Got a Secret? About Pretty Little Liars’ “Know Your Frenemies”

Before we dive into another terrific episode of Pretty Little Liars—the best, I think, of Season One, Part Two—we have to address something upfront.

Hanna Marin is apparently the teenage girl equivalent of Logan Howlett, a.k.a. Wolverine, with her truly miraculous recovery from her broken leg. Last we saw Hanna, she was struggling to navigate her way around her own house in a wheelchair while doped up on pain medication. This week, she’s out and about as if everything—spleen, leg, bruised ribs—are just fine and dandy.

Now, clearly some time has passed: Ian and Melissa are back from their honeymoon, Emily’s dad has left for Fort Hood again. But broken legs aren’t dislocated fingers; they don’t heal within a few days. We’re talking—and I did tons of research on this by asking one other person—a minimum of two to three weeks of casting on the broken leg and doubtless some lingering effects even after the cast comes off. WebMD says 6-8 weeks recovery time overall.* Six to eight weeks can’t possibly have passed since Camp Mona; two weeks seems too long a period of time to have passed (unless that was a fairly long honeymoon AND Noel’s blackmail of Mr. Fitz was really drawn-out and commenced toward the beginning of a traditional high school marking period).

*It also says that symptoms of a broken leg include “severe pain.” Thanks, WebMD!

All this is to say, Ashley Benson should have sucked it up and kept the cast on longer.

But I only spent so much time on that flaw because, really, what else was there to criticize in “Know Your Frenemies”?*

*Maybe the fact that the title is way too similar to “Keep Your Friends Close,” which was used for the Season One, Part One finale.

Why this was the best episode since the summer:

Salt Meets Wounds
Moments Later
Keep Your Friends Close
Please Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone
The Perfect Storm

1. There were a number of really well-done scenes. They almost went to the well too often looking for emotional payoff, but the scenes with Hanna eating the cupcakes and Toby walking the street were pretty resonant.

2. The whole cupcake scene somehow straddled this line between being hysterical and poignant. It was like Catch-22. Ashley Benson in a fat suit as Hefty Hanna just looks outrageous, and this appeared to be the fattest of the fat suits they’ve put her in.* Same with the athletes—I presume football players, but I don’t think that was explicit—yelling “Oink oink” at her, as if she weren’t as hot now as she is.

*This doesn’t even touch her hilarious Fat Run as Hefty Hanna, which is actually pretty spot-on. It’s more a scamper than anything.

At the same time, it did a really good job of capturing Hanna’s humiliation—both outside Lucky Leon’s and in the flashback in front of Alison. It was impossible not to feel bad for Hanna and, by extension, all high school outcasts.

3. This was, undoubtedly, the most dramatic scene to ever involve cupcakes.

4. It was both smart characterization and a nice plot mechanism to show Alison sympathetically caring for Hefty Hanna early in the episode and then later revealing that she showed her how “to get rid of it” by teaching her how to be bulimic. Nice bait and switch, and one consistent with what we know of Alison.

5. Speaking of high school outcasts, Toby. When Toby was back at Rosewood to get his stuff, you couldn’t help but draw the comparison to Rick Murray’s similarly ignominious return to Degrassi (with, of course, Emily playing the role of Emma)(and, I suppose, Terri). The scene where he scares everyone while walking down the sidewalk before proceeding to cry in an alley made Toby so sympathetic that even Spencer felt sorry for him. I mean, you can even hear someone say, “Oh my God, I don’t believe it” at the start of the scene, which I thought was subtle, until that guy told Toby to “drop dead” from his car, which was less subtle.*

*The little kids running away was especially tough. Toby is so bad that seven-year-olds know to run away from him.

6. Mr. Fitz’s almost resignation and Maya’s date with Emily were in the same family of scene, but I didn’t think they were as good. Probably too overwrought by that point. And we knew Mr. Fitz couldn’t leave for good.

7. Agent Cooper leaving town and telling the girls it’s because she has such a strong case against Toby? Dale wouldn’t pull that unprofessional crap. He also would’ve had a donut with that coffee.

8. Found it interesting how the rest of the Core Four was surprised when Maya called Emily “romantic.” At first, I was all “She went out with that other guy (Ben?) for a while, so you knew she was romantic,” but then I thought, “Maybe she wasn’t because it took a girl like Maya to bring her out of her romantic shell.” Pretty Little Liars is complicated.

9. This was really a family drama episode, with the Spencer-Ian-Melissa storyline, Emily’s clash with her mother, and the breakout performance from Aria’s younger brother, former Stanford and current California men’s basketball head coach, Mike Montgomery. And, of course, there was the leftover issue of Ashley Marin’s “unauthorized loan” from Mrs. Potter. This is good; they’re creating a more comprehensive world.

10. The most interesting of these family conflicts was of course in the Hastings household, with Ian and Melissa returning from their impromptu honeymoon with Spencer all curious about Ian’s past relationship with Alison. Spencer kind of became the chief detective of the episode—a role that usually cycles among the Core Four—eavesdropping on the newlyweds and digging through all of Ian’s stuff.  The rivalry between Spencer and Melissa has always been a fun aspect of the series, and their sibling interaction is usually pretty realistic, including when Melissa dropped the “I’m trying to get pregnant” bomb later in the episode. Melissa went all condescending with the When I was your age… crap and Spencer shot back with, “You wanted those things last week.” Way to call her out, S!

11. At the same time, an object falling out of grocery bags seems even more disproportionately represented in television than people getting hit by cars. I handle grocery bags often, and I never drop anything out of a bag. And even if I did, I’d make sure it’s not the one thing I don’t want to conspicuously fall out of the bag.

