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'Gossip Girl' recap: Eric's not-so-sweet 18

February 22, 2011 |  7:15 am

Eric 18 gg

There were so many twists and turns in this week's "Gossip Girl" that the first few minutes alone could give you whiplash: Eric's having an 18th birthday party. (They grow up so fast!) No, he isn't; he's sick with the flu. But wait! Eric isn't sick at all -- he's lying because he has to make a drug pickup for Damien, who's blackmailing him.

Then there's Chuck and Lily. First, they're at each other's throats at a bar, in a scene worthy of the cheesiest daytime soap opera. He apologizes for selling her out to Russell Thorpe. She isn't having it. When Chuck gets angry and says he's sure that since Lily cheated on his dad, she's capable of betraying Rufus with Russell, she slaps him. Later, in the privacy of a car, we learn that their tiff was pure charade. Lily and Chuck are back in cahoots, and they've cooked up a wonderfully elaborate scheme to save Bass Industries.

Last week, Capt. Archibald passed Chuck a list of Russell's security codes and computer passwords. All he has to do is make sure Thorpe is out of his office for long enough to snoop around for some helpful information. And that's where Lily comes in. Over drinks to distract Russell, she agrees to let bygones be bygones and tells him her marriage is a sham. "Maybe husband number six will be the charm," he suggests.

Breaking into Thorpe's office, Chuck discovers that Bass Industries' would-be buyer has a backer ripe for manipulation. He and Lily reason that when Brad learns the company will be more valuable intact than split up, he might join forces with them, or at least abandon Russell. So, they invite him to Eric's birthday to plead their case. Even though Russell eventually realizes that Chuck and Lily are lying to him (after a hilarious jealous-husband performance by Rufus) and exposes their plot, Brad decides to stay at the party and talk business with Chuck. Score one for Bass Industries -- finally.

As he plots against her father, Chuck also attempts to orchestrate a reunion with Raina. And since Nate, as usual, has nothing better to do, Chuck enlists his loyal buddy to help. Nate's supposed to "run into" Raina and turn on the "Archibald charm," with the aim of delivering her into his best friend's arms at Eric's party.

But that Archibald charm, whatever it is, throws a wrench into their plans. After sharing memories of their sad, privileged childhoods, Nate convinces Raina to come ice skating with him. By that evening, she's on Nate's couch in a bathrobe (nothing has happened between them yet), smoking her first joint, playing video games and indulging in stoner snacks. It appears that this high-powered business lady is attracted to the college boy's general aimlessness.

When Chuck wants to see Raina, Nate lies and says she guessed their plan and walked out on him. Just like that, the increasingly peripheral Nate Archibald is in on the intrigue again.

Nate isn't the only character who got a new shot at relevance tonight. That's right, Upper East Siders: Vanessa is back! She wants to apologize to Dan for conspiring to drug Serena and throwing Jenny under the bus for it, but when she shows up at Eric's party, he makes it clear that he's done with her. "I guess I can never come back, not even with you," she says. "I'm not going to chase after you, Vanessa," Dan replies. Vanessa exits with the episode's most glaring statement of the obvious: "I'm an outsider around here, and I always will be." Guess she didn't get the memo that when you try to ruin your best friend's dream girl's life and then blame his little sister for it, a simple "I'm sorry" just doesn't cut it.

Lucky for Vanessa, a chance to redeem herself comes along pretty quickly. After a million mini-schemes and an impressive round of buck-passing, Eric, Serena, Blair and Dan have all failed to deliver the cocaine-packed tulips Eric was supposed to pick up for Damien. So when he shows up at Eric's party looking for the $100k he's owed, Eric has to dig into his trust fund to stop Damien from exposing what Lily did to Ben. But Lily catches Eric just as he's passing Damien the check. When it comes out that he's paying to keep her secret safe, she makes her first good-mom move in recent memory and pays Damien herself.

It doesn't end there, though. Out on the street, Ben grabs Damien (something he's become rather good at lately). "If you ever use that information about Lily, I'll have you killed," Ben says. It doesn't seem like an empty threat. Damien reluctantly hands back Lily's check -- while Vanessa looks on. Ben soon returns to the Humphrey / Van der Woodsen household to return it to Lily with a decidedly more mild story, that he got the money back by telling Damien that he wouldn't corroborate the story about how Lily put him in jail. Vanessa tries to call Serena later, but she's too busy getting it on (in a ridiculously gratuitous love scene) with Ben to answer her phone. There is definitely something screwy going on here, but I'm not sure what Ben's motivation is yet. Anyone have a guess?

As scary as Ben's threat is, he still doesn't succeed in getting Damien out of the picture. The last time we see him on this episode, he's paying Russell Thorpe a visit -- to offer him some very interesting information about the Humphrey / Van der Woodsen / Bass family that will cost him, oh, about $100k.

Now that we've gotten through the rest of the episode's drama, it's time for our weekly Blair and Dan update. Judging by the comments on last week's post, readers seem to be as curious as I am about "Dair." This week found Blair overextending herself between work and school, trusting her dimwitted minions to handle Columbia while she tries desperately to hold down the fort at W.

Of course, Dan shows up to save the day, writing a fantastic post for Blair's W blog about the value of friends. Late that night, she shows up at the Brooklyn loft with an announcement: The job made a mess of her life, so she quit. (Finally, a dose of reality in this Blair-takes-over-a-major-magazine-at-age-20 subplot!) "I thought that if I could be the Blair Waldorf that I want to be a little sooner, that maybe I could return to Chuck before he fell for someone else," she confesses to Dan. Considering how fun it's been to watch Blair's ambition run wild, it's kind of disappointing to learn that her strivings have largely been about getting back to Chuck, ASAP.

Hopefully, before that happens, she and Dan will finally get together. B does end her evening in Brooklyn, with Lonely Boy and a pizza, after all. Would Blair Waldorf be caught dead in an outer borough if she weren't starting to develop some feelings for Dan? I guess we'll just have to wait another week (or two, or more) to find out.

And you know what? That doesn't bother really bother me. On such a fast-moving show -- that has been killing it in the drama department for the last two episodes -- the slow, agonizing courtship of Dan and Blair is a welcome change of pace.

Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:

1. Lily's red, textured party dress.

2. Serena's black blouse with the silver, mirrored polka dots.

3. Blair's silver sheath dress with the black waistband.

4. Serena's black, stiletto knee boots.

5. Raina's fuzzy, gray, leopard-print hat.

-- Judy Berman

Photo: The Humphrey / Van der Woodsen clan gathers after Eric's birthday party. Credit: Giovanni Rufino / The CW