Pretty Little Liars, starring Ashley Benson and Lucy Hale, is back for its winter premiere, and the question on everyone’s mind is has Mona changed for the better? Doubtful. Isn’t the smartest move to get back behind enemy lines after getting caught to act repentant? Mona does exactly this the night before she returns to Rosewood High, asking Hanna to be on her side, claiming she’ll be ostracized by the rest of the student body after her mental breakdown. The rest of the girls are clearly worried, but briefly consider befriending her again in order to get another step closer in solving the mystery of Alison’s murder.
Right now, Mona and Toby have both been revealed as members of the “A” team that has been troubling the girls since the show’s inception. Three other people hot on our radar are Jason, Lucas, and Creepy Harold from the resort where Mona hid out because of their suspicious involvement with Mona throughout the episode. When Mona opens her locker her first day back, there is a dissected brain on the inside from someone trying to remind her she’s still crazy. After the incident, she speaks to Lucas, Jason comforts her, then Creepy Harold appears working as a janitor! The girls immediately assume Harold is there to aid Mona as she continues to torture them. Though Toby wasn’t really shown doing anything suspicious, every time we watch Spencer stare at him with the look of love, we all want to yell at our screen that he’s playing her. Some viewers hope that he’s secretly participating in order to protect Spencer. Anyways, the only thing Toby did that stood out to me besides driving angrily in his black hoodie after someone else in a black hoodie was the gratuitous shirtless moment the show gave us after he and Spencer went for a run.
As if we needed more proof that Mona 2.0 hasn’t changed, Caleb reveals to the girls through his hacking skills that Mona begged to return to Rosewood, though she told Hanna her parents forced her to come back. After learning this, Hanna discovers that Mona has posted a video online asking the public for forgiveness and pity for what’s she’s been through, gaining her many supporters by the time of a charity race taking place at the high school. The best line of the episode occurs when Hanna’s grandmother unexpectedly decides to sing the national anthem prior to the race’s start, causing Spencer to ask Hanna, “Why is your grandmother singing?” Hanna simply replies, “Because she can.”
Once the race begins, the girls ditch to sneak to the school basement so they can search Creepy Harold’s new office. In more recent episodes, “A” has given clues indicating Aria’s dad Byron killed Alison. His motives mostly rely on a theory that Ali blackmailed him for money by threatening to reveal his affair with Meredith, his student at the time. Question: How pathetic does a grown man have to be to let a teenager threaten him rather than just confess his indiscretions to his wife? Also, who else is constantly thinking Jodie from Center Stage with her imperfect feet whenever they watch Meredith? Just me? Cool.
Back to Creepy Harold’s office: the girls discover he was writing in one of Alison’s old diaries and come upon an entry that could imply Alison was in fact blackmailing Byron. Aria tears it out and as they leave, they run into Harold, who tries to steal the page until…Toby appears! Was he hanging with Creepy Harold? Of course, when Spencer asks him why he’s down there, he’s quick to say that he was looking for her. While this is all occuring, Mona is volunteering at the race and spots Meredith, recalling Aria’s tenuous relationship with her father’s former mistress. A while later, Meredith is caught in a fire in a storage unit at the race, and suggests to Byron that Aria and her friends are guilty for setting her up. Aria and the others know perfectly well Mona 2.0 is the guilty party. At the end of the episode, Spencer warns Jason to be careful with Mona but when she leaves, Mona comes out of Jason’s house to tend to a wound he has in his side. Clearly we’ll learn more about what is up with them throughout this second half of the season.
Burning questions we have: How does Hanna feel safe anymore knowing Mona was able to get into her bedroom? Did anyone else sense a creepy sexual tension between Alison and Byron (we already know he’s into young blondes)? What are Toby’s true motives for being a member of the “A” team? Would Byron really torture his own daughter? Will the stylists of the show stop over accessorizing and lavishly dressing the main foursome, remembering they are mere high school students? Is Emily still relevant besides being the emo one who likes girls?