“To Lie For” – Lying Game

       

Wow. What a mid-season finale! It’s not that there was a whole lot of drama, or a major cliffhanger (there was, but we’d seen it coming a mile off), or a load of big reveals… it was just good, in the way that The Lying Game so often is. Unlike it’s big ABC Family rival, Pretty Little Liars, it has always felt realistic. And this episode was no different. Lying Game has never been afraid to step back from the mystery and intrigue in favor of (relatively) down-to-earth teen drama. This episode pulled back a little from Emma and Sutton’s efforts to uncover Rebecca’s involvement in Teresa’s death to allow Emma to mourn the loss of Ethan. That felt natural. And that was great. Even though we’re pretty close to 100 per cent certain that the Etma split won’t last past the first episode back in the Fall, it was nice that that arc got a chance to breathe and wasn’t buried under the twin business.

Though if we’re talking realism, that’s the one aspect of the show that continues to rankle. Unless one of the twins was made of diamonds, it’s unlikely that anyone would kill to protect their secret. And that’s where we had problems with (Spoilers!) the fact that Thayer is the killer, even though we saw it coming weeks ago. There’s no clear motive for the murders. We know why he tried to frame Alec for Derek’s murder, but not why he killed Derek in the first place. We almost have too many options but, knowing The Lying Game, none of them will turn out to be true.

But, as always, this is something we can get past – the rest of the show is just too damn likeable for us to hold that against it. We love the new, nicer Sutton, and the new sisterly bond blossoming between her, Emma and Laurel. We love scary, grief-stricken Dan, and how Ethan gave up everything for him. We love that the show made us think (really think) for once by floating the idea in front of us that each and every person involved in the twin secret is responsible for Teresa’s death, because they are. We love that the kids are finally letting the adults in on the secret (contravening all the established norms of teen drama).

As we look forward to the Fall premiere, we wonder where the show can take us. With Alec dead (retroactive Spoilers!), will Rebecca turn Thayer over to the police or will she be a fugitive after the murder of Alec? Is Emma in danger? Will Jordan come back, or will he be stuck in prison (we hope not – we enjoyed having a little more eye-candy on the show)? Will Etma make it work, once and for all? So many questions. But, mostly, we’re just excited to see what’s going to happen now that Emma and Sutton have switched back, for good. Fall just can’t come fast enough. – B+K

Quoteworthy:

“Please, Emma. Things with Kristin and me have gotten so ugly she might throw me out. She might… she might want you instead.”

“Sutton, come on. This is your family. It always was.”

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“A Kiss Before Lying” – The Lying Game

This episode was more about the romance than previous weeks. We’re not sure that’s a bad thing, but we’re not sure it’s particularly good, either. There was a smidgen of intrigue – Alec going to great lengths to drive Rebecca insane with guilt, Emma almost finding out about Rebecca and Sutton, and Rebecca’s possible revelation to Sutton at the end of the episode – but the rest was all about the relationships. Laurel giving Mads the go ahead to do what she wants with Jordan, Ted, Kristin and the girls in family therapy, Alec and Rebecca on their honeymoon, Emma ditching Ethan to visit Thayer in LA, Sutton warming to Kristin and not being a total bitch, and Ethan kissing Sutton (he seems to be playing some sort of positive reinforcement game with her and we can’t help wondering if it would work in real life).

The most interesting moment came at the very end of the episode. Mads is talking to Emma in LA, tells Laurel she’s talking to Sutton, Laurel grabs the phone, chats away to ‘Sutton’ for a few seconds, hands the phone back, Mads leaves the room, Sutton walks in. Is Laurel about to figure out what’s going on? We hope so, ‘cause that’s going to make things just a little bit exciting. – B+K

Quoteworthy:

“This creepy motel room isn’t exactly the ideal place for studying Faulkner.”

“Yeah. Maybe if we talk louder the hookers next door will learn something.”

– Ethan, Emma

“Out of the Frying Pan, into the Inferno” – Pretty Little Liars

Oh god, the ways I no longer care about Pretty Little Liars. I don’t care that Spencer’s heart is broken. I don’t care that she’s hiring a PI to find out what the key unlocks, nor do I care that that’s probably exactly what Mona, TobAy and the overarching A wanted her to do. I don’t care whether the other girls tell Spencer about Melissa being in Ali’s house the night of her murder. I don’t care what happens between Aria and Ezra now that Ezra knows about his son. I don’t care that Ali was pregnant, nor do I care that the detective with the big ears may be the ‘beach hottie’ father. I don’t care that the fact that he was referred to as ‘beach hottie’ seriously calls Ali’s judgement into question. I don’t care that Hanna is lesbian bait. I don’t care if Paige is cheating on Emily. I only care a very little bit that Spencer seems to be suicidal and that A is planning to melt Hanna’s face. The only bit in the whole episode that I really cared about was TobAy in juvie, ‘cause that shit was hilarious.

