Pretty Little Liars Recap: Girl on Fire

Lucy Hale as Aria. Photo: Ron Tom/Disney Enterprises
Pretty Little Liars
Episode Title
Burn This
Editor’s Rating

I wish I could have warned Hanna that bridal showers rarely go the way you plan. Should she have expected A to hack into Lucas's "smart loft" and, after a heavy-metal lockdown and a brief indoor tornado, light Aria's dress on fire? I don't know. I mean, I was a Girl Scout, so I like to be prepared. Hanna, on the other hand, was winging it and now look what happened: Mona's dream wedding book is charred, and all she got for her trouble was the symbolically heavy line about "good intentions that look like trash." It's a dark time for the Liars, with emotional flashbacks and ex-boyfriend infighting and all those mannequins Ashley hired to pretend to be Hanna's friends for the party. Don't worry, though: None of those nameless randos makes a cameo in this week's Pretty Little Power Rankings.

1. Emily (last week: 8)
Emily was so on point. Everything she points out is just so true. Right at the start, she dismisses Ali's quickie wedding as proof that Rosewood's OG Hitchcock Blonde is "desperate for a family." Then, after picking up on the sound of those whistle tips, she actually has the chutzpah to go to some seedy car-repair place and investigate. (I find it hard to believe that sanitized suburban Rosewood doesn't have a more charming, scrubbed-clean shop for checking under the hood of every Lexus on the Main Line but, whatever.) She goes alone; one would think, after her experience last week wherein she was almost road-killed by some A-affiliate, she'd call on someone for backup.

Her best line, delivered with impeccable timing, is her reaction to Aria's description of the suspect from the Two Crows diner: "A hot brunette with a cheesy keychain? That's like half this party."

2. Mona (last week: not ranked)
As some of our more dark, complicated characters have turned bland and unsympathetic (Ali) and others have stayed trapped in their teenage habits, even though it is ostensibly five years in the future (Aria), Mona has kept all her complexity. She is as believable as a villain as she is as a victim; she is conniving and caring at the same time. Her motives haven't really changed: She just wants to belong. She is the most interesting character in the pack by miles. I cannot wait to see what she was up to at the Two Crows diner that night, with her cover-blowing key chain at her side.

3. Hanna (last week: 1)
I would say Hanna's utter disdain for the bridal shower, even while it is happening, is one of my favorite things about her. It doesn't help that we don't recognize any of the guests besides the usual (murder) suspects, and apparently neither does she; nor does it help that Ashley's charming but misguided attempts at making the event fun revolve around the most basic, awkward party games known to girlkind. But Hanna isn't even on board before she knows what a disaster it's going to be. As unappealing as I found her black-and-yellow sweater situation to be, I approve wholeheartedly of her bridal-shower dress. She goes for the white, but there's a black underlay. We know how she really feels.

At first, she snaps at Ashley for never giving Jordan a chance. But of course, by the end of the episode, fair Hanna realizes that she never really brought Jordan into her inner circle in a meaningful way, and this is why her besties failed to answer such entry-level trivia questions as "Where did Hanna and Jordan meet?" (LOL to Emily's effort: "A work function?" No way could Emily tell anyone, right now, what Jordan even does for a living. No judgment. I can't, either.) Hanna also does a decent job of damage control — that is, while the damage is still controllable — scrapping the game and substituting a foolproof alternative: "Isn't there one where everyone takes a shot when you hear the word 'bride'?" Oh yes, Hanna, there is.

4. The impeccable timing of this episode (last week: not ranked)
What are the odds that an episode that directly addresses Yvonne's abortion and Spencer considering one that she ultimately didn't need, would air the day before a major Supreme Court argument that will affect abortion access for millions of women? Probably an accident but, damn, PLL, that's a powerful coincidence.

5. Spencer (last week: 7)
I have so much respect and love for flashback Spencer. Honestly, I am sure it was not the writers' intent to turn me against Toby here — we're supposed to empathize with how hard the situation is for both of them — but his myopic insistence on using this potentially life-altering (and, as Spencer rightfully points out, probably life-ruining) maybe-pregnancy as a springboard to make the situation all about him and his relationship insecurities is so massively insensitive and juvenile, even for a college sophomore, that I can barely stomach it.

