Gossip Girl Week 6 Report Card: Casually Cruel in the Name of Being Honest

Photo: Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max

It’s only been six weeks and already our Gossip children are in need of a break. Relatable! But before we send them off, let’s evaluate their final performance of the fall semester in “Parentsite.” Do we get actual growth? Coherent character development? At least some halfway-decent clothes? Make like Kate Keller realizing she’ll never be Meryl and keep those hopes in check for this week’s Gossip Girl Report Card.

Last week: D-
Cuts off Rafa and does not fall for any of his take-me-back bullshit. Supports Audrey during her crisis. Has the threesome I assume he’s been dreaming about all season. Attempts to warn and make peace with the parent he’d been icing out. Wears a cute Knives Out sweater very well. A

Davis, Julien’s dad
Last week: Not graded
It’s not his fault, but it is bad costuming for him and Julien to be wearing coordinated creamy white sweaters when they start the episode at odds; their clothes signal to us that they’re aligned, when they are in fact on opposite sides of the issue. Sorry to be a bitch, just saying: Sloppy storytelling from top to bottom here!

Davis correctly says there’s no retirement plan in building your Instagram. But given the family money at play here, it feels very strange for him not to acknowledge that, as he chastises her for failing to focus on her education. In terms of Julien’s financial future, it could not matter less if she goes to college — this is the mistake those Operation Varsity Blues parents made! — so why isn’t he making the case for college on other grounds? Still, he dutifully tags along on her daylong effort to prove she is MORE than just some girl who is obsessed with her own self-image; she is an INFLUENCER who will use her INFLUENCE to LOSE HER JOB before it even STARTS by attending a protest at the last minute for a cause she doesn’t even really care about or understand but just vibes with aesthetically because she wants to make out with her ex-boyfriend. But more about Julien in a minute.

This feels like as good a place as any to note that this show has not really done anything all that meaningful with its diverse cast — to the point of missing plenty of no-duh opportunities for interesting conflict and even ignoring the obvious. For instance: Are we to believe Davis has no qualms about his Black daughter attending this protest? Surely he anticipates there will be police there? And, as someone who was in an interracial relationship with Julien’s mom, wouldn’t Davis maybe have some thoughts about how much bigger a personal risk it is for Julien to be there than for Obie? The same goes for Nick, who of course supports Zoya’s activism but is, especially considering his track record of Extremely Concerned Dad Behavior, awfully blasé about his daughter putting herself in harm’s way. Clearly the stakes of attending this protest are significantly higher for Julien and Zoya than for Obie, a rich white boy who is really only there to prove something about himself to his parents, and for whom the protest scans as little more than a backdrop for his Instagram Live.

Anyway, I do think Davis was good-to-inoffensive this week so he can walk away with an A-

Last week: C
I find her to be a very unconvincing tyrant when she berates all the nurses. Our girl is spiraling, and again, we have a lot of plot developments that don’t totally make sense. I’m not clear on how we went from “Max, we hate you, we are not speaking” to “I’m going to cosplay as a sexy housewife for both of the men who got me through this week,” with a brief detour into “accidentally outing my boyfriend,” but … sure, whatever. She’s doing her best. Glad she could make up with her mom. Guess she’s not moving after all? B+

Nick, Zoya’s dad
Last week: C
He gives good advice to his daughter — she cannot be every single thing to her boyfriend, and in fact it’s healthier if she doesn’t even try to be — but does she take this advice? Ugh, no, but we’ll deal with her later. I don’t know why he doesn’t think it’s extremely weird and inappropriate for him to be dating his daughter’s teacher, whom he has now invited into his home as her tutor, a situation that is so compromising and dicey for all involved parties. He also just seems very dumb! Like, “Teacher at 24, how does that happen?” Umm … you go to college … you get a job … you are a teacher? A lot of teachers are young! It’s not like a Dougie Howser situation; private schools don’t even require master’s degrees. Seeing as he and Kate have no sexual chemistry, I can’t imagine this breakup will faze him at all. I expect it to play out like the supposedly imminent threat of eviction, Zoya’s academic probation, and every other major plot development that evaporates into nothing faster than you can say “XOXO.” B

Last week: Not graded
I have to respect the move of using the shitty assignment Kate gave him (nights and weekends, ew) to catch Kate dating Nick; posting a “Spotted” that gets Kate to tell Nick they need to keep things professional is a solid scheme. Also he gets Kate to admit the obvious: She would never be able to post anything she found out from Nick without outing herself as @GossipGirl. So that’s two wins right there. Good for you, Jordan! Everything else is rough for him because, like all the other teachers, he (1) only has two registers, panicking and SHOUTING, and (2) does not react the way you would hope a bunch of adults would to video evidence that their 30-year-old colleague is sexually pursuing a teenage student. All of these teachers should be fired, but in the meantime he can have a B

