Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Pretty Little Liars Recap: Come Hell or High Water

If the definition of insanity really is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result,” it’s everyone but Mona who deserves to get shipped off to Radley this week. Apparently our teen detectives can’t go too long without one of these suspiciously squeaky-clean (yet Solo cupfilled) parties where the only form of adult supervision is one of the Liars’ indeterminately-aged love interests. In a shocking twist, Emily’s birthday party does not go as planned and in fact serves as the setting for the latest attempted/almost/actual murder in Rosewood. Does anyone come out on top when it seems all our Liars are making decisions that are bonkers, boring, or both? Let’s find out in this week’s Pretty Little Power Rankings!

1. Aria (last week: 6)
Aria’s outfit, like dockworker Tommy and Gina from the diner, is halfway there. The blue striped maxi dress is lovely and as always I endorse the leather jacket. However, the giant black belt? Why, Aria? And if we’re being picky, I’m not really sold on that jacket and that dress together. Then again, last week Aria was wearing a giant comic book with shoulder pads. So, progress.

I love that Aria was so scandalized by the suggestion that she and Martial Arts Jake hooked up. “No! He slept on my couch!” Aria, you had sex with your English teacher. You don’t get to be all “Who, me??” when people throw those kinds of accusations around. Also: Maybe don’t use “Spencer is going to help me study for history” as your alibi. Everyone knows the only class offered at Rosewood High is English and that, even if this hypothetical history class existed, Aria would never study for it.

Aria is such a textbook passive-aggressive jerk at the party that I want to crawl through the TV and slap her across the face. She gets mad at Martial Arts Jake for showing up at the party — a party to which Aria did not invite him, a party Aria failed to mention because she told MAJ she had “family movie night” — with another girl, who she proceeds to mock for the inexcusable crimes of being blonde, tall, and attractive. Dear Aria: Remember that time you had the opportunity to date MAJ and it didn’t work out, not because, as you suggest at the end of this episode, your life is too complicated, but because you had negative zero chemistry and MAJ made dumb jokes about black-and-white movies? And it is totally unclear how old MAJ even is? I get that he has the chiseled abdominals of Gaston but Aria, every single male in Rosewood has a stomach like that! I bet even the baby boys have tiny six-packs under their onesies. It’s just that kind of town.

Aria proceeds to guilt MAJ into coming over again — isn’t her dad supposed to be home? Because of “family movie night”? Byron, come out, come out wherever you are! Help your teenage daughter make better choices! Yet even though I approve of essentially nothing Aria does in this entire episode, I can’t pretend that she doesn’t display the only quality that matters in these rankings: power.

2. Mona (last week: 2)
Mona confesses in what is just the most ABC Family interrogation I’ve ever seen. She’s got magazine-perfect hair, the police officer has to ask questions that include the term “the Halloween party,” (sort of disappointed he didn’t have to say “the Halloween Mystery Train” but I guess I can’t have it all), and the “harsh” lighting is super flattering. Mona attempts to connect plot threads that I never really understood in the first place and, maybe in the interest of consistency, continue to make no sense to me now. Wilden knew that Mona knew that Wilden killed Garrett which left her no choice but to kill Wilden? Whatever you say, crazy girl! She sounds like Kaylie from 30 Rock messing with Jack’s brain by explaining her convoluted social circle. (“It’s FAT Vicky, you idiot!”)

When Mona goes back to Radley, her hair is all slick-straight again; never a good sign. She looks weirdly satisfied to be returning to her old stomping grounds. Question: Why would Mona be sent back to Radley after she told a police officer that she used to break out of Radley all the time? Is law enforcement just throwing their hands up at this one?

3. Hanna (last week: 3)
Let’s relive this moment:
Mrs. Hastings:
Did you put Mona up to this?
Spencer:
Of course not! Mom, we would never do anything that stupid.
Hanna:
[blank stare]

Atta girl, Han.

Later, Hanna says “I think Mona was just trying to help.” There is absolutely no context in which this would even be remotely plausible.

When Hanna finds out her mom’s bail is posted at $1 million, there’s this brief, beautiful moment in which I think: Maybe PLL is going in a Breaking Bad direction, and Hanna will find a chemistry teacher (she’ll have to go to another town because chemistry is not offered at Rosewood), take an RV to the desert (or Amish country? I don’t know; it’s Pennsylvania, she’ll figure it out) and get to work making money the old-fashioned way: By cooking the purest crystal meth on the market. But instead she just goes to this campground — character continuity! — and cries about it over the phone to her basically useless dad while within earshot of Pastor Ted. Which means Pastor Ted is back in our lives again, I guess. That’s … thrilling.

4. The girl at the party who was trying to make a bong out of a teapot (last week: not ranked)
Would’ve made things more interesting, at least! I like her industriousness. Oh my gosh, is she “A”?

