Got a Secret? About PLL’s “Careful What U Wish 4” and “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie Again”

Since I was too “busy” last week to go over “Careful What U Wish 4,” we’re rolling the last TWO episodes of Pretty Little Liars into one mega-review.

This combination is made more difficult, of course, by the divergence in the episodes’ respective quality. “Careful What U Wish 4” was, for the most part, bland, especially when compared to the summer’s “There’s No Place Like Homecoming”—the other episode focused on a Rosewood High School dance. But most of the missteps from “Careful What U Wish 4” were more than made up for in Monday night’s “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie Again.”*

*These episode titles are getting unwieldy.

Let’s dive in:

1. Can we talk about Spencer? Look, we all know you don’t want Spencer Hastings carrying the weight of the show too often. She’s more like a fourth starter in my book. But over these last two episodes, she’s stepped up Madison Bumgarner-style, and I don’t mean the fact that she wore a tie. While the other three girls have all been enmeshed in personal drama (Aria with Simone and Ezra; Hanna with Sean, Lucas, Caleb, and an increasingly malicious A; Emily with Maya and Paige), it’s basically fallen on Spencer’s shoulders to do all the investigating. Her scenes with Ian in “Careful What U Wish 4” were the highlight of the episode (outside of the music, which we’ll discuss later). Her emphatic “In-law. Creepy brother-in-law” to the description of Ian was the best “in-law” related quote since Amy Poehler was on Arrested Development. Then, Spencer had a trio of biting comebacks in “If at First…”:

A. After Jason’s “I was a jerk” at the memorial: “That wasn’t the term I would have used, but it works.”

B. After Emily’s “I can stand up for myself”: “Well, you never did with Alison.”

C. After Ali’s “I made all of you”: “You think just because you brought us together you can control us like puppets?… You’re dead to me already.”

And this doesn’t even mention how she saved Aria from almost certain ruin by dancing with Mr. Fitz and how she saved Emily by telling Ian all she knew was their romantic past. Nobody thinks on her feet like Spencer Hastings.

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

2. Does this mean I like Spencer?

3. Oh my God, I kinda like Spencer!

4. Emily has really been at the opposite end of the spectrum these last two weeks. Her need to talk to Maya on the phone was far too desperate—and begged just how much time had passed since Maya went away—and her eventual disappointment at how the call went—“She was there but not there…. Maybe she’s moved on”—sounded even more reactionary. That she would throw herself back into her swimming is, I suppose, realistic* if irrelevant. At no point during Monday’s episode did I care about who would captain the Ridgewood Sharks swim team. Right now, Emily’s storyline just feels like filler.

*After all, I exercise after particularly difficult Giants’ losses.

5. Paige McCullers? Or Paige Michalchuk? Am I right?

6. There are few television characters I hated more than Paige Michalchuk.*

*I did not vet the quality of this apparent fan video of Paige. I’m not watching that crap.

7. When Paige was holding Emily’s head underwater (which totally seemed to be more threatening when it was in last week’s preview of the episode), I was all like, “Where’s Eli when you need her/it?”*

*O/U on readers who get that reference? Zero.

8. Aria’s tiff with Simone was perhaps the blandest of the bland storylines in “Careful…”. The point of adding a new character is to create new relationships, new dynamics, and hopefully, new storylines to explore;* Simone added none of that. She was a brutally inefficient way to make Aria jealous for roughly five minutes of screen time.

*Let’s hear it for being vague!

9. I thought Caleb was there just to replace Toby as the “bad guy” at Rosewood. His proficiency with cell phones is purportedly impressive—he can send emails from his! That look like they’re from his social worker!–but he’s starting to develop potentially interesting rapports with the Core Four, most notably Hanna.

10. Did Ezra Fitz hit a home run with that limo or what? That was his James Gatz-Daisy Buchanan pre-WWI kiss-in-the-car moment.

11. Speaking of kissing in cars, that seems to be a theme of the Montgomery family. Byron was able to bond with Ella while driving her to the museum in Philly and perhaps bring an end to their separation. Between their scenes trying to fix the car (“Who buys a used car with a kill switch?”), bonding in the car, or dancing last week to Howard Jones’ “No One Is to Blame,” Byron and Ella have really become the most interesting members of the Montgomery family. I’d even rather see a Mike storyline than an Aria one at this point.

12. Although Aria’s “Can we just break her other leg?” when she was frustrated by Hanna’s demagogic rule of the decorating committee was good.

13. Not as good, though, as Aria and Ella each lying about where they were the night before. The scene with Ezra and Aria talking about the artist not being at the museum seemed overdone at the time, but now I see it was an attempt at narrative economy (Aria could tell her mom wasn’t actually there since she talked about meeting the artist). I say “attempt” because the artist’s absence was hammered home a little too much in the earlier scene, if you ask me. Pretty Little Liars should respect its viewership a bit more; I’m referencing Gatsby and Swedish film here.

14. Amazingly, “No One Is to Blame” wasn’t even the best song PLL broke out at the “Let Freedom Ring” dance. Fay Wolf’s cover of The Outfield’s “Your Love”—long one of my favorite ‘80s songs since it boasts one of the catchiest first lines in music*—was terrific and just about perfect for the scene where Hanna danced with Lucas for A’s money.

