and Western shirts (Toby was even wearing that jacket that looks like it's straight out of Urban Cowboy), and it was like I wasn't supposed to believe they live in suburban Pennsylvania.
Pretty Little Liars has served up some pretty egregious scenes where something completely out of whack happens, like our characters dip into an alternate universe for a while where Adam Lambert shows up for a town-wide train lock-in and olympic swimmer Missy Franklin wants to go out of her way to visit a small town and give a pep-talk to a pretty little stranger. But watching Aria two-step, however boorishly, and in spite of her basic cultural snobbishness, was weird, man. Does the showrunner's cousin own a cowboy hat and plaid shirt warehouse? "Please, take these off my hands! I can't give them away!"
Although Jake looked like he was enjoying himself for possibly the first time since he and Aria started dating. It's been an up-and-down ride for me with Jake, given that he seems dead behind the eyes, and since I presume he has external genitalia, he's immediately a suspect on this show. But PLL really gave us the hard sell this week, with him showing up at school, being generally present, and, of course, that Prince Charming boot thing.
Jake knowing the perfect fit for Aria and sliding the boot onto her foot is supposed to be a nod to that Disney princess crap where this strapping man comes to rescue Aria from her troubled life. I would just chalk it up to saccharine fairy tale so that we feel like there's an actual dilemma when Aria has to decide between Jake and the Worst Idea. But there's something about Aria pointedly asking, "How'd you know my size?" that stuck with me. Sure, it could just mean that Jake is a natural shoe salesman (the obvious career path for someone who wants to be a professional martial artist), but it just reminded me of how Mona knows everything about the Liars. Though, even if Jake is a part-time Hoodie, he's still Better than Ezra and his sad stack of cups:
The hoedown notwithstanding, the episode was good at advancing the plot while setting up #WorldWarA next week (which, based on the promos, sounds like an upcoming dubstep festival). And if not the actual plot, at least some theories. The one you're supposed to be talking about is Cece and her bright red coat. It does seem too easy, doesn't it? That Cece has the coat (though never dons the thing) and has been a suspected Red Coat this season smells of red herring. We've been conditioned by this show to not only pick up on clues but also to string together the clues of omission. We see a dead body but we don't see a face; therefore, despite Spencer's reaction, it can't be Toby. Ashley is being shifty and seems to have all of the evidence needed to condemn her of murder, but we never see her doing anything to destroy that evidence; therefore she's not the murderer. Cece has the coat. It's sitting on her chair. She never puts it on. Is she Red Coat?
But it doesn't absolve her from getting stabby through the peepholes in the DiLaurentis house. She's definitely a Hoodie, if not a ring leader, and capable of causing at least as much mayhem as Alison herself, like catching Aria in the eye. Although this is assuming that there's only one Red Coat, just like we were led to believe there was only one A (when we know now that it's always been a team). We don't seem to know how deep the rabbit hole goes, how many people routinely dress in Alison's costumes and masks, or even if their fearless leader wears the same thing every time she goes a-bullying. That they see Red Coat often might just be another indication that this is another tactic of making other people adopt Alison's image. Or Vivian Darkbloom, as the case may be.
No matter what, though, Toby is a whiny baby and it's unconscionable that he still trusts A, whoever A is. I do like that this A has brought back the concept of "gifts," that rope-a-dope method of lulling Liars and S.O.'s into a false sense of security that, by doing A's bidding, you'll get a piece of the puzzle of your life. And then the police show up while you're trying to break into a car in the middle of Howdidyoufindme, Pennsylvania. It's been hard to like Toby for the past few episodes firstly because he's been a petulant sad sack about this ret-conned mommy issue. But also because he's never allowed himself to be one of the Liars. And that's weird, like watching Aria kicking around a Western bar.
When Mona was ousted from the A team, she could easily be identified as a new member of the Liars (it helps that a doll resembling her had been added to the growing collection of creepy doll likenesses). Despite the girls constantly pinning bad things on her—and, understandably, never putting much trust in her—we as an audience could group them together. Toby has always been on the outside. He's been able to join up with the Significant Others Brain Trust but, despite clearly being just as tortured by A as everyone else he knows, he never identifies with them. This investigation into his mother made that clearer than ever. "You told your friends?" he cried like the morose jackass that he is. Maybe he's playing the game (he knows that getting involved with all the Liars means A will take some kind of revenge), but he should know better that the game is rigged and, despite all his vampire powers, he will lose every time.
Maybe it was the silliness of the hoedown in the middle, but this episode didn't really feel like it was setting much up for the summer finale next week. You expect a penultimate episode to have more "what!" "oh my gah!" "how did?!" moments. But, besides Cece sitting outside Ezra's door (presumably to get evidence in order to blow up Aria's relationship with Jake) and Toby getting chased by cops, there was no archduke assassination equivalent to start #WorldWarA. What has been a fairly plodding season has led to a weirdly uneventful build. Here's hoping for some jaw-dropping moments next week.
– What this episode did bring was the much-needed return of banter and one-liners. Sometimes it's hard to remember that these girls are friends, not just a support group. It started with Spencer's "I'm eating this" at the beginning of the episode, continued through Aria's "See, I told you she has the best flashlight" and then went right into Hanna's one-liners. I missed those from bummer Hanna lately. "Yeah, even Emily."
– Anyone else feel like Tanner sitting with the girls was about to break out with a, "What's up, girlfriends?" Also: What happened to Detective Nicey-Nice?
– Although Aria almost certainly meant that she knows a double life when she sees one because of Ezria, it's only going to fan the flames of the theory that Aria has split-personality disorder and is actually A/Red Coat/every Hoodie/Mona/the devil.
– It always amazes me that pertinent information doesn't come to light for the Liars until something innocuous sparks their memory. Emily comes up with the most plausible theory to date because Ali essentially told her everything while painting her nails? What kind of systematic repression of memories are these girls suffering? Did Alison put them all through A Clockwork Orange levels of behavioral therapy?
– Travis the Starer. The deus ex machina that may just save Hanna's mom's life. Then again, that just makes him suspect, too. It's too convenient. But at least he works. Caleb, get a job.
– Aria about to be stabbed by a needle. Spencer? Calm as a Hindu cow.
– Who do these girls think they are that they just ask a stranger for his truck? "Hey, old man! See how cute we are?! I'm wearing this tiny shirt under my overalls! Eyes up here. Listen, we need to steal your truck full of hay. I know, I know. But hear me out. It's so we can possibly run over this other girl. No! Listen! We just want to steal your truck and maybe murder someone! It's either that or we beat them to death in the back with a hoe. So. Your choice. Also, I don't know how to drive stick, so your transmission is screwed. Where are the keys?"
– Your Moment of A: Awwww, that hoodie is knitting a tiny wittle sweater! For her cute/disturbing wittle dollies. And then he's stabbing them! Oh, the humanity!