It’s a heartbreaking thing, the end of summer. And yet, fall comes almost as a relief. As the air turns crisper and invigorating winds sweep across the land, we’re happy to wave good-bye to our summer friends, the ones with whom we’ve engaged in superficial conversation for the past few months, and go back to our real friends, our city friends. To leave behind that slow-minded pool gossip and partake once again in rapid, reference-rich conversation, with smart people who know (maybe?) who Anaïs Nin and Truffaut are. And with the new season, too, comes a fresh start, a chance to do something, to be something different. This is what we felt last night, during the season premiere of Gossip Girl, the Greatest Show of Our Time.
Last night’s episode was all about new beginnings. About taking on new roles — or shaking off old ones. The Humphrey family, now conjoined to the Bass–Van der Woodsens, were adjusting to their new social and economic positions, with varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, Rufus and Lily’s son, Scott, had been playing the part of Vanessa’s innocent love interest, though clearly his sights are set on something bigger. Nate Archibald was trying to resist playing the role his family wanted him to, though he will likely be foiled in this endeavor, for he is an imbecile, and his grandfather has a Ferrari. Blair and Chuck were finding that a little role-playing was helping them come to terms with their new, monogamous selves, and even Carter Baizen appeared to be in the process of transforming himself from a cocky, arrogant asshole into a sensitive, thoughtful young man.
Serena, however, was basically the same.
What was realistic about these scenarios and what was not, you ask? Let’s recap!
Realer Than Rufus Drinking Out of a Welcome Back, Kotter Coffee Mug Every Morning
• Everyone on this show has developed Famous Body. This is not really a points thing, it is more of an observation. Jenny is skinnier, Vanessa has approximately ten pounds more dreadlocks, and Dan’s shoulders are so massive they are threatening to engulf his head. Again, however, Serena has stayed the same, and kept her special, breastial body. That is all.
• Also, can we just say that we love Jenny and Eric’s new relationship? How fun would it be if you and your best gay (or you and your best hag) were suddenly in the same ridiculous, super-wealthy family? If Intel Chris and Intel Jessica were suddenly rich relatives, they’d already have quit their jobs and be doing exactly what Jenny and Eric have been doing, which is stalking the Barefoot Contessa through the Hamptons and pretending only halfheartedly to keep other people’s juicy secrets. Plus 1
• Nate is terrified that he won’t be able to find Bree at Columbia, which, granted, is a school with a big population, but which occupies approximately the same amount of real estate as Vatican City. Plus 1, because remembering is hard.
• Nate creates a horrifically awkward moment by introducing Bree to his grandfather, her grandfather’s archrival. The he gets distracted by another person and walks away, leaving her standing there alone. Plus 1, because remembering what you’re doing in the moment that you are doing it is especially hard.
• Even stupid, random Serena knockoffs who “have an Abercrombie campaign” and know the security code to “Clooney’s castle on Lake C
uomo” are aware that they need to prepare for back-of-the-limo sex if they want to get with Chuck Bass. Plus 3. (And an additional plus 1 for “Now take your American Girl hair and your poreless skin and get out!”)
• Ugh, Vanessa fell for Dan’s gay-looking half-brother. So, so correct. Plus 3. She’d have slept with Rufus long ago if she wasn’t concerned about getting her hoop earrings caught in his chest hair.
• Plus 1 for Vanessa and Nate having “hooked up in Prague, but it didn’t mean anything.” This is so true. Making out in Prague never means anything. After a few shots of Becherovka, you’ll make out with anyone. Intel Jessica has a blurry yet fond memory of one night in which she kissed a British rugby player, a Senegalese telecom worker, a Canadian hockey player, and a Czech poet with a goatee on only one side of his face (on purpose?), and at some point rubbed the bellies of a group of Japanese businessman for good luck. True story. She wishes she could include the Elvis impersonator from Las Vegas in that list, but that was actually a different night.
• We thought Chuck’s double-breasted military thing with the wire boutonniere was heinous until we realized it was Thom Browne. Which made it perfect. Plus 3.
• Chuck has a “whole Ivanka thing.” Plus 2.
