I need to begin at the real beginning: The name of this episode. "Original G'A'ngsters." Really? Really. These girls are … are they gangsters now? Is this gangster behavior? An awkward family dinner with your estranged sibling and aunt is not gangster. Eloping in Tuscany with your former English teacher is not gangster. The only remotely gangster move in this entire episode is by a one Pam Fields, who crashes a bachelorette party and so thoroughly assimilates into the friend group that she gets invited to a book club in a clique-within-the-clique. That'll earn you the top spot in the Pretty Little Power Rankings any week.
1. Pam Fields (last week: not ranked)
Giving Ashley Marin a run for her money.
2. Jason DiLaurentis (last week: not ranked)
Our road-weary Odysseus returns! You can tell he's seen some shit because his hair is long now and so is his scruff. 10/10 for both. Jason has better hair in this episode than all the Liars, even Emily.
It is still unclear why Jason, knowing the fragile health of his sister and the whole thing where his secret sibling was murdered; and also that his secret sibling's doctor wound up seducing, marrying, then torturing, and nearly killing his sister; and also how his mother tried to bury his sister alive; and also how his mother was murdered by — actually, I'm fairly certain we don't know who killed Jessica, but I do remember that their dog, Pepe, is the one who found her body by digging for bones in the backyard, as dogs are wont to do. Anyway, why didn't Jason stick around Rosewood? Look, I get wanting to get the hell away from that Hellmouth, but have your sister send some Snapchats or something.
Upon his return, he certainly gets things done: declaring himself Ali's primary caretaker; telling Mary to GTFO; making googly eyes at Aria and alluding to a tryst that, like everything else that's interesting in this universe, took place during the five-year time jump. I love the way he says "congratulations" when Aria tells him she's engaged. Apparently Elliot also stole all the money from Kemosabe, or whatever Jason's absurd-sounding nonprofit is, in addition to emptying Ali's bank account, which could lead a thoughtful viewer to wonder how the mortgage is being paid on the Main Line family home where Ali has set up shop.
3. Emily (last week: 7)
Literally the only person in Rosewood being parented. Impressive dedication to fitness. Should really silence her phone for her mom's birthday dinner.
4. Hanna (last week: 3)
"It's just so weird, being so close with someone," Hanna says, as if she is talking about Jordan, and I write in my notes: lol Hanna we saw him maybe four times, would not be able to pick him out of a lineup tomorrow, but of course she was talking about Caleb to Caleb, because they are "friends." Hanna gets some quality one-liners, mostly noticing the quality of her hair in the stalker photos Jessica DiLaurentis stored in her secret storm cellar — how many "lairs" has the PLL crew had to build? — and flipping out in the car: "We're gonna blow up! That's what countdowns mean!"
Did we back-burner the whole deal where Hanna thought she would go to jail for Elliot's murder? Are we still calling him Elliot?
5. Caleb (last week: 8)
He got to see Ashley Marin, which is more than I can say for the rest of us. I like watching him play Mr. Robot while Hanna convinces herself that she is just his "friend."
6. Yvonne (last week: not ranked)
In accordance with the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine, Yvonne is injured in a way that is both awful-sounding and appearance-preserving: a cracked rib and some itty-bitty stitches right along her hairline. She and Toby make a run for it to some small town in Maine, where I'm sure they'll be totally fine and everything will work out.
7. Toby (last week: not ranked)
See above, plus the part where he gets hit on by his ex-step-sister.
8. Ali (last episode: 6)
Damn, Ali didn't tell Jason she was getting married? Do these kids even have each others' phone numbers?
9. Spencer (last episode: 1)
Spencer is rocking the rather unfortunate Hermione-in-the-books-not-cute-Emma-Watson-in-the-movies look, from her badly curled hair and center-parted bangs — oof — to the early Rory Gilmore collared shirt under the crewneck sweater. Is she going for Molly the American Girl Doll chic? Because of all the American Girl Dolls, I feel confident Molly was the least chic, thus forming the basis of her everygirl appeal. (I only read the books but the cool one was Samantha, right? Blair Waldorf of the Victorian set?) Anyway, Spencer's love life is in shambles because her exes are all kinds of over her and she is in a bad way. What happened to that cute guy who strip-studied with her? Maybe they're soul mates.
