Pretty Little Liars Recap: You Better Not Cry

Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC Family
Pretty Little Liars
Episode Title
How the ‘A’ Stole Christmas
Editor’s Rating

It’s Christmas in Rosewood! Turns out that in this quiet Main Line town, our Liars celebrate good tidings by gathering the small group of friends they’re medium-confident they can trust, attending a black-tie affair only to blow it off so they can break into an ex-friend and believed-killer’s house, and in Spencer’s case, unwinding a little with her boyfriend while she’s out on bail, because she’s actually in prison right now for a murder. Put on your party dresses, people: It’s time for a holiday special edition of the Pretty Little Power Rankings.

1. Ice Ball fashion (last week: not ranked)
I was almost disappointed, friends: There was nothing to really make fun of here! Except, naturally, the plausibility factor: You know, just your average teens, keeping evening gowns and black-tie regalia in their closets. But these are glam, sparkly, festive perfection. Assuming a sisterhood-of-the-traveling-dresses situation, wherein all of these would magically fit, I’d swipe Spencer’s first — plus points for the Lorde lipstick with that fair skin — and have some swanky, 1920s-ish mansion dance-party in it. Emily’s is so glitzy, and it makes me think Shay Mitchell just rolled up to wardrobe like, “I wear this Sporty Spice Kristy Thomas boring bullshit every episode, and everyone knows I’m a smoking-hot goddess IRL, so cut me some cleavage in this sucker, yesterday.” Hanna’s lacy number isn’t the most memorable, but it’s got a nice train and her hair looks sharp. Aria was probably bummed that she missed the slinky-gown memo, but the sparkle top reminds me of this Swift number, and the tulle is very becoming. Ali’s looks like shimmery armor; maybe a callback to when a certain someone suited up for battle with Uncle Jack.

2. Spencer (last episode: 11)
“I’m abstaining from Christmas this year, remember? When you’re out on bail for murder, it just feels like the right thing to do.” Missed you, girl. I also like how when Aria, in classic Aria fashion, tries to make everyone else’s problems about her — “I ruined your lives” — Spencer jumps in to correct her: “Technically, she only ruined my life.” Emily plays a Musketeer solidarity card: “Ruin one of our lives, ruin all our lives,” because no one in this group can take a hint.

Spencer can tell from a block away that the man approaching has too nice a pen to be a cop or a journalist. I love her total disdain for Ali’s fake passport identity: “Holly Varjak. She’s writing her happy ending. To Breakfast at Tiffany’s — the movie, not the book.” She smashes a picture frame and carries around a shard of glass to murder the intruder with her bare hands. And even in this terrifying situation, Spencer remembers to use quotation marks when referring to “A” in her text message to Hanna.

3. Hanna (last episode: 2)
Hanna’s funny, not exactly well-read, and a little willfully clueless. But mishearing “gesture” as “jester” just makes her sound moronic; we saw her college wish list back in August, and besides, we already knew Hanna wasn’t an idiot. Don’t dumb down the daughter of Ashley Marin.

Hanna is volunteering … somewhere … for some reason … I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like the show knows, either; anyway, she and Caleb wear these dopey elf outfits, and we get to watch Hanna charitably intervene when the meanest girl from the Limited Too mocks a deaf girl. “In Rosewood, bitches get buried.” I feel like in Rosewood, if you say “bitches get buried” to a 12-year-old, her helicopter parents will burst onto the scene faster than you can say, “I’m not sure why I’m wearing this elf costume, either!” Hanna says “Mona used to say, 'When someone shows you who they are, believe them.'” I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Mona; that was Maya Angelou, by way of Oprah.

Later, Hanna gets attacked by “A” — any guesses who was holding that mighty big knife? — while digging through Ali’s stuff. Of course she finds a spooky jack-in-the-box; Ali’s possessions are like 46 percent old-timey toys that scare the bejesus out of you, 39 percent recording equipment, 14 percent masks, and one percent yellow tank-tops.

4. Ghost Mona (last episode: not ranked)
Who is this heavily eyelinered, Beetlejuice-like specter from the past? Ghost Mona! She’s got Cruella de Vil hair, the color palette and general vibe of Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, and a dash of Natalie Portman at the end of Black Swan. Why does Ghost Mona look so bizarre when other hallucinations of dead or presumed-dead Rosewoodians look normal? No matter; it is not for us to solve these mysteries.

Ghost Mona brings us more weirdness and confusion than clarity. In her future-hallucination, she tells us Ali’s dead body looks pretty good “considering they never found your legs.”

5. Paige (last episode: 4)
Go to California! Best idea ever! Paige’s parents think Rosewood isn’t safe. Paige’s parents are parenting. It’s a Christmas miracle.

6. Aria (last episode: 8)
“I definitely got a sense of a male butt.” Well, at least her sleuthing skills are improving. Nice side-braid, too.

7. The Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine (last episode: 5)
Key characters in car accidents not only do not die, but they do not suffer any unattractive injuries. The only acceptable maladies are: a broken leg/ankle, arm/wrist, and — in rare cases — a cheekbone-accentuating scratch, which can never leave a scar. Also, pregnant characters in car accidents will suffer convenient miscarriages.

