“Beggars can’t be choosers,” says Hazel, the unhappily single member of the Constance Billard posse at Blair Waldorf’s 18th-birthday party, before her scant presence was absorbed into the writhing plotlines of this week’s Gossip Girl. Her words, however, were meaningful, as in this week’s episode, “Bonfire of Vanity,” beggars did become choosers, and vice versa. Comely young siren Serena van der Woodsen, a lifelong chooser, continued to allow herself to be romanced by artiste Aaron Rose, despite her obvious displeasure at the fact that he remained unsatiated by her famed, magical boobs and wants to continue seeing other women. Eleanor Waldorf, on the other hand — older, wizened, and tired of such charmers — settles into a romance with Aaron’s father, the gnomish Cyrus Rose, a.k.a. Wallace Shawn. Her mother’s choice confounds Blair, but only until she learns about his formidable heart. Meanwhile, beggar Dan Humphrey gives up a hard-won (especially given his writing skills) assignment from a “quality publication” — a very quality publication — choosing instead to do the right thing. And stripes-clad chooser Chuck Bass learns that sometimes, begging is the only choice available.
Realer Than a Pervy Older Photographer Who Wants to “Photograph” Serena
• Blair’s friends are so nervous planning her party that their laughs sound like shrieks of terror. Plus 2. (Wait, that reminds us: We were fully and totally deprived of a Halloween episode. How did that happen?)
• Rufus describes Agnes’s mother as “more Courtney Love than June Cleaver,” which is exactly what his references would be. Plus 1.
• Mr. Smith, Jenny and Agnes’s potential “business manager,” has total child-molester face. Plus 2.
• Jenny and Agnes’s fights are so classic teenager, down to Jenny’s accusation that Agnes was “acting out” — a term that most juvenile delinquents have picked up from their parents and guidance counselors. This is why none of us had careers at 15. Plus 2.
• Plus 5 for this entire conversation:
Blair: Dorota, are you insane?
Dorota: I don’t know.
Blair: You used the everyday china. Cyrus will think we’re just common upper-middle class. Get the Auberge and hurry up!
• And an additional plus 3 for when Dorota, unprompted, replaces the everyday china when she and Blair see how ugly Cyrus is.
• Noah Shapiro meets Dan in Freemans. Ugh, of course. Plus 2.
• OH MY GOD THE MOMENT HAS COME. New York makes an appearance on Gossip Girl! It’s about effing time. Plus only 100 because it’s not nymag.com, which clearly would have been following the exploits of the GG kids from the minute Serena turned up in Grand Central.
• Dan is right, New York doesn’t normally print fiction or hire teenagers. Plus 3.
• Blair: “Cyrus … he’s five feet tall, he has a catchphrase, and he’s a hugger!” Plus 3, because clearly for Blair the greatest sin is the last. (Though in our view, there’s nothing worse than having a catchphrase.)
• Yes, peonies are really hard to get (especially this time of year), and we believe the $18-a-stem price tag. Now someone give us our dignity back. Plus 1.
• Plus 3 for this line: “I am Grace Kelly, Grace Kelly is me.”
• And 3 more for this one: “You have glow, Miss Eleanor, like Chinese lantern.” Blair lent Dorota her writers!
• Aaron seduces Serena with pictures of herself. Genius! Plus 3.
• Of course Dan would believe a sketchy e-mail, out of the complete blue, from a source with the e-mail address “email@example.com,” and of course he would think it was like All the President’s Men and get off on that. Plus 2. Oh, and plus 7 for “I’m writing an important story for a quality publication.”
• Blair is playing Cyndi Lauper at the party and then Cyndi herself shows up. It’s like double product placement! Plus 5, because Cyndi definitely does do birthday parties these days.
• “I wanted a Harry Winston choker for my birthday,” Blair says. “Instead I got a conscience.” Plus 3.
• Is Blair wearing Laura Bennett from Project Runway? Plus 2.
• Oh, and Blair fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this: Never trust a character actor trying to date your mother — they always have multiple-episode story arcs! Plus 3.
• The angles at which they filmed the scene with Serena and Cyrus were hilarious. It was like she was a giant and he was, well, Wallace Shawn. Plus 2.
• “The mythical Serena,” says Cyrus. “How did you know who I was?” she says, and of course he is too polite to say, “YOUR BOOBS.” Plus 1.
• The envelope Dan leaves for Bart Bass contains a note scrawled in such teenage penmanship and, at last, our first true glimpse of Dan’s writing “chops.” We paused as the camera illuminated a portion of the preternaturally sophisticated prose that got Dan a story in The New Yorker, a mentor at The Paris Review, a letter of recommendation to Yale, and a feature assignment with our own magazine, and transcribed what it said word for word:
Charlie’s Birthday didn’t just signify his aging. It also represented the anniversary of his mother’s death. She died while giving birth to him all those years ago. Charlie’s been living with that grief ever since Charlie’s father, media tycoon [something] Trout, had never wanted to celebrate his son’s Birthday. There were no Birthday parties for little Charlie. There weren’t even Birthday cakes. Nor were their gifts. A Lego set or a toy fire truck were never waiting at the foot of Charlie’s bed when he awoke on his Birthday morning. All he ever got was a deposit into his bank account.
WHAT. Plus only 2, because while of course Dan is an awful writer, his subjects should at least agree with his objects and what have you. And why is he capitalizing Birthday like that? Also, Chuck and his dad should totally have bonded over this.
• Plus 3 for the lady writers on the show having clearly really thrown themselves into Aaron, who embodies a type so thoroughly he practically gives Intel Jessica nightmares. In an encore performance from last episode (“If you’re looking for an excuse to keep us apart, that’s fine”), he once again manages to keep Serena hanging on by making her feel like it’s not the fact that he’s a big whore that’s the problem, it’s her. Classic lines include:
(a) “Well, I’m seeing lots of people. I don’t know how it works in high school, but I like to date more than one person at a time.”
