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

Spencer and Toby try to out-baggage each other in Spencer’s kitchen. She’s pissed that Ezra said UPenn won’t like her essay about her slow descent into madness, and he’s pissed that she’s pissed that he stole the mobile lair. He did it in exchange for some records from Radley that say his mom was coming around to sanity because she loved Toby so much, but then she threw herself out of a window anyway. Spencer is like, “Yikes, your thing wins today.” They hug and he cries and also he’s ashamed of crying so he runs right out of the house when Aria drops by. Oh Toby, you tender pup. How did we ever thing you were a bad guy? Forgive us.

At the (Gay) Sharks vs. (Gay) Devils swim meet, Shana tracks down Emily in the locker room and says the word “scholarship” about sixty times. Like, there’s one scholarship up for grabs. She’s worked hard for that scholarship. She deserves that scholarship. She’s going to fight Emily to the death for that scholarship. Only one person can scissor with that scholarship for as long as they both shall live. The scholarship is Paige McCullers’ puffy drapes, by the way, and Shana’s threat leads Emily to take a zillion more pain pills and crash her perfect skull right into the side of the pool. It’s terrible. It’s one of the most terrible visuals this show has ever thrown at us and we’ve seen a corpse fall out of a soda cooler.

Paige reaches into the water and pulls her out, which is the perfect metaphorical counterpoint to that drowning thing from eons ago when Paige had Lego man bangs and internalized homophobia. Paige tries to follow Emily — who, let the record show, is once again in the throes of pure misery but being as Canadian as ever about it: “Please, may I please return to the pool and finish my race, please?” — to the ambulance, but NOT-CoachPrah shuts Paige down and makes her watch her girlfriend almost die from behind a window.

The directing in this episode is top shelf. Joanna Kerns is the one who directed it and also she directed “Single Fright Female,” which, you’ll remember, involved the greatest moment of all our lives (CeCe Drake/Snake/Mannequin leg). The pool scene edits and angles actually made me nauseous and when Emily crashed into the wall, even though I knew it was coming because I saw those promo photos months ago, I jumped out of my chair and made a noise like an angry cat. The scene in the Marin’s kitchen in a minute is amazing also. The way the camera is tilted just enough to make you woozy and uncomfortable, the way Ashley is in half-shadows the whole time. The PLL writing team is so talented we sometimes forget to talk about how visually stunning this show is. So, kudos to you, Joanna Kerns.

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