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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Like a Good Neighbor

When you’re one of the Liars, you just can’t trust anyone. You have a best friend who can’t stop, won’t stop implicating you in all her crimes. You have a dad who is probably a murderer and definitely a dick. You are wearing long sleeves and high necklines and autumnal makeup and you think, it must be fall! But then you realize there’s no way Veronica would be planting azaleas, which bloom in the spring, during early October. Your life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone, etc., but someone must rise to the top of the Pretty Little Power Rankings.

1. Hanna (last week: 3)
Let’s talk about Hanna’s “time for a change” look, which is basically a little bit shorter with some dark streaks underneath. I am disappointed. I thought she was going full redhead. This show could really use a redhead. I did like her blue skirt/gold belt/polka-dot scarf combo, but judging from her relapse into the shoplifting scene, Hanna’s new fashion look is going to be less “sexy, chic, teen detective” and more “Hot Topic by way of the worst options at Urban Outfitters.”

But Hanna is still the winner of the week. She interrogates Ali about the real cause of her scar. She wears great lipstick. And she says things like, “Cause of death? It was murder, duh.” And then this:

Spencer: You don’t have to pretend like she wasn’t buried in my backyard.
Emily: We know your family didn’t have anything to do with it.
Hanna: Of course not. I mean, if they killed her, they wouldn’t make a bonehead move like burying her in their own flower bed.
Aria: Hanna, that’s not helping.
Hanna (with an ‘Aria, don’t be an idiot’ face): Yes, it is.

2. Spencer (last week: 1)
Things I believe: Spencer’s curls > Spencer’s hair up until this point; Spencer should hook up with Andrew; Spencer is going to do something smart with the intel she has on her dad.

Things I do not believe: that Spencer, under any circumstances, would use the phrase “psychological selfie.” Kill those darlings, PLL writers!

3. Mona (last week: 7)
“Did somebody spit in your cornflakes this morning?” I don’t want to overdo it on the Heathers references this week (spoiler alert: There is one more in this recap) but I have to say, this PG echo of “Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?” is … lacking. Come on now, Mona! Sharpen those claws. She does a bit better by the end of the night when she tells Paige to pick a side: “You don’t get to be some sort of social Switzerland here. If you’re not with me, you’re against me.”

So in the grand tradition of losers turned popular people in television or movies, Mona dethroned an evil queen only to reign as an even more vicious dictator. Paige cites this as a huge character flaw, though considering Ali’s behavior the entire time she’s been back in town — and the entire time she was missing, and as far as we can tell, her entire life up until that point — I can’t say I have any strong arguments against making Ali’s life a living hell. Maybe karma?

4. Andrew, Spencer’s cute study buddy (last week: not ranked)
“I’d be good with a bottle or water or a snack or you making out with me.” Just get a room already, you two.

5. Veronica Hastings (last week: not ranked)
So, you married a murderer. At least you can do it in style: with those cute little finger-waves in your Karlie-length bob.

6. Emily (last week: 2)
“This is the last time,” she says to Ali, for what I highly doubt is even close to the last time.

7. Mr. Hastings (last week: 6)
“What’s the matter? Or should I say, what’s the matter now?” Or should we say, even if Papa Hastings weren’t a cold-blooded killer, he would still be a dick? Dude, stop telling the women in your house to “relax” (about anything, ever, but especially) about the murder that took place in your backyard.

Now, as you all know, I typically stay as far away from the plot as possible. Trying to follow the story line here without going insane is like trying to follow the SCOTUS hearings this week without wanting to punch five out of nine justices in the face. But this particular twist seems like something we might actually need to know for two, maybe even three whole episodes. So, a review: Right after Ali disappeared (or, in Ali-speak, “was kidnapped”), Jessica thought Spencer had something to do with it. Mr. Hastings threatened to tell Jessica’s husband about their affair and love-child, so Jessica backed off. But once the DiLaurentis divorce was final, Jessica had nothing to lose — or so she thought! And Mr. Hastings killed her, leaving the world’s most obvious and pathetic paper trail. Either this is a red herring or, just as likely, it’s the ladies of the Hastings household who are the real Ravenclaws, and the man of the house has a Slytherin heart and a Hufflepuff brain.

8. Ali (last week: 8)
Well, what have we here: The girl who used to have everyone under her perfectly manicured thumb can’t get anyone but Hanna to return her calls. Her lies are metastasizing; her stories keep getting scrambled. She has to resort to secretly recording her own medical examination just to have a record of her fake story — a story she told despite promising her friends she would tell the police what really happened — and then coerce these same friends into memorizing her bullshit script with the vague threat of “otherwise they’ll start asking questions about New York.”

“Maybe I should leave. It was stupid to think I could get a new life just by coming back from the dead.” GEE, YA THINK.

9. ABC Family–sponsored hashtags (last week: not ranked)
Oooh, I wonder if anything Ali is saying in this medical examination is true, and this is all part of an — oh, never mind, the sponsored hashtag is #Alislie.

10. Ezra (last week: 13)
Look, Ezra just had to be okay with the fact that Aria might never forgive him for writing that book. Just like this show will have to be okay with the fact that we might never forgive them for that “Ezra was writing a book the whole time” plotline.

11. Ali’s dad (last week: not ranked)
Who knows what will be revealed about this guy as the season goes on, but right now, I just want to give him a hug and a plane ticket out of Rosewood to, I don’t know, Tahiti, maybe? He can’t even bring himself to say the word rape when he talks about Ali’s medical exam. He just wants to get her out of this godforsaken devil town and make her a sandwich. Poor guy.

12. Aria (last week: 10)
What’s with that grey felt fedora? Is it supposed to symbolize Aria’s guilt, as she hides beneath this brim of woe? Doesn’t every dress code ever forbid hats at school? Also: Funerals have video now? That’s just publicly available online for whomever? Sure, why not.

I didn’t think there could be anything more boring than watching Aria babysit Malcolm (#neverforget), but then we had to watch Aria rewatch the same clip from Shauna’s funeral and we hit a new level, one more boring than I thought possible. And, holy fashion fails, what were those pants she wore to Ezra’s? White pleather? Or plastic? With gold or metallic, were those zebra stripes? I get that you’re under duress, Aria, but honey, no.

She does get in this decent zinger, though: “Hanna, you’re not spontaneous. You make a Pinterest board before you change your nail polish.”

13. Shauna (last week: not ranked)
In ordinary circumstances, I would think it’s in poor taste to power-rank a dead girl, but who even knows who is dead or alive on this show, or, better yet, what is good or bad taste according to Rosewood rules? I personally thought Hanna’s ducking of Mona’s question about Shauna — “I don’t know, I can barely remember the girl” — was great and totally plausible. It wasn’t until maybe four episodes ago that Shauna started being anything besides utterly forgettable.

14. The Scarlet Letter (last week: not ranked)
Hated it when I had to read it in high school, hated it again when I had to read it, again, in college. But I giggled when Aria read into the “meaningful” underlines and marginalia, which is all so very Heathers. I could practically hear her saying “Eskimo.” Anyway, the fact that Mona claims she loves this book is just proof that she is evil.

Lingering concerns: Do you think they shot that scene of Lucas in shadow just because he looks so, so different now and they didn’t want us to be distracted? Why does Ali sign her text messages with her name? WHY is Aria’s dad in Harrisburg with Magic Mike, and Aria’s mom presumably out of the country somewhere — are we really all just going to take a parental raincheck during this obviously über-traumatic time in this kid’s life?

Once you know something, you can’t unknow it,

—J

Photo: Adam Taylor/Disney