Rosewood, Penn, stormy night, barn. Four teenage girls having a good time when the lights go out a la any scary movie ever. They creep toward the door arm in arm and freak out when someone jumps inside...it's just Alison, the fifth member of the pack. Drinks with implied enhancements (drugs? alcohol?) are passed around and Alison gets to impart the statement that this show is based on: "Friends share secrets. That's what keeps us close." And that's the moment I know I hate the manipulative bitch.
Cut to later that night, thunder crashes and the girls wake up from passing out minus Ali and Spencer. Aria goes to the door to look, finds Spencer coming back from looking for Ali and ends rather cryptically with "I think I heard a scream." The look on Aria's face is totally dun dun dun...
Aria's house: Newspaper thrown to the ground with a giant picture of Ali under the headline Still Missing. It's one year later and Aria's family is back after a year away. You get to see Aria's mom (Piper, yey!) and they have a talk that is supposed to be very "caring mom, insecure daughter" and it's boring except I love Piper. The point is that Aria hasn't been in contact with her friends from the barn since Ali disappeared a year ago and she's scared they will hate her or won't want to see her or something. Just call your friends dude, it'll be ok.
Impatient younger brother interrupts and mom sends Aria off to drive him to practice so she doesn't have to. That's why you have more than one kid, so one can drive the others around. We find out that Aria is keeping dad's secret, which we don't know exactly what it is yet but logically there are only a few things it could be. Money issues, an affair, or a second family hidden somewhere in another state. I don't think Aria would be cool with the latter and due to the size of their house I don't think it's the first so I think there is only one correct assumption here. We'll see.
Front of school: With an hour and forty-five minutes to kill Aria decides not to call her friends but go to a local bar and order a cheeseburger. I roll my eyes because I doubt she's ever eaten a whole cheeseburger. It would have made more sense to have her order a Caesar salad or something. Just saying. Cute boy down the bar starts talking to her and I'm sorry, who has ever actually been to Iceland? Really, two random people in a bar in frickin' Rosewood, Penn meet and they have BOTH been to Iceland. I think not.
This set up is so obvious it's sad. This story line is very prominent throughout the show and as I am a teacher IRL, it irritates me. This dude should know better than to just start talking with a random chick in a bar and then just start making out with her. Sure, she looks twenty-five because, well, the actress is wearing a TON of makeup and just can't pull off 16 but she IS supposed to be 16 and that's bad. It says a lot about society when shows try to make this ok. It's not ok. I am not ok with it. He should ask her how old she is at any point. She should TELL him how old she is. True to being a teenager she doesn't, but that doesn't let him off the hook. As the grown up, he should have asked. Anyway, making out with strangers in bars is bad and will always give you an STD in the end, regardless of age.
Though I don't blame her. He's all sorts of cute and charming.
Cut to credits. I get that song stuck in my head every night I watch this show.
Mall: Hanna, looking cute in pink sunglasses, is at the mall with a friend. With a sweet smile she goes up to the second floor with $350 sunglasses on, which would never happen IRL but she gets away with it here, to talk to Spencer. This is mostly an exposition to tell us that Spencer is an over achiever (interning, college courses, fixing up a barn) and that they can't believe it's been a year since Ali disappeared. Oh yes, and Spencer's sister, Melissa, will be bringing her fiancé to meet everyone at dinner. Spence grabs the most hideous white jacket that no self respecting teenager would ever wear and plunks it down on the counter WITHOUT EVEN TRYING IT ON!! This show is just using this scene to give us story chunks but really, she would try it on. Well, not that shirt because it's ugly but the one that Hanna pulls out, plus about fifty other ones. I know teenage girls. Trust me.
Hanna then walks out the front of the store with the sunglasses on. You think she gets busted but the security guard unrealistically catches her to give her the purse she left behind. So...Hanna's thing is shoplifting...ugh, I hate teenagers.
