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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Always Crashing in the Same Car

Let’s just admit it: Tuesday was a day of crushing disappointment. First, Bunheads got canceled. Then, Magic Mike unequivocally denied having anything to do with bashing in his idiot friend’s car last week. Magic Mike! I put that barely legal kid at the top of the Power Rankings! I thought last week meant something to him. Obviously I was wrong. Let’s see how far he fell, in the newest Pretty Little Power Rankings.

1. Caleb (last week: not ranked)
Remember Red Coat? No one’s talked about her in a while. You would have been forgiven, as this fourth season of PLL dawned, for expecting Red Coat to be the centerpiece of this installment of our mystery, what with having been the focus of last season’s finale and the main component of this season’s promotional materials. But our Liars, distracted by other things of varying importance — swim meets, college visits, wig maintenance — abandoned the Red Coat plotline, like so much fine … plotline. Anyway, Caleb remembers! Dear Caleb, who moved from living in the air ducts (?) of his high school to securing a residence with an outlet for his hair straightener, has come through for us.

Caleb enlists Toby as his partner in crime-solving. I am delighted by this turn of events! Let’s see … I feel like Caleb is Starsky, Toby is Hutch. Or is Caleb a Buzz and Toby a Woody? Oooh, how about Toby is Matt, Caleb is Ben?

No, wait! I’ve got it: Caleb is Romy, Toby is Michele. I hope Toby knows the formula for glue! Which brings me to …

2. Toby (last week: 9)
The boys are having slumber parties! I hope they braid each others’ hair and play Two Truths and a Lie. Plus points for Toby noticing how weird it was that Nigel knew about the foggy weather the night of the fire and for picking up on the fact that the “NW” on the lighter was in extra-large font. “North West?” Caleb asks, and I am all OMFG WHAT IF KIMYE’S BABY HAS BEEN “A” THIS WHOLE TIME? Is this what Kanye meant when he told the New York Times “I am the nucleus”?

As it turns out, NW = Nigel Wright. So much for that conspiracy theory (for now).

3. Aria (last week: 7)
Aria asks if the Liars should answer the phone that is ringing in Wilden’s apartment while they are trespassing in the home of a recently murdered police officer. No amount of punnery — “This has ‘A’ spray-painted all over it” — can salvage such a dumb question. At least everyone she is related to and/or used to date, emerges from the episode unscathed. Also, handwritten thank-you notes are the only acceptable kind of thank-you notes. If you’re thinking, “But what about e-mail?” you are a Neanderthal.

4. Ezra (last week: 10)
“Aria’s been telling me what’s been going on,” says Ezra to Byron. In case you’re wondering, “Who would use the passive voice twice in one sentence?” The answer is: the world’s worst English teacher, that’s who. Hope the next time Aria slips something under Ezra’s door, it’s a copy of Strunk and White.

Ezra is dressed like he wanted to get invited on a little teenage bro-venture with Toby and Caleb. I don’t buy that the principal hadn’t already considered the incredibly obvious issues Ezra raised about Magic Mike’s potential suspension (“Oh, you mean, there needs to be a witness to a crime? Or some other kind of proof? Well, when you put it like that, gosh, I guess we don’t have a case after all.”) Aria still tells Ezra that she’s really glad he swooped; cute and all but I thought part of the wedge between these two lovebirds—aside from the already good enough wedges of “he is her teacher” and “she is underage” and oh that’s right “there is an anonymous murderer out there who threatens and attacks everyone Aria cares about” — was that Ezra was a father and his secret family was back in his life again. If that’s true, where is Malcolm? What is that arrangement exactly? I’m not saying I find any of that even remotely interesting ( … I don’t), but why even introduce two humans as plot devices when the plot device required to keep Ezra and Aria apart has existed since the day they met?

5. Magic Mike Montgomery (last week: 1)
Well, well, well. So Magic Mike didn’t wreck that car after all. That’s disappointing. I’m also disappointed by this: “Sad chicks in hipster glasses playing the same three chords and whining about their ex? No.” Magic Mike, to quote a young lady I’m sure you just love, “I think that’s taking something that potentially should be celebrated — a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way — that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.”

I will, however, award points for the following:

Magic Mike: Now I kind of wish I had done it. Or done something.
Aria:
Come on, Mike. That’s not you.
Magic Mike:
Maybe it should be.

YES, MAGIC MIKE, FOLLOW THAT INSTINCT. IT WILL SERVE YOU WELL.

