1989: The Christine Sessions.

I’m sure this will come as a complete shock to anyone who has ever met me/read this blog: I have spent the past two weeks obsessively listening to the new Taylor Swift record 1989.  Here comes another shock: I think it is absolutely phenomenal.  Is it her best record yet?  It sure seems like it at this point (but I also really, really love Red, so I think to think about it for at least another week).  So, so many things have been written about 1989 already, so it was hard to figure out how I was going to address it in an interesting way.  Here’s what I’ve come up with: I’m going to go through the record track by track and give you four things.  First, my general thoughts.  Second, my favorite lyric.  Third, the thing I most want to be doing whilst listening to the song in question.  And fourth, the fictional character the song most makes me think of.  This is my special, Christine twist.  Music has always made me think of works of fiction because, well, you know, I’m obsessed with fiction.  (Also, I’ve thought for years that Taylor wrote “You Belong With Me” from the perspective of Joey Potter after watching season 1 of Dawson’s Creek.)  Anyway, this should be fun, so let’s get into it!

(1) Welcome To New York

General Thoughts: I refer you to the recent, excellent post by Friend of Christine, Regina, on W2NY here.  Needless to say, I love New York, I love Taylor, so this song works just fine for me.

Favorite Lyric: “It’s a new soundtrack, I could dance to this beat forevermore.”  I just like how she draws out the “eee” in beat.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: Being a resident of New York City, I get to do exactly what you’d want to do during this one: walk around the city with this jam blasting through my headphones.  If you don’t live in NYC, first of all, I’m sorry for you just generally, and now I’m more specifically sorry that you don’t get to do this on a regular basis.  But hey, come visit!  Taylor’s our ambassador and everything!

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: Carrie Bradshaw.  Duh.

(2) Blank Space

General Thoughts: Jam.  This song is a complete jam.  One of my favorites on the record.  It’s phenomenal.  Get involved immediately, if not sooner.

Favorite Lyric: “‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless, we’ll take this way too far.  It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar.”  It was SO HARD to choose one lyric from this song.  I love all of the spoken word parts, I like the part about being that girl for a month, OMG who is she, all of it.  It was so hard not to pick “Nightmare dressed like a daydream.”  But in the end, I always love a good lyric about being young and reckless, so I’ll go with that part.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: Can I be in the music video, Taylor?  I promise I’ll do something awesome/fun!  NOTE: I wrote this a week ago before the music video premiered (this Monday, November 10th).  And OMG IT IS PHENOMENAL!  This whole song is a winking joke at her image as a boy-crazy, man eater and the video just takes it to another level as Taylor goes full-on insane at a super hot guy whilst wearing gorgeous clothes and sauntering around a beautiful mansion.  It’s amazing.

Fictional Character This Song Makes Me Think Of: The craziest B on Pretty Little Liars, Alison DiLaurentis.  Bear with me on this one, Liars.  First of all, this song has a lyric about “pretty lies,” which is perfect right off the bat.  We also know that Alison absolutely has a long list of ex-lovers, all of whom would tell everyone in the world that she is insane (because she is).  Plus, she’s totally a “nightmare dressed like a daydream.”  All things considered, one of 1989‘s best tracks goes to one of television’s craziest characters.

(3) Style

General Thoughts: The first thing I texted my friends when I listened to this song for the first time: “‘Treacherous’ has officially been replaced as Taylor’s sexiest song.”  I’m not the type of person to ever refer to anything as sexy, but this song fits the bill.  Holy smokes.  :::fans self:::  Anyway, this is my favorite jam on 1989 at this point (aside from “Shake It Off,” of course).  I’m obsessed.  (Side note: Somehow, the whole Red era never convinced me that I should start wearing red lipstick.  This is mostly because I look like a clown with red lipstick on.  The line in this song about the “red lip, classic thing that you like” had me in Sephora in less than a week buying Taylor’s color.  Like I said, obsessed.)

Favorite Lyric: “I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt.”  In case you were wondering, that lyric, the part about the “tight little skirt,” is what I’m referring to when I call this song sexy.  I analogized that lyric to reading Judy Blume for the first time as a pre-teen.  It’s that good.  Kudos, Taylor.  (Ironically, given other songs on this record, I used to feel similarly about the “skintight jeans” lyric in “Teenage Dream.”  This one is way, WAY better.)

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: I am also not the type of person to ever go to a club, but this song makes me want to go somewhere, probably a club, and swing my hips around.  (With my red lips and in my tight little skirt, natch.)

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars.  The opening lyrics of this song (“Midnight.  You come and pick me up, no headlights.”) makes me think of the scene in the Veronica Mars Movie when Logan and Veronica are driving around in his car.  Also, this song is about a relationship that you know is doomed to be a complete mess and you really shouldn’t keep engaging in it, but yet, you can’t stop yourself.  Even though LoVe is clearly OTP, that narrative is very fitting for a lot of their relationship.

(4) Out Of The Woods

General Thoughts: I love the concept of this song.  I love that it’s about a relationship where you’re just never sure if you’re on steady footing/if you’re out of the woods yet.  It’s crazy to think that even someone as amazing and badass and wonderful as Taylor Swift feels that way sometimes, isn’t it?  I also love the way this song sounds — exactly like it could have been on the Bleachers record (which is fitting, of course, since Taylor co-wrote it with Jack Antonoff, of Bleachers).  I love Taylor, I love Jack, and I love this song.

Favorite Lyric: “We were built to fall apart and fall back together.”  There are so many good lyrics in this one (“The monsters turned out to be just trees” comes to mind), but I feel like that one perfectly encapsulates the theme of this track.  I also love the “good!” at the end of each chorus.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: Sing that “in the clear yet good!” line emphatically at karaoke.

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: Felicity Porter and Ben Covington, circa, like, season two.  Felicity had a crush on Ben from when they were both in high school and he was cool and she was a dork and so she felt very insecure about their relationship when they started seeing one another in college.  She just wasn’t sure if they were settled/out of the woods yet.  This song is perfect for Felicity and Ben.  (And just, like, life generally because it’s amazing.)

(5) All You Had To Do Was Stay

General Thoughts: The first time I heard this song, I wasn’t sure that I liked the background “Stay!” parts, but by the second time through I totally got it.  Those are my thoughts.

Favorite Lyric: “Let me remind you this was what you wanted, but you ended it.”  I love the fast paced tempo of the “Let me remind you,” like it’s just a conversational aside, followed by the more drawn out “this was what you wanted.”  It’s perfection.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: The first of several shoutouts to FoC Katie comes here — I really couldn’t decide what I most wanted to do during this song.  When I was discussing it with Katie, she suggested that she wants to do the background “Stay!” parts with her hands raised in the air.  It was a funny image.  Kudos, Katie.

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: I had trouble with this one, so shoutout #2 to FoC, Katie, for the assist: Jess and Rory, circa the early years.  Remember when Jess got into an accident driving Rory’s car and then he skipped town?  This song has the lyric about driving us off the road, followed by the chorus about someone who bailed when all he had to do was stay.  Bam.  Plus, I’m a Jess hater (sorry, but I’m just not impressed with people who are smart, but think they’re too cool to go to class and do well in school or whatever his stupid problem was) and I feel like he did bail and ruin his relationship with Rory when it could have worked if he had been more reliable.  So there.

(6) Shake It Off

General Thoughts: This is the best song of 2014.  It’s an unbelievable, virtually perfect pop song, and it cannot be denied.  I will hear no arguments.  Song of the year.  Done.

Favorite Lyric: “I’m dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go.  And that’s what they don’t know.”  I like to imagine that the “dancing on my own” line is an homage to one of my favorite songs of all-time, “Dancing On My Own” by the great Robyn.  Hey, maybe Taylor and Lena reenacted the GIRLS scene with this song by having a Hannah/Marnie dance party!  (OMG IMAGINE?!)

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: Shake it off!  Obviously!

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: FoC Katie, again, nails this one (should I have just had Katie write this whole thing?): Emma Stone’s character, Olive, in Easy A.  I mean, really, who was shaking it off more than Olive (and, as FoC Katie point out, her entire family, including the hilarious duo of Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci)?  She was basically living “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”  You go, Olive.  (Of course, the real Easy A song is “Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield as seen in this sort of inexplicably hilarious scene from the film.)

(7) I Wish You Would

General Thoughts: The voice memo on the Target Deluxe edition of the CD made me love this song even more than I already did.  Taylor talks about how her buddy Jack Antonoff created this track and played it for her when they were hanging out.  Taylor loved it so much that she asked him give her the track and, voila, “I Wish You Would” was born.  This song has a classic 80s sound and I love it.  Naturally.

Favorite Lyric: “I wish you were right here, right now, it’s all good, I wish you would.”  It’s kind of lame to pick the chorus, I know, but I just love hearing Taylor say “it’s all good.”  At first, I thought it was kind of a weird throwaway lyric that didn’t really make sense, but now I totally think it works perfectly.  As per usual, I end up thinking that every choice Taylor makes is brilliant and unassailable.  (Because it always is.  Obv.)

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: This is a driving song, don’t you think?  This is one of those songs that you put on when you’re driving down the shore in the summer.  You roll the windows down and you sing the crap out of it.  Is it summer again yet?

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: This is literally the last thing I am writing for this post.  I couldn’t come up with something here!  I felt like it was such a slam dunk, too.  I was really stuck on the line “I wish you knew that I miss you too much to be mad anymore.”  In my head, I was just like, “Oh, someone breaks up with their boyfriend/girlfriend for cheating.  And eventually, they become friends again and then they decide to get back together.  Or at least, the dumper wishes that the dumpee would (insert thing here).”  I think the right answer here is really Felicity and Ben circa season 4 after Felicity cheats on Ben with Noel.  Eventually, slowly, Ben forgives her and starts showing up at her apartment just randomly until, finally, she calls him out by saying, essentially, “Look, this is great, but I want to get back together with you.  And if you don’t want to get back together with me, then please stop doing this.”  Which leads to an amazing scene (scored, in true WB fashion, by Chantal Kreviazuk of “Feels Like Home” from season 2 Dawson’s Creek fame) where Ben chases Felicity to the airport in the snow to tell her not to leave.  But, alas, I already picked Felicity and Ben.  (Though, let’s be honest, me writing all of that was just backdoor picking them again.)  So let’s go with this — Carrie and Aidan when they get back together.  (I know, I know, I picked Carrie already too.  But not Aidan!  He’s new!)  It fits the bill kind of, right?  Just go with it, people!

(8) Bad Blood

General Thoughts: Sucks to be you, Katy Perry.  This song is amazing and Taylor wins at everything.  (Real talk: this is apparently related to Katy’s attempt to steal Taylor’s dancers from the Red tour, which is messed up, but it’s kind of hard to understand the significance of that act without being a touring performer, ya know?  That being said, given the lyrics of this song and the tenor of Taylor’s comments about it, I’m sure that’s not the whole story.  Something messed up went down between these two.  Team Taylor.  Obviously.)

Favorite Lyric: “You know it used to be mad love.”  Obsessed with Taylor singing the phrase “mad love.”  It’s fab.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: There was this period during my sophomore year in college where I was obsessed with the idea of having a nemesis.  As it turned out, that was a really stupid thing to want since I ended up getting super drunk one night and openly calling this person my nemesis to her face for no real reason, because ya know, youth.  Anywho, this song makes me forget the lesson learned in that scenario and kind of makes me want to have a nemesis again.  Whoops.

