Pretty Little Liars Season-Premiere Recap: This Little Piggy Had None

Pretty Little Liars

’A’ Is for A-L-I-V-E
Season 4 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Pretty Little Liars

’A’ Is for A-L-I-V-E
Season 4 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Ron Tom/Disney

I am proud to introduce to you all: the official Vulture Pretty Little Power Rankings.

A mere normal recap couldn’t possibly capture what really matters in the PLL universe: who is in control. Who’s the newest member of the A-team? Who is A’s latest victim? Who has a secret that can destroy someone else; who knows their secret is already in dangerous hands? Who’s about to shed that mortal coil and leave a thousand unsolved mysteries in their wake?

This season, we pick up exactly where we left off: with the four Liars and Mona discovering what’s in Detective Wilden’s trunk. It’s a body! It’s a red coat! It’s — oh, it’s just a dead pig. Hmmm … that’s gross, and I guess symbolic in a Lord of the Flies–y kind of way but, a little anticlimactic, no? Oh, well. On to the PLPR!

1. Mona
Mona might not be able to squeeze into the BFF row at Wilden’s funeral, but that’s her only fail in an episode packed with wins. Apparently she’s been studying Scandal and learned how to hack computers/steal memory cards/whatever (I was an English major). The point is, she gets the incriminating video out of Wilden’s car and proceeds to hold it hostage until it benefits her most to gift it to Hanna.

At her showdown with the Liars, she teaches a master class in passive-aggressive mean-girl condescension. She tells Emily, “You really were the weakest link. Look at how strong I made you. You should be thanking me,” and then she divulges an avalanche of secrets: Shauna’s in love with Jenna, both of them are afraid of Melissa (not a surprise; the Hastings ladies are ruthless); Cece visited Mona in Radley but at the time Mona thought she was Ali; it was Lucas who gave Emily that massage from “A”; and Mona is not the one who pushed Ian off the bell tower. Well, well, well, look who had the all the answers this whole time!

Further proof of Mona’s prowess: She’s got everyone’s coffee order memorized, which makes her seem thoughtful while reminding the Liars that she’s been spying on them for ages. (What is it about beverage preferences and spies? First Carrie outs herself to Brody by revealing she knows what kind of tea he drinks and now this?)

Criminal mastermind that she is, Mona remembers to put gloves on before touching Wilden’s car — meanwhile the Liars’ handprints are all over it, amateurs — and has ascended to such a high plane of evil that the Liars refer to her headquarters as a “lair.” Just like you have to be really important before you can be “assassinated” and not just “murdered,” you have to be a very bad before people call your hideaway a “lair.”

Most shining Mona moment:
Emily, I borrowed your car.
[eyes the keys on the counter]
Yeah, I have my own set.

2. Spencer
Spencer’s got her boyfriend cooking her breakfast — her parents are conveniently MIA — and she’s the one who discovers Hanna’s mom’s cell phone in Wilden’s casket. Oh, and she can casually rattle off a scientific explanation for how embalming prevents a corpse from releasing a rotting smell. I would make a list of the things Spencer doesn’t know, but the only things on it would be “identity of red coat” and “how to have a bad hair day.”

What’s keeping Spencer from the top of these rankings, besides Mona’s undeniable prowess, is the fact that during her couples breakfast with Toby she said, “This is perfect.” Spencer, you’re on the verge of being framed for both arson and murder. I get that you’re back with your boyfriend now, but can we please have some perspective re: perfection.

3. Emily
Emily makes it into the top three this week for having the healthiest relationship on this entire show and also for having a mom who actually makes an appearance when, you know, the local police officer is found dead from multiple bullet wounds.

Anyway, Paige and Emily at Stanford! Such a cute dream that will obviously not come true. The PLL Love-to-Loss Law states that as soon as a character reaches peak romantic happiness, said character is about to lose everything that made him or her so happy in the first place. (This rule can also be applied to Game of Thrones.) As soon as the words “I really love you” come out of Emily’s mouth, we know this bliss is going to vanish faster than you can say “nothing gold can stay.”

