At first, Blair's mission on last night's Gossip Girl seemed simple: She was going undermine Vanessa, who had been asked to perform a toast at a school-sponsored dinner for a group of parents. But Vanessa, who saw the stuffy dinner being her one chance to get her jerk hippie family to love her, reacted with uncharacteristic vehemence to defend her position, sparking a Cold War of lies, deception, and Realpolitik, one that ultimately bore a human cost: In the end, Vanessa left Dan and Olivia feeling betrayed, her mother feeling insulted, and Rufus and Lily feeling awkward. Blair alienated not just everyone at the party, but her best ally, Chuck.
Meanwhile, uptown, Nate was using similar means to conduct an elaborate scheme to discredit the rival Buckley family, using Serena as a pawn. The plan works, but she's upset, and therefore makes the wrong face at Carter (a variation on that O-shaped mouth thing she always does), which causes him to run away to an oil rig in Texas so that she'll stop pitying him. Or something? Watching him get into the Town Car that would take him to years of hard labor, we, the viewers, were moved to make a similar face. It looks like this: Ö
And now on to our weekly reality index. What was true to life about this episode, and what struck us as faker than a Photoshop of a politician holding a giant cherry-red bong?
More Real Than a Japanese Watch That Tells You the Time and That You Are Pretty
• We're a little torn about Blair's dream about Vanessa. To begin with, their hair and dresses at the "Henrietta Hudson" Awards (a substitute for the "Sarah Siddons" awards that begin All About Eve) are dead ringers for the movie versions they're supposed to echo. Plus 2, because even sleeping Blair would get the fashion right. And we guess it makes sense that Blair would dream about herself being Audrey Hepburn, and that her and Chuck's idea of a nightmare would be a dream that involved Walter Matthau (God, we wish we had rich-people nightmares). Plus 2. But we just feel as though Blair doesn't dream in black-and-white film clichés; Vanessa does. Unless Blair is dreaming about, like, Heathers, but with an ending where Shannen Doherty wins.
• Chuck's purple paisley nightgown is perfect, as is his teeny espresso mug and morning Carey Grant hair. Plus 3, because we think the reason he wasn't in bed with Blair must have been that was he was in the bathroom taking out his rollers. Also, thank God he's finally reading The Wall Street Journal and not the Observer, the only paper any finance types have read so far on the show. Plus 1. But wouldn't they have a bed frame?
• We are very excited that Aaron Tveit is going to make a return as a sleazy politician. Hopefully he will be of the Aaron Schock school. No points, but just a suggestion.
• The asymmetrical dress in which Serena is roaming around the city is both hot and totally absurd. Plus 1.
• From the penetrating, beat-too-long gaze Rufus gives Vanessa before telling her that he's sure the school will pick her to do the speech to Vanessa's shrill exclamation of, "SO RUFUS, HOW IS MARRIED LIFE?" the sexual tension between these two is palpable and wrong. By the time she got around to saying, "I love Rufus and Lily and I wish they were my parents," we felt incredibly awkward. Plus 2, for laying the foundation for the truly sick stuff we're sure is coming our way in seasons five and six.
• And along those lines, plus 1 for the way Nate calls his grandfather "Grandfather," which reminds us of Flowers in the Attic.
• Jenny needed Dan's "muscles" to move a light-as-air dress form? Well, at least someone acknowledged his Hulkean transformation. (Other than this guy at Mars Bar.) Plus 2 .
• "People like you more when they meet our family." Plus 2.
• Dan and Rufus are wearing basically the same shirt in the same room and the world doesn't explode. (Note: This must be why Jenny prefers to look like she is from another planet.) Wash.
• Blair: "I am in no mood to hear you fawn over some girl with tacky accessories who likes to recycle." Plus 5, since this is immediately followed by Vanessa's appearing at the parent's dinner in her most ginormous and hideous turquoise necklace yet.
• Blair: "You."
Vanessa: "Yeah, Blair, me." Plus 1, because clearly at least one of the writers has started feeling badly for Jessica Szohr.