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: So this took me a while.  Because it’s not that often that there’s a real “bad blood” scenario between fictional characters.  Ultimately, I decided on Dawson Leery and Pacey Witter, who really never recovered their friendship after the Pacey/Joey business.  FoC Regina also had another great suggestion for this category: Brenda Walsh and Kelly Taylor.  Another classic pair of frenemies.  The Dawson/Pacey and Brenda/Kelly pairs split this one.  (Honorable mention: Brooke Davis and Peyton Sawyer, who, ultimately, worked it out.  Thank goodness.  B. Davis + P. Sawyer 4ever.)

(9) Wildest Dreams

General Thoughts: Insert obligatory Lana Del Rey reference here.  Sorry to say this, but Lana’s never written something this good/catchy.  All hail, Queen Taylor.

Favorite Lyric: “You see me in hindsight tangled up with you all night, burning it down.”  This part makes the whole song for me.  And sorry to do this again, but I have to use the word “sexy” here.  Damn, Taylor.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: I kind of want to twirl around in my best dress, possibly in the rain.  You know, kind of like “Fearless,” only less happy and more adult.

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: Sort of inexplicably, I keep going to Buffy and Angel with this song.  I think it’s because of that one crossover episode, “I Will Remember You,” when Buffy was on Angel and they were able to be together, like, for real because Angel became a human.  And it was amazing and glorious and everything it should have been … only, of course, the consequence of Buffy and Angel being able to be together for real was that a crazy demon was unleashed in the world and was going to wreak havoc everywhere.  So Buffy and Angel, being the heroes that they are, knew that they had to reverse the whole thing (meaning Angel had to go back to being a vampire) and that they couldn’t be together.  Another catch of reversing the whole thing: Buffy would never remember the time they spent together with Angel as a human – what could have been between them — but Angel always would.  (He’ll see her in hindsight, tangled up with him all night.)  It’s eff-ing heartbreaking, I swear.  Buffy + Angel 4ever.

(10) How You Get The Girl

General Thoughts: This song is adorable.  It’s a bit of an outlier on 1989 because it’s more of an old school, throwback Taylor song than any of the other ones.  It still has the Max Martin-y production and the drums and such, but that’s all in the background supporting a strummed acoustic guitar.  And, hey, it’s always nice to get a little glimpse of old school Taylor.

Favorite Lyric: “Remind her how it used to be.  Of pictures in frames of kisses on cheeks.”  In a song full of adorable lyrics, this is the cutest one for me.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: Would it be weird if I said that I wanted someone to serenade me to this one?

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: So guys, I’m obsessed with this MTV show called Faking It.  Who else is in on this program?  It’s fantastic.  It’s about a pair of best friends, Amy and Karma, who go to high school in a fictional, liberal utopia and decide to fake being lesbians to become popular.  Only, as it turns out, one of them (Amy) isn’t actually faking it — she likes girls and she’s in love with her best friend (Karma).  For now, Karma hasn’t reciprocated.  She’s dating this snoozefest of a guy, Liam, and Amy is finally moving on with a cute DJ girl named Reagan.  For now, I approve of this (at least on Amy’s end), but ultimately, I ship Karmy (Karma + Amy).  One other thing to mention: Karma is a singer.  This has been a plot point on the program and she has sung in public before (the actress who plays her, Katie Stevens, is an excellent singer who was on American Idol).   So here’s how I think it should go down: after months of being apart and fraught tension and what have you, Karma finally comes to her senses and decides she wants to be with Amy (because Amy is the best).  Her plan to win Amy back?  Naturally, she’ll serenade her with “How You Get The Girl.”  I think this is perfect.  Writers of Faking It, contact me, I can help!

(11) This Love 

General Thoughts: This song is lovely, but I would say that it’s probably my least favorite on 1989 for now.  Of course, my least favorite Taylor song is still, like, 1,000 times better than my favorite song by other artists, so that’s not saying much.

Favorite Lyric: “And I could go on and on and on and on and I will.”

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: This is a good background song.  It would be perfect for a chilly, rainy afternoon of reading and cuddling in a blanket fort.

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: I admit it — I couldn’t come up with anyone here.  One of my friends suggested that I give this to Marissa Cooper and Ryan Atwood because they were kind of boring.  I always liked Marissa and Ryan, and this doesn’t totally fit, but whatever, that’s the best I’ve got at this point.  Marissa, Ryan, you guys don’t have to have “Forever Young,” a song about the nuclear holocaust, as your song anymore.  Congrats!

(12) I Know Places

General Thoughts: I wasn’t crazy about this song at first, but it’s really grown on me.  I love how it sounds so paranoid.  It’s great to see these dark edges of Taylor.  I love that this side of her is something she’s willing to share through her music now.  Get dark and get weird, Taylor.  I love it.

Favorite Lyric: “They take their shots, but we’re bulletproof.  And you know for me, it’s always you.  In the dead of night, your eyes so green.  And I know for you, it’s always me.”

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: I don’t want to be chased by the paparazzi.  Intellectually, I understand that.  But at the same time, I’ve always wanted to be famous and, ya know, being chased by the paparazzi would be part of that…

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: Ok, I’m breaking the mold here and I’m going with a real person.  This song makes me think of one of my other number one homegirls (tied with Taylor and Lena Dunham for the top spot): Kristen Stewart.  This track is clearly about the paparazzi and I can’t think of someone who hates the paps more (with good reason, I might add) than K.Stew.  Obviously this also makes me think of her previous, tabloid catnip relationship, but I can’t really talk about that without getting sad.  Anywho, I hope Kristen likes this one.  I imagine she’d be down with Taylor (who’s not, really?).

(13) Clean

General Thoughts: I read some review of 1989 where the author posited that the whole record follows the trajectory of a relationship, starting with “Blank Space” and ending with “Clean.”  I’m not sure that’s accurate, but in a way, it works.  Because “Clean” is certainly about finally getting over someone.  It’s about making peace with the end of something.  It’s a really lovely way to end a mature, adult record from a mature, adult Taylor Swift.

Favorite Lyric: “You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore.”  So relatable.  How many things do I have with wine stains on them that I’ve had to discard?  (Too many.)  I also like “When I was drowning that’s when I could finally breathe.”  To be honest, this song is full of really excellent lyrics.

Thing I Want To Do During This Song: Drink wine with Taylor Swift!  Obviously!

Fictional Character(s) This Song Makes Me Think Of: Once again, FoC Katie broke my brain freeze on this one — this song encapsulates the way that I want Olivia Pope to feel about Fitz.  As you may know (if you don’t, read this), Olivia and Fitz actually make my blood boil, I hate the idea of them together so much.  (It’s actually gotten worse since I wrote that post.  I hate them so much that it’s almost ruining Scandal for me at this point.  Stay tuned.)  But I love Olivia Pope.  Or, at least, I love the idea of Olivia Pope.  I love the Olivia Pope I was first presented with — the badass who just handled stuff and took no crap.  I want that woman back and, for me to get her back, she has to feel this way about Fitzgerald Grant III.  She has to be “finally clean.”  Come on, Olivia, you can do this!  Let Taylor be your inspiration!

I know that I didn’t write about the bonus tracks here (“Wonderland,” “You Are In Love,” and “New Romantics”), but I haven’t spent as much time with them as I have with the other tracks.  I’ll say that I really enjoy all of them, particularly “New Romantics,” which is chock-full of fantastic lyrics (“Heartbreak is the national anthem, we sing it proudly” pops immediately into my head).  And the voice memos are absolutely adorable.  I thought I wouldn’t care that much, but I have to say, it was kind of fun to get a glimpse into Taylor’s songwriting process.  I love her so much (in case you couldn’t tell), so it was really cool to hear how she creates these things that end up meaning so much to me.

Look, here’s the real takeaway, the bottom line if you will: 1989 is probably the best thing that has happened/is going to happen to me in 2014.  It’s all I hoped it would be and more.  My only regret is that I somehow, shockingly I didn’t get invited to a 1989 secret session.  No matter though — I feel certain that I’m going to win the Swiftstakes and/or run into Taylor in our shared city and she’ll instantly feel our soul connection and we’ll become best friends on the immediate.  It’s happening.  Until then, I’ll be shaking it off with my red lip in my tight little skirt.

‘Til next time, Swifties.

Xoxo,

Christine

Welcome to New York, Taylor Swift

If you know me, or if you’ve ever read this blog, then you probably know that I deeply and unreservedly love both Taylor Swift and the place where I live, New York City.  So, as you might imagine, Taylor’s New York song (called “Welcome to New York”) had me extremely excited.  (As an aside, everything Taylor’s been doing since she announced 1989 has had me extremely excited.  I’m practically always thinking about or proselytizing about Taylor.  I recently compared her to an app–she’s always running in my brain, sometimes in the background, but the TS app is always open.)

Anyway, yesterday after “Welcome to New York” leaked, I was sitting at my desk fangirling (naturally) when my cell phone rang.  It was Friend of Christine, Regina, calling to legit FREAK OUT about the song.  I mean, really, she was borderline hysterical about the whole thing.  So I gave Reg a homework assignment — I told her to go home and write down her feelings about Taylor and New York and how the fact that she wrote the song means that we, as New Yorkers, are practically best friends with Taylor now.  So she did.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, a guest blog from dear FoC, Regina:

Welcome to New York, I’ve Been Waiting for You

What I find most beautiful about the latest single released off of Taylor Swift’s upcoming album 1989, “Welcome to New York,” is that it is unapologetically a love song about New York City.  Swift describes her move to New York City with essentially the same optimism and hopefulness that she uses when she describes her budding relationships.  In fact, the sentiment the song evokes is not unlike that felt from “Begin Again” off of Taylor’s last record, Red.

After a few listens, I couldn’t help but wonder if Taylor wrote this song after watching the episode of Sex and the City where Carrie refers to NYC as her one great love.  Swift describes New York:

Like any great love, it keeps you guessing,
Like any real love, it’s ever-changing,
Like any true love, it drives you crazy
, But you know you wouldn’t change anything.

New York City was out there, and it was waiting for Taylor just like her one true love.  And now that they’ve found each other, I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be getting an NYC break up song from Taylor, like ever.

There are many out there who are tired of the way t.v., movies, and songs romanticize NYC, and those people may call Taylor naive or not a “true New Yorker.”  To them I say, stop raining on Taylor’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!  Sure, New York has problems, but the fact that people still come here looking for happiness, success, and to make a brand new start of it in old New York is not one of them.  To criticize Taylor for feeling this way is to criticize the very heart of what makes New York so great.  And to quote Carrie, “I don’t want nobody talkin’ sh!t about my boyfriend.”

Shifting gears a bit, what also strikes me about this song is how far Taylor has come in her views on love and relationships.  In “Love Story,” one of the major singles off of Swift’s 2008 album, Fearless, Taylor is the one in the relationship doing the waiting.  She writes:

I got tired of waiting

Wondering if you were ever coming around.

My faith in you was fading…

She asks her “Romeo” to save her because she’s been feeling so alone, and ultimately, he does.  He whisks her away, pulls out a ring, and asks her to marry him so that she will never have to be alone again.

Now, six years later, a certainly more mature and experienced Swift takes a more active approach to life and love.  This song seems to scream, it’s out there, and it’s waiting for you, but it’s up to you to go out and seize it if and when you want it.  You can find the more that you have been looking for!  And I don’t think Taylor is talking just about love, per say, but fulfillment in general.  Whether or not true love in the romantical relationshippy way is in the cards seems to matter way less to 24-year-old Taylor than just plain genuine fulfillment and happiness, whatever that may entail.  And I don’t think Taylor is so afraid of being alone anymore, because after all, “You’re Never Alone in New York.”  (Shout out to the creator/writer of this blog who once put that song on a CD for me, and so graciously allowed me to share my feelings via this post.  Yes, I called her in my high-pitched squeaky voice freaking out about “Welcome to New York” when it leaked today.)

