|“||Jenna is gonna be soooo pissed||”|
The New Normal is the seventeenth episode in Season 1. This episode aired on February 14th, 2011.
Aria is still hurt by Hanna’s betrayal, and so decides to sit apart from Hanna and the other Pretty Little Liars while they meet up in Spencer's room. The girls discuss the strangeness of Melissa's rapid change in life plans. They use a website to decipher the three letters of the Braille message: B-A-D. Aria decides it must be a joke that Toby is playing on them, but Emily doesn't think that he would mess with them at a time like this. Aria then leaves in a huff, completely forgetting their conversation.
At home, Ashley takes the remaining cash from the Popsicle box in the freezer in order to return it to Mrs. Potter's safe deposit box. Hanna tries to talk Ashley out of it, as Mrs. Potter has no use for it anymore, but Ashley insists that it is the right thing to do. As soon as Hanna hears her mother close the door behind her, she opens the basement door to let Caleb out. She makes him breakfast over conversation, trying to make sure if he wants to go back to the foster home, but soon the door reopens, and Caleb scatters, while Hanna hides his cereal bowl. But, Caleb's hat is still lying exposed on the kitchen counter. When Ashley walks back into the kitchen, she finds Hanna washing the dishes -- or more precisely, Caleb's hat, in an attempt to hide it from her mother. But Ashley is unfazed and simply instructs Hanna to wear gloves while she does the dishes.
At school, Hanna gives Caleb back his soggy hat. Aria watches from a distance before determinedly approaching Hanna to forgive her, as she realizes that they’re both contending with a more evil power in "A," who is clearly trying to tear the friends apart. She acknowledges Hanna's attempt to undo her mistake by pulling the kill switch on Ella's car.
At lunch, Ezra, Mrs. Welch, and Ella discuss an author, Leonard Adams, and offers his colleagues their opportunity to share coffee with him and get autographed copies of his book. Mrs. Welch is eager to participate, and after recalling a book of the author's that she enjoyed, opts in herself.
Meanwhile, Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily sit down for lunch at a separate table. Spencer expresses her disapproval of Hanna's growing relationship with Caleb, declaring him dark. But, Hanna reminds her friends that they had treated Toby the same way, silencing them.
Then, Nick McCullers, Paige’s equally driven father, makes an entrance in the cafeteria where all the characters are sitting. He marches up to the table where the English teachers are lunching and demands to see Coach Fulton. Ezra rises, taking in Mr. McCullers barking tone. He offers to walk him out to the principal's office, but apparently he's already been there, complaining that Emily has been given special treatment on the swim team because she’s gay. Before Mr. McCullers can repeat his allegation, Ezra reminds him that the students are watching and escorts him into the hallway, thus diffusing the situation. The student body looks on, scandalized, and Paige disappears quickly, utterly humiliated.
At the office, Ashley looks up to meet a man, who introduces himself as Mr. Leland. He explains that he is the late Mrs. Esther Potter's nephew and would like to discuss her accounts and safety deposit box. Ashley reveals that she had been under the impression that Mrs. Potter left no heirs, but Mr. Leland assures her that he was her great-nephew. So, Ashley agrees under the condition that Mr. Leland's identification checks out with the state revenue agency. Right on cue, he presents her with the ID's in an envelope, flustering Ashley. Mr Leland also gives Ashley his card and says he is an architect from Syracuse. The two exchange stories of Mrs. Potter from their brief annual encounters with her. He then asks Ashley out for drinks, but she doesn't give him a definite answer.
Back at school, Paige corners Emily and begs her to believe her that she had nothing to do with her father's display at lunch. Emily thinks that it's because she's gay, but Paige tells her that's not it. Emily leaves, saying she needs to go to class.
