Free Fall… Into A Pile Of Felonies (Recap and Broken Laws in episode 4×20 of Pretty Little Liars)

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This episode begins with Spencer waking up, which would be normal if she woke up in her bed instead of on a chair at Ezra Fitz’s desk. Spencer is in her pajamas with no recollection of driving to school. At least she’s there early and can have her own personal Pajama Day.  It’s too bad that Spencer wasn’t awake for all this; we would have had a broken law in the first second of the show!

Legal Note 1

If Spencer hadn’t been sleepwalking when she went to the school, she could have gotten in trouble for trespassing. However, criminal trespass requires a voluntary act, and acts done while someone is asleep are not considered voluntary. 
Requirement of voluntary act – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 301 (in relevant part)
        “(a)  General rule.–A person is not guilty of an offense unless his liability is based on conduct which includes a voluntary act or the omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable.”

Ezra comes in to the classroom and finds her there. He wants to talk to her about the dangerous path she’s taking, but she’s completely sketched out by him and bolts out of the room. She then has a meeting with Emily and Hanna in the bathroom. When Spencer attempts to greet them, Hanna flips out about Spencer’s outfit, which now includes shower shoes. Emily asks if Spencer had an accident. Spencer insists that the girls need to tell Aria what they know about Ezra. The other girls are worried about her reaction. “But Ezra’s creepy, guys!” “But this will make Aria cry!” Come on girls, make a decision!

Ezra approaches Aria in the hallway. He offers to write her a late pass for history class, one of the many perks of dating your high school English teacher. He tells Aria about Spencer’s drug problem. Aria doesn’t believe this at first, but Ezra says he’s willing to break the rules if it’s to help Spencer. He gives Aria Spencer’s confidential academic file to prove that he’s telling the truth. At least he knows he’s breaking the rules here. I wonder if he realized that he was committing a federal crime, though!

Broken Law # 1 Alert!

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Under this federal law, student records that contain “personal identifiable information” may not be released to third parties unless the situation falls into one of the exceptions. 
In relevant part, Ezra violated this portion of FERPA:
“The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is defined as a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or support staff position (including law enforcement and health staff); a person or company with whom the University has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.  The university uses contractors, volunteers, in-service providers to provide university services and functions.”

Note, even though the above paragraph refers to a university, this law applies to public schools as well, since they receive government funding. Unfortunately for Ezra and Aria, the fact that Aria is dating a teacher at the school does not make her a school official.  

Toby shows up at the school to have lunch with Spencer. She has had a wardrobe change and is now wearing Hanna’s clothes. Toby just got back from being “Out Of Town,” a mysterious place where PLL characters hang out when they’re not in episodes. He notices that Spencer has been acting strange lately. He’s determined to get her to come to a lasagna dinner at his place; he doesn’t know that the pills are probably interfering with Spencer’s appetite. 

Emily and Hanna eat lunch together. Actually Emily eats; Hanna’s already finished her food and has her eye on some of Emily’s meal now. Hanna gets hungry when she’s nervous and eventually Emily caves into the former “hefty” Hanna’s needs. They both discuss how worried they are about telling Aria that they think Ezra is “A.” They’ve been avoiding Aria all day; Emily even hid from her in the bathroom!

Aria arrives, which abruptly interrupts this conversation. She calls them out on ignoring her calls and texts, but they act clueless. Since they act that way often, Aria believes them. That doesn’t mean that she’s up for small talk though; she’s looking to stage an intervention. She fills Hanna and Emily in about Spencer’s drug addiction. The girls are shocked and don’t believe Aria until she shows them Spencer’s confidential file that she’s not supposed to have. 

Later, the girls are all at Spencer’s house for the most confusing intervention in the world. Spencer senses the awkward vibe and assumes that Hanna and Emily told Aria about Ezra without her. She asks them if they did it already, and Aria wonders what she means. When Aria explains that they came for an intervention, Spencer screams “yours!” With the crazy lives these girls lead, I guess it’s reasonable not to know whose intervention is taking place on a particular day. I’m thinking spinoff– “Whose Intervention is it Anyway?” This time, Spencer figures out what’s going on when Hanna blurts out “Are you a speed freak?” I’m pretty sure that’s on the list of things NOT to say at an intervention, but it was funny. 

