“Pretty Little Liars” recap (4.02): One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Spencer tries to get Toby to hang out with her today because if she can’t get into UPenn she’s not going to high school again ever, but the work of Pennsylvania’s most successful teenage carpenter is never done. He has to get to a job. His phone rings; he denies the call. Spencer stares at him like she does; his own eyeballs dart around the room like a squirrel in a hyena pit. Spencer tells him about Mona nearly getting strangled to death last night; he kind of shrugs. Spencer is finally like, “What is going on here? Are you A again or what, Toby?” Toby says he can’t answer any of her questions or accusations because HE HAS TO GO. And so he goes.

In Grad School Lit for the Average Teenager, Mr. Fitz is like, “And if you think Joad’s dog getting run over by a car in The Grapes of Wrath is a bummer, wait’ll you check out Kate and Aron’s doomed love affair in East of Eden. Basically, we’re going to keep binging on Steinbeck until we all want to die.” After class, Spencer stays behind to get some advice about getting into UPenn. Ezra goes, “Well, just off the top of my head, I’d say maybe you shouldn’t focus your personal essay on the perpetual emotional terrorism you’ve suffered at the hands of a zombie, all of which lead you to the basement of an insane asylum where you conversed with some dolls and slow-danced with your dead best friend’s ghost. And, you know, maybe leave out the part where you tried to murder the captain of the academic decathlon team.” Spencer is at a loss, because if she doesn’t write about that stuff, she’s got literally nothing. Her whole life is one poltergeist hunt after another.

That’s the essay she writes — the one about being tortured/swaying to the tune of “I’m Your Puppet” with Ali’s ghost in a mental institution — and when Ezra tries to very gently explain that the admissions board at UPenn is going to think she’s insane if she submits it, she comes out of the frame. She starts wailing at Ezra about how lies and the pretty little liars who tell them are what has caused all of her life’s problems and all of his life’s problems and there is honestly a very scary moment where I think she’s going to kiss him, but she doesn’t, thank God, because Toby would smash in Ezra’s beautiful face for one thing, and I really don’t think I could stomach these two together.

One of the best thing about this episode is that the Liars are all coming unglued individually, which is making them act so bitchy toward each other. Everybody snaps at everybody else in the most hilarious and sarcastic ways, and even when they’re being nice, they’re not listening to anything anyone else is aaying. Like right now on the phone, Emily is explaining that her shoulder is probably broken but she’s got to swim anyway and Paige is on the way over and why aren’t the opiates more easily accessible in her house, and Hanna is flipping out about finding some Manolos in the recycle bin, both of them just covered in mud like they tromped down into a swamp to pull out a police car. If you’re new to this show, you think those shoes mean Ashley murdered Wilden. If you’re an old pro, you know those shoes mean that Lucas is cross-dressing. Hanna tries to confront Ashley about them later but she’s like, “Learn to fold your own laundry before you start accusing my Manolos of murder, Hanna!”

Aria is so freaked out about becoming a part of this show that she visits the dojo where her old pal Holden learned his street fighting stuff and meets a sensei that looks startlingly like Garrett Reynolds’ brother from like Santa Monica. She asks for some private lessons and Sensei Garrett hears an invitation to her pants party, so they agree to spend some time alone clutching at each other. It goes exactly the way you think it’s going to go. For some very obvious reasons (their stature, their obsession with their respective lesbian love interests) and some suspect reasons (their A-ness?), Aria is completely co-opting Mona’s near-death thing and it’s making her jumpier than that time she accidentally ended up in pottery class with Jenna. Sensei Garrett wears a man-tank and touches his skin to her skin and lets her push him around and says, “How do you feel? In control?” And so she kisses him right on the mouth before bolting to her car and smashing the steering wheel with her fist and shouting, “Teachers! What is wrong with me?!?” (Answer: Byron. Since you asked.)

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