I can’t leave this blog post about my new favorite song without mentioning some of the things I would like to do while listening to it.

  1. Land at JFK.
  2. Reenact moving to NYC by throwing my duffel bag on the floor of my apartment and sighing very loudly.
  3. Take part in a choreographed dance involving suitcases.
  4. Just generally dance.  Pretty much anywhere.  Forevermore.
  5. Be standing at a Taylor Swift concert.

I don’t think that “Welcome to New York” is the next “New York, New York,” “New York State of Mind,” or even “Empire State of Mind.”  All of those anthems brilliantly represent that “anything can happen” feeling that NYC gives so many.  While “Welcome to New York” does too, what makes it stand apart is the idea that New York is waiting for you because it is your perfect match, your one true love, your OTP, and when you get together there will be challenges, but great things will happen.  Watch out though because you’ll have to fight Taylor for it.

-FoCR

We Have to Talk About The Other Night: The Problem(s) With the United States Women’s National Team.

Friends, I’m back.  My sincere apologies for the long absence.  Real life, yaddi yaddi yadda.  But back I am and I’m here with a rant!  And not on one of my usual topics (no teen business, no TV), so, again, apologies if you’re not psyched to read this.  But I must vent, friends.  I must vent about my beloved United States Women’s National Team (“USWNT”).

As you may or may not know, the USWNT has just begun the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament.  (Watch all the games live on Fox Sports 2 or Fox Soccer 2 Go!)  The tournament is basically a formality – the USWNT will qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Canada.  These games are, nevertheless, important, in terms of gelling a team, perfecting tactics, etc.  The USWNT’s first game was Wednesday night in Kansas City against Trinidad & Tobago.  They won 1-0.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is BAD.  Not only did they fail to score more than one goal against a team that they should have crushed, but they played like hot garbage.  It pains me to write this, truly, because I really do love this team.  But they have huge, fundamental problems.  I don’t want to get into the problems with US Soccer and the philosophy issues surrounding the women’s program right now (they are myriad and they are depressing), so let’s take a more basic approach.  Let’s analyze each position for the USWNT on Wednesday night and see what they could have done differently/better.  Ready, break!

GK – Hope Solo

Ok, so, I have an issue with this.  Let’s put aside all the ridiculous off the field stuff for a moment.  (For the record: there’s been an incredible false equivalence drawn between Solo’s situation and the NFL’s domestic violence issues.  The two are not comparable.  The NFL has a systemic, demonstrable problem with violence against women.  Women’s soccer?  Not so much.  That being said, US Soccer and the USWNT have been completely tone deaf in their handling of this situation.  Celebrating her shutout record and giving her the captain’s armband in the middle of this?  Dumb.)  I believe Hope Solo has the right to play for the USWNT at this time, I just don’t think it makes sense to play her all the time.  Her backup, Ashlyn Harris, has all of three caps with the senior national team.  What if something happens to Solo (not outside the realm of possibility) before next summer?  Don’t you want your backup to have played minutes in a tournament?  Maybe Harris will start tonight, or Monday, but in any event, she needs to play at some point.

RB – Ali Krieger, CB – Christie Rampone, CB – Becky Sauerbrunn, LB – Meghan Klingenberg

Here’s one area where I don’t have a ton of complaints.  None of these gals played great on Wednesday, but none of them were awful either.  Sauerbrunn is the best of the bunch – a composed, positionally sound defender who rarely makes a mistake (though she did make a few, uncharacteristically, on Wednesday night).  Christie Rampone … look, I get those clammering to see someone younger out there.  I get it, she can’t play forever.  But I don’t have a huge problem with starting her.  She’s still got it for the most part (unlike some people, who we’ll get to later).  Klingenberg and Krieger were both pretty solid.  I’d say Klingenberg was better at getting forward and, truth be told, I’d like to see a game where she starts on the right and Kelley O’Hara starts on the left.  That combination would give you the most going forward (while still being solid defensively).  In fact, what if we tried this: RB – Klingenberg, CB – Sauerbrunn, CB – Krieger, LB – O’Hara?  Krieger played CB most of the year for her club team and she was pretty darn good at it.  Any takers?

LM – Lauren Holiday, RM – Carli Lloyd, CM – Abby Wambach

Oh boy, and here’s where we run into some problems.  Let’s start with the most irritating for me, personally.  Lauren Holiday as, essentially, the number 6 aka the defensive midfielder.  Where do we begin?  First of all, Lauren Holiday is the best attacking central midfielder on the USWNT, not to mention, one of the best in the world.  She’s incredible on the ball, she’s tactically sound, she’s positionally aware, she’s unselfish, she’s got a motor … I mean, what more do you want?  I get, sort of, that the USWNT wants her to be Andrea Pirlo.  And listen, she can ping passes around from a deep lying position.  Is that her best use?  No, but she can do it.  So, ok, fine, you want Holiday to be Pirlo.  Then you have to play a real defensive midfielder, a destroyer, someone who is going to break up attacks, next to her.  Who is not that player?  Oh ya know, Carli Lloyd.  Carli Lloyd is very, very good at one particular thing on the soccer field: getting forward.  She can shoot from distance and she has more will and determination than most people out there at any given time.  She’s not so great at being a defensive midfielder (or a “box to box” midfielder to be honest).

Ok, so now we have two really good players playing totally out of position, how about one more?  ABBY WAMBACH AS THE NUMBER 10.  I simply cannot with this.  When USWNT coach Jill Ellis floated this possibility in interviews, I legitimately thought she was joking.  From my buddy David, my soccer guru, on proper number 10s: “[Y]ou can’t have your starting No. 10 be unable to track back into your half, see the field, and pull the strings moving forward. The great No. 10s all sit just outside the center-spot, and orchestrate.  If you can’t move quickly through the field, and string together passes to both sides you’re useless.”  Um, does any of that sound like it applies to 34 year old Abby Wambach to you?

Look, I have a lot of complicated feelings about Abby.  She’s a legend, undoubtedly.  She’s done a lot for soccer in the United States and women’s sports in general.  I have a ton of respect for her.  I do not think she is owed anything at this point.  Landon Donovan, essentially her male (lesser) equivalent, didn’t go to the World Cup because the coach felt he didn’t fit.  This will not happen with Abby Wambach, even though there are (at least) 4 forwards who are better than her on the USWNT roster (not to mention those who didn’t make the roster, couch Lindsey Horan, cough).  So, ok, fine, I accept that she’ll make the team.  Does this mean she should be playing in the number 10 role and starting?  NO!

Oh and guess what else?  Turns out, though the USWNT announced that they were going to play a 4-3-3, as soon as the game kicked off, they switched formations into a 4-2-4.  From David once again: “And if you’re just going to play two midfielders, you might as well pack up. I didn’t watch the game, but I can’t imagine the ball moved nicely through the middle third.”  Oh David, you have no idea how badly they moved the ball my friend.  Now, why did the 4-3-3 become a 4-2-4?  I mean, I hope this wasn’t actually the plan because that’s absolutely absurd.  My guess is that Abby doesn’t have positional discipline (and, to be fair, it’s not like she’s used to playing in the midfield), so she drifted up high, leaving a huge gap between Holiday/Lloyd and the forward line.  I could have told you 15 minutes in that this wasn’t working.  How long did Wambach stay in the game?  75 minutes!  (Yes, I know she scored the goal, but so what?  That was entirely Alex Morgan doing what she usually does and setting her up on a silver platter.)

In short, the midfield was an absolute disaster mess and it must change before tonight’s game.

LW – Megan Rapinoe, RW – Christen Press, CF – Alex Morgan

Whatever.  Rapinoe had an uncharacteristically terrible game.  She gave the ball away repeatedly, especially in the final third.  I imagine she’ll clean that up, but I wouldn’t start her again tonight.  Rapinoe is one of the best players on the team, but you don’t just get to start automatically because you’ve been good in the past.  You have a bad game, there are good players behind you, you should sit.  Simple as that.  Press was ok, but relatively uninvolved.  That might have had something to do with the fact that she seemed to drop into the unoccupied space where Abby should have been (check out @DevinPleuler to see a graphical display of this) for much of the night.  And Alex Morgan was pretty good.  Her runs were good, her service to Wambach was pitch perfect, and she was generally Alex Morgan-y, making defenders uncomfortable, setting up teammates, etc.  For me, she’s the best forward we have and she needs to be out there all game, every game to the extent possible.

Look, here’s the thing.  I love the USWNT.  Truly, madly, deeply, I do.  And when you love someone, you have to tell them the truth.  The truth is, this team is flawed.  Their tactics are a mess and they look entirely disjointed.  This is not irreparable.  This can be fixed.  Starting tonight.  What would I do?  4-4-2 diamond as follows: Klingenberg-Sauerbrunn-Krieger-O’Hara (KO’s my favorite player and I just want to give the Becky-Ali CB pairing a try, ok?), Julie Johnston (actual defensive midfielder at the base!), Tobin Heath at left wing (I am not a Heath fan, but I said Pinoe needs to sit, so here she is), Heather O’Reilly at right wing (HAO!), Lauren Holiday at ACM, Alex Morgan and Christen Press up top.  Eventually, I’d sub in Pinoe for Heath, Syd Leroux and/or Amy Rodriguez for Press, and Morgan Brian for either Johnston, Holiday, or Heath, depending on how it’s going.  I’ve even tossed around the idea of playing a 3-5-2 in my head.  I mean, wouldn’t Klingenberg and O’Hara and Crystal Dunn, when she’s healthy, be, like, perfect wing backs?

Either way, you’ll notice that my tactical formulation doesn’t include Abby Wambach starting.  I accept that she still has a role on this team.  Put her in for the last 15-20 and let her make a nuisance of herself in the box and try to get free on set pieces.  Ok, fine, she can do that.  What she cannot do is drag this team’s tactics backwards by playing as a creative midfielder (something she is not and never has been).

Please, Jill Ellis.  I’m begging you.  Do the right thing.  Go USA.  Go USWNT.

‘Til next time, friends.

Xo,

Christine

“Because you’re Mona.” PLL Rankings!

Why can’t I insert emojis in WordPress?!  If I could, I would be inserting all of the shocked face emojis here.  True, I listed her as someone I thought I might die last week, but still, I kind of can’t believe it actually happened!  What a crazy, action packed, finale that was, huh guys?  Let’s get right into it — our last Power Rankings of the summer!

(1) Mona

HUGE FREAKING SPOILER ALERT – I am so, so, SO sad that Mona is dead.  To use the ABC Family hastag, #RIPMona.  You may be wondering, “Hey, Christine, she died, so why the heck are you making her top of the list?”  Um, because she rocked, that’s why!  Mona did a series of amazing things this week, chief among which was finally teaming up with her fellow genius, Spencer Hastings, the way she always wanted.  One of my favorite parts of the episode was when Spencer said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on.”  In response to Hanna’s, “Did Ali say that?” Mona and Spencer simultaneously say, “No, Churchill did” and then look at one another like, “Whoa, I’m not used to these other dopes understanding my references.”  They later team up to break into Radley, a place they both spent time as patients, in order to steal Bethany Young’s files to find a connection between Bethany and Ali.  Mona and Spencer using their powers for good (or just to take down Alison) is what I’ve always wanted.  It was all I hoped it would be and more.  Even to the last, Mona is still kicking ass.  For her last act, she discovers a connection between Bethany and Ali, thereby proving Alison is A (or so Mona thinks).  (Why she calls Aria to share that information and not, say, anyone else, is a bit confusing, but whatever.)  Bottom line: Mona was a misunderstood (fine, emotionally troubled) genius who only ever wanted to fit in and be part of a group and tonight, she got that (and she got to use her genius powers at the same time).  It was a fitting end for one of PLL‘s best characters.  Farewell, Mona.  You will be missed.

