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'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Sharks and stray dogs

February 8, 2011 |  7:16 am


One thing ‘Pretty Little Liars’ has mastered at this point is the gentle, frustrating art of the red herring. There are so many false leads, suspicious-looking characters and acts of petty high school social violence that figuring out who’s actually connected to ‘A’ and who simply has questionable moral standards is close to impossible. Paige, for example, had the makings of someone far more sinister last week when she forced Emily’s head under water. On this week’s episode, Emily seemed to have defused her through some simple swimming pep talks. (But try as they may, it’s difficult to make high school swimming look glamorous and high risk.) Should we buy it, or is Paige just waiting for another opportunity to lash out? 

And then there’s the return of Toby Cavanaugh, he of the watery Disney prince looks and unstable disposition. Spencer, taken aback by just how easily someone set her up at the bead shop, begins to suspect Toby might have been put in a similar position and takes the opportunity to help him with some French tutoring. As they chat on the porch about how Toby’s sweater made its way from Alison’s body back to Toby’s house, Jenna begins making a ruckus inside the house. When Spencer returns to tutor Toby again, he turns her away, leaving her with a French copy of "The Catcher in the Rye" and a note: “I found this in Jenna’s room.” Another clue or just a dead end? Out with it, Toby! From the looks of this week’s ending — A’s gloved hands arranging a series of weapons straight out of Clue while a French instructional record skips on the phrase “I am a friend” — this might be the real thing. 

While Spencer and Emily are resolving their conflicts, A is sowing some serious discord between Hanna and Aria. The two follow Aria’s dad into the school library only to find … pretty much nothing.  Her father’s mysterious date turns out to be her mother, a plot twist that is taking an exasperatingly long time to play out, and when Hanna confronts a black-hooded figure she suspects is A, it turns out its just Caleb, who’s taken to living in the library to escape from his less-than-attentive foster parents. Aria gets a text message saying that her cover with Ezra has almost been blown, and Hanna confesses that A manipulated her into leaving Ella the ticket. By the end of the episode, Hanna’s wracked with guilt, Aria’s stormed off, and Caleb is living in Hanna’s basement. Plus, after Spencer tells Melissa that she doesn’t trust Ian, Melissa drops a drama bomb: She's pregnant with his baby. Whoops. 

Things between Hanna and Caleb seem like they might turn into something romantic, which had me wondering: Where’s Lucas? Did Hanna’s snubbing at the dance force him to change schools or something? I’m growing to like Caleb, but all the new character developments just make me think Noel Kahn must be lurking in the shadows somewhere. Or is Caleb more sinister than he appears? As Spencer warns Hanna, "I like stray dogs too, but sometimes they bite." Is Jenna — or A — planning something for next week? And will it be with the candlestick or the wrench?

-- Margaret Eby

Photo: Caleb (Tyler Blackburn), Hanna (Ashley Benson), Aria (Lucy Hale) and Spencer (Troian Bellisario) cheer on Emily (Shay Mitchell) at her swim meet. Credit: ABC Family