In the waiting room of a hospital they know all too well, the Liars stood in their usual semi-circle formation and discussed the latest horrors to befall their friend group. Spencer (Troian Bellisario) was still wrestling with her lineage, though she also spent a part of her day smooching a hot boy. Aria (Lucy Hale) and Emily (Shay Mitchell) played loose-cannon detectives and seemed to take at least a little pleasure in roughing up Sydney (Chloe Bridges) in an alley ("Namaste, bitches"). And then there was Hanna (Ashley Benson), standing in an offensive dress that was uncomfortably short, an outfit she got from performing surgery on a version of herself made of rubber and blood sacks and pulling a bag out of its explicitly bloody guts.
You can see how Hanna might think this day was a little unfair to her.
But that's kind of how it goes for the Liars when it's their turn in Liars Lament, the hot new board game complete with light up city buildings, impossibly relevant evidence rewards, and a nerve gas security system. We watched Spencer get her world turned upside-down by learning that her mother is Mary Drake (Andrea Parker) then saw Emily get mixed up in some teen drama and end up yelling at a child. But Hanna's bit seemed more visceral. Her torture always seems more visceral.
This isn't to say Hanna gets it worse than anyone. I don't want to belittle anyone's experience, especially if you also were born in an insane asylum to a disturbed person whose disturbed nature was probably exacerbated by the antiquated and probably abusive procedures of a suburban sanitarium and then lied to your whole life about your origin story. But the torture for Hanna is always about her body, even back when her main bully was Alison (Sasha Pieterse).
Let's comb over some of the greatest hits. Alison never seems show up in a Hanna flashback without contributing to some level of body dysmorphia or body shaming. Back when Mona (Janel Parrish) was A, you recall she made Hanna eat all the cupcakes in public to remind her of Husky Hanna. More recently, Hanna was kidnapped and shocked with a cattle prod while being hosed down in her underpants. I mean, just last week, A.D. found a way to threaten bodily harm at a cobbler shop. A cobbler shop. That's, like, the most innocent of places that are shops. There are always subtle and not so subtle reminders that Hanna's body is always on A.D.'s mind and A.D. finds ways to remind Hanna.
It's with that context that making a screaming baby the indicator of Hanna's turn on the board, which seems like a weird choice since you don't really think about Hanna and babies mixing all that well, now becomes less about the actual offspring and more about what pregnancy means for the body. I'll give you that this is a stretch, but stick with me here.
The actual start of the game arrives with a mannequin. Statue? Real Girl doll? It's a human form with latex skin and Hanna's life mask stitched grotesquely to its face. It's, of course, a life-sized toy with a pull string (A.D. has a real Peter Pan complex, doesn't she?) and gives her a clue that the answer is in the appendix. Hanna, ever the wordplay trickster, starts searching through the appendices of books trying to find the next clue. But we all know that can't be the answer. A book has no relation to what Hanna thinks of her meat suit. Into the body we go! Like Magic School Bus, only if Ms. Frizzle were a body-horror-obsessed sadist. Keep on the look out for that gritty reboot.
Hanna, knowing A.D. so very well by now, preps her work area like she's Dexter and cuts along the provided dotted line on the doll's abdomen, unleashing what is basically a reservoir of blood (fake? probably fake, right?). It spills out and Hanna is left with a bloody knife and a pool big enough for a small dog to rest comfortably in just filled with (hopefully, please be) fake blood. It's A.D.'s most complicated prop of this cycle outside of the board game itself. And Hanna is forced to dig inside of this version of herself, Dead Ringers-style, and pull out the next clue.
Now comes the life-ruining part of the turn, where the Liar has to make a decision to either turn to the dark side and make things hard for themselves or some other option that no one has actively chosen. Spencer, you know, started playing the game. Emily had a meltdown in front of a baby. And Hanna, well, has to show off her body (shocker).
The fact that the dress would be offensive to the Japanese investors because of its cultural appropriation seems almost secondary here (which is saying a lot). The dress, no matter what the pattern, is not exactly business wear and leaves little to the imagination. This is about Hanna standing in front of a room of people who are there to judge her (to assess whether to pour money into her fashion line) and having to present herself to them in a way that shows off as much of her body as basic cable standards allow. This is testing her comfort levels with herself, her body, and her confidence. This is testing her willingness to sacrifice for the group as her future hangs in the balance (again, seemingly more than Spencer's and Emily's did).
And Hanna doesn't even get her piece. Because she went to the hospital instead of standing in front of a bunch of Japanese businessmen wearing a gross misinterpretation of a geisha costume, the Liars get no further in finishing this game. It's easy for Spencer and Emily to say this game is unbalanced to increase the likelihood of in-fighting among the players but Hanna is the one that had to rummage through a bleeding replica of herself and had to wear a dress that seemed dead-set on revealing, as Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) so crassly put it, her "spicy tuna roll."
You have to wonder what kind of fallout there will be from Hanna not completing her A-given mission. Does the blog story about her stealing designs stop or will it explode? Does Lucas (Brendan Robinson) fail to get the investors on board? Or will he succeed because he's also part of A.D. and that would endear him to Liars and raise him above suspicion? Each episode seems to always bring in a new player that could be working for A.D., doesn't it? Or is that just my general Pretty Little Liars-inspired paranoia about people, especially those with Silicon Valley Stubble?
Hanna survived, but what does A.D. have in store for Hanna's body next time? Will she literally have to dig something out of her own body? Is the Mystery Location on the board a sushi place where Hanna is going to be forced to participate in nyotaimori? Is A.D. going to throw Hanna a baby shower for no reason?
I'm just going to come out and say it. A.D. needs to find a hobby that isn't torturing girls. Badminton, maybe? It's fun. It's interactive. And saying shuttlecock is really funny. Whaddya say, A?