• Blair thinks settling down “means death. Less sex, more silence.” Plus 1, because she’s only 19, and one day she’ll realize what she’s really afraid of is turning 30.
• Blair: “I know what you did this summer, and who. Cristiano Ronaldo? I hope you got your shots.” Plus 2, because obviously Serena didn’t actually rest between the Thighs That Are the Pride of Portugal. But kudos to Blair for making the point.
• Dan: “Do you know how hard it is to break one of those things [A hundred dollar bill]? I don’t know why they even make them!” Oh, Dan, it was only a matter of time. Plus 1.
• Vanessa:: “Even Frodo eventually gave in to the power of the Ring.” Plus 1.
• Carter’s pants, throughout this entire episode, are flawless. Plus 1.
• Vanessa is thrilled she was able to give up being a barista, but goes to the same coffee shop three times in one day. Plus 1.
• Vanessa, on the polo match: “I’m sure Blair and Chuck will be there, if the murder-suicide I’ve predicted hasn’t happened yet.” Plus 2, because you know she’s actually written out the murder-suicide in a series of marbled black Mead notebooks, in blue ballpoint ink, in all capital letters. With drawings in the margins.
• Blair, on the models emerging from the agency doorway: “Adam’s apple! Catalogue!” Plus 1.
• Plus 1 for the teenagery way Serena rolled her eyes after getting rid of Rufus at the polo tournament. Like, yeah. Thank God she lost that old square, now she can finally get down to acting out her secret plan, which is to be photographed by as many paparazzi as possible, in hopes that her estranged father will want to see her after being bombarded with photos of her acting like a skank in the international tabloids.
• Actually, now that we think about it, Serena’s plan is so ludicrous it’s actually realistic, in the way that teenagers love to conceive of elaborate revenge fantasies that don’t actually have any hope of working in the way that they imagine they will. That said, in this case, we don’t even know what she’s imagining. What does she think is going to happen? That Daddy van der Woodsen’s going to see the picture of her topless in Heat and be like, “That skank’s my daughter!” and hasten Stateside so that he can personally throw an overcoat over her tits? Or worse: That he’s going to be like, “Hey, my girl’s got a nice rack!” and finally start returning her phone calls? What? Still, Plus 8.
• Okay, Serena and Carter stealing the galloping polo ponies right out of Nacho Figueras’s award-winning hands is not realistic. But if they did manage to pull it off, they’d obviously have sex in the well-manicured shrubbery immediately following, so, even.
• Alexandra Richards and Nacho Figueras play Alexandra Richards and Nacho Figueras, respectively. Plus 3! And Nacho’s polo team, the real Black Watch, is way hotter than its opponents, which is so plus 1.
• Nate and Bree at least seem to be a little bit aware that when Gramps Vanderbilt says, “I want you to be happy,” it’s an obvious lie. Plus 1.
• Half-brother Scott wears blousy Oxfords and boxy khakis. Plus 1.
• When constructing her lie about the self-healing trip she’s on, Serena says she relied on Gwyneth Paltrow’s newsletter as a reference, particularly in describing a “cold-water colonic.” “At least GOOP is good for something,” she says. Plus 7.
• When Vanessa confronts Dan at the polo match, he presents a list of totally valid and sympathetic reasons he’s not the same old Dan, which includes an illness in the family and major life changes, and brings up the very valid and obvious point that Vanessa is a shrew with class issues. Confronted with all of this, Vanessa calls Dan an asshole. Plus 2, because sometimes the truth takes a while to sink in.
Faker Than Serena Knowing How to Pronounce Anaïs Nin.
• That anyone who knows Serena would have bought the “Serena is at an ashram and took a vow of silence” story for even five minutes is not even remotely plausible. Minus 5, because everyone knows that her cleavage would deafen even the quietest room.
• Jenny shows up to breakfast at the van der Woodsens’ looking like she’s spent all night hooking in Atlantic City and no one even blinks. Minus 1.
