Serena arranged a game of Assassins for Nate's birthday, but it was more than just a game: It was a metaphor. Love, for our Upper East Siders, is not unlike a game of Assassins, in which participants' wary, flirtatious — and occasionally pleather-clad — hunting of one another is usually followed by a relatively short, brutal tussle, after which only one person comes away with all of the cards, and the other is left gasping, bereft, essentially dead.
At least for a few episodes, then they resurrect themselves and begin to play again.
Last night, three of Gossip Girl's couples were in various stages of this game: Jenny was gearing up to launch a proxy war against Serena for the affections of Nate. Vanessa and Dan concluded the second battle of their romantic relationship, and we could see the third, sure-to-be bloody one on the horizon. And Blair and Chuck came to a gruesome, terrible end. Only Dorota and Vanya, it seems, are at peace with one another, and even that may not remain once they learn to communicate in anything other than pidgin English.
Speaking of which, on to our weekly reality index! Here's what we thought seemed realistic and what seemed contrived about last night's episode.
Realer Than Dan Writing a Play About a Homeless Man Who Wins the Lottery:
• The fact that as the reams of yellowed paper imprinted with Courier font around him suggest, he seems to have written it on a typewriter. Plus 3, because if someone is going to make typewriters retro-cool, we'd rather it be Gossip Girl than, like, Jonathan Safran Foer, or something.
• It's the first thing in the morning, and Serena is wearing a pleather T-shirt. Plus 2.
• Nate would totally believe Serena would have a “garter holster” for a cell phone. Plus 3.
• He would also believe that the Frick has benefits for anything other than the Frick. Plus 3.
• He would also believe this line from Jenny: "It's just, whenever I'm alone I can't not think of the other night, you know? It's just you're the only one who gets what I'm going through right now." Nate has hair for brains. Plus 3.
• Dorota: "I feel very bad not wishing him happy birthday or bringing him Polish breakfast sausages in bed." Aw. Love that Dorota is so inured to teenage sex that she thinks it's sad she can't help Serena and Nate participate in their gross food-sex games.
• Jack is wearing Chuck's paisley bathrobe. Plus 2. If only he knew that this, not the Empire or even Blair, is Chuck's most cherished possession.
• Eric has Japanese bathhouse friends who like taking group naked photos. Plus 3. Because who didn't go through THAT phase sophomore year?
• Vanessa thinks Dan's bad breath is adorable. Shudder. But that is exactly the kind of early relationship lie that nerds like to tell. Plus 2.
• We can imagine that Serena and Blair would shop at Matthew Williamson. And they picked out a dress that was actually age-appropriate. Plus 2.
• Rufus knows that Dan is actually sad because Serena never threw him a surprise party. Plus 2.
• Blair: "Serena, you've done some unforgivable things, like sleeping with Nate when we were saving ourselves for each other or killing Keith Fairman. How far is too far?" Serena barely batted an eye at this reference to a revelation which was the peak of an entire season of this show, and caused her face to physically melt when she admitted it the first time. Now she probably doesn't even remember it. Plus 3. It must be nice to have all that hair to absorb your bad memories.
• Blair: "I invited my minions. It'll be like shooting fish in a barrel." And two of them are twins! Too bad Chuck wasn't playing Assassins. They'd have totally found him. Plus 3.
• Speaking of Chuck not being fun, we love how when he gets angry he doesn't actually speak in that weird growl. He almost yelps. Plus 2.
• Vanya: "Dorota, from the first moment I saw you, I knew you were princess. And every day you make me feel like King." We thought she was a duchess. Eh, anyway, this was cute. Plus only 4, because it would have been better if Vanya had learned Polish and they subtitled it. Like in Love Actually! And Lost!
• Jenny: "The grilled cheese with truffles is really good, by the way!" This reference to when Serena herself almost had sex/got raped in the back of a restaurant is almost too much. But not quite. Plus 1.
• Plus 1 for Dorota's leather S&M maid cap.
• Dorota: "Someday maybe you girls find true love, too. And your children not grow up to be bastards." Plus 3, because that's not just an old Polish saying.
• Naturally, the writers nailed the hesitation Dan has in letting Vanessa see his script, and the ensuing mishegas. Everyone knows that writers, especially the self-serious kind like Dan and Vanessa, are way too judgy and egotistical to date other writers whose work they think is bad, and by the look on Dan's face as she drifts out the door clutching that sweated-on manuscript about the homeless guy who wins the lottery, he knows it, too. Plus 2.
• Jack: "Champagne okay?"
Blair: "I'd prefer something stronger, to kill the germs." God, Jack is so gross, with his new hair-hat and his too-small nose. It's perfect! Plus 4.
