Okay, so hands down, the very best part of this episode was when Dan and Serena were accosted in Central Park by the three Serena and Blair doppelgängers. With apologies to those kids' parents: Could they have found a creepier-looking bunch of little girls? Kids were like Children of the Corn meets The Omen. And speaking of great films, is it just us, or was that whole scene totally a reference to Mulholland Drive, you know, the part where the old couple comes out of the box to laugh at and torment the Naomi Watts character, which film geeks are always saying represents her past coming back to haunt her?
All we know is this: There is pot in that writer's room, and this gives us hope. Hope that future Gossip Girl episodes will move out of the realm of teenage face-sucking, O.D.'s, and abortion scares and into Days of Our Lives–like surreal territory, like maybe Serena's British twin will suddenly arrive in town or Eleanor Waldorf will get possessed by Satan after Bart Bass places a microchip in her face. Let's hope so, because otherwise this episode was pretty mundane.
And now, on to the Reality Index!
Realer Than a Wasp Apartment That Always Has a Lot of Candles Lying Around
• Okay, we'll give them a nod for the Mr. Softee that was already melting by the time kids walked away from the truck, for the 102-degree weather, and for the waterfalls. Plus 2, even though the rest of the episode's nods to this summer consisted of overspritzing the cast with KY.
• Blair wants to get split like Keira Knightley in the library scene from Atonement? Plus 1, because we want James McAvoy in that way, but Audrey Hepburn would never risk the integrity of a fragile vintage dress like that!
• The conversation Jenny and Vanessa have where Vanessa says, "I am so not the 'Should I call him?' girl" is such a classic girl conversation, we can almost forget the fact that in real life they wouldn't actually be friends since Jenny is 15 and Vanessa is 18 at least, and this would put them in basically like different generations as far as high school is concerned. Then again, Vanessa is home-schooled and those kids are weird so whatever. Plus 2. Oh, and Plus 1 more for subtle character reinforcement when Jenny says, "You are Vanessa, the do-whatever-she-wants girl!" Gotta keep the new audience informed.
• Nate's hair is better in this episode. It's got that weird hipster side-flap that makes it seem realistic, and it's less like a dry corn husk in front and more like a curly Greek statue. As it should be. Plus 2.
• An additional Plus 2 because, before the whole FBI-threatening-sugar-mommy plot twist, Nate and Vanessa are kind of cute together.
• That creepy Shining-style Serena doppelgänger girl was so excellently cast, they couldn't have gotten a better one if they mated Miss Van der Woodsen with a newt. Plus 5, especially when we realize that since Dan is so newtlike himself, that's what their inevitable season-three love-child Dumpster baby will look like!
• The VitaminWater fridge in the café? We'd dismiss this as callow product placement, but it's like this company's reach is so far that actually it COULD just *be* out there — this stuff really is that omnipotent. [NB to VitaminWater: We'll take a case of Revive for saying that, thanks.] Plus 1.
• Marcus runs into Nate when he's jogging in Central Park. "I had a lot of things to think about," Nate says. This totally makes sense! Of course Nate can only think while running! It's probably because the air lifts his bangs off his face, relieving his head of a terrible burden! Bless him. Plus 1.
• Rufus and Vanessa are spending too much time together, and it's gross. However, it is also realistic. Plus 2, with additional Plus 1 for pushing that awkward/inevitable hookup between them back a few episodes. (Thank you, commenters from last time, for pointing out how obvious the sexual tension was!)
• For a moment, when Blair sold out Nate to Catharine, we thought "no way." Then we thought better. Plus 1.
• Catharine: "Have you seen Nate?" Blair: "Um, no, it's a blackout." Plus 10.
ₐ Blair: "Hot young guy, aging beauty having her last fling before the plastic surgery starts? It's called a cliché." Plus 5.
• When Blair said to Catharine, "For the record, whatever you're planning with Nate, my bedroom floor is off-limits." We didn't know whether she meant the floor in her bedroom (ew) or the entire floor of the apartment where her bedroom is (awesome). Either way, great. Plus 3.
• Wait, how does Catharine know that Blair is having sex problems with Marcus? Is this a statement about British men in general, or are we going to find out in the next episode that the Lord Beaton has inherited a microphallus from Daddy? Plus 1, because it's totally that.
• "I didn't sign up for some creepy love triangle with you and someone's mom." This line and the hysterical tone in which it is delivered is just hilarious. Plus, we have to imagine that's exactly what you'd say if you just found out you were in a creepy love triangle with a guy and someone's mom. Plus 2, and Plus 2 more for the camera shot of Catharine's creepy old-lady hand clutching Nate's nubile young one.
• "I probably should give Blair a call," says Eleanor Waldorf after forgetting about her daughter during an extended citywide blackout while the girl was hosting a party at their home. Plus 3.
• We're so glad that Vanessa told Dan how The Duchess had threatened her to get her away from Nate. If this were any other show, she would have, like, not told and made us wait until like the end of the next episode at least, which would be like how they always tease that Lo is going to eat Audrina's alive, beating heart out of her chest during every episode of the Hills, but it never happens… Plus 2.
• Speaking of which, the whole FBI threat that Catharine made seems pretty dumb on the face of it. Ruining his father's life wouldn't get Nate back, so it doesn't make much sense as a strategy for her. Except, duh, that's how women are. Plus 4, because in Intel editor Chris's world, all women are deranged harpies who can at best only play vaguely at sanity or reason.
ₐ The best part about the admittedly unrealistic fight/hookup that Blair and Marcus have in the middle of the party is that halfway through it, everybody stops paying attention. Even the parental guests! Nobody's interested anymore. Plus 4.
• OMG! Marcus punched Chuck! Nobody ever gets what they deserve on this show. Plus 4.
