Last night's episode of Gossip Girl was summed up pretty perfectly by the narrator herself, just after Chuck, Catharine, Nate, and Blair all run into each other at Blair's party: "Chuck's date and Blair's date are mother and son?" she says incredulously. "And Nate and Blair are exes? And Nate and the mother are in a book club?" Even she sounded like she was making fun of how melodrama-packed this episode was.
And yet, there was more to come! Blair schemes for Marcus, Vanessa pines for Nate, Rufus pines for "the road," and with the Captain on the lam, the Archibald family home and belongings are being repossessed, forcing Nate to sell his body — Yes! — to the Cougaress of last episode, whom we now know is called the Duchess and just happens to be Marcus's stepmom. Nate is doing it all in order be a man and protect his mother, of course.
But even with all of the implausibilities of this week's plot (they're still warming up!) there are still a few special moments where truth — special Gossip Girl truth — shines through. Those moments and more in our reality index, after the jump.
Realer Than Lesbian Mexican in the Village
• Blair gets all the best lines in this episode. Some of them we believe, some of them were too ridiculous for her to have thought of in the heat of the moment. Still, they deserve recognition. Our faves:
– "Just because Marcus happens to be the perfect post-Bass palate cleanser doesn't mean he isn't a delicious dish in his own right." Plus 2, because she would have spent time thinking this one up.
– "Notice how my voice didn't go up at the end? Not a question." Plus 2, because we think we've actually said that out loud to an intern.
– "Why, so she can warn me about the effects of too much Botox?" This is a great line that we believe Blair would have thought of, but she would never say it to an adult.
– "She made Waldorf rhyme with Spears." Also, too much.
– "Oh My F'ing God!" Blair says this when she discovers Nate and the Duchess on the floor of the library at the Hudson. Plus 2 for the nod to the show's much-hyped OMFG ad campaign.
– To the Duchess: "I thought you were just a callow social-climbing former swimsuit model who married above her station and was enslaved by her own insecurities." Plus 4, because there was a compliment that came after that sentence.
• But let's not forget the Gossip Girl's own carefully crafted lines, like "There is no 'we' in summer. Only 'U' and 'ME,'" (Plus 2) and "Is it the beginning of a beautiful bromance?" (Plus 2, because clearly she is reading all the right books.)
• Not that we checked, but yes, Tom Hanks was at Princess Diana's funeral, and therefore could have lent Marcus a tissue. Plus 3.
• Speaking of outside research, the actor who plays Marcus is actually 27, which means he is actually only nine years younger than 36-year-old Duchess Catharine. That seems an about-right age difference between a Manhattan stepmom and stepkid. Plus 4.
• Blair panics that she is a "secret summer shame." Having had secret summer shames (not the kind where you use an ill-advised amount of Sun-In, but the kind where the dude you date does), we know how scary the idea of being one can be. Plus 2.
• Of course Nate's mom would have no idea when he was coming or going. Plus 1. And of course she would be gardening in a time of emergency. Plus 1.
• Since Lily and Bart's wedding, the costume designer has apparently decided to dress Vanessa in exclusively neon citrus colors. Why she is being so punished we do not know, but the florescent yellow off-the-shoulder top she wears in the gallery with Rufus not only perfectly illustrates the truism that neon is always regrettable, but, along with the giant earrings and chunky necklaces, it is like a symbol of every terribly, disposably trendy outfit that has even been worn by a person of high-school age. We could actually see her shirt going out of style as we watched her onscreen, as one can watch a Morning Glory slowly close its petals in the midday sun. If Vanessa was real she would look back on a photograph of herself in that outfit and cringe, just like those of us who remember the eightiess cringed the first time neon came around. Plus 5, because generations have differences, but high-school fashion mistakes are eternal.
• Once they break the seal, Dan and Serena are stuck back together like a couple of adolescent magnets. "There's a force larger than us at work here," Dan says at one point. Yeah, dude, it's called hormones. But still, this is totally realistic. Once you figure out sex you want to do it all the time, because when you're a teenager — even in New York — there's not much else to do. Plus, breakup sex is so much better when you're 16, because you're not actually pissed off at each other about real stuff. Plus 2. Also, the way they continue to create obstacles for their relationship after that is so accurate that, in fact, it's the only thing that feels like high school in this whole episode. Plus 2. We particularly enjoyed this exchange: "I just think we should think before we get back together." "I thought this meant we WERE back together." We (Chris at least) definitely used this tactic in order to delay intimacy in tenth grade. Which means either Dan or Serena is going to turn out gay! Plus 5.
• They did a good job of handling Serena's lack of guile in this episode. Of course she wouldn't put two and two together and realize that Catharine (whom she knows, and whose relationship with Nate she's been covering) was a duchess and thereby probably Marcus's stepmom. Plus 2. And of course, when everyone collided at Blair's party, she wouldn't think to use the situation to Blair's advantage. Plus 2.
