Last night, Intel Jessica watched Gossip Girl with someone who hadn't seen the show in a while, owing to what we can only imagine was some kind of jungle malaria or otherwise debilitating illness of the mind. "Catch me up!" this friend said cheerily, about two minutes before airtime. Intel Jessica breathed deeply: "Well, Chuck was going to propose to Blair, but she was late because Dorota was having a baby, and so he devirginized Jenny by accident, then everyone was pissed at him so he went to Prague where he was mugged and shot, but he's okay, because he met this girl who nursed him back to health, oh, after that he assumed a different identity and went to Paris and he was working as a waiter at a heinous bistro that serves wine out of barrels, but then he ran into Blair and he was going to run away to India, but Blair told him he needed to come back to New York. So he did, and he brought the girl. Oh yeah, and Dan has a baby with Georgina Sparks; it's not really his but he doesn't know that yet."
Even before the cameras finished panning the Upper East Side, it became clear this was not necessary. Plot is now as incidental to Gossip Girl as the writer's quippy one-liners — in fact, last night, three seasons of plot were reduced to a one-liner, in which Blair, fake wrestling Serena, rattles off her romantic history: "From Nate to Dan to Aaron to Dan to Carter to Tripp to Nate to Dan again?" And this is fine, for the most part, because what matters on this show is not what the characters are doing or what weird outside infiltrator has showed up to wreak havoc on their lives, but who they are: Dan, the self-congratulatory sensitive serial monogamist. Chuck, the reformed asshole who is just one withering remark away from a backslide. Serena and Nate, the lighthearted blonds to whom everything comes easy — except thoughts. Vanessa, inscrutable-film-loving prayer-carpetbagger. And Blair, the vulnerable, insecure princess whose cruel and venomous streak you almost forget, until she lashes out with swift and deadly accuracy.
Realer Than Watching Law & Order: SVU While Breastfeeding
• Blair: “How is my first day at Columbia supposed to matter if Gossip Girl isn’t around to tell people it does?” Plus 2, especially because this made us wonder why Blair hasn’t learned to control Gossip Girl yet. Later, we learn, she has.
• Eva has non-famous, normal-person teeth. Plus 2.
• Eric is back! With no explanation or comment. Eh, Plus 2.
• Blair in that brown dress looks like she’s starved herself for two weeks for the first day of school. Real. Plus 5.
• Do you think costume designer Eric Daman was like, "I want Serena's look for this episode to say, 'Blanche from the Golden Girls with senile dementia.'" No points, just curious.
• Blair: “Oh please, you are Serena van der Woodsen, you’ve been on campus five minutes I bet there’s already an entire frat house filled with guys fighting over you. And don’t worry, my jealousy issues are as over as surf fabric for eveningwear.” Plus only 1, because we’re not really sure the metaphor carries.
• Blair on Hamilton House: “Their membership is so restricted it makes Soho House look like a halfway house.” Plus only 1 because, let’s be honest, every house makes Soho House look like a halfway house.
• Eva: “Everything’s so different, I keep wanting to call [Chuck] Henry.”
Chuck (to Nate): “It’s a long story but it has a happy ending.” Plus 3, because even though he just threw out his little black book he clearly wants Nate to know he still knows where it’s at.
• Serena, upon entering Hamilton House: “Wow, and I thought college would be different from high school?”
Blair: “Who would want that?” Plus 3
• Blair’s face when Eva appears. Plus 10.
• Eva: “Blair, I don’t want to hurt you in any way.”
Blair: “Oh, you’re the one who’s going to end up being hurt. Ma biche, and not by me. Chuck will soon realize that it doesn’t matter if the dress is couture if the girl is off the rack. And as with all things that don’t fit, you’ll be sent back to where you came from. Oh, and if I were you, I’d accessorize with some gloves. Not even a manicure can disguise those peasant hands.” Plus 5 because, as Chuck pointed out, even if the insults weren’t quite true, they landed.