At first, Spencer tries to deny having a drug problem and acts like she has no idea what her friends are talking about. Aria’s not falling for the clueless act twice in one day, though. She pulls out the confidential file, and when Spencer learns that she got it from Ezra, she freaks out. Loudly. She blurts out that Ezra is “A” and that he’s “Board Shorts.” When she looks to Emily and Hanna for support, she doesn’t get it. They pretty much make her look like an idiot and a maniac by not speaking up. Spencer insists that Ezra gave Aria that file to undermine her credibility. Unfortunately, she winds up not needing Ezra to do that, because she does it herself. She screams at Aria that it’s this exact type of deer-in-headlights behavior that almost got her shot in the back of a night club. For those who don’t recall, Aria almost got shot in the back of a nightclub in Spencer’s hallucination. Spencer quickly realizes her mistake; the look on her face screams “I just mixed up film noir PLL with regular PLL and now everyone thinks I’m crazy!” 

In over her head, Spencer tells her friends that she can’t do this right now and grabs her bag to go upstairs. Everything winds up falling out of the bag because of her sudden movement, and among the bag’s contents is one of Dr. Wren Kingston’s prescription pads. The girls assume that Spencer is either using Wren as a drug dealer (it’s not that far-fetched, Melissa has done this once already) or that she stole the pad. Spencer denies it, but the girls don’t believe her. At this point, I don’t know which pretty little liar is telling the truth anymore!

Legal Note 2:

Since we don’t know for sure if Spencer stole the prescription pad, I will wait on going into detail on how insanely illegal that is until it’s confirmed. 

While Aria’s out giving or receiving interventions, her brother, Mike is on a date with the Mona formerly known as “A.” It’s actually a cute scene, which in this show means only one thing; something scary is about to happen. Cue Ezra walking into the same restaurant and creepily staring at Mona. Suddenly Mona looks scared and is completely distracted from her date. Mona excuses herself, telling Mike that she needs to talk to Mr. Fitz about a reading assignment. Considering how long Aria lied to Mike about Ezra, I’m surprised that he believes that at all. 

Mona confronts Ezra demanding what he’s doing there. He makes a smart-ass remark that he’s there to get something to eat (um, duh?). Mona tells Ezra that she can’t help him anymore because it has gotten too complicated. Ezra responds that it’s always been complicated and it’s too late for her to back out when he needs her help the most. If you’re wondering what the hell is going on in this scene, you’re not alone. Ezra’s name is called; his take-out order is ready. He tells Mona to enjoy her dinner, but I bet she’s not hungry anymore after that weird conversation.

Legal Note 3: 

If it turns out that Ezra is blackmailing Mona, which it seems like he might be, we will discuss this further.  

Meanwhile, at Hanna’s house, Emily and Hanna discuss what happened at Spencer’s house. Hanna compares Spencer’s drug addiction to Aria’s addiction to Ezra, insisting that “love is a drug.” Surprisingly in the context, this makes sense Hanna suspects that Aria lied about staying in that night and that she’s really seeing Ezra. 

Spencer shows up at Hanna’s and she surrenders her pills upon her arrival. She says that she doesn’t need them anymore and asks for a chance to prove that Ezra is “A.” She shows them the changes that “A” made to the diary and explains her theory that “A” did this to cover up a meeting spot with Alison. And of course because she’s Spencer, she’s cracked the code. The meeting spot is a building at a zoo. The girls decide to do a set-up. They want to convince “A” that Ali will be meeting them there and see if Ezra shows up. Even if it seems clever on the surface, it sounds like another terrible, dangerous mistake for these girls. Let’s go to some zoo and trick somebody who has been trying to kill us and see if he shows up! Maybe if we’re right, he’ll kill one of us and we’ll have all the proof we need!
The next day, Spencer’s mom asks her if she can come to dinner at the club, but Spencer claims that she’s having dinner at Toby’s that night. Her mother tells her to come up with a better excuse to give her club friends next time. I’m trying to catch a killer at some zoo tonight so I can’t go to dinner. Would that work? 

At Ezra’s apartment, Aria describes Spencer’s reaction to the confrontation about her drug problem. Aria tells Ezra that Spencer flipped out, and almost reveals what Spencer says about Ezra, but stops herself. Ezra encourages Aria to involve Spencer’s parents in this issue and says that it will become a bigger deal if a teacher gets involved. Actually, as stated above, that’s exactly what he should have done. If he had gone to her parents with a genuine health concern, that would be a legal, correct response. Instead, he wants his student/girlfriend to do the dirty work. Once again, for a teacher, Ezra teaches some horrible lessons. 

