The central theme of the human drama Gossip Girl is identity. Each new episode, these deftly drawn characters tackle the central questions of the human condition: Who are they? What is their purpose in the world? And God help them, will they die alone after shitting themselves in a Duane Reade? Well, maybe not that last one. Anyway. In this week's episode, Serena ran into her undermining friend Poppy, who presented her with a philosophical conundrum: If she isn't on the arm of a designer at the Met one day and lazing around the Maldives on a yacht the next, is she really living life? Similarly, we were later given to wonder: If a woman has thousands of dollars worth of hair extensions and doesn't make an effort to groom them, do they really exist? Meanwhile, Jenny struggled to remain true to her Humphrey-ness in the face of peer and adult pressure, and Blair continued to be torn between the happy-go-lucky golden retriever that is Nate and her animal attraction to Chuck, the fun but dangerous pit bull. "He would almost be scary if he wasn't wearing plaid," Dan remarks, of the latter. Wouldn't we all.
And now, how much of this angsting was realistic and how much was fake? We put it to the sniff test, in our weekly reality index.
Realer Than a Doorman and a Maid's Secret, Forbidden, Eastern European Fling:
• Serena and Blair end up shopping at Via Quodronno on the same morning. We'll buy it. And the chocolate-filled croissant that Jenny's not eating, too, please. Plus 2.
• Blair likens her situation with Nate and Vanessa to the love triangle between Brad, Angelina, and Jennifer Aniston. Plus 1, because every woman in that situation makes that analogy. It's like being a Carrie or a Charlotte. And Plus 4 more for the fact that Blair misidentifies as Angelina when she is clearly Jen, and for the reason why: "On the first trip to Africa, Brad and Angelina's lovemaking was so intense they thought they were being attacked."
• Jenny: "Do you know how many types of jam they have [at Lily's]?" She mentions the jams again, later. We love how Jenny is pretending so hard to be an eater. Later, she waves around a gooey pastry for an entire scene without touching it. Plus 2.
• Rufus: "Look at us — you going to Yale. Jenny might actually make it to 16." Plus 3. Maybe Rufus is paying attention to the jam thing.
• Everyone acts really awkward when Jenny says she doesn't want a big birthday party. Plus 1.
• Poppy changed her hair and it is awful. Plus 3. Her undermining is wonderful, though: "So everything's just the same as when I left then," she says. "Have fun with your little party." Plus 2.
• ERIC IS BACK, HOORAY!! Plus 2, because he comes with Jonathan, his hair is improved, and seriously, where have they been hiding him? Not in the closet, certainly.
• Plus 5 for the amazing News at Eleven teaser that said, "Tune in later to find out about the gross thing we found in the ladies' room." Who would tune in for that? Did anyone?
• Dan: "What does Chuck Bass do at 8 in the morning? It's not like you work out."
Chuck: "I do my cardio in the evenings." Plus 1.
• Nate's password has been "soccer" since the fifth grade. Plus 1 for Nate not even adding "09" at the end.
• So, let's get into this Nate thing a little. It's kind of crazy how he turned into a douche in the last episode, just over the course of an afternoon. Let's review: He accepted the internship from his grandfather before telling Vanessa, with whom he had planned a vacation. He then acted like it was her fault she was upset, and like she was trying to hold him back from his family or something, even though it was Vanessa who made him get in touch with them in the first place. Then he maybe sorta cheated on her, didn't call her for a week, and showed up at their breakup meeting with a look on his face like, "Let's get this over with so I can go off and bang someone of my caste." Plus 10. TOTALLY realistic teenage-boy behavior.
• Dorota: "Maybe girl from Brooklyn cry, Mr. Nate nice boy, he wipe tears, he touch her hair, she touch his … not that this ever happen to me." Plus 5. Also, plus 5 for the weird implied flirtation between the maid and Vanya the Russian doorman in the van der Woodsen building that also somehow involves product placement for Ann Coulter's newest book. We don't quite get why Dorota would be a right-wing fanatic, but something about it feels right, and we like that they're developing her character.
• '96 Dom Perignon is fantastic. We've heard. Nice. Plus 2.
• We were going to subtract points for Dan knowing the theme song to The Jeffersons, but upon inspection, episodes are indeed on Hulu. And thank God. Plus 2.
• Penelope: "In the last twenty minutes I've been hit on by two Bronfmans and a gay designer." Plus 2.
• Leigh Lezark and Patrick McMullan would totally be at that party. And Patrick, bless him, would also have no idea what it was for. Plus 4.
• Vanessa: "I came to you because I wanted to do something besides feel sorry for myself, but all it's been has been sleazy platitudes and you staring at my boobs."
Chuck: "I came up with several excellent ideas. You just shot most of them down."