•Minus 1 for Nate and Bree’s “We met on the airplane and then were making out the entire way home from Europe” scenario. Maybe we’re just bitter about the fact that we fly coach, but we find it hard to believe that people actually make out with their seatmates on a plane ride. Even on the slim chance that you were seated next to someone worth making out with, and not a fat businessman or a crying child or a woman with a small dog in a bag, wouldn’t it be super weird to just start making out with a total stranger? We know that we just confessed to making out with strangers above, but on a plane there are so many different risks! Like what if they had bad breath, or were a biter, or one of those people who do the darting-tongue thing? As soon as you realized this, you’d want to stop making out with them, but there you are, stuck right next to each other, with like four hours left to go on your flight. Would it be acceptable to pull away, put on your headphones, and say, “Okay, so I’m going to watch The Bourne Ultimatum now”? On the plus side, if it does work out, you’d get breakfast delivered, which is nice. Still, minus 2.
• Why would Scott be looking creepily at his birth certificate while talking on the phone to his mom? It would be one thing if he was at his desk, but he’s just standing there in the coffee shop, crinkling it like a psycho killer. Minus 1.
• Nate Archibald lives in Gramercy, and hangs around Irving Place? Not quite. Minus 2.
• Serena is being followed by the only cute, doable paparazzi squad in the entire world. Minus 2.
• Have we all so quickly forgotten that Dan, who was so desperate to get into Yale he basically mortgaged all of his beliefs, was forced to go to NYU because his dad wouldn’t accept money from Lily? And now they’re all laughing about all the riches they have piled upon them, and the “emergency fund” Rufus has been carrying around all summer. No. Dan is way too petulant to let anybody forget that. Minus 5.
• Also, it bugged us that Dan asked Serena who “that guy” was that Serena was pictured with in the international tabloids. He knows full well who Carter Baizen is. They met in December of 2007, at Serena’s old place in the Palace. Carter had just returned from Dubai, and Serena’s grandmother Cece, who was visiting, had invited him over. She planned to get the heir to escort Serena to the debutante ball — after she intimidated Dan out of taking her by giving him a speech that included these words. “Girls like Serena don’t end up with Dan Humphrey. They end up with the Carter Baizens of the world.” The plan worked: Dan was put off, and Carter escorted Serena to the ball. But later, Dan showed up and they got back together and slow-danced together in the foyer of the Palace. Minus 5, because do we have to remember everything? GOD. And minus another 5, because we’re now weeping for our wasted lives.
• Vanessa’s Navajo short shorts. Minus 2.
• Even we don’t believe Dan would take a limo home from a coffee shop. Not a stretch one, at least. Minus 1.
• Dan: I see the cat’s out of the bag.
Rufus: And topless on Valentino’s yacht.
Jenny: That’s not fair. Everyone’s topless on Valentino’s yacht.
Rufus: What about this one where’s she’s dancing on the table?
Eric: Well, that’s what you do in Barcelona.
Rufus: And this one with Prince Harry doing shots off of —
Dan: That’s what you do in St. Tropez!
We’d give points for the sibling protection of Serena, but the fact that Rufus isn’t weird about seeing his stepdaughter’s splendiferous rack makes this a wash.
• The In Touch and Life & Style knockoffs are stylistically flawless, but sadly, those two magazines don’t report on socialites. Tinsley Mortimer has barely even broken into “Who Wore It Better?” Minus 1.
• Minus an additional 3 because, as Intel Chris’s British roommate pointed out, Hello and OK! would never score pictures of “Prince Harry doing shots.” “Off of” anything.
• Okay, we may hate Vanessa’s hair extensions, but they are clearly expensive, and too expensive for her. Minus 1.
• Where is Lily van der Woodsen? ON MARS? There is nowhere on the planet Earth that a billionaire could be where she would not be within reach of a single phone call. Minus 3.
• Dan and Serena’s secret brother, Scott, was born in 1988. No points deducted, but shudder.
• We’d believe the polo if there were more Perrier Jouët, and less pewter. We are in the North, you know. Minus 1.
• Serena still only has a flip phone? Come on. Minus 1.
• Wait, Nate’s grandpa was for abolishing DOMA? No. Minus 3.
That puts us just four points on the real side — a good showing for a premiere episode, where the stakes are high and the instinct for absurdity is at its strongest. As always, put your own tallies in the comments. It’s good to have you back.
Earlier: Read our predictions for the rest of the season.