5. Martial Arts Jake (last week: 7)
Seriously, how old is MAJ supposed to be? Why is he at a high school party? I shall reward a Chuck Bass GIF to whoever can provide an age for MAJ and support said claim with evidence from the show.

MAJ makes a little navigation pun before a MAJor makeout session (two can play the pun game, Karate Kid) but I refuse to accept this as proof that MAJ is not the bland simpleton he appears to be. This is just the writers throwing him a bone in gratitude for that shirtless scene.

6. Hanna’s mom (last week: 13)
Welcome home, Ashley Marin! Guess we’ll never find out if she had to make shower shoes out of maxipads while holed up in prison. (Or make them out of duct tape, if she’s smart.) Poor Ashley, you can’t drink and you can’t leave your house, but don’t worry: You have Pastor Ted to come have platonic dinner playdates with you and your third wheel/daughter to keep you company.

Does she really say to Pastor Ted, “Want to come in for some pie?” I don’t care if you are, as Ashley is, actually holding a pie in your hands; it’s still kind of a slutty thing to say.

7. Spencer (last week: 1)
Spencer is sort of a non-factor this week, but I feel obligated to point out that it’s just not okay for her and Aria to make “Look who’s back in town!” and “So nice to see you!” remarks at Jenna’s expense, given that, you know, they were responsible for blinding Jenna in the first place. I’m no expert on Post-Blinding Someone In A Not-Accidental Accident Etiquette, but my gut tells me it’s poor form.

8. Maggie and Malcolm (last week: not ranked)
Maggie’s presence in this episode resulted in quite the emotional rollercoaster for this recapper. It went a little something like this:

  1. Maggie tells Ezra that she is going to Washington for some graduate program thingy and she will be bringing their formerly-secret-spawn along with her. I think YES MAGGIE AND MALCOLM WILL NO LONGER BE ON THIS SHOW! Farewell, plot device! I hardly yet knew ye!
  2. Ezra and Maggie have this fight and Ezra is all “why doesn’t Malcolm stay with me while you apartment hunt? Or maybe forever?” which makes me feel like WHY GOD WHY?
  3. Maggie plays the “Malcolm needs his mother” card so I think, PHEW, no child left behind on Maggie’s watch! I calm myself by muttering:This is over. I have won. We all have won.
  4. Ezra shows up at Spencer’s house to ask Veronica Hastings for a family lawyer. Wait, WHAT? Not only are these people-as-plot-devices going to continue to be an integral part of this program, but I’m going to have to bear witness to the “long and expensive” custody battle that results from their presence?
  5. Mrs. Hastings says, “Are you sure you want to pursue this?” This is because Spencer’s mom understands that I’m going to have to recap this show forever and ever.
  6. Ezra says he’s sure because he cares not for my happiness. Silver lining: Maggie’s Daisy Buchanan hairstyle. Cute! I bet they’ll love it in Seattle.

9. Ezra (last week: 8)
Ezra will lose all the points if his next move involves keeping M-squared front and center in this program.

10. Pastor Ted (last week: not ranked)
I should care about Pastor Ted because he paid Ashley Marin’s bail but honestly he’s so boring I just can’t. Pastor Ted is like Ashley’s Riley Finn.

11. Emily (last week: 9)
Happy birthday?

12. Paige (last week: not ranked)
Paige and Emily are one of this show’s most believable, intimate, genuinely supportive and understanding couples. So why doesn’t Paige know better? More to the point: Why would Emily want a surprise party at a lake house, when literally every terrible thing that has ever happened to her has involved either surprises, lake houses, or surprises AT lake houses?

Paige tries to do a nice thing by setting Emily up with this Olympic trainer guy. I suppose she is also trying to do a nice thing with her accessories, but long skinny chains with lots of crosses on the end aren’t doing anything for anyone, Paige. Is it a subliminal message? A hail Mary to save your relationship, dangling from your earlobes? (This religion shout-out reminds me, what happened to Lucas, Rosewood’s de facto Seth Cohen?)

During the breakup scene — which is legitimately sad, by the way — Paige says, “3,000 miles is a long way. Four years is a long time. A lot can happen.” And she is crying, probably because the pain of being the only person on this show who is mature and actually thinks about the future and how real life is bound to unfold is too much for her to bear.

13. Jenna (last week: not ranked)
Every time either Jenna or Shauna talks, all I can hear is that sound Charlie Brown’s teacher makes. And you’re not going to make it anywhere near the top of the PLPR if you wind up facedown in a lake with blood on the back of your head.

Lingering concerns: Who were all those people at Emily’s birthday party? Weren’t these girls social pariahs like 30 seconds ago? How many more shows are going to use “I love it” before Icona Pop’s breakout single can retire and rest in pop culture peace? Is “Cece Drake” the fakest name that ever faked?

I feel safe when I’m with you,

-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