Then, Ella and Byron walk by in the hallway, discussing Byron's attendance at the next night's parent-teacher conferences. Ella is convinced that Byron must meet Ezra Fitz, who is attractive, smart, responsible, talented... She then tells her husband about how Mr. McCullers had almost embarrassed Emily until hero Ezra saved the day and diffused the situation. Byron smiles wanly. Then, when he asks Ella for a date the next night, she seems inclined to accept, but turns him down, as she has already agreed to go for coffee with Ezra to meet author Leonard Adams. Byron insists that Ella hates Adams, but Ella argues that she likes his early stuff. She heads for class, leaving Byron to process some new emotions.
Spencer, upset about the message Toby gave her, goes to his house to confront him. He tells her she is reading it wrong and to come back Saturday morning when Jenna will be away at her flute lesson. As Toby walks away, Spencer gets a text from "A" warning her that Jenna will be pissed...
Emily and Hanna talk on the phone, while both girls are in their respective homes. Hanna is packing her bag with snacks, while Emily is sitting on her bed, talking about Caleb. Unexpectedly, Mrs. Fields stops by Emily's room, and Emily icily informs her that she is speaking to Hanna; abashed, Mrs. Fields explains that she only meant to offer her daughter some extra cobbler, not question who she was on the phone with. Hanna picks up on the tension between the two, and Emily admits that she cannot confide in her mother about Paige's father's behavior, expecting her not to care.
Simultaneously, Spencer and Aria talk on the phones from two bedrooms, but Aria isn't in her own -- she's in Ezra's. Spencer realizes this when a wailing firetruck passes by, but doesn't hear the siren on the other end of the line, which she would if Aria were at home. She questions Aria's whereabouts, asking if she is on the bed. Aria denies it, even though it's true. When she hangs up, Ezra returns with take-out food and lets Aria know that he is scheduled to meet her father the next day during parent-teacher conferences. Aria assures Ezra that her father doesn't bite...
Ashley agrees to go out with Mr. James Leland to find out more about what he wants. While Ashley is preparing for her date in the foyer, Caleb comes over -- through the front door, surprising Hanna and disconcerting Mrs. Marin, who immediately forms a negative opinion of her daughter's new friend. In fact, Ashley worries that Hanna is rebounding from Sean in a bad way. When James comes over, Caleb takes the liberty of opening the door and greeting him. Hanna and Caleb are immediately suspicious of James, though for different reasons. Caleb claims architects don't use crappy pens, which Mr. Leland uses to sign some form that Ashley presents him for the bank. Hanna doesn't get good vibes, as she thinks the guy to be too smooth.
At parent-teacher's conferences, Ezra praises Aria to her father. But, Byron interrupts him to ask about Ezra's plans to take out his wife. Ezra is perplexed until he realizes that Byron means the book signing; by way of response, Byron bashes the author and Ezra's taste and also notes that Ella hated the author until now. Ezra starts to sweat.
The girls shop at a clothing store, where Aria and Hanna explain to the other two what their past quarrel was about. They discuss "A" and Caleb, and Hanna reveals to her friends that Caleb is crashing at her house. The girls express their shock, but stop short when they spot Jenna trying something on in the lingerie section of a department store, overhearing her say to the clerk that her mysterious suitor "loves lace." Back at his apartment, Ezra recounts the events of the night to Aria and insists that her father hates him, but Aria is in disbelief. Meanwhile, Spencer sits on her bed rereading the Braille note. She suddenly has an epiphany while staring at the deciphered Braille on the computer screen and jolts up.
At school, Ella approaches Pam, who is there for parent-teacher conferences like the rest of the Rosewood parents. Ella speaks to Pam, assuming that she knows what Mr. McCullers did the previous day, and assures Pam that people side with Emily. When Pam voices her surprise, Ella gingerly fills her in on the details of the confrontation. Pam is upset to hear that her daughter was present.
Meanwhile, Spencer visits Toby's home again, but finds the door open when she knocks. She goes snooping into Jenna’s room while she's not home before Toby warns her not to; Jenna remembers exactly where she places things and will know if things are touched. Toby had been on the phone with the District Attorney and therefore couldn't speak up right away as soon as Spencer arrived. He lets her know that the charges are being dropped, as the blood evidence they collected was corrupted, and they can’t go to trial with it. Thus, Toby is no longer under house arrest for the murder of Alison DiLaurentis. He can have his tracking anklet removed as soon as he goes to the Rosewood Police Department. Spencer offers Toby a ride to the station, and he accepts, leaving Jenna rebuffed when he turns down her ride in a taxi with him.