This is going to be the last (terrible, sorry) PLL review from me. There may be some future ones from my lovely writing partner, B, but I’m out. This is the last episode I will ever watch. Farewell, Liars. I wish you the best. – K

Quoteworthy: “Your step-sis was going through surgery when some of these were sent. You want to know how it turned out? She’s still combing her hair with an electric toothbrush.” – Ali, providing me with the absolute highlight of the episode (if we forget about TobAy’s doo-rag and gang leanings)

“The Astronaut and the Ballerina” – Bunheads

This is the Bunheads I’ve been missing for the preceding two episodes. Which pretty much cements my belief that the High School elements are dragging the show down. “The Astronaut and the Ballerina” stayed entirely clear of those dreaded halls. While many of the component parts stayed the same – Cozette and Frankie were still players, as was Ginny’s bizarre jealousy – the overall effect was vastly different. When the action stays away from school corridors, something shifts and the show becomes far more watchable. This episode saw Boo and Carl dealing with becoming acting-parents, Ginny crumbling into insanity as her father’s re-marriage crept ever closer, and Melanie taking on roller derby (with her new alter-ego, Cleosmacktra) and branching out into a tentative friendship with Cozette. It must have been Julia Goldani Telles’ week off, because Sasha was nowhere in sight (she was ‘apartment hunting’). It also saw the rekindling of Michelle’s romance with Godot and the arrival of Michelle’s brother, Scotty (Sutton Foster’s real-life sibling, Hunter). Some funny moments, and some cute ones. Even a little drama and heartache. Vast improvement on last week’s offering. – K

Quoteworthy:

“They look up to me.”

“They’re isolated kids. You’re this strange, exotic creature. You’re a mermaid. You’re Tinkerbell.”

– Michelle, Scotty

“Advantage Sutton” – The Lying Game

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Thank god for small mercies – we’re referring, of course, to Thayer’s departure. We knew he and Emma were so beyond wrong for each other and we’re delighted he didn’t stick around long enough to prove us right. This isn’t just because we’re team Etma. It’s because Thayer and Emma had exactly zero chemistry. But why did he leave, you ask? Because Alec has finally been released. And it was a little bit thanks to Thayer. He found a burner cell in the garage and brought it to the police to prove Alec’s guilt. It actually just proved his innocence. Then we the viewers find out that it was, in fact, Rebecca who framed him. In other news, Laurel goes on a date with Jordan, then catches him and Mads making out. Ted tells Rebecca nothing’s going on between them. Ted and Kristin are going to keep going to therapy. Rebecca tells Sutton to take her life back, and break up Ted and Kristin. So Sutton plays Emma at tennis for her life, wins by default, and confines Emma to the cabin for the foreseeable future. Sutton thinks this will make Ethan like her more, because it means Emma will be out of the way. But, as Emma is going to be tutoring Ethan, it just means that they’ll be alone far away from Sutton. Ha. Backfired. – B+K

Quoteworthy:

“My god, what did I do?”

“Me. Several times, actually.” – Ethan, Sutton

“Misery Loves Company” – Pretty Little Liars

Surprisingly good episode from PLL – for once, they kept the mystery and intrigue to a bare minimum, focusing mainly on two storylines and with only one side thread. Our mind’s felt blessedly unassaulted and thoroughly not confused. It was amazing. It also saw a few story strands coming to a head, and being resolved as much as any PLL storyline ever is (i.e. they came to more or less satisfying resolutions, while nonetheless throwing up some more mysteries).

We got the Aria-Meredith-Byron saga finally coming to a close, after Meredith drugs Aria, locks her and her friends in a basement*, tells Byron everything, runs away because Byron thinks she’s insane and calls the cops on her, and after Byron tells Aria the truth and says he’s going to tell the cops the truth, too, and Aria burns the diary pages. This all kicks up the issue that Ali was desperate for money. Was she pregnant? Is this a thing we were supposed to know already? We’ve honestly lost track of everything we’re supposed to know and everything we’ve just guessed. Our brains need a break and, apparently, those 5 months we got just weren’t enough…

Spencer also finally figured out that TobAy is on the A-team. (We really wish they had called it something else, because all we can ever think of is this.) This taught us that surprises are always a terrible idea. Spencer worked out an elaborate plan to surprise TobAy for their first anniversary and, while in his house, found the swipe card he used to let Mona in and out of Radley. Thank god they didn’t drag this particular storyline out, though. If we had had to put up with months of Spencer not knowing, we probably would’ve gone crazy. Instead we get Spencer crying on TobAy’s doorstep. So one mystery solved. But, of course, it kicked up another. Early in the episode, we saw Mona and TobAy sitting in their lair, chilling in their black hoodies, and planning something that they were going to do the next day. Was everything that happened – A dropping the key, TobAy leaving the swipe card somewhere relatively obvious, TobAy breaking into the Hastings house to get it back, Spencer discovering the truth about him, etc – that plan? And who is the ‘she’ who Mona says everyone should know is in charge?

