Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Pretty Little Liars Recap: Need for Speed

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS - "Free Fall"

Like Carrie Mathison’s slip-up about Brody’s choice of tea, it’s Ezra’s accidental reveal that he knew Spencer saw “a tattoo and a motorcycle helmet” that tips Aria off to the truth. Should we dwell on the fact that it took Aria a few back-to-back forevers to come to this incredibly obvious conclusion? Yes, we should, and we will — at the bottom of the Pretty Little Power Rankings. Because the top of the PLPR this week belongs to an actual grown-up.

1. Mrs. Hastings (last week: not ranked)
We all know that Spencer’s Adderall use, while not “under control” in the strictest sense of the term, is something she could manage if her best friend weren’t dating a serial liar and possible serial killer/tormenter. But when I see real stand-up parenting happening in Rosewood — a rare phenomenon in these parts — I must show gratitude. Veronica doesn’t handle the drug reveal perfectly: Her anger outweighs her confusion and she jumps far too quickly from “are you okay?” to “this won’t look good on your résumé.” But she doesn’t out Spencer to her doctor/doctor’s receptionist, she lets Toby come by to say hello, she wears these great, Olivia Pope—style power dresses, and she does not sit idly by while her beloved daughter develops a drug dependency.

Good luck at Round Robin, Veronica. Not that you need it.

2. Hanna
It’s really a statement about Hanna’s poor choice of a statement outfit (as in, attempting to wear a statement necklace with a statement jacket over a statement dress) that, even next to shower-sandal Spencer, it was Miss Marin who looked the most like she’d gotten dressed in the dark while drunk.

Hanna asks why the Liars would “drop a bomb” on Aria right before she has class, as if anyone in this universe cares at all about class. Duh, Hanna. Cover for her. Isn’t that what you Liars do? (How is that a thing, by the way? Did that work in your high schools? Because I used to cut all the time, and you couldn’t have a friend “cover for you.” You had to wait until you had a temp, or gym, or a temp for gym, and make a dash for the student parking lot.)

Later, though, she has this hilarious conversation with Emily:
Hanna:
Are you gonna eat that?
Emily:
Yeah, I told you that, like, five seconds ago. [Gives in, hands Hanna the cheese stick under duress.]
Hanna:
Sorry, I get extra-hungry when I’m nervous.
Emily:
I thought it was when you were sad.
Hanna:
[duh face] I get sad when I’m nervous.

As is becoming the trend on this show, Hanna gets all the best one-liners. These include, but are not limited to “Are you a speed freak?” and “Tell her to get closer to the smushed fries.”

3. Spencer’s wig (last week: not ranked)
Someone at PLL has definitely been watching The Americans.

4. Mona (last week: 7)
I like her little Breakfast at Tiffany’s look, her winged eyeliner, and even her overdone updo, because such devotion to hairspray seems very Mona-esque to me. Plus, I approve of anyone who rhymes-with-gloves Magic Mike Montgomery.

5. Toby (last week: 1)
What is happening with Toby’s hair? It’s a mousse-filled, gravity-defying disaster. Still, he has a winning personality — “maybe even throw a massage in there if you finish all your lasagna” — and he got Spencer this so sweet and lovely Scrabble S necklace. And unlike that douchey guy from the locker room way back when, Toby understands the rules of Scrabble; Spencer’s S is worth exactly one point.

6. Magic Mike Montgomery (last week: not ranked)
Toby, please take notes from Magic Mike’s hair. Done, but not too done. It does not rise above his head like new bread in the oven. It is not so stiff with product that a girl, if she were so inclined, couldn’t run her fingers through it.

Also, Edward Scissorhands is a pretty good choice for a teens-night-in date movie.

7. Emily (last week: 8)
Like I’m supposed to believe Emily knows what an altered state is.

8. Ezra (last week: 5)
To begin: No one says “amphetamines.” Is there a rule against saying Adderall on TV?

I, like Spencer, can respect a proper plot put in motion. Framing a one-time Radley patient for whatever the 2014 equivalent of “hysteria” would be? Not too bad, Fitz. But oh man, am I ever unimpressed by what I guess we’re supposed to believe is the “true” story of Ezra and his relationship with Ali.

First of all, the actress playing Ali turned 18 two days ago, and even with all the magic hair and makeup can provide, still looks about 13 years old. So the idea that Ezra would believe an even younger Ali who “lied about her age” was anywhere in the ballpark of legal strains credulity far beyond the snapping point. This whole “he was writing a true crime book” about Ali makes even less sense; the Ezra we’ve met wanted to be a novelist, not a journalist. That he slept with Aria to be “a good reporter who did anything for the story” demonstrates such a nonexistent understanding of what good reporting entails, I can only think Ezra graduated from the Zoe Barnes University of Sleeping With Your Sources and never read, say, an actual newspaper, to see how real reporting is done.

