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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Mommie Dearest

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS

Well, well, well. Has the biggest villain of all been right next door this entire time? Do we have a new contender for worst parent in all of Rosewood? And what does this maybe-twist mean for the Pretty Little Power Rankings?

1. Aria (last week: 12)
Knowing Aria as we do, I was sure her road trip was going to take her on some horrible, poorly thought-out misadventure, complete with a red herring involving Aria staying at some horror-movie hotel. But no, Aria actually makes an intelligent decision even under duress and she hightails it to Syracuse, where her (invisible) dad is in residence. Then, in an even more brilliant maneuver, she manages to skip out on all the “prospective student” tours. She gets white girl wasted at a frat party, has a nonstop sexfest in a beautiful hotel (but sleeps in a bra and wraps herself in a sheet when she gets out of bed — LOL, ABC Family), and finally gets up the chutzpah to, upon her return to Rosewood, tell Ezra to GTFO out of her life. When she said, “I don’t want to see you, I don’t want to hear from you, ever,” I wrote in my notes: “This is literally the smartest Aria has ever been.” And I stand by that. She’s so smart here, she’s practically Spencer.

She also changes from her skull-and-crossbones shirt to a smiley-face shirt, in case you were wondering about her emotional state.

2. Hanna (last week: 3)
I love Hanna’s sparkly web sweater (great color, too!) and her black jeans, which could be leather if I’m supposed to believe the Marins are shelling out that kind of cash for a single pair of pants. The lace look on her date is also top-notch. Her makeup is stellar all episode long. Alas, sometimes her hair looks fantastic and sometimes, like at the end of the episode, it looks like a drunk person hacked at the pieces around her face with safety scissors. But at least we’re making style progress.

Hanna earns the second place spot for being the paragon of maturity. First of all, instead of handling her awkward kiss with Holbrook (there’s no e, it turns out; my mistake) the way teenage me would have — avoiding/ignoring the kissee until he thought I hated him so he would start avoiding/ignoring me — she walks right up to him, apologizes, and makes a cute joke: “Don’t get up, I don’t want to accidentally run into your mouth again.” Later, even though she’s only a good date about half the time to Travis, she immediately realizes she’s been a jerk and kisses him to make up for it.

She also has my favorite reaction to the news that J.D. might be A: “That’s ridiculous. How old is she? Does she even know how to text?”

3. J.D. (last week: not ranked)
Early in this episode, I said — aloud, to no one in particular unless there are ghosts haunting my apartment — “Holy shit, I will love this show forever if Jessica DiLaurentis is A.” I’m skeptical, because plot continuity is a thing to which this show is only occasionally committed. But I’m hopeful! It is possible both for this to be true and for the discovery of that truth to blow open 10 million more conspiracy theories and options for what happened to Ali, not to mention who of the oft-mentioned but rarely seen characters were involved, and how. (You know the list: Cece, Shauna, Jason, Melissa, Lucas, Wren, Jenna, etc.) Even if all J.D. did was put that dirt in Spencer’s bed, I would be amazed. And terrified.

Was she really in Spencer’s room at the end of the episode? Was Spencer hallucinating? Are we all hallucinating? Is it just her body and mind getting reacquainted? Are we all laboring under the illusion of having a self? Just something to think about.

4. Emily (last week: 2)
Emily turning in her assignment and saying “Will you make sure a real teacher gets this?” makes me the happiest. Wait, I lied: The way Shay can’t help but say “sorry” in a Canadian accent is really what makes me the happiest. This on top of the fact that she gets two of my favorite lines of the episode. First: “Mona dumped your brother. He thinks you made him do it, but really it was Ezra. Sorry, housekeeping.” And then this exchange with Hanna:

Hanna: Can I ask you something?
Emily: We don’t have any cheesy puffs. My mom thinks the orange chemicals in them will make you break out.

Unfortunately, from a character-power perspective, Emily’s world is about to crash down all around her when Paige gets outed as the one who stuck that note in Holbrook’s car. Her hair looks fantastic, though.

5. Travis (last week: 9)
Sorry your date didn’t work out, Saracen-lite! But I award this boy all of the points for asking Hanna out to dinner, in person, and using the word “date” when he did it. No “hey, you kinda maybe wanna hang out sometime?” texting for this young man! Also: He never goes Dutch on a first date. Chivalry, much like Ali, is alive and well after all.

6. Mona (last week: not ranked)
As always happens when someone starts to date a person for illicit reasons — a bet, a prank, as part of an elaborate scheme involving murder and true-crime novels — Mona fell in love with her mark. And then she broke up with him “to protect him,” 
which is definitely not a thing anyone could see coming.

It’s so funny that Emily and Hanna have no idea why Mona would be into Mike, just because they have “he’s our friend’s kid brother” goggles on. Uh-duh: Mona is into Mike because Mike is hot. Maybe the Liars are just confusing all the secondary characters on their show? Friendly reminder, ladies: The girl that you blinded is Jenna.