*I would even go so far as to say that “Josie’s on a vacation far away / Come around and talk it over” is my single favorite opening line to any song ever. Premeditating the scoff from the blog’s resident music critic, I implore him to write a list—kind of like this one—of the best first lines in music.

15. The lyrics of “Your Love” nicely match the scenario for Hanna and Lucas, provided you show no loyalty to perspective. For instance, the first line of the chorus (“I just want to use your love tonight”) is clearly what Hanna is doing to Lucas. The second line of the chorus (“I don’t want to lose your love tonight”) is more descriptive of Lucas’ feelings. Going further, the first half of the second verse (I ain`t got many friends left to talk to / No one`s around when I`m in trouble), well that’s Hanna; the next two lines (You know I`d do anything for you / Stay the night, but keep it under cover), we’re back to Lucas.

It’s really a shame the camera angles didn’t capture this back-and-forth.

16. “Let Freedom Ring” was an ironic name for that dance, since it really focused on the Core Four’s lack of freedom. Hanna was being manipulated by A the whole time, Aria wasn’t free to see Ezra whenever she wanted with that whole “I’ll wait 50 seconds” thing,* Emily couldn’t see Maya, etc. (Again, Spencer was the only one without these shackles.)

*Fifty seems such an arbitrary number in a base-60 system. Why not just wait a full minute? Or 45 seconds?

17. Although, if literature has taught us anything, it’s that freedom isn’t necessarily a good thing.

18. What does A have against Hanna specifically? First, A tried to kill her by running her over. Then it made her eat all those cupcakes in public. Then sadistically dance with Lucas. And now reveal Aria’s relationship with Fitzy to Ella? What next week?

“Want to help mommy? Locate the Maltese falcon, discover the true kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby, explain the Tunguska event, and bring me the head of John the Baptist on a platinum platter. Some $$$ for your troubles.

—A”

19. But seriously, there better be a specific reason why A does this to Hanna and not the other three. A, in fact, seems to be helping Spencer every chance it can.

20. Did Stringer Bell order a hit on Alex?

21. Hanna to Aria: “You look like a strung-out powerpuff girl.” Aria does look kind of like a powerpuff girl.

22. Can’t the Marins get a safe? Or something better than a Popsicle box in the freezer? There’s no way that money’s staying hidden for long. Who doesn’t love Popsicles?

23. Small detail I really liked from “Careful…”: Aria realizing Spencer’s laptop was stolen because her music library was online (when they all thought Spencer’s computer was off and in her bag). I like it when modern shows use modern technologies to get things right in non-pretentious ways (looking at you, Disturbia). I can’t say Caleb’s “upgrading” of Emily’s phone falls on the same plane.

24. Hey Paige: The Survivor reunion called. It wants its bangs back.

25. Didn’t like how Aria thought Hanna was jealous when H warned her not to go to the museum. As much as I like to think this is how every girl would react to the scenario, there’s really nothing for Hanna to be jealous about, and I would expect Aria to realize that.

26. I would have been fine with Hanna’s Justin Bieber references if a special trailer for his movie weren’t airing during the commercials of this episode. Could not have seemed more forced. If they did it last week, I wouldn’t have the same qualm.

27. “If she gets to Philadelphia, a lot of people are going to get hurt.”

“Is Mrs. Montgomery running a terrorist cell?”

Caleb responds to Hanna with exactly what I was thinking. Furthermore, I once had an especially aloof teacher named Mrs. Montgomery, and the thought of her running a terrorist cell is beyond hilarious.

28. Pretty convenient that the Core Four was learning about appeasement in history class that day, no? The Rosewood teachers must be thrilled with how frequently their lessons take on instant real-life validity for their students.

29. The big developments in Monday’s episode: Ian spent a lot of the fateful summer hanging out and getting high with Jason DiLaurentis, Spencer was the shadow in the infamous picture, and Mrs. Potter died! The last of these is clearly the most significant, and I expect it to be the focus of the rest of the season.

30. On the Spencer shadow thing, how are we supposed to interpret A’s caption, “Watch your back…I didn’t”? Was Spencer after her? Is Spencer the killer? Is she some sort of Core Four mole?

And I just started to like her!

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on February 2, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    I too am getting sick to death of the Aria/Fitz story, so much so that I was actually hoping Hanna would expose them this week just to bring the situation to a head. I don’t think I’m a particularly uptight person, but the way the show is handling it is borderline indefensible. They keep implying that the only thing wrong is that Fitz is her teacher, which is why they need to go to Philly for their date. Except that statutory rape in Philadelphia is just as illegal (and immoral) as it is in Rosewood.

    I might feel different about the story if it were any actress besides Lucy Hale, but since she is clearly the youngest looking cast member (even younger looking than the actress who plays Alison, who is actually seven years Hale’s junior) I find the whole thing a little creepy.

    Plus, it’s spectacularly boring. Now that the rest of the Core Four know, she barely needs to conceal it from anyone (since apparently nobody at Rosewood HS finds the amount of time the two spend alone in Fitz’s class at all disconcerting), and there’s no drama within the relationship. I know PLL isn’t the first show to do a student/teacher romance, but I’m can’t think of any show that’s gone this many episodes (15 and counting) without the relationship getting exposed. Enough is enough already…

    Reply

  2. […] Aught Lang Syne « Got a Secret? About PLL’s “Careful What U Wish 4″ and “If at First You Don&#… […]

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  3. […] If at First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie Again […]

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