Last week: Not graded
She made almost no impression on me beyond “vaguely German,” which I guess is her character’s whole deal? Also: She had sheets monogrammed for Julien at all her properties? Extremely psycho, and again, the show has not backed any of this up! This is not like how the Waldorfs and the Archibald/Vanderbilts all knew each other and Nate’s mom was supposed to give Blair the family ring and blah blah whatever. Julien and Obie were not, as far as we could see, some golden couple with a big history that mattered to anyone — even to each other! The breakup barely registered!!! B-

Last week: B-
Again I ask: Do we know even ONE consistent thing about any character in this universe? Like, were we supposed to think Aki had bad taste? I didn’t realize anybody had any issues with the way he dressed. And if he’s been with Audrey for so long, how does he not know what clothes she likes? Even dopey Nate or clueless Brooklynite Dan could, under duress, have picked out a cleavage-rhombus dress for fair Serena. I feel like Aki is in way over his head with telling Audrey how to handle her mom’s overdose. Begging her to leave the hospital while her mom slips in and out of consciousness feels like incorrect counsel, and maybe he should just collect all her assignments from her teachers and bring her food like a good boyfriend? Why would he push her to come to dinner with his dad while her mom is still so fragile? Why can’t they just break up already? B-

Last week: C+
For a lead character, Obie is such a nonfactor I keep forgetting that not one but two of our main girls are supposed to be all hung up on him. Zoya is obviously being A Lot at dinner, but Obie could be a less shitty boyfriend about it, like maybe say one thing to grease the wheels of the conversation and take it to a less volatile place. Instead, he just watches her implode and gets progressively more embarrassed by her. I think it’s pretty clear you’re done with your girlfriend when you use her name as a verb to mean a bad thing, e.g. he’s mad at Julien for encouraging his beloved “to Zoya all over everyone” at dinner. That said: When he yelled, “Zoya, what are you saying?!!” … I felt that. Probably we are meant to feel some kind of way about him breaking up with Zoya via eye contact and then kissing Julien, but none of it really landed for me. But I’ll throw the kid a B-

Last week: A-
This week, I caved and Googled this actress just to find out why exactly her accent sounds so affected for a girl I’m to believe was born and raised in Manhattan. (What’s with saying “chance” like the “a” is the “aaah” you make when you have to open wide at the dentist? Why does it feel like she is given SO MANY words with that “a” in them to say?? “It’s always been my plan to grow my brand” is her “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” and she says it often.) I bring this up because it really highlights the absurdity of this person claiming that her “brand is authenticity” (gag). This is not a reality tally, but if it were, our girl would lose points every week for so clearly being from Toronto.

Anyway, Julien bombed her PSATs. This is the first we learn about her academic non-prowess; not that that needs to be central, but it’s conspicuously offscreen for a show about teenagers at one of the most competitive high schools in New York City, no? She wants her dad to take her seriously so she brings him along to this extremely unlikely pitch meeting that feels like 15 minutes of spon-con — did these brands pay for product placement? Why am I listening to this DEEPLY boring marketing pitch for Sephora and their content-creation strategy?? Cut it from the episode and make this a tight 43 minutes!!!! — and he apparently walks away impressed, not horrified, at the idea of his daughter selling herself for parts. (Also: Would Julien be their youngest partner ever? Olivia Jade would like a word!) Personally I am horrified to discover, at the top of this episode, that Julien has been doing all of this work for literally no money, just exposure?! WHAT HAVE MONET AND LUNA BEEN SO WORKED UP ABOUT?

Alas, Julien is still the worst kind of person: the one who is absolutely convinced she is Good, and therefore everything she does is Good, when in fact she is totally self-interested and in complete denial about her Bad actions. She probably doesn’t even think she broke up her sister and her ex. C+

Maybe don’t use acts of mass violence as the backdrop for minor scuffles and/or kisses?
Last week: Not graded
First an averted school shooting plus a kid bringing a gun to school is basically just the prologue to a completely unrelated episode, and now we have police brutality against peaceful protesters as, like, mood and scene-setting for Obie and Julien — miraculously unscathed by the aforementioned violence, not even coughing from the tear gas, okay!! — to make out against a wall? Sort of tasteless, I think. Like almost but not quite as tasteless as Julien’s horrendous jacket. How many jeans had to die for that jacket to live? C

Last week: F
“Finally you’ll go from ‘content’ to ‘creator’!” “You need to test the waters, prove the depths you can swim in, that means a collab.” What. WHAT. Everything Luna says sounds like one of those “I forced an AI to read a hundred hours of girlboss nonsense” scripts. Luna’s entire life has been about waiting for the friend who treats her like a sidekick to invite her to assist in monetizing her social-media presence? Honestly, it’s just very sad to watch a bunch of children so giddily turn their still-evolving identities into marketable products and fling themselves into the maw of capitalism when they are already so rich and could be doing Cool Teen Things like hooking up and partying and hazing freshmen. Is it just me or is this very depressing to watch? I feel so bad for her I’ll just give her a C-

Last week: B-
Save for her hideous double-flannel look at the end of the episode (which at least tracks with her outfit from last week), nothing Zoya does makes any sense at all, from being so chill and encouraging about her dad dating her favorite teacher — total social suicide, she would be ripped to shreds in the halls and on @GossipGirl were anyone to ever find out, surely she must KNOW this, prior bullying victim that she is — to going behind her very new boyfriend’s back to meet his mom without his knowledge or consent to behaving like a petulant brat through the entire dinner. I mean, one snarky comment about wiretapping, fine, but come ON, Zoya, this is not the time! The way she LEAPS into a conversation about a lawsuit she did not even know about until the adult brought it up … no. If you’re so opposed to Aki’s dad (who really has no connection to her … he is not her boyfriend’s dad … have she and Aki ever even spoken?) and you know he’s going to be at the dinner where you are supposedly trying to make a good impression on Obie’s impossible-to-impress mother, maybe just … don’t invite yourself??

