And. We're. Back. Wow. Last night's episode of Gossip Girl was like going to the bathroom after a long road trip — an almost excruciating relief. We've gone a full sixteen weeks without the Greatest Show of Our Time. Can you believe it? And yet now that it's back, it feels like summer break never even happened! Our unsatisfied feeling probably stems from the fact that this episode was all about exposition — since we were mostly learning what everyone had been up to this summer, there wasn't a ton of action — either that or Gossip Girl has developed the plotline equivalent of a UTI. But let's assume it will be cleared up next week and move on! Even though we couldn't see them, everyone was very busy this summer, especially Nate, who took up with Shelly from Twin Peaks (now married to a way wealthier guy than Leo) and Dan, who thought with his little brain so much, he forgot how to use his big brain and got fired from his internship with Jay McInerney, a.k.a. Jeremiah Harris. Meanwhile, Chuck and Blair had mutually unsatisfactory alone time; Vanessa was so disgusted by Dan acting like a man whore that she decamped to Vermont, and Serena moped around, in a satin muumuu and with terrible hair, looking like a skinnier version of Elizabeth Taylor in a dark period. Grandma Rhodes, who apparently had actual cancer and was not just faking for the debutante ball, got over it with her hair intact and strangely glowing skin (health care is SO much better for the rich). Jenny slaved for Eleanor Waldorf, Eric went brunette, and Rufus stayed in the exact same position on his tour bus he was in the last time we saw him.
And from the absurdly mischaracterized White Party to the bizarrely smooth acting skills of Jay McInerney, there was a lot of material in this episode. So onward, with our first season-two reality index.
Realer Than a Cougar Who Is Jealous and Pushy in Bed
• Jay McInerney has a reading at Housing Works in Soho. Plus 2, with an additional point to be added if at a later date we learn that McInerney is supposed to be a gay novelist.
• OMG! He reads a part from Bright Lights Big City where Jamie pines for Amanda, his hot model wife who disappears from his life. "You wanted an explanation, an ending that would assign blame and dish up justice. You considered violence and you considered reconciliation. But what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name." This is meaningful because this is what Dan is feeling about Serena, by the way! Plus 2, for effort.
• And another Plus 2 for having McInerney "work" in Puck Fair. [Ed. note: Chris and Jessica disagree on this one. She argues that this is actually the Brooklyn Inn, which also works. Thoughts?]
• And finally another Plus 2 for the fact that Jay Mac is kind of a good actor. He totally blows Salman Rushdie's cameo in Bridget Jones's Diary out of the water. But can the next writer that Dan interns for be Ethan Hawke?
• Sometimes Intel's Jessica wonders if (a) a secret task force working for Gossip Girl actually dug into her past, interviewed people she knew, and modeled the Dan Humphrey character on her high-school boyfriend in order to fuck with her or (b) creative, sensitive high-school guys who acquire serious girlfriends at the age of 16 are all essentially like Dan Humphrey. (Either one, she figures, is possible, and if Dan moves to France and has two insanely adorable toddlers with a woman he Europeanly never gets married to, then we'll know the truth.) Anyway, the major thing that we learn about Dan's summer is that he turned into a slut, which is totally realistic. Last season he learned what his little Moby Dick was for when he lost his virginity to Serena, and the hot and heavy oral session with Georgina gave him a taste for strange. Think about it! Why else would he have broken up with Serena? Because she lied to him? Please. Teenagers' entire lives are lies. Looking back we can totally see it in his shifty little eyes. Plus 10. Also, Plus 2 for whoever in hair and makeup finally decided to cut off his Jew 'fro and make his head a normal size again. Plus 5 for making him crawl back, because they always do.
• Dan writes in a Moleskine (Plus 1) by a campfire (Plus 1) with a pen he stole from the Odeon (Plus 1). And he names the story 5.19.08, which is amazing not only because his New Yorker story was also titled by a date, but because that was the date of the season-one finale of the show. That was when the energy just like disappeared from his life, you see. Brilliant. Plus 3.
