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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Friends in Low Places

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS - "Scream For Me" - Alison moves in with Hanna, which pushes Hanna further down a dark path in "Scream for Me," an all-new episode of ABC Family's hit original series "Pretty Little Liars," premiering Tuesday, July 29th (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT). (ABC FAMILY/Eric McCandless)TROIAN BELLISARIO, SHAY MITCHELL

The Liars have done some truly unforgivable things to one another. Yet, somehow, the one grudge everyone is able to hold is the one against Hanna, who made a completely understandable slip — while drunk! — that wouldn’t have even been an issue if Ali hadn’t double-crossed her rescuers and insisted on perpetuating a very complicated and pointless lie about a kidnapping that never happened. Good thing I don’t write the Pretty Little Logic Rankings.

1. Ali (last week: 10)
I could almost handle it when this little Abigail Williams wannabe toyed with every cop and Liar (and lying cop) in Rosewood. Almost. But to turn a fake A loose in the sacred ground of Ashley Marin’s kitchen? To reenlist Noel Kahn, which is probably going to require me to keep track of who Noel is and why he’s important? To use an overused phrase: I can’t even. But I must acknowledge power where I see it, and so it is my grave duty as your Power Ranker to place Ali atop the heap this week. Well, it worked, didn’t it.

2. Ashley (last week: not ranked)
The PLL gods have heard our cries: Ashley Marin returns! Joyous as I feel at her presence, I admit I’m conflicted about her behavior. She is appalled that Ali “has no support system at all” and yet she is surprisingly hands-off about her own daughter’s steady spiral into alcoholism. I get that, in Ashley’s mind, Ali is dealing with some kidnapping-torturing-etc.-PTSD, but that’s no reason to let her use the bath salts when Hanna has asked, like, a million times. Still, Ashley the Lionhearted sticks up for Ali when Lieutenant Tanner tries to “treat the victim like a criminal” (she can only work with the information she has, friends) and calls bullshit on the entire Rosewood Police Department: “There is a predator out there and you have done nothing, NOTHING, to make anyone feel any safer … You need to catch this psycho before he strikes again.” Unfortunately for us all, the psycho is Ali. 

3. Toby (last week: not ranked)
To Spencer’s “Why would you do that without telling me?” re: his decision to enroll in the Harrisburg Police Academy: “Probably because I anticipated this warm and encouraging response.” Also, “I thought the uniform was a turn-on.” Toby raises a valid point — “The cops in this town are either bungling or corrupt. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have someone inside that building who actually cares?” — and then, in the same breath, he totally ruins it by saying, “Someone who has access to all those police records?” Toby has not even set foot inside Cop Class, and he is already envisioning a future wherein he steals confidential files, evidence, and the like, and brings them to his girlfriend’s house.

4. Emily (last week: 3)
We should probably petition to have the name of this show changed to Pretty Little Fake Teenagers Who Are Terrible Liars. Emily couldn’t be more obvious with her “when Hanna’s drunk, she says her grandfather invented the paperclip” bit if she’d just gone all-in with the Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion reference and said, “Hanna pretends to have invented the Post-it.” But I appreciate her ability to snark under duress, like when she suggests Melissa’s fake sign-in name at the stables was “Maleficent.” Congrats on the assistant-swim-coach position, Em! I’m sure there won’t be any negative fallout from this unwanted promotion whatsoever.

5. That Nurse From Radley (last week: not ranked)
“Are you here to finger paint or speed date the orderlies?”

6. Aria (last week: 9)
Aria misses her mom’s (admittedly last-minute) bridal shopping appointment. Her excuse: “Honestly, I just forgot.” Okay, sure. And I understand her anger at Hanna, but it doesn’t really make any sense for her to not believe Hanna’s dispatches from the front lines of having Zach’s hand on her leg after letting himself into her car. Hanna’s transgression was accidentally telling the truth; she has negative-zero motivation to lie about something like this. Then again, Aria has negative-zero motivation to wear a denim jacket that’s more hole than fabric. 

7. The Rosewood High Swim Team (last week: not ranked)
Are they ever not at practice? Why are all these girls voluntarily joining a sport that seems to require them to wreck their hair and makeup halfway through the school day five times a week? Looking forward to “regionals” or “nationals” or whatever generically named competition we’ll be attending eventually!