(2) Emily

Well you guys, I think this settles it — in the biggest upset since the Miracle on Ice, somehow Emily Fields won the season.  I’m as shocked as you, believe me.  But major kudos to Emily for finally getting on board with reality and growing a spine (and continuing to look amazing in the process).  I loved Emily’s borderline insanity about Christmas.  (“Read her boobs.  The girls loves Christmas.” –Hanna Marin.)  She names all of her decorations (Snowy, Wiggy, and Piggy?), she has a lifesize nativity scene, which is, admittedly, a little creepy (“Where’s Jesus?), and she even says to Hanna, “If you can’t find Christmas in your heart, Hanna, you’re not going to find it under a tree.”  This scene provided a moment of levity in an otherwise super heavy episode.  The best thing about Emily now, though, is her willingness to stand up to Alison.  I would never have believed Emily capable of something like asking Ali to her face whether or not she’s A.  (I’m choosing to ignore the fact that what precipitated this confrontation was Emily stupidly leaving her phone on the table so that Alison could read her texts.)  I’m so proud of how far she’s come.  Oh and plus ten for getting back together with Paige.  I’m into it.

(3) Paige

Speaking of Paige, great job by her this week.  First, she tells Em that she’s sick of talking and just up and kisses her in the hallway at school.  You go, Paige.  Then she doesn’t even get pissed when she sees Ali exiting Emily’s house (after Em clearly lied to her about being sick).  Instead, Paige follows Alison (and the creepy twins, Cindy and Mindy) to an abandoned farm where a dozen cars are parked and Ali is, to use Paige’s words, “building an army.”  In other words, Paige was decisive, useful, and she didn’t get mad for a dumb reason.  All of which gets you high atop the Christine Power Rankings.  Well done, Paige.

(4) Alison

Ok, so the show wants us to think too badly that Ali is A and that she killed Mona, right?  There must be something else to this.  (And the something else must be that Alison has a twin.  It just has to be.)  Regardless, this sociopath somehow gamed a polygraph test, convinced the police that Spencer was responsible for Bethany Young’s death, and she got herself cleared as a suspect in the process.  In other words, she’s insane, but she’s good.  

(5) Caleb

Well, here’s an improvement: no talk of Ravenswood this week!  Beyond that, Caleb is useful in that he gets to use his weird hacker skills to find out that the police are targeting Spencer and to, essentially, control the Radley security system so Mona and Spence can roam the halls at will.  Though I maintain my dislike of Caleb, points for being helpful.

(6) Aria

Samesies — I may not like her, but she was relatively useful this week.  Specifically, Aria distracts a nurse at Radley while doing her art volunteering so Mona and Spencer can steal the nurse’s keys.  She is also pretty decent in her scene with Holbrook, explaining that she’s volunteering and, after his questioning get a bit aggressive, asking whether she should call her parents.  I think this is the first time one of the teenagers in this town has realized that, hey, the cops really can’t just question me whenever they feel like it without a parent or lawyer present.  Shocking that it’s Aria who realizes this, but points nonetheless.  Aria also gets a great line in the beginning of the episode too.  The Liars ask Mona to help them with Alison and Mona asks, “Why do you think I can help you?”  As the other girls look sort of constipated, Aria says, “Because you’re Mona.”  Indeed, Aria, indeed.  (She also appears to be wearing a vinyl skirt in this scene, but we’ll try not to focus on that.)  And guess what?  I”m not going to complain about the completely nonsense Ezria scene we were forced to sit through tonight.  Why?  Because of a dear, dear Friend of Christine, Bridget.  Bridget got married this past weekend (and it was amazing).  She loves PLL, is an avid reader of the blog, and is an Ezria supporter.  So for you, Bridge, I shall not hate on Aria and Ezra this week.  (Bridget also got me a gift for doing a reading in her wedding — namely, a framed picture that says “What Would Spencer Hastings Do?  This is the greatest gift ever.  Cheers, Bridge!)

(7) Ezra

See above re: not being critical this week.  And apparently, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.  Moving on.

(8) Hanna 

This week we learn that Hanna Marin has Buffy Summers syndrome — she appears throughout the series to be, for all intents and purposes, not particularly book smart, and yet, during her senior year, we find out that she inexplicably nailed the SATs!  (Or SCTs as Hanna called them.)  I sort of hate this concept, since it just serves to undermine everything we’ve known about the character in the past.  Like, remember when Hanna was obsessed with solving mysteries via James Patterson crime novels?  Really, that girl did amazingly on the SATs?  Feels doubtful.  In other news, Hanna is probably in a bad way now since she was actually Mona’s friend and, you know, #RIPMona.  Sad day.

(9) Mona’s Mom

First of all, who knew she existed?  And she bakes chocolate chip cookies, how nice!  Here’s a question though: why did Mona’s mom go see the principal and then lie to Mona about it?  True, it could have been for some innocuous reason.  After all, Hanna just told Mona’s Mom that she thought Mona was afraid of Alison.  And immediately after Mrs. Vanderwaal leaves the office, the principal calls Alison down.  But still … that was a little weird, right?  Either way, sad for Mrs. V in her first (and probably last) PLL appearance.  I’m guessing we won’t see her again.

(10) Lucas

Welp, you have no friends left now, huh?  And whoever killed Mona is going to eventually realize that Lucas was her #1 minion and be after him as well.  I might go back to wherever not-Rosewood place you were creepily lurking before, buddy.

(11) Spencer

As discussed above, seeing Spencer and Mona using their genius together was a real treat for me.  Spence also looked really great this week.  (That opening blue shirt/long necklace/black skirt combo was on point.)  That weird foreplay/roleplay scene with Spence and #OfficerToby was … interesting (especially for ABC Family) … but the pocket watch she gave him was really adorable.  (Inscribed message: “You’re my once upon a time. –S”  Say it with me now: AWWWW.)  Nevertheless, Spencer ends this episode in the slammer accused of murdering Bethany Young.  Of course, she has Melissa’s confession on tape, which directly proves that she didn’t do it.  Plus, Spencer’s mom is super-lawyer, Fake Mariska Hargitay, who has already gotten Ashley M (and certainly countless others) out of jail in the past.  So she’s probably going to be just fine in the end.  But still.  Not a great season-ending situation for our favorite heroine.

(12) Toby

But yeah, not great for #OfficerToby either, huh?  He misses his graduation from the police academy, ends up in a full length leg cast, and his girlfriend has been arrested and charged with murder.  Such a series of bummers.  And because Toby is less cool than Spencer, he gets ranked lower than she does.  Sorry, Officer, that’s just the way it goes.

Not Ranked: The world’s creepiest twins, Cindy and Mindy (did Mona call them the Toodles?  You guys are in high school, how about you start dressing differently?); Aria’s family (Aunt Sara is apparently going to check under Ezra’s hood, which, ew, Uncle Danny will challenge him to arm wrestle, which Uncle Danny will certainly win, and Granny doesn’t does pluck her chin hairs, but “toots” a lot … ew); Detective Tanner (dude, everyone is going behind your back while you are inexplicably gone!).

Speaking of Detective Tanner, let’s talk about this for a minute.  Why is Holbrook back all of a sudden?  And why is he doing a bunch of stuff without waiting for Tanner (even though at least one person suggests that he should wait for her)?  Seems suspicious, right?  Could he be working with Alison?  (Yes.  Everyone could be working with Alison.)  Another thing — let’s talk about the qualities of the group that Mona assigns them.  She says that the Liars are the perfect group for a sociopath to manipulate because they all present a different challenge.  Spencer = smart, Emily = loyal, Hanna = admiring, Aria = compassionate.  Spencer and Emily, I get.  Hanna is admiring because … she ultimately bit off Ali’s style after she was gone?  I guess that makes sense?  But Aria is compassionate?  Um … that feels like more of a stretch.  (Again, I’ll refrain from ranting here out of deference to the newlywed, FoC, Bridget.)  But still, this is an interesting concept and something I hadn’t thought about before.  Mona essentially suggests that Ali collected this specific group together because they were so different and their differences (specifically, learning how to manipulate them) were what made the interesting.  I don’t know much about how sociopaths work, but this seems plausible to me.  

Anyway, guys, what a wild ride this season has been.  Unlike last season, when we were teased with a death that was clearly a fake out, this time, Marlene finally did it and killed off someone that we actually like.  It’s been a fun few months, and I can’t wait until we’re back at it.  (With a Christmas episode nonetheless!  Emily must be so pumped.)  For now, I’ll just say #RIPMona.  You were one of the greats and you will be missed.

See you next time.

Xoxo,

Christine

“Act Normal, Bitches.” –A: PLL Rankings!

Friends, I must once again apologize for failing to recap last week’s PLL.  Stupid real life — it’s just not appropriate that it gets in the way of power ranking the Liars.  But I did watch and I did rank the characters anyway and we were once again looking at a Spencer/Emily tie atop the leader board.  Did they keep it up this week?  Let’s find out!

(1) Emily

This girl is on FIIIIREEEEE.  Emily, after being a fool about Alison for so long, has finally made a full break with that crazy nutjob.  And thank goodness.  First, Emily insinuates that it was actually Alison, not A, who made the TVs in the shop window show incriminating photos of Alison visiting Hanna in the hospital after Camp Mona and wrote the messages, “We’re All In This Together” and “Act Normal, Bitches.”  One reason this makes sense — Ali has probably seen High School Musical, so she would make the “We’re All In This Together” reference.  (Or, possibly, A is a wildcat.  You never know.)  Emily then decides to go to Ezra for help finding out information on Cyrus, Ali’s “kidnapper.”  Look, we all know that I would never advocate seeking help from the creepiest man in Rosewood, but he actually comes through, so good call, Em.  True, it seems like Paige might have moved on, which is a bummer for Emily, but what I really care about is that she isn’t pining over Alison like an idiot any longer.  She even accidentally calls Alison A!  I am totally on board with this Emily (especially when paired with Spencer), so here’s hoping she can keep this going next season.

(2) Mike Montgomery

Still dating Mona, still not stealing things/throwing laptops at his mother, still looking pretty dapper, especially in his 40s inspired suit.  Do you, Mike Montgomery.

(3) Ezra

It pains me to put him up this high, it really does.  But he provides the girls with the evidence proving that Alison was in cahoots with her kidnapper, so I have to give him props.  And hey, someone’s going to die next week, so it could be him, right?  (No, it really couldn’t.  The teens wouldn’t stand for this.  Sigh.)

(4) Paige

In her first scene with Emily, Paige looks fantastic.  Good hair, good outfit, good “playing it cool” vibes.  In her next scene, she is literally dressed exactly like Sandy in the last scene of Grease.  When she told Emily she was going somewhere, I just assumed it was to the community theater to sing “You’re The One That I Want.”  Turns out, Paige had a date with some girl at the same ’40s, black and white dress up movie that the Montgomery family attended.  I’m mildly pro-Emily and Paige, but good for Paige for not just waiting around for Emily to wake up and smell the hottie (Buffy reference!).

(5) Byron

Again, I find this ranking personally offensive.  But, to his credit, Byron is SUPER sassy with that mega-bully Detective Tanner.  And though his mere presence offends me, he didn’t actually do anything radically terrible, so I’ll give him a pass for now.  Plus, he got his fedora re-blocked, whatever that means, so that’s pretty exciting for him.

