Pretty Little Liars Recap: Cage Fright

Dropping in the standings, Aria. Photo: Eric McCandless/Disney Enterprises
Pretty Little Liars
Episode Title
No Stone Unturned
Editor’s Rating

Early episodes this season have been a lot of talk and not enough action. Speculation abounds, as does one of my all-time-favorite graceless storytelling techniques: sloppy exposition through dialogue. But last night we saw the Liars mostly set aside the chatter and make things happen. And you know what, beloved recap readers? Sometimes you just have to get it done. You have to flirt with the valet guy to steal some shady girl’s car; you have to break into the lab. You have to get your girlfriend’s mom to make you a key to their house so you can grab your girlfriend and kiss her hard enough to remind her why she fell for you in the first place. You have to write this recap at zero dark thirty because you went to the Taylor Swift concert and ABC Family inexplicably wouldn’t send you a screener to allow you to do this vital work in advance. We all power through. I am as committed to this work as Nicole is to recruiting Emily back into the Habitat for Hookuppery fold. Time to rank.

1. Hanna (last episode: 1)
She had the snappiest dialogue of the week and found out that her instincts about Charles were right all along annnd cons the valet guy into giving her Leslie’s car by playing into his presumably sexist assumptions about pretty girls being dumb annnd has a quality make-up make-out session with her boyfriend? Top spot clearly goes to the young Miss Marin for the third episode in a row. A hat trick! Girl’s a regular Carli Lloyd.

2. Caleb (last episode: not ranked)
“I have a reason.”

3. Mona (last episode: 9)
Could this girl be any ice-colder when she dismisses Spencer’s copy of Charles’s file that they’ve been holding on to as proof of his death? Turns out Charlie was on too many meds to be an eligible organ donor; combining this bit of trivia with the creepy birthday card he stuck under his daddy’s windshield, and it looks like we’ve got yet another undead DiLaurentis on our hands.

Also, interesting to hear from Spencer that Mona was “passing out juice boxes while the rest of us were making sure we still had kidneys.” I had no idea things got so Dewey Crowe down in the Dollhouse.

4. Spencer (last episode: 2)
Considering Spencer’s history of anxiety and addiction, she could stand to be a little cooler about mental illness and maybe not be all “Mona and Leslie were sharing a straitjacket.” Fight the stigma, Spence! Yes, Radley is like some Tim Burton nightmarescape of an old-timey loony bin, but that doesn’t mean Mona and Leslie didn’t have legitimate issues that should have been addressed by real doctors. Of course, real doctors in Rosewood are hard to come by, unless you like your medical professionals scruffy, handsome, barely competent, and just shy of 30.

Anyway, I’m glad Spencer’s original theory — Leslie is A because she thinks the Liars killed Bethany — is a wash, because we really didn’t need the central mystery of the show to hinge on not just one but two barely seen, not-at-all-interesting characters. I also just want to flag that our once-Penn-bound superstar no longer sees the point of school or exams. I’m a little disappointed! I mean, Hermione managed to keep her eye on that NEWT prize even when Voldemort was at her door.

5. Ashley (last episode: not ranked)
Making Caleb a key? Someone’s not a regular mom.

6. Aria (last episode: 3)
Honestly have like three total things about Aria in my notes this week; girl is back to boring. I guess I can tip my hat to “it’s kinda hard to hunt for clues and pick emoji at the same time.” Emoji selection is an all-consuming activity.

7. Sad Robyn (last episode: 5)
We knew the kiss between Sad Robyn and Emily would happen eventually, and in PLL time, “eventually” means “after characters have known each other for maybe two weeks.” Also, why have we still not met her parents? Why are we supposed to just go along with the illogical leap from “My mom keeps asking me to talk about what happened” to “Reporters probably offered her money” when, obviously, any parent would ask their kid, should said kid get kidnapped, what happened to them while in captivity?

Still not a fan of that tattoo, or the ease with which she was able to acquire it. Am also ready to be past the jokes about how Sad Robyn doesn’t get any pop-culture references because she’s been Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt–ing it up since puberty.

8. Emily (last episode: 10)
After much deliberation, I’ve decided to come down tentatively on the “pro” side regarding Emily’s overall shorts, but with a strong “probably don’t try this at home” caveat.

9. The speed with which the Liars decide someone must be A, as they immediately forget that they JUST were 100 percent convinced someone else was A (last episode: not ranked)
Mock those straitjackets all you want, Spencer, my dear. You know the real definition of insanity, don’t you?

10. Dean the drug counselor (last episode: 11)
Okay, let me get this straight: Every single time someone flakes on plans or fails to return a text, Dean’s immediate reaction is, “They must be lying in a gutter somewhere”? Dude, if that were the case, IMAGINE what the gutters would look like! They would be lousy with people, Drug-Free Dean. You’d barely be able to navigate these here roads, so overstuffed would our gutters be.

He plays the “Every time I’m around you I want to kiss you” card, so I guess we’re about two weeks out from Spencer taking him up on that offer; gird your gutters, everybody.

11. Leslie (last episode: 8)
Ugh, if you’re going to get fake glasses, couldn’t they at least be cute? Cool that she does weird experiments on animals and maybe hit Sad Robyn with her car.

12. Mr. DiLaurentis (last episode: 12)
Happy birthday?

Lingering concerns: What time are these freaking meetings that Spencer is going to, and how is it possible that she can both stand up Dean, for one, in the early evening (but late enough that it’s dark outside), and then break into the college lab that night, and then come back to Rosewood, and, without so much as stopping in the bathroom to polish her ponytail, go straight to another meeting? Did this second meeting start at three in the morning? Is it a continuation of the first meeting, which then would have lasted for at least five hours? Would anyone really tweet the hashtag #GrandTheftHanna? If all the Liars have chips in their necks, can’t they use that as evidence against A?

Fine, I’ll just walk back to New Jersey,