Got a Secret? About PLL’s “Je Suis Un Ami” and “The New Normal”

Does the reduced frequency of my Pretty Little Liars’ reviews reflect perhaps a taming of my zeal for the show or a latent unhappiness with the second half of the first season?

I want to quell such worries now. Sure, the last few episodes — including the last two — have not been as transcendent as I came to expect each week’s offering to be. But I’ve grown to appreciate the subtle genius on a week-to-week basis. It’s kind of like watching Tim Duncan in 2011.

I, for one, was nothing short of stunned to see that last night’s episode wasn’t Valentine’s Day themed. In fact, there wasn’t a single mention of V-Day. I suppose they didn’t know the air dates when filming, but these days, every show seems to put out a Valentine’s Day special. Part of me was happy to see PLL buck that trend, and part of me wanted to see what it would have looked like.

Let’s look back on “Je Suis Un Ami” and “The New Normal”:

1. What’s going on with the cinematography in Spencer/Toby scenes? Am I the only one that thinks PLL has a pretty standard camera angle/mise-en-scene/I-took-Intro-to-Film buzzwords, except for scenes of these two, which end up being shot with expanded depth through a door or from a low angle that shows just how thin Spencer’s legs are or with a romantic blue light?

2. The shot of the Cavanaughs’ mailbox blowing up was so Twin Peaks. Anomalous, contextless violence. At least PLL attempted an ex post facto explanation.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie Again
Careful What U Wish 4
Know Your Frenemies
Salt Meets Wounds
Moments Later
Keep Your Friends Close
The Perfect Storm
Please Do Talk About Me When I’m Gone

3. The skipping record at the end of “Je Suis Un Ami” was a clear ode to Twin Peaks, and there’s no skirting around that. Sad to see they didn’t go anywhere with it.

4. Who was that swimming in the lane next to Emily? Milorad Cavic?

5. HANNA: Cute boots? New?

ARIA: Ish.

PLL nails the jargon.

6. Spencer would be in AP French.

7. And how come the need for a tutor, and specifically one in French, is so common in television? I’m thinking specifically (and exclusively) of The Simpsons.

8. Would the French really understand Catcher in the Rye? I’ve always wondered which American books appeal most to international audiences. Salinger doesn’t seem like one of them (to me at least). Faulkner is probably the main one. I know Camus hated Hemingway (bless his soul)(Camus’, not Hemingway’s) and adored Faulkner. He liked Melville, too. It’s fair to base how all non-Americans feel about American Lit off of Camus, right?

9. Hey, Sara Shepard: Cop a little American Beauty with your Paige storyline? You have her all walking through the rain, showing up unexpectedly at the house of her purported enemy — enemies because of apparent homophobia and/or certain jealousies about the perceived ease of their homosexual lifestyle — and then (let’s forget that this happens in a different episode at a different point in time) delivering a kiss that the other character doesn’t expect (although, in PLL unlike AB, we could definitely see it coming*). I think we know what happens next week, and how Pam Fields/Annette Bening is gonna react.

*Note I took after “Je Suis Un Ami”: “How lg before Em + Paige are making out?”

10. It looks like Paige McCullers’ heart is a lonely hunter. See what I did there?*

*They even share bangs.

11. Pregnancy is “not really a how question” according to Emily. Unless you’re this guy!

12. Nice to see them stick with a plotline long enough to have Aria distinct from the other three in the opening scene because of her feud with Hanna. When they first showed the room, I thought all had already been forgiven. I mean, Aria still moved past it really quickly, but it was handled well.

13. And if you don’t think Aria got over it quickly, you’ve never been feudin’ with a high school girl.

14. So the now infamous Leonard Adams is a concocted author, which I thought was interesting — was PLL to scared to have Byron Montgomery criticize an existing author? — until I realized this may mean there’s a scene next week with someone actually playing the role of Leonard Adams, and that PLL didn’t want to have to get an actual author to be on the show.

15. I guess it’s to the show’s credit that I assumed he was real. It’s too bad; I was intrigued by that book on Newark.

16. Spencer calls Caleb “the Artful Dodger.” PLL knows when to go beyond the standard jargon.

17. And Hanna thinks she said “Arthur Dodger.” Cute.

18. I don’t know about you, but when Mr. Fitz took care of Nick McCullers, all I could think about was how inappropriately he was dressed for a high school English teacher. Tuck that shirt in, Ezra!

