A lot of groundwork was laid early in last night’s episode of Pretty Little Liars to make so much of its meat so tepid. I’m not sure if I’m more miffed that the writers brought in a blood drive as a plot device, or that the girls would think it would be a good idea to donate. Organized and run by Mrs. Marin, what the Rosewood Blood Drive did do was allow for one of the most circular narratives we’ve seen on this show in a while. But despite the fact that the girls had to be there to appease Hanna’s mom, whoever is trying to bust Ali out of lockup — we learned last week that it’s certainly not Holbrook — had prime ground to prey on the Liars.
But there’s still something totally questionable about the community, as a whole, wanting to participate in a blood drive. Mrs. D’s death is still technically unsolved, and the ink is barely dry on Ali’s rap sheet for Mona’s murder. The town could have found a better way to give back. Nevertheless, the stories that sprung from the episode’s cold-open were still oh-so-fruitful. It turns out Mrs. Marin was involved through Pastor Ted, to whom she still hasn’t spoken since his proposal. All but one member of the church who was supposed to help her stayed away — and the woman who did show up was just there to throw shade at Mrs. Marin for being too busy to show up to worship on any recent Sunday, as well as sniff around for a reason why she might be M.I.A.
This isn’t the only suspect behavior at the blood drive. A commotion near the medical equipment reveals Mike Montgomery sneaking around the donated samples. He is shooed away by a nurse, but seemingly not without some souvenirs. This is Chekhov’s gun, you guys. And so are the flyers for the Cinderella-themed teen pageant Mrs. Marin is asked to have Pastor Ted distribute. When the title credits hit, we’ve got a duo of elements that could draw up some serious trouble for the Liars. Which of them will ultimately have to enter the Glass Slipper Pageant, and probably be placed on a platter for A in the process? Find out in this week’s PLL Aggro-List, the first ever that features all four Liars!
1. Aria’s got a cheatin’ heart.
The fallout from Aria and Ezra’s breakup and Mike’s dubious behavior have gotten her all messed up. Talmudge has now taken a backseat to a conditional acceptance to Savannah College of Art and Design, but she won’t be officially accepted if she doesn’t make honor roll in her final semester at Rosewood. Her mounting stress levels drive her to cheat on a math test, swiping answers from Andrew Campbell’s paper. Welcome back, Andrew! What’s it been, two seasons? Calling Aria out for copying his answers goes hand-in-hand with minor blackmail — YOU DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED, DUDE, TRUST — and now Aria has to take him on as her tutor, lest he snitch on her.
When the pair finally hits the books, Aria is inundated with texts from the girls about Mike’s whereabouts. The group is divided on whether or not he’s involved, but a phone call earlier in the episode, from a blocked number that turns out to be Ali calling Mike from jail under the name Hank Mahoney, mounts everyone’s, especially Aria’s, suspicions. She confronts him about the call while he’s lifting weights to TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me.”
Is this a thing? Are high-school sophomores in 2015 listening to Return to Cookie Mountain? Is this like 2002 tenth-graders knocking Wowee Zowee, or what? Do the Pretty Little Liars showrunners need a music supervisor for seasons six and seven? If so, allow me to be of service.
Anyway, he tells Aria that what happens on his iPhone 4 is none of her business and goes to get some Monster Energy Drink–lookin’ whey-protein shake … which is — surprise! — actually filled with vials of Aria’s, Spencer’s, and Hanna’s blood samples, probably intended to be handed off to help Ali. This is why you do volunteer work when you can possibly be framed for murder: Emily couldn’t donate because of her trip to Haiti, so she's in the clear — for now.
2. Spencer refuses to sully her contingency plan.
Spencer may have been instructed by Mrs. Hastings to stay away from their corny artist houseguest Johnny, as he could be a bad influence on her, but he convinces Spencer to act as his assistant while he paints a mural at Hollis College. It’s not a date, but they do open up about their personal tics: Spencer has left behind many artistic pursuits because she wasn’t good enough at them and it’s not the Hastings Way; Johnny has a penchant for falling in love with girls who are unavailable, “emotionally or otherwise.” The next morning, Spencer sees in the local paper that he has tricked her into believing the work was commissioned, but in reality it's vandalism. While giving her a hard time about staying inside the box or whatever the hell it is thirsty artsy dudes say when they wanna throw an uptight girl a bone, she tells him that she’s gone to jail for murder and isn’t really trying to go back.
