As I live and breathe (or, as Elliot dies and not-breathes), that was one wallop of a PLL. Dare I say we returned, for one night, to the platonic ideal of a PLL episode? It has everything: the cover-up of a gross but necessary murder, booze-fueled hook-uppery, and even plot continuity. Is it a coincidence that this excellence features the long overdue return of Mona, Rosewood's Wonder Woman, and Jenna, the town Dollanganger, while completely leaving out Ezra and the rest of the rando love interests, including but not limited to Liam, Jordan, and Yvonne? I think not! Let's get into this week's Pretty Little Power Rankings.
1. Mona (last week: not ranked)
Hell yes, Mona is back. Thank freaking God, because without her — and it aches for me to say this, but if I can't be real with you all, my stranger-friends on the internet, what else is there? — the rest of these Liars would be chasing their tails in the dark while fretting about their boyfriends and whether to call the police. Mona has no patience for A's new name. Mona was suspicious of Rollins ages ago and put a GPS tracker in his car. Mona points out that the Liars "didn't exactly do a crackerjack job of erasing the tire tracks." Mona knows that Elliot had a burner phone because OF COURSE Elliot had a burner phone. Mona tells the Liars that she had Elliot's windshield replaced "at a place that Mona asks questions and doesn't give answers." Mona knows that leaving a half-burned car in the woods is dumb and Mona gracefully breaks back into Elliot's car to fetch Hanna's bracelet before commuters flood that Main Line station. Mona can hack all the cellphone towers from some Windows-looking laptop because Mona is Mr. Robot.
Mona is such a cold-blooded boss queen that she inserted herself into someone else's homicide for, like, recreational and mystery-solving reasons only she will ever understand. She's like someone with OCD who has to straighten a crooked picture frame on the wall, but for murder. All hail Mona! We are not worthy.
2. That opening scene (last week: not ranked)
Emily is freaking the fuck out. Spencer is reminding everyone they just committed FIRST DEGREE MURDER so, like some kind of criminal Dory, she rallies the troops to just deep digging, just keep digging. Ali sits in the dirt like a white fairy ghost, and you think she's completely out of it, damaged beyond repair from her nights in the nuthouse strapped into the hockey mask from hell (you'd think a guy with access to that latex machine and Creepy McCreeperson's Mask-Making Emporium could've set his wife up with something a little less horror-flick looking but, you know, hindsight's 20/20). Hanna is frozen in the driver's seat with a lightning bolt of blood on her face. Aria, that delicate, clueless fawn, wants to tell the cops the truth. "What truth is that?" Spencer wants to know. "That Hanna didn't know the right pedal from the left?" Honestly, if Drivers Ed at Rosewood High was anything like the English department, it's a miracle any of these girls can get their cars out of park. Spencer thinks that everyone skipped town because "he's a dirtbag." Hard to argue with that kind of logic!
Just when you think, Spencer is the badass running this shit, Ali, so young to be a widow, floats over from her little Free People catalog reenactment, claws into the dirt, and pulls out Elliot's Welby ID. "You're gonna need this," she deadpans, because she is OVER IT. In case you're wondering if the show appreciates her prowess here, she gets to do the "shh" in the credits this week.
3. Hanna (last week: 6)
She speaks the night's truest line: "Nobody thinks of everything." Well, it's almost the truest line. Mona thinks of everything, because Mona is no mere mortal. But still, Hanna's head is in the right place: Hubris will bring this death squad down faster than you can say, "Wow, I didn't realize the Rosewood Police could jump into action so quickly."
Usually these girls are wrong about who perpetrated what crimes, but I think we're supposed to be onboard with Hanna's belief that Elliot kept her in that outdoor shed where Brie Larson won her Oscar. If that's the case, it appears we're also supposed to believe that Hanna, deep down where she hid her sense of humor that whole time she was dating Jordan, hit Elliot on purpose. I'm into it! But I hope she doesn't go to prison; that was boring enough the first time.