We’re also presented with a potentially disastrous new strand to the story: Caleb and Paige teaming up to protect their women from A. If they start getting in the way of A, horrible things are going to happen to them. They plan to find A’s lair and steal the evidence A is using to keep the girls in line – the photo of them at Ali’s graveside – so that they can be free to go to the cops if they want. This can only end well.

The aspect of the episode that interested us most, however, was the Ali spottings. Aria’s is easy to sweep aside – fever dreams – but Hanna’s is harder to ignore. The reflected image in the window of the Philly store of a blonde girl in a red coat simply reeks of Ali. And if she was in Philly, she could easily have been in Aria’s bedroom too, perhaps supporting the theory that carries over from the books that Ali was a twin. It also reinforces the story that gets rammed down our throat every Halloween. The writers have always said that the show won’t follow the books, but that could be a neat aspect to bring over.

Mostly, though, we were just glad that, relatively speaking, we got a little break from the endless confusion with this episode. Long may it continue. – B+K

Quoteworthy: “You’re asking me? Hanna, I’ve had this hoody since I was 12.” – Caleb, on why he shouldn’t be giving anyone fashion advice

*Don’t even get us started on this whole scene. The idiocy of these girls grows exponentially week on week. A) Hanna and Emily, what the hell are you doing walking into a darkened basement looking for Aria, and letting Meredith walk behind you? Did you really think she needed both of you to help her find her? Dummies! B) HANNA YOUR PHONE WAS LITERALLY IN YOUR HAND! Why did you not call the cops with a frantic ‘we’ve been locked in my friend’s basement by a crazy woman’???!?!

“I’ll Be Your Meyer Lansky” – Bunheads

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This was definitely not my favorite episode ever. I felt like something was missing. It’s not exactly that it was bad. All the elements that usually make Bunheads so enjoyable were present and intact – it was funny (though not Quoteworthy), it was fast-paced, it was believable, the characters were well-painted and engaging… but, all in all, it just didn’t grab my attention and hold it the way previous episodes have.

Part of that was the subject matter of the episode, I guess – Michelle and Fanny are hemorrhaging money, they go to a cranky accountant who’s more insulting than helpful, Michelle decides to pull a Stringer Bell and go to business school, then she discovers she ‘forgot’ to finish high school. Shame spiral. It should have worked but it didn’t. It also resulted in Michelle and Fanny going into business (opening an amphitheatre) with Truly’s sister, Milly, which just feels like an opportunity to throw some work toward ex-Gilmore Girls cast member Liza Weil. Who, incidentally, is basically the exact same character in Bunheads.

Add to that the increasing high school presence, and you’re creating a recipe for disaster. The vast appeal of the show in its early days was partly due to the fact that, while they are teenagers, they girls don’t act like your prototypical, clichéd High School­-ites. They were a little more mature, a little different. Their life was ballet and friends, not cliques. Since the show’s return, that seems to have changed. The focus on them seems to revolve more and more around their High School lives, and the catty, juvenile jealously they feel toward Cozette. And that’s irking me more than anything else. I can only hope that the jealousy doesn’t last too long. And the sooner Ginny stops avoiding Frankie, the better.

The most likeable moment of the episode came when Sasha’s mother told her she could stay in Paradise, gives her the keys to the house, says she has two weeks before it’s sold, and says she’ll be gone in the morning. In many ways, it’s exactly what Sasha wanted. But, as the realization dawns that she will have to take care of herself, her reaction is perfection. Sasha can often be arrogant and abrasive, but it’s when she is weak and scared and vulnerable that Julia Goldani Telles’ acting really shines through.