Front of school: Before school Aria's dad asks for forgiveness for...wait for it...cheating on her mom. We get a flashback with Ali and Aria running away from Mona and around a corner to a parked car and Aria's dad is totally making out with some blond chick that is NOT Piper. Really, grown adults? A parked car in a non private street/ally. That was the best you could do?
Emily meets up with Aria at school. They talk about stuff that is mostly about how they missed each other and Alison being gone. Emily says Ali is dead and that freaks Aria out because she hasn't heard the words aloud. Inside Aria is told that the new teacher is really hot. At this point, if it wasn't obvious before, it should be obvious now...the new teacher will be "make out guy" from the bar. Hanna gets her moment as the "it" girl and is kind of rude to Emily and Aria with an eye roll. Friendly but not friends I guess.
Then Mr. Fitz walks in and too loudly announces "Holy crap," to the class when he sees Aria. Everyone turns to look at her because though he's an English major subtlety is actually not his vocabulary. He couldn't cover that? And the entire class couldn't figure out why he'd go white as a ghost when he saw a girl in his brand new class and then stared at her dumbly for like thirty seconds too long? Let's not make it obvious that you broke a law there buddy boy, at least not on your first day. He introduces himself and Aria gets a text: Maybe he fools around with students all of the time. A lot of teachers do. Just ask your dad. -A Whaaaat the? Ouch, double burn. I like this A person. Aria thinks it might be Alison because the girl played sick games like that when she was around. What a great friend she was!
Emily's house: Emily talks with her mom, the point being that Emily's mom is straight laced and conservative and can't imagine letting her daughter have any freedom to express herself through the use of cutting down Aria's previously pink stripped hair. Seriously, if that's the worst thing your teenage daughter does then consider yourself lucky. Em's mom is putting together an extravagant basket for the new neighbors that moved into Ali's old house. She makes Em deliver it because, again, parents have kids in order to make them do the errands they don't want to do themselves.
New neighbor girl is, of course, Emily's age. Maya is effervescent and nosey. She gets Emily to help carry in boxes while grilling Em about Ali. The point of all this is to show that Maya is a little on the wild and crazy side, not defined by parental norms. She randomly smokes weed with Emily and that whole scene is awkward and unneeded honestly. It all boils down to Maya saying "So I'm corrupting you." Yes, yes that's your character's theme Maya. Thanks for being up front about it. Poor little innocent Emily.
Spencer's house: Melissa, Spencer's older sis, comes out of the barn we saw at the beginning of the episode. Spencer has turned it into a loft so she can live there during junior year. This is weird to me because I understand wanting the independence but she's not eighteen so it's not very smart of her parents to let her have "her own place" even if it is twenty feet away from their house. When she goes to college that would make sense, to have some space and freedom but while she's in high school? And a junior? Can we stop treating the teenagers like they are adults please?
Melissa says that she and Wren, her fiancé, will be staying in the converted barn. Spence throws a fit, for which I don't blame her as her parents did make her a promise and her sister is being a bitch about it. Wren comes out, he's kinda cute and that accent makes him a lot cuter. At this point I wonder why the boys all look way younger than all the girls on this show.
Wren ends up flirting with Spencer which is weird because WHY do college guys always hit on the high school girls in this show? AND he knows better because he KNOWS how old she is. Spencer says he's not like Melissa's other boyfriends because she likes him...which is baffling because she's had no more than a thirty second conversation with him, but whatever. Maybe she likes that he flirted with her.
School: Aria comes in before? after? school to talk with Mr. Fitz. They talk about how they never really lied but they never really told the truth. And after that one make out session in the bathroom they have fallen into true, desperately passionate love. And I keep waiting for him to say "No, you're not eighteen, I'm a teacher at your school, we can't do this, I'll go to jail." But he never says that. Ever. He walks out and leaves her.
