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Pretty Little Liars Recap: Pleased As Punch

This was an hour of our Liars, and our Liars’s loved ones, taking action: cutting off budding friendships at the knees, breaking engagements and hearts, throwing punches, dumping the last of the alcohol down the drain, and threatening others with both powerful words and a handy fire iron.

But topping these here weekly Power Rankings isn’t just about the tools you have in your arsenal. It’s how you use what you have that earns you the No. 1 spot.

1. Emily (last week: 4)
I don’t know what came over this girl, but her attitude is finally as phenomenal as her highlights. To review:

  • Takes the gig as the new assistant swim coach; waits about .05 seconds after accepting this job offer to sneak back into the real coach’s office, go through his confidential files, and get Noel’s locker combination.
  • Is enrolled in AP Spanish, making her one of Rosewood’s only students to take any subjects besides English and that one music class that only meets every third full moon.
  • Steals Noel’s car keys. Breaks into his car (in broad daylight, not the smartest play ever, but fine) and obtains all the evidence she needs without getting caught.
  • Rocks that royal-blue jumpsuit, a gutsy choice for an engagement party, but she is 100 percent pulling it off.
  • Says legitimately terrifying things to Sidney, such as “I want to see you underwater long enough to feel that twinge of panic” and also “I want you to know what it feels like to be sucker-punched.”

2. Spencer (last week: 8)
This little Hastings was so sharp and snarky this week. Her appraisal of Caleb’s Bat Cave: “Has Toby been up here recently? How about the Board of Health? Is there something growing in that pan?” But her truth shines through — I knew she would know the right thing to say to Caleb — when she says, “I always thought you were the best thing that ever happened to Hanna.” I also like her little “When you ask the organ grinder a question, you don’t want to hear from the monkey” quip at Jenna (although I feel like, again, these girls really have no right to be mean to Jenna ever after the thing where they blinded her. I mean, of all places to be bitchy to your blinding-victim: the eye doctor?) Plus, she just about skewers Noel at the lake house.

3. Lieutenant Tanner (last week: 10)
Whoa, Tanner knows that Aria and Ezra were shacking up after Fitz left school? Shut up! “Is it possible that Mr. Fitz was having intimate relationships with other students?” OMFG, if this show is willing to go there and reveal Fitz for the child predator that he is, I will actually tweet using the ABC Family–sponsored hashtag (in that case, I assume it will be like #TruthAboutFitz or #PrettyLittlePedophile).

Also, great to see these interviews are finally taking place with a guardian present. Really don’t know how many times I need to say (to fictional people in my television who cannot hear my cries) that no one should be talking to the police without a lawyer, or at least a Spencer, present. Yes, she has the wrong guy in custody, but she seems like she’s onto the real dirt in this town. If any cop in Rosewood is even remotely close to competent enough to sniff out Ali’s bullshit, it’s Tanner.

4. Hanna (last week: 13)
DROP EVERYTHING, is Hanna wearing a denim jacket with Rosewood emblazoned across the back? Wow, okay, well, um.

Hanna’s bravery this week is less flashy than Emily’s “I will drown you in the mother-effing pool” threats, Spencer’s “I will gut you with this makeshift sword” pose, and Caleb’s clock across Zach’s jaw. But telling Caleb the truth — not to mention accepting Aria’s apology — takes major courage (not the liquid kind).

5. Caleb (last week: 14)
We find our resident Oliver Twist really embracing that Riggins lifestyle: a cold beer, an old TV that’s on all the time for no reason, zero parental supervision, and that thick layer of frat-filth on every surface.

Spencer alludes to not knowing “what happened” while Caleb was away, and whatever, we don’t care, because Ravenswood. But what I genuinely love about Caleb this week is his handling of Hanna’s Zach reveal. First, he doesn’t let her pretend that nothing is wrong: “I have never seen you turn down free food and a chance to dress up.” Then he immediately tells Hanna that he believes her, that it is a big deal, that it is only embarrassing “for HIM.” I don’t condone violence IRL, but I can get behind Caleb’s swagger at the Brew: “You busy being the kind of scumbag who is begging to get his ass kicked? Do you hit on all of Aria’s friends, or is it just Hanna?” And I thoroughly loved how when Zach says, “Hey, maybe your girlfriend is a humorless slut who can’t take a joke” (paraphrasing, obvs), Caleb is all, “I don’t know, man. She has a pretty good sense of humor and she didn’t find you funny at all.”

