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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Open Mike (Montgomery) Night

Something is rotten in the fictional metropolis of Rosewood. Hanna’s mom, who once sat atop the Pretty Little Power Rankings, has landed in prison, taking with her the sliver of hope that Hanna will ever know what it feels like to be parented well. Meanwhile, Magic Mike Montgomery, who as recently as last week was someone I dismissed as being totally forgettable/on the same level as Chris Brody and Bobby Draper, is hitting a home run (into somebody’s windshield). I hope you’re ready to expect the unexpected in this week’s Pretty Little Power Rankings.

1. Magic Mike Montgomery (last week: 4)
Everybody hold on to your hoodies because Magic Mike has risen — like a phoenix from the ashes, like smoke from a fire started by Wilden (or was it Melissa? Or “A”? I mean, whatever), like frizz from our hair in this god-awful humidity — to the peak of the PLPR. Hope you’re not afraid of heights, Magic Mike, because you’re the top! You’re the Coliseum, you’re the — oh wait, no one in Rosewood knows the words to that song because everyone skipped out on Anything Goes!

Magic Mike falters when his idiot friend (more on him later) calls Aria a slut, but then this little brother rallies, vows to protect Aria, and then pulls a total Carrie Underwood and bashes the shit out of his idiot friend’s car with a baseball bat.

Things I thought I’d see before this day include, but are not limited to: a pun-free headline about Anthony Weiner, a Michael Bay movie that passes the Bechdel test, a week in which no major news publication uses the word millennial. Yet here we are, readers. It’s, well, magic.

2. Shauna (last week: not ranked)
Shauna seems to know a few things that our Liars don’t. She shows up in Ravenswood and manages to escape in Jenna’s car without Spencer and Toby ever finding out what she was doing there. She plays the violin like the devil plays the fiddle. The Liars are always playing defense; Shauna’s at least one move ahead.

The only real weakness of Shauna here is her storyline. So she switches schools mid-semester to take a spot left vacant by Emily, as if there aren’t any students at Rosewood who would get first dibs on the opening? Shauna went to private school; hadn’t her parents already paid tuition? And why would they let her just drop out of what I have to assume is a somewhat prestigious school in order to attend Rosewood, where it appears the only class anyone attends with any regularity is English? Who knows? Just keep swimming.

3. Spencer (last week: 2)
My five favorite things about Spencer this week:

  1. Her ability to rattle off the definition of ballistics.
  2. “I’m like a human bulldozer. I’m even bulldozing your apology right now.” Hmmm, that sounds familiar … oh, that’s right, because Spencer is just like Leslie Knope: human steamroller!
  3. “Mo Mona, mo problems.”
  4. She leads Emily on a Sorkin walk-and-talk through the hallway. I have a feeling Spencer watched all of Sports Night and the first few seasons of The West Wing but skipped right over Studio 60 and don’t even get her started on Newsroom. Emily maybe caught some of The Social Network on TV one time.
  5. Her suggestion for why Detective Tanner is at the Brew’s open mike night: “Maybe she’s into slam poetry?”

4. Emily (last week: 1)
When Hanna tells Emily that she could be in for up to seven years in prison, Emily goes “Seven years for what?!” Gee, I don’t know, Emily, maybe because duh, Hanna was (1) carrying a concealed firearm for which (2) she didn’t have a permit and also she (3) was trying to bury said gun on a college campus where (4) she was a minor among minors consuming alcohol and (5) remember that part where she has a GUN.

SMH. This girl.

But then Emily waltzes back in with the best hair and snappy lil' one-liners like “Mona may not be A but she is definitely still a B,” and she wins heart all over again. Is it just me, or has Emily’s hair gotten progressively more awesome as Hanna’s devolves into tatters? Is there a finite amount of hair excellence in the universe of Rosewood? Is great hair neither created nor destroyed; it only changes form?

Emily’s attempt to outwit “A” on a technicality predictably backfires. And why Em’s delivery method of choice is just leaving a burned CD on Tanner’s desk with a note that says “WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO WILDEN? WATCH THIS” is anyone’s guess. We’re just leaving incriminating footage of crime scenes on people’s desks now? If Em burned it onto a CD, couldn’t she just … e-mail it to Detective Tanner instead? Can’t Caleb help her do that so the e-mail wouldn’t get traced back to her? Sigh.

5. Mona (last week: not ranked)
Mona and Caleb probably spent the vast majority of this episode standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom, passing a hair straightener back and forth and dishing about Hanna.

6. Ravenswood (last week: not ranked)
What in the name of my Instagram filter is happening to this footage of Toby and Spencer — oh, hey! It’s a mini-backdoor pilot for Ravenswood! Wait, is the entire show going to be shot in this semi-Pleasantville palette? Because, eh. It makes it so jarring when that creepy dude who is trimming the hedges (or painting the roses red, for all I know) busts out a cell phone.

