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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pretty Little Liars: “Face Time”

Illustration for article titled Pretty Little Liars: “Face Time”
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With A largely absent this week, her threats to take down the Liars’ loved ones, one mom at a time, linger. Hannah’s trying to clear her mom, or at least deflect the attention of both Detective Sean Faris and newly arrived Lieutenant Roma Maffia (their characters’ names are Holbrook and Tanner, respectively, so that’s what we’ll call them) onto Melissa Hastings. Hannah, with her characteristic all-or-nothing certitude, knows Melissa is guilty and is impatient that Spencer won’t just confront her already. But Spence has pangs of familial guilt…or, from the looks of it, a hankering for the dramatic. She plans to confront Melissa with the plaster mask they found in Creepy Hector’s shack and then…just see what happens. For as much as I talk about A’s flair for well-staged melodrama, Spencer is a close, close second.

“Face Time” offers a pretty ideal blend of everything a good PLL episode should have: some answers to the questions that have been piling up; new wrinkles to the story; Spencer being a crazy mastermind and/or Hannah acting like a bull in a china shop. This episode had all four of those elements PLUS a halfway decent one-liner from Aria and an absolutely priceless excursion for Toby, where Keegan Allen tries to emote for a solid seven consecutive minutes, followed by the revelation that Dr. Palmer, ostensibly his mother’s former physician, is really just another mental patient, studying the debilitating effects of the heaviness of air. Another dead end for Toby.

Breaking down the Liars this week, in order of how resilient they would be to the heaviness of air:

Spencer: Just when it seemed like Hannah was poised to take the top slot this week, Spencer reminds us just how hard it is to best a Hastings at anything. Not only does she come up with that brilliantly theatrical idea to embed Melissa’s mask in her luggage for her to find, but when she and Aria follow Melissa to Hector’s Mask Shack and Creep Emporium, she finally gets her sister to spill her secrets. Not all of them—the crux of Melissa’s message to Spencer is “Quit looking for answers because you will RUIN EVERYTHING”—but much like Mona’s de-brief in the season premiere, an agitated Melissa is a font of information. She also suspects Ali is alive and tormenting everybody. She says she and Jenna and Shauna were all afraid of Wilden, and that it was Wilden who started the fire (witnessed by Jenna and Shauna). It’s not everything, or even most things, but watching Melissa be that honest with Spencer about everything from the train (she didn’t know Wilden would be trying to kill anyone) to knowing about Red Coat is refreshing. Though it puts a dent in the show’s ability to red-herring Melissa the next time something bad happens. Even better than all that intel, though, was watching how good Spencer is at manipulating people in order to make them emotionally distraught enough to make a mistake. She’d make a fantastic A.

Hannah: It’s like all Hannah needed was for Caleb to start doubting her mom’s innocence and she was off to the races. After Holbrook and Tanner empty out Wilden’s safety deposit box in front of the ladies Marin—revealing Wilden’s fat stacks of (ill-gotten?) cash, his burner pistol, and an American AND Canadian passport—Hannah decides the best course of action is a Housewives-style sit-down with Tanner, where she very un-subtly tries to point suspicion at Melissa Hastings. Tanner, for her part, sees right through Hannah from the start, and her immediately stated determination to find out everything about our Liars suggests a new antagonist. She’s not a creep like Wilden; in fact, she may be a good guy, trying to get to the bottom of these four girls who attract so much trouble. In Roma Maffia’s hands, I think the show has a solid character in place here. Meanwhile, Hannah finally has the come-to-Jesus with her mom, where Ashley admits to not being in New York the night Wilden was murdered. Which means Hannah has no choice now but to believe her mom is a murderer. Which, on this show, means she’s 100% innocent.

Aria: Moving up the ranks! Despite the fact that her lack of harrowing drama while her friends have to deal with huge family strife is beginning to look suspicious, Aria had a good week. Just when it seems like she is going to blow past Jake and not tell him about her past with Ezra, suddenly we’re back from commercial and she’s told him everything. Wise move, even if my heart breaks a bit for Jake. So pretty, yet self-aware enough to know he’s basically being used by Aria to help her get over Fitz. Later, Aria holds her own with Creepy Hector, even getting some info about how Ali was agitated and hit him up for some money he owed her before hightailing it away in someone’s black car. And she gets all this information while wearing Mona Lisa Vito’s top from the climactic My Cousin Vinny courtroom scene, which makes it all the more impressive.


Mona: Still M.I.A. Is she creepy-crawling houses with Aria’s brother? Giving an alumni lecture series at Radley? Trying to figure out whatever happened to that cute Dr. Wren? I’m getting concerned. (About Mona and Wren, to be honest.)

Emily: Yeesh, Emily. All this fuss over a bruised shoulder? “I jumped out of the way of a car and fell and hit my shoulder on a rock” is all she needed to say to her unreasonably young and attractive doctor. It’s the truth and not at all suspicious. But now her parents are the object of neighborhood gossip for being abusive, and all Emily can do is glower at them. And at Paige, who is now the living embodiment of the swimming dreams that will never be fulfilled because she bruised her shoulder. She’ll never look at you the same way again, Paige. Time to start shopping around for studio dorms at Stanford. Unfortunately, Emily’s problems keep her out of all the good intrigue this week, and I’m starting to wonder if Emily even has an identity on this show beyond punching-bag.


Stray Observations:

  • “Can you keep an eye on Hector?” “Yeah, sure, I’ve got all three martial arts lessons.”
  • ABC Family’s social media is trying sooooooo hard with Caleb, to the point where it’s just comical. If you used the hashtag #CalebSavesTheDay during the episode, I’m judging you. No two ways about it. And that was before we got the Lone Ranger cross-promotion, where Tyler Blackburn declared, “Caleb is a hero, just like the Lone Ranger.” Get out of my life, Caleb.
  • Speaking of which, you know I love Tobey (well, now you do), but his field trip to that pastoral sanitarium made me wonder if sending him away to a spinoff might not be the worst thing either. I do kind of miss the days when the girls were all over the place, romantically. How the show would embed backup boyfriends (or girlfriends) so that when a certain Liar’s relationship would end, someone else would be in the on-deck circle.
  • “Tell her to stay away from that girl. That blonde girl.” Even crazy Dr. Palmer can lift himself up from under the weight of the air to drop the bomb that Ali was paying Toby’s mom secret visits.