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'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Year of the rat

February 21, 2011 | 10:44 pm


It might be premature, but I’m going to go ahead and put it out there: This might have been the best episode of ‘Pretty Little Liars’ since the show’s return. Ever since the dance-a-thon, things—let’s face it—had gotten a little too mellow. (And as Woody Allen reminds us, once they’re mellow, then they ripen and rot.) More drama with Hanna and her mom? Stretching it. Another Aria and Ezra fight? Boring. But  murdering animals and planting evidence? Now you’ve got my attention. 

First, there’s the matter of the deliciously unsubtle choice for the Rosewood High play: "The Bad Seed." This naturally leads to a classroom discussion of the nature of evil and Spencer suddenly acquiring a taste for plaited pigtails. Hanna and Spencer join the cast, Fitz directs, and Aria shoehorns her way into a stage manager position only to get into another argument with Ezra over their relationship. Honestly, guys? You’re making that whole teacher-student relationship lose some of its lusty gleam. I have to say that my favorite part of the whole play was the return of Mona, who not only coins a name for the fearsome foursome (“Hanna and her clan-a”) but also pretty much nails the whole episode with one line: “Who’s evil and who’s just being naughty?” 

Even the usual emotional entanglements were ridiculously satisfying to watch. After hiding in the shower with Caleb to disguise her uninvited boarder from her Mom, Hanna and Caleb act awkwardly all episode until—finally!—Hanna kisses Caleb. Emily and Spencer, both feeling guilty about doubting Toby’s innocence, have started a subtle competition for Toby’s friendship. And am I wrong, or was there a little spark between Spencer and Toby this week? 

But the flashback was the real crux of the episode. Ian claimed that Alison has been stalking him, and the ladies suddenly remember a frat party that they crashed with less-than-savory behavior on his part. (What kind of frat party requires ID, by the way? ) While the girls are reveling in their watery beer, they see Ian ushering a hammered-drunk girl through the house. Later in the night the same girl ends up hurtling down the stairs—but did she fall or was she pushed? 

Fingers first point to Ian—he was, after all, at the top of the stairs when the girl made her dive—but an incident in the prop trunk convinces them otherwise. During rehearsal, the girls uncover what appears to be a smoking gun indicting Ian: a golf trophy, inscribed by his name, with one edge darkened with dried blood. Acting on whatever impulse for evidence preservation they learned from the last time—presumably from "Law and Order"—the girls drop it off at the police. But, of course, things can’t be that easy. Turns out the trophy’s a fake, the blood is from a rat, and someone has just framed Spencer. (Show of hands: Who thinks that this week’s ending with the rats was the scariest one yet?) Did Alison do the pushing? Should they trust Ian? What was in the bag Ian gave to Jenna? And how weird was that tuxedo tank top that Aria was wearing? I can't wait for next week.

--Margaret Eby

Photo: Aria and Ezra work on "The Bad Seed"

Credit: ABC Family