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Pretty Little Liars Recap: She Said, She Said

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS - "A Dark Ali" - Ali's games may have pushed her friends too far when an innocent man's life is put in the balance in "A Dark Ali," an all-new episode of ABC Family's hit original series "Pretty Little Liars," premiering Tuesday, August 12th (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT). (ABC FAMILY/Eric McCandless)TROIAN BELLISARIO, LUCY HALE, SHAY MITCHELL, ASHLEY BENSON

Well, I think we all learned a very valuable lesson last night: If, when you have a medical examination after lying about your nonexistent kidnapping and feigned disappearance, you’re going to secretly record what you say so that your friends turned accomplices can memorize your fantastic, fabricated tale, don’t just leave that recording lying around where anyone can find it, blackmail you with it, and then play it over the phone to one of your friends.

1. Spencer (last week: 2)
This episode begins with a fantastic exchange, dictated mostly by Spencer’s inability to keep her sarcasm in check:

Spencer: You said you don’t know?
Ali: What was I supposed to say?
Emily: How about "no"?
Ali: I was BLINDFOLDED, remember?
Spencer: Do you seriously need us to remind you that you were never blindfolded?

Outside the house, Spencer unleashes this li'l quip: “Thank god the cops are here so we don’t have to worry about being imaginary-kidnapped.” 

Yes! Yes! Finally! Spencer makes these brilliant remarks while wearing these Highlander-plaid pants. They’re an iffy choice, but I think she pulls them off; I mean, I think they work as an autumnal pattern, and for all I know it’s been fall in Rosewood for the past several years, so sure. I am docking points for what I guess is, like, a sleeveless trench coat? An extremely long, belted, and water-resistant vest? But maybe years of living in the climate-free section of the Main Line has left Spencer unable to settle on ordinary outerwear.

The reasons to love Spencer this week just keep on coming: She demands, according to Aria, about 16 times, that the Liars (sans Ali) go to Tanner and tell the truth. She confronts Melissa. She thought Ashley was kidding about Hanna’s going on a run (Ashley never kids, Spencer). She calls Ali “a dangerous person who has no problem gambling with our lives.” She also does this great — cruel, but great — mocking tone of voice at Emily for believing Ali’s sob story.

2. Emily (last week: 1)
Remember those slumber-partying nights in middle school, when you would try to get all your friends to seriously — no, like, seriously! — “tell you the ‘truth’” about yourself, everything from which celebrity you really looked like to whether or not you were talented or brave or conceited or whatever? Well, this happens to Emily completely without her consent, but congratulations, Fields: You’ve just been voted “hardest to disappoint” by the people who are so close to you, you’ve literally almost died for them on multiple occasions.

But Emily’s willingness to finally yell at Ali “I AM SO DONE WITH YOU” endears her to me beyond measure, or, in this case, to the No. 2 spot on the Pretty Little Power Rankings. Her litany of Ali’s offenses reminded me of some actually huge incidents I had completely forgotten about — “When Hanna broke her leg because of A? When I almost died in an elevator trying to find out who killed you? When Spencer got checked into Radley because of everything your disappearance put us through?” — and is so funny to me, because of course this lowlights reel doesn’t include Aria. Also, Emily’s outfit in this confrontation scene is killer: the skinny, light-blue, just-so distressed jeans with that leather jacket — always a winning combo.

3. Lieutenant Tanner (last week: 3)
I know you can figure this out, Tanner. You’re just about the only competent adult for miles around who consistently shows up at crucial moments. That has to count for something.

4. Ali (last week: 12)
Can’t even with this one. Still seems to have her shit more in control than everyone below her on this list, though.

5. Aria (last week: 6)
Aria doesn’t think people can change, but Aria is, in fact, proof that people can change. Look at that lovely, minimalist makeup! That soft, flowy hair! That mostly inoffensive wardrobe! (I’m not going to dwell on the leopard-print jacket-hoodie-hybrid.) Almost everything she said last night made, dare I say, perfect sense. She was logical. Thoughtful. Insightful, even. Definitely smart! Like, legitimately contributing worthwhile ideas, strategy, and the occasional pun. She is the first to say to Ali’s “We can win the game,” “What happens if we lose?” and continues to be pretty clear-headed for the rest of the episode.

