Like a crocus poking out of the late-winter snow, last night's new episode of Gossip Girl was a welcome arrival to the cold and barren television landscape. As its petals slowly unfolded, it stirred the life that has lain dormant inside our souls since the show went on unexpected hiatus in February, and gave us a glimpse of colorful spring ahead. And how colorful it was! Last night's plot — the Constance Billard/St. Jude performance of The Age of Innocence — required everyone be dressed in ridiculous costumes (everyone except Jenny, Chuck, and Vanessa, who were not in the play, but who, let's face it, always wear ridiculous costumes). Blair was tragic and noble in black, while Serena was luminous in white, her creamy breasts nestled like eggs in the feathered Easter basket of her dress. Nelly Yuki was forced to wear a fat suit to play Mrs. Manson Mingott, and when Blair spat at her, "My problem is a two-faced, four-eyed devious little snipe in a fat suit!" it was like the first balmy spring breeze blew across our faces.
But it didn't last. Gossip Girl's plot, like the weather, is unpredictable, and while one moment we were basking the sun, we were soon boiling hot. Then the weather changed again, the sweat congealed on our forehead, and suddenly we were freezing in our unseasonable clothes, holding desperately to our arms and trying to keep warm.
(Meanwhile, shout-out to episode writer Jessica Queller for making her namesake, Headmistress Queller, a key element of the episode! And also shout-out to Charles Isherwood, who correctly predicted that his acting was so bad they would have to film other people's reactions while he was talking and then lay in the dialogue later, Hills-style. Don't worry, Charles, we would have been dazzled by Julian's beauty also — and we, like you, would have immediately detected whose team he was playing for.)
More Realistic Than a Gay Drama Teacher With Stubble and a Blazer With the Sleeves Rolled Up:
• "I should have gone with mercury poisoning," Nate says, of a possible excuse to get out of the show. Plus 2 for timeliness, even though the show has been on hiatus for approximately one century.
• We believe that the girls in the cast would wear Maybelline New York. But only in a play, as pancake stage makeup. Plus 1. Sometimes you have to try to look like a cheap clown.
• Gossip Girl herself says: "Before there was Gossip Girl, there was Edith Wharton." Plus 1, because of course GG would say that. And of course Edith Wharton would subsequently spin in her grave.
• Dorota trying on the extensions? Plus 1.
• Blair: "Aren't you so tired of brooding artists?"
Serena: "Well, he DOES brood in the sexiest way." Plus 2, because oh God, the brooding totally blinds so many high-school girls to the gayness. It's how Hollywood exists.
• Dorota and Penelope adjusting their maid outfits together wasn't particularly realistic, but it was a lovely filmic moment. No points.
• Park Avenue Winter. Nice choice. Plus only 1, because it's not suddenly the only restaurant in the city.
• Who is this fussy stage manager? We have never before seen her at school. Oh, wait — stage managers are always that girl you've never seen before at school. Plus 5 .
• Rachel's too-tight, too-short Banana Republic outfits are atrocious, offensive, inappropriate, and totally realistic throughout this whole episode Plus 10.
• Serena: "Yeah, Bette Davis. I love her eyes, her hair is Harlow gold ... " We never do this, but in the idiom of drama nerds everywhere: Snaps, Serena. Snaps. Plus 4.
• We love that Vanessa recognizes that Julian is a douche. And that she, in turn, is a douche. Plus 3.
• Serena's brain malfunctions from the overstimulation of talking to Julian and listening to Vanessa inside the earpiece. "It's just sometimes that my thoughts come so fast that I get confused," she says. Plus 2.
• Carter drops that he met "Elle" when he "rolled into Apothéke" the night before. Plus 1 because that's exactly where that character would hang out.
• Julian says exactly what we've always wanted to say to Nate: "The characters in this play are smoldering tempests of emotion! You're as empty as the Federal Reserve." Plus 5. If we were Chace Crawford, we'd be wondering if the writers wrote that line in a pointed way and this was their passive-aggressive, play-within-a-play way of talking to us. Only we wouldn't. Because we'd be Chace Crawford and our heads would be filled with sunshine and tumbling kittens and the occasional chirping of birds.
• During the performance, several people in the audience appear to be playing with their cell phones. Plus 3.
• "I hate pretentious asshats who try to steal other people's girlfriends." Nate used the word "asshat!" Plus 2. And then "dilettante!" Plus 1. No, wait, minus 1.
• Rachel would totally have that trashy charm bracelet. It's not from Tiffany, so we can't even contemplate who may have made it. It would confuse the parakeets pecking at shiny things who operate our minds. Plus 2.
• Nate watches The Age of Innocence and gasps to Vanessa, "It's heartbreaking." He was just in the play. Plus 4, because remember, he's a pothead. Or, well, don't remember. You know what we mean.
• Dorota's bathrobe! Plus 1, because you know she was sitting in Blair's bed reading her diary and trying on her headbands just before Chuck came into the apartment.
Faker Than Chuck Pleading. To Anyone:
• Blair wouldn't refer to May as "Winona." She'd be too much of a snob. In fact, she wouldn't be in this play to begin with — she knows she's stiff and wooden onstage. Minus 3.
