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‘Pretty Little Liars’ recap: Careless and confused

January 10, 2011 |  7:47 pm


One of the things that makes "Pretty Little Liars" more interesting than your average teen drama is its odd mixture of familiar high school drama — a spoiled party, a crushed would-be lover — with disturbing plot twists. Shows like "Gossip Girl" and "Degrassi" touch on issues and then just as quickly back away, masking any tension with a quick, relatively neat resolution and some witty lunchroom banter. On "Liars," there are no innocents. The girls may have reformed now, but as Alison’s “17th century torture brigade” (Lucas’ apt description) they did some nasty things that we just keep finding out about. The lingering sense of distrust in all the characters never really goes away, and the secrets — when they’re revealed — can actually be terrible. (Think about Serena’s I-almost-killed-someone-no-wait-never-mind episode versus when the ladies reveal that they firebombed Toby and Jenna.) Though this week’s installment lacked the punch of the season premiere, the balance of frivolous and truly creepy was still very much present.

Hanna, back from the hospital and still somehow unable to borrow a big ol’ Sharpie to erase A’s message from her cast, gets a message from A when she finds the money her mother stole invested pretty unwisely in their old noodle boxes. This is a curious tell — is A watching Hanna’s mother too, or has he been bugging the house? (I would throw away that toy panda bear. Its eyes still seem suspiciously camera-like to me.) Later, when Mona gives a sort-of-well-meaning surprise party to Hanna to welcome her back, the money ends up missing, with a note to Hanna inside one of her pill bottles: Do what I say and the money will be returned (via unnerving clown bank, if the ending had anything to do with it). Another weird A move — usually he just tortures and doesn’t ask. Could it be a copycat? And that means that A is definitely one of the high school kids at the party, right?

Meanwhile, Aria was having some difficulties with her two feuding make-out buddies. Noel asked Ezra to reconsider a grade on a bad paper with some vaguely threatening statements and replacing his C grade by a red letter A (!). The class is apparently studying "The Great Gatsby," and the particular selection on the board was from after Gatsby’s fall (oh yes, I turned to Page 179): “I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was to him, entirely justified … They were careless creatures, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money and their vast carelessness...” This seems like a good description of what Alison and the four girls spent their time doing — but is it also a clue? (Or am I overanalyzing their homework again?) Other literary reference of the night: Lucas referring to Hanna and Sean’s relationship as “Me Tarzan, you Jane Austen.” That one … not so much.

Emily and Maya had some non-A related intrigue with their first dinner as a couple with Emily’s family, where Emily’s mom’s mouth seemed to pucker into total oblivion. Spencer was on again and then off again with Alex, thanks to a tennis clinic and some A-related meddling. But the really interesting parts were the Alison flashbacks — Ian’s golf clubs with the same unexplained label as Alison had on her suitcase when returning from visiting “her grandmother” and a shot of another party where it seems Alison meddled enough to get Noel’s then-girlfriend to break up with him. (“I only hunt when I’m hungry. Or when I’m bored.” Oh Alison, you just get more delightful!) Plus, Lucas drunkenly revealed that he has more reason than we previously thought to bear a grudge against Alison. So could he be A? I have to say, I’m rooting for him to get together with Hanna — somehow I doubt he has it in him to wantonly torture people. Right now, all signs point to either Ian or Noel, or maybe even Sean, that Roman god in a varsity sweater. Whom do you have your eye on? I have a feeling that the real A might not even be in the mix yet — as Hanna so tellingly put it, “Everyone’s got a life that no one else knows about.”

-- Margaret Eby

Photo: Hanna at her surprise party, surrounded by potential A's.

Credit: Adam Rose / ABC Family