It’s episodes like this one that make me grateful we have all agreed to focus on character instead of plot because, to ask a possibly dangerous question: What is even happening here? What did everyone know and when did they know it? Are we trusting Ali now, even though she faked her own kidnapping and murder and lied about it for years? Who is allied with whom? Who is the enemy? What’s with this Édith Piaf jam? Why would Andrew have a thing for Aria when we know he’s a brainiac with a soft spot for strip-studying with Spencer? I don’t know if even the great Ashley Marin could answer these questions. I will stick to my domain: power ranking.
1. Caleb (last week: 4)
Calm in a crisis, forever devoted to his girlfriend despite her imprisonment, actually useful in the mystery-solving department: what a hat trick we have here! Spencer says Caleb needs to be bottled up: “Essence of Best Boyfriend. We’re going to make a fortune.” But the best thing Caleb does all night is answer Spencer’s question — “Do you have a burner phone?” — without missing a beat: “What color?” More like Better Call Caleb, am I right?
2. Ashley Marin
Ashley isn’t just the best parent in Rosewood. (As we have established, the criteria for being even an above-average parent in Rosewood is, like, “Do you remember all of your children’s names?” and “Are you not cool with your underage daughter being in a relationship with a much older man who is also her teacher or her sister’s fiancé?”) No, I will not insult Ashley by comparing her to the also-rans of the murder capital of the Main Line. This is Gilmore-style mothering, people; dare I say she is approaching Tami Taylor levels of loyalty, levelheadedness, and unconditional love? She tells Hanna that she doesn’t care about the truth because all she cares about is her kid; this is the first nail in Pastor Ted’s coffin because he’s all, “Are you sure?” She handles her public humiliation with grace, breaks up with Pastor Ted as gently as possible, and has such a beautiful mother-daughter moment with Hanna in prison.
3. The Liars’ courtroom attire (last week: not ranked)
So much more occasion-appropriate than their funeral attire usually is!
4. Emily (last week: 2)
Her French accent is improving and she thinks better in lower heels. I feel you, girl.
5. Spencer (last week: 1)
"Forbid? That’s a big, 19th-century word,” Spencer says to her mother, even though actually forbid is a word that parents are allowed to say to their teenage children whenever they want. Anyway, Spencer is the one who finds the note in the back of Mona’s mirror that’s all, “IF YOURE READING THIS ITS TOO LATE.” (No, of course it’s a bizarro riddle because why make it easier for people to solve your staged murder when you could make it impossible?)
6. Aria (last week: 3)
I like her horizontal black-and-white stripes — definitely an improvement from that time she wore Beetlejuice-style vertical stripes, like an escapee from clown prison — but wait, oh wait, did she really top off her outfit with that jacket? A baby pink, baseball-type jacket with giant cat faces all over it? Later she asks Emily, “Do you want to just give up and go shopping?” IF ONLY. Plus points for realizing that anyone who wanted the Liars to not search Mona’s room would’ve trashed it in advance to make it look ransacked and scare them off.
7. Jason (last week: not ranked)
Is no one prepping these witnesses? How did this beautiful man get blindsided on the stand? It’s a little late in the game to say you don’t think your sister is the murderer in the video, Jason. The legal term for this is “no backsies.”
8. Hanna (last week: 14)
If Hanna had the fourth-wall-breaking self-awareness that Frank Underwood possesses, she would know that, as one of the stars of this show, she won’t be in prison for long/forever. But considering she cannot be clued in to this fact, she’s staying remarkably calm. She knows that the true story is impossible to believe. She’s selfless with her loved ones. She even has visions of imprisoned productivity! “Maybe I’ll write a book. Lots of people write books in prison. Martha Stewart wrote one.” She hopes she has all of Ashley’s DNA. So do I, Hanna! We should all be so lucky.
Even in the clinker, Hanna is still the sometime–space cadet we know and love. Ali references some convoluted newspaper messaging system wherein someone — Mona? A? — included the line “goodnight light,” which Ali says is from a book her mom always read her as a baby. Hanna is like, “HOW WOULD ANYONE KNOW THAT?” Probably because everyone reads Goodnight Moon to their babies. Not exactly an unpopular book.
9. Veronica Hastings (last week: 7)
I respect that Veronica wants to stop Spencer from attending this trial, but it’s a little late in the parenting game to “forbid” anything when you’ve been M.I.A. for just about every important moment in the kid’s life. (Still, how naïve can these girls be? “We have to go to trial, Ali’s our friend!” Jailbird Barbie is a pathological liar who has repeatedly wrecked your lives; keep your distance, for the love of optics!) I also love that she doesn’t want to know if Spencer knew about Ali’s fake kidnapping. “I’m telling you: You didn’t.” Would that Veronica’s daughter were as much of a pragmatist.
10. People who leave secrets in the Brew’s elbow phone (last week: not ranked)
“Oh, I hate my boobs. They’re like a complete joke.” Cool, so these are going to be funny — “The dog didn’t run away. I left the gate open on purpose.” Oh.
11. Andrew (last week: not ranked)
Maybe not the smartest play to tell one of Mona’s dearest frenemies that you’re so over mourning Mona? “I’ve seen her intellectually kneecap dozens of kids,” Andrew says to Aria, before essentially confirming that he believes the world is better off without Mona in it. Also, no way would a guy with the hots for Spencer’s amazing brain be turned on by Aria’s … less-than-amazing brain.
12. Pastor Ted (last week: not ranked)
Look, Ted, there was nothing you could do. It is not for one mere, mortal man to possess the valiant heart of the goddess Ashley Marin. Go ahead and finish your coffee, I guess. You know you could get a fresh cup at the Brew, right? And it might be less weird if you left? But you do you.
13. Ali (last week: 12)
Not to victim-blame, but this is what you get for pretending to be kidnapped and killed.
Lingering concerns: When did Ali get that haircut? Seriously, how is she blow-drying her hair in prison? So does Mr. DiLaurentis show up to stuff now? The only thing more annoying for a Power Ranker than non-parenting is inconsistent parenting.
Snakes, spiders, flying monkeys: nothing I can’t handle,