• Jenny's obnoxious, eye-rolling attitude after she plants one on Nate and is met with Chace Crawford Confused Stare No. 1 is awkwardly spot-on and even a little heartbreaking in its patheticness: "I just thought you wanted to me have fun again," she pouts lamely, making it actually sound like Nate is the one who needs to have fun, like he's some sex-starved old man and not a 19-year-old hunk dating a sexually adventurous, handcuffs-toting blonde. Plus 2.
• We loved the up-talky, bratty way Vanessa's NYU dorm-mate Willa Weinstein talked to her when she handed her the letter from Tisch. "I didn't know you were applying to the writing program," she says, almost defensively, like she can't actually help herself. "It's really competitive? There's only a few spots for NYU transfers? I hope you get in," she adds hastily, obviously totally not meaning it. We don't know if it's just this girl or everyone on Vanessa's floor who wants to see her self-righteous, hair-extensioned ass fail, but we buy it. Plus 4.
Faker Than a Couple of Kids Tearing Through a Restaurant and Locking Themselves in the Food-Storage Room Without Anyone Even Seeming to Notice
• Seriously, what was up with that? Also, the part where Nate crouched under someone's bar stool, like he was in Super Mario Brothers or something and it was a magical mushroom that would make him invisible. Minus 1.
• Eric wouldn't show his naked Japan bathhouse friends off in front of Rufus. Stepdads are not for stranger sex stories. Minus 3.
• Why does Serena need a real knife to play Assassins the game? Minus 2.
• We believe Dorota would get a thrill out of being in on a secret, but she wouldn't be so childish with guns. Something tells us Dorota packs heat. Minus 3.
• Jack wouldn't sell Chuck's stuff on eBay, or even pretend to. Minus 2, because (a) Jack would be too proud, (b) it would give away the plot, and (c) based on his goatee, obviously Jack is one of those people who doesn't know how to use the Internet because he thinks it is "just a phase."
• Chuck wouldn't show his hand so easily to Jack. When you start off by saying "I'll do anything," guess what you're going to end up doing? Not nothing, that's for sure. Even Chuck is a better bettor than that. Minus 5.
• Eric took too long to figure out what Jenny was up to. Having had secret crushes of his own and being well versed in the art of bitchery and sneaking about, he would have smelled it on her the minute she said "fabric." Minus 2.
• Speaking of which, isn't Jenny still sort of grounded, except for work stuff? A sudden "I have to go to the fabric store" flight from the apartment should have spelled, "A K-hole just opened up on Fifth Avenue and I have to go get in it right now" to Rufus. Minus only 1 because Rufus, like a goldfish, clearly only has a seven-second memory.
• Why does it seem that all of a sudden Blair hardly wears anything that does not contain Dynasty-era shoulder pads? Didn't she just acknowledge a few too many episodes ago for us to remember this clearly that they "overwhelm her delicate frame?" Are the costume designers trying to hide something in there? Does Leighton Meester have elephantiasis of the shoulders? Minus 2.
• Rufus used Bing? Come on. What is he, Rachel Zoe? Minus 6 for really awkward product placement.
• We do not believe for a second that Dorota would have let the party fall to pieces like that. She's not the Waldorf house dominatrix for nothing. Minus 4.
• We've never played Assassins with this fruity Polaroid setup, and we doubt these kids would, either. They'd play with complicated water guns with disappearing dye. And they'd do it in someone's giant mansion, not on one city block. What's the point of a game like that if you don't accidentally break someone's mom's Alexander Calder mobile? Minus 3.
• Serena would smell rival blonde underage poon a mile away, and like Eric, she would have seen through Jenny's machinations from the beginning. And she would have never bought the roofie-recovery story line. Serena's been roofied dozens of times! Does she need moral support? Heck naw! Minus 4.
• So far this season, Blair has made a giant deal about doing what Chuck says and honoring his wishes. It's been boring, but for consistency, she wouldn't have attempted to sleep with Jack. Minus 5.
• Blair had a contract drawn up? Such that Jack would sell the hotel and Bass Australia back to Chuck? How much does she think her goddamn body is worth? Minus a jealous 10, because we wish we had that kind of confidence in our bedroom skills.
• Jack insists on "A drink, first?" What is he, a James Bond villain? Minus 3.
• We'll admit, we thought that Jack trying to play Blair and Chuck off one another was an obvious ruse, and were surprised when it didn't turn out to be. But it's predicated on the idea that Blair couldn't know about the plot because she would "be too eager." Please. Nothing would have made her "eager" to sleep with Jack. He's gross enough to make it so no "Acting" was necessary. Minus 5.
• As much as we'd like to believe that teenage gays are bold and confident and flirty like adult heterosexuals in romantic comedies, sadly, we don't. Sorry, Eric. Minus 4.
So this episode ended up slightly on the fake side, mostly because we've been complaining endlessly about the entire Empire Hotel plotline for weeks now and we no longer have the energy. But Eric is back and Dorota has her own story, which are both good things. As always, put your own tallies in the comments, and we'll wrap them up at the end of the week!