Unless Ezra’s got a backup plan with Mona — I assume this will involve making her break up with Magic Mike, because all evil plots on this show require perfectly happy couples to abandon each other in the name of “protection” — he’s running out of options. Plus his girlfriend dumped him. And cried. A lot.  

9. A ridiculous amount of cliché plot devices (last week: not ranked)
Of course Spencer’s bag spills — whoops! — out drops Wren’s prescription pad, which A planted on her. Of course Spencer calls the doctor and pretends to be her mom, so when the doctor’s office calls back, Mrs. Hastings finds out what she’s up to. Of course Emily tells Hanna “there’s nothing to be scared of” right before they walk into the reptile fun house; she may as well have just gone ahead and said “nothing could possibly go wrong.” Of course Aria uses the phrase “Is that all I was to you?” and Ezra swears that everything he told her was a lie, except the fact that he loved her, dialogue practically plagiarized from Ten Things I Hate About You and She’s All That, to name only two. I’m not expecting Shakespeare or Faulkner or any of the other writers Aria thought would be the pass-code to Ezra’s cabin from PLL, but I’m at least expecting some plot devices other than the most obvious plot devices in Plot Device Land.

10. Spencer (last week: 3)
Gross shower sandals, Spence. She didn’t at least have Havaianas in her locker?

Spencer is a victim of one of those classic “make the lady look crazy so no one believes her truths” ploys, and because her skin is taking on a not-quite-healthy vampire sheen (hair still passes, though; even in the worst of times, the girl can work a curling iron) she gives off a cuckoo’s nest vibe. This undermines her usually unimpeachable authority and sends her tumbling to the almost-bottom of the PLPR.

I do love Spencer’s reaction to Aria saying “This is kinda like an intervention.” “Yeah, yours!” (Also, Aria, it’s not “kinda like” an intervention when a group of concerned friends confront a loved one with a drug problem. It is an intervention.) And even in her freakout, she can appreciate evil genius when she sees it. “Because he’s FREAKING A! Oh my god, this is brilliant.”

11. Aria (last week: 9)
I don’t know why the wardrobe department thought it would make sense or be aesthetically appealing for all the Liars to be dressed in metallics — a little Olympic-medal fever, maybe? I think maybe the black-and-white-striped dress underneath Aria’s gold jacket could be cute, but it’s hard to tell.

Look, I am aware that all of my questions about Aria — the ludicrousness of her actions, the unbelievable depths of her stupidity, etc. — cannot be answered by you kind, reasonable people. Basically every one of my notes about Aria this week was some all-caps question about her behavior and her choices. So here they are, mostly in lowercase so you don’t feel like I’m shouting at you:

Why the hell are she and Ezra having this conversation about Spencer’s mental health in the hallway of her school? Why is Aria conveniently forgetting all of the times on this show that A has fabricated evidence? Why would she not immediately be appalled and disgusted at Ezra for looking at Spencer’s medical history, a blatant violation of doctor-patient confidentiality, school policy, and any moral code? Why does Aria need a pass-code to get into Ezra’s cabin? Didn’t he give her a key earlier this season and call the place “our little secret”? If she needed a pass-code to get in to their hideaway, wouldn’t he have told her about it already? (Anyone wondering what B26 means, here is an explanation that will not endear you to Aria or Ezra at all.) Why is Aria looking for clues under couch cushions, seriously, how Bush League can you get? WHY WOULD SHE STAY THERE TO READ HIS ALI STORY? At least get in your car! Ughhh.

And then, perhaps her most egregious offense of all: Why would she take the pages (the only copy because, yup, there’s only one copy) of Ezra’s Ali book and hold them up in the air while stranded on a chairlift in the middle of nowhere just so they could get knocked out of her hand? Did she really need to wave the papers in the air to make a point about her commitment to reading them?

A lining as shiny as Aria’s jacket: maybe this means she and Ezra are really done for good?

12. Aria’s cryface (last week: not ranked)
Everything we thought it would be, and then some.

Lingering concerns: How do Hanna’s clothes fit Spencer? Is this a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants situation? Was there an anaconda or something loose at the zoo, or was that just a red herring (red snake)? Can anyone explain the deal with that chairlift, which was operating even though there was no snow on the ground?

The candlelight’s getting to me,

-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: Adam Rose/ABC Family