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'Gossip Girl' recap: 'A troubled young woman'

November 29, 2010 | 10:01 pm

Gaslit No matter how bad your Thanksgiving was, the "Gossip Girl" crew's was almost certainly worse. By now, these dark holiday episodes have become something of a tradition, and after all the turkey and togetherness that most shows force us to stomach every November, they're always a refreshing palate cleanser. This year's model wasn't the best I've seen (I'm partial to Season 2's "The Magnificent Archibalds"), but it may well have been the most twisted.

The episode opens with our Upper East Siders preparing for Thanksgiving. Serena hasn't shown her face since the Saints and Sinners ball, but no one is particularly worried. While Blair assumes she's hiding at Lily and Rufus', Lily decides Serena's out having some kind of temper tantrum, as usual, and resolves not to go looking for her. The preparations for a lavish Humphrey-Van der Woodsen Thanksgiving go on as planned — until Blair and Lily compare notes and realize that Serena is missing.

That's when we cut to the heiress herself, waking up groggy in an unfamiliar room littered with pills and alcohol bottles, still wearing her Saints and Sinners dress. She gropes for her bedside phone, calls 911, and rasps that her name is Serena van der Woodsen, and she doesn't know where she is. With the ambulances en route, she's out cold again and doesn't wake up until she's at the hospital, where Lily has already decided to send to her to rehab.

It's an odd choice, to be sure. Although the doctor tells Serena's family that she called them from a motel room in Queens, where she suffered a minor overdose, the story just doesn't add up. One of the drugs in her possession was an antidepressant that would most likely have been used in a suicide attempt. The idea that Serena — who hasn't had a drug problem in a good, long time — would choose to end a bad night out with a deadly bender or by purposefully offing herself doesn't make much sense to me. Everyone on "Gossip Girl" is always acting like Serena's a time bomb, liable to explode at any second, but if all we ever see her doing is acting confused and stealing people's boyfriends, then how are we supposed to believe she's dangerous?

When Eric and Lily come to visit her in rehab, Serena still can't remember what happened to her, but she's sure she isn't responsible and lashes out at her mom for having her committed. (I was kind of excited to see her express a strong, clear emotion, for once.) "Your daughter wakes up alone, drugged in an empty motel room, and you don't call the cops?" Serena demands. "You don't ask if she's OK or what happened? You just have her committed? What kind of mother does that?" It's a good question. Lily has never been the world's most sensitive or attentive mother, but she's really gone off the rails this season.

Only Dan believes Serena, and his support probably has more to do with his undying love for her than anything else. Leading with his hero complex, he breaks her out of rehab. They head to the Brooklyn apartment to regroup and plan a temporary escape from the city, but when they open the door to leave, they run right into Blair and Lily. Perhaps Lonely Boy should have realized that home was the first place the family would come looking for them. Lily briefly maintains that her daughter is "a troubled young woman" before admitting to Dan that her own insecurities are stopping her from listening to what Serena has to say.

Clearly, this kind of rationality can't last. Cue Gossip Girl! As soon as the clan converges to figure out what to do about Serena, the scourge of the Upper East Side is back with a damning photo of her snorting a line with her mask still on. Now, even Serena is convinced she's out of control and goes willingly back to rehab.

Of course, the photo isn't of Serena. It's the final element of Juliet's set-up. And it's kind of strange that no one — including Serena! — realizes it. They may be wearing the same dress and mask, but Juliet and Serena aren't twins!

Another surprise: It isn't Vanessa who cracks under the pressure of Serena's tragedy and confesses the Saints and Sinners plot to Rufus — it's Jenny. And later, when she goes looking for Juliet, she finds her co-conspirator's apartment abandoned. Only a few trash bags remain, along with the mask in the photo. When she figures out what has happened, Jenny runs straight to Blair before heading home to Hudson to extricate herself, once again, from the machinations of Manhattan's elite.

This also strikes me as a weird decision. Why would Jenny, who's supposed to be done with scheming, go to her enemy with the information instead of enlightening her family and getting Serena out of rehab? Obviously, it will be more fun to watch Blair ruin Juliet than to see Rufus and Lily call the cops on her. But is this a decision any real person, even Jenny Humphrey, would make? I don't think so.

Before the episode is out, we do learn something interesting about Juliet: She didn't let Ben in on her plan to drug Serena. In fact, when she visits him in prison, proud of her success, even he thinks she went too far. So, Juliet has gone rogue and is about to disappear, but not before extorting some cash from Lily for keeping Serena's secrets, warning her that she'd better send a new bribe check each month and wishing her a happy Thanksgiving. That's the closest we get to holiday cheer on "Gossip Girl," and I, for one, continue to like it that way.

Other scattered thoughts:

-- How symbolic is the moment when Vanessa walks into Lily and Rufus' apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving only to find that everyone's gone but Dorota and her baby? If that is not a metaphor for the character's diminishing place on the show, I don't know what is.

-- Dorota and her baby! They are wonderful! I may be a coldhearted lover of dark holiday programming, but even I cannot deny the adorableness of that child.

-- Now that Juliet is finished manipulating Nate, the writers seem to have no idea what to do with his character. Hence the totally random (and utterly shrug-worthy) subplot about his attempt to reunite his mother with his incarcerated father. Sadly, even in throwaway scenarios, Nate is stupid and gullible. It turns out his dad only wants his mom back because it would look good for his parole.

-- Finally, an episode where Chuck and Blair's star-crossed love is reduced to less than five minutes of screen time. Let's have a few more of these, shall we?

Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:

1. Jenny's silver Tania Spinelli boots.

2. Blair's orange, yellow and brown plaid dress.

3. Chuck's rich, brown suit and plum shirt.

4. Vanessa's gold earrings with the enormous, dangly black stones.

5. Lily's belted camel coat.

— Judy Berman

Photo: Jenny discovers Serena's mask at Juliet's apartment. Credit: Giovanni Rufino / the CW.