• Not to be sticklers, but Nelly Yuki can't get into Yale early like a month after everybody. Minus 3.
• Also, in reality, colleges don't have such rigid, one-person-per-school rules. Minus 1.
• "Yale considers 'Hazing a Faculty Member' a very serious offense." We didn't realize there was like a name for inviting someone to the opera at the wrong time. Minus 2, because, yeah, there isn't.
• Penelope wouldn't have the balls to call Blair an "inbred legacy." Her dad is a financier, she knows to hedge her bets better than that. Minus 2.
• Minus 20 for the resurgence of the "Elle" plotline. WHY IS THIS STILL GOING?? This is worse than the recession. Issues we have right off the bat include but are not limited to the following:
(a) Chuck muttering, "I know you're in some kind of trouble" to Elle in front of Carter Baizen ….
(b) … who does not acknowledge this completely weird behavior.
(c) Elle: "I've been bathing like the French in restaurant bathrooms all week." First of all, no she hasn't, because she clearly just had a blowout. Second, who in this day and age other than maybe our grandmother would say, "Bathing like the French?"
(d) Elle: "I know things about these men that would destroy them." Such as what? That they have a preference for anal? A penis that tilts to the left? A yen for tall thin blonde girls? This is ridiculous.
(e) Also, the woman who plays Elle (whose main previous acting credit is 50 episodes of Wicked, Wicked Games, by the way) is an insanely bad actress. Really, it's over the top. We enjoyed the performance of the mounted bass in the McDonald's Filet-o-Fish commercial far more. (Seriously, that commercial makes us laugh. Plus 1.)
• Oh, one more thing. When Chuck said, "How do you feel about Brazil?" to Elle, we assumed he was making some kind of bikini-wax reference. But no. It seemed he was actually talking about taking Elle to Brazil. Minus 2 for our disappointment.
• Why is Rufus at the invited dress? Minus 2. And why would Jenny not grab the note from Rachel right away and say, "DAD, that's PRIVATE!" Teenage girls are programmed to do that automatically, aren't they? Minus 2.
• Dan's handwriting on the note was once again par example of a perfect teenage boy scrawl. But we will not let that distract us from the following glaring issues with this whole scenario, beginning with: Where would he have gotten that ridiculous stationery? Minus 1. And why was he writing her a note in the first place? Even if we buy into the idea that they haven't communicated since their Forbidden Bone, what with Rachel getting her job back and being told to stay away from Dan, why didn't he just send a text? Minus 5. It's not like Headmistress Queller has set up a tap on their cell phones. That's the whole point with this show, the texting. Also, he already knows where she lives, so her leaving him a key when knocking would have sufficed doesn't really make sense. Minus 3.
• Unless! Unless Rachel, as a woman of a certain age, had seen Varsity Blues and was planning on dressing up in a whipped-cream bikini for her high-school suitor. Then she would have been unable to answer the door! Which would make the key make sense. But she wasn't: When Rufus got there, she was lighting tapered candles like Mrs. Havisham or something. Minus 3.
• And why would Rufus would take the key and actually unlock her door with it, anyway? Wouldn't he be worried about finding her naked and wearing a whipped-cream bikini? Minus 2.
• Oh, no, no, no. The homo-tastic but destitute drama teacher would never "grab the check." Minus 3.
• Gossip Girl: "Don't worry, B, when God closes a door, he opens a play." No. Just, no. Minus 1.
• The theater costume closet is a great place to have illicit, Titanic-tuxedo-style, hand-kissing, teacher-on-student monkey sex at nearly any time during the school year. Except during the senior class play. Nobody walked in on them? Not even Julian and the 17-year-old assistant director when they were "looking for sequins"? Minus 2.
• Haven't the faculty (even adjuncts) at this school been lectured enough not to do things like ask students to text them their home addresses? Minus only 3, because clearly Julian wouldn't even think this was a problem, as he is practically moved to nausea by Serena's fantastic funbags.
• Blair: "I'm an actress. No, I'm a seagull!" Holy crap. Jessica Queller was clearly a double drama major in college. As in, drama and DRA-ma. Minus 2.
• How could Serena think only two people know about the press release that went out when Serena got into Yale? It was a press release. Wouldn't a lot of people know about it? Minus 1.
• When Nate interrupts the play to freak out and everyone starts screaming about their real-life dramas onstage, Jessica's husband hit pause and said, "I predict that Christopher Isherwood's going to say he loves the postmodern twist in the second act." And this is a man who failed to predict the ending to Marley & Me. Minus 4 We have to agree with Isherwood's assessment of his appearance. It was embarrassing. Although it wasn’t his performance — he was actually totally good! — it was his lines.
• Similarly, a 7-year-old could have seen the plot twist with "Elle" and Carter Baizen coming a mile away. Chuck is a master of deception! No way would he believe that an actual whore whose job was to have sex for money would fall in love with and run away with him. That Chuck would expect her to behave any differently is laughable. Minus 10. We liked it better when he was infallible. Infallibly evil.
This week's Reality Index was capsized by the weight of the wooden Elle plotline. Without it, it might have been a pretty strong showing for real — despite the fact that nobody noticed the drama teacher was gay for the entire episode. As always, add your comments and observations in the comments, and we'll tally up our favorite ones at the end of the week.