And then Caleb punches Zach in the face. It is glorious.

6. Aria (last week: 6)
Really committing to the whole mixing-bold-patterns thing, aren’t we? I might suggest that the pink leopard-print jacket is more than enough statement for any ensemble, but I guess I can’t say that for certain; I’ve never owned a pink leopard-print jacket myself. I also literally LOL'd when Ella asked Aria if her engagement-party necklace is “too much,” as if Aria knows anything about tasteful accessorizing. I like Aria’s dress, though! It’s a little much with the tulle. But the back is pretty, and her makeup is lovely.

7. Ashley (last week: 2)
As per usual, I was impressed with Ashley’s ability to parent under the most dire circumstances. She sees the flask as the escapist effort it is, not some portable party, and tells Hanna, “This is dangerous, and disturbing, and you know it’s totally unacceptable.” Then she is so understanding, and I realize she is talking about a break-in that was staged — staged! — by the lying, conniving Jenna Maroney wannabe who has graduated from swiping Ashley’s bath salts to snagging all her moisturizer. I just want Hanna to realize that the only way out of the bottomless pit of Ali’s lies is to tell Ashley the truth, and I just want everyone to realize how glamorous Ashley’s hair looked in that scene at the police station.

8. Ella Montgomery (last week: not ranked)

I feel as terrible as I’m going to feel about a nonexistent person who barely shows up on this show anymore re: Ella’s busted engagement, but I was just relieved that Ella’s reaction was not “No, Hanna’s a liar,” and instead was “Oh, yeah, that’s happened before, I’m engaged to a doucheface.” I definitely couldn’t handle one more person not believing Hanna’s true story.

9. Noel (last week: 11)
Okay, so if you are a mysterious student at Rosewood High (not-mysterious types need not apply) and you have in your possession the sort of documents, like, say, photos that prove a person who claims she spent the past two years in a blindfold was, in fact, out and about with 20/20 vision, and also a recording of that person, basically the kind of high-value evidence that, depending on the circumstances, could be considered “blackmail” or “insurance,” you maybe would want to consider, I don’t know, not listening to the recording on SPEAKERPHONE, with the windows of your car rolled down, parked in an alley off a main drag in town. Could Noel be worse at being a criminal?

10. Mr. Montgomery (last week: not ranked)
What a sweetheart. For a guy who cheated on the incredible Ella Montgomery with his student, Jodie Sawyer, Byron seems like he’s growing up, at least.

11. Jenna (last week: not ranked)
On being back in town but under the radar: “No one seemed to notice, but, then again, I didn’t come back from the dead.” Clever little maneuver, dressing in identical clothing as Sidney for whatever stunt she wanted to pull at the eye doctor.

12. Ali (last week: 1)
Pretty much the only thing Ali doesn’t mess up this week is the outfit she wears in the very first scene. With the red pants and that black tank, she looks like my favorite era of Buffy Summers. But it’s all downhill from there, sartorially and otherwise. What is that white collared shirt with the square studs and the hot-pink blazer? Legally Blonde by way of Hot Topic? I can’t believe Ali thought Hanna wouldn’t be pissed about the Noel thing. Ali’s like, “What’s happening?” Uhh, gee, wild guess: I think Hanna is upset that you hired someone to BREAK INTO HER HOUSE.

On top of everything, she has to take Earth Science — a class I wasn’t even aware Rosewood offered — with a bunch of ninth-graders.

13. Ali’s fake kidnapper (last week: not ranked)
Wonder what she has on this clown. Or how much she’s paying him (in which case: wonder how she got all that money).

14. Swim Team Sidney (last week: 15)
Maybe try out for track?

15. Zach (last week: 16)
KTHXBAI

Lingering concerns: Um, does Mona even go to this school anymore? Wasn’t she building an army or something? Why wasn’t Magic Mike in attendance at his own mother’s engagement party?

You can’t afford not to be in control,

—J

Photo: Ron Tom/Disney Enterprises