PSA: Ravenswood is this sorta-spinoff that is going to star Caleb, who I imagine will break up with Hanna once he tires of being the person in his relationship with prettier hair.

7. Aria (last week: 9)
Aria looks so pretty in that dress — I’m even in favor of the blue pouffy skirt, for some reason. It’s very Sex and the City credits. Maybe I’m getting soft as the summer swelters on — so I guess I don’t care that it makes absolutely no sense for her to be wearing this tailored and grown-up-looking frock to just hang out at the Brew with her friends.

I like when Aria has her clever writing brain on (“Just because Faulkner used run-on sentences doesn’t mean you get to”), but I keep getting distracted by how terrible the lighting is in Casa Montgomery. Plus points for staying strong while dealing with Ezra on what appears to be the same exact staircase where all their important conversations take place.

8. Mrs. Grunwald (last week: not ranked)
Grunwald has the dubious honor of being the first person on this entire show to claim to not have known Ali. Usually you meet somebody around these parts and, like, 30 seconds later, you find out that Ali met with that person during her last 24 hours on this Earth (that is, assuming she is actually dead). Not this creepy lady!

Also: I spent the entire episode thinking her name sounded really familiar, and then I realized that’s because I thought it was Mrs. Grimoire, which is that Vampire Diaries spellbook thing.

9. Toby (last week: not ranked)
So I wasn’t paying super-close attention to that whole “somebody stole the stuff out of the RV” story line, and now it’s like when that one part you skimmed is the one that’s the essay question on the final exam and you’re like SORRY, twelfth grade English teacher, but that chapter about whaling is like literally the least important part of Moby Dick. As it turns out, the RV keeps coming up in the Liars’ conversations. If anyone would like to explain to me the significance of the RV exactly, I shall reward you with a Blair Waldorf GIF.

Anyway, I like Toby for the following exchange:

Toby: I’m not driving back to Rosewood with Low Blood Sugar Spencer. That’s worse than No Caffeine Spencer.
Spencer: Wow, your girlfriend sounds awesome.

I like-like him for saying this: “You’re following a lead that came from a bird.” Someone has to speak truth to power on this show.

10. Ezra (last week: not ranked)
Way to show up, Ezra! I approve. The only problem, really, is that he’s not supposed to be the guy who shows up anymore. Now he is the guy who looks longingly at his ex through windows.

11. Magic Mike’s Idiot Friend
Even before MMIF proves himself to be your run-of-the-mill sophomoric scumbag, he demonstrates his idiocy by bringing to Aria a paper that cites both Wikipedia and Cliff’s Notes as sources.

Later, when Aria finds out he’s been spreading some dirty little rumors about how they hooked up (when, in reality, it was more of a Glen-kissing–Tami Taylor kind of incident), he calls her out on her secret relationship with Ezra: “Everybody knows you and Mr. Fitz weren’t just Scrabble buddies. How many points for the word slut?”

Hang on a second, MMIF. You know how they say “there are no stupid questions”? Well, they are incorrect, because that’s a stupid question. It depends where the word slut appears on the Scrabble board. If it’s just on a bunch of blank squares, it’s a very low-value word. Four measly points. It’s hard to capitalize on a bunch of one-point letters; then again, the s could be used to pluralize a high-value word, which would make the word slut quite valuable indeed. So a slut can have value, but only by association. Apply that aphorism to your real life at your own risk.

Back to MMIF: I’m torn here. On the one hand, I was not expecting MMIF to be such a dick. On the other hand, this is super-riveting television. I’m even into Ezra swooping in; it’s all very “My Boyfriend’s Back,” except for the part where he and Aria aren’t together anymore and he has to call her “Miss Montgomery” to assert their teacher-student distance.

12. Hanna (last week: 6)
Hanna’s parents take away both her cell phone and her Internet. I can’t decide what part of this is more shocking to me: that no one’s parents have ever done this before, or that Hanna had a landline telephone in her room that she could use when her cell phone was confiscated.

13. Hanna’s parents (last week: Hanna’s mom: 10, Hanna’s dad: not ranked)
Hanna’s mom is in prison. Hanna’s dad, who is the worst dad in Rosewood — as we have learned, it is incredibly difficult to be the worst father in Rosewood—is trapped in his ex-wife’s house with a kid he barely bothers to parent anymore. And both of them are clueless enough to think Hanna is enrolled in physics.

Lingering concerns: Is Magic Mike old enough for us to talk about how attractive he is? Isn’t it in bad taste for Emily to call Shauna “Jenna’s seeing eye dog,” given that Emily was one of the people responsible for blinding Jenna in the first place? Does Rosewood High even offer physics?

You bark, I bite,

-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: ABC Family