4. Emily (last week: 1)
I guess we're just supposed to believe that Emily got smarter over the last five years, even though she stopped going to class and never really finished college? Whatever, she's more fun to watch when she's clever. I love how she laments Elliot's lame-ass phone usage — "As far as I can tell, the guy never even used an emoji" — and assures Spencer she is "still" the "uptight nerd" for carrying around disinfectant wipes, practical though they may be. She wisely tells Spencer to go easy on Hanna because being back in Rosewood is like, trigger city, and they've all "fallen into old patterns." It's sort of mean of her to yell at Spencer when Spencer is already too drunk to function, but I understand the impulse.
5. Spencer (last week: 2)
Ooh, where to begin with this girl? She made some interesting choices, but I'd say I enjoyed all of them, even the dumb ones. She runs the hell out of that grave-digging situation, she's honest with Hanna about needing more time to be mad at her, and she does a classic the-truth-is-the-best-lie thing at the bar with Marco, answering his "what were you doing tonight?" (a line that literally made me laugh out loud) with a steady "burying a body."
As Spencer kept popping those olives in her mouth and downing the martinis they came in, I wrote in my notes: DO NOT LOSE FOCUS SPENCER MY QUEEN YOU HAVE PLACES TO BE. But: (1) I called her my queen before I knew Mona was coming back and (2) WHATEVER, girl needed to get her rocks off in the elevator with a sexy stranger because she was having. A. Day.
Also, this: "Timing is for figure skaters and comedians. You either love someone or you don't."
6. The return of impressively snappy dialogue (last week: not ranked)
I've already given some of the gems shout-outs, but I was particularly enamored with Spencer, scrubbing evidence off the floor, muttering to herself: "God, if Mr. Muzari could see me right now, I totally would've gotten the part of Lady Macbeth." (She trusts you'll understand the reference to another Scottish tragedy without her having to name the play.) Also a fan of Aria helping Hanna remember the crime she could be thrown in the slammer for — vehicular manslaughter! — and Hanna insisting she recognized the specific tree where the car was supposed to be because, "it looked like one of those trees that the little men would live in … with the ears?" When the reference finally dawns on her — "Keebler elves!" — the momentary expression of satisfaction on her face is perfection.
7. Aria (last week: 5)
Aria loses Ali within 30 seconds of arriving at Welby. Never put Aria in charge of anything. Points for "She also carried around a doll with no face" and for her total lack of interest in brunch.
8. Jenna (last week: not ranked)
So Jenna's got Elliot's burner on speed-dial and she knows his real name is the marginally more preposterous "Archer." As she approached Toby outside the police station, I asked myself: Remember when she was blackmailing her half-brother (step-brother?) with those incest-tapes or whatever? Weren't all the girls being watched by some older male creeper who filmed their middle-school pillow fights? As far as I can tell, this show dropped that plot point like Hanna's bracelet in Elliot's backseat.
9. Ali (last week: 4)
I want to go along with this thing where Ali had no reason to know Elliot was a fraud, but seriously did no one Google this aggressively fake-seeming dude? GOOGLE, PEOPLE. No one called the med school he claimed to have attended? Look, Ali: He was Charlotte's doctor. You didn't check his credentials before he took on that job? And then you failed to check them out when he started whispering sweet British-sounding whatevers in your ear? You used to be so tough and intimidating that Aria faked sick for the school nurse so you wouldn't find out she'd worn the same shirt as you! SMH, such a disappointment.
10. Caleb (last week: 8)
What becomes of the broken-hearted? We'll never find out because Caleb, keeping with behavior we've seen in the flashbacks, bolts from his home with nary a trace or short-sleeve button-down left behind, even though Spencer told him she would talk to him in the morning. Like, that's a very sweet story about how you didn't take the job in San Francisco because one night with Spencer gave you the feelings — although, possibly not the brightest call, considering it was a good opportunity and you could've made a long-distance thing work for a while — but clearly she did not have time to talk to you, she LITERALLY just murdered a guy. Come back later.
11. I get that they're busy covering up a murder, but I really think all these girls should be seeing a therapist (last week: not ranked)
Is there anyone left in Rosewood who doesn't have PTSD?
Lingering concerns: Assuming we care about this sort of thing, who do we think killed Charlotte if Ali is telling the truth? How, where, and when did the Liars acquire all the shovels and the car-torching tools they needed without blowing their cover or arousing suspicion? Are we going to see Marco again?
Was I confused, or was I the least confused I've ever been in my life?