12. Spencer and Ian’s tense conversations are always a highlight.

13. Chad Lowe is back! And that transition from the Hastings house making breakfast to the Montgomery house making breakfast? Eggs-celent!

14. I’m sorry.

15. Ashley Marin, while driving a Mercedes: “[We’re] not totally broke.”

16. I once took an English class that was all about how to structure your sentences for proper emphasis. Case in point:

HANNA: “If you get caught, it’s a felony, right?”

ASHLEY: “It’s only a felony if I get caught.”

Place the “if I get caught” clause second, and it becomes the emphasis of the sentence. Professor George Gopen would be proud.

17. Could that money look any faker coming out of the paper towel dispenser?

18. I loved the editing in the “Previously on…” where they showed Mr. Fitz’s car with “I See You” on the back and he says, all dramatically, “‘I See You’: It means somebody saw us.”

19. It was nice to see Mike Montgomery get in the action a little; he’d been featured even less than Alison’s brother, and she’s dead. But let’s be honest: Ain’t no way in hell Noel Kahn would ever be friends with Mike Montgomery. That kid still needs rides to lacrosse practice. Grow up.

20. Mike saying that Mr. Fitz “supposably” was seeing a student was an example of perfect dialect worthy of Mark Twain.

21. The title of Noel’s paper: Themes of Change and Loss in The Great Gatsby. And he didn’t properly cite Mr. Fitz’s phrasing, hence the C.

The poor introduction and simple sentence structure likely didn’t help.

22. What sport does Noel play that he can’t suit up for with a C? And what school sits a player because of one C? Unless Noel is failing Mr. Fitz’s English class, in which case he should be pretty happy he even pulled a C on this paper.

23. That’s the way to show him, Ezra! Although let’s sit down and discuss the pros and cons of your decisionmaking in this episode.

Potential Decision Pros Cons
Resign and leave town Leave with dignity, nobody finds out about Aria Rumors swirl, no more dream job as English teacher, no more Aria
Make relationship public Get to be with Aria Loss of dignity and job
Give Noel an A Get to be with Aria, get to keep job, Sharks more likely to win next game in Noel’s sport Internal turmoil
Resign but don’t leave town Leave with dignity, nobody finds out about Aria, stick it to Noel doubly by giving him a C and staying with Aria Lose job (which he can probably find at another school because, even though his lecture on Gatsby is trite, let’s remember the general quality of HS English teachers in this country, am I right?)

I don’t know about you, but Option 4 seems way better than any of those other options. There are virtually no cons. Like, isn’t the point of resigning so he can stay with Aria? Why kill both birds when you want to keep each bird alive? You kill one to save the other. Don’t corrupt your American Dream, Ezra.*

*”American Dream” here is a double entendre. I’m saying Ezra shouldn’t ruin his dream of being with Aria while at the same time not corrupting his dream (girl) in an illegal and altogether unchivalrous fashion. Once he does (or if he did), that changes things.

24. Loved drinking, untucked-shirt Mr. Fitz. “Even though this doesn’t look right, it has always felt right.” Man, even my heart melted.

25. I wish Spencer had to drag out a map of the southern U.S. to explain this Hilton Head Island-Georgia blip in Alison’s story to everyone else. Ali’s “It’s still the south, Spence” explanation would be enough to satisfy like 95% of Americans, who know next to nothing about geography.

26. My favorite part of Spencer’s suspicions about Ali’s Hilton Head trip? Why would Ali go visit her grandmother? “Ali hated old people.”

27. Digression: Why would I want to see Mean Girls 2, when it’s the exact same plot as Mean Girls with less attractive AND less accomplished actors? Furthermore, why would I watch both in the same day? C’mon ABC Family; you can do better.

28. Big theme No. 2 of the episode (talk about burying the lede): A helping out the Core Four. To this point, of course, A has been the Core Four’s scourge—a secret specter that forces them to remember their deceased friend and in a way implicates them in her murder. But “Know Your Frenemies” posits an entirely different role for A as a kind of catalyst to solve the case: an Aquinas-ian prime mover, if you will.* A presumably helps set up Noel Kahn as a midterm cheater and sends Spencer the video with Alison AND Ian in it for all to see.

*Or a Hamlet’s Ghost.

This shift prompts some questions: Why, for instance, weren’t the girls trying to find the real killer before A started harassing them? What motivated A, a year later, to take up the fight?

While this picture of A as someone who wants the case solved properly is somewhat compelling, it’s very problematic. Why would Ghost Alison call A a “bitch”? Why would A try so hard not to be discovered itself, to the point that it ran over Hanna?* Why was it so confrontational? And why did it make Hanna eat all those cupcakes???

*I liked how A admitted it made a mistake in running over Hanna on her cast, and that the Core Four acknowledged it late in this episode.

This all makes A a complicated character (far from an Amateur), which is good but also leaves the door open for A to be one thing this week and another the next.

29. She’s obviously not the prettiest of the bunch, but Spencer does have the best socks on a week-in, week-out basis.

30. The two most dangerous words in the English language are Pam Fields.

31. Hanna’s “I am still a virgin / I am not a virgin” in the mirror = pure televisual genius.

32. Any sentence on primetime TV that starts out with “The law of cosines…” has a special place in my heart.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on January 19, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    “I don’t know about you, but Option 4 seems way better than any of those other options. There are virtually no cons.”

    No cons, I guess, except a possible statutory rape conviction…


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