4. Jessica DiLaurentis
JD, as I shall refer to her in these recaps because I don’t want some psycho mom to be my name twin, is back in town. She’s building a shrine to Ali in Ali’s old room. (From which she can stare into Spencer’s window; is there a reason Spencer hasn’t bought blackout shades yet?) But what’s most impressive are her Regina George–level cruelty skills. Check her out getting mixxy with her (maybe) dead daughter and Hanna: “Ali would be so proud of you, Hanna. You’ve really kept the weight off.” Meow. Apples and trees, kids.

5. The LBD industry in Rosewood
In a town with this many funerals, the little-black-dress market must be doing gangbusters. Per usual, Spencer is the only one of the Liars who is dressed appropriately for a funeral. Aria arrives with boobs all bedazzled, Emily’s wearing quite the deep V-neck, and Hanna’s got illusion netting down to her clavicle and up to her thigh.

6. Jenna

7. Toby
Toby hangs out at the scene of the fire with the lighter “A” planted on him still hot in the palm of his hand. I mean, wow. Someone get this guy a genius grant. Then he gets a text from “A” and lies about it to Spencer. Nothing good ever comes from lying to Spencer, Toby!

8. Hanna
In addition to not knowing the English translation of “mi casa, su casa,” Hanna also loses points for wearing shiny, fuchsia spandex pants for her little jaunt to, as she calls it, “some creepy farm in the middle of nowhere.” Is she on her way to a “Tour de Franzia” theme party that got cut from the episode? Filming an ironic jazzercise video? Participating in the world’s most awkward product placement for American Apparel? Later, Hanna wears a headband so low on her hairline it’s practically sitting on her forehead. She swaps it out for a beret later, but the damage is done.

Her mom is MIA, Caleb “has no cell reception,” JD brings up her bulimia battles at a funeral, and Mona sees through her fake friendship like a window. Better luck next week, Hefty.

9. Ezra
Serious question: Is Ezra even a remotely good English teacher? Why can’t he find a job anywhere but Rosewood? Just something to think about.

10. Aria
I wish I could say Aria was winning the breakup, but not only is Ezra point-blank telling her to start dating other people, he’s also dropping the “I have a family now” and the “I’m teaching full-time at your high school again” bombs simultaneously. During this exchange, Aria is wearing a horizontal-striped sweater and vertical-striped pants, like the human version of a TV test pattern. You do you, Aria.

Aria also has this fear fantasy that would have been so much more awesome if it had actually happened. Ezra, arrested? Amazing! Think of the plot opportunities! But instead, no, we are back to more meaningful eye contact across the hallway and boring ruminations about whether or not they can ever be together. Sigh.

10. Detective Wilden
His corpse was used as a pawn in the “A” game and the new officer in town was bad-mouthing him minutes after his funeral ended. So, not his best episode.

11. Emily’s mom
When asked by her daughter why she’s not at work, Emily’s mom says, “No one’s getting anything done today.” Ummm, Emily’s mom works at the police station. Someone literally just got murdered and the culprit has yet to be apprehended. This is probably not the best time to be slacking off at the office.

Lingering concerns: Is it possible Mona killed Wilden while out on her coffee run? It would at least partially explain why she didn’t have time to wash her face. Was Melissa really working with Wilden on the Halloween train, or is Mona lying again? Who is going to hook up with Officer Holbrooke first? Is it just me or does Holbrooke look kind of like Christian Bale circa American Psycho, and is this resemblance a good or bad sign? And not to sound old, you guys, but where are everyone’s parents?

Closed caskets keep secrets but you can expose yours in the comments,

— J

PLL fans who’ve read the books: keep your spoiler-filled knowledge to yourselves! TV talk only, both below and on Twitter (@jessicagolds), please and thank you.

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