If Gossip Girl has taught us anything, it’s that money does not buy happiness. You’d think, at least, it would buy a hint of serenity. But no: Just like in real life, a palpable anxiety permeates the fictional Upper East Side. And with good reason! Our characters are constantly under siege. They cannot trust anyone but themselves, and why? Because everyone’s working an angle. Even the 15-year-old Jenny can quickly turn a brief interaction into opportunity for blackmail. Letting one’s guard down and revealing something to someone you’ve known your whole life, such as Vanessa’s revealing to Dan that she got into Tisch and he didn’t, can make you the victim of a swift undermining. And why wouldn’t Lily want to tell her own husband she has cancer? Why would she prefer to create an elaborate lie in order to be treated by her ex-husband and the estranged father of her children? Because to do it any other way would make the cancer real. By the laws of the Gossip Girl universe, where trusting someone you love always leads to disaster, that twisted logic almost makes sense.
But alas, trusting an outsider is even worse: Clearly, Lily’s illness is not real, and clearly, her ex-husband is using the information to work some kind of elaborate con, like Chuck’s mother and Gabriel before him. We never thought we’d say it, but in this case, at least, the problems of the rich make all of our problems look so small.
And now, on to our weekly reality index!
Realer Than a Meddling Weinstein
• It’s been a while since the Gossip Girl intro card made us smile. “Palm Bitch” has a nice teenage-gossip-blogger ring to it. Plus 1.
• The episode opens on a morning-after scene in Nate’s kitchen that is, shot-for-shot, exactly the same as the one we saw a few weeks before, only this time it’s Jenny in Nate’s shirt and socks opening the refrigerator, instead of Serena. Someone went to film school! Jenny, however, looks way less sexy in the borrowed nightshirt that Serena fills out so well. Plus 3. Also, her eye roll when he says it’s “Serena’s favorite as well” was so aggressive you could almost hear the snapping of what was left of her brain stem that hasn’t already been severed by the weight of her hair extensions. Plus 3.
• Jenny and Nate are planning on going to the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA. Bravo, writers! But plus only 3 because clearly neither Jenny nor Nate would know what was going on at MoMA, nor would they have the wherewithal to make a reservation. (Though a moment later it seems pretty clear that they didn’t have reservations.)
• Blair to Dorota: “It’s a lot easier to sneak up on someone when you’re not eight months pregnant and the person’s not standing in front of a full-length mirror.” Plus 2 for delivery, but clearly a maid of Dorota’s caliber would know how to enter unnoticed in a Funhouse Hall of Mirrors.
• Blair: “Dorota, you should really stop buying your prenatal vitamins over the Internet.” Dorota: “For this I postpone honeymoon.” Aw. Seriously, they’re like Karen Walker and Rosario at this point. Plus 2.
• Chuck: “There’s an outlet by the bed and I’ll be in there in a minute.” Plus only 1, because we’re pretty sure that when Chuck opens the door, it looks like they need the outlet because they are blow-drying their hair.
• Ew, that shirt everyone’s been naked in is Hugo Boss? Plus 1, because that’s so Nate.
• Rufus looks younger every episode. Plus 2, because that’s what happens when you are a kept husband and you start going to Botox parties with the slutty singletons in your sugar mama’s building.
• Dan gets rejected from Tisch. Plus 2. Then Vanessa tells him right away that she took the spot, which is realistic but so unlike how things actually happen in the world of Gossip Girl. Normally she’d engage in some sort of subterfuge involving pretending to be busy when she was at all her Tisch classes so Dan would eventually think she was cheating on him, and then the confrontation would make everything worse, because how could he think she would ever, except she was kind of lying to him the whole time. And then: ping! Georgina Sparks blow jobs on a roof and we’re back at square one.
• Of course William would say something disgustingly mumbo jumbo–y like, “The minute people start treating you like you’re sick your body starts to listen to it.” Plus 3. (But we don’t give him points for correctly guessing at a time when there was conflict in the Congo. There’s always conflict in the Congo, depending on which one you’re talking about.)
• Lily feeds Rufus white wine when he is frantic, because he is basically Ramona Singer at this point. Plus 3.
• Blair: “Dorota, I need answers that don’t end in, ‘And then I came to America!’” Plus 1, because all the best stories do end that way.
• We love that Willa Weinstein is a meddler who doesn’t wash her hair. Plus 3.
• Also, her jumpsuit is entirely Bushwick-appropriate. Plus 3.
• AND we love that her art appears to consist of hanging a Starbucks barista in effigy. If we had to guess, her particular motivations for helping out with this “venti-sized serving of justice” have less to do with, say, civil unrest in the Congo in 1998 than her rage at Starbucks for slipping her full-fat lattes. Not that she’d ever tell anyone that. Plus 3.
• At least Serena seems to recognize that there is something very fishy about her father’s absence, and the whole commuting home to Tibet thing. No way Lily would have ever indicated that she would move to Tibet. Plus 3. Unfortunately, Serena promptly loses this skepticism later the same day.
• Blair is looking for young men “who are not socially astute enough to fear the length of the Bass arm.” Oh, we get it: “The Bass arm.” This is like how nobody wants to date a girl right after she dated a black guy, right? Plus 3. And an extra plus 1 for when she mused, “Perhaps Vanessa can loan me a serape.”
• Is Jenny wearing black lipstick?? Plus 1.