Vanessa: "Yeah, because most of them involved leaking the Chuck-Vanessa sex tape on the Internet."
Chuck: "We don't have to leak the tape if you don't want to."
Plus 1 for dialogue (her boobs did look good in that purple halter dress), but minus 1 because, yeah, as if he wouldn't leak the tape.
• Vanessa: "We're not a couple, it's just physical." Plus 2 because who knew V actually knows how to punch guys where it hurts?
• Did anyone else notice that later, Nate did touch Blair's hair, as Dorota predicted he would in an intense situation? Plus 1.
• "All I did was carry the chili and stop a few teenagers from having unprotected sex." Plus 1.
• The extras who played the lame high-schoolers in the party scene really outdid themselves, especially the blonde one working the whitest-ever booty dance. Plus 3. (Though did they bring their own Solo cups?)
• Jenny's text to Gossip Girl reads: "Rager at the VDW!" Plus 1 for the use of rager.
• Serena: "I'm embarrassed to say this, but I think I might be grounded."
Poppy: "Oh, Serena ... no." Plus 1, because as much as we hate her stupid mini-bangs, this actress's delivery is quite good.
• Dorota's face during the conversation about Blair having fun with Nate, and then her subsequent glee at setting up their first kiss, is simply perfect. Plus 3.
• Of course, the gays are loving Hungry Hungry Hippos. Plus 2.
Faker Than An Almost Entirely Need-Blind Admissions University Denying a Prizewinning Student Author Entrance Over Money
• Wait, the Humphreys came from Brooklyn, had a family breakfast at Lily's, and got to school on time? What time did they have to wake up? Not Brooklyn time, certainly. Minus 3.
• We realize this is a necessary plot device, but Serena would have warned Jenny more than a day in advance about her party. Minus 3.
• You don't get a financial aid "DENIED" letter from Yale. You'd get offers for Stafford loans and other government assistance, at the very least. Minus 2.
• Chuck has a curved spread collar for the first time ever on the show. It's not cute. Minus 3.
• Poppy: "A girl like you should be on the arm of a designer at the Costume Institute ball one night and yachting around the Maldives next." Minus 1, because aw, bless. Like Serena knows what the Maldives are.
• The Waldorfs repainted their stairwell, and it's not quite right. Minus 2.
• Chuck is always hanging around in Lily's living room in his smoking jacket drinking booze in front of the fire. Don't other people, like, an entire family, live in that apartment? Minus 3, because what if someone wanted to play Hungry Hungry Hippos? And doesn't Lily basically live on that couch, in her enormous pregnant-ness?
• What happened to Serena's hair in this episode? Has she started using Pantene Pro-V Shampoo Plus Conditioner in One or something? Minus 3.
• Why would Blair and Nate look shocked to see Vanessa and Chuck at Jenny's party? Vanessa is a family friend, and Chuck lives there. Also, why would Vanessa and Chuck be shocked to see Nate and Blair? Haven't they noticed that those two are at every party they go to? Minus 5.
• Why do the police come into the building after dispelling the crowd outside? Minus 1.
• It's totally unrealistic that Lily would say that she thought the party Serena put together for Jenny was "delightful" and act like Jenny was at fault for being ungrateful when Jenny had clearly, strenuously objected to having such a party the day before and it was beyond evident that Serena was being a pouty egomaniac. It is, however, realistic that Rufus would sit there like a lump while that conversation was going on, so: Even.
• Gossip Girl: "Cuidado España, here comes el problema." Minus 1, because the website's anonymous author would have made the obvious gender-agreement error in her haste.
• It's kind of annoying that Blair has lost all her control in this episode. Minus 1. Someone give her back her headband of power!
• As fun as the setup was, Nate and Blair feel all wrong. And though a drunken hookup between Chuck and Vanessa seems right, the sober morning liaison seems wrong, too. Minus only 1, because at least something new and remotely plausible is going on.
• When Dan calls his superfan we find out that "Scott" is actually Rufus and Lily's adopted son, which means he must have figured that out somehow, despite the fact that his adopted parents told Rufus and Lily he was dead. But wait: Why do Scott's parents pick up his cell phone? Does Scott still live at home? Wouldn't he have been conceived way before Dan and Jenny and therefore be too old? OR: Did all of the drugs Lily consumed in the eighties mean he was born with flippers and therefore lives in a special pressurized tank upstairs? We can only hope. Until then, Minus 5.
A clear win for reality this week, thanks in part to the lame high-school dancing, Nate's sudden onset of Dickhead Syndrome, and our willingness to overlook things like the fact that Bart just died like five minutes ago and Chuck is supposed to be the head of a multi-billion-dollar company, which everyone seems to have already forgotten. Next week! Fingers crossed for flippers.