Hello! While Vulture’s intrepid Pretty Little Liars power-ranker Jessica Goldstein is on Parks and Rec vacation, I will be filling in as your interim PLL recapper. The grading system for best Liar belongs to her, so while she’s on that Leslie Knope beat, I will instead compose the Pretty Little Liars Aggro-List. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the show’s executive producer Joseph Dougherty revealed that the rest of the winter season will feature “the most aggressive storytelling [the show has] ever done.” Of course, we know he means that the stakes will be higher, but then again, we’ve never known these girls to be timid. Each week until Jessica’s return, I’ll be cataloguing the episode’s five most aggressive moments — from bizarre hookups to A’s latest antics.
In “Fresh Meat,” Ali has been moved to Chester Women’s Correctional Facility, but the only Liar taking action to keep the four free birds safe in Rosewood is Spencer. You know why? College. College acceptance season may end up as A Jr. for the rest of the winter season. How does Ali’s incarceration and the determination to leave Rosewood put the girls this week? (But seriously, do they really think A won’t follow them all to college? It is omnipresent!) Let’s find out on the Aggro-List.
1. Spencer and Caleb tag-team to hide potentially crucial evidence from Mona’s murder.
Early into “Fresh Meat,” the Rosewood Police Department is sent on another search at Mona’s house. Toby finds a used knife under a pile of dead leaves, which he recognizes to be his father’s. Maybe I just have perma-Serial brain, but that weapon seemed about as easy to find as Hae Min Lee’s body in Leakin Park. Cop or not, I’m still not certain that we can trust him, even though he’s redeemed himself from seeming to be a member of the A Team in season four — oh, wait, you can’t trust anyone on this show. Toby powwows with Spencer and Caleb about the knife, which could potentially have Caleb’s prints on it, too. (Caleb, you’re a deft hacker. If you can keep your digital prints clean, keep the physical ones clean, too.) As a member of Rosewood PD, Toby wants to pretend the whole thing just doesn’t exist and demands Spence and Caleb keep it a secret — LOL, Toby. Instead, Caleb spills the beans to Hannah almost immediately, and he and Spencer return to Mona’s house to take the knife to destroy it in a pottery kiln at Rosewood High.
2. Emily attempts to cater Ezra’s bookstore opening.
Sounds innocent enough, and we’ve always known Em to have extracurricular ambition, but her desire to be promoted from barista to head chef is about making some extra scratch to head out West. If you recall from last week, Paige’s parents shipped her off to California, where she will be safe from the Rosewood theatrics. But the only place Emily wants her is in her own Bae Area, so she convinces Ezra to let her make her mom’s empanadas (most of which end up as dough-Pollocks on the kitchen wall) for the party. Again, sounds innocent enough, but Paige is not returning Emily’s calls or emails and doesn’t want her to look at schools on the West Coast. If we were ranking the Aggro-List, this would rank relatively low, but Emily, don’t you have some homework to do or something? You’re putting in a lot of unnecessary work during what should be your senior slump.
3. A gets the cooking bug, too!
At this point in the series, you’d think these scamps would know that when they’re engaging in any kind of sus behavior, they should at least do it in a well-lit space away from anything that could potentially be used as a weapon. I don’t know anything about cutlery disposal, and I haven’t made pottery since Mrs. Pasternack’s elementary-school art class, but I am pretty sure you're not supposed to get rid of a knife in a kiln. Last week A entombed Aria in a plastic tarp by stapling her to a wall, and said tarp continues its suffocation mission this time around by locking Caleb in the kiln with the heat turned on. The whole mess has me convinced that hoity-toity Hastings is officially the least smart of the Hastings.
4. Aria’s college-acceptance Hail Mary.
As we learned last week, Aria has been rejected or wait-listed from every school she’s applied to, including her safety school, Talmudge. You want to know a surefire way you’re not going to get accepted to a school? When your pseudo-pedo boyfriend’s ex-fiancée is an admissions counselor. That’s right: Jackie Molina, Ezra’s former betrothed, was the one blocking Aria from getting in. Emily coaxes Aria into writing an impassioned, personal letter to the board to help bolster her chances of getting off the wait list. (It worked for Emily’s cousin at Yale! And it should work for Aria, since she wears the Beyoncé-famous "kale" T-shirt while writing it! Synergy!) There are about a bazillion things Aria could have written about to appeal the decision: her parents’ divorce! Watching her mom fail at romance! The disappearance/believed murder of her best friend, who then turned out to be alive! Her enemy-cum-brother’s girlfriend, who was recently murdered! Instead, Aria’s Hail Mary pass is ... to write about her inappropriate relationship with Ezra as the thing that messed up her high-school experience. And it seemed to have worked at first, as Jackie not only promises to keep the letter a secret from Ezra but also pulls Aria from the wait list. NOTHING IS THAT EASY, ARIA. Later she finds a bookmark in a liberal-arts college guide with an excerpt from the letter printed on it ... and the bookmark is holding the page for Talmudge.
5. Mrs. Marin can’t ever keep it in her pants.
JASON DILAURENTIS KISSES HANNA’S MOM! JASON KISSES HANNA’S MOM! JASON KISSES HANNA’S MOM! JASON KISSES HANNA’S MOM! This was already a bad romance foretold when Mrs. Marin protects him from an incoming call from Ali to their office; Jason is still worried that Ali may have been involved with the murder of their mother. But this sort of weaves an eerie new layer to the DiLaurentis-Hastings affair (never forget, Mrs. Di and Spencer’s dad had an affair, so technically, Jason is all of their half-brothers), so why wouldn’t the apple fall too far from such a crummy tree? The best part of the tryst, though, is that Hanna discovers Jason and her mom have gotten busy in a scene soundtracked by Lykke Li’s "I Never Learn." Neither does Mrs. Marin! Things are about to get really, really weird.
The episode ends with a stealth note in the pocket of Ali’s new clean jumpsuit that reads, “Your friends will see you soon.” Maybe the girls will all end up at Prison University together, and that’ll be the writers’ way of keeping them from ever separating. Cute! I will see you next week.