“Pretty Little Liars” recap 2.04: Rat in the Fry Oil

When I saw that Pretty Little Liars got straight-up snubbed by this year’s Teen Choice Awards, I rolled my eyes and laughed because of course it did. It’s the perfect irony. This show is a lot of things, and one of the sliest is a biting commentary on all the ways society tries to control female sexuality — especially teenagers’ — and convince girls they’re powerless.

Why do we celebrate a show like Lost, with its heightened reality and surreal, long form mysteries, but scoff at a show like Pretty Little Liars? I’ll tell you why: Because the loudest thing we say to teenage girls is “You’re not worth hearing because you’re so silly!” The Liars rub up against that noise every single week. Lost gets to tag itself “critically acclaimed,” but PLL has to tag itself “guilty pleasure.” Start honoring a show that refuses to play to the patriarchy, and who knows what’ll happen. Teenage girls will realize their sexuality endows them with power instead of shame, and whoo boy, will we ever have a revolution on our hands.

It is a pleasure to watch a program that knows what the f–k it’s doing, and I’m talking all the way around: Marlene King has her pulse on the heart of this narrative. Every direcor, from Norman Buckley to Dean White, brings it big screen-style every week with their direction. (Watching an episode of Secret Life after watching PLL makes my eyes bleed.) And the chemistry between the actors is only making everything richer and more real.

Remember when Aria’s former babysitter came to town and tried to get her swerve on with Mr. Fitz? It was the episode when Emily got drunk, so it’s understandable if you’ve forgotten everything else. Anyway, Aria tells her old babysitter how grateful she is that she made her stop watching The O.C. to read Wuthering Heights, and oh, how I bristled at that. Because Josh Schwartz is an infinitely better storyteller than Emily Bronte, for one thing. And because nothing pisses me off like art wankers who get off on spitting at Skins while quoting Proust. Naomi Campbell has enriched my life far more than ol’ Marcel ever could. (“You couldn’t make me feel all right if you stapled your tongue to my clit and stood on a cement mixer.”)

What I mean to say is, in lesser hands, Pretty Little Liars would have never made it past a half-season pickup, but in the masterful hands of its creative team, it has become an absolute treasure, and it makes exactly zero sense for people to scoff at and snub it. “What’s that, Spencer? Your sister’s husband is a voyeuristic pedophile who tried to murder you? You must be mistaken; you’re just a silly little girl.” “What’s that, Pretty Little Liars? There’s no way Teen Wolf deserves a Teen Choice nod over you? You must be mistaken; you’re just silly little girls.”

Hey, how good was last night’s episode of Pretty Little Liars? So f–king good.

Spencer returns to the pawn shop to buy back Melissa’s wedding ring, but A has replaced it with a horseshoe. Out in Knockturn Alley, she explains the situation to the other Liars while a dude literally rummages around in the garbage and The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg watch over them. It’s a nice touch, but I really wish Spencer had worn her Jordan Baker getup for the occasion. Or that Hanna had gotten run over again. Emily’s face is priceless when their phones start beeping at the same time, just like, “JFC, what now?!” It is A, of course, talking about, “I AM GOD ALMIGHTY.”

Remember how Spencer’s mom used to be the point person for the parent contingent? Not anymore. Not only because she was s–tty at it, but also because she no longer exists. The new HBIC ‘round these Rosewood Parts is Ella Montgomery. She will be policing the Lying situation from her home, where she has returned to her role of pancakes purveyor, and from Rosewood High, where she has taken over the junior class’ literature curriculum, One Billion and One Ways to Murder a Mockingbird. Nothing will escape her notice. Except the fact that her son’s transformation to sociopath — under the tutelage of Noel Kahn, one supposes — is 89 percent complete.

Nothing’s getting by Ashley Marrin this morning either. Hanna tries to talk her way out of solo therapy, but Ashley’s like, “Between me being a burgling prostitute and Alison bullying you into bulimia and your dad being just the worst thing, we’re frankly lucky that petty theft is the extent of your criminal activity.” Pam Fields is up an at ‘em, too, because a package of Danby swag has arrived on their doorstep, and that can only mean one thing: “Someone at that school really wants you!” Emily’s like, “You said a mouthful there, sister.”

At school, Lucas is freaking out about how he can’t stop freaking out about his impending date with Danielle. He’s like, “My game is off!” And Hanna gets helpful about, “Honey, you have less game than Caleb has homes. Which is zero.” In the lunchroom, Caleb wanders up and looks affectionately at his bunk-mate over Hanna’s shoulder, sighing about how just yesterday, Hanna was stomping on his heart for cash, and now he’s going on a date with a real girl all by himself. They agree it’s a terrible idea, and decide to chaperon him.

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