• So much about P.J. Buckley is spot-on, from his popped collar to the fratty guys hanging around behind him to the perfect dick look he gives the photo of Trip Vanderbilt, to the fact that he seems a lot more upset about his sister gaining 30 pounds than being brokenhearted. But Plus only 2, because his accent sounds more Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing than J.R. Ewing, and are we really meant to believe he just sits around a big round table all day, in a lair straight out of the Batman comics, waiting to be challenged to high-stakes poker games?
• When she's being herself, Olivia favors shapeless, unflattering prairie dresses over skintight Hervé Léger ensembles. Plus 2, because that is so NYU starlet.
• Blair: "Napolean's always good for a few zingers." Plus 1.
• Plus an additional 1 for the anime goblin claw, even though Olivia clearly either (a) got it as swag or (b) paid an assistant to go to Harajuku to find it.
And plus an additional 2 for the following exchange:
Minion: "Vanessa is giving the toast again, and she' got some big pink claw thing!"
Blair: "Well, I don't know about that. However, phase one is complete."
• Vanessa's father, Arlo, couldn't make it to New York, explains her mother, Gabrielle, because, "He had to finish installing the solar panels at the chicken coop at the co-op, and we have been so busy organizing the union for local 72, the cheesemakers union." Plus 7 for the sheer amount of ridiculous neo-hippie color in the one sentence, even though none of it explains why they can't just live in Brooklyn, where you can do all of those things.
• Plus 2 for Lily's "I'm barely restraining myself from laughing in your face" expression when Vanessa's mother says that they don't believe in private colleges.
• Plus 1 for Chuck saying his dandyish haircut comes from Trumpers of Piccadilly.
• Plus 2 for Lily telling Blair the tough stuff and for Blair's response: "You're supposed to say everything is going to be all right! Where did you learn how to give a pep talk, Guantánamo?"
We also liked:
Blair: "Out, you cableknit queen!"
Chuck: "You were late."
Blair: "I got caught in a text flurry with Dorota. I'm sorry."
Blair: "Are you upset because you kissed a guy?"
Chuck: "I'm upset because I kissed someone who wasn't you. Do you really think I've never kissed a guy before?"
Blair: "Love me?"
• Chuck: "My dinner canceled, the emir had to fly home, something about a revolution." Plus only 1 because that was far too ethno-vague, even for Chuck.
• When Nate calls his grandfather to break the terrible news about the shady political move he just made, Serena asks to speak to him, because, "He needs to know that you were trying to help me." Plus 1, because of course she thinks that would matter, bless her.
• Olivia calls Malibu "the Bu." Amazing, even in jest.Plus 1.
More Fake Than Every Outfit the Abrams Family Wears During This Entire Episode
• At first, when Serena and Nate were hatching their plan, we had lots of questions, such as: "Why is Nate trying to save Carter, who tried to ruin his life in the first season?" And: "Surely one of the two of them would be smart enough to realize that the two of them are not smart enough to pull this poker thing off." And: "How on earth would Nate know who J.R. Ewing is?" Oh, and: "How would Nate have played poker with P.J. Buckley when Bree's family always hated him?" Many of these questions were answered when Nate turned out to have a complicated plot in mind, but minus 6, because not enough of them were. Also, the most complicated plot Nate has probably ever had in his mind heretofore was the story line of a girl-on-girl porno involving milkmaids.
• Also, Nate was drinking deli coffee, outside his apartment on Gramercy Park. No. Minus 2.
• School newspapers are far too self-important to do page-one features on freshmen, unless it is to mock them. (Which maybe is the point of that one? We don't put it past these people not to figure that out.) Minus 2.
• Let's talk about this Freshman Toast thing for a second. First of all, why would an alum have anything to do with picking a "Freshman Toaster"? And what the hell is a Freshman Toast, anyway? And why would it be at the National Arts Club? Sure, it's a beautiful old building, but it has no relationship with NYU and it's not nearly big enough to host the 1,700-odd freshman class and their parents — even if they only invited the ones with designer clothes. Minus only 10, because Neal Bledsoe is pretty and we had trouble concentrating on the plot holes here. Like what on earth he was supposed to do in real life, with his nebulous doctor/accountant/therapist office décor.