• Serena: “Did you just get a key?”
Random brunette: “Yep. And my mom said I’d never get in unless I lost ten pounds. She’s a bitch.” We like that one. Give her a two-episode arc. Plus 2
• Juliet: "The girls all want to borrow your clothes, and the boys that want to take them off." Blair: "Thank you for the warning on both counts." Plus 4.
• When Lily tells Rufus of Jenny's tryst with Chuck, "You can't undo what's already been done," for a split second, he actually looks as though he's thinking about hymen reconstruction surgery. Acting! Plus 3 because we're pretty sure he said later to a key grip when watching the dailies, "See what I did there? I was actually thinking about hymen reconstruction surgery. That's called Method."
• Eric: “Elliot is the bow-tie master in our relationship.” That means “top,” everybody. Plus 5.
• Eric remembers that Chuck tried to rape Jenny. Finally! Someone does! Plus 10.
• Milo’s face when they are talking about foster care. Plus 5.
• Nate's realization, three to four months on, that he is angry at Serena for cheating on him, dumping him, and disappearing to Paris. Plus 1. Yeah! Hey! That was effed up!
• Blaire: "I thought the only thing [Nate] got upset about was a badly rolled joint." Plus 1
• Of course Vanessa and Dan thought they could raise a child together. “If Ted Danson and Tom Selleck can do it, so could we.” Plus 4. Um, does nobody remember that Dan’s stepmother is a BILLIONAIRE?
• Tory Burch! DVF Kissing Lily! Alessandra Ambrosio! Hamish Bowles (singing a song?) Molly Simms! Robin Thicke! Plus 10 for Fashion’s Night Out realness.
• Well, well, well, we have to give it to the writers, we did not quite see that Juliet setup coming. Way to go, Blair and Serena. Plus 10 for having some consistency, for once! (Though Juliet should have seen what was coming when Serena ripped out part of Blair’s weave. Serena’s hair is 70 percent horse. Blair’s is 100 percent Waldorf.)
• Kelly Rutherford should probably win an award for having to perform in that necklace, which looks like some kind of medieval torture device. It's a wonder she can speak any lines. No points, but many snaps.
• Dan smiles at the compliment that he’s the most decent guy Georgina has ever slept with. Plus 5.
• After being thoroughly humiliated at the hands of Blair and Serena, Juliet still has to stay and do the gift bags. Plus 5. Finally! Someone on this show doesn't get to storm off dramatically into the night.
Faker Than a 20-Year-Old Who Is Able to Reference Kathleen Turner in Body Heat:
• There is a Hamilton House on the Upper West Side, but it is not a private undergraduate club, and it is certainly not in the mansion at 332 Riverside Road. Minus 5.
• Also, they wear those giant keys around their necks all the time? Do Pi Kappa Alpha girls wear tiny kegs of booze around their necks, like St. Bernards? No. At least they would at least have had Tiffany make nice, demure key necklaces or something. Minus 8.
• Sorry, but there are simply not this many hot women on Columbia's campus. Minus 3.
• Okay, Georgina “left for the spa” for a weekend and only left a Post-It note? Even before he saw her in St. Barths, even Dan would have freaked out about that. You can’t be one half of a parenting duo and just disappear, unannounced, for two days. Minus 4.
• Rufus and Eric's rage about Chuck deflowering Jenny is over-the-top. Even Jenny says it's not Chuck's fault — which, if this was the case, we don't know why she told everyone about it, but we digress. If your teen daughter is going to lose her virginity to some asshole, which, let's face it, she is, wouldn't you rather (a) have it be an asshole in your family? Or okay, at least have it (b) be someone who, if necessary, can pay for the assorted Mayo Clinic treatments required to treat the venereal disease that results? Meanwhile, is that really where Jenny is? Because that way the rage would make more sense. Minus 3.
• Why would everyone at Columbia get Gossip Girl blasts? And if they did, why wouldn’t more of them object to Serena not getting a membership at Hamilton House? She’s clearly the star of Gossip Girl. Her picture is on the homepage! Minus 4.