(6) Aria

I don’t know what’s happening with the rankings this week, because it’s not possible that Aria is above Spencer, right?  And yet, here she is.  I’m tempted to downgrade her on the basis of her outfits alone.  Let’s even bypass the peach pants + leopard print jacket and skip right to the biggest doozy: a crop top with fringe sleeves featuring, you guessed it, a jungle cat on the front, paired with a black skirt with lightning bolts all over it and, to top it all off, a denim jacket with a leopard print patch on the back.  It’s like she raided the closets of both Claudia Kishi and Stacey McGill.  Woof.  Beyond that, Aria doesn’t really do anything bad this episode.  She has a heart-to-heart with Mona in the bathroom of the ’40s movie and, though I think Mona is 100% playing her, Aria is very nice.  Anyway, because she doesn’t make any major mistakes, aside from her fashion, and because nothing horrendous happens to her, Aria gets a decent ranking this week.  She shouldn’t get used to it.

(7) Spencer

This ranking is based mostly on the fact that her sister killed Bethany Young by burying her alive because she thought Bethany was Alison and that Spencer had killed her.  Well, then.  That’s kind of a bummer for everyone’s favorite Liar.  Aside from that, she does get in some cute time with Toby, she wears two very cute dresses (loved the red one with the white sleeves and the striped one, which felt like a classic Spencer Hastings outfit), she realizes that Bethany Young must have been purposefully dressed in a duplicate set of Alison’s clothes because “it’s not like Alison was walking around naked” (a very astute observation, I might add), and Troian Bellisario looks really amazing with unshed tears in her eyes, a look she had going on for a lot of this episode.  Go Spencer.

(8) Toby

Officer Toby or Cadet Toby?  Either or, he kind of bungles that bromance intervention with Caleb, huh?  I don’t really blame him, though.  That conversation was boring and stupid and Caleb was being a dummy.  What’s a carpenter/police officer to do?

(9) Tanner

Ya know, I’m really starting to get annoyed at this woman.  Finally someone calls her on her continued harassment of the girls!  (I know, I, too, was shocked that it was the winner of the Jimmy Cooper Award for Absentee Father of the Year, Byron Montgomery.)  Tanner corners Emily, Aria, and Hanna (conveniently without the smart one, Spencer), buys them coffee (that seems unethical), and then apropos of nothing asks them who they think killed Bethany Young and insinuates that the police think it was them since Bethany’s body was found near where the girls were having a sleepover.  And then she shows up at the Montgomery household, presumably pretty late it night since it’s after they got out of the movie event, and tells Byron, yup we’re interested in Aria, and, oh, one of the girls is going to talk to me tomorrow and I won’t tell you who it is.  I mean, this woman is outrageous!  

(10) Hanna

Poor Hanna spends the episode trapped in a plot line that absolutely no one cares about: what happened to Caleb in Ravenswood.  Yawn, I’m about to fall asleep just thinking about it.  I just went through my notes again, and I actually have nothing to say about Hanna at all.  That’s just sad.  Moving on.

(11) Mona

Though I’m almost positive that Mona was messing with Aria in the bathroom (that “Do you think Mike really likes me?” thing was so fake innocent, it was ridiculous), the fact is, she still had to rush out of a movie theater because freaking Aria Montgomery made her cry.  For someone who used to be/is A, that’s lame, dude.

(12) Melissa

Welp, she’s a murderer.  And she’s gone back to England.  Or is she in Pittsburgh?  Did I see that on the FedEx or did I just make that up?  Either way, I don’t think she’s in good shape vis-a-vis law enforcement, because I’m pretty sure we have an extradition treaty with England and if she’s in Pittsburgh, home girl didn’t even get out of the state.  I’m not sure what Spencer/the girls are going to do with this tape, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they turn it over to the police or, more likely, A easily steals it from them when they’re sure they’ve hidden it in a safe place.  Buckle up, Melissa.

(13) Caleb

Caleb Rivers, the ultimate Ravenswood hispter (read: horrible person): “You were a tourist, man.  I lived there.”  I have nothing further.

Not Ranked: Sydney (a liar, but a damn good swimmer); Ella Montgomery (apparently in Scranton and stuck there, which sounds crappy); Ouija the movie (insert side eye emoji here at this product placement, ABC Family); this week’s music (shout out to my home girl, Betty Who for featuring in this week’s episode!) everything to do with Ravenswood (please, PLEASE tell me that we never have to hear about Ravenswood or Miranda or fireflies or Mrs. Grunwald ever again).

I can’t believe that next week is the #FAtalFinale!  Who do you guys think is going to die?  For me, the leading candidates are as follows:

  • Melissa: it seems right, doesn’t it?  Now we know her secret, we know she did what she did to save Spencer, and we know that, in all likelihood, this information is going to get out.  If Melissa dies now, even though we know she’s a killer, oddly, she’ll be somewhat redeemed.  On the other hand, whoever actually hit Bethany Young with the shovel will want Melissa alive and for this information to come out, right?  Hm.
  • Alison: as I said a few weeks ago, mightn’t this be overkill?  I mean, we already thought she was dead for years and now that she’s back, we’re going to kill her again?  That being said, basically everybody in Rosewood wants this girl dead right now.
  • Mona: I love Mona, but as she said this week, she’s pretty much lost control of her “army” and she seems to be on her own, at least somewhat.  I would never underestimate her, because I think she’s a badass, but Alison is after her and we know that psycho will stop at nothing.

What about you, readers?  Thoughts on who is going to join Bethany Young in the great blue yonder?  Can’t wait to find out!  See you next week!

Xo,

Christine.

P.S. I can’t write a post today without including this: OMG HOW AMAZING IS THE NEW TAYLOR SWIFT SONG?!  We’ll discuss soon.

 

 

“Oh, it’s about to get messier.” PLL Rankings!

Last night, I got home at 9:30 pm and I had a choice.  I could watch the USA’s opening game of the Under-20 Women’s World Cup and go to bed at a reasonable hour, or I could watch PLL and then the game and go to bed super late.  I chose the former, so I got up early this morning to watch PLL before work.  As a result, my recap might have to be on the shorter side so I can make it to work in time.  But let’s do this!

(1) Spencer (TIE)

(1) Emily (TIE)

OMG, I think I have a new favorite Liars duo!  Spencer and Emily are KILLING IT right now.  Spencer gets off the mark early with a series of good lines in Hanna’s bedroom.  For example, she posits that Noel’s excuse for breaking into the Marin household would have been, “Sorry Mrs. Marin, I just needed to borrow a butcher knife.”  When Ali says she’s a “little loud,” Spencer responds with, “You’re a little crazy.”  DUH.  Later, when Hanna complains that even the doorknob smells like Alison, Spencer pauses and responds, “Why were you smelling the doorknob?”  Spencer’s other good moments include her quasi-intervention with Caleb, which seems to finally knock him out of his dirty, drunken stupor (at least, to the extent that he can be knocked out of it), her identification of the #TwoJennas aka Stalker Sydney and Jenna, and her badass confrontation with Noel Kahn at the lake house.  Spencer cuts Noel with a fire poker and eventually convinces him to leave, while still hanging on to his “insurance” aka pictures of Ali from when she was “kidnapped” and a recording of her saying things like “I can’t keep doing this” and “It’s too dangerous.”

Emily, meanwhile, has another ridiculously strong episode.  First, she overhears Noel Kahn sitting in his car listening to the recording of Alison (why he was sitting there in the open listening to this with the windows down is unclear).  In a fairly genius move, she looks up Noel’s locker combination, steals his keys, and jacks the recording/pictures right out of his glove compartment.  Probably my favorite Emily moment was her amazing dressing down of Stalker Syd, who clearly got friendly with Emily at Jenna’s behest.  When Syd says, “This is so messed up,” Emily launches into her greatest ever monologue, beginning with, “Oh it’s about to get messier.”  Then she says something Paige-esque about how she will be the coach on the swim team just so she can watch Syd under water in the moment when she’s not sure she can breathe.  Emily ends her tirade with, “I want you to know what it feels like to be sucker punched” before getting in her car and driving off.  DAMN, GIRL!

Em and Spence also have one great scene together, when they confront the #TwoJennas at the doctor’s office.  True, Spencer is wearing old lady sunglasses in this scene, but together, they rip into Stalker Syd and Jenna.  And it’s amazing.  I’m loving this newly smart Emily paired with the always smart Spencer.  Who knew this was possible?  Keep it coming, PLL!

(2) Ashley M.

Continuing to exhibit some of the only parenting happening in Rosewood, Ashley M. calls Hanna out for her flask, calling it dangerous and disturbing and explaining that Hanna can’t afford not to be in control now, not when Ali’s “kidnapper” is still on the loose.  She’s also super nice to Alison throughout, which obviously Ali doesn’t deserve, but Ashley M. is the nicest person in Rosewood and she clearly believes Ali’s story after the break-in last week.  There is one scene where Ashley M. is wearing a red coat … but whatever, that doesn’t mean anything.  Moving on.

(3) Jenna

I would say that Jenna wins her showdown with Ali, explaining that she didn’t turn Shana against Alison, Ali did that herself, and she holds her own in the Stalker Syd/Emily/Spencer scene as well.  I’m still not sure what Jenna’s up to, but she’s still biding her time and making everyone feel creeped out in the meantime.  It’s working.

(4) Detective Tanner

I still think this woman is being overly aggressive in her questioning of teenage girls (she’s also pretty unethical – I mean, has she told any of them that they have the right to have a lawyer present?), but she’s clearly on to something.  And if one of those things that she’s onto is Ezra Fitz, serial creeper (yes, Aria, he is a serial creep), all the better.

(5) Hanna

Welcome back, Han.  She kicks off the episode in her usual, semi-drunken state, which isn’t great, and she spends almost the entire episode wearing a leather jacket that inexplicably says “Rosewood” on the back, which isn’t great either, but by the end, I think our normal Hanna is on our way back to us.  She tosses the booze down the drain and makes up with Aria, thereby stitching our main group of Liars (minus Alison) back together.  To be clear, I don’t think Hanna should give up drinking forever, because she’s a hilarious drunk, but she should probably stop drinking during the day and everyday and stuff like that.  And, hey, if she wants to join in on the Spencer/Emily awesomeness, by all means, go for it!

(6) Caleb

Ugh.  Fine, I guess the Spencer intervention works.  (Also, now we know that he’s staying at Toby’s stepmom’s cabin?  Did we know that before?  And isn’t Toby’s stepmom Jenna’s mom?  Shouldn’t we be creeping around the place looking for evidence or something?)  Caleb seems to clean up his act somewhat (he even tells Spence he’s going to shower, which, thank GOD), he gets Hanna to tell him what happened with Zack, and then he punches Zack in the face.  All positive developments, I suppose.

(7) Aria

When being questioned by Detective Tanner about her “intimate relationship” with Mr. Fitz and whether Mr. Fitz could have had “intimate relationships” with other students, Aria says, “He didn’t serial date students.  He wasn’t some creep that prowled the school hallways hitting on girls.”  OH, BUT WASN’T HE THOUGH?  I should also note that Aria was wearing a semi-animal print jacket with a striped skirt during this scene.  On the plus side, she texts Ezra telling him not to hurry back to Rosewood, advice with which I wholeheartedly concur, and she tells her Mom the truth about Zack/makes up with Hanna.  Plus two, Aria.  (Aria also said something about Zack being a “big jerk internationally” to Hanna.  Is that like how Sonja Morgan said that everybody in the city AND INTERNATIONALLY knows Harry Dubin?  #RHONY reference!)

