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'Gossip Girl' recap: The great frenemy fake-out

September 28, 2010 |  8:31 am

Gossip girl 403 Can I get a "hallelujah," fans? As of this week's episode, "Gossip Girl" has finally dug itself out of last season's rut. The Upper East Side gang is back together, including the criminally under-utilized Eric, making his first appearance of the season. And school has begun at Columbia for Serena and Blair, who vow to put competition behind them and concentrate on taking the university by storm as BFFs -- and, hopefully, members of the school's exclusive, coed social club, Hamilton House.

But because nothing can ever be simple for the "Gossip Girl" crowd, that idyllic vision doesn't last long. When S and B show up at Hamilton, who should greet them but Penelope Shafai, a mean girl whose power struggles with Blair and Jenny date back to high school and lunches on the steps of the Met? I admit, I thought I could see what was coming -- Penelope would block Blair's admission to the club, instantly reigniting her jealousy of Serena -- but what actually happened totally surprised me.

It turns out that it's Juliet, the season's most mysterious schemer, who holds all the power at Hamilton as the club's key master. And what do you know? She only has one key left, and it goes to a certain Blair Waldorf. No hard feelings, right, S?

Never one to fret over small social slights, Serena is ready to let Blair have her fun... until she realizes (hey, at least someone's starting to get it) that Juliet is out to steal her boyfriend and ruin her life. Of course, it's pretty clear to everyone who's not actually a character on the show that our villain is after much more than just Nate Archibald's sexy pout.

But this Edith Wharton-reading double-crosser also isn't as clever as she wants us to think. In easily the most thrilling surprise since the "Gossip Girl" clique was still in high school, Juliet tries to manipulate Serena and Blair into yet another frenemy showdown and fails, big time. After she tips Serena off that it's Blair who's really blocking her Hamilton House admission, and everyone converges at a star-studded Fashion's Night Out event, Juliet's minions giddily report that Gossip Girl is live-streaming S "going 'Jersey Shore'" on B in the next room.

As the ladies rip into each other, it starts to look like we're heading back to high-school territory. Thank heavens, then, for the episode's second, even better fake-out: Juliet barges in on the fight, to play Blair's savior, only to find the ladies smirking at her as they relax on a couch -- and Dorota, who filmed the whole thing, standing in the corner with the champagne. It turns out Gossip Girl doesn't mind doing her favorite targets a solid, especially when it involves outwitting her own competition.

What this proves, beyond a reasonable doubt (unless the plot is even more tangled than I expect), is that Juliet isn't Gossip Girl -- although, considering the Gossip Girl site's mysterious downtime for the entire first seven minutes of this episode, it's not inconceivable that she's mixed up in this somehow. We may find out her reasons for wanting to foil Juliet aren't as simple as she wants S and B to believe. At the very least, the Gossip Girl character may be evolving into more than just the show's all-seeing eye and de facto Greek chorus.

Meanwhile, because Bass Industries is basically omnipotent, Lily quickly rights Hamilton House's unfortunate oversight. And her daughter doesn't get just any key to the club -- Juliet is forced to resign hers to Serena.

It's obvious that this won't stop Juliet, who probably couldn't care less about Hamilton House, except as it relates to her Serena sabotage mission. In fact, her true goal remains the biggest mystery of the season so far. Thankfully, we did get a big clue to that end in the final moments of the episode, as Juliet visits a handsome young convict in prison. If you didn't recognize him (or mistook him for the very similar-looking Sebastian Stan, who plays recurring troublemaker Carter Baizen), don't worry -- the actor is David Call. We don't actually know who he is yet, but I sure can't wait to find out.

Other scattered thoughts:

-- It looks like Dan is going to end up fighting Georgina for Milo, despite the fact that the kid is not his son. How did I know? Dan has never been my favorite character, but I think this story line will actually suit him. And any plot twist that keeps Georgina and her crazy, who-knows-whether-it's-true Russian mafia intrigue on the show is fine by me.

-- Vanessa really needs a fashion intervention. I know she's an artsy girl, and I respect that, but the look she's doing now is hipster 2005 meets progressive preschool teacher 1992. Not cute.

-- How many Fashion's Night Out cameos did you pick out? I spotted Diane von Furstenberg, Charlotte Ronson, Tory Burch, and Hamish Bowles. Did I miss anyone?

-- Blair is just full of withering, class-based metaphors this episode. Her Eva kiss-off -- "It doesn't matter if the dress is couture if the girl is off the rack" -- is classic Blair, but here's the truly inspired maxim: "Once men have tasted caviar, it baffles me how they settle for catfish." I really hope someone is collecting these.

-- By the end of the episode, everyone's moving in together: Chuck and Eva, Dan and Vanessa (originally, and boringly, to "co-parent" Milo), and, most excitingly, Serena and Blair. I don't have high hopes that any of these arrangements will last terribly long, but I'm also finding it hard to predict which will go sour first. Anyone have a guess?

"Gossip Girl" highbrow reference watch:

Rufus "thinks I should keep busy -- you know, throw myself into more traditional college pastimes, like Noam Chomsky and beer pong." -- Dan to Vanessa

Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:

1. Serena's dramatic, black-and-white dress with two-tone blue beads. Hey, it's Fashion Week. Go big or go home.

2. Chuck's maroon blazer/yellow striped shirt outfit. He's ba-ack!

3. The long, multicolored, strapless dress Eva tries on for Fashion's Night Out. (The one she actually wears to the event is frumpy by comparison.)

4. Juliet's short, architectural, lavender dress

5. Milo's brown hat with the ears. Adorable!

-- Judy Berman

Photo: Leighton Meester as Blair and Katie Cassidy as Juliet. Credit: Giovanni Rufino/The CW