Remember in Gossip Girl, before Dan outed himself as the man behind the site, when everybody was at that bar and Kristen Bell's voice-over told us that Gossip Girl was everyone because the site couldn't exist without all the dirt dished by every teen in the room? I bring this up because (1) I really miss early GG; and (2) What if A isn't a person? What if A is a place?
More to the point: What if Rosewood is A? The town, to paraphrase Spencer, has a gravitational pull that none of our Liars (though, apparently, all of their parents) can escape. How else to explain why these crazy kids keep returning to their own personal Hellmouth, ground zero for all their troubles, a Main Line suburb with an alarming number of mental hospitals per square mile? Just something to keep in mind as you read this week's Pretty Little Power Rankings.
1. Emily (last week: 6)
Her strategy is all wrong, but I'll give her this: Emily is right about almost everything. I know, it's hard to wrap your head around it. That's like saying, "Aria deployed common sense" or "the Liars called the police." (Don't worry, neither of these things happen this week.) But Emily gets a hilariously desperate call from Ali, who choke-sobs, "HELP ME I NEED YOU, YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE I CAN TRUST BECAUSE WE MADE OUT IN THE SEVENTH GRADE," and spends pretty much the entirety of the episode trying to convince Spencer that something is ~off~ about Ali's accommodations at the off-brand Radley where Elliot stashed her. Emily is the only person to say anything about how Ali's health has dropped off rather precipitously since she was admitted into what I can only assume is the newly-reopened Byberry Mental Hospital. Not that this intel does her much good, but during a week in which Spencer is down for the count, Emily rises to the occasion.
2. Lucas (last week: not ranked)
I honestly can't remember (and don't care) how he got so rich so fast or why he's in a position to say douchey-but-funny things like "the private spaceship market is a little overcrowded at the moment," but I'm fine with this junior-varsity Elon Musk sticking around. At least he's been in this universe for more than 30 seconds; his presence suggests something close to continuity, a concept I thought PLL abandoned years ago, along with Ali's personality.
3. Mary Drake (last week: 3)
"Miss Drake" (lol) picks Hanna up on the highway and just drops her off at Spencer's house. If she's a Big Bad, she must be playing a long game, unless the primal fear she's exploiting is "being the last person to go home when your friend's mom does carpool." Do we believe her story about Jessica killing a ten-month-old baby and then sticking Mary with the body and the rap sheet? If so, I wouldn't not watch a flashback/spin-off series set in the ’80s about the DiLaurentis twins as diabolical teenagers, especially if Mary spent her formative years bopping in and out of Radley. Right? Freeform, if you're interested, you know where to find me. I promise not to mock Ravenswood in the pitch meeting.
4. Liam (last week: not ranked)
"You worked hard for this," Liam says to Aria about a novel she half-wrote in a few weeks based on an outline Ezra gave her from his eat-pray-love-death trip to South America.
I was ready to write off this "creative gatekeeper" for that dopey line but then — be still my power-ranking heart — Liam earned all the points in my book for saying what I have been all-caps-ing in these recaps since their inception: He calls out Ezra for being a statutory rapist. He points out that "Ezra" in the book is troubling due to "the predatory nature of his actions," and although Liam gets "the Lolita myth," he wants Ezra to walk back the kind of thing "that makes your skin crawl." And then, when Liam sees Aria again, he is straightforward and brutal: "I think you were seduced by your English teacher when you were in high school." When Aria says she can't explain it to him, he goes, "Try by telling me how you would explain it to yourself."
Get out while you still can, Liam! You deserve so much better than Rosewood can offer you.
5. Elliot (last week: 4)
"I've decided that Alison would be better off in isolation right now." Um, what? Where are all the actual doctors at this joint? How is anyone letting this Doogie Howser–looking schmuck violate one of the most no-duh clauses in the American Medical Association's ethics manual? Do we even know what kind of doctor Elliot is? What are the odds he skimmed a few clips from The Magic School Bus Goes Inside the Human Body, ordered a fake diploma off the internet, then called it a day? He has yet to demonstrate any real medical expertise and seems mostly like one of those old-time-y physicians who made house calls to prescribe moonlight leechings and unpasteurized milk to women he diagnosed with the incest-shakes.
