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'Gossip Girl' recap: Everybody hates Serena

Gg masquerade

Is Serena van der Woodsen a selfish, manipulative, unrepentant party girl or an indecisive college kid who can't fathom her own sexual power? Or is she simply an empty-headed cipher, a pretty projection of every man's desire and every woman's insecurities? Asking these questions may mean taking Serena more seriously than I'm inclined to, but they have fast become the theme of "Gossip Girl" Season 4.

In the past, we've been led to assume that Serena is merely a victim of fate -- the girl who ended up in the wrong hotel room on the wrong night, who can't stop loving either of the guys who had her heart in high school, who fell for a guy who she didn't even know would end up being her professor. Now, everything is starting to change. Her refusal to choose between Dan and Nate has gone on for so long it's become infuriating. The fact that she pouted her way into Colin's professional life and then dropped him as soon as he quit his job for her? Mystifying.

And, as of this week's episode, we're finally learning the history between Ben and Serena. When Lily meets Juliet and bribes her to leave Serena alone, Juliet reveals something I assume only she, Serena, Lily and Ben know: that Colin wasn't the first teacher Serena's been hot for. Lily pretends not to know what Juliet's talking about, but Juliet presses her: "Boarding school? Serena was a minor." Well, it sure looks like Serena got Colin's estranged cousin locked up for what may or may not have been statutory rape -- and that's likely why she left boarding school and returned to the Upper East Side over three years ago. (Of course, it's hard to imagine that Serena actually forced Ben to get physical with her.)

So, not only did Serena's pre-"Gossip Girl" life include witnessing a drug-related death, but it also featured a torrid affair with a boarding school teacher that her mother went to great lengths to cover up. No wonder Lily has such a hard time trusting Serena!

To be fair, though, all of this happened years ago. Basically, all Serena has done since is flit around in expensive dresses, flaunting her privilege, breaking hearts and stealing other people's boyfriends (namely, Vanessa's). As she reminds Eric at this week's masquerade party -- for which, tellingly, she had trouble deciding whether to dress as a saint or a sinner -- Serena has changed. Can she help it that she's irresistibly beautiful and impossibly wealthy? Surely, if Jenny and Vanessa (who don't have Juliet's demented, single-minded goal of destroying the girl who ruined her brother's life) want to attack one of the insiders, they could find a better target. How about Blair, for instance, who has twice banished Little J from New York and won't let Vanessa forget she's an outsider? Serena doesn't even care about that stuff!

But is she really so above it all? As Jenny notes, the trouble Blair makes often has something to do with getting Serena out of her most recent mess. Maybe people are starting to realize that Serena only looks so carefree and innocent because she has friends who aren't afraid to get their manicured hands dirty.

Whether she deserves it or not, Serena loses just about everything by the end of this week's episode. (Well, everything besides her looks and money.) At the masquerade, in a move Jenny already got away with at a different masquerade a few seasons ago, both Juliet and Jenny wear exactly the costume they spotted Serena wearing on Gossip Girl. Despite the fact that Serena, Jenny and Juliet don't actually look that similar and only part of the girls' faces are covered, the outsiders manage to pummel Serena's reputation. After Juliet-as-Serena smooches both Dan and Nate in full view of a roomful of willing Gossip Girl informants, Jenny-as-Serena pulls back a curtain to reveal Blair and Chuck secretly making out. Meanwhile, Vanessa has passed Nate's mom, Anne Archibald, an application indicating that Serena would like to be considered for a position she knows Blair covets at a powerful charity organization.

By the time the evening is over, Nate and Dan have both dumped Serena. Again. And Blair has decided that Serena is out to steal everything she's ever wanted. Again. And that's all before Juliet takes the plan even further than she let on to Jenny and Vanessa, throwing a woozy Serena into a cab to the middle of nowhere and using the passed-out girl's phone to e-mail a notice of withdrawal to Dean Reuther. At the end of the episode, it certainly looks like Juliet is planning to imprison Serena in her home.

These are all exciting developments, considering that the most wonderful moments on "Gossip Girl" tend to occur when someone comes completely unhinged. But do they tell us anything more than we already knew about whether Serena deserves her suddenly bleak fate? Not really. As far as I'm concerned, we still don't know her much better than we did the first time we spotted her making her way through Grand Central Station in the series premiere. Four seasons in, are we finally going to learn what (if anything) makes Serena van der Woodsen tick? And when we find out, will we even care?

Other scattered thoughts:

-- I continue to be bored with Chuck and Blair. This week, they were on again (as friends with benefits), then off again, then on again (romantically), then off again. At some point, during sex, Chuck said "I love you" to Blair and meant it. But other flimsy obstacles blocked their way to what would have undoubtedly been a mature, mutually respectful relationship, and they went their separate ways. Well, until next week. Yawn.

