'Gossip Girl' recap: Raina of terror
"Gossip Girl" picked quite a moment to take a seven-week winter break: When we last saw the Upper East Siders, Chuck was off to New Zealand to find his uncle Jack and save Bass Industries, and Serena was embarking on a quest to find the judge who forged the affidavit that put Ben in jail -- leaving Nate to baby-sit his newly paroled dad while Dan and Blair... well, what exactly did Dan and Blair do during those cold, lonely weeks?
Unfortunately, we learn early on in this week's episode that neither Chuck nor Serena accomplished what they set out to do. Serena tracked Judge Stephens all across the East Coast, and even tried to get into her case's sealed file, but came home empty-handed. Chuck, meanwhile, arrived in New Zealand to find that Jack was out of the country. (Chuck really flew halfway around the world without calling first?)
Daunted but not beaten, Chuck does have one last hope: His dad's old friend Russell Thorpe is making his annual trip to New York. Surely he can help save Bass Industries. Unfortunately, he's not in the office when Chuck saunters in to visit him. Instead, our arrogant hero is met by a beautiful, shrewd, young African American woman named Raina, who he assumes is Thorpe's assistant. She tells him that the sale of Bass Industries is old news, and that the deal has actually been fast-tracked to go through in 24 hours. Is there anything Chuck hates more than looking stupid in front of a pretty girl?
The scheming comes to a head, as it always does, at Thorpe's party, where Chuck learns that Raina isn't Thorpe's secretary but his daughter -- and the vice president of his company. It also turns out that, although Lily has told Chuck the company will be sold to his dad's pal Thorpe (and, by the way, the sale is happening for his own good), that's nowhere near the truth. The kicker? Thorpe had hated Chuck's dad for quite a while, after Bart screwed him over on too many deals.
In the end, everyone loses. Despite Lily's lies, it looks like she was right in her decision to sell the company. Too bad Thorpe catches on to the Bass family feud and tips off the buyer about what he's getting into. Of course, the deal is off. And Dan foils Serena and Chuck's attempt to hand a New York Post reporter Lily's affidavit, in a desperate attempt to keep his stepmother and stepsister/dream girl from tearing their family apart.
But something good -- or, at least, intriguing -- does come out of this episode. Twisted love is in the air, and for once it doesn't involve Chuck and Blair having sex in public.
At the end of Thorpe's party, Chuck runs into Raina at the bar. She likes to keep business and pleasure separate, she tells him, so if he'd like to meet her outside, she'll be waiting in her car for exactly five minutes. Because he is the Chuck Bass we know and love, he has no choice but to go for it. And just like that, the Thorpes have decided to stay in New York, and we've got a depraved, modern-day Romeo and Juliet on our hands. It should be fun to watch this new, powerful family take the Upper East Side by storm. Raina promises to be a great character and a worthy foil for Chuck, so I'm hoping she sticks around for a while. Her dad sure seems like he's got a few more shocking plot twists in him, too -- and it doesn't hurt that he (like everyone else above East 57th Street) once slept with Lily.
Meanwhile, when a defeated Serena shows up to visit Ben in prison, she learns he's suddenly been released, by order of a certain Judge Stephens. In what is perhaps the greatest of this episode's many coincidences, he's still hanging around outside as she's leaving. And since Serena and Dan have just quasi-broken up (because they were never officially back together to begin with), she's free to be hot for teacher again. You would think Ben would know not to get near the Van der Woodsen clan after they had him jailed for several years over a crime he didn't commit. But such are the mysterious powers of Serena.
Finally, as for Blair and Dan, we don't find out for sure what, if anything, happened between them while everyone else was out of town -- but it is awfully suspicious that, when Serena asks Blair whether she saw Dan over the break, Blair quickly says, "No! Why would I?" Later, when Serena wants to know what Dan did while she was gone, he's equally abrupt: "Why? What did you hear?" he asks. Later, they talk about their secret movie date as though it's something to be ashamed of. Before the end of the episode, they've planned another covert film viewing. But if there's really nothing more than two cinema buffs enjoying some French classics together, then what could they possibly have to lie about?
Other scattered thoughts:
- Although it felt a bit clumsy, I enjoyed the subplot that had Blair plotting an internship with Indra Nooyi, disappointing her mother and finally figuring out what she wants to do in life. The woman Dan so aptly calls "an evil dictator of taste" is going to be the "editrix of a high-fashion magazine." Anna Wintour had better watch her back.
- Nate's story line, on the other hand, was absolutely yawn-worthy. His father's out of jail, staying with Nate, flirting with every woman he sees and playing lots of video games instead of looking for a job. Now, it looks like Thorpe has a place for him, and I'm sure that means he'll be back in trouble soon. On the whole, though, it really feels like the writers are running out of things to do with Nate. And that's not surprising, considering he has no personality. Might it be about time for him to go the way of Jenny and Vanessa?
- Was anyone else confused about why Rufus seemed completely fine with Lily throughout the episode? Wasn't he pretty upset, when last we saw him, that his wife knowingly had an innocent man jailed and was secretly selling her stepson's company out from under him? That isn't the kind of thing you just get over in a few weeks!
"Gossip Girl" highbrow reference watch:
While he waits (in vain) for Serena to come home, Dan reads Rebecca Traister's recent book, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women.
Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:
- Blair's black-and-silver strapless dress
- Raina's white, silky, ruched dress
- Lily's big, shiny, '20s-style pearl necklace
- Chuck's camel overcoat with the gold pocket square
- Blair's black dress with the studded trim
-- Judy Berman
Photo: Tika Sumpter as Raina Thorpe and Michael Boatman as Russell Thorpe. Credit: Giovanni Rufino / The CW