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Pretty Little Liars S04E15: "Love ShAck, Baby!"

Hanna made a decent point near the middle of the episode as the girls trudged through a forest on their way to the cabin that hopes to house their collective demise one day. She's biased because Alison's diary holds a secret-secret she doesn't want anyone to know but she was the first one to say that the "creative non-fiction with pseudonyms" doesn't bring them closer to Ali. This all-important journal, this supposed sight into the inner-depths of Alison, seems less like a collection of clues to help restore order in their cursed hamlet and more like damnable evidence against their current reason for being.

Ali is the worst and everyone knows it despite their varying levels of denial. Pretty Little Liars is a topsy-turvy, wholly unbelievable soap-iverse, but the most rational, logical realization any of these ninnies have come to during season 4B, maybe even the series, is that they need to start questioning why on this green earth they are trying to bring this harpy back into their lives. It was one thing when they were trying to find Alison's killer; now that they know she's alive and bouncing around town in a flight pattern to come home, they really need to re-evaluate.

Alison's diary has been A's working document for a reason. She kept a record of every terrible secret everyone had and cast her friends and family as silly, pedestrian characters in a tapestry rich with insulting language. It's the jackpot for someone looking to bully just like Alison bullied. Did you see her with Fat Flashback Hanna? It was almost like a cherub-faced military drill sergeant dressed in pink. Break her down by amplifying her embarrassment (accentuating that Hanna would let Mike, of all people, round a base or two with her on the couch) and then heaping on some guilt to top it off (Aria's brother! She's going to be furious!). Then build her back up by swearing to keep the secret because friendship, while making sure to snipe at the end by telling her she'll find love, it'll just happen later than it does for everyone else because she's a fatty. I get that Fat Hanna isn't the Hanna we know now. Fat Hanna had no spine, no self-esteem, no zingers. But you have to look back on those fresh wounds and think to yourself, "What the heck am I chasing here?"


You have to assume the reason that they're still chasing this dream is the same reason Walter White and Jesse Pinkman kept cooking meth. Alison being alive doesn't mean the search for answers to Ali's posthumous mysteries stops. It just becomes a humous search rather than a posthumous one. It's everyone's will to keep going. Not one of them has a tenable future right now. No one has a goal they're working toward. Ali's life and her life after death and her return from death are collectively the vacuum of their individuality through which they all pass. They move only by inertia.

Not that I'm trying bring you all down or anything. But these girls' lives are kind of pathetic and depressing. Spencer is dealing with an invasion into her life by the House of D as she contends with Papa Hastings and Mrs. Di Laurentis having secret talks (does Jason know?), which she immediately thought was about Pop-pop getting some afternoon delight. Aria is nailing her baby-faced teacher again, despite the abs she's supposed to be dating (is Jake on some extended karate tour or something?), and in spite of the fact that said teacher is almost certainly involved in the syndicate out to destroy her. Emily is apparently an orphan now. And Hanna is dealing with the fallout of #Haleb.

But if things are looking up for anyone, it's Hanna, who might have a brand-new boyfriend with Caleb chasing ghost tail. Travis is back like we knew he would be once they finalized the split. He's got that blue-collar, down-home charm that seems to be just the grounding Hanna needs as she deals with the fact that she was left for something that goes boo in the night. But at least it's something. At least Travis hasn't been implicated in the Rosewood sin that's been going around. Well, mostly. I mean, everyone's been touched a little bit. Phrasing.


For the small light in Hanna's life, I'm trying to ignore the fact that Ezra (skulking around like EzrA) just rummaged through her bedroom like a mobster henchman trying to deliver a message. In the past two episodes, the writers have really turned on the creep in Ezra. I'm surprised he doesn't just wander the streets telling strangers he doesn't care if it hurts and that he wants to have control. The show is going to run out of doorways from which he can glower at the girls and windows for him to peek through.