-- With Jenny and Juliet helming the outsiders' schemes, Vanessa is back to being her boring, morally uncertain self. I'm starting to feel for poor Jessica Szohr, who was great as a surprise mean girl last week but whose character just can't sustain a fun story line.

-- Did everyone notice the surreal moment when "Make Me Wanna Die," the single by Taylor Momsen's band, The Pretty Reckless, played as Jenny pulled the curtain on Chuck and Blair? I'll go on record as saying the song is far better than I ever expected it would be. But the convergence of Raccoon-Eyed Rock Star Taylor Momsen and Raccoon-Eyed Upper East Sider Jenny Humphrey has really gotten out of control.

-- It is high time we addressed the tumultuous bromance between Dan and Nate. Wouldn't we all feel better if the two of them would just start swapping spit already? Serena would be so confused!

Best line of the episode: "As long as I'm with you, I'm Hillary in the White House, and I want to be Hillary, secretary of State -- but with better hair." -- Blair to Chuck

Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:

1. Serena/Jenny/Juliet's floaty, lavender Carolina Herrera masquerade dress.

2. Serena's sparkly, blush sweater dress.

3. Blair's devilish red slip. (I also loved that yellow bra-and-panty set she had on earlier in the episode but would somehow feel dirty listing it.)

4. Dan's light gray masquerade suit with the slate-colored tie.

5. Jenny's black sequined dress.

-- Judy Berman

Photo: Blair realizes that Serena has betrayed her. Credit: Giovanni Rufino/The CW

Comments () | Archives (9)

I think that the main problem is that we have no idea who Serena is other then a pretty girl that uses her looks, money and devilish friends to get by in life. It must be hard to have everyone turn on you but she did chose Colin (sex) over school (education, career), she has had Dan and Nate on a yo-yo for about a year and she does seem to get everything that Blairs want either intentionally or unintentionally. So everything that happened last night was believable. I am sure that this story will play out like all of Serena's drama's, Blair will realize her friend is in danger and raise holy hell to get her out of it. While Blair's loyalty and love for Serena is one of her most endearing character traits I wish Serena would learn to care for her self and stop leaving the heavy lifting to Blair.

I agree I want Blair and Chuck to reunite and stay that way and I have grown tired of the will they/won't they storyline but they are the most developed characters on the show and they bring spark especially in light of Serena boring stories and acting.

I agree. Dan and Nate should get together, to spite Serena. Swapping spit is optional. Waking up in bed after a drunken bender. Required.

I can't wait for Date to happen, that or Dair, I'm just soooo over chuck and blair, and as for juliet, you've got to hand it to her, she DOES liven things up, life had gotten pretty hum-drum on the UES before she came along

I enjoy this show, but it really needs some more life!
The majority of the characters lack good, dramatic emotions. Nate and Dan are not convincingly in love with Serena - there isn't enough emotion in their anger, frustration, or desire for her. I'd like to see some true emotion - and maybe focus on one story line for a little longer? It seems the show is attempting to appeal to the viewers' short attention span by changing the relationships between the characters in each episode.

Also, Vanessa needs to just go away. I appreciated her moralistic view on things in the first season - since then she clearly cannot decide which side to be on. I'm expecting next episode she'll feel great guilt and ask forgiveness of Dan and his friends (which, for the 50th time, will be given her - maybe after an episode of sulkiness).

This show could still be saved, but it's going to take putting a little more work into bridging the gap between the writing and the actors' performances. And maybe a few permanent character changes... like getting rid of Dan and Vanessa altogether.

I thought Juliet knew about the boarding school teacher because Nate told her everything about Serena, right?

Serena just floats through life, her mind seems pretty much empty, her blank quizzical looks show her puzzlement with the world. Chuck and Blair need to be together, thought the line about Blair not being taken seriously if they're dating was so 1970s. Chuck may be well known, but its not like he's Prince William or anyone like that. I too thought Juliet knew about boarding school from Nate. But maybe that is the connection w Ben. Can't wait to see how Serena gets out of this one. Would be nice if she saved herself for once.

I love Blair and Chuck together they are my fab couples and i like how they dress step out the box and dare to be unsual and fun. Give them an air of respect and admiration.

Chuck and Blair can survive each other and thrive because both compliments each other and are ambitious alike.

serena is a beautiful young lady and i admire her for that if she wants to show off her assets than she can its not up to us to tell her not to ... she is beautiful but i would not want to change myself to become more like her let her be who she wants to be..

i luv gossip girl to the max lol


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