Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 15 of ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars," entitled, "A Hot Piece Of 'A.'"
It's been one TV month (four real ones) since Hanna, Emily, Aria and Spencer sat dirtied in party dresses at the Rosewood Police Dept, suspected of homicide.
Now, they're picking up trash while donning far less fashionable, but equally filthy orange jumpsuits as a group of grammar school children play jump rope and chant a rhyme about liars that sounds exactly like last season's finale. Subtle.
The other girls picking up trash aren't fans of the "Pretty Little Liars." They gossip within earshot of the foursome about how, thanks to Spencer's lawyer mom, they got community service "for tampering with evidence" even though "the cops think they killed someone."
Soon enough, it's clear Emily and Spencer are not on good terms. They start arguing over making "a deal with a rattlesnake," the snake being "A" and the deal being Emily's idea about handling "A." Deep metaphor.
Apparently feeling the vibe of their jumpsuits, the quibble turns physical and the girls are soon on top of each other, rolling around in the trash they're supposed to be picking up.
From his cop car, Officer Garrett creepy looks on through his aviators, eating nuts.
Seemingly the next day, Hanna is talking to her mom in the kitchen. The two offer a helpful catch-up about when we last saw the blond "little liar," for those who weren't watching ABC Family's nine-hour marathon before Monday's Season 2 winter premiere. Turns out, Hanna may have stopped her father's wedding -- at "A's" request via talking doll -- but she "didn't stop the marriage." Tom and Isabel got hitched anyway in a courthouse and Kate is sadly now Hanna's evil step-sister.
Hanna's mom asks her if she can at least try to be civil with Emily. Then Emily comes downstairs and Hanna leaves. Guess that's a no.
Instead, Hanna's mom asks Emily to make nice now that community service is over. But not for Emily, who got two more weeks for fighting with Spencer, she explains. Okay. Can things can go back to normal after that? "I don't really know what normal is anymore," emo Emily says.
"I hate to see the four of you drifting apart. I was really hoping there'd be some sort of thaw by now," Hanna's mom explains.
"I don't think that's something Hanna and the other girls want," Emily laments as she goes back to peeling her banana.
They're interrupted by an apparent time travel back to 1991 when Emily gets a fax. She picks it up and breathes a sigh of relief. Maybe facsimile will be the "A's" new-old frontier for blackmailing?
Aria and Mike walk around Rosewood's only block, talking about his latest therapist and how Mom and Dad look at him like a bobblehead. And then, they run into Ezra. Awkward.
"Haven't seen you in a while," he says.
"I don't really get over to Hollis anymore," she responds, adding that she still has his "rare" book of essays.
"I really like her writing," she notes of the essayist.
"I knew you would," he says smugly. He so really gets her.
She shoos Mike away by asking him to throw away her coffee cup. In his absence, we learn that Aria and Ezra haven't seen each other since she was brought into the police station a month ago and her mom accused Ezra of having an affair with Spencer.
Mike comes back from his long walk to the trash can and the conversation ends quickly.
Garrett's on the phone, telling someone (Jenna?), "I'm waiting for you," when Spencer walks in. She says they make an "interesting" couple.
"You keep saying things to me like you hope it means something," Garrett says saucily in response to the sarcasm Spencer is laying on pretty thick.
She suggests he knows all about "connections" and "shovels," then asks, "Where is Jason, anyways?"
Garrett retorts, "Maybe he got tired of you and your friends and he just went away, like Dr. Sullivan." Ouch.
While Spencer goes to ice that burn, post-ulcer Emily talks to her swim coach about having a clean bill of health and says she's ready to get back in the water. But the coach has to talk to the principal about letting Emily back on the team.
Spencer hands Ms. Montgomery her extra credit paper on Vonnegut. Yawn. When does she have time for extra credit since all she's been doing is sassing everyone she knows?
Emily walks into the classroom, likely hoping she'll soon be able to do the breast stroke, and the two collide, knocking their sadly non-Lisa Frank trapper keepers on the ground. As Emily is still picking up her things, she gets a text. I've missed that sound. "A" is back, bitches.
"You were always my favorite. Want to make a deal? -A" (Note: That first sentence is exactly what possibly-undead Allison said to Emily after she passed out in the midseason finale before she kissed her.)
