Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 15 of "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 big girls picking up trash aren't fans of the "Pretty Little Liars." They gossip within earshot of the foursome about how they got community service "for tampering with evidence" even though "the cops think they killed someone" thanks to Spencer's lawyer mom.
Soon enough, it's clear Emily and Spencer are not on good terms. They start talking about making "a deal with a rattlesnake," the snake being "A" and the deal being Emily's idea about handling with "A." Deep metaphor.
Apparently feeling the vibe of their jumpsuits, the argument turns physical and the girls are soon on top of each other, rolling around in the trash they're supposed to be picking up.
Officer Garrett looks on creepily through his aviators, eating nuts.
Hanna is talking to her mom in the kitchen and the two offer a helpful catch up about what happened last with the blond "little liar," for those who weren't watching the nine-hour marathon before the Season 2 winter premiere on Monday night. Turns out Hanna may have stopped her father's wedding to Isabel -- at "A's" request via talking doll -- but, her mom says, "You didn't stop the marriage." Tom and Isabel got hitched anyway in a courthouse and Kate is sadly Hanna's evil step-sister.
Hanna's mom asks her if she can at least try to be civil with Emily. But Emily comes downstairs and Hanna leaves. Guess that's a no.
Instead, Hanna's mom tries to get Emily to make nice now that community service is over. But not for Emily and Spencer, who got two more weeks, Emily explains. Okay then. Can things can go back to normal after that? "I don't really know what normal is anymore," 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 says.
"I don't think that's something Hanna and the other girls want," Emily says as she goes back to peeling her banana.
They're interrupted by an apparent time travel back to 1994 when Emily gets a fax. She picks it up and breathes a sigh of relief. Is facsimile blackmail the new-old frontier?
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.
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.
"I knew you would," he says smugly. God, he really gets her.
She shoos Mike away by telling him to throw away her coffee cup and we learn that Aria and Ezra haven't seen each other since the police station a month ago when her mom accused him of having an affair with Spencer.
Mike's 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 to the sarcasm Spencer is laying on pretty thick.
She says 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, Emily talks to her swim coach about having a clean bill of health post-ulcer and says she's ready to get back in the water. The coach says she has to talk to the principal about letting Em back on the team.
Spencer hands Ms. Montgomery her extra credit paper on Vonnegut. Yawn.
Emily walks into the classroom, likely pondering when she will next get to do the breast stroke, and the two collide, knocking their non-Lisa Frank trapper keepers on the ground. As Emily is still picking up her things, she gets a text. We'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 got knocked out in midseason finale before she kissed her.)
Emily walks up to the blackboard, looks around and circles the word "YES" 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 "Design By Jane."
Back at Rosewood, Hanna and Aria are still on good terms. 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.
She heads to her locker and picks up 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. Hanna asks what it is. Lucas says, "Nothing." She let's that go way to easily. He is not to be trusted, especially not after the Halloween episode.
"I look like a demented creamsicle," self-absorbed Hanna says of the jumpsuit shot.
He says she looks pretty. She asks if he is just trying to make her feel better? Of course, he is. But it's working. Flattery goes a long way with Hanna.
Mr. Montgomery talk shop at Hollis in Ezra's office. He asks how things are going with the Aria situation, clearly still thinking about their run in on Rosewood's only commercial block. (Speaking of which, somehow no one goes to the far-too-hip-for-Rosewood Apple Rose Grill this episode? There is, however, a Lucky Leon's Cupcake scene to remedy that.) Mr. Montgomery says he hates how "polite" everyone's been being because he knows underneath it all, they're just glad it wasn't their kid. Someone's a glass-half-empty type of guy.
The increasingly angry Spencer is walking down the street when she sees Toby in the truck she bought him. She says he folks 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.)
Is the comm service done? Toby asks. Spencer explains how she got those two extra weeks tacked on.
Toby shouts, "What's going on? You're best friends!" Thank you, Toby. We are just as confused.
He 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 says. Her efforts to piss him off to the point of departure finally pay off.
He kicks the car and he's gone.
It's "10 TONIGHT" and Emily creeps into the greenhouse. Much to our surprise, Aria, Hanna and then angsty Spencer emerge from behind a wall.
The arguments were fake and they're still BFFAEAEAE! Phew.
Emily shows them the text from "A."
"'A' took the bate," Aria says.
Commercial break as we breathe sighs of relief that the foursome is only faux fighting.
When we return, Hanna echoes that 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. They plan for Emily to show "A" the box Jason gave Aria, but Hanna's scared for Emily to be the sacrificial lamb. "I'm the weakest link and the weakest link wants some payback," the vengeful new Emily says.
The next day, Hanna and Lucas walk into her house, discussing the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel, to find Caleb standing there. "You miss me?" (Fourteen-year-old girls and inner 14-year-old girls resoundingly squeal with glee.) They kiss and 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 (Sorry if that's not a thing. Teen dramas make me portmanteau happy). "What the hell is going on with Spencer?" Emily stays mum.
Aria heads to Hollis to leave Ezra a note when Jackie walks in. She is 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 we ponder "Design By Jane" yet again, 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 her "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. Of course she does. "Then there's something you and I need to do this afternoon." Looks like Ezria is coming out!
Caleb walks outside 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"-esque questions doesn't satisfy Lucas, who is quite suspicious himself.
Back inside school, Aria arrives at the last minute when the swim meet is ending, ready for their staged public confrontation. Lucas, Caleb, Garrett, and Toby look on as Emily and Spencer quarrel. They're convinced and so is "A."
As Emily walks away, she gets a text: "See you tonight, BFF. -A."
Then, Aria apparently took Doc's Delorian home and she's sitting on the couch with her parents while Ezra stands in front of them. "We wanted to tell you something important ... I'm in love with your daughter." Crickets. "I love Aria." More 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 -- they get up, start screaming a bit and Aria's dad tells him to leave. (Does he not remember cheating on his wife with Jody from "Center Stage" when the series 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. Or at least clean up that bloody lip.
The, we ponder 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?
Ezra lies on the couch in his office. Jackie walks in and Ezra says "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?" (We agree with her just this once.) "Go away, Jackie," Ezra says. (But we 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 set up on the phone. Hanna asks if they have everything thing they need. Spencer looks around at the candlesticks on the mantle and 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 hen she opens the door to leave, there's Toby.
Toby is one persistent dude. He wants to know what's up with Spencer and Emily and says the post-swim meet showdown looked like "Ali is 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.
Hanna can't get leave either, her mom says. Her father's on his way over. He wants to talk to them together. This sounds awful, since Tom is. When he arrives, he tells Hanna and her mom that he, Isabel and Kate are moving back to Rosewood. "Dad, how could you do that to me?" No response. The liars' dads are screwing up royally all over the place 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 smart for this bullshit.
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!" stunned, which is odd since none of the other girls are in their respective positions to put Plan Trap A into action and 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." Seriously, Spencer?
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. Gasp!
Phew. 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 explains. 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].'" Not so sure, when dad is Chad Lowe.
Meanwhile, Emily turns around in the greenhouse and there's "A," looking beefy.
"I knew you'd be here. I knew I could depend on you. You're always listening," Emily says, buttering the hooded blackmailer up. "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. It's empty.
"We lied to you and you believed us. That was your mistake," she says. Despite Spencer's text, 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. 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. "We've got nothing."
The girls head back to the greenhouse and ponder "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 the window with his/her hand out of his/her rage. At the risk of offending a possibly male "A," the heaving breathing sounded like a girl.
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 down. 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.