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Pretty Little Liars S04E04: "Face Time"

Well, if you're one of the folks who's been complaining about answers, that was a big one this week. If you can trust it.

Melissa explaining that her forever shiftiness is part of a grander secret of protection feels like equal parts revelation and complete nonsense. She's been in so many places at the wrong time and her rivalry with her baby sister holds so much vitriol that it's hard to believe that Mel Hastings has been doing anything but contributing to the bullying. Combine that with the fact that she's been acting in concert with Jenna the Liar Hater and Shana the Mysterious Swimming Partner in Crime and simple math seems to prove her assertion wrong. I mean, if that was true, just who are the "bitches" at the cabin Melissa was referring to in last season's finale? Wilden and Red Coat?

I don't know if Melissa is to the plot against the Liars as Troy Barnes is to being Jehovah's Most Secret Witness, in the way that we thought Toby might be trying to take A down from the inside, but she'd have a lot of explaining to do. Like a Mona level of explaining. Like sit all night and talk about what she knows. Letting her run along home doesn't help anyone. At least make a coffee date to discuss why she was wearing an elaborate Queen of Hearts costume on the train and how much Detective O'Creepish loved wearing a dress!

To be fair to Melissa, this episode in particular made me consider the perception of the Liars' in Rosewood. To wit, Emily's family situation is pretty dire right now and it might just be Emily's fault because she's a terrible, terrible liar. She already comes off like a victim of abuse, a meek girl who's squirrely about the details of her life and who makes grossly unbelievable excuses for the evidence that she's still being bullied, both in content and delivery. Then she does things like running out of the house and creating a scene on her front lawn so the whole neighborhood can jump to their own conclusions. Gossipy town that Rosewood is, of course its residents would leap to the "Emily is totes abused" part of their mat. How else could they explain it?


Even Emily trying to explain herself to the doctor came off terribly shady and wholly discredited. Yes, Emily, go to the doctor and tell him the (near) truth, that your parents aren't child-beaters but leave out the detail that you had to save your friends from a revenge-bent would-be killer, and give it to him with all the convincing power of "I fell down the stairs." I'm sure the doctor will really believe you now. What is wrong with telling people that your friends were almost hit by a car and you fell awkwardly when you pushed them out of the way? It doesn't make sense, Em.

Of course Emily's parents aren't the only grown-ups in the hot seat, but at least Hanna isn't doing A's work for her. Ashley continued her season-long theme of being the shadiest, telling Hanna to drop things and that "this won't touch [her]," despite the fact that, obviously, everything touches her because she's right in the middle of everything. But what Ashley has going for her are a couple of people who are far superior prevaricators. Hanna and Caleb can tag-team on storytelling all day while Ashley cries in her room. Or sends out "kisses" messages to all of Hanna's friends. I don't know.

The state investigators are on her six. Detective Nice Guy has teamed up with a detective who seems to be stealing Lois Einhorn's steeze and neither of them are messing around. They ask leading questions in the same way Wilden liked to, but in an actual investigative way instead of being the creepiest creep who ever creeped. Ray Finkle seems to be just as pleasant as Detective Nice Guy, judging from her conversation with Hanna on the bench, and the focus of their investigation doesn't necessarily seem to be that these girls are guilty (even if they dress a little slutaciously), but that bodies keep piling up around them. Which is true. And, to be fair, slightly suspicious. But at least Detective Finkle doesn't come off lecherous. Yet. If she really IS stealing all of Lois Einhorn's steeze, we have yet to determine whether she has a penis (and is, therefore, a suspect herself). Cue "The Crying Game."


I mean, obviously we know that Ashley didn't do anything. She looks way too guilty. And, much like how Emily's parents appear to be horrible human beings who beat their swimmer daughter but aren't the monsters the town's social services are quick to accuse them of being, Ashley's involvement in Wilden's death is probably greatly exaggerated. And someone is going to have to tell the truth before long. Because this is going to be an exhausted plot point quickly. How many different ways can Ashley tell Hanna to drop it or not ask about it or just be vague about what happened that night? It's not a sustainable storyline, so I expect an answer soon. And that answer is almost certainly going to come from Melissa. Right?

My favorite part of the evening was the resurrection of crime-fighting duo Sparia as they concocted the greatest scheme of the season to figure out what's going on: letting Melissa find the mask and lead them to where they knew she'd go upon seeing it. Spencer's narration of Melissa's thoughts was priceless and, if A was spying on Sparia spying on Melissa, I'm pretty sure that's grounds for recommittal to Radley. Spencer is getting crazier and crazier in an interesting way, if not in a cheer-worthy way like she was last season. From the snack-food blocking of the events at Torch Lake to her wily entrance to Arkham After Dark (all the patients and orderlies must have been watching Leno or something) to her glee upon seeing that her plan to get Melissa to lead her back to the "scene of the crime" had worked masterfully.

As big as it is that Melissa has been cleared of all A charges by her own admission and by A herself (we're going with "herself" since Toby seems to gender her female, though I don't think for an instant that it's a "she" over a "they"), it was the only real answer given in the dual mystery of "Who is-A?"/"Who killed Alison?". There was a flashback to the last time Lime, Rosewood's resident artist creep, saw Alison alive (doo-rags must have been really big in Rosewood a few years back) and witnessed her get into a black sedan. So either she had an accomplice that day, someone was threatening her for money, or Rosewood got Uber way before everyone else.

But Melissa not being A is a big-enough revelation for one episode, even if you always suspected that she seemed too guilty to actually be guilty. It's opens up another avenue of insight into the A cabal, even if she wasn't a part of it. Melissa has been on the fringes of it for more than three seasons now, and you have to assume that, at some point, her perspective will help the Brain Trust figure some things out, like how deep the rabbit hole goes. So let's look forward to a gathering of minds when Spencer and Mona— hey, where the heck is Mona?


NOTES

– I'm glad that Emily was holding her arm like it's actually injured this week.

– Do you know the Muffin Man?

– Toby really needs to be around other Liars when he's on-screen. I don't care for him to be alone while trying to get through a scene that involves human emotion. It's like watching a Real Girl doll ascertain the history of her parents: uncanny and unbelievable. We also didn't get a whole lot of information except that his mom was visited by a dangerous blonde girl. But you could've expected that Ali or a blonde member of the A-Team was all up in that.

– Malcolm arrived to save Aria from her terrible plotline! Was I supposed to feel something for the Jake thing blowing up? I would've understood more if Jake was an agent of A trying to get in there but, if he's really disappearing (for now), what was all that for? To establish that Aria isn't over Ezra? Also, how is Aria going to quote literature on occasion and then not understand the hurt/injured meathead analogy? Over your head? Come on, son.

– There's something to be said for the spying reversal. Sparia spying on Melissa with a camera through the window is interesting, particularly because they are the two Liars the internets suspect most of having been in on the A thing from the get-go. The moment also helped us feel something for Melissa, since she was seen in the same peeping tom light that we frequently see the Liars in. She looked honestly victimized. Important for the coming revelation.


– Your Moment of A: The Hoodie fished out one of the masks and is gluing it back together. I don't know which person it is because none of the masks are at all recognizable to me, but I assume Melissa was breaking the masks of herself. Also: why do the Hoodies like to keep pictures of creepy dolls everywhere? And how does this show plunge to new levels of disturbing doll imagery every season?


What'd you think of "Face Time"?

Previously Aired Episode

TONIGHT AT 8PM

Season 5 : Episode 8

Next Episode

AIRS ON 8/5/2014

Season 5 : Episode 9

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