When Aria protests, saying that Spencer is strong enough to figure this out on her own, Ezra brings up her stay at Radley. Aria defends her friend; Spencer wound up at Radley because she thought she found her boyfriend dead in the woods. Ezra points out that all it took for Spencer to think the body was Toby was seeing a helmet and a tattoo; he suggests that Spencer unravels easily. This could have been a decent argument point, if Ezra was supposed to know about the helmet and tattoo incident. There was no news coverage about what Spencer saw, and Aria knows that. Toby’s “901 Free At Last” tattoo might have meant freedom for Toby, but it looks like it means “screwed” for Ezra! When Aria asks Ezra how he knew about this, he claims that Aria must have told him. Out loud, she believes him, but the look on her face suggests otherwise. 
Ezra is having coffee at The Brew while Emily’s at work. Emily drops a bunch of plates and cups on the ground and they break. She bends down to clean up this mess, and it’s revealed that she made the mess on purpose to make sure Ezra would pay attention to the phone call that followed. The girls planned to have a phone call about meeting up with Ali at the zoo, and they planned for Ezra to hear the whole thing. Ezra definitely is listening, so part 1 of their crazy plan worked.

Spencer regrets her decision to fork over all her pills, so she impersonates her mother and calls her doctor in attempt to refill her prescription. She’s in the middle of leaving a voicemail, but she hangs up when her drug study buddy, Andrew calls her. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t usually pretend to be my mom on the phone when I call my doctor. That’s because it’s illegal! 

Broken Law # 2 Alert!

Pa. Cons. Stat. tit. 18, §4120 (in relevant part)
 “Offense defined.–A person commits the offense of identity theft of another person if he possesses or uses, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose…
(f)  Definitions.–…As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:…”

“Identifying information.”  “…or any fact used to establish identity, including, but not limited to, a name, birth date, Social Security number, driver’s license number, nondriver governmental identification number, telephone number, checking account number, savings account number, student identification number, employee or payroll number or electronic signature…”

While Spencer’s pretending to be her mom, Aria’s at Ezra’s cabin trying to guess his password so she can sneak inside. Her initial guesses are ridiculous; obviously Ezra’s not stupid and he wouldn’t make his password “Ezra.” She figures it out though; the password is B26, which is cute for Ezria fans, but not so cute in the legal system. As soon as she goes inside, she walks us to:

Broken Law # 3 Alert!

 Criminal trespass – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3503 (in relevant part) :  
(a)  Buildings and occupied structures.–  (1)  A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he: (i)  enters, gains entry by subterfuge or surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied structure or separately secured or occupied portion thereof. (2)  An offense under paragraph (1)(i) is a felony of the third degree. 

Note I’m not including burglary here, because that would require Aria to have intent to commit a crime inside at the time she entered the cabin. It seems as if she’s looking around for any clue she can find, not committing felonies. 
Aria quickly searches the cabin, looking anywhere she can to find something to solve this mystery. When she kicks a rug, she finds the trapdoor where we saw Ezra’s creepy stalker lair in previous episodes. However, when Aria finds the room, all signs of the lair are gone.  

Next, the real Veronica Hastings gets a phone call from the receptionist at the doctor’s office that Spencer called. The receptionist says that she’s returning Veronica’s multiple phone calls. Veronica quickly figures out what’s going on and Spencer is busted! At least it’s by her mother and not the police… this time. 

Hanna and Emily are at the zoo and of course Hanna doesn’t want to walk through the reptile section. Emily convinces them, so they peruse different reptiles while waiting for Spencer to arrive. A creepy reptile slams into the glass right by Hanna’s face, and for a brief moment, Hanna seems more afraid of this creature than she is of “A.” Eventually, they see a blonde girl, which they think is part of their plan; Spencer was supposed to show up in a blonde wig so “A” would think Alison was there.

Aria’s about to leave the cabin when she notices a weird book on the table. It’s about grilling, and Aria is stunned, since Ezra’s been all about vegan recipes with chick peas lately. She opens the book and discovers that it’s a hollow book containing a bunch of papers. She begins reading and realizes that the papers are about ALISON and contain comments about her lying and kissing habits. This is not good at all. 

Aria hears a car pulling up; Ezra’s there! She freaks out, stuffs the papers that she found in her bag and runs away; she’s definitely scared. She’s also not thinking clearly, because she leaves her keys at the cabin. 

Legal Note # 4:

Normally, I’d cite this as one of Pennsylvania’s theft crimes, but judging by Aria’s state of mind, she doesn’t have the requisite intent required to be arrested for those crimes. She would have needed to intend to use the book for her own benefit and/or permanently deprive Ezra of it. We don’t know what her intent was at the time; I don’t even think she does!

