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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Bye Bye Birdie

So much pain befell our Liars this week: the pain of being choked; the pain of crashing to the ground to avoid getting flattened by a car driven by your mortal enemy/cyberstalker; the pain not even prescription drugs can numb; the pain of colliding head-first into the concrete wall of the pool; and, perhaps the worst pain of all, the pain of rejection. So who rose to the top of the Pretty Little Power Rankings (PLPR) in spite of the pain, and who admitted defeat?

1. Hanna’s mom (last week: not ranked)
Proof of Hanna’s mom’s prowess is all over the place. Her explanation of what happened to Wilden is as slick and icy as a just-Zambonied skating rink: “I think Detective Wilden had more enemies than friends, and one of those people decided to do us all a favor.” Whether she’s bleaching the mud (and maybe blood?) off her Manolos or sipping wine alone in the dark in her kitchen like the supervillain she just might be, Hanna’s mom is cool as a freaking cucumber. Best part:

Hanna, on Detective Wilden: I wanted him gone. I’ll probably go to hell for saying that.
Hanna’s mom: I hope not; then you’ll have to see him again.

BRB, high-fiving a million angels right now.

2. Tippy the Bird (last week: not ranked)
Tippy used to share a room with Ali and is chirping a song that no one can place. (Doesn’t anybody have Shazam?) Spencer figures out it’s a phone number, a.k.a. Tippy is the only one with the key to solving the latest “who was Ali with before she died?” mystery. Even being birdnapped by “A” and, in a sort of Social Network callback, getting fed pieces of another bird can’t faze Tippy.

3. Aria (last week: 10)
Things I like about Aria’s new plotline: continuity, even if it means a mention of the unfortunately named Holden and his lame-o secret of “I do martial arts but I have a health problem so please don’t tell my parents”; her workout ensemble, which manages to be both cute and a realistic approximation of what a teenage girl would wear to learn self-defense; and Jake’s attractive face. Things I dislike about it: the fact that Aria can’t even make it through two training sessions without going in for the kiss and the blatant fan service that is Jake saying, “Maybe you’re not into the whole teacher-student thing.” DO NOT PANDER TO ME, PLL.

4. Ali (last week: not ranked)
Apparently Ali used to do this thing where she made herself not breathe so she would black out? And this was something she could do on command, so as to coerce her parents into giving her things that she wanted? Ali is basically a hybrid of Beth from Megan Abbott’s Dare Me and one of the kids from that New York Times story about child sociopaths.

5. University of Pennsylvania (last week: not ranked)
My alma mater rejects my brainiest liar! My heart is torn asunder! JK, loyalty to Penn above all. Sad that Spencer has to be the first Hasting since whichever Lady Hasting was hooking up with Ben Franklin to not don red and blue at the finest institution of higher education on the face of the earth (not that I’m biased). Do I think the decision was cruel, even a bit hasty, no Hastings pun intended? Perhaps. But this isn’t the “Pretty Little Niceness Rankings.” The PLPR is about power, and only a truly powerful place could reject Rosewood High’s most qualified candidate, especially when she’s a legacy at least three times over. Hurrah, hurrah, Pennsylvania!

6. Hanna (last week: 8)
I can only dock so many points from Hanna for not knowing exactly what her mom is up to. Do any of us know what Hanna’s mom is up to? Could we even begin to plumb the depths of her twisted yet brilliant brain? Methinks not.

I can, however, dock points for inexcusable, inexplicable fashion choices. During the school day, Hanna is wearing a blue-and-white-striped rugby shirt, a belt that appears to have some beaded orange buckle, and a teal/green paisley skirt. All of this is topped off by some no good, very bad hair. Later, the hair improves, but Hanna busts out yet another pair of shiny metallic pants. This time, they’re silver and look like the leftovers from a “sexy astronaut” Halloween costume.

7. JD (last week: 4)
Mrs. DiLaurentis has this very Queen of Hearts way of gardening, plus she speaks entirely in murder-y double entendres. She’s two-for-two with the “Hefty Hanna” references per episode. In her flashback, she tells Ali that she “will let [her] land face-first on the sidewalk.” Those two. They’re like blonde Gilmore Girls.

