thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Eye of the Beholder” (Season 2, Episode 23)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps, Television on March 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm

This week’s prettiest little liars triumphed over house fires; pieced newspaper clues together; met a random pilot named Duncan; and perhaps found an ally in Jenna. Read on for more on this week’s PLL escapades.

Let's talk about these outfits.

Who do you think this Duncan character is? Can we trust him, and what did you think about his scenes with Aria?

Sarah T: Who? Ohhh Mark Wahlberg’s younger brother you mean? I trust him so far, since we haven’t been given any reason to believe he’d want to hurt Ali or anyone else. Going off of last week’s discussion of Aria becoming Vivian, I thought that scene with Aria in the plane was so illuminating–when Duncan tells her, “You want to understand your friend? What she was looking for? Take control.” Because now the show is really pulling together the ways the four PLLs are dealing with the loss of Ali, her complicated legacy, and the aftermath of her death.

Spencer is dealing by trying to solve the mystery and lay all the answers out in the open once and for all, so that the house she lives in isn’t always so dark and shadowy and filled with strangers. Hanna’s dealing by helping and/or befriending pretty much everyone Ali ever hurt — Lucas, Mona, now Jenna. She’s the new Ali, but she’s reinventing what the new Ali can be by harnessing her own inherent solar power and making amends for the past (particularly since she tacitly supported Ali’s bullying by not doing anything to stop her). Emily’s dealing by continuing to love Ali and remember her in her better moments, so that all the best parts of her live on. And now Aria–who was the most self-obsessed for a long time, and seemed to be dealing mostly by transferring all the pain and confusion and hurt into her secret relationship with Ezra–is finally dealing by becoming Ali/Vivian in order to understand her. She’s learning how to recognize the parts of herself that lived in Ali, and the parts of Ali that are still alive in her. And that is a rocky, bumpy, scary business, hence the plane and the turbulence, but it may be the key to making a breakthrough. You guys! I can’t even say how much I love this show.

Phoebe: Oh my, I think you said it all and best! But, I am a little less trusting of this Duncan fellow and the time up in the plane with him (with all those tight shots of the two of them) totally made me anxious and feel like he might be up to no good. However, I am excited by this new piece of the puzzle in which Ali returned to Rosewood hours before any of the girls knew. What did she get up to that afternoon? And what had she found out? I can’t wait to know! Also, I am intrigued by Spencer’s mom’s confession that she is the one who suspected Melissa … why didn’t Mr. Hastings reveal that to Spencer? So many lies in the Hastings house, but it was nice to see Mrs. Hastings and Jason chatting at the end of the episode.

Chelsea B: The scenes with him were good, though I agree with Phoebe that the airplane scene made me super anxious. I think this is probably just a personal problem, but I keep assuming that every new dudebro they write into the show is going to supplant Ezra (Holden, Jason, etc.). We’ll see if that actually happens with this one, or if I’m doomed to forever imagining romantic conspiracy theories involving Aria.

What say you about Toby’s return? What accounts for his altered mien and his renewed friendship with Jenna?

Sarah T: Toby does not deal with breakups well; he’s so resentful now. I was relieved he asked Spencer if she was all right after the fire, but ticked off at his mean response to Hanna when she cornered him in the classroom. I get that he’d be defensive, but I hate it when people tell other people to shut up, especially when it’s guys talking to girls. Oh, and! I think that earlier scene with Toby and Jenna in the hospital waiting room was one of the few times we’ve seen an extended conversation between the two of them, and it was interesting to see Toby’s defenses remain intact with her too. I think he’s still wary of Jenna, but he can’t shake (and doesn’t want to shake) the ties that bind.

Phoebe: I think you are correct (again!) on all counts. I definitely thought the Toby-Jenna conversation was fraught, but also he seemed oddly more sympathetic to her now than before, which as Hanna pointed out is a little weird. Also, I felt uncomfortable at him telling Hanna to shut-up and was hoping for some of the old and sweet Toby to emerge. I understand the resentment towards Spencer of course, but I feel like it was particularly odd to see that directed at Hanna.

Chelsea B: Yeah, you ladies covered this territory thoroughly. He likes that Jenna (as sister/step-sister) will always be around and can’t just reject him like Spencer did. Even though he knows it’s a messed up situation, he’s willing to deal in the murky moral territory with Jenna because it makes him feel safe.

Weekly Mona report? (Umm, obviously this question is from Sarah)

Sarah T: First of all, I loved Spencer’s comment about how if you could harness Mona’s sense of entitlement, you could light up the Eastern seaboard. Great line. And I was pleased to see Mona and Hanna scheme-teaming to get Toby alone for a minute, as well as the hilarious truck slideshow interaction between Mona and Toby. Did you notice that Toby was biting back a grin by the end? Even he can’t help thinking Mona’s secretly kind of awesome.

Phoebe: Spencer’s comment was quite ingenious. And, I too enjoyed her and Hanna’s scheming and Toby’s comment about how perhaps his old truck was not quite her style and the way she suggested that it wasn’t for her, but rather her cousin who was having a hillbilly phase. My favorite part of that conversation though was about the tape player in the truck. Also, I feel like Mona is really saving the day recently, like last week with the lying scheme and this week in getting Hanna a new phone and the Toby thing.

Chelsea B: I loved that she used the word “rockabilly” with a straight face. That is all.

Is the person contacting Emily via text and email really Maya? 

Sarah T: I’m thinking no, mostly because I feel like if it was Maya we would have heard her voice on the line. I also think it’s not Maya because the show has been dragging out this storyline for so many episodes now that I feel like there needs to be some kind of dramatic pay-off. Of course, it could be a narratively disappointing Lucas-has-a-gambling-problem kind of situation.

