A.D. isn’t too original a villain, but that’s not to say her tactics aren’t effective. She — okay, I figure it’s a she, but who even knows with this show — is all about the oldest tricks in the book, but I guess she knows her audience because the Liars fall for everything. From the “sacrifice one of you or you’ll all go down together” tactic that has been deployed time and time again by baddies hoping to tear a group apart from within to the “meet me at this location at this time dressed in something you will NOT want to be seen in” maneuver that got Aria outed, it looks like we can lock down at least one fact about A.D.: She loves a classic.
1. Caleb (last week: 2)
“Can we talk?” Ashley asks. Caleb’s reply: “Always.” Caleb is on it on all fronts: top boyfriending-into-husbanding, top ally of Ashley Marin, top mystery-solving in that he uses some (highly improbable) cell tower triangulation to locate the board game. He also has the high honor of being part of the only couple currently on this show who I support. Early in the episode, I wrote in my notes: “Maybe all of these awful couples will get married so no one has to testify against each other in court.” So far only this not-awful couple has followed that obvious path, but who knows how many till-death-do-us-parts we’ll squeeze in before the end of the series? Anyway, mazel tov, you crazy kids.
2. Ashley (last week: 7)
I really did say, out loud, “Oh, thank God” when Ashley told Hanna she had already called a lawyer who would meet with them tomorrow. Ashley continues to be the only parent in Rosewood who has a clue, can be trusted with delicate information, and can multitask like a boss. She basically plots Hanna’s legal strategy and plans her wedding in the same six-hour stretch. “Give me time, I might even get your teddy bear paroled.”
3. Mona (last week: 1)
Mona knows what’s up. Mona always knows. By the way, I’m with all of you who say that Mona as A.D. is/was a red herring. That she got her paws on the board game only proves Mona is always ahead of everyone. I love how she crashes the Liars’ frantic brainstorming session and sits herself down in the middle of the couch in such a way that forces Emily to leave Ali’s side and sit on a chair by herself. Naturally, she has all the evidence she needs to prove that Aria is Peter Pettigrewing this crew — Spencer insists on “concrete evidence” not because she doubts Mona, but because she knows Mona is right. She’s wearing that ’80s power blazer, and yes the pattern is a little “the TV channel that only gets static,” but whatever.
My fantasy is that at the end of the series, Spencer invites Mona to formally join the friend group and take the place of an excommunicated Aria, and Mona just goes, “Nah, I’m too good for you bitches,” and then struts off into the sunset.
4. Hanna (last week: 3)
Before I heap some praise on the mostly stellar Hanna, I need to take a moment to reckon with that hair. Oooof. What is it? From her roots to the nape of her neck it’s sad mousy brown, and the bottom half looks like she stripped it from some dollar-store Barbie and/or Paris Hilton circa whenever the Bling Ring broke into her mansion. The styling does this hot mess no favors. Remember when Mary-Kate and Ashley did that thing of crimping the top of their hair and straightening the bottom on So Little Time? It kiiiind of looks like that is what Hanna’s going for. Anyway, it is atrocious. There, I said it, now on to matters of substance, where Hanna emerges mostly victorious.
Like any upwardly mobile suburban white girl, Hanna gets this high on the PLPR partly due to her connections: her A-plus mom and her thoughtful, legitimately useful boyfriend-now-husband. (That said: I’m here for a 2 Fast 2 Furious pun, but you have to earn it by making a clever reference to a possible sequel of a thing, not just by listing adjectives about your guy with the no. 2 in front of them.) Hanna’s lovely reaction to her surprise anti-wedding-industrial-complex nuptials is very endearing, as is her honesty with the people in her life who matter most to her. If Aria were in the kind of relationship where she could also be honest, she might not be caught in the hot mess in which she finds herself today.
5. The Rosewood Police Department (last week: not ranked)
Personally, my feelings about this are conflicted. As all of you know, I have been rooting for an impossible outcome: Officer Marco Elevator and Spencer seeing how far they could take this fling. But Marco’s greatest strength — the fact that he is actually good at his job — is ruining everything. Marco removes himself from the case because he is too “distracted,” plus he actually tells Tanner the truth about what went down between him and Spencer. This means Marco is offscreen forever, probably, and it gives Spencer a window to get back together with Toby, which we KNEW was going to happen because of PLL’s obsession with forcing all these high-school honeys back together. I was still infuriated by it for reasons I will detail lower down in this power ranking, which is where they belong. But as for the Rosewood PD, I’ve got to hand it to these usually incompetent cops. This week, these guys take their search warrants to the Liars’ dwellings so quickly that none of the girls has a second to prepare, they uncover evidence that connects the Liars to the homicide in question, and they give all the Liars some sassy talking-tos. I especially like Tanner telling Spencer, “I always felt that you were guilty, in some way. I just never knew how.”
6. Emily (last week: 10)
I find it hilarious how a show that’s gotten pretty raunchy in the boy-girl hookup department is still so conspicuously chaste when it comes to these we’re-about-to-do-it scenes between Emily and Ali. Was Emily, like, sexily unzipping a sweatshirt or something before they noticed the game was missing? These girls live alone in a giant house and they made it all the way upstairs without removing a single article of clothing? Oookay. All I can say for Emily this week is that she does correctly point out that Spencer got tricked into playing the game first.
