'Gossip Girl' recap: 'We should make this a drinking game'
For much of the last two seasons, I've worried that "Gossip Girl" was stuck in a holding pattern it couldn't break. In the last few episodes, though, the show has surprised me: The writers have given us a reprieve from the endless titillating torments of Chuck and Blair, the Dan-Serena-Nate love triangle and, well, the mere existence of Jenny and Vanessa.
Now, the show has a new problem. "Gossip Girl" has always been a wild, rich-kid fantasy, full of impossibly articulate teenagers in beautiful clothing who don't have anything better to do in life than scheme about how to screw each other over. And I have loved "GG" in spite -- or maybe because -- of that. But this week's episode was so implausible from beginning to end that it made my poor, sequin-blinded head spin.
In one corner, we have Blair and Dan. Recently, they've been secretly seeing old movies together and teasing us over whether anything did or will happen between them. This week, fate throws them together once more. When Blair arrives for her first day of an internship at W magazine -- a gig she's so nervous about that she won't dare to jinx it by telling Serena where she's working -- she finds, to her revulsion, that she's just one of five beautiful, fashionable interns. (Shocking, I know.) And when the sixth intern shows up, it's Dan!
Yes, the Upper East Side's serious writer has allowed his evil stepmother to hook him up with an internship. Somehow, Dan didn't bother to ask her where it would be; Lily told him he'd be working at Conde Nast, and for some reason he assumed this meant she knew someone at the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. So, here's the man who never met a plaid button-down he didn't like, wading into New York's fashion world armed only with an unexpected flair for recognizing designer goods (honed during his time with Serena, of course) and some impressive capuccino-making chops.
This is all unlikely enough, but Dan and Blair's battle for coffee-fetching supremacy gets even sillier. When they overhear that a major author has dropped out of an interview, they read between the lines: Obviously, it is time to step in and save the day! So, Dan trots out his grouchy, old mentor, Jeremiah Harris. And it turns out Blair knows a (real-life) author, Lorrie Moore. Both invite their candidate to tonight's swanky W party -- but while Blair considers sabotaging Dan, it's Lonely Boy who betrays our Queen of Mean.
It all culminates in a physical fight, right in front of W's very own editor in chief, Stefano Tonchi. (What, you thought the fashion cameos would disappear with Jenny Humphrey?) Dan and Blair are both fired, but after she breaks down and tells him she got the internship through good, old-fashioned hard work, he takes the blame and gets Blair her job back.
Obviously, this is all leading up to a climactic, shameful Dan-Blair hookup, fueled by their shared ambition and mutual resentment. As we already know, Blair can only love someone she also hates.
Meanwhile, in a slightly different fantasy world, Serena has befriended Ben, the man her mother sent to prison on her behalf -- because if Blair's weakness is men who make her blood boil, Serena's is simply guys she can't or shouldn't have (her best friend's boyfriend, her college professor, her stepbrother). Unfortunately, it looks like S won't be getting her way this time. Despite the care she's taken to meet Ben wearing her very best see-through alpine sweater, he has already made up his mind to start his life over on an organic farm in Ithaca.
Except that he really hasn't. When Serena goes to visit him at a halfway house in a neighborhood so scary it has an above-ground subway stop, he gives her an envelope. And what do you know? It's full of cash he's returning to Lily, who tried to pay him off to leave town. By now, Mama van der Woodsen's machinations are so ridiculous that the "Gossip Girl" writers have to acknowledge it in the script. "Mom paid someone off again," says Eric. "We should make this a drinking game."
While he's back, Ben proves he's a good guy by sticking his neck out to save Eric from the clutches of slimy plot device-cum-drug dealer Damien Dalgaard. (In one of the most unintentionally hilarious allusions of the week, Ben reminisces about Damien's nerdy high-school days, when he wrote a paper comparing "The Wire" to "The Iliad," an assignment that clearly prepared him for his new life on the wrong side of the law.) Cast aside by his most recent boyfriend, abandoned by Serena's quest to find Judge Stephens and disgusted by his awful mother, Eric turned to Damien for sleeping pills and then uppers to help him recover from the downers.
Strangely, Damien and Eric choose to hide their real relationship by pretending they've been seeing each other romantically. If this were true, considering his history with Serena and Jenny, it would mean that Damien has pursued nearly the entire Humphrey-van der Woodsen clan. Who's next?
Although his behavior has made absolutely no sense recently (your wife is throwing innocent men in jail, bribing people and selling businesses out from under her stepchildren and you seem only mildly annoyed?), Rufus sees through Eric's flimsy lie and guesses that he was really buying drugs from Damien. This buys Ben some goodwill, and Rufus allows Serena to convince him that the ex-con she clearly has the hots for should move into the family's Brooklyn loft. Despite the fact that Ben tells S he doesn't want anything to do with her, by the end of the episode he's accosting Damien and warning him to stay away from her family, or else. So, that should end well.
Last, but not least, we have Chuck and Raina's deliciously dangerous liaisons. Business rivals by day and red-hot paramours by night, they inevitably bring work into the bedroom. Is there anything sexier than a post-coital promise that "Thorpe Enterprises has no interest in corporate espionage"? And how wonderful is it when Chuck visits Raina and finds another, bathrobe-wrapped man in her apartment? Whatever is happening between Nate and Nate's dad and Papa Thorpe is so uninteresting it becomes hard to follow. But if sitting through it means getting to see more Chuck and Raina, then count me in.
"Gossip Girl" highbrow reference watch:
It was a tough call this week, what with all of Dan and Blair's cultured banter. But I'm going with the moment when he tells her he's going to see a Joseph Beuys exhibit and pronounces "Beuys" correctly.
Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:
1. Blair's gray-and-white, tie-dyed Bensoni dress.
2. Chuck's long, maroon overcoat.
3. Blair's off-white winter coat.
4. Dan's Theory suit -- with extra points for stepping outside his comfort zone.
5. Blair's black, draped BCBG Max Azria dress.
-- Judy Berman
Photo: Blair and Dan battle it out at W. Credit: Giovanni Rufino / The CW