When she turned to Julien to understand the deal with Obie’s mom I wrote in my notes WHY ARE YOU STILL TAKING RELATIONSHIP ADVICE FROM THE GIRL OBIE DUMPED FOR YOU JUST CALL YOUR FUCKING BOYFRIEND YOU HELPLESS DUMB-DUMB. And then she makes the classic teen mistake of thinking being a confrontational jerk with no filter is the same thing as “being honest,” but somehow realizes the error of her ways with uncharacteristic eloquence (“Not my finest hour unless you’re a fan of judgmental grandstanding”) by the following morning? Can we please COMMIT to a character, like a personality with consistent strengths and weaknesses and flaws, for the love of recapping?! C-

Are you kidding me with these cartoon-villain adults? 
Last week: Not graded
WHY AM I WATCHING JV SUCCESSION? OH MY GOD JUST BE GOSSIP GIRL. Is this just to not-so-subtly tell viewers that there IS a difference between HBO and HBO Max, and it’s the difference between the Roy and Menzies patriarchs? Sorry, but even with incorrectly outing his son on national television, Roger didn’t make a meaningful enough impression on me to merit his own grade; he can be lumped in with the rest of the grown-up table. The only nice grown-up is Aki’s mom, but unfortunately for her she also isn’t interesting enough to merit her own spot in the Report Card. However she can rest easy knowing she is exempt from this D+

Kate Keller
Last week: D+
Wait, where was Kate’s moral compass pointing last week? I’ve already forgotten, and now she’s back to referring to her students as “targets.” Also, HOW is it that when the teachers see the video of Rafa and Max having sex, their first reaction is “that could get him fired” and not immediate, dire concern for the 17-year-old boy in the video??

This show has too many adult villains and not enough teenage ones; having literally every educator at Constance Billard be someone who is actively preying on, stalking, and/or abusing children is … not really the ~woke~ reboot we were promised. (Sidebar: Was Tavi ever on Gawker Stalker and is that comment a reference to her real-life distaste for it?) Kate’s long and pointless monologue saying what we have already heard her say in various ways, a dozen times, over the course of the series — she is desperate to MATTER; she wanted to be famous; she wonders if she’ll ever Make A Difference; she is an asshole — is yet another part of the episode that we could cut to bring the whole thing in under 43 minutes. D+

Again, I feel like none of these people are emotionally invested in each other.
Last week: Not graded
Given that this is our midseason finale/pre-break episode, I assume we are supposed to be feeling some FEELINGS about the assorted hookups and/or betrayals that end the hour. But … do we? Is this Aki-Audrey-Max threesome doing anything for anyone? It feels like these kids have been on one of those moving sidewalks at the airport, trudging toward this inevitable hookup.

As for our theoretically central relationship: Instead of having a meaningful, six-episode-long arc, Julien and Zoya have had about 10,000 little nonstories where they’re enemies, no wait, they were just faking!! They’re friends, but in secret — no, never mind, now they’re friends in public, but nope, now Z stole JC’s boyfriend, no, but actually Julien is FINE with that, oh, hold on a second … she is not fine with it but she refuses to acknowledge the not-fineness? Meanwhile Obie is just over here looking like he, too, is always playing catch-up, never committing to a feeling or a girl or even a line reading. Though the show has told us Obie is someone worth fighting over — the richest little boy in New York, and with a soul! — we have not really SEEN this, and there is an unfortunate Charisma Vacuum™ where all the biggest stars of these series should be. No one has chemistry; no one’s relationships feel lived-in or real. So the idea that Julien and Obie have had a flame that never went out … I mean, sure? They never made sense as a couple in the first place, why should I buy that they can’t keep their hands off each other now? Sigh. D

Last week: F
The fact that he tells Kate he has value because he goes where the students go, as if that makes him cool … Wow, no! Imagine having a 30-year-old friend who tells you he knows what’s what because he loves to party with high-school students? Ugh, I don’t even like it when high-school kids show up on my FYP. Still an abusive creep, still getting an F

Max’s dad
Last week: Not graded
Just need to round out this horrifying batch of adults who have a frankly UNNERVINGLY calm response to the news that this 17-year-old — your son!!! — is telling you straight-up that his teacher abused him!!!!!!! F

Oh, okay, so that BIG betrayal with Monet means so little she literally vanishes for an entire episode.
I swear I’m paying attention, even if I’m the only one. F

Gossip Girl Report Card: Midseason Finale Edition