thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Pretty Little Liars Recap: “Misery Loves Company,” (Season 3, Episode 16)

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Watching this week’s episode of Pretty Little Liars was like chowing down on a pizza so loaded with rare and tasty toppings that you can hardly lift the cheesy slice off your plate. Part of you is like, SO MUCH IS HAPPENING WAA and all of you is like, AND IT’S ALL SO DELICIOUS. Which is to stay: “Misery Loves Company” gets an “A” for “Action-packed.” Meredith drugged Aria and then locked her in the basement! Hanna fought off fashion mannequins attempting faceless murder! Ali showed up to be cryptic with drugged-out Aria for a while, Paige and Caleb teamed up for a secret anti-A crusade, and in the episode’s saddest and scariest twist, Spencer laid a trap for Toby, caught him red-handed and black-hoodied, and ended up curled in a ball outside his door, begging for an explanation.

Heavy. Stuff.

And so, without further ado: this week’s Pretty Little Liars recap.

Spencer’s realization that Toby betrAyed her was so heartbreaking and terrifying. What will this news mean for our woman of steel?

Sarah T: First of all, I need to go back and watch this episode again, because clearly Spencer laid a trap for Toby, but I spent the whole episode thinking she was just pumped about their anniversary date and I don’t know when she saw the Radley ID card that tipped her off. But well-played, show! Nicely plotted. Anyway, I thought their confrontation was so great and devastating, from Toby’s hard-to-read “How long have you known?” to Spencer’s furious slap. In the moment she’s so shocked that her suspicions were right that she’s all adrenaline and terror, but the moment she collapses into her mother’s arms you can see that this is going to change her forever. And that last image of her shouting teary questions at Toby through the door while he (I think it was him, though we never see him) played the piano–ahh, I wanted to reach through the TV and hug her. PLL is always amazing at taking the crazy messed-up world the girls live in and making their emotions universally relatable, and I think anyone who’s ever felt completely betrayed by a boyfriend or girlfriend could relate to Spence in that moment.

Phoebe B: Oh my goodness, I knew that moment was coming but it was SO heartbreaking. Also, I had secretly held out hope that Toby was just a spy in the A-world, but alas that no longer seems feasible. But also, I think that Spencer found out when she was initially at his apartment or maybe it caught her eye when she went back to meet him. I think her planning the anniversary dinner was legit and not a trap … But I think that she saw the ID in the process and then promptly figured out that Toby would come for the A key. Also, I think that at the end it was just Mona in the apartment alone playing classical music and conducting (which made her seem like an extra evil genius for some reason), which would be more horrifying to me because then it is just her listening to Spencer break down, which is what she wants I think. Lastly, do you think what Toby and Mona were chatting about early in the episode was about trying to destroy Spencer?

Sarah T: I used to assume that Toby was only on the A team as a double agent, but my thinking’s changed. Now I think he’s on it for real, though that doesn’t mean his feelings for Spencer weren’t at least partly real too–just the way Mona really does love Hanna but also she wants to murder her and shove mannequins at her on job interviews. The way he seemed angry when he told Mona that Spencer was still lying to him–that, to me, read like an aggrieved boyfriend, not like an A-teamer.

Phoebe B: Agreed. But also I still totally don’t understand why Toby would turn against Spencer, which I think is why I had held out hope. But maybe there’s something about him and the PLLs we have yet to learn.

We’ve seen Toby and Mona working together before, but never discussing their PLL-terrorizing mission quite so openly. What do you think about their evil alliance?

Sarah T: It’s interesting to me that they are kind of friends! Like, Toby’s got Mona over at his house, drinking the anniversary wine, playin’ her some tunes. I may have mentioned this before, but it’s fun for me to think about the A team as a shadow Liars–just as the girls are united by a common tragedy and a common enemy, so is the A team glued together in their shared mission to… do what, exactly? Mess with everybody’s heads, I guess.

Phoebe B: Agreed. For me, it’s really disturbing to see Toby and Mona happily (ish) in cahoots. Mostly, I think this has to do with my sadness over Toby’s betrayal and my desire to believe he is not as evil as he seems.

So Meredith was an insane person, it appears. Do you buy Byron’s explanation of his confrontation with Ali the night she was murdered–and do you agree with Aria’s decision to burn the blackmail evidence?

