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Why the heck weren’t MY high school dances this exciting? – A Recap of Pretty Little Liar’s “There’s No Place Like Homecoming”

Breaking and entering, destruction of chemistry labs, freaky gang-type tattoos, allusions to incest, creepo fortune tellers, and, quite possibly, a MURDER, all in a single hour?  I’ve got three words for you: Best.  Dance.  Ever.

Last week, I griped about the disappearance of one of my favorite characters on Pretty Little Liars.  Namely, THIS GUY . . .

Yep  . . . unfortunately, that adorable, drunky Brit, Wren, was missing YET AGAIN this week!  However, unlike last week, where I spent a good portion of the lackluster episode pining for his return, this episode pretty much rocked, IN SPITE of his absence.  Shocking, yet true . . .

(Which is not to say that I don’t want him back, ABC Family!  You BETTER bring him back!)

So, in the words of the inimitable Hanna, who, by the way, was my TOTAL hero and main source of comic relief, this week  . . .

(Who knew Queen Bee Former Fatties could be so funny . . . and likeable?) . . .

 “Let’s get this PARTY started!”

Confuscius say, “Who hijacked MY Fortune Cookie?”

In the darkest corners of human nature, there now lurks a NEW evil . . . and it is shaped like this . . .

When the episode opens, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna are in Aria’s bedroom staging an intervention.  We know that Aria is seriously depressed, because she is wearing a  . . . PONYTAIL!

She is also sporting . . . NON-NAME BRAND SWEAT PANTS . . . from LAST SEASON!

Clearly, this is an emergency of EPIC proportions.  To rescue their friend from the dark fathomless abyss of “dressing for comfort,” the girls arrive, armed with trashy gossip magazines and Chinese food.  What more could a girl possibly want?

Without too much effort on their part, the girls eventually manage to snap Aria out of her Mr. Fitz-shaped depression, and convince her to attend the upcoming Homecoming Dance.  With their “mission accomplished,” the girls quickly breakout the takeout and start to chow down.  Before even touching her food, Hanna heads for dessert (girl after my own heart). 

She eagerly rips open her fortune cookie, yanking out that familiarly tiny piece of paper that, to this day, is my FAVORITE part of eating Chinese food.  Unfortunately, Hanna’s cookie-sized “prediction for the future” isn’t anything positive like:  You will come upon great and unexpected riches.  Nor is it something funny like:  You will eat another fortune cookie.  Rather, it says THIS . . .

Lions and tigers and bitches, oh my!  There is no place like homecoming.  See you there, A!

A’s unexpected use of a Wizard of Oz reference in crafting this taunt, can only mean ONE thing.  SOMEONE in the writers’ room has clearly been reading my recaps, in which I generally enjoy comparing “Dead Ali” to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Then again . . . maybe not.

The rest of the girls quickly open their own fortune cookies.  Sure enough, each one bears the SAME cryptic message.  This development obviously begs the very important question of, “How did A get her message into cookies?”

Does she work at the Chinese Restaurant where the girls got their takeout food?  Did she simply order the Fortune Cookies premade online, and slip them into the girls’ takeout bag, at the last minute?  If the latter is true, how did A know that the girls would be ordering at the exact time they did?

I’m with you, Mr. Monkey!  I don’t get it, either.

Hanna Gets Sexercised

The next day, in what was, hands down, the episode’s funniest scene, Hanna attends an abstinence group meeting with her boyfriend, Sean.  During it, she is asked to participate in a “role-playing” exercise, in which she propositions a boy for sex, and he turns her down for Jesus.  The boy doing the rejecting in the skit is a new guy named Lucas.

 I liked Lucas instantly, if only because his nerdiness, and smart-mouthed defensive sarcasm, reminded me so much of the ever-awesome Seth Cohen from that show The O.C.  And you all know how I LOVE me some Seth Cohen!

Socially awkward and snarky, but loveable, high school nerds?  Meet your king!

“Come back to my bedroom,” monotones Hanna, looking bored as ever.

“I can’t do this,” replies Lucas.

“But you’re so hot,” deadpans Hanna.  (Her delivery of this line, in particular, WAS hysterical!  I only wish I had it on MP3, so that I can play it for myself, whenever I’m feeling down.)

“No, what I mean, is I can’t do this with YOU!” Lucas clarifies.

In a very sweet, and unusually honest moment for the show, Lucas explains how a guy of his social status could never even THINK of having the opportunity to have sex with a woman of Hanna’s caliber.  (Clearly, Lucas has never watched The O.C.)  “I have the physical strength of Screech . . .  keeping my virginity is pretty much a done deal for me,” he concluded.