8. Emily (last episode: 3)
Sad about your girlfriend leaving, Emily! On the bright side, that hair looks terrific.

9. Ezra (last episode: 18)
Are Aria and Ezra just out as a couple now? Because they are in public places, surrounded by fellow students and citizens of Rosewood, in virtually every scene of this episode, acting conspicuously couple-y. Aria is still a senior. Ezra is still her English teacher. So everyone in town is just rolling with this now? No controversy? Okay, sure, whatever.

That said, I have never liked Ezra more than during this exchange:

Aria, responding to his big stack of presents:  If this is low-key, I’m afraid to ask what full-blown Christmas at the Fitzgeralds looks like.

Ezra: Oh my God, don’t ask. It’s like, how many ponies can you get?

When pressed on the matter, he elaborates: “Well, I got two ponies. But I only asked for one.”

More of this! More of oblivious, rich-kid Ezra and his wacky Rockefeller upbringing.

10. Mrs. DiLaurentis (last episode: 13)
It’s so beautiful, that moment when a manipulative and adulterous woman teaches her daughter how to lie to her father for the first time. “Daddy will leave us if you tell him.” No wonder Ali grew up to treat other people’s hearts like Play-Doh.

11. Caleb (last episode: 6)
Still a good boyfriend! Not sure how he and the rest of the significant others got that surprise change of clothes to Spencer’s house, given the justification for the slumber party was that they were all unexpectedly snowed in, but sure.

12. Toby (last episode: 7)
Making himself quite useful despite his limited mobility. Real trouper, that one.

13. Officer Holbrook (last episode: 10)
I will not complain about inconsistent character development. I will not dwell on how Holbrook, who had adorable (and yes, illegal, but what can we do?) sparks with Hanna and had all but pledged his loyalty not just to the Liars but to legitimate law enforcement in Rosewood, a town that’s never seen legitimate law enforcement before, is suddenly, supposedly, all cozy with Ali and her latest batch on minions. I will not be bothered by this. That much.

I’d congratulate him on figuring out that Ezra is Aria’s boyfriend, but literally everyone is on top of that gross OTP.

14. The way that this show is kind of all about couples now (last episode: 15)
That closing shot of couple-snuggling? What happened to the premise of the series: the dark, complicated, intense nature of female friendship, how girls can be each others’ lifelines but also betray each other in a way that’s more brutal than romantic heartbreak?

15. On-the-nose flashbacks (last episode: not ranked)
“Besties forever, promise,” Hanna and Mona say to each other, wearing baby blue and light pink snow hats, like Mary-Kate and Ashley circa 1995. Baby Ali playing the piano and learning to keep secrets and deceive those closest to her. Gee, wonder what the underlying significance of these memories could possibly be?

16. Bethany (last episode: not ranked)
Still more of an idea than a person, definitely not committing anything meaningful about her to memory.

17. Cece (last episode: not ranked)
Barely more of a person than an idea, and that’s only because this actress sporadically appears on the show only to vanish for huge stretches of time and be alluded to while she’s gone. Committing only the bare minimum of meaningful things about her to memory. I trust all of you to clue me in if there’s something crucial I should be tracking in this department.

18. Everything about this “Ice Ball” (last episode: not ranked)
Maybe I’m just a little rusty, but it took me easily 20 minutes to nail down what, exactly, was going on with this “Ice Ball.” At first, because everyone called it “Ali’s party,” I thought Ali’s apparently benevolent and loaded family was just throwing some gala, like the Waynes might have done in Gotham. The guest list left me lost: This is supposed to be some major, swanky event, yet everyone in attendance is either (a) a teenager or (b) the twenty- or thirty-something-year-old boyfriend and/or potential lover of a teenager. Where were everyone’s parents? That all the growns were MIA was even more odd when it became clear(ish) that this event was for “charity,” the same vague philanthropic entity that benefited from that bones-in-the-bodice bridal fashion show. Why throw a fancy charity event and not invite adults, the people who drink the expensive alcohol and have money to burn?

I’m not saying the PLL powers that be should’ve blown the budget on getting Chad and the gang on set for the special — no complaints about what I assume got the bulk of that money: the Liars’ ball attire — but maybe we could have had some remotely plausible explanation for their absence? It was literally Christmas Eve. Everyone got snowed in at Spencer’s house. Spencer, who is out on bail for a brief holiday respite from serving time for a murder she (probably) didn’t commit, is staying at her house … by herself? No Hasting wants to check in on her? Aren’t some of these girls neighbors? They couldn’t just trudge home through the snow? Sorry, I know, don’t bother with the logic puzzles, it’s like trying to find meaning in a Pauly Shore movie, I’ll stop, I’ll stop.

19. Alison (last episode: 1)
Why is Ali such an emotional basket case? When last we saw little Laura Palmer 2.0, she was a calculating mastermind, moving her pretty little pawns around the board based on the traits she found most desirable/vulnerable in each of them. Everyone we trust thinks Ali killed Mona. Except Ali is jittery as a junky and appears to have control over absolutely nothing, save for a pack of nameless minions in masks and that Jenna-Sidney dream team.

Lingering concerns: So was that second dress for Bethany, we think? Considering the Liars got this note from Bethany by breaking into Ali’s house, a.k.a., committing a crime, how would this evidence even be permissible in a court of law? How does Spencer, child of two lawyers, not ask this question? Am I the only person who thinks “sexy Santa” costumes are a little icky? Sexy, sure, and while he’s not my persuasion, I have no beef with Santa, but, like, together?

If we’re the only ones here, why are we whispering?