In response to "A's" Monty Hall-esque question, Emily walks up to the blackboard and circles the word "YES" (because it happens to be up there) multiple times before taking a seat. Game on!
And now it's time for a commercial break, where we ponder whether or not to watch ABC Family's latest offering "Jane By Design."
Back at Rosewood, we learn that Hanna and Aria are still on good terms, thankfully. Aria tells Hanna about the Ezra run-in and Hanna reassures her she did the right thing: "We all have somebody we have to protect from 'A.'" She adds, "We have to do what Spencer said, 'Slay one dragon at a time.'" Is Ms. Hastings the new queen bee?
Brooding Emily -- who needs to watch where she's going -- walks into them. No words are exchanged, but their eyes say everything.
She heads to her locker, in which there's a copy of Carson McCullers' "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter." Inside, there's an index card that says, "10 TONIGHT." Is this an "A" rendezvous already? Perhaps, but that book does say, "PROPERTY OF: SPENCER HASTINGS." Yes, it's in all caps.
Hanna heads to the quad, where Lucas checks in with her about his unofficial job: making sure photos of her doing community service don't pop up on the big, bad Internet.
They sit down with his computer and he opens it up. A window pops up and Hanna asks what it is. Lucas says, "Nothing." She let's that go way too easily. He is not to be trusted, especially not after the Halloween episode.
But self-absorbed Hanna isn't worried about him. She is however concerned that she looks "like a demented Creamsicle" in the jumpsuit shot.
He says she looks pretty. She asks if he's just trying to make her feel better. Of course, he is. But it's working. Flattery goes a long way with Hanna.
Prof. Montgomery talk shop at Hollis in Ezra's office. He asks how things are going with the Aria situation. Clearly, he's still thinking about the uncomfortable exchange on Rosewood's only commercial block. (Speaking of which, no one goes to the far-too-hip-for-Rosewood Apple Rose Grill this episode; but there is a Lucky Leon's Cupcake scene to remedy that.) Prof. Montgomery says he hates how "polite" everyone's been about it because he knows underneath it all, they're just glad it wasn't their kid. Someone's a glass-half-empty type.
The increasingly angry Spencer is walking down the street when she sees Toby and his trusty truck. She says her parents are in Philadelphia with Melissa, who's having tests done because there's something irregular about heart rate. (I'm only mentioning this because it seems important for the future and because I really think Melissa is at least a part of the "A" puzzle.)
Toby asks if the community service is over and Spencer explains how she got those two extra weeks tacked on.
He shouts, "What's going on? You're best friends!" Thank you, Toby. We are just as confused.
To rectify the yelling, Toby has a rocking chair under a sheet on the back of his truck to try to win her over. It's nice, but no luck. Spencer still wants him to leave her alone.
"I told you the night they arrested you, I'm not walking away," he says.
"You have to stay away from me ... If you really want to worry about somebody, why don't you worry about your sister and that cop boy of hers?" Spencer asks. Her efforts to piss him off to the point of departure finally pay off.
He kicks the car and he's gone.
Fast forward to "10 TONIGHT" and Emily creeps into the greenhouse. Much to our surprise, Aria, Hanna and then angsty Spencer emerge from behind a wall.
The tension was fake and they're still BFFAEAEAE! Phew.
Emily shows them the text from "A."
"'A' took the bait," Aria says.
Commercial break as we breathe sighs of relief that the foursome is only faux fighting.
When we return, Hanna echoes Aria's sentiment: "We pulled it off... 'A' totally thinks we're not friends anymore."
They talk amongst themselves as to why it had to be like this, filling in the slower audience members (myself included). They discuss their plan for Emily to show "A" the box Jason gave Aria and Hanna's scared for Emily to be the sacrificial lamb. "I'm the weakest link and the weakest link wants some payback," the vengeful Emily says. She is clearly very versatile in this episode.
The next day, Hanna and Lucas walk into her house, discussing the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel, and they find Caleb standing there in the Marin's kitchen. "You miss me?" (Fourteen-year-old girls and inner 14-year-old girls resoundingly squeal with glee from their couches.) Hanna and Caleb kiss until the adorable moment is interrupted when we see Lucas looking on awkwardly. His emotional relationship with Hanna is tainted yet again and the fantasy is over.