7. Veronica Hastings (last week: 10)
I’m torn, friends. Veronica is not taking this parenting thing lightly, and I admire that. But in what alternate universe is isolating Spencer from her friends and her totally stable, supportive, and understanding boyfriend going to help her get back on the normal track? The fastest way to drive a person insane is to cut them off from the outside world entirely while forcing them to chug liquid salad. If I remember correctly, the adults in Rosewood already tried to keep their Liars apart, and it completely backfired.

I do like this: “It’s about a quarter past sarcasm, Spencer.” Tell it like it is, Veronica.

8. The most stereotypical manic pixie rebound boy Aria could possibly have met on this trip (last week: not ranked)
Scruffy. Wears a leather jacket. Is named Riley. (What is the ratio of Rileys in popular culture to Rileys in real life? Like 10,000 to 1? The girl-name equivalent of this is Zoe and/or Quinn.) Anyway: Plays guitar. Named the guitar “Antonio.” Likes to think Antonio “named himself.” Knows a great place to get pancakes. Is a legacy of Syracuse five times over but only wants to attend the Berklee College of Music. Has parents who don’t think music is something you should go to college for. Sits with Aria on a bridge straight out of Gilmore Girls. Gives her meaningful, insightful advice despite barely knowing her. Draws her that oh-so-twee “One free beat up a jerk” ticket. Kisses her good-bye on the forehead. I mean. I just. I can’t.

9. Spencer (last week: 4)
So I guess we’re just leaning all the way into this addiction and withdrawal story line? Ordinarily I would find this irritating because it’s so out of step with the actual quantity of drugs we saw Spencer consume — not that many! And not for very long! — but at least it’s not a weird after-school-special detour that takes us away from the real reasons we are all watching this show (in no particular order, we all know those reasons are: shiny hair, ridiculous outfits, gorgeous boys of indeterminate ages, murder/mayhem, scarily accurate understanding of teen girl power dynamics and frenemy cruelty, Ashley Marin). Spencer’s running/shovel hallucination — blood splattered ON HER FACE — is amazing.

Ezra thinks our resident Ravenclaw tried to kill Ali. You know what? Ali sounds like she was/is the worst human in the history of humanity. If Spencer tried to kill her, that’s horrible (from, like, a morality POV) but also fantastic (story-wise, which is what we really care about) and, given the kind of crap Ali’s being pulling on these girls for years — she was, by all accounts, an emotionally manipulative psychopath who used her popularity-fueled power to be a blonde, bite-size weapon of mass destruction — the idea that anyone wanted to take a shovel to her skull is 100 percent believable.

10. Officer Holbrook (last week: 9)
You’re a police officer. I get that it’s your job to notice clues and stuff, but it’s way outside your job description to pick up on the fact that Travis is into Hanna. Now, if you want to swing by her house and fall in love with a one Ashley Marin, we can have a conversation. Until then, Holbrook: Keep your hands where I can see them.

11. Magic Mike Montgomery (last week: not ranked)
Poor broken-hearted Mike! Looks to me like someone could use a little “prospective students weekend at Syracuse,” wink, wink.

12. Ezra (last week: 13)
So I don’t want to dwell on pesky issues like “plausibility,” but I can’t help myself. If Ezra just gave back his full advance to his publisher, how exactly was he funding his surveillance operation on a public school teacher’s salary? No way in hell Ezra didn’t spend that novel check the second he got his hands on it to plant hidden cameras all over Rosewood, set up his spy central den, pay rent on that Ravenswood hideout, and on and on.

Another thing: would it kill Ezra to just point Aria to the important discovery in his manuscript instead of being such a dick and making her read the entire thing? Dude, she’s not dating you anymore. She doesn’t have to pretend to like your book. I bet he’ll be back in town next week hoping she has notes for him. “I just wanted to get your take, if you have some time to talk.”

13. Dean, Spencer’s counselor (last week: not ranked)
Why in the name of inappropriate make-out partners would Veronica think it was a good idea to put this hot, maybe twentysomething-year-old guy in the vicinity of her teenage daughter at this especially unstable time in her life? How many times have we seen Spencer hook up with some just-a-bit-too-old man for no reason at all, except that he was around and she was bored? Come on, Veronica. You should know better.

Lingering concerns: How many times does Hanna have to say things like “I just hope nothing crazy happens between now and then” before she realizes she’s asking for trouble? Do we even know why she had to ditch last period? Who sings that cover of “White Wedding”?

I was so comfortable kicking my drug habit,

-J

PLL fans who’ve read the books: Keep your spoiler-filled knowledge to yourselves! TV talk only, both below and on Twitter, please and thank you.

Photo: Adam Taylor/Disney