• Plus 1 for Gossip Girl's description of the Hamptons: "Think Park Avenue but with tennis whites and Bain de Soleil." This could have been a higher scoring line had she said, "Think meatpacking district but with Lilly Pulitzer and drunk driving."
• When making out with Nate in the car at the beginning of the episode, Catherine makes nearly the exact same sex faces as Serena did when she and Nate were having sex on the bar at the Campbell Apartment. Plus 4, because it's not just that cougars want to fuck men who are 17 — it's that they want to feel as though they are 17 as well.
• The Cooper's Beach scenes with Chuck and Serena were filmed at Rockaway Beach and not Southampton, which is inherently inaccurate, but they actually look real. Plus, of course Serena would wear silk while sitting in the sand. Plus 1. And of course she'd put in Bumble and bumble's Beach Hairspray so she looked like she'd been there all day before she even arrived. Plus 1.
• Jenny, on dinner choices: "It's too hot for Indian, how about Popsicles?" Plus 3, because that is the most anorexic statement ever, and Jenny is due a new plotline.
• Has anyone else noticed that Chuck looks cuter this season? Less like an evil elf-man, more doable. We think it's the hair? Plus 2.
• Wait, was that product placement for Farmland Dairy?? Plus 1.
• Blair says: "Please don't tell me you spent the summer watching The Closer and ordering from Nick and Toni's." Serena shoots back, "No, Della Femina!" Left unsaid is that she watches Army Wives, too. Plus 2.
• When the lifeguard picks her up for their date, Serena says to Blair, "Oh God the lifeguard's got a Camaro, and not in the ironic, 'Ha-ha I've got a Camaro kind of way.'" That is so exactly what someone who pretends not to be a snob to their poor boyfriend would say to someone who knows exactly how much of a snob they truly are. Plus 1.
• The split second in which we get to see the lifeguard is enough to notice he is not hot in the perfect kind of way, like you would have maybe thought if he was hot if the sun was glaring in your eyes and you weren't totally looking but once dressed up in clothes and copious amount of aftershave you would see that he was truly repellent. Genius. Plus 2.
• Jenny and Eric are friends again! We love them. They're the Rob and Ellen of this whole series. Maybe she can help him with his ridiculous hair going forward in the season. Plus 1.
• Ordinarily we would say that no one would actually say, as Blair does, "Damn that motherchucker!" and "All I could see was that Chuck Basstard," except that she probably thought of them in France and was waiting to say them all summer, which is so teenager. Plus 1.
Faker Than Blair's "Summer Highlights":
• The idea that Jay McInerney would fire anyone for not getting work done because they were sleeping around. Please. Dude invented that. Minus 1.
• Regarding Chuck and the Portuguese triplets: Last time we checked ladies can't take their tops off at any beach in New York. Minus 1.
• Wait, Lil J works in a sweatshop for Eleanor Waldorf? Pretty sure that kind of finishing work takes place overseas, in an easterly direction. Minus 2.
• Does Dan not have one single male friend? And what is this Father Knows Best stuff with Rufus, wherein he calls him for advice on girls? It's kind of totally losery. Minus 1: Because in real life Dan would have a quirky nerdy male friend who was into something that doesn't conflict with Dan's studliness, like science.
• A word about the White Party. A few years ago, it was an annual event held by Sean "Diddy" Combs where everyone and their baby mama would show up and get drunk. It was not classy in any way, it would get overcrowded, and inevitably Star Jones and Al Reynolds would make a scene by the pool. In other words, it was the exact opposite of the classy, coveted invitation that the show interpreted it to be. Minus 6. However, it is realistic that it was rebranded as the VitaminWater party. Those people sponsor everything. Plus 2 And we have to give them a point for this line: "The White Party is like super exclusive … Last summer they even turned away Jack Johnson," because it made us squirt sangria out of our noses. Plus 1.
• Wait, how did Jenny and Dan's stupid mom get tickets to South Pacific? Minus 2. (We'd subtract points for the fact that Allison moved into the Brooklyn loft while Rufus was on tour, but we did that last season.)
