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Pretty Little Liars S04E05: "Gamma Zeta Die!"

Oh, I had a great one all ready for you. I watched that teaser with Hanna's dream, where Ashley sat up looking like she'd been run over by a lawnmower that'd just finished clipping rocks, and the ghosts of television past crept into my head. I'm forever haunted by the image of a yanked-off red wig revealing a scar that looks like it was designed by H.R. Giger gashed across the bald spot. I didn't watch a lot of the original Melrose Place, but that image still knocks around in my head from time to time and it was enough for me to say, "Hey, wait a tick! Was that Laura Leighton?! Was that a Melrose Place reference that only I would get because I'm the oldest person watching Pretty Little Liars? Because in ABC Family years I should be preparing my journey in the ice flow?"

Sadly, I was a little off. That was Marcia Cross who played Kimberly and freaked everyone out with her wicked scar. And actually, Laura Leighton (Sydney) already had her referential moment after hitting Wilden with her car, much like how her character fake-bit it on the original Melrose. Anyway, I guess this is all to say that I blew it and I'm sorry.

Consolation for my disappointment was a one-liner-filled wink of an episode that probably made an attentive audience feel like they're being heard. From the return of Mike to an actual revelation to a helping of Spencer with extra-crazy sauce, "Gamma Zeta Die!" had pretty much everything I ever want from an episode of Pretty Little Liars, except with more banter between the Liars and fewer parrot-inspired plots.

Though the banter in this episode didn't quite recall the Veronica Mars conversation of the past, the interaction between the Liars and their unstable ground with non-A pressure mounting on all of them made for an interesting change of pace. It felt like Spencer took Hanna's script this week, as she was full of one-liners like "Ivy League Pimp who waves a magic loafer" and, one of my favorites, "Britney Shears" in relation to Hanna's dream. But what made her the most interesting is that her determination to solve the puzzles of her life looked downright self-centered and cruel when juxtaposed with a struggling and, let's face it, pedestrian Emily.

We've known Emily is the weakest link in this chain for years. The girls know it. We know it. Unfortunately the lieutenant colonel doesn't know it. Em speaks the truth when she says she's "average" without athletics. Otherwise she's just a terrible liar with a decaying naivete playing in Hanna's academic ball park, in a league that I imagine looks kind of like the Bad News Bears. But because Wayne Fields is the best father on this show (Byron will forever lag behind, what with his being implicated in Ali's reindeer games), he's there to support his daughter and make sure she doesn't feel like the quotidian personality that she is. You're special, honey. There's just nothing remarkable about you.

Faced with the fear of not being able to move forward in her life because her parents' money bin isn't exactly swim-worthy and no one's offering a Doe in Headlights scholarship, going to Cicero and wanting to make an impression fit perfectly with Emily's character. And the fact that Spencer was willing to put her tour of the Ivy League on hold while she investigated this scholastic garbage dump was an organic conflict between Liars that I could appreciate.

It feels like it's been awhile since the Hastings have been called out as the high-falutin' Rosewood family, a definite separation between the Fields (civil service), the Montgomeries (teachers), and the single-parent Marin household (I know the Montgomeries are split, but they're both involved). And because it's been so long, that's why it felt so out-of-place for Emily to call it out. Not that class struggle isn't a component of Rosewood's society (probably very important once we get closer to what happened to Ali), or a social problem concerning the barrier of entry to this country's university system. It just would have been sufficient to bring up that Emily is at a serious disadvantage when it comes to higher education because she's never demonstrated herself to be excellent at school and her shoulder is janky. That Spencer deigned to step foot on that campus to carry out a mission to stop the bullying and couldn't possibly consider such a dump to be a school that one of her friends might want to attend, so much so that she offered negative support when Emily said that she was taking it seriously, was at least interesting, given how just a season or two ago, everyone getting into college would have been a top priority for Spencer.

Now Spencer's priorities are more focused on walking around in creepy, dilapidated environs, looking for clues. When she was essentially tip-toeing down the halls of the sorority house, it was almost laughable that she'd be so careful and hyper-aware in a place with carpeting and painted walls. She's been in way worse conditions. Just a few weeks ago, she was leaping through the burned-out skeleton of a house, just waiting to find an upturned nail or collapsed staircase. Not that a sorority house isn't a danger to young girls when a party is afoot (life is a roofie circle) but it reminded me of the time that Melissa ate Spencer's froyo to a suspenseful soundtrack. Seemed unnecessary.

But then Spencer found the room that looked like a lost set from Silent Hill, so all that creeping turned out to be germane. The trip to Cicero was successful for everyone: Emily got in good with the sorority sisters and Spencer got to solve a puzzle.

Well, it was successful for everyone except Hanna. Hanna's dream of getting into the Fashion Institute (which fits her personality, I suppose, but she doesn't really do anything to that end other than shop) grated against campus visits. But none of that really matters anyway since Hanna is completely consumed by her mother's possible guilt and the gun she found in Ashley's locked closet. Ashley's shiftiness continues, though at least she's talking to Not-Rish about doing something about it. While Ashley and Veronica's conversation wasn't exactly revelatory, it's a relief for Ashley to at least discuss openly that she's in some kind of trouble instead of just telling Hanna not to worry about it and locking herself in her room. It was nice to see her in a scene where she didn't walk out of the room mysteriously and dramatically.

All those dramatic exits mean Hanna is, of course, still obsessed with the idea that she has to save her mom. Unfortunately she doesn't have the wits of a Spencer or the good sense to do nothing like an Aria, so she's acting like a fool. Carrying around the weapon you think might have killed someone and flashing it to your friends while A is probably watching? That's a rookie mistake, Hanna. I hate to see that happen.


NOTES

– Spencer's tip for getting rid of stress dreams: Drink milk before you go to bed. I'm pretty sure she's getting crazier and crazier every week. Just forget about the all-consuming, possible end-of-your-life-as-you-know-it scenario playing out before your eyes and drink some stupid milk, Hanna!

– What was up with the weird camera stuff this episode? Did we need the sting cam on Ella in the car? The keyhole POV when Hanna was trying to break into the closet? The mug shot? Oh, wait, that last one I get now.

– Mike's back! Just in time to create some family strife. His wit doesn't match that of his fellow Montgomeries (though it's not really fair to pit "boffing your teacher" against Aria's "four-wheel hive" winner), and he seems to be really behind the times (sneaking around with Ezra is soooooo Season 2), but his return will give Aria yet another week to make us consider the aftermath of Ezria's destruction. I was hoping when she and Ezra broke up that she'd be able to find her own personality, not drag out not having one for another season. Also: Mike's totally A, right?

– Wow, did Brendon go from helpful fellow to pedo creepster in record time, or what? Dear older guys: Stop scamming on the high school chicks. I'm starting to think there's something in the water at The Brew that turns upstanding citizens into leches.

– I loved everything about the conversation with the information-center kid. From the shirt to the remark about how Spencer has the crazy eyes (SHE DOES HAVE THE CRAZY EYES) to the Game of Thrones discussion. Of course Spencer would drop a Lannister line! Also, of course Spencer has read all the books.

– Why did that dude in the woods jump out and spray Emily in the crotch with silly string? What kind of prank is that?

– Your Moment of A: Sometimes a Hoodie likes some honey in his or her tea, and to sip it while looking at dusty old pictures of sorority marms. It's how A unwinds.



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AIRS ON 8/26/2014

Season 5 : Episode 12

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