(8) Noel Kahn

Honestly, Noel’s eyeball peaking out from underneath the sheet in Spencer’s lake house was one of the creepiest things I’ve seen on this epically creepy show.  How did he know she was going there??  Anyway, Noel Kahn comes away from this encounter without his “insurance” photos/recording (which was very Felicity-esque, “Dear Sally,” was it not?), mostly because he’s not as badass as Spencer.  But Noel is smart enough to realize that he better have some dirt on Alison because in all likelihood, she’s going to throw him under the bus at some point.  He says that he got the photos/recording from Shana, who gave them to Jenna, which he then stole from her bedroom right before the house blew up.  So possibly Ali’s trying to blow him up?  I don’t know, it’s all very convoluted.

(9) Alison

Let’s talk about the bright pink blazer for a second.  Honey, it’s not the ’80s.  You never even lived in the ’80s.  Lose it.  Immediately.  In Ali’s most important twist, the end of the episode shows her “kidnapper” in custody and basically parroting the lines of her completely bogus story.  I think I speak for all of us when I say, “WTF???”  Who is this guy?  Did Ali put him up to this?  (Probably.)  But she looked so freaked out?  What is happening??

(10) Stalker Sydney

Look, I get that she became friends with Jenna and helped her at the visually impaired home and heard about Alison and all of that.  But, um, why is Stalker Sydney dressed EXACTLY the same as Jenna?  Like, same red pants, same black shirt, same denim jacket, same sunglasses, same hair.  Why?  What the hell is that about?  Also, Paige and Emily might drown her now (Paige has a history, after all), so that’s not super great for her either.

(11) Ella

I guess it sucks for Ella that her engagement is ruined when she finds out confirms that her fiancé is a creep (though, if you knew about this already, Ella, why did you bring him around your teenage daughter and her friends who are always unsupervised?), but the worst thing that happened to her?  Easy.  She said this to Aria and apparently meant it: “When it comes to fashion, you are my guru.”  LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL okay, I think we have another blind person in Rosewood!

(12) Zack

Normally on this show, when a creepy adult male hits on teenage girls, but he has some excuse like, he didn’t know she was a teenager (yeah, ok) or he just couldn’t help it that he fell in love with her (still not acceptable!), the show just completely buys the excuse, gets on board with the creepy adult male, and expects us to do so as well.  So it’s a bit hypocritical that this time, even though A prompted Zack to hit on Hanna, the show completely writes off his excuse and paints him as a creep.  But whatever, baby steps, I’ll take it.  Buh bye, Zack.

Not Ranked: Byron Montgomery (finally decides to come back from his, apparently years-long, “conference” at Syracuse on the same day his ex-wife is having her engagement party?  Uh, okay.  Also says this ridiculous line to the aforementioned ex-wife: “You make this small world seem so much bigger.”  Ugh.); swim team coach (he took German?  At what high school do they offer German?); Mike Montgomery (isn’t it strange how he’s never shown up for his mom’s engagement festivities?  Whatever, smart move, Mike.); opthalmology nurse (I’m sorry A was so rude and creepy to you).

Only two episodes ’til the #FatAlFinale!  Oh no!  I heard that someone was going to die, but it actually can’t be one of the Liars, right?  Unless it’s Alison, but I feel like that would be overkill, literally, at this point.  So who could it be??  I’m nervous that it will be someone awesome, like Ashley M.  Don’t do that to me, Marlene, I couldn’t take it!

See you next week, Liars!

Xo,

Christine

Sad Girls: Jenny Lewis, Katie Crutchfield, and Me.

My first exposure to Jenny Lewis was not through music.  Instead, it was as Hannah Neffler, Shelley Long’s precocious daughter in the ’80s classic, Troop Beverly Hills.  She’s great in that movie, scolding her immature parents (sometimes whilst working on her balance beam routine), being a quiet leader of her Wilderness Girls troop (I mean, she is the one who had the idea to balance beam it across the stream on the log during the Wilderness Jamboree!), and dancing The Freddie (and The Frug!) at an old folks home with her mom.  I love Troop Beverly Hills, and I really liked Hannah Neffler, but I had no idea back when I first rented TBH from Blockbuster (dated reference!) how much that little redhead would end up meaning to me.

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I rediscovered Jenny years later, in high school, but then most fully whilst in college.  Specifically, through the wonderful 2004 Rilo Kiley album More Adventurous.  I should explain something — I tend to self-identify as a Sad Girl (hence the title of this piece).  If you knew me, or spent any time around me, that probably wouldn’t seem right.  I am generally pretty upbeat in person.  I have trouble being serious, I’m constantly cracking jokes, and I’m always trying to entertain people.  But you know, people aren’t always what they seem, right?  And though I am generally a fairly happy/fun person, I’m also pretty emotional beneath the surface.  (I feel like I can share this with you, blog readers, because we trust one another.  Right?)  I tend to hide my feelings with humor and self deprecation, but they’re there.  So, naturally, I’ve always liked music that allowed me to express those feelings.  If the lyrics allowed me to sing about feeling sad and complicated, all the better.

Obviously there are a ton of bands/artists that fit the bill.  I mean, in high school, everyone was super into Dashboard Confessional and real, authentic New Jersey style emo.  But Rilo Kiley felt different for me.  Why?  Well, I’m pretty sure it’s because a girl was singing.  A girl was expressing her pain and confusion and, well, sadness, and I got to sing along with her and it meant something more to me to hear that complicated stuff coming from a woman.

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I’ve always been particularly moved by the Rilo Kiley song “More Adventurous” (the title track of the aforementioned More Adventurous record).  I think the most conventionally popular favorite Rilo Kiley song amongst other Sad Girls I know is “A Better Son/Daughter” from 2002′s The Execution Of All Things.  That one is one of my favorites too and it’s an incredible one for a singalong (as evidenced by my experience seeing Jenny sing it live at Governor’s Ball in June of this year, which was unreal).  But “More Adventurous” really hits home for me.  Why?  Well, to me, it’s a song about someone who has trouble with love — whether it’s because of heartbreak or because she’s juts not good at it or whatever — but someone who keeps trying.  She knows she has shortcomings, she knows she’s going to fail, but she keeps at it.  I really identify with that.  I’m someone whose not really very good at the love stuff, but I always was never really that good at trying to be better either.  “More Adventurous” makes me want to try.  It makes me want to be better.  (Relatedly, third on my list of “Tattoos I want” is the following lyrics from the song: “With every broken heart we should become more adventurous.”)

This is my favorite part of the song: “For me to be saved and you to be brave we don’t have to walk down that aisle.  ‘Cause if marriage ain’t enough, well at least we’ll be loved.”  I think that line is beautiful and sad and hopeful and tragic and, as a very smart person once said to me, “That’s the mark of a pretty solid piece of writing.”  And I’m positive that it wouldn’t be so meaningful to me if it weren’t coming from the voice of a woman, especially a woman with as evocative a voice as Jenny Lewis.

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I know a lot of men who really like Jenny and Rilo Kiley and that’s great.  They should after all; she’s amazing and the band was killer.  But women like Jenny in a different way, I think.  For Sad Girls of a certain age — say, maybe, 25-35 (I know, I know we’re not really girls anymore) — Jenny Lewis is legitimately as cool as it gets.  She is the definitive mark of coolness for me.  As I recently discussed with Friend of Christine, Regina, I feel like if my Mom said to me, “You think Jenny Lewis is so cool, but if she asked you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” I’d probably be like, “Yeah, sure, why not.”  She looks rad, she acts cool, she has awesome friends, she writes the best songs, and, if you squint super, super hard, you’re like, “Well, hey, she kinda seems like me.”  In my experience, men don’t have this with Jenny Lewis because, for the most part, they can’t have it.  For Sad Girls, Jenny Lewis is a living, breathing, singing sign that it’s ok that we’re sad, it’s ok that things aren’t always easy for us and that we mess up, because, hey, look at that amazing girl up there rocking out.  She made it and so can we.

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Another great thing about Jenny is the people she’s inspired.  The other Sad Girls.  There’s plenty of female artists out there who are clearly influenced by Jenny in some way or another (see, e.g., Lana Del Rey, Haim, Lorde, etc.).  But I must admit, I have a favorite Jenny Disciple.  Her name is Katie Crutchfield and she makes records in a band called Waxahatchee.  Katie is a twin (her twin sister Allison is also in a rad band called Swearin’), she used to be in a band called P.S. Eliot with her twin (I also recommend this project), and she’s a varsity level Sad Girl.  Katie is also an unabashed Jenny/Rilo Kiley lover.  She even has a Rilo Kiley tattoo!

I remember the first time I heard the first Waxahatchee record, American Weekend.  It was December 2012 and I read something about it by the great (now former) Pitchfork writer, Lindsay Zoladz.  Lindsay wrote this in Slate: “I have been foisting this record on everybody this year; it broke my heart in about a thousand places the first time I heard it.”  That sealed the deal for me immediately on spinning American Weekend.  And I swear to God, Lindsay said it perfectly.  I have never read something that hit me more immediately and more personally in my life.  The record made me cry.  Repeatedly.

There’s a song called “Grass Stains” on American Weekend that, well, lyrically, I could have written.  I spent days talking about it to FoC Regina, who was then my roommate, until I finally made her sit down and listen to it.  As we listened to Katie sing those heartbreaking words in her plaintive, spare voice, Regina said something to the effect of, “Oh wow.  Yeah.  This is you.”  It’s rare when that happens, when a song fits your life so pitch perfectly, but for me, it always happens with a Sad Girl.

I would tell you what my favorite lyrics are in “Grass Stain,” but honestly, it’s all of them.  Every word in that song hits me like a punch to the gut.  But in a good way.

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I want to end this little riff by doing two things.  First, I want to exhort you, readers and Friends of Christine, to go buy Jenny Lewis’ excellent new record The Voyager (which came out on Tuesday and prompted the writing of this piece in the first place).  If you don’t have them, go buy her previous two solo records (Rabbit Fur Coat and Acid Tongue), her record with her boyfriend, Jonathan Rice (Jenny and Johnny’s I’m Having Fun Now), and all of Rilo Kiley’s recorded output.  You should also immediately purchase Waxahatchee’s American Weekend and Cerulean Salt.  These are all great records and they will make you feel, in the words of another Sad Girl, Taylor Swift (yes, she’s a sad girl, she’s just more undercover than some), happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way.

Second, I want to say, in the off chance that any of the rad women mentioned herein reads this piece, thanks very much for helping this Sad Girl get through lots of stuff.  Especially you, Jenny Lewis.  You’ve helped us all in ways you couldn’t even imagine.  You’ve improved the lives of millions of Sad Girls (and, I would imagine, Sad Boys) by just getting up there and singing about your feelings.  We love you, and you’ve made us all a little bit more adventurous.

Xoxo,

Christine

 

I don’t think Hanna’s grandfather, the inventor of the paper clip, would be too pleased to hear about this: PLL Rankings!

I have a series of very important questions about this week’s episode.  First: since when are the Liars in choir?  Second: isn’t “What Child Is This?” a Christmas song?  Third: is that appropriate to be singing in a public school?  (Spoiler alert: No, it’s definitely not.)  I know that PLL is probably laying the groundwork (WAY in advance) for the seasons to finally change in Rosewood and for it to be Christmas, but that whole opening scene was just sort of ridiculous and totally out of nowhere.  I mean really, who knew the Liars could sing (well, some of them anyway)?  Anyway, let’s see where they ranked this week!

(1) Emily

Again, I continue to be as shocked as you, readers.  How, why, when, and where did Emily get smart not dumb?  Her most impressive moment: smoothly lying to Stalker Sydney about how Hanna’s “Amish” when she drinks and tells crazy lies (about how her grandfather invented the paper clip, for example).  Later, after SS tells her that, nope, Hanna never said anything about New York, Emily immediately notices when Stalker Syd says something about the Liars being in NYC.  Last season, Emily wouldn’t have been able to lie so effectively and would never in a million years have noticed Stalker Syd’s slip.  I have no idea when Emily got the Spencer gene, but frankly, it’s good that she did (especially considering what’s going on with the second most useful Liar, Hanna, this season).