7. Ali (last week: not ranked)
Her hair looks so good! The idea that she would have had the time and means to set up their little Pier One in the Woods party is laughable, as is the notion that people who have been as traumatized as she and Emily would enjoy a quiet, dead-of-night stroll through the woods. Also, I was disappointed that the “previously, on Pretty Little Liars” clip that showed her falling down the stairs did not (yet) portend a timely miscarriage.
8. What even is this cheesy montage of the show’s three worst couples having sex while some Instagram filter of a “Stand By Me” cover plays? (last week: not ranked)
9. Spencer (last week: 6)
There is no denying the hard truth: Spencer is all about the mistakes this week. She barges into the police station and demands to see Marco, then is all, “What could you possibly mean, an inappropriate relationship with the sexy, young police officer I was just shouting about in a way that would suggest I am a scorned lover?” She is pissed at Aria but for all the wrong reasons — she seriously thinks Aria is the reason her parents got divorced? Spencer, my darling, name one woman on the block your dad didn’t impregnate before Aria was even a twinkle in Chad’s eye, and then let’s have that conversation again. I laughed so hard when Spencer, in an effort to sound badass, told Aria she’d have to find her own ride to the police station; Spencer, she was already at the playground when you got there! Obviously she has a car! Spencer also loses 14,472 points for mentioning the Malcolm story line, which I had had surgically removed from my brain — gotta get those pricey procedures done now before Obamacare goes away! — and was forced to recall. THEN she apologizes because apparently whatever she did with Malcolm was also bad?
When she rolled up to Toby’s cabin and got all nihilist (“What’s going to happen is going to happen”), I shook my head so hard my neck almost Exorcist-twisted. Spencer cannot handle being dumped for like a second. Really, the only excuse for this is that she thinks she’s going to prison tomorrow, but in that case … FIND MARCO.
10. Are you going to make me go full Pleasantville and climb inside my TV to scream in all of your dumb, beautiful faces? GET AN ATTORNEY BEFORE YOU TALK TO THE POLICE (last week: not ranked)
Also filed in this category: Clear your goddamn cookies! The Liars just left their search histories sitting there?! I bet all my recap money that Emily’s Google history is like “how to bury a body,” “windshield broken glass everywhere?? +SOS!”
11. Toby (last week: not ranked)
Okay, sorry, I’ll provide more detail. Here is a list of everything about Toby that made me shout “NOPE, NOPE, NOPE” at my television this week: (1) his lumberjack beard, which I assume he grew just to match his new L.L. Bean boyfriend aesthetic; (2) how he talks to Spencer for maybe 57 seconds before inviting her to live in his off-the-grid woodsy cabin where there are “no noises”; (3) DUDE HAS BEEN A WIDOW FOR MAYBE A MONTH, like, grieve however you want, but also, what the hell, your supposed great love just kicked it in her hospital bed a hot second after you exchanged vows, maybe cool it on giving those lovey-dovey eyes to your ex; (4) sorry I have to go back to that facial hair again, I mean, come on; (5) scruff would be less irritating, figuratively and literally; (6) he has sex with Spencer, again, four minutes after she shows up at his cabin and flings herself at him in such a needy and obvious manner I almost up and died of second-hand cringiness, a disease for which there is no cure.
12. Ezra (last week: 9)
I can’t give Ezra the points he wants for saying, “I would have deserved it and maybe I still do” re: Aria’s To Catch A Predator report. Not when he just goes and has sex with Aria like that whole “I was your statutory rapist, I totally get it” conversation never happened.
13. Aria (last week: 13)
I want you to know that it takes a lot for me, at this stage of the game — and, you know, the Game — to be taken aback by Aria and her aggressively moronic, self-destructive choices. But as fired FBI director James Comey might say, LORDY. This unbelievable dingbat. Literally the only thing about Aria that works in this episode is her braided bun. (We can call this the Inverse Hanna.) It’s a bit “I meticulously copied this from Pinterest” for my taste, but I still think she looks cute and I’ve got to give her something because I’m just going to ream her out from here.
As I mentioned earlier, Aria falls for one of the most obvious ploys ever by rolling up to that haunted playground in her A regalia, where she is confronted by her friends who are, rightly, appalled by her treachery. Aria confesses about the police report, which, again, WOULD NOT SEND EZRA DIRECTLY TO JAIL because that is not how that works. Also, she attempts to contextualize her writing of the report by bringing up the book Ezra wrote about Ali, which, who even remembers that shitty manuscript? Anyway, Aria obviously loses all the goodwill with the friend group, then it turns out Ezra knew about the police report and isn’t even mad about it, and then even though there is an actual ticking clock in this situation, Aria is all, “I think we should have a quickie before I tell you some more really bad stuff about me.” She is so desperate all of the time and keeps thinking that big, sweeping promises will get her out of this intractable mess. She spells out her entire plan to A.D. like a dopey Bond villain. Oh also, there’s a dead body in her trunk. Probably Rollins, but who knows how many fingerless corpses are rotting around Rosewood these days?
Lingering concerns: Are any of these Liars really going to prison? Wouldn’t it be great if it turned out Tanner was on the A.D. team? I guess we’ve just given up on anything A.D. does as plausible and/or possible, yes? Because how would Aria’s phone spontaneously combust in her hand? What do we think Mona wants at the end of all of this?
Are you really going to try to weasel your way out of this by saying you love me?