But Melanie is, once again, the best thing about the show – this episode’s sneak attacks on her brother’s unsuspecting ex and on Godot (who clearly wasn’t waiting for that. Waiting. Godot. Geddit?) were spectacular in timing, execution and casualness. I also sense that Melanie is going to be the first to cave in and become friends with Cozette – the extended olive branch of Roller Derby should see to that. I approve. – K

Quoteworthy: “Every time we have a conversation I feel like I need to add more movie channels.” – Fanny, to Michelle

“Cheat, Play, Love” – The Lying Game

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With “Cheat, Play, Love”, Lying Game took a second-episode-back dip in quality à la that of Bunheads. Not that made it terrible. There was just a noticeable difference between this episode and the uncommonly good season opener. And yet, despite this dip, the episode still blew away the competition – it was incredibly watchable, and there were just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting without it becoming mind-addlingly complicated.

To a certain extent, the focus this week slipped off mother and twin mysteries and centered more on the burgeoning romances of our group of characters. Emma and Thayer, Sutton and Ethan, Mads and Jordan and Laurel… It also dealt significantly with Kristin and Ted’s attempts to repair their marriage. And this is where Lying Game has always and will always eclipse Pretty Little Liars. While the latter is all mystery, all the time, Lying Game has never been afraid to take a step back and play around with something that’s not designed to keep us guessing. It’s a relief, if we’re honest, and is consistently enough to keep us from getting that fuzzy-brain feeling.

If one thing surprised us with this episode, it was Sutton’s happiness about drunk-Ethan’s appearance at cabin. Sutton has always struck us as a strong-willed girl, who knows what she wants and brooks no nonsense. So how, knowing that Ethan still has feelings for Emma, and knowing that he’s drunk and probably only there to get Emma back for moving on, can she be so okay with him, effectively, using her? Or are we just projecting?

Other love developments saw Thayer and Emma finally kiss (though we’re not sure how we feel about that), Ted and Kristin go to marriage counseling (and he’s still lying), and Laurel beginning to fall for the attractive new guy, Jordan. This latter relationship is sure to throw up some teen drama, as it’s clear that his dalliance with step-sister Mads can never be a one-night thing. Especially as she’s more than likely pregnant (we’re sticking to our guns on that one).

But this is an ABC Family mystery, so it can never be just about the romance – the episode also saw Rebecca trying to manipulate Ted into her bed, Thayer telling Emma Alec isn’t his real father, everyone finding out that Alec was framed (but did he frame himself to cover up his crime?), Alec turning Mads over to his side again, Alec telling Teresa that he’s sure Rebecca, Sutton or Thayer framed him (we think it’s going to turn out to be Thayer, not least because the waitress who planted the murder weapon in Alec’s golf-bag kept talking about the man who paid her off), and Jordan seeing Sutton at the cabin, knowing “Sutton” is at his party, and becoming immediately suspicious.

Alec turning Mads was perhaps the most interesting aspect as, in the process, he tells her that the reason he never admitted he knew about the twins was because he’s protecting them from a killer who’s still out there. If that turns out to be true, it’s a neat turnaround – portraying the über villain of the first season as the preserver and protector of the second is enough of a 180° to give us whiplash.

Looking forward to the next episode, and a few more answers! – B+K

Quoteworthy: “That’s kind of number 272 on the list of things I’m never going to talk to you about.” – Laurel, to Rebecca

“Mona-Mania” – Pretty Little Liars

Bit of a mixed bag from PLL this week. There was the good and the bad, the funny and the unintentionally funny, and the clever and the downright idiotic. Then there was the realization that the only character on the show with an ounce of common sense is second tier, at best. Well done, Paige – a dubious honor.

First off the bat: well thank god the other three girls aren’t as dumb as Aria! Not that it did them any good, but going back to the basement for Ali’s diary at least showed that they had heads on their shoulders. And it did give us (and Hanna) the opportunity to learn that Lucas is still working at A’s bidding. Or, more accurately, Mona’s. Bribery good times! But it also raised some important questions, like how did three students find it so easy to break into their school in the middle of the night? We know Spencer can pick locks, but we didn’t know she could crack alarm systems, too.

We learned that someone is definitely helping the girls. Or are they helping Mona? Maybe a mix of both. That prank A pulled with the bike last week was to take out Spencer’s opposition in the race for captain of the decathlon team – but did A do it to let Spencer win or to open the race up for Mona?

We learned that Lucas is the one who tried to blow up Mona. The kids in Rosewood, they breed them tough. Does he show an ounce of remorse for nearly killing Meredith (because having a burned arm is life threatening)? Of course not. Do we care? Of course not. Meredith is a pain in the ass. Not that we’re advocating murder, but she’s really pissing us off. Mostly because she’s such a psychopath. Like, clinically. Did you see her cold dead eyes? She’s a practiced and skilled liar, which had us wondering why Aria would buy anything she had to say about Byron (i.e., that Byron came to see her that night, then went to see Ali, all while Aria’s mom said Byron was passed out next to her, and that she caught him going through Aria’s room and going through her own purse, thinking it was Aria’s) and had us screaming at the TV when Aria drank that stomach-settling tea without making Meredith taste it first. How are these girls not suspicious of EVERYONE at this stage?