6. Hanna (last week: 10)
Hanna starts the episode in a low sloppy bun, the official hairstyle of the desolate. Then she has an existential crisis in front of Caleb, wherein she denies their kiss meant anything more than her impulsive desire to feel safe — whole lot of good that did her — and then she goes to New York City to seduce her fiancé. Somehow, her fuck-me pumps and cut-to-there dress fail to save the relationship. But at least she breaks up with Jordan before the wedding and signs on to some business partnership with Lucas. In doing so, she kind of takes control of her life — something she claims isn't even possible.
7. Spencer (last week: 2)
Things aren't going well for the Kristy of this little Baby-Sitters Club. Spencer starts the episode by giving Hanna and Caleb some space to make heart-eye-emoji at each other; she occupies herself by leaning against a wall, inhaling and exhaling on a four-count, and hating her life. Even when she's right, no one listens to her. (When Elliot claims that he knows best for Ali because he's "her husband and her doctor," Spencer says, "Maybe that's not the best combination.") Caleb is already talking about their relationship in the past tense. And then, just as I was wondering, Doesn't Spencer have a real job in Washington?, she gets axed via text message. Yet another out-of-work millennial who has to move back in with her parents. I'll just say what we're all thinking: She never should've gotten those straight-across bangs.
8. Aria (last week: 7)
Hang on, I need to pull a Spencer.
[Goes into the hallway, breathes slowly, thinks about my choices, remembers how young we all were when this show premiered back in 2010.]
I CANNOT, I CAN-FREAKING-NOT WITH THIS IMPOSSIBLE DUMB-DUMB.
First, Aria makes Liam schlep to Rosewood just so she can dump him. She doesn't even do him the courtesy of admitting that she has feelings for Ezra; she pretends she has "things" to work out. Then, when Ezra reports back to her about how badly his meeting went with Liam, she's all, "Anger at what?" GEE ARIA, I WONDER WHY YOUR EX IS ANGRY AT EZRA AND ALSO AT YOU. Liam confronts Aria with her actions — which happened five years ago, so you'd think upon reflection, armed with a modicum of maturity and a college degree, she would be able to see exactly how old 15 is — she refuses to own up to what happened. Instead, she just imagines an automatic button that would unwrite all my recaps.
9. Ezra (last week: 13)
"They aren't that far apart in age, so I'm having a little trouble seeing what you're seeing here." Ezra, what Liam is seeing is the age of consent in Pennsylvania. At least try to cover your ass by saying, "Oh, yeah she's underage, I can see why you would say that." Also, I cannot believe that Ezra, in what is technically a novel, didn't just make Aria's character 18 years old.
10. Caleb (last week: 9)
PICK A LANE, BRO.
11. So they're really committed to this "AD" thing (last week: not ranked)
"Glad we're on the same team." Ugh, God.
12. Ali (last week: 12)
It's probably not great that the last shot of Ali we see is her strapped to a gurney, while that mute nurse and Elliot rush her into the blinding light of who-knows-what.
13. Literally everyone related to Hanna (last week: not ranked)
Let's just run through this one more time: Hanna was kidnapped and tortured for either 24 hours or maybe four days? (This timeline, like all timelines in Rosewood, is unclear and probably irrelevant.) Hanna, lest you forget, has been kidnapped and tortured before, for a considerable length of time. Girl's a regular Kimmy Schmidt. And when she rolls back into Rosewood and falls off the grid, no one in her family — not her mother, not her fiancé, not her so-distant-you-may-have-forgotten-him-but-I-didn't-because-I'm-a-professional father — inquired as to her whereabouts? Jordan didn't jump on the Acela the minute his texts went unanswered? Why won't this show throw us some flimsy excuse for goddess and generally decent mother Ashley Marin's absence? (Is she still locked in Emily's basement with the rest of the moms?)
14. Jordan (last week: not ranked)
Gets a double-entry for his double-powerlessness: Not only did he get dumped by Hanna at the construction site that used to be the swanky-looking bar where they met, but he's considered so pointless by Hanna's besties that no one even called to tell him she went missing. Ezra and Caleb were present and accounted for, but this Aussie? No such luck.
The only good thing about Jordan is how, in the flashback, he volunteers to buy Hanna food instead of a third drink. That is a VERY slick tactic I wish other gentlemen would practice. Reminds me of Liz Lemon's "I already have a drink, do you think he'd buy me mozzarella sticks?"
Lingering concerns: How do any of these girls still have jobs? Where is Jason? Isn't Ali's dad still alive? Shouldn't he swing by one of these days, see how one of his only surviving family is holding up?
I have a very low tolerance for condescension,