• Intel Jessica's friend points out that the idea of straight men immediately reading texts from something called Gossip Girl as soon as they arrive is "ridic." Minus 3.
• Rufus gets Gossip Girl blasts? No. Minus 1. And he doesn’t even have an iPhone? Minus 3.
• Gossip Girl: “If [Georgina’s] flown the coop, who’s cleaning up her baby’s poop?” Come on GG, even you. Minus 3.
• Wait, if we look from the camera-phone angle, the woman videotaping Blair and Serena lives for Gossip Girl is the brunette standing just behind and to the left of Juliet. No. She’s far too mousy to be THE Gossip Girl, and nobody has live-streaming video from a cell phone to a host of other cell phones. Minus 5.
• Chuck: “I’m sorry for what happened with Jenny. She was in a bad place, I could have helped her. Instead I just used her pain for my own self-destruction.” Minus 5, because even that sounded self-centered.
• Even though they have a whole house, the Hamilton House happy hour is conducted on the steps of the school. While we appreciate the retro Constance Billiard reference, no matter how pretty you are, the police don’t let you just drink martinis at the Franz Sigel sculpture. Minus 5.
• Nate finds it "refreshing" that he has to try so hard to get Juliet to go out with him. Minus 5. God DAMN this show for introducing the John Hughes Fallacy that all insanely good-looking and desirable dudes want to be ignored and treated like they are not insanely good-looking and desirable into the next generation. We have devoted our lives to testing this theory by studiously ignoring insanely good-looking and desirable men in hopes they would think it compelling and charming and mysterious and LISTEN: IT IS NOT REAL. THEY ONLY SAY SHIT LIKE THIS ON TV AND IN THE MOVIES. This has been a public service announcement from your Daily Intel editors. (Minus 10.)
• Why is Serena so wise and all-seeing all of a sudden when it comes to Juliet? Minus only 1, because when something comes between her vagina and its food, Serena’s brain is clearly allowed to receive the proper amount of blood flow so she can use it properly.
• Wise Serena would not have believed Juliet’s ludicrously delivered Blair story. Seriously, didn’t anyone tell Kate Cassidy that you can’t act in a soap opera with all that Botox? Minus 1.
• Dan: “But this is all just a cover because you’re really a Russian spy like those women in Westchester.”
Georgina: “No, I mean not that I wasn’t approached, because I was.” Minus 3. Georgina is actually sexy. Anna Chapman would have never let that fly.
• Gossip Girl: "They say old habits die hard, but when it comes to Blair and Serena, old jealousies die harder." No points, just pointing out that is not even a sentence that makes sense.
• "Once men have tasted caviar it baffles me how they settle for catfish," Blair says when she and Serena see Nate kissing Juliet. Ew. What? Why? Why not, "tasted Bordeaux/settle for Yellowtail"? Or "flown first class/settle for coach." Or even, "eaten Oreos/settled for Hydrox"? Anything but a fish metaphor. Minus 2.
• "Trouble is moving in, and it's looking to make the Upper East Side it's bitch." We mean. Not to be squeamish, but do the kids at home really need a prison-buggering joke? Even Gossip Girl sounded kind of abashed making it. Minus 1. Leave the dirty stuff to the Internet.
• We don't know what his deal is yet, but we already know it would have been better if Prison Guy had a horrible disfigurement, like one hideous, scarred, crusted-over eye, that you only saw at the last minute when he turned his head to reveal his full profile. No points, just saying, in advance.
Despite the unprecedented instance of someone actually having to stick around at a party instead of storming dramatically into the night never to be seen again and a strong performance by Lily's necklace, this episode veered too far into unreality. See you next week, when trouble ass-fucks the Upper East Side so bad it causes fissures. Oh, yeah. And leave your own reality tallies in the comments, as always.
Update: Special thanks to commenter Maggie Bex for (literally) saving the recap!