(b) “How did we break up if we’re not going out?”
And the kicker, which of course hits Serena right where it hurts,
(c) “I don’t want the same life that my parents had. Social obligations, saying no to all the things I want to say yes to … I thought you felt the same way. If I was wrong, I apologize.”
This dude is the express train to STDville, and we can’t even wait.
Faker Than “We Want an Exposé”
• How long does Serena have to stare at the phone smiling after getting Aaron’s text message? Minus 1.
• Aaron sends Serena special maps to “the most beautiful places” where he romances her. Okay. We know Aaron is “older,” but still, dudes that age do not send girls maps to special romantic date locations. They do not stay up all night making photo installations of your face. They do not hijack a billboard on which they will project a picture of you giggling in the middle of Times Square and then turn up behind you and tap you on the shoulder so you can engage in a lengthy, uninterrupted-by-the-authorities make-out sesh — at least not the kind of dudes that you actually want to make out with. Such sweeping romantic gestures are, at that age, committed exclusively by the undateables. Minus 2.
• As unfortunate as this is to say, there are no black male editors on top of the masthead at New York. Are we in trouble for pointing that out? Minus 2. Also our offices are not on Park. They are in West Soho, which has way more yummy lunch spots and fewer yummy douchebags. Minus 2.
• Incidentally, no one ever says, “We want an exposé” in journalism. Ever.
• “He’s five feet tall,” Blair says of Cyrus. “I was expecting Cary Grant and I got Danny DeVito!” Cute, but didn’t we see this entire short, bald divorce lawyer who is good on the inside plot on Sex and the City? Minus 2, because every single thing that happened on that show, from Miranda’s hair color to Carrie’s alcohol tolerance, was unreal.
• Cyrus is Wallace Shawn and all, and that is fabulously distracting, but what happened to the guy who was going to be Eleanor Waldorf’s boyfriend last year? The hot guy Roman picked up in Central Park before the infamous ice-skating incident? Minus 2, for nary a mention of “Ted, who was killed in a sailing accident” or “Paul, who went to jail for insider trading.”
• When Chuck gets Bart the Rangers tickets, he says it’s “a nice gesture, but misguided as usual.” Minus 3, because while some dads might be that harsh (and with that jawline!), Bart has been making all those noises about how important family is to him these days, and in the last couple of episodes, they really tried to convince us that they meant it.
• UGH, enough with the VitaminWater and Bluefly.com! Minus 2, because since when is New York full of only gimmick-water-chugging budget fashionistas? Oh, wait … plus 2, because we take it back. • We would subtract points for Bart’s office being in the Met Life building, but there’s a chance it’s in the Helmsley building, which is maybe okay. But thin ice! Even.
• Bart is excited by the prospect at being a father-figure dad to Dan? Minus 5, because clearly some enterprising charity urchin would have seized upon this weakness years ago if it existed.
• Gossip Girl is losing her touch. She’s mixing metaphors left and right (“Every Bass will have his day?” “Did Brooklyn Boy really think he could bury the bone in the backyard and no one would find it?”), and why is Dan Brooklyn Boy instead of Lonely Boy now? Also, this line is just a mess: “Poor little orphan Jenny, looks like she needs a Daddy Warbucks, but Daddy Warbucks don’t grow on trees. At least on a tree that grows in Brooklyn.” Minus 5, because you do not do that to Betty Smith.
• This entire story with the Golden Lion blows our minds. Golden Lion? GOLDEN LION?!? Plus or minus no points, because we can’t even handle it.
• Nelly Yuki would not have expensive accessories like that and still wear those hideous glasses. Blair simply wouldn’t let her! Minus 4.
• We’re psyched that the howling, crazy Agnes, by burning Jenny’s clothes, brought on the show’s first Emily Valentine moment. But Jenny would have fought way harder. She just stood there as Agnes dumped the lighter fluid on her dresses, and then went, idiotically, “What are you doing?” as Agnes stalked around for twenty minutes trying to light the matches. Agnes is an alcoholic, anorexic model. Jenny would’ve dropped a dump truck on her face. Minus 6.
• Also, where did Jenny stay after she gets kicked out of Agnes’s? There’s that crying scene after leaving the Humphrey loft where it seems like she might spend the night in a bus shelter, but then it cuts away and she turns up to Mr. Smith’s with a full face of eyeliner. She seems to stop by Rufus’s art gallery, but that doesn’t make any sense at all if she’s running away from home. Minus 1, because someone who spent the night being urinated on by the homeless folks at Port Authority would look a little more off than that. And minus 3 more for the total absence of Nate, Vanessa, and Eric in this episode.
• “[The story] will ruin our family,” Chuck pleads to Dan. “Don’t do it, please.” Minus 4, because he would have assassinated Dan before saying please.
• “Every time I look at you, I see her,” Bart says to Chuck. Minus 2, because Chuck looks nothing like his mother, who in fact appears to be a picture-frame model.
• Dan says he “killed” the New York story. Oh, yeah, that story about a billionaire committing murder/arson? Yeah, we can skip that one. No worries! Minus 10.
• “Do you want to get dressed?” Aaron asks Serena, after arriving to find her in a slip for the second time. “Nope,” Serena says, and exits the apartment in her slip, basically exposing her underage bottom (and front, for that matter) to all of Central Park. WHY. Was this supposed to represent something bold and new? Minus 4, because we’ve seen what she’s worn in every other episode, and it all kind of looked like that.
Okay, kids. Put your points in the comments and we’ll tally at the end of the week!