Pretty Little Liars Recap: Smooth Operator

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Troian Bellisario as Spencer, Shay Mitchell as Emily, Lucy Hale as Aria.
Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

Hold Your Piece Season 7 Episode 13
Editor's Rating 5 stars

As the journalists who want to prove they’ve read all the hippest longform like to say on Twitter: THIS. This is what I was expecting these final episodes to look like: urgent, snappy, an excellent balance of hook-uppery among couples of which I approve, gruesome-slash-terrifying antics from A, and lots of Scoobying around to solve the mystery. This was an hour of legitimately impressive quips — even Emily got in a few crackling one-liners — and barely any time wasted on aggressively boring, forgettable, or dispensable characters. The competition for the top spot in this week’s Pretty Little Power Rankings was the fiercest it’s been since the five-year jump.

1. A.D. (last week: not ranked)
I’ve got to hand it to the Milton Brother from hell: It knows exactly what is going to make each of these Liars completely bonkers and deeply upset. In just one episode, this suburban Seneca Crane taps into Hanna’s why-me complex — as Aria wisely points out (yes, even Aria was smart this week), the game is unfair by design, to “keep us off-balance” — as well as Caleb’s inability to not get involved in Hanna’s problems and Spencer’s stress over being “some sort of Dickensian foundling.” A haunted Tamagotchi torturing Spencer with its infant howls? That my-size Chuckie with the Hanna face that literally gushed blood when Hanna cut on the dotted line with the knife straight out of the Emoji Weapons Collection? So disgusting, 10/10.

(Sidebar: Do we think the PLL writers swiped that reference from all my recaps by referring to Radley as Voldemort’s Dickensian Orphanage for the Morally and Mentally Afflicted? A power ranker can dream!)

2. Spencer (last week: 3)
As I’ve said before, I am trying to brace myself for the inevitable: This show is going to force everyone back together with their high-school sweethearts, even in cases where it makes absolutely no sense. If there were any justice in this brutal world, Spencer and Officer Marco Elevator would be ping-ponging off into the sunset when those final credits roll. Someone in the wardrobe department agrees with me; it is not an accident that when these two bump into each other at the Brew, they’re wearing almost the exact same shade of heather gray.

Spencer has a really sweet date with Marco — she learned some surprising stuff about him, while we learned some totally not-surprising stuff about her, like that she was the ping-pong champion at her all-girls’ horseback riding camp — so of course Yvonne had to go and die and ruin everything. But before that happens, Spencer is able to have a respectful, normal conversation with Caleb, as exes who want things to be fine, followed by a quality make-out session with the only cop in Rosewood who isn’t actively terrible at his job.

3. Emily (last week: 10)
Right out of the gate, this girl is more impressive than she’s been in forever. She covers for Ali, badly, but saves her stuttering non-excuse with a nice “I guess there’s a lot of red tape when you’re trying to unmarry a dead identity thief.” I have a feeling it’s not a coincidence that Emily is able to be peak Emily — the shiny flowing hair of a Disney princess, the loyalty of a Gryffindor, and the brain of someone with more than a sixth-grade education — when she is as far away from Paige, Ali, and Rosewood High as possible. She doesn’t let go of the idea that Mary Drake is responsible for everything, she is admirably effective at threatening Sydney, and she does not allow her inexplicable romantic feelings for virtually every girl she’s ever met to impede her investigation.

4. Aria (last week: 9)
Well. I’ll. Be. Ms. Montgomery gets it together this week! Much like Emily, Aria is her best when she is away from all the significant (and insignificant) others who inspire her to be her most annoying, insecure, and/or dull self — so, Ezra, Holden, and pretty much everyone she’s ever dated. I like that she’s wearing tassel earrings, a nod to that feather from way back when. In other fashion news, it appears our girl has a new motorcycle jacket. This one is black with leopard-print sleeves, which is strange because I thought Bebe was going out of business. She’s also rocking a lot of cleavage for this daytime recon mission; girl looks good, but if you’re trying to not be noticed, maybe something that calls to mind the Baywatch red, deep-V, backless leotard from American Apparel (R.I.P.) isn’t the way to go?

Questionable attire aside, Aria gets a quick surveillance slash stalking lesson from Caleb, then she is somehow able to Mr. Robot her way into all of Sydney’s devices. She also successfully gets a GPS tracker into Sydney’s yoga bag, and does some actual arm-twisting to boot. Holy competence, Batman!

