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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Mother Knows Best

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS - "The Mirror Has Three Faces" - Emily takes up residence amongst Ali's things  in "The Mirror Has Three Faces," an all new episode of ABC Family's hit original series "Pretty Little Liars," airing Tuesday, August 13th (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT). (ABC FAMILY/Ron Tom)
ASHLEY BENSON, TYLER BLACKBURN

Last week might have been Emily’s surprise party, but it was last night’s episode that delivered the real surprises: Wren is getting his villaining on, Emily is playing house in Ali’s shrine, and while you may have expected even the slightest mention of the whole “Jenna got clubbed in the back of the head by an as-yet-unnamed attacker and nearly drowned in a lake” incident, it somehow slipped every Liars’ mind! But why dwell on pesky things like plot continuity when we have our Pretty Little Power Rankings to discuss?

1. Veronica Hastings (last week: not ranked)
Mrs. Hastings is so powerful this week she’s graduated from the title of someone-else’s-something (namely, “Spencer’s mom”) and earned her rightful place, by her one true moniker, atop the PLPR. Let’s review:

Round One: Veronica vs. Wren
“I know my history with the Hastings has been a bit rocky,” says Wren, Grand Utterer of Understatements. “Not going to debate that,” snaps Veronica. This stone-cold killer. Zero fucks given. Wren tells her to be careful. Veronica tells him to GTFO of her kitchen.

Point: Veronica

Round Two: Veronica vs. Mona
This right here is the kind of battle that a power ranker such as I could wait my entire recapping career to witness and never catch. This is Ali vs. Liston level sparring, so much so that I believe somewhere, while this  tête-à-tête is taking place, a lady whippersnapper and her sociopathic boss are having an epic argument of their own. (Listen closely to this scene and you can hear the sound of a man yelling: “That’s what the money is for!”)

“I get the feeling that you make a lot of people nervous. Am I right? You know what? So do I.” Amazing. Veronica is amazing. She could drop the mike right then and walk out. The building would explode behind her as she departed like the action hero she is destined to become. Mona tries to keep her cool but pulsing through the veins of Veronica Hastings is liquid freaking nitrogen. “I have ways to see to it that you rot in a cell until your hair turns gray. You understand me?” BOOM. This her “I am the one who knocks” moment, and it is everything I dreamed it would be.

Point: Do you even have to ask?

Round Three: Veronica vs. Justice

Wren sees to it that our rock star is accused of “obstruction of justice.” All I can say is that if I were justice, I would not want to be obstructed by Veronica. Because Veronica does not lose. Veronica is made of win.

Point: TBD. But I’m not nervous. You understand me?

2. Wren (last week: not ranked)
Wren’s meet-not-so-cute with the viewers of PLL, way back when in the pilot, set him up to be one of the douchiest men alive: He made the moves on his fiancée’s kid sister. If we were reasonable people (clearly, given our astonishing attention to the details of this drama, we are not), we might have written Wren off then and there. “Begone, sluttiest tramp in Harlotville!” we could have cried at our television screens. “Take those trollop-y lips of yours back across the Atlantic this instant!”

And yet, I cheered when I saw Wren make his return to Rosewood. Maybe it’s that syncopated British speech, maybe it’s the way he looks after pulling that three-day shift at the hospital — with the loosened tie and disheveled hair, it’s all very “I’m Phineas from A Separate Peace and I just pulled an all-nighter climbing trees and frolicking on my idyllic boarding school campus” — or maybe it’s just that, unlike the guys on this show who exist so far outside the universe of the central PLL plot they may as well be orbiting a different sun (see: MAJ, Ezra, the boyfriend who took Aria’s mom such a great distance from the main story line they wound up in Austria), Wren actually participates in and contributes to the primary mystery of the show. Shocking, I know, but someone has to do it. He even bested Veronica — that is, for now. I’m sure she’ll pull through.

Then again, Wren is a medical doctor who misspelled “diagnosis.” Does he know there’s a perfectly mediocre English class at Rosewood High in which he could enroll?

3. Spencer (last week: 7)
Aria begins this episode by expressing her desire to graduate. As usual, Spencer crash lands in Aria’s fantasy with a little dose of reality: “News flash, honey: none of us are graduating.”

Spencer knows what creepy stuff parents of dead children used to do in the nineteenth century. She also knows that the lion/lamb messaging with the sheet music means “A” she and Toby should visit Dr. Palmer again — I wouldn’t have known Dr. Palmer mattered at all if he hadn’t made a cameo in the “Previously, on Pretty Little Liars” reel — and then it turns out that she can sight-read and play the piano. If Spencer were an American Girl Doll she would definitely be Samantha.

4. Mona (last week: 2)
If I knew I’d have Wren as my doctor on call, I might hightail it back to Radley, too. I wouldn’t have done whatever Mona did to her hair to get that Carrie Mathison on a bender flatness but, sure, I’d make a little field trip back to my old crazytown stomping grounds. But Mona doesn’t seem all that interested in the good doctor. “Tell your artist to take a class because this looks like Norman Rockwell sketched it with his teeth.” Who knows what Mona wants anymore, honestly. I think she just likes making chaos. It’s all very “some men just like to watch the world burn” of her. Mona is basically the Iago of Pretty Little Liars.

5. Hanna (last week: 3)
My favorite thing about Hanna’s dress is that it looks like she is trying to emulate Spencer’s style. Aren’t we all? Even though the whole pearl Peter Pan collar thing isn’t my thing, I’m into that leather belt and can still acknowledge that this is the best Hanna has looked all season.