Faker Than a Feel-Good Relationship Between a Spunky Teenager and a Haggard Old Designer
• Why is The Duchess buying clothes for Nate at Ralph Lauren? First of all, if you want to keep your piece of high-school ass secret, you probably don't want to take him to the self-same men's department where your husband shops for cable-knit sweaters. Minus 2. And for that matter, why is she dressing him up at all? We know this is a kept man, but he's a secret: It's not like she's taking him to Cipriani. We get that he's supposed to be a gigolo and all, but we thought the point was getting his clothes off. Minus 2.
• All the women in this episode have sweaty, dewy cleavage but perfect hair and non-sweaty upper lips. How is that fair? Realistic, we mean. Minus 5, because in real life Jenny would have droplets hanging from her peach fuzz.
• On a related note, we cannot stand one minute longer of that no-teeth pucker smile that Serena does. We know the goal is to make her look like she's always about to get kissed, but to us it makes her look like she's always about to get punched. Minus only 2, because at least it's not that Burger King mask face that she made when she admitted to murder.
• Teenagers would never stand that close to the people they were snapping for Gossip Girl. They'd pretend to be texting, obviously, or fake taking a picture of their own friends and focus on Dan and Serena in the background. Minus 3, because even those two open their eyes while kissing sometimes.
• Adults are invited to Blair's going-back-to-school party. We get that they're mature, but adults don't even go back to school. Minus 3 , with an extra Minus 1 deducted for the fact that no one seems to remember that Blair already had a going-back-to-school party in the last episode, and another Minus 1 for the fact that parents went to a party hosted by a child whose own mother didn't show.
• Are we really expected to believe that Blair even has the energy to care about Dan anymore? Serena's become the Carrie Fisher character from When Harry Met Sally. Nobody listens to her anymore because she's just trotting out the same avoidable disaster over and over. Minus 1.
• Speaking of avoidable disasters, that white Chanel belt makes Serena look pregnant: Minus 5.
• "What names does he call you when you make love?" Honestly? What names does anyone call each other when they "make love"? In high school. Minus 2, because "Oh, wait — watch out! Oh, God, sorry" isn't a "name."
• It's great that Nate was running and all, but everyone's been talking about how hot it is. Why is he wearing pants, and why is he the only person on the show not sweating? Minus 3.
• We started hating those thin collars Dan was wearing two whole episodes ago. But now that they are button-down? Unforgivable. Minus 2. They make even the vest-with-T-shirt combo look fashion-conscious.
• Okay, we know that the show's costume designers have this weird Monsterpiece Theater strategy for Chuck's clothing, but purple paisley twice in one episode (the bizarre smoking jacket and his ascot at the party) is just too much, even for us. Minus 5. And another Minus 1 for Blair even pretending to have thought Marcus was Chuck in the darkness. That ascot bullshit would have given it away faster than even his greasy rat-tail would have.
• Speaking of ascots: "I don't have a romantic bone in my body," says Chuck. "Even that one." Dude, nobody thinks that bone is romantic, not even in high school. Minus 3.
• And, despite the fact that we applaud Serena for getting off one good line in this scene ("You are not using Blair as sexual Drano"), the whole impotence setup is so tired. Didn't Sex and the City do this 27 years ago? Minus 2, because you can't have two impotent teenage boys in one episode. Even one is a stretch.
• Was anybody else distracted by wondering what would have happen if Dan (or better, Serena) farted on that elevator?
• And how on earth could Blair and Chuck have had that weird sex conversation in the foyer in front of everybody? They're both too self-conscious for that. Minus 5.
• If that was a flight attendant from Tokyo, why was she wearing a Virgin Atlantic uniform? Minus 1.
• Okay. We admitted that the breakup between Serena and Dan was realistic. Dude wanted to get some strange, so he broke up with her for what ultimately added up to a pretty bullshit reason. The subsequent getting back together with all the fevered face-sucking and drama about whether they should Tell People (who ultimately, even in their world, didn't care that much) was realistic. The avoidance of their problems and the awkwardness of their conversation prior to getting into the elevator to go to Blair's party was totally realistic. But this second breakup? Totally unrealistic. Look, it's not that we don't believe that teenagers don't break up and get back together for dumb reasons and say "I love you" super dramatically to the just-closed doors of an elevator, but what, exactly, are "all the very real reasons" these two broke up? What is their problem, that Serena is rich? That she is able to get them out of broken elevators faster and Dan thinks that is unfair? No. It's that Dan thinks that the very existence of rich people who are advantaged is unfair and he can't bear to be with Serena because of it. Thatis the reason, we are led to believe, for their breakup. Minus 10. Because Karl Marx wouldn't break up with a chick that hot for such a lame reason.
• When Catharine turns on the lights and does the slow walk into the room, while saying "Vanessa, is it?" we thought to ourselves, it's okay if Blair thinks she's a cliché, but the writers probably shouldn't, right? Minus 4.
• Even though we couldn't tell whether the entire blackout lasted for hours or like thirteen minutes (we would estimate by how long it took Rufus and his date to walk to the UES from Chelsea, but we all know how that kind of measure on this show is useless), we're pretty sure the city wouldn't have instantaneously gone back to normal. There would have at least been traffic. Or some people awkwardly having gotten caught effing on the sidewalk. Minus 3.
So this week we racked up a lot of positive and negative points, winding up just five points in the red. The use of the blackout as a plot twist was inspired, and even though it seemed a little outrageous that nobody's oversprayed updo caught on fire with all the candles at Blair's house, let's not forget that nothing truly bad happened in the city after the real blackout happened. Still, the fact that an adult socialite, a duchess no less, is playing mental and sexual games with a bunch of teenagers just doesn't pass the smell test. See you next week, bitches!