The one person who is suspicious of everyone and everything is Paige, which is why she’s our favorite character of the week. She’s got some form of PTSD after the first half of the season. Almost getting killed and then being in close proximity to another murder would do that to a normal person. Normal = exactly what the four friends are not. While Emily is thrilled to go haring off into the dark woods to a swim team party (dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb), Paige gets more and more freaked out the further she gets from town. And rightly so. They spend ten minutes away from the car and they return to find a slashed tire. And then Emily sees someone in a black hoody lurking in the trees, so A is clearly after them. Then Emily chases after A, abandoning Paige. She nearly catches A (who, in this guise, is TobAy) but Paige stops her in time. Not quite sure, though, why TobAy was lurking out in the woods in the first place, or why he would slash Paige’s tires. What was his plan?

By the way, Aria was feeling queasy? Queasy, eh? PREGNANT, eh? We’re jumping the gun colossally here, but nothing shakes up a show like a teen-pregnancy scandal – just look at One Tree Hill, Glee, 90210, Veronica Mars… Plus, we know the original books had a very pregnant Emily. As that road is basically 100 percent closed to the writers, all they need is a character switcheroo. Pretty Little Teen Mom Liars. It’s gonna be huge. ­– B+K

Quoteworthy: “It was certainly calculating, but I wouldn’t call it Trig.” – oh, Aria. Zing. Zing.

PS Mona is stalking Byron.

PPS Pissing of Mona probably wasn’t your best idea ever, Hanna.

“Channing Tatum is a Fine Actor” – Bunheads

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Okay, so this episode wasn’t the same level of hands-down-amazing as last week’s, but it still blew the competition out of the water. Not that it’s easy to find Bunheads’ competition. It’s a show that stands out not just because of its quality but because there are simply no other shows quite like it. It fills the niche left gaping by the loss of Gilmore Girls – a show that’s just about people, without any of the high school drama, without any of the mysteries and secretiveness, and without any of the forced storylines that so frequently people teen shows these days. Its closest comparisons have to be to shows like MTV’s Awkward., but it seems increasingly likely that writer Amy Sherman has created her very own genre. And I love it.

But I got a little side-tracked there. This wasn’t as amazing as last week’s return from that interminable hiatus, but it was still great. It achieved that hard-to-come-by balance between packing a lot into 42 minutes and not feeling crowded. As is always the case with Amy Sherman’s efforts, the pace is fast and the action frequent. But I never felt like there was too much going on, or that any one aspect could easily have been forgone in exchange for some breathing room. In fact, it was enough to make me wonder if the only reason her characters talk so fast is so that they can fit all the fantastic material into the 42-minute format.

We branched out a little from ballet this week to take a closer look at the girls’ school. This was a welcome break and gave us a chance to stray away from the studio before we get too bored of it. No one could ever complain about opening a show’s universe up to the audience a little more. But with this new location Sherman runs the risk of turning her show into something more suited to The CW so, hopefully, this week’s trip over high school way was just a plot device to introduce us to Ginny’s new love interest and Sasha’s new nemesis, not an indication of things to come.

Though it might just be, as this week did seem to be the week of shaking things up. While Boo and Carl both ‘met the parents’ and, because of it, grew closer and more stable as a couple (I can’t love Carl enough as a character), everything else was a little more up in the air. Truly has been locked out of her store by the landlady (who is, incidentally, the sister from whom she ‘stole’ Hubble; played by Liza Weil, Scandal, Gilmore Girls, ER) and is, as a result, using Michelle’s house as a dress shop. Those two new students – brother and sister, Frankie (relative newcomer Niko Pipaj) and Cozette (Jeanine Mason, The Bling Ring) – promise to make things interesting in Paradise, giving Ginny someone to moon over and Sasha someone bizarrely accomplished to compete with. And, most drastic shake up of all, Sasha’s parents have split up for good. Her father is moving to San Jose with his boyfriend, and her mother is moving back to LA. Sasha is, so far, refusing to go with either of them and is determined to finish out high school in Paradise.

Will she convince Michelle to become her adoptive mother until she finishes school? It seems the most likely scenario, but only time will tell. – K

Quoteworthy:

“There’s no whale in The Great Gatsby.”

“Are you joking? Where the hell is this stinker going if there’s no whale?”

– Sasha, Melanie

PS Someone as accomplished as Cozette is usually, in shows like this, incredibly smug and annoying, and this is no exception. But, damn. That girl can dance.