Sarah: YES let’s talk about Aria’s wonderful crazy storyline. So Meredith, it seems, freaked out when she realized that Aria had evidence against Byron, and decided to handle this complication by putting anti-anxiety/sleeping pills in the tea she was constantly forcing Aria to guzzle while she ransacked the house looking for the pages from Ali’s diary. But what was Meredith’s argument with Byron about in the first place? I don’t think we’re getting the whole story here; if Byron just didn’t want to tell the police about the blackmail because he knew it would make him look guilty, I don’t know what the two of them would have been fighting about. Which makes Aria’s decision to burn the diary pages not the smartest move, although I understand: one, girl has had a rough few days being held captive in her own home, and two, of course she doesn’t want to believe her father would be capable of murder.

Phoebe B: Agreed on all counts. Meredith was SO scary in this episode … I feel like she knows more than she’s telling. But I’m also confused that she gave the pages back to Aria in the first place. Like didn’t she read them before she handed them over? And if she really didn’t want Aria to have them, then why on earth would she have given them back to her? I am leaning towards believing Byron but only because PLL so wanted us to believe he was guilty and therefore I’m inclined to think he is innocent. Maybe Meredith had something to do with Ali’s death? But I still really don’t understand why she went extra insane in this episode.

Ali showed up for a typically obtuse and possibly hallucinated conversation with Aria. What are your interpretations?

Sarah: Ahh this was one of the best Ali cameos yet, I thought. First because of that mixture of protectiveness and superiority and sympathy and teasing with which Ali always treats the Liars–warning Aria not to drink the tea, explaining that she may have blackmailed Byron but she never ratted him out, vaguely alluding to the fact that all of the Liars are surrounded by A (what does this mean for Emily, btw? I don’t think Paige is A, I don’t think her parents are A… who else does she hang out with?). I thought it was important that she mentions that she was “desperate” for the blackmail money–what did Ali need the money for? Oh, and I loved that she asks Aria if she knows why she chose her as one of the Liars–and disappears without telling her. That’s one of the psychological mysteries of the show, from the girls’ perspective, all the time: Why them?

Phoebe B: Yes on all those reasons why this particular Ali appearance was awesome. I wondered too, what she meant when dream Ali said something about how she was surprised Spencer hadn’t figured things out yet. Do you think that was Aria knowing something about Toby? Since this Ali appearance is in Aria’s dream, yes? For a moment though, while I was watching, I totally thought that Ali was actually there (then again, I’m prone to the evil twin/Ali’s not dead theory). Also, did you notice the girl in the red coat watching Hanna right before she goes in the scary mannequin filled store? There was a reflection and I got really excited because I wondered what had happened to the whole red coat storyline.

Caleb (sporting a new haircut that makes him look like a Super Mario mushroom) and Paige are plotting to protect their loved liars and take A down once and for all. Awesome or ill-advised?

Sarah: Hmm you know it’s not gonna end well, but I guess I still think it’s pretty awesome. One because it gives them something to do, and two because I think Paige is right that the girls are so shell-shocked by constantly being stalked and attacked and blackmailed that they are kind of apathetic about it at this point. “Oh how droll, another ‘next time I’ll throw acid in your face’ threat,'” Hanna says carelessly in this episode, tossing her blonde mane. So probably it’s better if people who aren’t used to shrugging off A’s devious ways take a crack at taking Team Hoodie down.

Oh, speaking of Hanna! That little grin she gives Emily after she suggests that Spencer surprise Toby by showing up wearing five-inch heels and nothing else! “What, I hear boys like that!” She is the funnest. Also, she has totally done that for Caleb.

Phoebe B: Agreed. I can only predict terrible things to come form this alliance though since it will put both significant others in the line of fire. That said, I’m pretty excited to see what Caleb’s hacking skills and Paige’s general bad-ass-ness will be able to do.

  1. Oh Phoebes! I think dream-Ali was supposed to be real-Ali, because the doll is in the same place where she puts it down as she’s leaving the room when Aria wakes up 🙂 But Aria doesn’t seem to really focus on that because she’s too busy not getting shivved by Meredith. Priorities.

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