8. Spencer (last week: 2)
Even someone as smart as Spencer makes the same mistakes over and over again, which means we have to watch her have the same fight with Toby about how she thought they “weren’t keeping secrets anymore” over and over again. Toby thinks Radley is hiding something about the circumstances of his mom’s death — he sold out the RV to “A” just to get the last transcript between his mom and her doctor before she killed herself — and swears Spencer to secrecy, which I’m sure will end well for the both of them. Maybe Toby should just look at the latest issue of Vice! I hear there’s a really informative feature on suicide causes and prevention in there.

Anyone know where Spencer got that sweater with the horse on it? It’s so Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls meets Main Line preppy teen chic. Literally nothing in that sentence applies to me personally, but don’t think that means I wouldn’t wear it.

9. Toby (last week: 7)
“We can talk about this later” = never really a smart thing to say to your girlfriend, no matter what the circumstances, but an especially bad call when the context is a conversation about how two of your girlfriend’s best friends were almost killed last night.

10. Ezra (last week: 9)
Maybe Ezra has a teeny, tiny point about colleges being concerned now more than ever about the mental health and emotional stability of the students they accept but OH WAIT, NEVER MIND — Spencer’s college essay is amazing, she should not change a word of it. Spencer’s friend was murdered, Spencer was bullied, and she had a nervous breakdown? That’s like the college essay hat trick!

I’ll add this to my ever-growing pile of evidence that Ezra is a lousy teacher. Also in the pile: his suggestion to a bunch of high-school students that “You can read East of Eden over the weekend for extra credit!” East of Eden, which John Steinbeck considered to be his magnum opus, is 601 pages long. You know, just some light weekend reading.

11. Emily (last week: 3)
I love that ABC Family isn’t afraid to give Emily and Paige some flirty material (“I’d push the beds a little closer together”) and have them kiss on-camera in a way that feels natural and not like a “hot girls making out” bone thrown to whatever male viewers this show has. That being said, Emily’s plan to keep Paige in the dark so Paige won’t be on the “A” hit list proves that clearly no one understands how “A” operates. Em then proceeds to violate the No. 1 rule of swim safety, which is to wait at least 30 minutes after eating before you go in the pool never self-medicate with prescription drugs and then attempt to compete in the most important swim meet of your life to date.

12. Martial Arts Jake (last week: not ranked)
“Aria, this relationship doesn’t work unless there’s a level of trust between us. Can you trust me?” Uh, whatever you say, creepy Jack Dawson.

13. Mona (last week: 1)
My, my, my, how the mighty have fallen. Last week’s champion is this week’s biggest loser. First she loses the RV (Mona, you had ONE job), then she nearly gets strangled to death by “A,” only to nearly get hit with a car and manage to wreck Emily’s chances at Stanford in the process. Her only get of the episode — finding out that the second pair of footsteps in the mud were made by a pair of high heels — is worthless in her incapable hands because she doesn’t know about Hanna’s mom’s dirty Manolos. Even Aria says, “Mona probably started lying when she was a fetus.” (Maybe that’s not the ONLY thing Mona started doing as a fetus, if you know what I mean.) Emily might have wound up bleeding from the head, but at least she’s got people in her life who still care whether she recovers. Not even Mona’s clever one-liner of, “I’ve cashed in all my ‘get out of hell free’ cards” can save her from the bottom of the PLPR. Tough break, Mona. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Lingering concerns: How does Martial Arts Jake know where Aria lives? And why does he smell like cinnamon? Is “cozy” just one drape away from Grey Gardens? Do we really think Hanna ever finished reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar? How did Melissa Hastings — currently interviewing for an internship with Satan — get accepted at Penn?

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them,

-J

PLL fans who’ve read the books: keep your spoiler-filled knowledge to yourselves! TV talk only, both below and on Twitter (@jessicagolds), please and thank you.

Photo: Eric McCandless / Disney