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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Life After Death

For a moment, at the very beginning of this episode, I thought there had to be a mistake. Ali’s back in town and I heard not one, not two, but all four of our leading Liars insist that Ali go to the police and report exactly what happened. Not “Let’s keep this a secret until we can find out what’s really going on.” Not “Don’t even tell your boyfriend something is bothering you; ‘protecting him’ is the only way and won’t have any negative impact on your relationship at all.” But: “We agreed to go to the police!” Between this stroke of brilliance — which Ali botched because Ali — and the return of both Magic Mike Montgomery and Mother of All the Years, Ashley Marin, I feel like this episode was designed with the Pretty Little Power Rankings in mind.

1. Mona (last episode: 2)
Mona’s fashion reveals that this season will make her our slicker and sharper Spencer: that braided half-up hair I bet she didn’t need Pinterest to learn, the tight navy sweater with the crisp white collar sticking out, the leather prepster belt. She’s handing out rape/kidnap whistles and getting the principal to get “special apps” on all the girls phones — Mona and I will have a talk later about feminism, victim-blaming, and the real steps to prevent crimes against women, i.e., educating men, peer intervention — and dishing out thinly veiled threats to every girl in threatening distance. To Aria: “Tell me, how is Mr. Fitz doing? Will he make a full recovery?” Via text and then IRL, to Ali: “The truth will bury you in a New York minute.” (I assume this is a reference to the weak, but still canon, Mary-Kate and Ashley cinematic adventure.) All this, and she still has time for an adorable pizza date with Magic Mike Montgomery. Mona and Mike for Rosewood Prom King and Queen, starting the campaign now. We can call them M&M if you’re into that couple-nickname thing.

Really, Mona sealed her victory this week with her perfect wink at To Have and Have Not: “It’s a whistle. You put it between your lips and blow.”

2. Emily (last week: 9)
Emily gets some unusually snappy one-liners this week — “What’s going on, why can’t I eat dinner?” — and almost everything she suggest the Liars do is, dare I say, logical. Most importantly, Emily actually pieces together some of the DiLaurentis craziness for us: Maybe Jason has been following Ali for weeks, and Jessica had been following Ali for years. “If Mrs. D. thought someone just killed her child, who else would she cover for besides her other one?” I like smart Emily!

The only mess-up on Emily’s part this week (aside from Shay’s ever-present Canadian accent; just listen to her say “tomorrow”) is the fact that she is clearly still blinded by love, or lust, or like-like, or what have you, for Alison. Well, I guess “blinded” is an inappropriate choice of words given the whole Jenna thing. But you all know what I mean.

3. Spencer (last week: 5)
Spencer is tough with Emily about landing “back on Planet Alison,” and I appreciate her wise counsel that Emily not add to Ali’s lies with more lies. There was also real, out-loud laughter in my apartment when Spencer’s reply to Emily’s “that’s why no rush” was “Sorry, you channeling your Filipino grandmother?”

4. Pepe the dog (last week: not ranked)
Aww, what a cute, fluffy, love — IS THAT A HAND PEPE DID YOU JUST DIG UP A DEAD BODY?

5. Veronica Hastings (last week: not ranked)
Listen to this sassy lady: “Don’t expect any souvenirs because all she brought back was attitude. And secrets.” It gets so much better when she talks about Melissa’s ex-honey. 

“Wren? Please, I’d rather stick a knife in the toaster.” Even under duress, Veronica is a formidable wordsmith.

6. Ashley (last week: not ranked)
I admire Ashley’s respect for the privacy of a divorcing couple, even though I think it was a little dopey of her to tell Hanna what email account she was accessing just before leaving Hanna alone with the laptop. But maybe Ashley subconsciously wanted Hanna to do that dirty work? Plus, listen to this motherly guidance right here:

Hanna, asking about cheese: Does it melt?
Ashley: All cheese melts, Hanna.

7. Magic Mike Montgomery (last week: not ranked)
Has Magic Mike always been this tall? I know Lucy Hale is teeny-tiny, but baby brother also appears to have had a bit of a growth spurt, and also a shoulder-broadening spurt, and in general just all the spurts you want your boys to have around this age. He is not convinced by Ali’s bogus cover story. “She’s tough. I’m kinda surprised she didn’t kill the creep with her bare hands.” He reveals to Aria that, when she speaks at a normal volume, he can hear her through the door because it’s “made of wood, not plutonium.” He’s just the right amount of persistent with Mona; his response to her claim that the girls either use the whistles and apps or get full-time bodyguards is all, “I’d apply for that job if you wouldn’t mind me being around that much.”

One thing: In that first scene in Aria’s room, is he wearing Adidas workout pants? Like the swish-swish kind from the '90s? I suppose this is proof, questionable-fashion-taste-wise, that he and Aria are related.

8. Jason (last week: not ranked)
“I need to drop something off with a friend.” Okay, Vaguey McVaguerson, that’s going to go over well with your dad who just got his missing-and-presumed-dead daughter back less than 24 hours ago. I see Jason has been getting his hairstyle inspiration from Matt Damon circa 1997.

9. Aria (last episode: 3)
Girl is struggling with her new identity as a murderer, although oddly this does not seem to have done as big a number on her as the “Ezra was lying to me” revelation did, which I guess is in character enough. Her arc tonight is a little dull and useless (classical-music-as-PTSD-trigger has been done before), but it did remind me that Emily killed that guy that time. The more you know!

10. Toby (last week: not ranked)
Are we really supposed to believe Toby went to London — population: 8.3 million — to find Melissa and that he succeeded in finding her hideout? Whatever, anyway, that was a cute enough sex scene; you know things are really getting hot and heavy when Spencer is still wearing a bra and a tank top. Also: LOL, that hair.

11. A Rosewood High education (last week: not ranked)
Ashley, on Hanna’s secret-keeping: This one is right up there with the Manhattan Project.
Hanna: What?

12. Ali’s dad (last week: not ranked)
His sadness seems genuine, which makes me extra-sad because you know we’re one week away from him being Suspect No. 1 in the case of Jessica DiLaurentis Was Buried in the Yard, and two weeks away from the show trying to convince us that he’s been A all along.

13. Ali (last week: 4)
Bus pulls into Rosewood. Everyone gets off the bus. Ali hesitates, turns around, and literally tries to get back on the bus. She didn’t say anything in that brief moment, but if I were to add dialogue into this little moment of treachery, it would probably go something like, “Sorry for ruining your lives before, during, and after my disappearance, also sorry I am basically the reason Aria is a murderer now, great catching up, kthxbai.”

Then she says to Holbrook, “I think you’ve been looking for me.” You don’t get brownie points for understatement, Alison.

Ali proceeds to screw over all of her friends and possibly her family members, not to mention the sometimes-hardworking police officers of Rosewood, by totally abandoning the plan she and the Liars agreed to on that bus ride back from New York. And can we talk about her elaborate lie? She was kidnapped and held hostage for two years? Except also every now and then she slipped out and went back into captivity and …? Ali, you’ve had approximately 23 months to work out a cover story (minus the month since the Liars have known she was back in town, at which point Ali was distracted with her usual sociopathery) and that’s the best you can do? I expected more from such a famously manipulative psycho. Looks like someone is losing her touch.

Lingering concerns: Remember when we used to sneak out here, and our biggest problem was how to eat peanut butter with braces? Can anyone tell me what was going on with Hanna’s pants — were they, like, bleached? Tie-dye? Is Ali just going full Sarah Manning with that hoodie now?

Going to hell is easy,
—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: Gilles Mingasson/Disney Enterprises