Outside Mayas's house: Em and Maya walk home from school and the two girls keep talking about being each other's "firsts" for different things. Emily tells her a little bit more about Ali and then they almost make out. Awk-ward.
School: Locker room after swim and field hockey practice. Emily gets a note in her locker: Hey Em! I've been replaced, you've found another friend to kiss! -A Oh that A is such a wench! Putting two and two together, Em must have kissed Alison at one point. I just wonder who this person is that knows all Ali's secrets. I mean, whoever she told them to must have been a friend because that's what keeps people close, like she said in the beginning.
Spencer's house: Wren comes inside and sees Spencer in a bikini covered with a towel. He asks for...wait for it...a towel! She throws it at him and then very not subtlety at all rubs her shoulder. Playing the med student card he starts massaging her shoulders which is never weird, right? I mean, my sister's husbands always massage my shoulders while I'm in a bikini and it's totally not sexual in any way. Dude, keep it in your pants. She's friggin SIXTEEN! Melissa comes home, Spencer scadattles in embarrassment. Then Wren cuddles with Melissa. He's cute, but now he's an ass.
Aria's house: Aria's parents have a moment, talking, drinking wine. This is to show us that they are a cute, sweet couple and Piper feels the need to keep asking what could get in the way of their family. Daddy dodges deftly. Then stupid ALISON comes up in the conversation and I am tired of her already.
Spencer's house: Spencer is lying on her bed in a cute outfit: white shirt, small black vest, and red tie. I can't help but think that she was in a swimsuit earlier and now settling in for homework. Were that me, I'd be in pajamas. She put on a whole new outfit after swimming just to do her homework? She does look cute though. She watches Melissa and Wren out her window and looks like she wants to tear her sister's head off.
She gets an IM: Poor Spencer. Always wants Melissa's boyfriends. But remember, if you kiss I tell. -A Ooooh, so this is not the first time Spencer has had a thing for one of Mel's boyfriends. Flashback to Spencer, Hanna and Alison in the kitchen. Alison gives Hanna flack for trying to eat a cookie (hey, Spencer's cook obviously made them for the girls, might as well eat one!) when Melissa and old boyfriend Ian come in. Ali tries to get Spencer to tell Mel about the kiss Spencer and Ian shared and then threatens that if Spencer doesn't tell Melissa, Ali will. Spence counters with telling everyone about the "Jenna thing." Ooooh, what Jenna thing? Ali actually looks a little worried so HA. Love Spencer. Back to present, Spencer thinks she sees Alison across the street in a window. Spooky.
Aria's front porch: Emily tells Aria that she got a note from Alison. Aria thinks Ali is playing with them. Why were these girls friends again? They don't want to give up their secrets so they decide not to tell anyone that Alison, the missing girl, might actually be alive and messaging them. So much for finding their missing friend being the top priority to these girls.
Hanna's house: Hanna and her mom have dinner in order for the audience to catch up on their lives. Hanna's father left them. Front bell rings, it's the cops, Hanna is busted for shoplifting. Because she didn't think there would be cameras in the mall? This is why shoplifting is dumb. At the police station Hanna almost binges on random M & Ms in the lobby- glad she doesn't, who knows what STDs are wiped all over those things? Food sitting in a police station lobby? Don't think so. She gets a text: Be careful, Hanna. I hear prison food makes you fat. -A. HA! A is hilarious! Cause Hanna used to be fat and now she's not and she almost ate M & M's. Lul.
Hanna's mom takes her home, cops are rushing about the station. Her mom says she's taking care of the situation but to stop trying to ruin their family's reputation in order to get her father's attention. I wonder if mommy is using money or sex to "take care of it."
Street near Maya's house: Emily is walking home, follows a cop car to Maya's house. They found Alison but she's dead. They wheel a body bag past- she was buried beneath the gazebo that was being built when Alison disappeared. I say this bluntly because there is no real surprise factor here. We know A isn't Alison, that would be too obvious. But also, that body might not be Alison. Are they going to check dental records? Do DNA analysis? Or just assume that it's her? C'mon! CSI would be disappointed in the lack of forensics being done here.