6. Spencer (last week: 3)
Did Spencer do anything this week except wear a black-and-white dress that seemed to be a great impediment to her movement with a long, denim-y blue blazer? I don’t understand … I thought I could count on Spencer and her infallible style! You can’t count on anything in this world, you guys. You think that people will understand Bunheads is going to gain a bigger following in its second season just like Gilmore Girls before it and besides, who needs viewership through the roof when you’re universally adored by critics and you have Sutton Freaking Foster?!? And then they pull the rug/springy dance floor out from beneath your feet.

Where was I? Oh, right. High-five for Spencer’s little Hardy Boys joke about Toby and Caleb.

7. Emily (last week: 4)
The Liars have a lot of terrible ideas. It’s part of their charm! Emily, in the grand tradition of making me shout “What the hell are you thinking?” at my television, decides that it is a super-great plan to steal the key to Wilden’s apartment from the police station (accidentally getting her mom suspended from work) and break in to look for ambiguous “clues.” Remember when Emily said the only way she’d be able to go to Stanford was if she earned a swimming scholarship? That feels like an accurate assessment to me.

In other news: A car drove INTO Emily’s house and almost hit/killed her mom! Wow. “A” has a serious car fetish.

8. Hanna (last week: 12)
I’m impressed that one of Hanna’s first thoughts while her mom is in prison is to remember to pay the bills. So responsible! I always saw Hanna as more of a Stacey, but that’s a total Mary Anne move — and I do mean that as a compliment in this particular case. (Before you ask: Spencer is a Kristy, Emily is a Jessi + Dawn, Aria is a Claudia.)

Hanna and Spencer have a quick back-and-forth about the law (now that I know Spencer is dating the bike-happy brainiac from Suits in real life, her prowess in this department makes a lot more sense) and Spencer implies that, should Hanna’s mom plead not guilty but be found guilty in court, Mama Marin could get the death penalty. My first reaction was: Wait, Pennsylvania, land of the peaceable Quakers, has the death penalty? So I did a little homework, because that’s how much I care about you guys and justice and also, can you tell I’ve been watching Suits?

In 1913, a law established capital punishment in Pennsylvania — but it was declared unconstitutional in 1971. Like 30 seconds later, the new attorney general, whose name — I kid you not — was J. Shane Creamer, rescinded the opinion. I quote/paraphrase: “This whole death penalty decision isn’t really my thing, so let’s just leave it to the legislature or the courts, if that’s cool with you.” The state Supreme Court stepped in and, in 1972, declared the death penalty sentencing procedures unconstitutional. They went back and forth on this again for the next several years (the seventies, you know? Weird time) and the latest on that front is: Yes, you can still get the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Good news for Hanna’s mom is that, in 1990, the method of capital punishment was changed from electrocution to lethal injection. Silver linings, people.

At the end of the episode, Hanna looks like a sad, pattern-crazy pilgrim.

9. Nigel Wright (last week: not ranked)
Two things about Nigel:

  1. The name “Nigel” just makes me think of Bogey Lowenstein, who threw the big party in 10 Things I Hate About You, going to answer his door and saying, “That must be Nigel with the brie!” And then Julia Stiles table dances and pukes everywhere. On the bright side, Heath Ledger (R.I.P.) holds her hair back and they are on a swing set and, as puking scenes go, it’s really quite romantic.
  2. If you think Nigel looks familiar, this is because you are sharper than Spencer’s pencils on the first day of school: He was Jenna’s date to Wilden’s funeral in the season premiere. Sidebar: Is bringing dates to funerals a thing now? If you don’t get invited with a plus-one, is it ever kosher to ask? What if the host says you can only bring someone if you’re engaged? Why are people so prejudiced against not-engaged people, anyway? Like, is your relationship not valid just because you aren’t bending to the will of society? Discuss.

10. Wilden (last week: not ranked)

Hang on: Wilden kept his porn in a stack on his bedside table? And one of the movies he watched was Lord of the G-Strings? Is that a Lord of the Rings … you know, I’m just, I’m not even going to ask. One other question: Was Wilden secretly 1,000 years old when he died? How else to explain the fact that he somehow never discovered porn on the internet?

11. Magic Mike Idiot’s Friend (last week: 11)
I thought we’d heard the last of this little bashed-in brat, but it seems MMIF is the only person in Rosewood who seeks out the aid of the authorities when something terrible happens to him. Doesn’t he know that when someone takes a baseball bat to your windshield, you don’t tell your parents, the police, and your high school principal? You tell a few of your closest friends, panic about it in secret, act strange around every adult you know, and get your own revenge on the person you think — but have no way of confirming — attacked you in the first place.

Lingering concerns: Why haven’t we heard about those mozzarella sticks from the Brew before? Did Caleb come up with that Pocahontas joke all by himself? What’s going to happen when Spencer finds out how Cece’s been spending her time away from Rosewood?

Your apartment is as messy as your police work,

-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 Enterprises