Phoebe: I concur. I wonder if it is in fact Maya, but that she is being held by A or something. Like she is being forced to send those messages on a burner phone or A’s phone! Also, where is Lucas these days? But, I too feel like clearly something is afoot, otherwise why so much focus on her disappearance and sort of the ways in which it mirrored Ali’s with her picture in the paper and stuff.

Chelsea B: Maybe? It does seem a little too neat to be true, but why would the not-Maya-person risk calling Emily when there was a legitimate chance she could have answered her phone? Phoebe’s theory that Maya is being held hostage seems plausible, though really, what else do the girls have to trade?

Thoughts on the fire in Jason’s house? And who is attempting to kill Jenna?

Sarah T: That moment where Jenna slams up against the window glass with smoke pouring out behind her was easily the most scared I’ve ever been while watching this show. Oh man. I kind of think whoever started the fire wanted to make sure Jenna doesn’t regain her sight — maybe there’s a part of the mystery of Ali’s death that would come to light if she did. So I guess Ali’s killer started the fire, and I don’t think that person is the same as A.

And, let’s talk about Hanna pulling Jenna out of the fire! The first time, Hanna helped blow Jenna up. This time, she helps get her out. I think any of the other PLLs would have done the same–they’re all growing–but it’s so essentially Hanna to run into a burning building and save the person she probably hates the most. It’s not just about making amends for the past, though that’s part of it — it’s also about Hanna’s impulsiveness, which goes hand in hand with having the kind of courage that lets you run straight into the fire. I think Hanna’s emerging as the protector of the group — the Buffy. And Mona’s the Blair. Who are the others? Spencer’s maybe a Katniss?

Phoebe: Okay, so I agree on many counts. But, wasn’t Jenna already blind (and in the hospital/place in Philadelphia) by the time Ali disappeared and was killed? I definitely think A started the fire in order to hurt Jenna, which is so confusing because does that mean that A is in fact not Jenna and/or Jenna + Garrett? So then maybe, Jenna and Garrett were tormenting and working against the PLLs, but separate from A? I am so confused! And, I thought Hanna’s saving her was awesome and also a great move given that earlier in the episode the PLLs feared being turned in for blinding Jenna with Ali, since presumably this will now protect them from Jenna’s wrath.

Chelsea B: I agree, Sarah. That moment when she slammed up against the window was really scary. It also seemed to oddly mirror the moment from a couple of episodes ago with the old man at the law firm. Which means… I have no idea. Hanna, of course, saved the day! I’m so proud of her. Spencer deserves some credit, too. As far as who lured Jenna there and set the fire, I’m going to agree that it was A, but not the person who killed Ali. Also, possibly, could it have been Spencer’s mom or Melissa? Mrs. Hastings was concerned about Spencer going inside Jason’s house and it could have been because she knew what was going on.

What do you think the police shield at the end means?

Sarah T: Something to do with Garrett, I’m guessing? But I’m mystified.

Phoebe: Indeed, I think you are correct. Somebody, presumably A, is trying to frame Garrett, which means that Garrett is not all of A and/or A at all! Also, I wonder if that was really him speeding away. And if it was, maybe he did set the fire after all but now A is making sure he is caught for it? But, I too am quite mystified.

Chelsea B: Yep, Phoebs, my first through was that Garrett is being framed, too. Which holds with my Melissa theory! Maybe she was in the car with him the other night in order to steal his badge…

Did Ezra do right? Take our poll!

And the results of last week’s poll are in — the majority of voters think Mr. Hastings and Melissa are both lying about Ali’s disappearance. Trust no one!

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  1. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, finally watched this episode, though in bed with a hot water bottle, so no notes from me. Here are my random thoughts:

    1. I am tired of people slamming against doors in a way designed to maximize shock value, and I thought Jenna with the bandages was already eerie, so that made me never want to watch PLL alone at night again. Yes, ABC Family can sufficiently scare me. I am a scared 13 year old girl forever.

    2. I have had a sneaking suspicion that Jenna+Garrett = A was too, too obvious a solution. I think that nearly killing Jenna + framing Garret is proof that this formula was just a red herring. But! I think Jenna knows something, like maybe is being harassed by A too, because she seemed on the verge of saying something more when Interloper-Who-Looks-Like-Toby-But-Is-A-Dummy suddenly threw the girls out of the hospital room. Why is Garrett getting framed? Who could it be? This episode seemed to be all about debunking who most of our A-potentials could be: not Jenna; not Garrett; maybe Jason, but maybe not?

    3. Toby must have learned something about Jenna that changed his mind, right? And Jenna was, like, acting legit nice, not super-creeptron-12,000. I hope something really changed between them, though I agree his guard was still up. Also, he’s a baby. C’mon! Don’t be so mean. He went from being my favorite to being my least favorite. I know Spencer tricked him, but c’mon. He was framed as a murderer too. The boy has no sleuthy depth to him. Gullible as a guppy.

    4. I loved the Hanna+Mona bait-and-switch, but I felt like they threw it away! I mean, yeah, Toby was all “Shut up!” but Hanna Marin throws electronics into blenders and dishwater. She is not thwarted by raised voices. Why didn’t she say something, anything, to Toby aside from “Don’t trust Jenna!” Like, “Things are not what they seem” while wrapping a scarf around her head? I thought if she got him alone for five minutes that we’d see some more payoff.

    5. Chelsea, baaaaaaaaaaaah, you are so right about pointing out that Mrs. Hastings was all “don’t go in their house” to Spencer. Maybe she knew Melissa was going to do something sinister! Oh man, who can you trust in the Hastings house?

    6. I hated the creepy ballerina doll. Too “Black Swan” with the sudden camera zoom. Ugh. Seriously, how am I going to sleep now? This episode had me all creeped out.

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