Not that it’s going to end well because Wren was watching from afar, but I’m glad Hanna and Caleb finally got to make out and stop having couple fights in her kitchen about her mom’s prison sentence. Ah, young love.

6, Emily (last week: 11)
Continuing her streak of impeccable luck, Emily has to live inside the creepy DiLaurentis dollhouse where, unbeknownst to her, she has a roommate named Redcoat. Given Emily’s track record for always being in the wrong place at the wrong time and generally being the victim of the worst of the “A” attacks, I’m sure this is going to work out really well for her.

7. Mrs. DiLaurentis (last week: not ranked)
Why does Mrs. DiLaurentis dress like Jimmy Fallon in that “Evolution of Mom Dancing” sketch? And why is she so much nicer to Emily than we’ve ever seen her be to (Hefty) Hanna?

When she says that her husband is divorcing her, I admit that in this sort of callous way my immediate reaction was: great, yet another spousal situation I’m supposed to get invested in for no reason. But it might have been worth it just to watch Emily attempt to equate her high school breakup to the crumbling of the DiLaurentis’s 24 year marriage after the disappearance and brutal murder of their teenage daughter. Teenagers: they have so much perspective.

I know that Mrs. DiLaurentis once told her daughter—who we learned is capable of self-asphyxiation through sheer force of will—that she would let her “land face-first on the sidewalk,” and here we get another tableau of maternal kindness wherein dear JD almost smashes her daughter’s fingers in the piano. Also, Ali and Cece used to play the kind of twisted tricks on people that makes me think the real mystery of the show isn’t who killed Ali but if there’s anyone on Earth who wouldn’t have wanted to murder her.

8. Caleb (last week: not ranked)
CALEB IS THAT A RED LEATHER JACKET TAKE THAT OFF THIS INSTANT. Are you Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond The Pines? Heading off later to some Michael Jackson Impersonation Extravaganza where you will be called upon to reenact the “Thriller” video? Are you Tyler Durden? I hope you are one of the above because I am just about out of pop culture references and I still can’t get over how silly you look. And where would our friendly neighborhood vagabond get the money for a leather jacket, anyway? But I digress. I will take back my rant if this turns out to be sartorial foreshadowing and Caleb is connected to Redcoat.

I get that Caleb and Hanna are all comfortable together, but I’m not sure it’s ever okay to say to your girlfriend who used to have an eating disorder that “I thought you and carbs weren’t friends anymore.”

“You want to go to Radley and ring the bell jar?” Caleb asks, apparently because the writers had momentary brain freeze and thought Spencer was the person having this argument with Hanna. (I like Caleb! I think he’s medium-smart. But he’s a teenage boy. I don’t believe for a second that he’s intimately familiar with the works of Sylvia Plath.) Then Caleb does the unthinkable: he tells Hanna to go to the cops and tell the truth. ZOINKS. Hanna hates logic and mature reactions to difficult situations so I can’t imagine this is going to go over well with her, now or ever.

Also: You know those New York Times found haikus? I’m pretty sure Caleb produced some serendipitous poetry of his own last night:

“This enemy is

everywhere and nowhere at

the same time. I keep

 taking swings in the

dark and I’m missing. I’m just,

I’m not enough to

 keep you safe anymore.”

So it isn’t quite a haiku at the end. He was under duress! Still, I’m pretty sure he’s a better writer than Aria.

9. Toby (last week: not ranked)
You know you’re having a rough week when the doctor thinks your girlfriend is your mother.

10. Aria (last week: 1)
Why is it that Aria’s relationships go from zero to meh in 60 seconds or less? She’s been making out with MAJ for maybe ten minutes before she’s suddenly that girlfriend who cheers at all his inconveniently located sporting events even though the gym smells like feet. Speaking of feet: why would Aria wear anything but flats or sneakers to sit on a folding chair and watch MAJ get clocked in the jaw? She looks ridiculous teetering in those heels on her fake fro-yo run. Nice mint green nail polish, though.

10. Ezra (last week: 9)
Okay, deep breaths. I’m not going to think about all the time this program and, by extension, yours truly, wasted on Maggie and Malcolm. I’m not going to think about how, even when they were plot devices—which by definition implies that they had something at all to do with moving the plot forward—M&M rarely, if ever, managed to be anything but sleep-inducers transported to Rosewood from their native land of the Doldrums or do anything in any scenes that another character couldn’t have done in their stead. I’m not going to dwell on the fact that, when Ezra has his Jerry Springer “I am not the father!” moment, it becomes irrefutably clear there was no reason whatsoever to have introduced M&M into this already overcrowded cast in the first place and that they were, in fact, the storytelling equivalent of sprinting on a treadmill: an exhausting exercise that leaves us exactly where we began, except, you know, tired and sort of sweaty.

Maybe this means we’ll never have to see or hear from them again?

11. Martial Arts Jake (last week: 5)
This week, MAJ wins what I assume were the Regional Championships of MAJing. MAJing is like LARPing for men of an uncertain age. Good on you, MAJ.

Lingering concerns: How do so many people have such vivid recollections of a frat party from three years ago? This doesn’t amount to much more than shadowboxing, does it? I’m supposed to believe Cece also went to Penn? The writers do know there are other schools in Philadelphia, right?

You can call me Jessica,

-J

Photo: Ron Tom/© 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.