While nothing in this week’s episode matches the bugnuts hilarity of that phone-number-spouting parrot from last week, “Cat’s Cradle” does manage to offer us more than a few creepy tropes to roll around in, chief among them a mask-maker who becomes fixated on Emily and agrees to tell the Liars what he knows in exchange for casting Em’s face in plaster. Sometimes, people in Rosewood do things just to up the unsettling ambiance a few more notches.
And since this week featured a LOT of characters acting like creeps for probably no reason (hey Hannah’s dad, quit rolling up on Caleb like you’re J.T. Walsh in A Few Good Men), I’m ranking the liars by how unsettled they should be by the events happening in their lives right now.
Hannah: Obviously, Hannah’s mom is lying to her about what happened on the night that Wilden was killed. Her initial alibi (that she was in New York, seeing Anything Goes) is quickly disproved by a note that Hannah finds, saying that Ashley begged off the delightfully old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing Gershwin musical. Then Caleb learns from Hannah’s dad that his gun went missing the night of the murder, after Ashley showed up to his house all disturbed. It can’t be so straightforward that Ashley is Wilden’s murderer, but she’s haunted enough by something she knows that she’s locking herself in bathrooms and watching the tub slowly fill with water. Meanwhile, I suppose it’s thematically appropriate that Caleb would counsel Hannah not to automatically suspect the worst of her mother, after what went on with his own Dad, but as with most Caleb-related story points, it’s a challenge to stay awake long enough to register them.
Emily: It must suuuuuuuuck to be the weak link of the Liars. Time and again, we’ve seen A zero right in on our Em because she figures she’d be the easiest to break. It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg argument: does Em seem like a disaster because A keeps fucking up her life worse than the other three, or is A picking on her because she’s such a disaster? Either way, Em’s hydrocodone-sampling (to deal with the shoulder and head injuries she sustained during A’s last attacks) makes her incredibly easy to target. After her mom finds out that Em’s been sneaking her Loritabs and makes a big scene outside school, it’s pretty easy for A to blow Mrs. Fields (haha, “Mrs. Fields”) in to social services, because in Rosewood, yelling at one’s teenage daughter in public is tantamount to abuse. Still, it’s hard to get totally onboard with Mrs. Fields’ lamentations about her privacy when this whole thing started because Em’s doctor flouted patient confidentiality. On the plus side for Emily: no time to go through the Stanford dorm listings with Paige like that’s somehow a thing incoming freshman do.
Spencer: First of all, can we all take a moment and recognize the absolutely killer ensemble Spencer dons to go breaking into Radley? I seriously doubt all claims that any of the Liars will turn out to be A, but if anyone shares Alison’s flair for perfect hair, wardrobe, and art-direction choices for her various capers, it’s Spencer. Anyway, Toby’s out to atone for stealing the RV at A’s behest last week, and the only way he can get out from under A’s thumb is to find out the truth about his mother’s demise for himself. Radley appears to be a dead-end, until Spencer notices that, architecturally speaking, it would be really hard to jump to one’s death out of the window Mama Toby is to have jumped out of.
However, Spencer’s true creep quotient this week entirely revolves around her sister, Melissa, who is back this week, doing what she does best: being spotted consorting with various suspicious characters, just out of earshot. This week, that means she’s meeting with Detective Sean Faris at the police station at the same time that Hannah is there, scoping out Detective Sean’s big Whiteboard of Suspicion (hint: everybody’s on it). Creepier still is when Hannah shows Spencer what she found in the mask guy’s inventory: a Melissa Hastings mask. Which means either Melissa followed Ali on the day she went to get her own mask made ... or they went together. If the Pretty Little Liars producers are Lucy Van Pelt, Melissa Hastings is the football she holds for Charlie Brown (represented by either Spencer or us) only to yank it away, time and again. My preferred ending to the series will be finding out that Melissa was merely a dogged Mary Kay saleswoman who was constantly talking to everybody in Rosewood because she was trying to make a sale.
Mona: Mona is off the map entirely this week, which almost certainly means she’s been killed and stuffed into Jessica DiLaurentis’s walk-in closet. Or else she’s off at Noel’s cabin, conspiring with him and Jenna. Or she’s riding the midnight Halloween train to nowhere with Adam Lambert. However you want to imagine it, Mona’s absence this week is bad. A bad omen for the Liars and a bad turn of events for loyal viewers who may have become attached to the little weirdo.
Aria: Oh, Aria, you really tried this week. But your dramz is, like, comically low-stakes compared to everybody else. “Oh no, my mom wants to take a trip to Vienna with her hottie new bf!” “Uh oh, maybe this cute, age-appropriate karate instructor suitor of mine doesn’t appreciate old black-and-white movies like Ezra did!” She does earn points for being smart enough to hold a hammer behind her back while the oddball mask-maker is plastering Emily’s face.
Overall, kind of a place-setting episode. There is a very strong maternal theme happening this season: A is setting up both Hannah and Emily’s mothers to look guilty of various crimes and even texts outright that she’s going after the moms; Mrs. DiLaurentis is around being fabulous and psychotic; Toby’s mom is most certainly secretly alive. On any other show, this would make me believe that one of the Liars turns up pregnant before the season is out, but on this show probably just means that Ezra’s Baby Mama Alex Mack will turn out to be part of the A Team or something. Looking forward to it!
- Many thanks to Caroline Framke for covering for me last week while I was busy being bereaved.
- “They whose guilt within their bosoms lie imagine every eye beholds their blame.” -- William Shakespeare. Well, it’s no “Got a SEEK-rit / can you KEEP it...”
- I still am in no way close to getting over that parrot spouting a phone number, even if Spencer can’t seem to find it in any of the reverse directories on the internet.
- So was that Anything Goes reference a shout-out to network-mate Bunheads and its star Sutton Foster? Perhaps a show of solidarity towards renewal? Is everybody perfectly okay with me interpreting it that way even if we later got that note (“The show was a dud, you didn’t miss anything”) that suggests it may have instead been the shadiest of shade?
- Hannah: “What? We can’t make a move without Nancy Drew?” Well, considering that your trip to the House of Wax involved voluntarily letting Emily get her face covered in plaster by a weird guy with stains on his apron ... maybe wait for Nancy to get back from Radley next time.