At school, Emily watches Garrett buy a ticket to the Sharks' swim meet. "He follows her around like a trained monkey," Toby says of Jennett. (Teen dramas make me portmanteau happy.) Then, after offering that scoop, he expects some in return. "What the hell is going on with Spencer?" he asks. But Emily stays mum.
Aria heads to Hollis to leave Ezra a note when Jackie walks in. She is quite pissed that Aria did not stay away. "This is your game. You picked the rules," Jackie explains.
Enter a stunned Ezra followed by a commercial break.
After considering "Jane By Design" yet again, we're back. Jackie's gone and Ezra and Aria are talking about the dissolution of their former teacher-student relationship. "Did you stop because of Jackie or because you were afraid?" he asks, before admitting he should have told Aria's mom (and his former co-worker) about their relationship. But Ella Montgomery's "steely-eyed" glare didn't exactly conjure up the courage for him to give his I'm-schtupping-your-daughter speech. "You still trust me?" he asks Aria. Of course she does. "Then there's something you and I need to do this afternoon." Looks like Ezria is coming out!
Caleb walks out of the highly-attended swim meet to the quad, where he sees Lucas, who apparently doesn't hang out anywhere else. "Thank you for keeping an eye on Hanna while I was away," Caleb tells chlorine-intolerant Lucas, who is coincidentally putting drops in his eyes. Lucas asks how California was and if he's going to move there. Caleb says he's staying at least through the school year and then he'll figure it out. The response to his "guidance counselor"-inspired questions doesn't satisfy Lucas, who is quite suspicious himself.
Back inside Rosewood High, Aria arrives just as the swim meet is ending and is ready for their staged public confrontation. Lucas, Caleb, Garrett, and Toby look on as Emily and Spencer throw fighting words. They're convinced and so is "A."
As Emily walks away, she gets a text: "See you tonight, BFF. -A."
Then, Aria apparently choppered home because she's sitting on the couch with her parents while Ezra stands in front of them. He barely gets the words out. "We wanted to tell you something important ... I'm in love with your daughter." Crickets. "I love Aria." Quieter crickets.
Aria stands up and explains they met before school started. Mike comes down, but they urge him to leave. He doesn't. Aria's parents don't want to believe Ezra and Aria's dad tells him to leave. (Does he not remember cheating on his wife with Jody from "Center Stage" when "Pretty Little Liars" began? Those in glass houses, Prof. Montgomery ...)
Mike, who has a way with words, punches Ezra and storms out.
"Maybe you should go," Aria finally says. Obviously, she doesn't want to make out with that bloody lip.
Then, I think about how insane it is that this show seriously celebrates a student-teacher relationship during the commercial break.
Ella and Bryon are discussing the Ezria situation. Clearly, they're not shippers.
"Maybe I didn't give him a chance to tell me the truth," Ella says recalling their police station conversation. "He's finished," Byron says over and over again. Ella realizes this relationship started when they got home from Iceland, when Byron's aforementioned affair was revealed.
Aria enters to swap some adultery tension for some statutory-rape tension and asks to have the floor. "Don't make up your minds right now. You can't figure out in one night what I'm still trying to figure out myself. I love you so much," she says with a shrug. "I love him, too."
Byron, clutching his scotch, sends her to her room. Why is she not calling him out on the hypocrisy? What kind of teenager is she?
Ezra lies on the couch in his office. Jackie walks in and "angry doesn't begin to describe" how he feels about her. She says she had to make him wake up. "Bad idea to wake a sleepwalker," he retorts. She asks: "What did you expect was going to happen?" (I agree with her just this once.) "Go away, Jackie," Ezra says. (But I agree with him, too, just this once.) "There's nothing I want from you and I will not let you do anything to her ... so get out."
Hanna and Spencer -- looking like cat burglars, a.k.a. Joe and Melissa Gorga -- are discussing the evening's "A" set up on the phone. Hanna asks if they have everything thing they need. Spencer looks around at her house: pan to the candlesticks on the mantle and pan to the knives on the kitchen counter. "I think we're all set," she says. Apparently, she has the lead pipe, rope, revolver and wrench in her backpack as she prepares for the conservatory. But when she opens the door to leave, there's Toby.
