Pretty Little Liars Season 5 Review “How the ‘A’ Stole Christmas”

Pretty Little Liars Season 5 Holiday Special How the 'A' Stole Christmas (43)

On a very special episode of “Pretty Little Liars,” we got our first Christmas-themed episode, in the aptly-tiled “How the ‘A’ Stole Christmas.” If it lacked the inherent spookiness factor of the typical Halloween-themed one-offs we got in previous seasons in between the front and back half of the season proper, it did make up for it in being just beautiful to look at nearly every step of the way. From Ali’s lavish “Ice” (Queen) ball, to the short-lived Christmas dinner party, this episode was nothing if not a feast for the eyes. (I’ll allow some of you to insert a coy reference here to a certain Xmas gift given to the ladies late in the episode by their respective significant others, a still photo of which is destined to be many fans’ screen saver of choice by tomorrow, no doubt….)

I mean, honestly, though, that party? Um, wow. Quite a layout, if I do say so myself. My only complaint would be the scene where people kept sneaking off into the “Winter Wonderland” part of the area- but only the main characters. Surely at a party like that, more than just the main cast would be sneaking off to explore what amounted to a make-out room, right? I mean, I get that they had to make it spooky, which you can’t exactly do if it’s Grand Central Station up in there, but they could have at least shown a few others going in or coming out at various points of the show, right?

But I get it. It’s that type of show, where people often do sneak off alone and others sneak off to follow them and no one is the wiser and no one but the main characters are ever involved. It is what it is, and I can live with it, especially since the terror trail here was so neat to look at. Plus, we got a surprise appearance from Cece, who looked like Ke$ha at a costume party- or really, just Ke$ha in general. Obviously, she’s doing okay, and it was implied that maybe it was Detective Holbrook that helped her blow town in New York, or so the girls seem to think.

It was further implied that he and Ali might be having an affair, but that detail was so on the nose that I’m convinced it was a red herring. Nothing is ever that straight-forward on “PLL,” so just because they saw Ali kissing Santa Claus and then saw Holbrook dressed similarly shortly thereafter hardly means it has to be him. Besides, it was a Xmas party- lots of people were dressed like that. However, there was a subtle bit of business where Holbrook commented on Aria’s dress that might have implied that Ali wasn’t his type, if you know what I mean and I think that you do. (I will avoid the obvious Xmas-themed joke here, in deference to my easily-offended readers, but feel free to joke amongst yourselves!)

Speaking of dresses and outfits and the like, though- Emily’s dress was totally the bomb, right? (Bonus points for Spencer’s “Merry ho-ho” outfit, too.) That Paige is one lucky lesbian- though Emily’s catty comment about whether Ali’s Secret Santa was a boy or a girl might indicate that she’s not quite over her just yet. Ali might get her chance if Paige ends up having to move sooner than later to California, as she inferred her parents wanted her to do because of Rosewood’s inherent dangerousness, which is putting it mildly.

Another interesting outfit was worn by Hanna, who sported a pink beret and a pink-and-black faux fur coat in a flashback sequence of her and Mona hanging out back in the day. Actually, at the risk of sounding a little creepy, I also found dead Mona strangely alluring, in her Ghost-of-Ali-past-and-possible-future guise. It was kind of like seeing what a Goth Mona would be like, am I right? (Oh, and congrats on Janel Parish’s runner-up status on “Dancing with the Stars”- I don’t watch it myself, but my mom said she should have won, IHHO, so there’s her two cents, for whatever it’s worth.)

It was nice seeing Mona again- even as a ghost- even though it really hasn’t been all that long, it feels like it’s been forever. As one of my favorite characters on the show, I’m really going to miss her, in spite of all the trouble she caused throughout the show’s run for our girls. It was a nice touch having her play a variation on the famed “Christmas Carol” characters, and even better that she managed to provide clues for both the girls and Ali herself. Once again, I found myself feeling a bit bad for Ali, especially when she looked forlorn into the Xmas dinner party she didn’t get an invite to, looking like Tiny Tim in search of a meal. Even more so when she worried about whether or not she was destined to be hell-bound for her actions, instead of, you know, upward and outward.