5. Flipping around the classic “mysterious figure with black gloves” closer (last week: not ranked)
I see what you did there, PLL. Also: a severed finger?! Gross, gross, gross. (Great job, obviously I loved it.)

6. Officer Marco Elevator (last week: 2)
Such solid impromptu date planning! He ribs Spencer about her inability to have a good time, he helps her realize that she’s been so caught up in her own (admittedly bananas) personal drama that she’s lost all perspective on the complicated family histories pretty much everybody has to reckon with, he had senior Zumba moved so he and Spencer could flirtatiously play ping-pong without any interruptions, and he is very handy with on-the-spot shoulder repair. (Also: Spencer’s injury bleeds in the most controlled way possible. It is basically just a red polka dot on her white shirt, in accordance with the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Medicine.)

7. Hanna (last week: 7)
“You can’t spell anonymous without ‘A.D.,’” says Hanna, which is goofy and funny, although do I remember correctly that Hanna stealthily did better on her SATs than everyone else in this bunch? And if Hanna is going to be a serious designer, I need her to stop wearing camouflage.

Anyway, Hanna’s “Style” section glory is short-lived when A.D. drops the maybe rumor/maybe fact that the design in question was stolen from Claudia. She gets what is, objectively, the most grisly turn in the game: a Chuckie-looking Hanna-bot that she has to operate on, stuffed like a piñata with a cute little racial appropriation outfit. Hanna is supposed to rock this Katy Perry chic to a meeting with Japanese investors or face A.D.’s wrath; in addition to being about as culturally sensitive as a headdress at Coachella, it is, in Caleb’s words, “everyone’s-gonna-see-your-spicy-tuna-roll short.” She narrowly escapes this fate, but winds up losing her turn. I have a feeling that will not work out well for her.

8. Caleb (last week: 1)
I could not love Caleb’s unabashed pride in Hanna’s professional success more. Look at how many copies of the newspaper he bought! “I got one for your mom, your dad, Grandma Marin.” Plus points for standout boyfriending and ex-boyfriending aside — he was real sweet and mature about Spencer’s “vibes” with Marco — Caleb unfortunately sinks to the bottom half of the power rankings for getting “poisoned by some toxic version of Candyland.” Also, Hanna claims that she can hide the game phone in her bag since “guys aren’t going to go through a girl’s purse because they’re too afraid to accidentally touch a tampon.” That is true as a general rule, but don’t you think Caleb is the kind of guy who reminds Hanna to take her pill, generally knows what’s up with her cycle, and is not embarrassed at all to be seen scooping up tampons at CVS?

9. Lucas (last week: not ranked)
Is it just me or is his unending generosity way more unnerving than Hanna seems to think it is?

10. Sydney (last week: not ranked)
I forgot this girl existed, but apparently she’s important again? On the bright side, she gave us a great sign-off: “Namaste, bitch.”

11. Toby (last week: not ranked)
“When you get a chance, Yvonne’s out of the coma.” I know that line was not intended to make me laugh out loud but (1) I am a heartless monster, could be A.D., you don’t know, (2) the juxtaposition of the super casual and literally life-altering parts of that one sentence is hilarious, and (3) Yvonne is about 95 percent plot device, 5 percent personality, and that’s a very generous read. Toby gets to enjoy marital bliss and fantasies of moderately unconventional globetrotting with his wife for all of 15 seconds before Yvonne dramatically drops her bouquet to the floor and dies before his eyes. Mazel tov?

12. SWEET MARY DRAKE, MOTHER OF SPENCER, STOP MAKING FUN OF JENNA FOR BEING BLIND YOU OFF-BRAND HEATHERS, YOU ARE THE ONES WHO BLINDED HER (last week: 12)
Hanna, naming Jenna as the suspect for the blog sabotage: “Blind item, blind girl.”

13. Yvonne (last week: not ranked)
Not that I want to spend any more time with this chick, and not that Rosewood is exactly known for its world-class parenting, but where are her mom and dad? She’s in a coma and the only person keeping an eye on her is … Toby? Oh well, good-bye forever, Yvonne. May you rest in peace and join the rest of PLL’s gone-and-definitely-forgotten ghosts in that great Ravenswood in the sky.

Lingering concerns: How long was Nicole just sitting in the dark in Aria’s place? Why did it take Hanna so long to realize that the game, which did not plug into anything, was probably battery-operated? Is it too late for Ali to be the big bad after all?

I needed to win on an existential level,

—J

Pretty Little Liars Recap: Smooth Operator