• Jenny did go from zero to blackmail in 60 seconds. And it worked. Plus 1.
• Wait, did Blair ask if the Ikea chandelier “was an Aaron Rose?” Plus 10.
• “Ain’t no party like a Bushwick party!” Well. Plus 2 to the writers for finally incorporating this part of town, even though we suspect they lifted it from the Times. As for the reality of it, we’re not sure. Anyone go to those parties?
• Blair: “I have a friend that goes to Columbia. But I don’t think he attends many classes.” Plus 10 for subtle acknowledgment of the fact that Nate never goes to school.
• Wait, is Blake Lively acting? Even crying? Plus 5. We haven’t seen this since season one!
• Blair’s final monologue was pretty lethal. Plus 20. She was smiling ever so slightly because she knew how good it was.
• Dorota’s beautiful smile in the end: plus 10.
Faker Than the Notion That Sleeping in a Button-down Shirt Is “Comfortable”
• Even Nate would know it was weird to have his friend’s boobs hang out in the same shirt as Serena’s. Minus 3.
• Blair would know that having twelve of Manhattan’s most “eligible” single men over for brunch is much too obvious a plan. Planting a blind item in “Page Six” that she was sleeping with Manhattan’s most eligible married man, now that would do the trick. Minus 3. Plus, what dude is going to willingly come to a daytime sausage fest in a matronly Upper East Side designer’s apartment? (Other than Eric, of course.) Minus 3.
• Wait, the posed photograph Blair has of her and Chuck is the one from the cheesy Gossip Girl promo? No. They’d be in front of a scary dark fireplace, at the very least. Minus 1.
• Is that really every Baldwin brother’s voice? That gravelly sinister-sounding tone of ass-wipery? Doesn’t this guy work for Doctors Without Borders? You can’t nurse rickets babies with the bedside manner of Nosferatu. Minus 1.
• “Does she look like a kid to you?” Chuck says to Nate, of Jenny, who is wearing a strapless pleather sheath. Actually, yes, she does. Specifically, she looks like the title character in underrated 1984 movie Angel: High School Honor Student by Day. Hollywood Hooker by Night, as she has every episode this season, and it is not normal. WIlla’s reaction — “Who is that slut?” — is far more appropriate.
• WE DO NOT FORGET THAT CHUCK TRIED TO RAPE JENNY. We’re sorry, writers and commenters who have tried to erase this from everyone’s collective memory, but there’s no way Jenny, with that memory, would stand for him seductively imagining her sexual rendezvous with Nate aloud. Minus 5.
• Minus 1 for the way Chuck casually betrays both Nate and Serena. How would trading an internationally renowned skabimbo for a 16-year-old virgin get Nate “back” for Chuck?
• William van der Woodsen: “Lily told me that she renovated this place again. It’s come a long way since when we first moved in here.” No. Lily and Bart moved into this apartment for the first time after they lived in the Palace. Minus 20 for such a brazen inaccuracy served up just so Billy Baldwin can growl out another despicable line.
• Okay, this William plotline has way, way too many holes. First of all, Serena didn’t know Lily was in Santorini, so if she saw her dad there was no need for him to tell her “why he was there.” Minus 3. And why does no one call her “illness” “cancer”? Minus 3. And if Lily knew how to get in touch with William all along, such that she could convince him to treat her “illness,” why didn’t she ask him to meet the kids if he “wanted to” like he said? Minus 3, and that’s all before the fact that her illness is so obviously, so patently a lie! Minus 10. Doesn’t Lily, as a billionaire titan of industry (what about that, by the way — isn’t she in control of a huge company? When does she deal with that?), have, like, lawyers who watch out for when she wants to spend money on witch doctors? And why wasn’t William in Palm Beach, and didn’t it make Lily suspicious when he showed up in her apartment for no reason, and ugh, just: WHY?
• Why is Eric at Andover? Manhattan prep schools don’t usually debate against the New England boarding schools. Minus 1.
• No way would a Weinstein, or anyone on the board at Tisch, read applications. Minus 2. Even if it was just “John” Weinstein.
• Why is there an exterior shot of 72nd Street while Dan is talking in the coffee shop on University Place?
• Vanessa is worried Blair will spill on her pleather leggings. Isn’t spill cleanup the whole point of not wearing actual leather? Minus 1.
• Gossip Girl: “Spotted, Nate Archibald suffering from a broken heart. Too bad he doesn’t realize Jenny’s oath is less Hippocratic and more hypocrite.” Um, this is maybe her worst ever. Minus 1, because also, since when does Gossip Girl have spies in Brooklyn?
• Sorry, but in real life, when someone goes in for a kiss and gets rejected, and the other person’s boyfriend or girlfriend sees, that’s a good thing. Minus 5, because Serena of all people knows what it’s like to be surprised by sex even though everyone else knows it’s about to pounce.
• Even Jenny would realize that she has to wake up in the same house as Serena and that continuing to fight this losing battle is probably a bad idea. Minus 2.
• No way is this a Polish saying: “Love is like head wound, it make you dizzy, you think you die, but you recover, usually.” Minus only 1, because it’s awesome nonetheless.
• There is no way Blair would not have at least kissed Cameron. He is just too cute. Minus 2.
• Can anyone on this show ever have a fight that doesn’t require them to walk out of the room? Minus 2.
Total 81. Amazingly, the 86-ing of Jenny usurped the Billy Baldwin plotline, placing this episode on the side of the real.