Back in the present/future timeline, Spencer and Caleb have a real Belle-and-the-Beast moment on a park bench as she ices his busted face. In my notes, I wrote: For some reason, they are doing this in public. And lo and behold, Spencer was being tailed by someone her father hired, or at least her dad spotted her in action, and this resulted in an eye-roll inducing talking-to from a guy with no moral authority in Spencer's life. Stay strong, Spence. Maybe it's just a haircut-themed variation on the Zapoleon rule, but those bangs are finally, actually growing on me.

6. Caleb (last week: 14)
Still down and out and, for obvious reasons, unlikely to take Ashley up on the offer to move back into her guest room anytime soon, but I'll save him from the bottom of the PLPR for his spot-on witty banter with Ashley about that beanie he stuffed in a dresser in the Marin household: "I actually left it for you, in case you wanted to wear it to clean your chimney flute or something." Chim chim cher-ee, you temporarily homeless chap. Oh, and keep icing that nose. Twenty minutes on, 20 minutes off. You'll be okay.

7. Ashley (last week: not ranked)
Cashely today, Cashley tomorrow, Cashley forever.

8. Aria (last week: 3)
Oh, so now she's co-writing this book with Ezra? WHAT COULD GO WRONG. I applaud her quick thinking at the police station, but not the non-thinking that got her down to the station in the first place. I've said it before and, though I prayer-hand-emojied that I wouldn't have to, I will say it again: Why don't these girls consult an attorney before making any decisions regarding law enforcement? How many times do they have to be burned by the Rosewood Police Department before they just suck it up and get somebody on retainer? The Liars need a Maurice Levy like, ASAP.

Aria suffers second-degree burns that get her whisked away to the hospital. But, as it is written in the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine, only her forearm is injured; her face and hair are 100 percent unscathed. No flyaways, no makeup smudges. As Aria recovers from this near-death experience in the hospital, with only her secret ex-boyfriend to keep her company, one wonders: Where are the parents who love her so much they asked to her officiate their second wedding? WHERE IS MIA MIKE MONTGOMERY?

9. Liam (last week: 12)
If you have to tell someone, "I'm really happy for you," there is a 97 percent chance that you have never been less happy for anyone in your life. Sidebar: Did none of you know that this actor is reportedly dating Emma Watson in real life, or were you holding out on me?

10. That fake-as-hell-looking headshot of Melissa on Emily's phone (last week: not ranked)
How hard is it to get a candid of the actress? Why on Earth would Emily have a photo like that — so obviously posed and with a white backdrop — on her phone?

11. Toby (last week: not ranked)
I understand that he's emotional and the stakes are high and whatnot, but at what point in this narrative will the Liars and all related parties learn to react to all troubling scenarios by first thinking, "Could A have done this?" and then, only after eliminating that psycho-stalker as a possible offender, move on to blaming other parties?

12. Ezra (last week: 13)
Less insufferable than usual, if only for his dramatic reading of a fashion magazine.

13. Mr. Hastings (last week: not ranked)
So lame I can't be bothered to remember his first name, popping up as he always does — rarely, and only to cover Melissa's ass without explaining anything to his smarter, more relevant daughter — and as irritating as sand-in-your-bikini bottoms every time he talks. Why is he employing that offbrand Batvoice? Does he think it's intimidating? Spencer will not be intimidated, least of all by her slutty barely-there padre.  

Lingering concerns: So, Ashley just threw Hanna's bridal shower in Lucas's loft? She didn't want to host that in her own lovely home, but in the abandoned swanky digs of a dude Hanna barely knew in high school? Is Lt. Tanner a force for good or evil? Do we really think Matt Damon was Hanna's type in the eighth grade? I know it's awkward to say it now, but I think she would've been more of a Ben girl.

He's an adult, not a pound puppy,