Ezra gets a notification on his phone; he’s set up alerts with his fancy security system. Now he knows somebody has been inside! When he walks in, he knows exactly who it was, because he recognizes Aria’s keys. He also sees his hollow book on the couch and realizes that Aria must have found its contents. 

Aria’s running around in the dark, in the woods, AND without her keys. This is another excellent scenario! She’s terrified, and Ezra is trying to find her; she hears him calling her name. He makes creepy comments like, “there’s no place to go, Aria, you might as well come out.” He should not be chasing her through the woods, but since he is, let’s run with him to:

Broken Law # 5 Alert!

18 Pa. C.S. § 2709. Harassment (in relevant part).

“(a)   OFFENSE DEFINED.– A person commits the crime of harassment when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another, the person:…
(2)  follows the other person in or about a public place or places;
(3)  engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which serve no legitimate purpose;…”

“(c)   GRADING.-

An offense under subsection (a)… (2) or (3) shall constitute a summary offense.”

Note I didn’t include the crime of stalking here, because that requires the intent to cause the person reasonable fear of bodily injury or cause severe emotional intent. Although Aria is an emotional wreck, I don’t believe at the time that this is Ezra’s intent. 

Ezra calls Aria’s phone which OF COURSE isn’t on silent. That’s like the first rule if you’re hiding from someone; put your phone on silent! 

At the zoo, Hanna and Emily wonder why Spencer hasn’t made her move yet. They wait for her signal. Suddenly, Spencer shows up behind them, trying to quickly get a blonde wig on her head while apologizing for being late. Now they have no idea who the blonde girl that they saw was, because it’s not PLL without a mystery person in disguise. Hanna and Emily run towards the area where they saw Mystery Blonde Girl. 

Aria sees that there’s a ski lodge nearby and it closes in 5 minutes. While Ezra continues to beg her to come out, she bolts towards the ski lodge. She gets in the ski lift and starts pulling down the bar, but not before Ezra pushes himself inside too! He wants to explain. He has a LOT to explain; this could take years. 

Of course by the time the other girls get to the place where Mystery Blonde Girl had been, the girl is gone. The lights go out, and the audio guides for the animals turn on by themselves, and with the girls’ typical luck, they’ve been locked inside! All of the audio guides are going at once, so the girls are stuck listening to jumbled information that they don’t want. Somebody grabs Emily’s arm and they assume that it’s “A,” but it turns out it’s a creepy zoo employee. He tells them they need to leave because the zoo is closed. I think the girls are perfectly willing to leave!

Aria screams for help, she doesn’t want to hear any of Ezra’s excuses. She thinks he’s dangerous and that he tried to hurt Alison. She voices this to him. Ezra says that he lied about knowing Alison and he wanted to tell Aria many times, but he thought she wouldn’t forgive him. So he decided to stalk her and her friends instead? MEN. Aria continues screaming at Ezra, and he finally gets a few words in. He explains that he never hurt Alison; he was writing a book about her. He was writing an Alison DiLaurentis true crime novel. 

When Ezra admits that he knew who Aria was the entire time and that’s why he took the job at Rosewood, Aria is disgusted. He insists that even though he “took advantage of an opportunity” when he saw Aria at the bar, that he never lied about his feelings for her. Anything coming out of his mouth is hard to believe right now. 

Ezra explains that he stopped his research when he and Aria were in a serious relationship, and started again when they broke up; that’s how he knew Alison was alive. Ezra apologizes and says that he’ll burn the whole book. Aria’s not having any of that; she wants to read every single page. Ezra attempts to grab the papers from Aria, and what do you know? Instead of either one of them succeeding, the pages go flying. 

At the Montgomery house, Mona shows up late for a movie date with Mike. Aria gets home and is visibly upset; it’s obvious she’s been crying. Mona asks her if she’s ok but Aria just walks away silently. Mona gets a guilty look on her face. What is she up to now? 

Spencer also gets a surprise when she gets home; she’s greeted by Toby and her mother. Veronica called Toby because she was so concerned about Spencer and the pills. Toby now knows about her drug problem. He gives Spencer a necklace that he planned to give her at dinner, and he leaves after Veronica thanks him for coming. Veronica tells Spencer that she doesn’t know if she can handle this happening again, and that her resume is already tarnished by Radley. 

At the end, Aria angrily throws a book that Ezra gave to her across the room. Then, we see someone, presumably “A,” gathering up the pages of Ezra’s book. Great. “A” having this book is just what the girls need! 

Let’s see the aftermath of all of this next week! Thanks for reading. 🙂 

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