I had to laugh when I heard the random “Screech” reference . . .

After all, the Lucas character is undoubtedly WAY too young to have watched Saved by the Bell, the sitcom that first featured the character (as are, I would imagine, a good percentage of Pretty Little Liars fans).  Heck, I was a little kid when the show first aired, and I am quite a ways away from high school.  Perhaps Lucas remembers Screech, or rather Dustin Diamond, the actor who played him, from Celebrity Fit Club.  

Or, maybe he found that awful sex tape starring the actor, online, while his parents were asleep in the next room.  Seeing THAT would be enought to make any kid want to stay abstinant FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES!  Then again, later on in the same episode, Lucas also made a Hans Solo reference . . .

. . . leading me to conclude that the character is actually a 40-year old, stuck in a 17-year old body. 

(BTW, the next time Hanna propositioned him for sex during role play, Lucas enthusiastically said, “Yes.”  Atta boy, Lucas!  Don’t let nasty sex tapes starring has-been 90’s stars get you down.)

Speaking of a character on this show who looks and acts too old to be in high school . . .

 . . . Hanna was so inspired by her sexercise, that she decided to play matchmaker for her dear friend Emily.  Having recently learned from A, via instant message, that Emily and middle-aged Maya occasionally enjoyed swapping spit with one another, Hanna more or less invites Maya to the dance on Emily’s behalf.  The problem, of course, is that Emily is already going with someone else .  . . Creepy Toby.

I love high school dances.  They always remind me of that old movie, Carrie.

More on Creepy Toby in a bit . . .

Spencer should really stick to what she does best (Hint:  It’s not dating.)

Having unceremoniously tossed aside, and completely forgotten, about the adorable Wren, as if the hottie was yesterday’s dirty underwear, Spencer is totally ready to head off to the Big Dance with Ball Boy Alex, when the episode begins.  The two share a surprisingly sexy scene together pre-dance, when Alex visits Spencer at school, so that the two could color coordinate their outfits.  (Color coordinate, huh?  OK.  Alex is clearly gay.)

When Alex offers to pay for the dance tickets, Spencer awkwardly explains that she has it taken care of.  “It’s just that you . . . work so hard for your money . . . I’d hate to see you waste it on something stupid like this.”

To Alex’s credit, rather than be offended by the obvious implications of that statement, he simply pulls Spencer into a steamy embrace.  “But I WANT to,” he insists.

He then deftly sticks a wad of cash in the pocket of Spencer’s jeans, like she’s a Vegas showgirl, who just gave him a lap dance.  (Way to stay classy, Ball Boy!)

That night, at the dance, Spencer is surprised (and by “surprised” I mean completely miserable) to see that her sister Melissa also in attendance.

Glory Days . . . They’ll pass you by, Glory Days .  . .

Apparently, it is customary for former Homecoming Queens to pass off the  crown to the next Queen Bee.  And this year, they conveniently chose the Homecoming Queen from the class of 2000, Melissa.  This is probably because she was the only former queen lame enough to show up. 

Wait a second . . . Class of 2000?  Did I mishear that? 

Wouldn’t that make Melissa (and Wren) like 12 or 13 years older than Spencer?  And what about that AP History paper Spencer stole off her sister’s laptop?  I could have sworn the date on it was 2004. 

Even if we give Melissa the benefit of the doubt, and say she WAS part of the Class of 2000, that would mean she wrote the AP History paper that Spencer stole, over a decade ago.  And yet, Melissa still remembers it well enough to recognize it as hers on the website where information regarding Spencer’s award is posted.  I seriously doubt I could recognize a paper I wrote my last year in college, let alone high school, especially ten years after the fact. 

Melissa must have superhuman memory.  A nice skill to have.  Too bad she’s such a raging bitch. 

“I heart the Russian Revolution.  I always really identified with that Stalin guy.”

When Spencer becomes too occupied with the mystery of A’s identity to truly show her date, Alex, a good time, Melissa uses it as an opportunity to plant the seeds of destruction in Alex’s mind about the genuine nature of Spencer’s romantic attraction to him.  “She’s just using your poor ass to make our parents mad,” Melissa explains, more or less.

The statement festers in Alex’s brain all evening, and eventually causes Alex to ditch Spencer’s ass at the dance, without even saying goodbye.  When Spencer confronts Melissa about her misdeeds, the latter explains matter-of-factly.  “I didn’t have to do much.  You screwed that one up all on your own.”