She finally concedes to her mother’s demands that she try whatever she can to go to college and sends out her first email in search of nepotism — the thing she was supposed to be doing when she went out with Johnny. The email is to her sister about a possible Oxford connection. We haven’t heard a peep about Melissa since Mrs. Hastings kicked their father to the curb for the possibility that Melissa had something to do with Mrs. D’s murder. (You know, having an affair with Mrs. D, not such a big deal.) But you know what? If getting out of Rosewood means going across the pond through dubious measures, I say just go for it, Spence. Just effing go.
3. “I know it’s not the same, but I was your teacher and I knew you had it in you.”
Before Spence sends out her U.K. Hail Mary, Hanna asks her for help navigating financial-aid offers. Hanna’s problem: She’s not really getting any, despite her mother’s unemployment. Her father, from whom she is essentially estranged, made bank the year before, so schools are expecting him to pay. The agreement in the Marin divorce settlement is that he is to supply $10K a year for school, but because Hanna’s been accepted to prestigious second- and third-tier liberal-arts colleges, she’s going to need more than that. Hanna knows it would hurt her mom to reach out and ask for more money, but she's going to tell her anyway. When she gets home, however, she finds that Mrs. Marin has finally accepted Ted’s proposal — and also cops to her tryst with Jason.
Ultimately, last night was a clinic in disappointment for the Marin women: Ashley never hears from Ted, who promises he will reach out after he mulls her transgressions over. Hanna’s father refuses to give her any more money. It’s “all about dollars and cents” to Mr. Marin, and most of his will be going to his stepdaughter Kate’s Dartmouth tuition, as he thought Hanna was more interested in beach vacations and manicures. Ew. Sadly, that sentiment — which she says she expressed when she was 12 ... unless you’re from Marin County, no one is telling you to think about college as a tween — will bleed in her attempt to fund her studies. Hanna is the one who will enter to Glass Slipper Pageant, in hopes of winning the scholarship-money prize. Hopefully, those kind words from Ezra will help her to fight for something more instead.
4. Love doesn’t live with Emily anymore.
Em has had more romantic kerfuffles than anyone else on this show, save Mrs. Marin. The other three Liars have been able to keep their loverboy ducks in a row throughout almost the entire series; Emily, however, has had to deal the death of her first girlfriend, Maya, and her most recent main squeeze, Paige, being shipped to the West Coast. And let’s not forget about that bizarre fraternization with Ali. (If you’re still 'shipping Em and Ali, get it together, please.) While chatting with Ezra after hours at the Brew, Emily notices that Talia’s paperwork folder has the last name Mendoza, not Sandoval. The lady has shit luck when it comes to trusting her paramours. She and Talia may be sharing sweet moments in the woods, but their budding courtship is sullied when Ezra tells Emily that Talia is married. Guh! But, hey, at least she has a companion in Ezra, whether she knows it or not, as he has no clue that Aria got into SCAD and it’s clear they’re both living in dark spots in their respective murky relationships. Fortunately for Emily, Talia is open about her sexuality with her husband and they only stay together because of their friendship. Emily, however, is afraid that her own secrets might scare Talia awAy.
Adding to that nest of mystery Emily has to hold, she also spots Mike taking out a ton of money from an ATM earlier in the episode. Instead of following him after he’s walked away with a stack of bills, she takes his receipt from the machine. (Always take your receipt, idiot.) He’s withdrawn from an account that has over $18,000 in it, a totally curious amount for a 15-year-old. Does this money belong to "Hank"? And, wait, who the hell is "Hank"?
5. Ugh, Mike.
At this point in the season, Mike is the most reckless and confusing character. He was furious after Mona’s funeral because he felt people were phony in their mourning, but we now know that the two fought before her death. Chauffeured by Andrew, Emily and Aria follow Mike to a dive-y spot in the middle of nowhere to spy on his meetup with "Hank Mahoney." Cool news, guys! Hank Mahoney is actually Cyrus Petrillo! Maybe Ali’s smoochin’ sesh with Holbrook was to make us forget that Cyrus, who helped her fake her own kidnapping, could still be involved. How did we forget about him? What a world, Rosewood!
The girls decide to spy from the window, hoping not to be seen by Mike or Cyrus, when Spencer joins them. The three watch as Mike hands off an envelope, presumably containing the $400 he’d taken out earlier. No one can reach Hanna because she's left her phone at her father’s office and refuses to go back. Who do the Liars hear from? A blocked number that sends them all a picture of their blood samples with the text, “Thanks for donating to my get-out-of-jail fund —A.”
6. Aggro-List Bonus Cut!
Whether it’s Mike and/or Cyrus who has been running game on the girls is no matter. Whoever holds the blood donations is also in possession of the storage-room evidence, as well as the laptop with the video of Hanna and Caleb plotting their break-in. Wonder what an absent Lt. Tanner was up to tonight ...