Toby is one persistent guy. He wants to know what's up with Spencer and Emily and says the post-swim meet showdown looked like things did when "Ali [was] still running things." He adds, "Jenna always said that you wanted to take Ali down, replace her. I didn't think that was true until today."
Oh no, he didnt'!
Spencer says they should talk "after tonight... it could change everything." A dubious Toby finally agrees to let her go and promises he won't follow her. Well, that went from 60 to zero.
Hanna can't get leave either, her mom says. Her father's coming over to talk to them together, which sounds awful because he is. When Tom arrives, he tells Hanna and her mom/his ex that he, Isabel and Kate are moving back to Rosewood. "Dad, how could you do that to me?" No response. The fathers are screwing up royally all over Rosewood tonight. Hanna's mom chimes in. "Because he loves you and this way, he can be near you. Isn't that right, Tom?" No response. Hanna's too good for this.
Meanwhile, Emily gets to the greenhouse. She looks around with a flashlight.
Spencer pulls up to the greenhouse and is on the phone with Aria, who regales her of the Ezria drama. She seems stunned, but it's oddly not the "Get here or Emily will die" stunned; it's more like "OMG! Shut up! He said what?" stunned. It's odd since a) none of the other girls are in their respective positions to put Plan Trap "A" into action and b) Spencer is total control freak.
Emily is still flashlighting around the greenhouse, when she gets a text. It's Spencer. "Almost there. Don't go in yet." Ugh. Seriously?
We see a shadow in the background and then, cut to commercial.
Aria needs to sneak out. As she eavesdrops on her parents, a hand grabs her shoulder.
We exhale. It's just Mike.
She tells him she has to get out and assures him it's not to see Ezra. He shows her the way through his bedroom window. "It's been my escape route for years," he says. Reciprocating with the honesty, she tries to explain Ezria, but he interrupts and apologizes for hitting her teacher-turned-boyfriend. "I thought, 'Better I do it, than [dad].'" Apparently, Chad Lowe packs a mean right hook.
Meanwhile, Emily turns around in the greenhouse and there's "A," looking beefy and faceless.
"I knew you'd be here. I knew I could depend on you. You're always listening," Emily says, buttering up the hooded blackmailer. "You know you made a mistake don't you. That must be driving you crazy. You're afraid we found something ... in this box ... about you ... Do you want to know what we found? Do you want to see what you're afraid of?"
She opens the box and ... It's empty.
"We lied to you and you believed us. That was your mistake," she says. Despite Spencer's text indication that the plan is out of whack, apparently Emily still feels comfortable messing with the bull.
And she gets the horns. "A" charges and soon enough, Aria and Spencer run in with shovels in hand. But "A" throws a potted plant at the roof, causing the glass ceiling to shatter.
"A" makes a run for it and better-late-than-never Hanna hits the shadowy figure with her car as she's pulling up to the greenhouse. Karma is a bitch, but enough bitchy enough. "A" gets away and a race into the woods proves unsuccessful.
"My god! I don't believe this," Spencer screams like never before. "We've got nothing!"
The girls head back to the greenhouse and question "A's" identity. "Was it Garrett or Jenna?" "How could it be Jenna?" "Any sense of boobs?" Oh, Hanna.
They look down and realize "A's" phone fell out of his/her hoodie in the hit-and-run and is right at their feet. My, how the tables could turn.
As the credits roll, "A" gets back to his/her car and realizes he/she doesn't have his/her phone and thus, breaks his/her window with his/her hand out of his/her rage. 'Til next time!
Half-way into "The Lying Game" (a.k.a. "Ringer" without Sarah Michelle Gellar), we see that next week on "Pretty Little Liars," the girls discuss what to do with the cellular device that has made their lives a living hell. Spencer wants Caleb to hack in, but Hanna has a simple solution: "We'll take it to the phone store." Spencer's not for that idea. As the two argue with Hanna shouting, "Stop giving us orders! we're not your winged monkeys," they get a phone call on "A's" phone ... from Blocked ID. Someone's really abusing *67.