In this rough, crazy, brutal thing we call life, all joy must be mitigated with sorrow. We can rejoice at the successes of last night’s episode: Hanna and Caleb making out like faux-Saracen never existed; the return of at least one grown-up; Aria learning that, when she wears a name tag, people will know what her name is. But, alas, our joy is short-lived! Ask for plot progression and ye shall receive, but with it will come the revival of Toby’s mom’s “suicide” story. That’s right, kids, we’re back on the Radley rooftop, and it’s a long way down from here.
1. Pam Fields, Emily’s mom (last week: not ranked)
Pam Fields is the person we talk about when we talk about parenting. This is a woman who arranged Skype interviews with all of Emily’s teachers so she could stay up to date on Emily’s studies while visiting Emily’s dad in Texas. (For how long? No one knows.) I assume this means Pam was treated to thrilling conversations about English class, standing in the hallway looking suspiciously at other students, and opening/shutting lockers by the pool.
Pam, likely realizing she is the only parent in town, invites all of Emily’s close friends over for dinner. Predictably, they all panic and bail to engage in various levels of criminal activity, but Pam’s gesture still stands as a thoughtful, considerate one. And in a masterful maternal sleight of hand, Pam reveals to Emily that she planned the whole thing to see if Emily and Ali had feelings for each other. “Hindsight’s 20/20, and I just realized that maybe you thought of her as more than just a friend when she left. How do you feel now?” This from the mom who could barely handle that her daughter was gay just a few seasons ago! In PLL time, that last awkward dinner was probably 20 minutes ago. Pam has come so far so fast.
Clinching her spot at the top of the Pretty Little Power Rankings, Pam reveals this great, juicy bite of intel: “I still talk to people in the police force. And that story Ali told you about being kidnapped? It’s got some problems.” Someone, somewhere at the Rosewood Police Department, is actually competent, and of course that someone had the good sense to stay in touch with Pam, sweet, insightful Pam, Pam who tells her daughter to remember it is not Emily’s job to “keep saving” Ali. You’re so grand, Pam. I’m not even going to say anything about you randomly having vodka out on your porch, surrounded by soft drinks, at a dinner for your teenage daughter and her friends.
2. Caleb (last week: 3)
Damn this rascal, who notices that Hanna only eats three at a time when she’s “bugging out about something.” This little charming miscreant who shrugs off this mystery “test” that can both allow him to never return to Rosewood High again while also providing Ali with the ticket she needs back into school, who tells Ali he only knows her from the wreckage she leaves in her wake, “like a tornado.”
Oh, I also added 1,000 points for the kiss. There is no Hanna and Travis, Caleb. Not when you’re back here.
3. Emily (last week: 8)
Is it just me, or has Emily gotten really smart lately? And quick? Her snappy, no-bullshit attitude with Hanna is quite impressive: “You can have your headache in two weeks along with your cramps.” Then: “I needed help. You weren’t helping.” She even takes away Hanna’s keys so Hanna can’t drive drunk. If Emily dropped the dead weight that is her completely unnecessary feelings for Ali, she could climb right up to the top of these Pretty Little Power Rankings.
4. Hanna (last week: 5)
Have I ever loved any Hanna as much as I love Drunk Hanna? I have not! The only thing not to love about drunk Hanna is her outfit: the super-tight jeans with the splatters and the army-green tee and the Lorde lipstick and the smudgy Sarah Manning eyeliner and the (always welcome) leather jacket? Hanna, pro tip: Get dressed, then get drunk.
LOL to Caleb saying he has three minutes to find out why there are three branches of government are and Hanna just going, very seriously, “good luck.”
Ordinarily I would complain about the obvious route that Hanna’s drinking has taken — one beer on a swing set to empty bottles clanging in the trash can in approximately three episodes — but far be it for me to argue with the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine, which decree that one drink is all it takes for a teen to turn into a lush. Besides, Drunk Hanna is fantastic. I’d swap out my water for vodka too if I had to listen to Ali’s philosophical horseshit about how “there were times in the dark” when she blamed herself for her elaborate fake kidnapping. Standing ovation to Hanna’s “You’re the special one, Ali! There’s no one in the entire world like you.”
Even while wasted, Hanna knows that “Caleb is not a mistake. He’s the most un-mistake thing in my life.” I honestly feel badly for her screw-up with Swim Team Sidney because Hanna wouldn’t even be in a situation where she had a zillion stories to keep straight if Ali hadn’t gone and lied to the police when she first got back to Rosewood. It’s hard enough to keep track of all the cover-ups when you’re sober.
5. Spencer (last week: 9)
It’s been an off season so far for the usual champion of the PLPR, sidelined as she is by gloomy lighting in the Hastings house and questionable fashion choices. What was with that wide black-and-white-striped pirate top? Spencer looked cutest in the hoodie and Converse. The one power play Spencer gets this episode is her spy gear catching Ali outside the shed.
Also, this: “Aria, why would I slip you into a conversation? You guys have done enough slipping on your own.”
6. Swim Team Sidney (last week: not ranked)
I would subtract points for shadiness due to Sidney’s hiding-in-the-bathroom-stall maneuver, but at this point in the A game, I think I need to knock points from everyone else for not checking under all the stalls for feet before getting into confidential conversations. Come on, Liars. We’re not at what was vaguely described as the beginning of sophomore year anymore.
And I hate how mixxy Sidney is with Hanna. Could she be more obvious? “Have you ever wanted to make up with Jenna?” Sure, she trips up drunk Hanna and gets that New York nugget — I like the twist of Hanna not getting an A text — but she does it so sloppily, I can barely be impressed. Good results don’t make up for poor form.
7. Mona (last week: not ranked)
I’m okay with this FLOTUS-goes-high-school look — grey leopard-print cardigan, hot-pink skinny belt, royal-blue skirt — although if I were Mona, in addition to not being a sociopath, I’d lose Aria's earrings.
I was on the verge of complaining about Mona’s dialogue, which has definitely veered all the way into the land of Everything Is a Thinly Veiled Threat, but then she said this: “You can call me a lot of things, but don’t call me an amateur. A dead rat? Really?” You’re so right, Mona. That move is way beneath you. Carry on.
8. Melissa (last week: not ranked)
“I TOLD YOU HE LEFT FOOD OUT.”
9. Aria (last week: 11)
I’d feel badly for Aria, who drew the short straw and wound up pretending to volunteer at an asylum that looks like a Dickensian orphanage. Hers is a mission that landed her under the bed of a very (rightfully) pissed-off patient/inmate. But Aria has so much to atone for. And maybe if she’s under Rhonda’s bed, she won’t be in Ezra’s anymore?
10. Ali (last week: 10)
Seems like someone’s lies are about to blow up like the Cavanaugh house. And Ali, don’t tell Hanna whom she should and shouldn’t date. That’s my job.
11. Ezra (last week: 12)
Fitz, when Spencer tells you she needs to “keep an eye” on someone, you could at least take a beat or two before just essentially saying, “NBD, I love spying.” At least Ezra is starting to become self-aware: He ruminates aloud on how he not only didn’t solve the Ali mystery, “I probably made it worse.” Probably?
12. Rhonda (last week: not ranked)
Rough day, girl.
Lingering concerns: How do the Liars not already know how long Bethany was “missing” before she was dead? Does Radley not report to the police, or to anyone at all, when someone goes missing from their mental institution? Does that invite to Ella and Zack’s engagement party mean we’ll see more than one parent in next week’s episode?
Melted cheese is the best booze-blocker.