Hanna, Spencer, and Aria watch from a distance and mention the "Jenna thing" again. They all made a promise, apparently not to talk about it.
Hanna's house: Hanna watches the news about Ali's body being found when the door gets slammed open. She watches as the cop who arrested her throws her mom up against the wall and they make out angrily. He takes her upstairs. Her mom, in a totally bitchy move, looks over her shoulder to make sure Hanna sees that her mother is slutting herself out to make Hanna's problem go away. Your daughter didn't tell you to whore yourself out, bitch. Don't even look at her- that was your choice. You should have let Hanna spend the night in jail and let her sort out her own problems. Sleeping with the cop just makes you and him just as much criminals as Hanna. Poor Hanna, her mom is a real psycho, I can tell already.
Church: A funeral which is...newsworthy? The girls come together and the initial snobbery that Hanna felt at school is apparently gone. We're all happy friends now! Mr. Fitz finds Aria in a conveniently empty stairwell, though with that many people in attendance I find that highly implausible. And, isn't this his first year teaching? He has no idea who Hanna is...why is he at this funeral? Seems weird.
And he can't help but talk to Aria and apologize for who knows what and Aria says she would never want to do anything to get him in trouble. Then WALK AWAY PLZ. Seriously, if that were true she'd say,' when I graduate, when I'm eighteen, if we're meant to be we can wait two years. I am still a kid, lots of changes to go through, growing up to do.' Buts she doesn't. She kisses his cheek uncomfortably. He grabs her and pulls her back to make out with her in a church stairwell. It's supposed to be romantic. It makes me squeamish. She awkwardly brushes some curls from his forehead then goes downstairs to sit with her friends, up front by the family.
Aria stares at the casket and this part is very well done. How weird and uncomfortable it would be to be sixteen and have someone close to you, so young, so full of life left to live, to suddenly be dead. It would be a lot to face and the girls play it wonderfully and it's just a very well done moment for this show.
They figure out that all four girls got messages from A when JENNA shows up and she's...blind. Weird. I figured she was dead, that they had killed her accidently or something. Then Ali's mom sits next to the girls and I have to laugh because of all the dozens of people that are there, her mom asks about Jenna specifically. "I didn't know they were friends." Really? You think every single person in this church was friends with Alison? Heck, I don't even believe these four girls liked her all that much to be honest. It was an odd thing for the mom to ask about, just one person. I know the show did it for a little exposition but we could have done without.
Jenna is creepy. She is also about thirty-five.
The funeral is over and the cop that is banging Hanna's mom comes over to say he's going to question the girls about Alison because it's not longer a missing person case, now it's a murder. That's true. But he's very creepster about the whole thing and he's just such a dick. I want to kick him.
All four girls get a simultaneous texts at the end and they read it out loud "I'm still here bitches. And I know everything. -A" They stare at each other, then at their phones, wigged out. The episode ends on Alison's picture inside by her casket. Is she really dead?
There is a lot of talk about the bad this episode in my recap but overall I liked it. I think A's texts were the biggest hook for me...who is this snarky psycho? At this point Spencer is my favorite character, she's got the most interesting story line as of episode one. I liked the show overall, there is just so much that was contrived to make a point. This show is not about subtlety, it's about slamming you in the face with a baseball bat to make sure you get it. Still, there is a mystery surrounding Alison and what's up with the "Jenna thing?"
The fact that the guys have huge things (literally and figuratively) for these underage girls skeeves me out, but I get it. I don't agree with it, but I know why the show does it. It helps me to see that every actor/actress on the show looks over the age of 20, haven't seen a guy or girl yet that would get carded at a club. All in all, I look forward to watching episode 2, to see whatever diabolical scheme A has planned next.
Final Grade: Solid B