“Who, moi?”

And while I HATE to EVER agree with Evil Melissa, I have to admit she DOES have a point here . . .

But BEFORE all that happened, Spencer and Alex went to visit a fortune teller, who had a penchant for tarot card reading.  (Yeah, we didn’t have THOSE at my dances either.)  At first, it seemed like a typical reading.  The fortune teller droned on and on about a bad relationship, and not trusting people and blah, blah, blah.  The whole thing would have sucked if A didn’t swoop in to make it exciting.  “Say Bye, Bye to Your BFF,” she somehow managed to scrawl on one of the cards. 

Woah!  How did A do that?  Clearly A is a superhero with magical powers!

 . . . or should I say  . . . supervillain.

Awkward much?

As soon as Aria was assigned to help out at the “bean bag toss” table at the dance (which, apparently, had some sort of “carney theme” or whatever), you just knew she would somehow wind up working it with Ezra Fitz and his new uber dweeby haircut.

“I wanted something to match my pasty white legs.”

The two bicker a bit about whether Aria knows “A” and whether she told “A” about her relationship with Fitzy.  Eventually Aria gets frustrated and storms off.  Later, a jealous, Fitzy spies Aria dancing with Hanna’s beau, Sean.  Fitz looks PISSED!

Glory Days . . . They’ll pass you by, Glory Days . . .

To Fitzy’s credit,  when Aria confronted him in the hallway later that night, I really thought, Fitzy was going to say something d-baggy about her “moving on” so quickly.  Instead, he breaks into an honestly heartwarming (even to a TOTAL cynic like me) speech about how he wishes that he could give Aria a good time in the same way boys Aria’s own age could: taking her to movies, introducing her to friends, attending dances together, banging her in the gym locker room, etc.  Fitzy then admits to Aria he got his haircut to impress her, and my heart melted a bit. 

But I STILL hate that awful haircut . . .

Creepy Toby ALWAYS gets the girl (even if she is, technically, a relative)

No one much approved of Emily’s taking Creepy Toby to the Homecoming Dance.  In fact, the couple’s mere entrance into the auditorium causes the entire room to literally turn blue with fear.  (Seriously, what was with the weird lightning in this episode?   Half the dance scenes were lit like a live actions Smurfs movie!)

Which begs a very important question: which Pretty Little Liar would get to be Smurfette?

One of the reasons for the Pretty Little Liars being so “blue” about Emily dating Toby, was that they kind of /sort of thought he killed Ali / was “A.”  You see, apparently, Dweeby Toby found time out of his busy “being a psycho” schedule to get a really gnarly tattoo on his stomach (I thought you had to be 18 to do that.) 

The tattoo said “901 free at last.”  Apparently, the number is not his zip code, but rather the day that  .  . . wait for it . . . Ali disappeared.

To further complicate matters,  Hanna breaks into Jenna’s shrinks office.  (Oh yeah, she totally did that — because shop lifting, car theft/ destruction, and breaking and entering weren’t enough to quench future gangleader Hanna’s taste for crime.  She missed being crowned Homecoming Queen to do it too.)

I may look sweet and innocent, but I’m a totally bad ass MO FO!

Once there, she learns that Toby’s been sexing his stepsister, Blind Jenna . . .

. . . and was in town when Ali disappeared!

Back at the dance, Toby invites Emily to the chemistry lab “to talk.”  Things start out innocently enough, with Emily admitting to Toby that she may very well be a Big Ole Lessie.  But then they take a turn for the frightening, when Toby utters that one line EVERY heretofore mild-mannered serial killer says in movies, before he turns on you and literally eats your face off . . .

“We all have secrets, Emily!”

As if that wasn’t enough of a warning, Emily receives a text message at that moment from Hanna saying, “You’re with A’s killer now.”

Emily freaks out and backs away from Creepy Toby.  He lunges toward her.  Thinking fast, Emily knocks him into a glass cabinet in the chem lab, causing glass to shatter all around him.  Clearly Toby has the same superpowers as A (or IS actually A), because he recovers from the massive fall into glass in mere seconds, and chases Emily down the hallway.  She trips over something and falls . . .

But the final scene just MADE the episode for me.  In it, we see a sign that says, “Rosewood Population 3,488” (or something . . . I can’t really remember the exact number.   I just know it was pretty darn small).  Then, suddenly, a black jacketed hand sprays white spray paint over the final “8,” and uses black spray paint to change it to a “7.” 

The question is . . . who died?  And how does the vandal KNOW about it?

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