6. Hanna (last week: 4)
Hanna starts out wearing these black knee-highs — are they socks or boots? Couldn’t tell; either way, they look ridiculous — with a ripped denim skirt that looks like something straight out of the Hollister 2005 Collection, so maybe it’s considered a vintage ware by today’s teens. She is also wearing a long-sleeve white shirt under, is that a black polo shirt? Hanna, I get that you want to be “normal,” but there’s no reason to do … whatever it is you think you’re doing, wardrobe-wise.

After sprucing up Caleb’s filthy love den, Hanna announces she wants to know what it’s like to be normal. She’s going to the choral audition! So glad this show invented chorus class about four episodes ago to give Hanna something “normal” to attempt! Always a pleasure to see Hanna get those funny lines, especially on her brief but delightful fitness bent — “Maybe we should just go back the other way?” “It’s a loop, Hanna.” — and I wish she could have stayed in this hilarious world instead of getting sucked into the Mona vortex. She does a Liz Lemon–level eye roll at Mona’s scales. 

7. Mona (last week: not ranked)
Even though she is being annoying and self-righteous about it, Mona is a good singer! Not sure what to make of her “I had a panic attack, no, wait, I fake-fainted, no, definitely a panic attack” thing, or the fact that she had Cyrus’s mugshot printed out in her purse (not on her phone like a normal teen, no siree), or the extremely unlikely high-tech spy gear she had in that car of hers, parked rather conspicuously on a well-traveled street.

More important: What happened to Mona’s army? I thought all this awesome, vigilante-versus-Ali warfare was going to break out this season, with Paige and Lucas and the rest of that ragtag team uniting against Ali and outing her lies? That whole story line is proving to be very anticlimactic.

8. Melissa (last week: not ranked)
I don’t care how many times you sit around in your creepy kitchen in the dark waiting for someone to come home so you can glide out of the shadows like some beautiful monster of the night: No one is going to be intimidated by you, Melissa, if you insist on wearing that dopey side barrette in your hair. Did Melissa give Cyrus the recording of Ali’s medical exam? Does any of this make sense to anyone? It’s okay, the guy who plays Toby doesn’t understand the plot, either.

9. Caleb (last week: 5)
Calzones? Someone hasn’t been watching Parks and Rec. Also, that shirt he was wearing at the end of the episode needs to go.

10. Ella Montgomery (last week: 8)
As to be expected, our just-jilted madre is feeling quite depressed, going through boxes of tissues like a 13-year-old boy and lamenting that she’s “too old” (um, yeah, to marry a pedophile; that’s a good thing). Aria consoles her mother using quotes I assume she picked up from the outside of a Lululemon bag, like “your bliss is still ahead of you.” But  even I can get onboard with Ella’s promise that “Zach is not going to write the book on relationships in this family.” Obviously, because the person who is going to write that book is Magic Mike.

11. Ezra (last week: not ranked)
What is Ezra doing? No idea, just wondering if you all know.

12. Cyrus (last week: not ranked)
Anybody mixed up with Ali when she’s wearing that Vivian Darkbloom wig (never not going to LOL over that ridiculous alias) is not in a good place. Like prison, for instance, is a place where that person might be.

13. Mr. DiLaurentis (last week: not ranked)
How nice of you to make an appearance! “We all want the same thing,” he intones. “To put this man away for a very long time.” Ugh, classic clueless dad, no one wants that except for you. 

Lingering concerns: Why were the Liars talking about “Noel’s insurance policy” while standing on a street right by the police? Are we supposed to believe anything about Ali’s flashback? How do I know which PTSD triggers are real and which are imagined if this show films all of them through that “this is traumatic” Instagram filter?

Since when do you get sauced before third period?

—J

Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC Family