• Vanessa's parents are named Arlo and Gabrielle? No. Even hippies don't get to name themselves. Oh, wait. Yes they do. Wash.
• Vanessa's character has been around so long, her split ends probably extend all the way up to the scalp glue on her hair extensions at this point. Hasn't she learned this "Don't Play Blair's Game" lesson like a hundred times by now? Minus 5.
• Also, we don't think she and her mother both wouldn't have worn those ridiculous, expensive outfits in front of one another. Minus 2.
• And no way would Gabrielle have used non-local agave in a recipe when perfectly sustainable, organic honey would have done just the trick. Minus 2.
• And wait: Why does Vanessa's mom have a cell phone and voice mail? Cell phones are just noise pollution, and they also emit radiation! And don't they have a town crier in Vermont or wherever they live? It's so wrong how those jobs are being lost to machines. Minus 7.
• Why does Gossip Girl still call Dan Lonely Boy? Minus 1, because he is clearly not. Look at him in that last scene, surrounded by friends and family, like it's the Olive Garden or some shit.
• Actually, speaking of, it's weird that Dan calls Lily and Rufus "my parents" to Olivia throughout the entire episode, when Lily is not only not his mother, she only married his father in the last episode, and she is furthermore the mother of his ex-girlfriend, with whom he's had sex, who just strolled into the breakfast room, by the way. Kids are weirder about that terminology. Also, why didn't Dan's mom and her new hubby want to come down from upstate to the parents' dinner to meet Dan's new girlfriend and check out his school? Are they trapped by an invisible wall? Minus 5.
• They go to the Library Room in Buddakan for Scotch? That doesn't even make any sense — in fact, why has the whole restaurant become a bar? Minus 2.
• Chuck would have thought twice about the whole boy-flirtation scenario, if not for his own hang-ups, in order to stave off any of Blair's obvious nascent worries. Also, this line? "Tut, tut, I'm not that kind of girl." That rolled off the tongue too easily. Minus 3.
• The Tribeca Scavenger Hunt? Really? What were Nos. 1 through 26? Minus 2, because poor P.C. Peterson.
• Serena calls 411 to find P.J. Buckley? And it worked?? No. Minus 3.
• Okay, people, we must defend Blair for a moment here. She would never give this speech to Vanessa:
"Generations of breeding and wealth had to come together to produce me. I have more in common with Marie Antionette than with you. And, granted, you may be popular at some step-Ivy safety school, but the fact is the rabble is the rabble and they still need a queen." [V: "You stole the toast!"] I was willing to do what was necessary. Including lying to Chuck, the one person who trusts me more than anyone. "
First of all, those sentences don't hang together in any way, certainly not in the context of a conversation. Second, Blair has devised hundreds of these traps! She would have spotted Vanessa awkwardly shifting that big ugly bag immediately. And three: What's in it for Blair to give this toast, again, anyway? We liked it better when the show gave her an ounce of credit. Minus 4, cause we're pretty sure this show did not need another Les Liaisons Dangereuse moment.
• Oh, while we're at it, STOP TRYING TO MAKE WELCOME BACK KOTTER MUGS HAPPEN. Minus 1. We say this out of love.
• Oh, and while we loved the All About Eve references, there really wasn't enough cannibalizing of the amazing dialogue. For instance, did anyone even say, " Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night"?!?! and when Vanessa's mom called to say she couldn't show up to the café where Vanessa was waiting with croissants, she could have at least said, "Why don't you put that croissant where your heart ought to be." Minus 5.
Reality points: 45
Fake points: 52
Even though this episode was fun, it still landed a bit on the fake side. We can't help but think that this season is really going to hit its stride when Blair gets back on her game. Fewer suede dresses and more ruthless social victories!
As always, leave your tallies in the comments section — we'll recap them on Friday.