Since the dawn of subjective idealism way back in the 1600s, people have been tinkering with the question: If Regina George gets hit by a bus and Gossip Girl isn’t around to post it, will Veronica Mars be able to discover the source of the cryptic messages? Well, into the void of that philosophical conundrum steps Pretty Little Liars, and color me crazy, you guys, but it is so fetch! (Am I drunk? Oh God, honey, no! What kind of recapper do you think I am? Why? Do you want a little bit? Because if you’re going to drink I’d rather you do it while we watch ABC Family.)
Rosewood, Pennsylvania. It is a dark, stormy night and Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily are lounging in a barn, listening to 3OH!3‘s “Don’t Trust Me,” and it is my sincerest hope that this is the theme of the entire series because I cannot think of a better way to spend my Tuesday summer nights than unraveling a mystery set to the lyrics Don’t trust a ho, never trust a ho / Won’t trust a ho, ’cause a ho won’t trust me.
The electricity goes out and Aria says there’s something outside. So they gather ’round a flashlight and creep to the door that way you do before someone gets slashed in a horror flick, and then thunder! lightning! wind! the door bursts open! But no worries — it’s just a ho. Allison the Queen Bee, to be precise, and they flit around her and crawl all over her and wonder if she’s downloaded the new Beyonce video. Emily says she’s loving the video so much, and Allison says, “Maybe a little too much, Em.” (Maybe you’re not just appreciating the snappy choreography and strong voice, Em. Maybe you’re also appreciating the curve of her calf and the ripple of her abs, Em. Maybe you’re gay, Em.)
Allison says they should all drink, drink, drink and share their secrets, because secrets keep their hair big. And either they are all featherweights or Allison roofies them because next thing you know they’re waking up, and Allison and Spencer are missing. Spencer comes trembling back into the barn to say she went to look for Allison, but she’s gone! And she thinks she heard her scream!
One year later, Aria (Lucy Hale, who you may remember from Privileged or from that time she played Alexis Bledel‘s sister who stole the Traveling Pants) and her family have returned from her dad’s sabbatical. Everyone’s talking about the one year anniversary of Allison’s disappearance, and Aria’s mom suggests she call up her old friends to reconnect.
But Aria’s got secrets to keep and secrets to make. Secrets to keep: She caught her dad having an affair before they left. Secrets to make: She seduces a sexy soon-to-be-English teacher named Ezra who is enamored with how she’s smart and well-traveled and has great taste in music. (Also, I’m guessing he’s into her desperately brown eyes. Brown eyes are my kryptonite. But he doesn’t say that part.)
Then there’s Hanna. (Ashley Benson, who you’ll no doubt remember as Jack and Jenn’s daughter from Days of Our Lives. No? Just me? Well, trust me when I tell you she had a hard life, what with her dad returning from the grave three times (once with her uncle who wears an eye patch) and how she moved from Africa to Ireland to Salem. Plus the water poisoning she got when she was a baby.)
Hanna’s first secret is that she’s a shoplifter. Her second secret is that she’s got body image issues because Allison conditioned her into either anorexia or bulimia. She’s the new Queen Bee, obviously, on account of she’s the only one left with blonde hair.
And we’ve got Spencer. She’s interning at the mayor’s office and taking classes and redoing the barn, but she’s also got some secrets. She always falls in love with her sister’s boyfriends. And apparently her sister’s boyfriends are always falling back in love with her. Allison knew she kissed one of them. And after sharing six seconds of screentime in the pilot, her sister’s fiance offers her a pretty naked massage.
And finally: Emily, whose secret is that she likes to kiss girls. (Rest easy, Skins fans. At least she doesn’t have red hair like she does in the books. You don’t have to feel conflicted loyalties.) Allison was the object of Emily’s affections once upon a time, and while most of the Pretty Little Liars are just kind of creeped out by Allison’s disappearance, Emily is genuinely sad. Luckily, Emily gets a new neighbor — one who moves into Allison’s house — and they are so immediately into each other that their dialogue becomes a playground of That’s What She Said.
On the first day back at school, Aria discovers that the English teacher she snogged is actually her English teacher, and no one’s going to blame her because there’s something irresistibly Gilbert Blythe-y about him — like, I’m halfway to smitten already, memorizing Lady of Shalott and thinking about where I can get my hands on a row boat. Just as he notices her and smoothly goes, “Holy crap,” Aria’s phone rings. It’s a message from “A”: Maybe he fools around with students all of the time. A lot of teachers do. Just ask your dad.
After school, Emily delivers a basket of baked goods to her new neighbors, and that’s when she meets Maya, the girl she’s eventually going to shag. Here’s the part where you start taking a drink at every double entendre.
They both have boyfriends. Emily’s boyfriend is named Ben, and he’s a swimmer, like her.
Maya asks Emily to join her, so she hops on the bed and says, “OK!”
Good answer, Emily! I like you best!
After the spliff, Maya walks Emily home and their hands brush up against each other and they giggle about how Maya’s never had a jock friend before. Maya nudges her with her shoulder and says, “I guess that makes you my first!”
And by my calculations, if you’re playing the drinking game I suggested, you should be pretty buzzed by now. But don’t get too trolleyed or you’ll miss the almost kiss when they get to Maya’s front door. They’re cute and awkward and Emily’s face is kind of like, “Wait — that’s not supposed to happen when two straight friends part company for the first time.” But also, her face is like: “Oh. Awesome.”
The next day she finds a note in her locker from “A”: Hey Em! I’ve been replaced! You’ve found another friend to kiss!
At home, after her semi-naked massage with her future brother-in-law, Spencer watches him and her sister make out in the yard. She’s startled out of her covetous reverie by an email from “A”: Poor Spencer. Always wants Melissa’s boyfriends. But remember, if you kiss I tell.
Hanna and her mom are sitting down to dinner when a detective busts up into her house to arrest her for shoplifting sunglasses. Her mom says she’ll take care of it (by pulling a Forest-Gump’s-mom and screwing the detective so he’ll drop the charges), and as Hanna is sitting in the detective’s lobby, she reaches for a piece of candy and gets a message from “A”: Be careful, Hanna. I hear prison food makes you fat.
The Pretty Little liars can’t figure out how someone besides Allison would know all their Pretty Little Secrets, but you guys, it’s not Allison! Allison’s body is under the gazebo where Maya’s mom is planning her new cello studio! She’s dead! Allison is dead!
At the funeral, Ezra finds Aria and they talk about how they’re not going to get into anything tawdry, and then they kiss like mad in front of a stained glass window to Measure‘s “Begin Again,” and this Pretty Little Liars production team sure knows how to work sunlight and a musical montage. Way to push my buttons, ABC Family.
Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily are reunited on the front row of the funeral because they were her best friends, after all. They realize they’ve all received messages from “A,” and then the elusive and much-hinted-about Jenna shows up, and she might be blind. I don’t know.
After the funeral, Detective Walden jumps the girls and says that it’s no longer a missing person’s investigation, it’s a murder investigation, and he will get to the bottom of what happened the night of that storm! Jenna gets into her limo(?) and Aria wonders if Det. Walden could “know about the —” and Hanna says, “No! How could he!” And then everyone’s phones ring at the same time like a Gossip Girl blast — my favorite noise in the whole world — and out loud, in unison, the Pretty Little Liars read the text: “I’m still here, bitches. And I know everything.”
I don’t know everything. I hardly know anything. But you can bet your Burn Book I’ll be back next week to find out WTF. (OMJC! XOXO! HH!)
What’d you think?