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'Gossip Girl' recap: The new Jenny Humphrey?

April 19, 2011 |  7:15 am

Charlie Oh, Upper East Siders. We don't ask much of "Gossip Girl," do we? (We are, after all, still faithfully watching it.) After a seven-week hiatus that ended with Dan and Blair finally, suspensefully locking lips, we wanted only two things: a few weeks of "Dair's" impossible love affair and some answers about the rest of the characters. But guess what? April 18 has come and gone, and we still don't have either of those things.

When we last left our characters, Serena and Ben had reluctantly parted ways. Although last night's episode takes place a mere week later, Ben might as well be dead, because we hear nothing about him.

Chuck, meanwhile, had learned that his father was responsible for Raina's mother's death. Since Blair was too busy testing out her feelings for Lonely Boy to console him, our antihero seemed on the brink of another debaucherous breakdown. Now, he's apparently sobered up, gotten over Raina and (sigh) ready to get Blair back again. Raina, for her part, only shows up in a few short scenes, to underline the awkwardness of her jump from Chuck's bed to Nate's and wonder aloud about her mother's whereabouts. Why hasn't Chuck clued her in about what Russell was hiding? Your guess is as good as mine, but I won't be surprised if we never know for sure.

We've also spent the past several weeks wondering what will happen to Lily, who turned herself in for getting Ben locked up. At the end of that episode, Billy Baldwin -- er, Serena and Eric's dad, William Van der Woodsen -- showed up and intimated to poor, naive Rufus that the family was going to come together and scheme Lily out of serving time. But we don't hear much about that this week. The phone does ring at the end of the episode, just when news of Lily's sentencing is due -- but she decides to ignore it.

Instead of tackling Lily's impending date with an orange jumpsuit, the Humphrey-Van der Woodsen clan chooses to fixate on a new "Modern Royalty" book that art and design publisher Taschen is putting together, compiling portraits of society families. Grandma CeCe rallies the Rhodes women for a photo shoot -- including Lily's sister Carol, who lives on a houseboat and scorns all things Upper East Side. Although Carol thinks she's left her daughter, Charlie, at home, away from the toxic influence of Serena and Lily, the 18-year-old has secretly sneaked along to meet her cousin. (Side note: Am I the only one who found it unnerving that KayLee DeFer, the actress who plays Charlie, looks so much like Leighton Meester?)

Of course, Taschen isn't so interested in the Rhodes women after news of Lily's legal troubles breaks. When William and Rufus try to fix this tragedy, an incredibly dull conflict arises in which it looks like William has fixed the photo shoot so that the Rhodes ladies are out of "Modern Royalty" and he and his children are in. Turns out, the switch has nothing to do with William. Everyone makes up. Thrilling, right?

As for Serena and Charlie, Lily and Carol bust them mid-shopping binge. Charlie is in very big trouble and is supposed to be on the first plane home, but she eludes her mom and manages to stay long enough to show up for the aborted photo shoot. With Serena's help, and aided by the revelation that supposedly independent Carol has been accepting money from CeCe for years, Charlie talks her mother into letting her stay with their wealthy relatives for a while. There is an odd, promising moment, toward the end of the episode, when Carol comes close to telling Lily why Charlie left college; it sounds like when this secret finally comes out, it's going to be juicy. So, while Charlie doesn't seem like a particularly interesting addition to the cast yet, I think it's possible she'll eventually cause enough drama to earn her keep. Hey, maybe she'll be the new Jenny Humphrey.

Last, and most disappointingly, there's Dan and Blair. I half-expected this week to open with the kiss its predecessor closed on, but instead it gave us Blair sulking in bed and Dan confessing to Eric, "I kissed Blair Waldorf... It was just once, and it was weird." It soon becomes clear that Dan felt something. And Blair's initial mentions of the kiss sound promising: "I kissed someone, and it was a life-changing experience," she tells Epperly -- whose return, as Chuck's operative, feels especially unnecessary and contrived.

It turns out that Blair means the kiss proved to her that she really was ready for a mature relationship with Chuck. But before she gets to tell him that, he and Epperly launch an exceedingly lame scheme: They invite Dan to the Taschen shoot, just to show Blair how utterly out of place he is in high society. If she really were in love with Dan, it never would have worked. In fact, even though Blair supposedly (see how I'm holding onto hope?) has no feelings for Dan, she quickly catches on to Chuck's plan, and their next go-round is over before it begins. "Now that I know I'm ready, I realize you're not," Blair tells Chuck. And that's that. Until, probably, next week.

If you've been following these recaps, you know how I feel about Chuck and Blair: They may be meant for each other, but we need a break from their histrionics because these two characters have exhausted just about every story line imaginable. I thought Dan and Blair would be a good distraction from Chuck and Blair, and it seems like most readers were all for "Dair," too. I'm not totally sure the book has been closed on their unlikely love affair. The way Dan and Charlie were looking at each other at the end of the episode certainly hints that something may be afoot between the two of them, though. And, sadly, it looks like Serena is about to get thrown in the mix, now that Vanessa the Spy has tipped her off about the kiss. Can someone please remind me of what she's still doing on this show?

"Gossip Girl" highbrow reference watch:

"Does William Carlos Williams go under W or C?" - Dan to Eric, while shelving books

Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:

1. Blair's red, people-in-kimonos-patterned pajamas

2. Serena's black, strapless Marchesa photo-shoot gown with the high slit

3. Lily's little, black Roland Mouret photo-shoot dress with the severe collar

4. Serena's furry, pastel, plaid coat

5. Lily's lavender silk dress with the ruffles down the front.

-- Judy Berman

Photo: Serena and Charlie bond through retail. Credit: Giovanni Rufino / The CW