It's almost surprising how PLL is letting Ezra incriminate himself after pulling back on everyone who turned out to be a villain. Mona would disappear for long periods of time rather than have us see what she was up to. Toby would also disappear. But with Ezra, we're seeing all the dirty stuff he's involved with. All of that should stink of red herring to me, but he's going so deep that I'm having trouble seeing how the writers could backpedal him out of this. Although, as we all know, I also don't think it took much for him to turn heel, since he's been a creepshow the entire series.

But this week they had him listening to a recording of Alison. He was desperately snooping through the purse of a teenage girl (who's also reading The Tempest for what class?) and possibly hacking things through her computer. And I already mentioned the glowering. He's almost too A to be A. But what other angle does Ezra have to be really interested in getting his hands on the diary, having villain-to-villain talks with Mona, and keeping a cabin with a trapdoor under his bed that isn't being at least a Hoodie in the A Army? A desperate need for lip gloss, a friendly conversation scored deceptively, and a good old-fashioned sex dungeon? I'm open to suggestions.

Whatever Ezra's deal is, the fact is that the Liars are a bunch of characters who've lost themselves in the mystique of Alison Di Laurentis. During that break after Alison disappeared and a body (well, I guess) was found, they all seemed to be on track for something: Spencer was going to crush school and head off to Penn, Emily was going to crush sports and some lady hearts; Aria was going to crush reading books and any small birds that could provide feathers for her jewelry. And now look where they are: They're husks of they're former selves, defined solely by the mystery of what happened to their horrible friend so long ago. You were better than that, ladies.



NOTES

– "You chose this." Emily's disdain for Alison might be the most refreshing thing about Emily. The fact that she's leading the charge for forgetting about Alison now that they know she's alive almost makes me have faith in her as a character. And the fact that her accusations that Alison chose this life of bullying and running might turn out to be slut/victim-shaming makes it almost compelling.

– "Wow, that is so me of you." Spencer shined in this episode as much as anyone could in what seemed like a depressing melange of broken-down liars. From her kudos on Emily's obsessive organization to challenging her father when he definitely wanted her to cool it ("Yes, father") to hollering at a grieving mother to stop trying to seduce said father, Confrontational Spencer is one of my favorite Spencers, after Nuthouse Spencer and Shawn Spencer. And she did it all while wearing suspenders hanging from her waist. (What was that?)


– Ezra's chalkboard quote of the day: "It is one thing to mortify curiosity. Another to conquer it." That, as you might have guessed, is from Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, specifically the part where a friend of Jekyll's receives a deathbed package from one of their mutual friends which almost certainly contains untoward gossip about Jekyll, but the friend refuses to read it, trying his best to not think about what the letter contains and, instead, trying to hope for the best while suspecting the worst. It's a complicated emotion I'm not sure Aria is capable of having. Poor Suzy Clueless.


– Oh, right. Cece is still a thing.

– When Spencer called out Mrs. D for being a tramp, one of the women at The Brew was reading Confessions of a Hater, a book about an unpopular girl at a new school finding her college-aged sister's high school diary with everything she needs to know about becoming popular, which includes being horrible. Probably no connection here.

– Emily to Hanna: "This isn't spring break."

– Ashley's call that broke Ezra loose in the house: one of Ezra's lackeys/associates?

– The Liars remembered to take umbrellas with them?

– Aria hiding her naughties when they got into Ezra's cabin skeeved me out something awful. It skeeved Emily out, too.


– That "as long as you live under my roof" line from Papa Hastings had "Spencer moving in with Toby" written all over it. Loophole and now Spencer is going to talk to Mrs. D ALL DAY.

– How did we have an episode titled "Love Shack" and not even once did I hear "Rock Lobster"?

– Your Moment of A: Apple on the desk, diary by his side, and watching A hack into the computer in Emily's car. Technology was the worst thing to happen to these girls. Think of how much quieter their lives would be without cell phones being like portable bullies and the internet being the anonymous mechanism fueling their torture. I would say they should all just move out into the country and become Luddites if that didn't also sound like the beginning of a horror movie.


What'd you think of "Love ShAck, Baby!"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/26/2014

Season 5 : Episode 12

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