Pretty Little Liars is such a mess. It’s a fun, addictive mess but a mess all the same. When it goes full force with this ridiculousness it manages to be good, in a weird, eye-roll inducing kind of way. From day one the question one asks themselves is why these girls insist on lying as much as they do? Why did they follow Alison on her missions to ruin everyone’s lives, including their own? Why do they continue to lie, even when every indication points to that being a very bad idea?
Because it seems like a good one at the time.
These are girls who have used their secrets as shields, particularly Alison, who uses deceit to create a vision of herself that keeps her safe, which means bending people to her will. But it’s also turned those people, including her former friends and her own brother, against her and may very well be what’s got A on her back now. That’s why everyone’s quick to believe she’s the one behind all the tricks, the text messages and Mona’s murder. And why no one believes she’s being set up now. Alison may have had great reasons for all her lying (at least from her point of view), but those great reasons don’t translate to anyone else. Alison’s isolated herself through her own lying
And that’s worst case scenario for the Liars.
The Liars have always had each other, so their lying doesn’t leave them as weakened as Alison, behind bars with her own brother not returning her calls. But it always manages to come back and bite them some way, even when they’re actually making sense and trying to protect themselves even if it means lying their way to some semblance of safety. “Fresh Meat” is beyond the days of these girls stealing their older sister’s papers and shoplifting sunglasses from department stores, they’re not just lying to protect social status or grades or anything else that’s pretty fleeting, but lying to secure their futures and their lives.
The reality of their unique situation has taught them all some very harsh lessons. That evidence turning up by surprise, evidence that could theoretically help them, is often what will doom them. Of all the decisions these girls have made, disposing of a knife found in Mona’s backyard that belongs to Toby’s family and could have Caleb’s fingerprints on it, isn’t even a bad one. Well it is a bad one, but this is the most logical we’ve seen them be in a while, but of course someone has to not make any sense. So it’s Toby who’s decided that being a cop means he loses his brain cells (which isn’t that surprising considering he works for Rosewood PD).
Right after Alison’s pretty much guaranteed the Liars will soon join her in jail, Toby’s not at all concerned about the possibility of them handing themselves over by giving up the knife. On any other show Toby wanting to “do the right thing” and be a good cop would be noble, on this one it’s just annoying. He can no longer listen to Spencer when she tells him that she and Caleb destroyed the knife, because there are things she can’t say out loud to him anymore when he’s supposed to be protecting the people and following the law and whatnot. This is Toby, the same guy who joined up on the A team a few seasons ago. He’s not immune to wanting to do bad things for his own interests so him biting Spencer’s and Caleb’s heads off over wanting to make sure they don’t join Alison in a cell is just dumb. And if A isn’t part of the knife’s discovery somehow, then why was Caleb almost cooked to death trying to destroy it?
When Hanna hears about this knife floating around she becomes even more invested in taking out Alison’s outside help. This help appears to be Holbrook, on leave to care for his not-at-all-ailing father, and Hanna thinks all it’ll take is giving Holbrook a lesson on the person Alison truly is to get him to return to the good side. She may be right, Holbrook wouldn’t be the first guy to be bowled over by Alison’s charm so who knows? And really, who cares? Holbrook’s not very interesting, especially not when he just joins a long list of older men leering at younger girls and the show’s been so fickle on whether its him or Tanner they want to showcase that it’s a miracle if I even remember what he looks like.
But Hanna’s always fun when she’s got her eye on something, and right now it’s to make sure she and her friends are kept safe. She skips out on a college visit to see Holbrook’s father, where she hopes to find Holbrook. But all she gets for her trouble is confirmation that Holbrook’s been seeing Alison (and told his dad about it?) and a teddy bear stuffed with guts that get spilled on her. Her return to Rosewood is a little more interesting, as she pays Alison a visit. It’s not a conversation on par with some of the other instances of the girls writing Alison off completely, but it suffices. We learn where Alison was on Thanksgiving, and Hanna once again makes it clear that neither she nor the others are going to spend anymore of their time caring about Alison.
And it’s actually Aria who’s my favorite of the episode, still freaking out with her dwindling college prospects. Rejected everywhere and waitlisted at Talmadge (another fictional college I’m not sure why the show is bothering to introduce considering we already know all these girls are going to end up at Hollis together anyway), Aria writes a letter to the admission board, which includes Ezra’s ex-fiance Jackie, to improve her chances, and she decides the way to win is to pander to Jackie’s hatred of her and Ezra. Aria’s desperation really comes through, unable to listen to any of her friends talk about college or their futures when hers is so uncertain. I remember applying for colleges and the thought of not being accepted to any of them is positively mortifying (though unrealistic if you’ve listened to those handy guidance counselors), and if it were to happen it would be so scary and such a huge blow to your self-esteem that of course you’d do whatever was necessary to salvage your chances at college.
It’s my disdain for everything Ezra related that really sells this plotline and makes me laugh hysterically at Aria’s letter about her regret at “squandering” her high school career in a secret relationship with an older man. It’s hilarious because that’s the tone the show would have hit had it not decided to make Ezria something cute and alluring rather than what it really was: inappropriate and icky. And Aria says everything she knows she should say, managing to convince Jackie they have something in common in having fallen so hard for Ezra and having learned what a huge mistake it was. That Ezra might find out (that he most certainly will) is almost perfect, and in an even more perfect world this storyline would grow and evolve into Aria realizing she may have actually wasted high school dealing with Ezra’s drama.
Maybe it is a good idea to lie sometimes, at least for these girls, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to come back to bite them. There’s the chance for that for even normal people who aren’t being stalked by hooded figures, but it’s a million times more likely for these girls. Getting rid of that knife is probably going to screw them over in some way, and A’s already ensuring that Ezra’s going to learn about Aria’s very creative letter
- I do love when PLL takes advantage of the physical similarities between Hanna and Alison.
- Johnny Raymond is another creepy guy who’s going to be creepy I’m sure, especially now that he’s living in the Hastings’ guest house.
- I felt for Emily this episode too, particularly during her meltdown in the kitchen when all her hopes at maintaining hers and Paige’s relationship go down the drain.
- Of course Ashley and Jason slept together. Of course they did. Of course I didn’t mind it at all.
- Spencer: “Em, there’s a hair on this.”
Emily: “Just eat around it.”