At Hanna's, Caleb is not surprised to hear that Ashley had not taken Hanna's warnings about Mr. Leland being shady; he is used to parents ignoring their children's opinion. He announces that he did some sleuthing on their behalf and has discovered that Mr. Leland is not who he says he is; James Leland, indeed an architect from Syracuse, died two years prior, making this guy an impostor with a dark motive. Hanna informs Ashley later, but she is loathe to do anything about it, as it might draw attention to herself and the connection she has with the safe deposit box. She is also not too keen on Caleb being involved.
After school, Aria chats with her father as he returns from work. She asks him how his meeting with Ezra was, shocked to hear that Ezra was right; Byron admits to having a very unfavorable opinion of her teacher, accusing him of lacking talent. Aria tries to defend him to no avail until she fills him in on the fact that Ella's date with Ezra is not exclusive; half of the English department will be there. He suddenly softens, and, at a loss for words, walks away.
When Ashley lets "James" look through Mrs. Potter's safe deposit box with all the money she took out of it gone, he is caught off guard to see very little cash inside. So, Ashley insists that it is normal for someone to keep only limited funds in a safe deposit box, and asks him where he banks, sure that other banks would have the same policy. When she sees him hesitate, she asks him to call his bank, but he backs off, and her own secret crime is thus protected.
Back at Rosewood High, Pam finds her daughter and pulls her aside. Emily assumes that her mother wants to drive her home, but Pam just wants to know if what Ella told her is true. When Emily agrees, Pam expresses her surprise that Emily didn't tell her and semi-scolds her daughter. In turn, Emily gets defensive, accusing her mother of seeing Nick's side. Defiant, Pam spots Nick McCullers standing with Paige across the room, and marches up to him. She gives him a piece of her mind and threatens him to drop his grievance against her daughter. She even accuses him of projecting his problems with his own daughter. Afterwards, Emily thanks Pam, and Pam assures Emily that she loves her, though she doesn't understand her lifestyle, and the two finally embrace.
After leaving the Rosewood Police Department, Spencer takes Toby to the town limits, where the non-vandalized Rosewood population sign stands. She wants him to be able to enjoy his new found freedom. Spencer also informs Toby that she figured out the Braille message he left her "214." Toby doesn't know what it means, but he did overhear Jenna talking about Spencer when she printed out that embossed message. Toby posits that Jenna is afraid of Spencer and the girls.
As Emily is about to drive home, a hyperventilating Paige gets into the car and says that Emily has it so easy. Emily, thinking that Paige is yet again blaming her talents, goes off on her, but she is shut up with a kiss. Emily is in shock and all Paige can say is “don’t tell” before getting out of the car.
Then, at home, Hanna thanks Caleb for his help that day. She walks Caleb to the basement before an exterminator shows up to take care of the infestation problem in the basement. Clearly, "A" wants Hanna to know that she is aware that Caleb is crashing there, even if her mother doesn't know. It also seems that "A" has a sense of humor...
Meanwhile, Aria and Ezra are in the middle of a make-out session in his apartment when the phone rings. Ezra ignores it as he dips down in the couch with Aria, but the two shoot up when they hear Byron's voice on the message recording, apologizing for being hard on him earlier and inviting his daughter's teacher for drinks. They opt for take-out instead.
While Spencer drives Toby home, they pass a motel . The camera zooms in on a motel room door, bearing the numbers: 214...
At the end of the episode, someone wearing black gloves approaches Mrs. Esther Marie Potter's grave, which reads 1929-2011. Flowers are placed atop it, and the mysterious black-gloved figure paying respects walks away.
