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'Pretty Little Liars' recap: 'The rich girls steal, the pretty girls lie'

January 25, 2011 |  6:30 am

PLL School dances don’t end well for the ladies on "Pretty Little Liars," especially, it seems, for Emily. The homecoming soiree landed her in the hospital with a cracked skull, a mess of tangled teenage emotions and a date who might have murdered her best friend. This week, the dance-a-thon left her more or less physically sound, but boy, did she make a mess of it. Throw in A's little games with Hanna, Aria’s jealous streak and Ian’s shady threats, and you’ve got a high school fundraiser that played out like the teenage social equivalent of "Saw." And, oh yeah -- did I mention two new characters were thrown into the mix?

Those "Liars" fans (like me) who are constantly on the hunt for "Veronica Mars" references got a big leg up this week with new cast member No. 1, Alona Tal, who played Meg Manning on "V. Mars" and gets swept in this week as Aria’s hyper-literate babysitter, Simone. Aria’s mom, enterprising matchmaker that she is, sets up Ezra and Simone for a coffee date, sending Aria into a jealousy spiral that culminates in her all but attacking them at the dance. Spencer steps in to salvage the situation, barely, and Ezra reassures Aria in the parking lot, but I don’t know -- I think this may be an interesting wrinkle in the lovebirds’ otherwise drab affair. 

New character No. 2 is Caleb, a cellphone hacker with a knack for failed one-liners. Emily, desperate to get her phone unblocked from Maya’s cellphone at deprogramming wildlife camp, asks, "Would another $40 make it go faster?" Caleb responds lamely, "Let me put it this way … yes." Zing? Even after Caleb works his magic, Maya seems distant, and Emily comforts herself by draining Hanna’s flask. Drunken Emily, as it turns out, is a bummer. First, she badmouths Hanna, and then she storms up to Ian, announcing that she knows what he did. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, Hanna is having problems of her own. A's new task for her to earn back her mother’s money is to send Lucas mixed signals: Every dance with him is worth a couple C-notes. This enrages Sean, who is looking increasingly like Moose from the Archie comics, and he dumps Hanna. Of course, at the end of the dance, Hanna turns down Lucas’ offer to drop her home, effectively trampling all over his hormone-swelled heart. What's A's game, here? Is she trying to set Lucas and Hanna up? Just make everyone miserable? Or is there something else at foot?

Last week’s cliffhanger about Alison’s murderer, however, was barely resolved. The girls rewatch the video obsessively but find no real clues, and then Spencer’s laptop -- video and all -- is stolen from her bag. All eyes are on Ian, but none of the ladies is able to find it, even after rifling through his office. Ian apparently has a filing cabinet with a secret key and is still staying close to Rosewood on rather thin pretenses. When Spencer’s laptop reappears, the video is gone -- and in its place is a picture of Alison on the night she died with a message to watch their backs. And, most interesting of all, A checks his coat and gloves out of the dance with the number 32. Does that prove A isn’t Ian? Did anyone see who had 32? Why is A so into leather? And what was that look on Spencer’s face at the end -- did she recognize the shadow after all?

-- Margaret Eby

Photo: Lucy Hale, Troian Bellisario, Shay Mitchell and Ashley Benson. Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC Family.