(2) Spencer

Thank goodness my girl is back to dressing normally this week.  Unfortunately, Spencer gets kicked in the face by a horse, which is a bummer, but because she insists on hanging around and investigating the stables visited by Bethany Young and Mrs. DiLaurentis, Spencer and Emily locate Melissa’s riding helmet.  Another strike against the always guilty-seeming Melissa Hastings.  (P.S. Do I totally get this horse/Bethanny/”Aunt Jessie”/Melissa plot line?  In a word, no.  Not at all.)  Spencer also gets a few good lines this week, namely telling Hanna that her locker smells like Oktoberfest, and in response to Aria’s question about how many stables there could be in the area, “Uh, Aria, it’s called horse country for a reason.”  A good crack about Aria being an idiot always earns points with me.  Finally, Spence decides to support Toby in his quest to being a police officer, which is both sweet and sensible (two words not always associated with any of our Liars).  Spencer, always glad to have you around.

(3) Toby

Major, major points for finally getting a haircut.  Points also for, instead of just complaining about A, taking a proactive step to do something about this madness by joining the police academy.  (But does this mean we have to stop calling Toby “The Carpenter”?)

(4) Ashley M.

Ashley Marin continues to be the gold standard of parenting in Rosewood (see: her incredibly kind offer to take Ali out to dinner and her complete lambasting of Detective Tanner for cross examining Alison about the intruder in the Marin home) … but there’s just one thing.  You know how I gave Pam Fields a ton of credit last week for seeing through Alison’s story?  I know Mrs. Fields had some inside information and all (namely, the fact that the police think there’s a ton of problems with the whole load of crap Ali told them) and I also know that Alison is a great liar and a complete psychopath … but Ashley M. just totally bought that bunch of hooey hook, line, and sinker.  I’m going to choose to believe that’s because Ashley is a great person who believes in the fundamental goodness of others and not because she’s kind of a dope.  Team Ashley Marin!

(5) Rhonda

True, she’s a diabetic who’s confined in Radley, but she also manages to manipulate Aria (not that that’s particularly hard) into getting her a root beer and Cheetos.  Props, Rhonda.

(6) Ali

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this girl is a complete sociopath.  The revelation that she actually convinced Noel Kahn to break into the Marin household to scare Ashley M. (aka someone who matters) into believing her story?  And that it 100% works?!  I mean, seriously, that is beyond.  And I would say that the Liars should just walk away and abandon her … but of course, they can’t at this point, can they?  I mean, Aria killed Shana and the police are snooping around that story like crazy, so they have to keep spinning Ali’s lies.  This b!tch is one skilled manipulator, you have to give her that.

(7) Stalker Sydney

She makes one error, as noted above, but aside from that, she mostly spends the episode trying to convince Emily to be the swim team’s assistant coach.  Why, you ask?  Um, because she’s a stalker?

(8) Aria

Aria’s biggest moment of the episode was her complete flip out on Hanna when Hanna tells her that Ella Montgomery’s teenage fiancé hit on her (about which, more shortly).  And yes, Aria is completely wrong and out of line with what she says to Hanna.  But I do kind of get why she did it?  She’s protecting her (admittedly selfish, horrible, and immature) mother, which is a motivation I can understand.  But what she says is wrong and mean and everything else she does in this episode sucks, so BOOOO ARIA.  (Though I have to give her credit for getting the information about Custard and the stables.  Fine, Aria, good job with that.)  I think my favorite Aria moment this week was when she literally turned around and ran away from her mother when Ezra called her (LOLOLOLOLOL TYPICAL).  Further note that during this scene, Aria was wearing a belted camouflage dress and a distressed denim jacket, because, naturally.  (My second favorite Aria moment was this text message she sent to Emily: “BIG RHONDA SPILLED BIG BEANS. CALL ME.”  Literally, she wrote that.  In all caps.  I can’t.)

(9) Hanna

It’s never a good sign when you’re dressed exactly like Courtney Love, Hanna.  Maybe stop taking swigs of whisky with your stupid, loser boyfriend in his car and at his place (which, where the hell is that, exactly, and how is he affording it?), and maybe show up to school sometimes and don’t fall asleep in cars and get crispy treats stuck in your hair.  It 100% sucks that Hanna gets hit on by Ella’s disgusting fiancé and the stuff Aria says to her is downright cruel, but I can’t totally blame any of the Liars for being skeptical of Hanna’s story at this point.  I mean, you sort of damage your credibility when you’re wasted all the time and you spill major secrets to a stranger/A (not to mention the whole Courtney Love wardrobe thing, which clearly doesn’t help).  The good news?  At least Hanna’s still funny when she’s drunk (see, e.g., the fact that she can’t pronounce quincinera/the fact that she was talking about quincineras at all).

(10) Ella

It’s tough to say someone is a worse parent than the Hastings criminals/train wrecks, but I’m sorry, Ella Montgomery is the worst (perhaps topped only by her ex-husband).  I hate to say I called that her twelve year old fiancé was a creep, BUT I TOTALLY CALLED IT.  Let’s just put it out there, people: LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER.  Where do you think Aria got her interest in creepy men who are only interested in underage girls after all?  Aside from that, how about Ella’s petulant little fit about how Aria bailed on their bridesmaid shopping or whatever the hell?  I mean, seriously, are you 15, you little brat?  I hate this woman.  Go away and never come back, I beg of you.

(11) Caleb

Hanna called Caleb at high school lunch time, so clearly at a well past reasonable hour, and this eff-ing loser was woken up by the phone, mumbled “Hey baby” in what he presumably thought was his sexiest voice (but which was, in reality, the most disgusting, unattractive voice that actually physically evoked for me the smell of stale beer breath) and offered to put on some clothes and come meet Hanna to eat.  This, coupled with his disgusting place (again, I say, where the hell is this and how is he affording it?), his ever present booze, gross facial hair, and general horribleness makes me like Caleb even less than I like Ella Montgomery.  Which, given the rant above, is saying something.

(12) Zack, Ella Montgomery’s sexually predatory, 12 year old, fiancé

BREAKING: After over five seasons of holding the belt of Rosewood’s #1 predator, Ezra Fitz finally relinquished the title today to new arrival, Zack, the creepiest coffee shop owner in America.  Ezra’s only serious challenger prior to Zack, Byron Montgomery, has been abandoning his children “in Syracuse” for too long to qualify as a Rosewood resident any longer.  Congratulations, Zack, you’ve managed to usurp a real champion, which of course means that you yourself are a most epic wannabe sexual predator.  You did it!

Not Ranked: Detective Tanner (points for being smart and poking holes in Ali’s alibi, but minus points for being a jerk to her after Ashley Marin called 911 … that’s just unprofessional and unnecessary, girl); Declan the horse stable guy (sorry you ever had to deal with people like Mrs. DiLaurentis and/or Melissa Hastings); Custard the horse (honestly, Custard probably had an even worse life than China, Caitlin Cooper’s hairless pony, because he/she had to deal with crazy Mrs. D); Mike Montgomery (smartly hiding upstairs rather than making stupid paper flowers for his stupid mother’s engagement party to her disgusting fiancé).

Sidenote: if you’re reading this and you agree that Zack is disgusting, but you also are an Ezria shipper, I ask you to please explain how that position is in any way coherent?  I mean, really, what’s the difference between the two?  And don’t tell me that Ezra didn’t know that Ali was a teenager because (1) BULLSH!T and (2) he absolutely, without a doubt, 100% knew and acknowledged that Aria was a teenager, a minor, and his STUDENT FOR GOD’S SAKE, when he slept with her.  Zack, creep though he is, didn’t actually do anything other than disgustingly hit on Hanna.  So who is the worse offender?  You tell me.  (Really, though, you don’t need to tell me, because obviously it is Ezra.)

Sidenote 2: maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I’d like to believe that the entire horse related subplot was a nod to Hanna’s stepsister Kate aka Horse Bitch (thanks, PLL Annotations!).  Come back, Horse Bitch, we miss you!

Fellow watchers, once again, I walk away from this episode of Pretty Little Liars with even more questions.  Specifically, my questions from last week about Noel Kahn remain.  That is, if he’s working with Alison, but also maybe Mona, then are Alison and Mona working together?  Against the Liars?  IS THAT WHERE THIS IS GOING???  Because I’m starting to get VERY NERVOUS for our four (or in my case, two) favorite gals.

Well, whatever happens, see you next week, Liars!

Xo,

Christine

“This is about lies.” PLL Rankings!

I mean, I guess it’s ok to miss writing a PLL column if I was on vacation, right?  I did totally watch the episode while I was away (I even purchased it on iTunes!), but I just didn’t have time to write.  For the record, weird as this sounds, Emily would have won my rankings last week.  I know, I feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore.  Ranking Emily #1?  What?  Well, let’s keep it weird and get on to this week!

(1) Mrs. Fields

OMG she’s finally back from where she’s been the entire season, namely, “the other room!”  Mrs. Fields expositorily mentions that she was in Texas with Mr. Fields, which, ok, when did he go back there, but now she’s back or something.  Whatever.  The point is, she encourages Emily to invite the girls over, ostensibly so Alison can have the opportunity to chat with an actual adult (points for throwing shade at other adults in Rosewood, in this case, Mr. DiLaurentis!).  But really, Mrs. Fields is just evaluating and judging Ali over dinner.  She later tells Emily that she realized that Em had a crush on Ali before, so she wanted to see them together.  Mrs. Fields also says that she still talks to people on the police force (because of that time she worked there for no apparent reason) and lets Emily know that Ali’s story about the kidnapping has “got some problems.”  She ends by telling Emily that though she saved Alison once, she does not have to keep saving her.  Sound and true advice that, shockingly, Emily appears to be taking.  All in all, it’s a strong return (from the other room) for Pam Fields.

(2) Emily

Keeping it in the Fields family, here is Emily again with another shockingly high ranking.  How does she keep doing this??  In her first strong move, Emily confronts Mona about the dead rat in Paige’s locker.  Mona suggests that the use of a rat suggests that a boy pulled the prank.  Emily goes, “A boy like Noel Kahn?” and then looks at Mona’s notebook, which says “NOEL KAHN” is huge and conspicuous letters.  Major points to Emily for even recognizing that because, honestly, she’s usually not that smart.  Later, when Hanna asks what’s up with Emily and Ali, Emily calls Alison “needy.”  Can you believe it???  Emily said something negative about Alison!  Praise the lord!  Finally, Emily leaves a message for Paige asking how she is, apologizing if the rat incident is because Paige told Em about Mona, and almost accidentally dropping the L bomb. I mean, I love this Emily!  She’s not dumb, she makes decent decisions, she always looks great … I hope she sticks around.

(3) Mona

Mona couldn’t win this episode because she was wearing a look pulled straight from Aria Montgomery’s closet: A leopard print sweater with what appeared to be a neon and black color blocked collared shirt underneath, all secured with a bright pink belt and paired with a bright blue skirt.  I mean, what?  But she still ranks third because of this line, in response to Emily’s suggestion that she put the rat in Paige’s locker: “You can call me a lot of names, but don’t call me an amateur.  A dead rat, really?  Give my love to Alison.”  ZING.