19. BAD. “What does it mean? Am I supposed to go buy an old Michael Jackson album?” I am enjoying Spencer way too much on a weekly basis. This is like discovering J.J. Redick was really fun to watch in person.

20. And yes, regardless of what it means, you should go buy an old Michael Jackson album. I think they’re selling them in Urban Outfitters these days.

21. The two phone conversations were great (Spencer’s phone sex voice wasn’t nearly as grating as I would have thought), but I was kinda hoping for a four-way, Mean Girls-style.

22. That didn’t come out right at all.

23. Ezra nervous about meeting Byron. Cute.

24. How many more movies is Vanessa Hudgens going to make where she’s “the girl no one noticed”? (I’m referring here to “Beastly” and “Bandslam.”) Are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t notice Vanessa Hudgens?*

*Speaking of, Details did a profile on Lady V with a subhead that said she’s “finally shedding her squeaky-clean image.” Didn’t the nude photos do that? Or the second set of nude photos? Or do teen stars get a pass now for TWO leaked sets of nude photos?

25. “I knew Sean. Sean was a minister’s son. Sean called you ‘Hanna Banana.’” I now really want to go out with a girl named Hanna.

26. Could Ella tell Pam about the McCullers incident any more gracelessly? Seriously, what is up with her lately? It was not a good episode for the Parents Montgomery.

27. How did Byron get Ezra’s number, and why didn’t he leave his own in the message? Way too much familiarity in that parent-teacher relationship for my taste.

28. Why, upon entering the Cavanaugh house, would Spencer go into Jenna’s room? She’s looking for Toby, and she’s trying to avoid Jenna. It’s not like she looked diligently for clues in there.

29. I had to nitpick something on Spencer; it was getting too one-sided.

30. The DA dropped the charges on Toby! He’s no Mike Nifong.

31. “Knowing the right questions is better than having all the right answers.” I think that’s one of those things that only sounds clever the first time you hear it.

32. “Online journals aren’t ‘published.’ ‘Published’ is ink and paper.” Amen, Byron!

33. I half-expected Emily’s car to blow up before Paige got in with her. I’ve seen too many episodes of 24 in my life. And both Michael Clayton and Eraser, which I consider the pre-eminent American car-explosion films.*

*Interesting because the explosions take place at very different points in each film.

34. No one has ever before called Eraser a “film.”

35. Toby decides to go get his monitor off with Spencer instead of Jenna. Jenna is upset. And why shouldn’t she be? Put yourself in Jenna’s shoes and forget, for a moment, the moral quandaries posed by her relationship with Toby. A group of five girls finds out about an illicit affair you’re having and throws a firecracker into your house, accidentally blinding you. One of them dies, and your lover is arrested for her murder. Two of the original five then proceed to befriend your lover in an attempt to free him, stealing him away from you in the process. Doesn’t she have the right to be pissed?*

*Again, forgetting the moral quandaries.

36. Mrs. Potter was born in 1929. Probably on a Monday. In October.

37. Caleb’s sleuthing on Mrs. Potter’s “great nephew” was nice to see; only a matter of time before he puts his energies into the real case, right?

38. And for him and Hanna to make out.

39. If I made a list of cities whose notoriety greatly outdistanced its actual relevance, Flagstaff, Arizona would probably make the top five. I knew about Flagstaff when I was like seven years old; what other city of 60,000 people can I say that about?

We’re getting down to the wire of the season. Can’t wait to see what the President’s Day special has in store.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. […] Got a Secret? About PLL's “Je Suis Un Ami” and “The New Normal … […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by John S on February 15, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    Not to nitpick here, but I’m pretty sure “Lady V” now refers exclusively to Kobe Bryant’s wife.

    Also, has the intra-Core Four dynamic ever been explicitly established? Because the last few episodes have very much implied that Aria/Hanna and Spencer/Emily constitute discrete sets of “best friends” within the group.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on February 17, 2011 at 3:04 AM

      Vanessa Bryant is nowhere near famous enough to claim exclusivity on a self-dubbed nickname. It at least has to be mentioned in another magazine profile.

      You’re right about the recent dynamic, but I don’t recall that ever really being set up. The cynic in me just says it makes it more convenient this way, so Spence and Em can talk about Toby while Aria and Hanna forgive and forget.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Zho on March 28, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Salinger is a classic in France too… The Catcher in the Rye / L’Attrape-Coeurs is studied in schools.

    Reply

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