• Did anybody else notice that Blair's strapless dress was a printed toile pattern of English country scenes? Perfect for impressing a duchess! Seriously, someone give that costume designer a raise. Plus 3, for subtlety.
• HOLY HELL NATE IS A MALE PROSTITUTE. This is the best turn of events we could have ever imagined. Chace Crawford was born for this role. Plus 10.
• Vanessa ordered Chinese food and strung up Christmas lights, thinking it would be the ultimate romantic evening. It made us choke up when Punky Brewster did it for Henry and Maggie, and it still makes us choke up now. Plus 2.
As Fake As a Couple Who Looks Cute After Spending a Drunken Night on the Beach
• Remember when Serena ditched Dan on the random beach outside the White Party, even though neither of them drove there because it was a party with alcohol, and even though Dan borrowed all of his clothes from Grandma Rhodes and would clearly have to return to Serena's house to give them back? Yeah, that was awkward. Minus 3, with an additional Minus 3 for Serena's clean bra and full face of makeup. East Coast beaches at night are freezing cold and rife with mosquitoes. Serena would have wrapped herself in anything to keep the elements at bay, and she would have had sand in every crevice, including her eyelashes. Plus, the saltwater spray from the nearby waves would have taken that makeup right off, even if for some reason the stubble from Dan's scruffly chin did not.
• Where the H are Lily and Bart? No real business tycoon takes a whole summer off. Even if it's for something as romantic as, um, a fourth honeymoon! Minus 1.
• Last time we checked, it was hot in the summer. Marcus and Blair's granny bikes are completely accurate, but his jeans and khaki blazer are all wrong. What's wrong with a pair of nice seersucker shorts? Minus 1.
• Blair says, "It's like Roman Holiday, but I'm Gregory Peck and he's Audrey Hepburn!" Okay, true, but we're wearying of this whole Audrey Hepburn shtick. Let's be honest, only poor, ugly girls love her that much. Minus 2.
• Wait, Marcus calls his stepmother Duchess? That's just absurd. Only cats are called that. Minus 1.
• Nate is entirely too confident when he walks into his house and discovers the Feds. He even rallies to be kind of a Basshole to them right when he sees them. Nate is way too slow to have rallied a proper defense until long after they'd left. Minus 2.
• Serena reads Nylon. Dude, no one reads Nylon. Minus 1. Also, a Minus 1 because we almost thought that was Blake Lively on the cover of that issue (it was Scarlett Johansson, we think — Lively was once a cover model, and let's face it, all Nylon cover models look identical).
• When Dan and Serena board the Jitney and there are plenty of empty seats during the last week of summer, we thought "no way." Minus 2. When Serena starts making a scene of erotically eating chocolate-covered strawberries, we thought, "someone would complain and that would end immediately." Minus 2. And when they had sex in the bathroom of the Jitney, we thought, "THAT IS THE MOST DISGUSTING THING WE HAVE EVER IMAGINED INVOLVING BLONDE HAIR EXTENSIONS." Minus 2, because of the splashing. Oh God, the splashing! Minus 2 again.
• Hold on. Speaking of disgusting waste splatter, was there just a split scene of someone rowboating down the East River? Augh! Minus 2.
• Vanessa has converted Rufus's gallery • which, by the way, remember, is called the Bedford Avenue Gallery • into a café. We were a little flummoxed by this (what, is this a world where high schoolers are in charge of everything? When we were teenagers, our parents wouldn't have even trusted our friends with keeping the pets alive), but we won't take away points because we finally learn that Vanessa is home-schooled, which explains so, so much. (See above, re: neon.)
• Why would Marcus choose a violent squash match to confide details about his relationship to the Duchess? And why would he trust Chuck all of a sudden? Minus 1.
• We're supposed to believe that Nate immediately figured out it was Chuck bailing his family out? They spent all of season one proving how dim he was. Come on! That should have taken months. Minus 2.
• Rufus "misses" touring trashy college campuses? What is he, a member of the Roots? Minus 2.
• We feel the need to make a point that Bill of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure made so many, many years ago. STEPMOTHERS ARE NOT MOTHERS. They constantly refer to Catharine as Marcus's mom — which is not only inaccurate, it also rules out the obvious possibility of some illicit but not illegal future family shenanigans! Minus 5.
• Nate and Catharine could never do it on the floor of the Hudson Hotel library bar. That place is always full of European tourists. Minus 3.
Well! We're surprised. Even with all of the melodrama, the "My Lords" and Duchesses, and the absence of Granny Rhodes, this episode manages comes out on the reality side, skewed by Vanessa's insane yet totally realistic wardrobe and the squirmy-to-watch Dan-and-Serena relationship. Here's hoping Nate will take his shirt off all the way next week!