- The author mentioned in this episode, "Leonard Adams", is completely fictional. Perhaps the producers didn't want to criticize an existing author. (He is mentioned when Ezra Fitz invites the other English teachers to a book signing, and Byron later makes a comment about how Ella does not like this author).
- Mrs. Potter's grave has inscribed on it the epitaph "To sleep, perchance to dream", an allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Her life years are listed as (1929-2011), making her 82 when she passed.
- Based on Esther Potter's grave, the show must be taking place in the new year (2011).
- Spencer and Toby drive by the same hotel where Wren is staying in episode 104. In this episode, the camera zooms into a room, on the other side of the soda machine from Wren's room, which is Room 214, This is obviously the number that Spencer and Toby were discussing earlier in the episode. This room was on the first floor where rooms usually start with the number 1 (like Wren's room 105).
- This episode aired February 14, or on 2.14 - the same mysterious numbers in Jenna's braille message and on the motel door ominously glimpsed at the end of the episode.
- "The New Normal" could refer to the ironic notion that "strange is the new normal".
- "The New Normal" could refer to something unusual having become the norm.
- In general, when something is described as "the new [thing]" it may be referring to a replacement of some other trend, such as "50 is the new 40", "red is the new black", etc.
- In this episode, two major changes occur in two separate relationship dynamics: Pam comes to terms with her daughter's homosexuality, and Spencer takes Jenna's place as the sexual interest in Toby's life, going to the courthouse with him in her stead.
- Lucy Hale as Aria Montgomery
- Ashley Benson as Hanna Marin
- Shay Mitchell as Emily Fields
- Troian Bellisario as Spencer Hastings
- Keegan Allen as Toby Cavanaugh
- Lindsey Shaw as Paige McCullers
- Nia Peeples as Pam Fields
- Ian Harding as Ezra Fitz
- Tammin Sursok as Jenna Marshall
- Tyler Blackburn as Caleb Rivers
- Laura Leighton as Ashley Marin
- Holly Marie Combs as Ella Montgomery
- Chad Lowe as Byron Montgomery
- Daniel Travis (II) as "James Leland"
- Connor Trinneer as Nick McCullers
- Jill Holden as Mrs. Welch
- Jim Hoffmaster as Exterminator
- Bill Blair as Taxi Driver (uncredited)
- "In Your Arms" by Kina Grannis (the girls spot Jenna at the boutique)
- "Try" by Zach Berkman (Toby and Spencer drive through the woods)
- "No Excuses" by Aunt Martha (Pam catches Emily on the phone)
The New Normal has a photo gallery.
Spencer [on the phone]: Where are you?
Aria: What do you mean, I’m right here!
Spencer: Any fire truck you can hear at your house, I can hear at mine… Oh my god! Are you in his apartment? Are you on the bed?
Aria [getting off the bed]: No… not on the bed.
Spencer: Is he there?
Aria: No, not exactly…
Spencer: Is he taking a shower?
Aria: Ugh, he’s getting take-out for dinner! This call is becoming very 1-900…
Spencer: To talk to a hot English teacher press 3…
Aria: Call ending now.
Hanna [to Caleb]: It was nice knowing when something goes bump in the night... it’s you.
Hanna: Okay, so your sister’s pregnant? How’d that happen?
Spencer: I figure pretty much the usual way.
Spencer [to Toby]: The whole message was 'BAD'. Am I supposed to go buy an old Michael Jackson album?
Spencer: You were snarking at each other like you were on a reality show! The Real Teens of Rosewood.
Ezra [about Byron]: I’m trying to act like I’m not in love with his daughter, and he’s acting like he wants to challenge me to a duel over your mother.
Hanna [to Caleb]: Not all of it, my mom will notice.
Caleb: Tell her it's evaporation.
Toby: I think Jenna's afraid of you and the rest of Alison’s friends... all of you who were there the night of the fire.
Emily [to Paige]: Yeah, it’s all about Emily. All Em, all the time.
Pam [to Emily]: I still don't understand, but I love you. You're my child and no one hurts my child.