• Blair took the Jitney to the Hamptons? Girlfriend took the Bass helicopter to Teterboro in the last episode. We somehow doubt she's going to be comfy sitting next to a cell-phone yapper on a public bus. Minus 1.
• Blair reprimands Serena for complaining about her boring summer. "The only reason you're still sitting shiva is that you haven't had your summer fling," Blair says. Please, for all Blair knows, shiva is something you do to a bitch who's wearing the same outfit as you. Minus 2.
• Is Nate wearing a pirate shirt? Minus 1.
• Tinsley Mortimer looks like a tranny on television. We want to give this points for Schadenfreude purposes, but let's be honest, it's just not realistic. And where's her signature hair clip?? Minus 2.
• Okay, so we couldn't really get into how absurdly moving it was to see Chuck's face fall at the dinner party with Blair and James because we were obsessing over how absurd the idea of this dinner actually was. Never mind the fact that dinner was at seven when no one has dinner at seven in the Hamptons — Grandma CeCe is supposed to be a senior citizen, we reasoned — what were Blair and James doing having dinner with CeCe, Chuck, and Eric van der Woodsen in the first place? Like, okay, maybe Serena had invited them originally but you think they would have bowed out gracefully when she hooked up with the hot lifeguard, like, "We'll pass on dins with granny and your weird brother and my hostile ex, then, thanks." Minus 5 Also, where were Lily and Bart, and why did no one explain their absence by awkwardly referring to it? Minus 2.
• Chuck and Blair have all kinds of feelings, which is totally weird. "I was scared," he says. "I was scared that if we spent the whole summer together, you would see … me." Okay, honestly? No teenage boy would ever talk like this, not even if they were, like, waterboarded. This is how teenage girls dream teenage boys would talk to them, which is why it's so dumb that Blair's forgiveness of Chuck hinges on his telling her he loves her. Also, it's a total cliché that (a) Blair requires that and (b) Chuck can't say it. Anyone can say I love you. People who can't say it are just being melodramatic. Minus 1 only, because we totally love Blair and Chuck.
• Speaking of clichés: That Catherine's husband comes home early after she and Nate just did it is like the corniest scenario of all time. Like that shit is so old, we're pretty sure it happened in the Bible except we're heathens so we're not 100 percent sure. Minus 2 That the Gossip Girl writers had Catherine say "You have two choices, under the bed or out the window" adds insult to injury (Minus 3), and that they then had Nate jump out of the window in his underwear, getting nary a scratch on his perfect face, mind you, is like they kicked us when we were down and (Minus 4) that they then had him run into the street as Serena happened to be driving by is like they laughed and then left us lying there bleeding. What the hell, jerks? We've devoted our lives to this show. Could you not have applied even like a modicum of creativity to this scene? Maybe by having Catherine say, "You have two choices, under the bed or hiding inside this big inflatable dinosaur raft." Or having Nate bruise his tailbone and have to sit on a doughnut when he goes back to school. Either would have worked. Anything! Whatever. You can kiss that recommendation we said we'd write you good-bye.*
• "It's no wonder you hate Charade," James/Marcus says to Blair. "It hits too close to home." We would say that this is the most insanely gay kiss-off line we've ever heard, except that dude doesn't really know his Audrey Hepburn movies. What is he trying to say, that Blair's life is like a woman who is being pursued by a gang of criminals looking for a fortune her murdered husband had stolen? He is so wrong for her. Minus 2, because we actually love Charade.
• Jenny gives her boss the bitch look. You never give your boss that look. Minus 1.
Total: 35 points.
Even with the most inexplicable dinner scene ever and the hackneyed adulturer-jumping-out-the-window-in-his-undies scene, Gossip Girl still comes out on top. But it's only the beginning of the school year, kids. Exams will only get harder.
* We're sorry we got angry. We didn't mean it. We love you. Nobody does it better. Don't leave us, okay? You're beautiful. Love you. Kisses. With tongue.