8. Spencer (last week: 5)
Such a relief to see Spencer’s hair, if not back to its prime, at least looking soft and wavy and inoffensive. She tells Hanna, “Today your locker smells like Oktoberfest.” Troian Bellisario should earn all the Emmys for her ability to keep a straight face during that sloppy-exposition-through-dialogue speech (“If Bethany pushed Toby’s mom off the roof and Mrs. DiLaurentis covealksje;ionv — oops, sorry, passed out on my keyboard). It hurts me to see Spence so low on the list, but you can’t expect to crack the top five when you basically get kicked in the face by a horse.

9. A (last week: not ranked)
I get that A is a psychopath, and I am firmly anti-psychopath, as a general rule. But I’m impressed by the whole “circle all the A notes in the sheet music” move. And that note? “Glad to hear you singing. Last time you were all choked up.” If I weren’t convinced of the goodness in her heart, I’d say Spencer had to be A for cleverness alone.

10. Lieutenant Tanner (last week: not ranked)
It frustrates me to see Tanner keep interrogating all these minors, at what seem to be arbitrary times of day and in totally inappropriate, semipublic locations, without any legal guardians present. But I guess, considering all the completely out of line things most other adults do to/with the youths of Rosewood, Lieutenant Tanner still qualifies as a mostly upstanding citizen. And it looks like she’s the only person around who sees Ali for the conniving crazy person she truly is.

11. Noel (last week: not ranked)
Still relevant, apparently.

12. Declan From the Horse Ranch (last week: not ranked)
Not that this show needed to add another hot, vaguely twentysomething guy to the roster, but it was nice to confirm what I already knew: Spencer’s had eight years of English, but Declan — rough and tumble Declan, who probably drinks whiskey neat, shaves with a straight razor, and predicts the next day’s weather by studying the evening sky — only teaches Western.

13. Hanna (last week: 4)
Oooh boy. All I can say is, next week’s episode better have some real talk about the dangers of victim-blaming. Not ONE of Hanna’s friends responded to her obviously distraught and sincere reports of Zach’s skeevy behavior the way they were supposed to. All together now: I believe you, it’s not your fault.

14. Caleb (last week: 2)
I want to love Caleb. I have a soft spot in my otherwise rock-solid heart for this scoundrel, he who combines a devil-may-care attitude toward the law with a tender, romantic soul, the same irresistible cocktail that made the Tramp such a desirable mate for Lady. But where I once saw all my favorite fictional fixer-uppers — a dash of Jess from Gilmore Girls, Aladdin’s scrappiness, the affect and shaggy locks of our beloved Tim Riggins — I now am faced with something all too real and disappointing: a teenage delinquent. All Caleb can do, it appears, is wear flannel, screw his kinda-sorta girlfriend, skip school, and drink (an open container in the front seat of a car that is running! What, are you auditioning for an after-school special?).

This is a kid who, while his girlfriend was supposedly attempting a sincere apology, could not stop laughing, because “he was watching a guy eating his own beard on YouTube.” Who can “oversleep” so late that he misses lunch on a weekday. Who brings an entire bottle of whiskey to split with Hanna but doesn’t provide any food. Who says of Hanna’s miniskirt so mini I legitimately spent half the episode thinking she wore a leotard to school, “It’s perfect.”

15. Swim Team Sidney (last week: 6)
I laughed so hard when she told Emily that her parents are never around. Of course even the new girl has a mom and dad who are always MIA. She’ll fit right in.

16. Zach (last week: not ranked)
I can barely make out this guy’s boy-band face through all the red flags waving around his head. Not that I look to this show for character consistency, but … this is coming out of nowhere, right? Zach has been off-screen, in Austria or whatever, looking to all the world like an utterly devoted boyfriend-turned-fiancée to Aria’s mom, and just in time for Hanna to have no credibility, he’s a remarkably unsubtle predator? As if Rosewood didn’t have enough of those already.

17. Hanna’s Tights (last week: not ranked)
Oh, God. For the love of Jenny Humphrey. Never again, Hanna.

Lingering concerns: Is that a music class that I’m supposed to believe all the Liars have been enrolled in this whole time? Should I just be grateful this singing break didn’t turn into a thinly veiled promotion for Lucy Hale’s real-life music career? Rhonda couldn’t use her leverage over Aria to land something better than chips and a soda?

This is the part where I’m supposed to lecture you about drinking,

—J

Photo: ABC FAMILY/Eric McCandless