Spencer gives everyone what I guess are BFF necklaces, because, in the grand tradition of girls who build their lives around their boyfriends and then unexpectedly find themselves single, she feels like friendship is so important. Then, when Toby tells her about his Jenna incident, she's all, "Why didn't you tell me?!" Because you were broken up, Spencer. And if he HAD told you, you'd be like, "Why are you telling me this? Shouldn't you be telling 'Yvonne'?"
10. Noel Kahn (last week: not ranked)
Why is Noel even here? He just runs around being a dick — "I always knew you'd never get out of Rosewood," he says to Emily, whose father was killed in Iraq less than two years ago — and involves himself in dicey activity loosely related to Sad Robyn, who is barely connected to any of our central characters. Why bring back Noel and Lucas, to name one obvious counterpoint, if neither has stuff to do? Why bring back anyone but Mona? Also, WHERE IS MONA. I know that doesn't have anything to do with Noel. I'm just so annoyed that I have to keep sitting through episodes in which the only competent, consistently great character is as M.I.A. as Ali in season one.
11. Mary Drake (last week: 5)
Are we up to speed on the whole arrangement between Jessica and Mary? Wish this show were done like Pop-Up Video, so explanations about who everyone is and the amount I need to care about them would appear throughout each episode.
12. Ezra (last week: 9)
Taking in the scope of decorations, initiation mock-ups, and other wedding paraphernalia that Aria and Ezra somehow amassed during approximately 24 hours of being engaged, Ezra hyperventilates and suggests eloping at a villa in Tuscany. He is daunted by literally one day of wedding planning. Sounds like someone who can really stick it out, Aria! Lock this dude down.
One might think, after so many years of being either directly involved in or in the proximity of murders and the investigations that followed, Ezra would know how incredibly bad it would look for him to whisk away his beloved to Italy just days after Sad Robyn's dead body was found soaking in a bathtub (in her own blood). This is his response when Aria, of all people, points out the obvious issue: "Why would it look suspicious? You didn't kill her."
Anyway, looks like the Habitat for Hookuppery chick is still alive. Can't wait to see how that shakes out for this groom-to-be.
13. Jenna (last week: 10)
First of all, if Jenna is supposed to be a criminal mastermind, what is she doing labeling folders on her computer's desktop with obvious titles like "Charlotte DiLaurentis." On your DESKTOP? You don't have code names for any of these people, Jenna?
Second of all, flashback Jenna escalates what could have been an almost tender moment between former step-siblings into a Flowers in the Attic reenactment, much to Toby's (and my) horror. The only former step-siblings who are allowed to have a love story are Josh and Cher, and that is because Cher was totally butt-crazy in love with Josh, which is a completely different thing than whatever this is.
14. Where the hell is everyone's family (last week: not ranked)
Aria got ENGAGED and she is toasting this hilariously horrendous life choice with her besties-in-crime? Where are her parents supposed to be? Don't they live in Rosewood? What happened to Magic Mike Montgomery? Once upon a time, Spencer's sister was a very important suitcase-handle-haver and Veronica Hastings was just elected to local office. Why aren't they at Spencer's house, like, ever? You know Veronica would be all over Spencer for lingering in aimless unemployment, botching attempts to solve murder-mysteries like she's still a forever-sophomore at Rosewood High.
I don't recall exactly what went down between Ali and her dad, but this seems like a good time to let those particular bygones be bygones, seeing as the man's only daughter was recently released from a shady mental hospital where her secret-identity-having husband drugged and abused her into insanity. Ashley Marin, of whom we are not worthy, gives Caleb a job to beef up hotel security, and though this interaction surely would have been banter-y and delightful, it takes place offscreen. What were you saving screen time for, PLL? Noel Kahn muttering incoherently about characters we've never met doing ~bad things~ we know nothing about?
Love Emily's mom, although I guess we're never going to find out how she and the rest of the Liars' mothers got out of that basement.
15. Making jokes about a blind girl when you are literally the people who blinded her (last week: 14)
Hanna, to Caleb: "You know you can turn the lights on? She wouldn't know the difference." HANNA, WHAT DID I JUST SAY.
Lingering concerns: Did Jason and Ali even know their own mom? They seem completely clueless about everything and everyone in their family, including each other. How does Aria have a wedding dress already? Why is A.D. still a thing? And why can't it just be A?
While you're making an effort, she's making off with our silverware,