Given the clues dropped in her dreams/hallucinations, it seems more and more likely that there’s a twin afoot: note the two pairs of gifts Ali found in her piano, and the fact that she looked into a coffin and saw…herself. With no legs, according to Mona! It was also an interesting tidbit that her mother asked her not to tell her father about the whole double gift thing. Is it because she was hiding the existence of the other twin from him? Or did the crazy in her begin long before Ali was “killed”?

Meanwhile, Mona’s map led the girls to another solid clue- this one a note from Bethany that proved that, contrary to what Ali claimed, not only did she know her, she went so far as to invite Bethany over for Labor Day weekend- most likely as a set-up to bring her down, if not outright get her killed. Hell hath no fury like an Ali scorned and all that. I also found it interesting that whoever it was that attacked Hanna faked slipping out the window and remained inside the house to eavesdrop on the girls, clad in that freaky baby-face mask. Was it a second party from the one with a knife? Were there actually two other people present as the girls inspected Ali’s place for clues? If so, do they know what all Hanna found?

Other interesting tidbits: the snow globe with the girls’ picture inside from a previous episode made an appearance, courtesy of ‘A’; we learned that Ali definitively played piano; we got an amusing “Rear Window” homage of a different sort when a wheel-chair bound Toby played look-out for the girls as they investigated Ali’s; on the bad outfit front, few things in this episode were more amusing than Caleb’s un-merry elf outfit; and I loved the scene where Hanna confronted the Ali-in-training, telling her: “In Rosewood, bitches get buried”- yikes! (Bonus points for Aria proclaiming she’d rather “dance on dead monkeys” than go to Ali’s party, lol.)

Also, Sydney and Jenna revealed that they had joined Team Ali because, essentially, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, while advising, um, Em, to do the same if she knew what was good for her; Spencer gave a heads-up to Santa Lucas about Ali’s new Army; pretty much everyone thinks Ali killed Mona, including Jenna and Sydney; Hanna found a fake passport with Ali’s picture and the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-biting-but-not-understanding faux persona of Holly Varjak as the listed name; Spencer discovering that Ali had been communicating with someone- likely Cece- via personal ads again; and we learned that Ali was aces in archery- watch your back, Katniss!

Last but not least, there was a reference on a jack-in-the-box to “The Mad Hatter”- obviously a nod to the “Alice in Wonderland” character- but perhaps also a reference to a store that sells hats that Ali likely frequented? There’s definitely a clue in there somewhere, to be sure. I also got a kick out of Ali’s preemptive message on the tape recorder: “Get out of my stuff or I’ll kill you!” And it wouldn’t be a “PLL” episode without one last stinger at the end, in this case, a Christmas display with “Merry Christmas, bitches!” written in lights. And a merry Christmas to you, too, ‘A’! Bitch. (Sorry, couldn’t resist- as Spencer said: “Different name, same bitch.”)

All in all, a pretty successful first-time Christmas episode, if I do say so myself. I don’t know if it holds up to the quality and creepiness of the Halloween ones, but it was certainly entertaining, and it’s nice to get a bonus episode a little bit closer to the premiere of the mid-season, regardless. Looking forward to the return of Ms. Grunwald, and to the girls confronting Ali about being both ‘A’ and Mona’s killer- it should be an exciting second half of the season, to be sure, given all that’s happened as of late. The good news is, we don’t have nearly as long to wait as we would have with the Halloween episodes, so there’s that!

What did you think of the first Christmas-themed episode of “Pretty Little Liars”? Did you also think that Ali’s Xmas party was, ahem, to die for? Why was Cece really in town, given that she’s still being sought out by the police? What’s up with the Mad Hatter thing? Was Ali really trying to set up Bethany to be murdered? Did she kill Mona? Is she actually ‘A’ or is it her twin? Is there even a twin in the first place, or does Ali have a split personality? Did you also get a kick out of Mona’s wacky Goth look and ghostly attire? Do you already have that screen saver of the guys up-and-running? (Come on, admit it, you know you do!) Have a great holiday season and I’ll see you on January 6th!