Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “Fresh Meat” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for amfAR
Tensions rise in Rosewood as Ezra and the gang prepare for the grand opening of the bookstore. Detective Tanner issues another search of the Vanderwaal property. As Toby helps with the investigation, he discovers something of particular interest lurking in the woods behind the yard. It’s his father’s knife from the Cavanaugh cabin. In a moment of weakness, he covers up the weapon with some foliage and leaves it there. Toby fills in Spencer and Caleb, and the three have a spat over whether the blade should be destroyed or not.

With his new position on the force, Toby argues that he needs to turn the knife over to the authorities. He hopes that Alison’s fingerprints will be on it, creating a solid case to lock her away for good. Given that Caleb lived up at the cabin where Hanna frequently visited, Caleb definitely feels differently. The possibility that any of their own fingerprints could be on it is highly likely. Considering Spencer’s all too recent brush with the law and Caleb’s troubled past, the pair sides against Toby’s verdict. The three reach a stalemate, agreeing that the knife should not be touched for the time being.

Spencer eventually caves though, and she follows Caleb out to the Vanderwaal property. The two find the knife and head to the school. Using the kiln at the art room, they prepare to melt the blade. Things take a turn for the hairy when Spencer inspects the halls upon hearing noises outside. As she wanders the corridors, the furnace’s door slams shut on Caleb as he puts the knife inside the kiln, locking him in. Succumbing to the deadly heat, he collapses on the floor, only for Spencer to arrive in the nick of time to rescue him.

Meanwhile, Aria suffers a meltdown as more college rejection letters pour in. She believes “A” is behind the incident, forcing her to take matters into her own hands. After finding out that Ezra’s ex, Jackie, is the new Admissions Officer at Talmadge, she tries winning her over with a personalized letter. It may hit on all the sweet spots, but it also throws Ezra under the bus. Emily reads the letter and convinces Aria to recover the original from the university, to protect Ezra from its contents. Aria winds up being too late, as Jackie has already read it. The plan works though in Aria’s favor, as Jackie contacts her later with the good news that she’s been accepted to Talmadge after all.

Emily continues to struggle with Paige’s recent departure to California, hoping to scrape up some extra money to visit her. She seeks Ezra’s help, asking to cater the opening of the bookstore. Hesitantly, he accepts the offer, and Emily soon finds herself over her head. Her cooking skills aren't up to par, forcing Ezra to hire outside assistance. Emily finally breaks down, coming to the realization of her circumstances. She’s fighting for a relationship that can’t happen.

Hanna leaves for a weekend getaway at Ballard College, where she finds herself bored to tears. Reaching out to Caleb, she knows there’s something up with him. He informs her about the knife Toby discovered, prompting her to take off to investigate. Hanna stumbles on what looks like the set of True Blood—some sketchy backwoods—in search of Detective Holbrook. She meets his father, asking him of his whereabouts. As it turns out, the detective lied about his recent leave of absence from the force. Holbrook’s father also mistakes Hanna for Alison, proving Aria’s theory that the two are secretly together.

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Hanna confronts Alison in prison, and Alison confesses as to where she was the night Mona was murdered. Apparently, she went to a secret meeting to see Cyrus, who turned out to be a no-show. “A” set her up, giving her an unusable alibi. Spencer and Toby’s relationship suddenly hits a brick wall when he goes back to the Vanderwaal property and finds out that the knife is gone. The two get into an argument outside the bookstore opening, in which Toby makes it clear that his job makes it impossible for them to share these secrets. Just as that romance crashes, another one ignites. It seems the time Mrs. Marin and Jason have been spending together has turned their relationship from friendly to really friendly as the pair ends up kissing in Hanna’s kitchen. This tryst doesn't stay a secret for long either. Hanna comes home later that night, only to find Jason buttoning up his shirt, as he heads down the main stairs. At the same time, Alison receives a letter in prison, reading, “Your friends will see you soon.”

Everybody delivers compelling performances this week in “Fresh Meat”. The vulnerability and heartbreak projected from Troian Bellisario during Toby and Spencer’s fight was particularly notable, as was Ashley Benson’s portrayal as Hanna during her meeting with Alison. Seeing her finally take charge, and put Alison in her place, was not only refreshing but also a real highlight for Hanna’s growth as a character. Lucy Hale proves herself the strongest out of the pact in terms of comic relief as well. Despite Aria’s circumstances being no laughing matter, Hale’s sharp, theatrical delivery is solid gold. Her dialogue is sound, and her bite only drives more force to each word. The beginning of the episode does meander and rehash at first, but once it gains traction, the train barrels full-force to the closing credits. This should prove to be a very interesting season.

Pretty Little Liars: “Fresh Meat” Episode Rating:  A -
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