(4) Stalker Sydney

Observation: doesn’t this actress sound EXACTLY like Anne Hathaway?  Like, if you closed your eyes and just listened, wouldn’t you be like, “Anne, is that you?”  Anyway, Stalker Syd is really a very good minion/mole for Mona.  First, she totally overhears Em and Alison’s conversation about the A attack.  She’s also the one who tells Emily about the Paige rat thing.  But in her greatest move, she finds drunk Hanna at The Brew and basically gets her to spill the beans about EVERYTHING, but, most importantly, New York.  I mean, yeah, maybe it wasn’t all that hard to get a drunk girl to babble, but still, I think Mona will be pleased with Stalker Syd.

(5) Spencer

“This is not about love.  If this were about love then there wouldn’t be bodies buried in backyards up and down the street.  This is about lies.  And whispered conversations that stop when somebody walks into a room.  It’s about Alison.  What really happened to her.  And what happened to that poor girl who ended up in the ground.”  MIC DROP.  (Bonus points for (a) being snarky to Ezra [though minus points for being too nice]; (b) setting up a camera to film her backyard [finally!]; and (c) getting Melissa to basically admit that either she and/or Mr. Hastings did something super shady “for love.”)

(6) Aria

A pretty good episode for Aria, all things told.  This is probably because she finally does something useful and related to the plot, instead of worrying about Ezra all day.  (Though trust me, she finds plenty of excuses to bring him up to Spencer anyway.)  Ultimately, Aria, through her volunteer work at Radley, finds Rhonda, who was Bethany Young’s roommate.  She finds out that Bethany gave her sketchbook to Rhonda and, after she almost gets smushed under Rhonda’s bed, Aria steals the sketchbook.  This allows Spencer and Aria to find a series of increasingly creepy drawings, including one of a woman jumping from Radley (which Spencer guesses might be Toby’s mom) and a few of Mrs. DiLaurentis (one with devil horns and one that says “liar” all over it).  Eventually, they assume that Bethany left Radley looking for Mrs. D, but instead, got whacked with a shovel.  All useful information, which Aria was the catalyst for revealing.  Kudos, Aria.  For once, you weren’t useless.  (It can’t last.)

(7) Eddie Lamb

What are you up to, E. Lamb?  To be honest, I’m confused here.  Spencer said he left the drawing, right?  So why does he seem so creepy?  How come he recognizes Aria?  He worked with Ezra or something?  Why did he call Ezra to meet and not show up?  I just … I’m lost here.  Hence E. Lamb’s entirely middle of the pack ranking.

(8) Alison

Girl, if Emily, your number one fan, says you’re being needy, you’ve got some major issues.  In this episode, aside from being needy, Ali has a showdown with Caleb, which I would say she won (except for the fact that Hanna is clearly siding with Caleb, not Ali) and she spins more of her ridiculous and insane lies to Mrs. Fields (who 100% did not buy them, as Hanna correctly notes).  Oh and also, she gets caught on video skulking around the Hastings’ backyard in a winter cap.  So that’s something.

(9) Ezra

This week, America’s neediest statutory rapist gets rid of all of his spy equipment (boxes and boxes of it) with help from Spencer (since poor Ezra can’t carry anything, UGH), whines about Aria doing something without him, and complains about his poor, mean, divorced family and his poor writing career and how nothing ended up the way he wanted it to and UGH SHUT UP ALREADY YOU WHINER.  Rosewood PD, get off your lazy, incompetent asses and arrest this predator!  Please!

(10) Melissa

For some reason, Melissa is (a) really trying to convince Fake Mariska to go back to Peter Hastings, which is ridiculous, and (b) really trying to convince Spencer that she has a major secret about something shady that she did “for love.”  I mean, she so obviously suggests to Spencer that she wants to tell her something, but then she doesn’t do it for whatever reason.  Because I think Melissa is the queen of shady pants, I don’t buy it and neither does Spencer (since, ya know, she borrows a camera for the express purpose of spying on her sister).  Oh and plus, Melissa nonchalantly conceals and throws out a dead rat in a rat trap.  Something all normal, functional women feel comfortable doing.  Psycho.

(11) Caleb

Hey Caleb?  Since your time in Ravenswood really changed you and you learned things about your family and “the world” and all that BS maybe you should just GTFO and go back there?  Take your six packs of beer and your eyeliner and your Jess Mariano, “School is for losers, it doesn’t teach you about real life” attitude and seriously, GET OUT.  I wish he and Alison would have a showdown and that they both lose.  Ugh.

(12) Hanna

Girl, you done messed up big time.  Your first mistake?  The ’90s goth era dark lipstick.  Not feeling it.  Hanna, of course, gets at least one funny line (namely, in response to Emily’s question about when Ashley M. started drinking beer, “She washes her hair with it”) and drunk Hanna was amusing at Emily’s house, but she stupidly tells Stalker Sydney wayyy too much information, most importantly about Shana and Jenna and New York, and then she stupidly decides that she needs to get back together with Caleb.  To cap it all off, A calls out Hanna’s big mouth in a text to the girls, who are now, rightfully, super pissed.  Look, I think Hanna is right not to trust Ali or want to be around her.  But I think Spencer basically feels the same way and isn’t acting like an ass.  (Yes, I know, Spencer had a drug problem last season, but Spencer’s substance abuse issue helped her realize what Ezra was up to.  In other words, Spencer’s time as an addict helped the girls solve a mystery, while Hanna’s trip down alcohol lane is only helping A.  Yet another reason why, despite Hanna’s greatness, Spencer trumps all.)  Hanna needs to get her sh!t together and fast because next week looks like it’s going to be bonkers (and it looks like Aria yells at Hanna about being the problem, which, if Aria thinks you’re the problem, that’s just bad).

Not Ranked: The art teacher at Radley (she seemed a bit stern and unfeeling, don’t you think?); Donna, the art student at Radley (oh Donna, your art wasn’t a mistake, no need to rip it up); Rhonda (she is going to be MAD if and when she realizes that Aria, that “thief,” stole the sketchbook); Mr. Fields (alone in Texas with heart problems?); Mr. DiLaurentis (presumably dead with the amount that he apparently care about his just-returned-from-years-being-”kidnapped” daughter?); Noel Kahn (Mona borrowed his notes … but does he even go to Rosewood anymore?  I’m lost.); Ella Montgomery and her twelve year old boyfriend Zack (enjoy your engagement party, you teenage losers.  Also, your return address is in Pennsylvania, really?  I thought you were in Switzerland?  How come I haven’t seen you in months?  LIARS.).

Ok, but really though, I have a question about Noel Kahn.  It seemed like he was helping Alison and Cece, right?  I mean, he got them the passports, he helped them get into/out of town, etc.  But is he also helping Mona?  I mean, he was dating her right?  What if this is just a long con for Ali?  What if she’s in cahoots with Mona and Melissa (hence her sneaking around in the Hastings’ backyard)?  But to what end?  Why are they all after the Liars??  WHAT IS GOING ON ON THIS SHOW????

If you have answers to any of the above questions, please, feel free to chime in.  Either way, we’ll see ya next week with more questions!

Xoxo,

Christine

Christine’s Songs of the Summer: July 20 Edition

Before I get into my Song of the Summer check in, I again want to apologize for failing to write a PLL recap this week.  I know, I know, I’m the worst.  But I have an excuse!  I was on vacation this week (I’m currently on a plane back to New York, heyyyy blogging from up in the air!) and I had to watch PLL on my laptop, making it sort of impossible to take notes for my recap at the same time.  I’ll be back next week though!

Anyway, I figured, since we’re halfway through July and all, time for a midsummer check in!  I think I have a new personal leader in the clubhouse, which we’ll get to in a moment, but let’s go back to the ones from my May column (which you can see here).

“Problem” – Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea

Yup, this one is still good.  I listened to the Kiss FM countdown this morning in the car to the airport and, according to Ryan Seacrest, it overtook “Fancy” for number 1 on the charts.  So that’s awesome.  But I’m not sure this is the Song of the Summer.  For one, it may have come out too early.  Also, Ariana has another song currently burning up the airwaves (about which more in a moment), which may overtake “Problem.”  Still, though, this song is a jam and it’s still very popular.  If nothing else, it should be in the top three.  Cheers, Ariana!

“Fancy” – Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX

Welp, I think the reign of “Fancy” might actually be over now.  As many of us suspected earlier in the summer, this one peaked way too early.  “Fancy” is still a good song, but I’m not so enamored of it anymore.  Plus, there’s been some Iggy backlash.  I’m thinking mostly of the Nicki Minaj shade she received at the BET Awards.  (Basically, it seems like Nicki obliquely called Iggy out on not writing her own raps.  Later, Nicki claimed she wasn’t shading Iggy, but I don’t think anyone really believes her.  And yeah, maybe Nicki shouldn’t have shaded her [to quote Girls in Hoodies, “don’t beef down”], but she wasn’t wrong.)  Also, Vulture wrote a really good piece on how we deserve a better Song of the Summer than “Fancy” (check it out here), and though “Fancy” is decent, I think they’re right.  Sorry, Iggy, this one is out for me.

“Do It Again” – Robyn & Royksopp

I know, I know, it was a pipe dream for me to include this one in the first place.  Apparently it’s on the dance club songs Billboard chart, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the mainstream.  Which is such a bummer because this is a great song and Robyn deserves to be the biggest deal in the universe.  Alas, at least with this song, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

“Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” – Chromeo

Again, this song is apparently on the dance club songs chart, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have made a big impact in the mainstream.  That being said, I did hear it on the radio last weekend when I was down at the Jersey shore, so that’s something!  This song is a perfect freaking summer song, and I don’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal.  Does it need to be on a TV show or in a movie or something?  A commercial perhaps?  America, let’s work together to make “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” an actually viable Song of the Summer contender!  We can still make this happen!

Those are the songs I listed back on May 29th.  Of that group, I think “Problem” probably has the best shot to be Song of the Summer.  Maybe residual “Fancy” from the early part of the summer, but I’m still leaning “Problem.”  There’s one obvious new addition, namely current #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, “Rude” by Magic.  This song is aggressively, intensely terrible.  It’s legitimately the worst.  It cannot be the Song of the Summer.  I won’t accept it.  So there’s one other alternative I’d like to put forward as a Song of the Summer candidate:

“Break Free” – Ariana Grande ft. Zedd

Yes, I know this song is only #19 on the Hot 100 Chart.  But come on, it is AMAZING.  I like it even more than I like “Problem” to be honest.  Yeah, it’s very different because it’s basically an EDM song, but I would put it immediately in the pantheon of great breakup songs.  Obviously it’s no “Since U Been Gone” or “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” but the chorus has some truly excellent girl power breakup lyrics.  See, e.g., “This is the part when I say I don’t want ya, I’m stronger than I’ve been before.  This is the part when I break free ’cause I can’t resist it no more.”  I mean, ladies, don’t you want to be on the dance floor with all your girls screaming those lyrics?  (This leads me to a sidebar: I have this great idea for a casual, ladies-only dance club.  It’s basically a sleepover for girls where you can wear whatever you want, you can dance free from incursions by creepy dudes, and you just have a great time with your best girlfriends.  I mean, this is genius, right?  More on this idea to come.)  I think we need to pump “Break Free” way up the charts, America.  I mean, even freaking Pitchfork likes it!  This is a summer dance party jam and a song that we can all get behind.  Let’s do this!

Once again, I shall not acknowledge those other terrible songs that are inexplicably popular on the radio like “Wiggle” (seriously WTF is with this song???) and that craptastic Calvin Harris song.  Let’s make at least one of these Ariana Grande songs the Song of the Summer, everyone.  These jams are the Songs of Summer that we need, nay, that we deserve.

(But hey, Rihanna, if you’ve got something up your sleeve, feel free to drop it anytime now!)

‘Til next time!

Xoxo,

Christine