Gossip Girl Week 5 Report Card: The Liar, the Bitch, and the Wardrobe

Photo: HBO

It’s Halloween on the Upper East Side, which does feel a little weird for a summertime viewer, but perhaps in that respect “Hope Sinks” is a useful exercise, one that forces us to ask, What even IS time? How old IS 15? And is it really SO wrong to use a barely averted school shooting as a plot device for completely unrelated characters to behave in totally nonsensical ways? Put on your best New York–legend costume and read on for mine; consider it an Easter egg in this week’s “Gossip Girl Report Card. 

Last week: C-
I guess I should give her credit for averting this fashion emergency at the last minute. The thing is, I don’t even understand how Monet got all these other pairs to switch to her mediocre costume idea. Are we to believe all these other girls were excited to sabotage Julien because they’re team Pippa-and-whoever? Or that they all independently thought the idea was so good they decided their best option was to … copy it? Anyway, it’s hard to be invested in Julien’s quickish thinking here. Also, what a missed sartorial opportunity: If Zoya was supposed to end up looking like Chuck Bass, shouldn’t one of the boys have been wearing something more flamboyant, maybe with a pop of lavender? Wouldn’t it have been smarter if Obie had been dressed like some wolf of Wall Street so at least he’d have suspenders and a pocket square? At the end of the day, the girls looked more Risky Business than Bass Industries. (And Dan never wore a tux unless under duress.)

As for Julien’s social situation, it is wild that she struggles so much to convince her followers that she is actually friends with her sister — and wild that she CARES if her followers believe in this friendship. I would say Julien’s friendship with Zoya seems surface level, but that would not distinguish it from any of her other relationships on this show, none of which have any real texture or even make sense. And if Julien is so lousy at shaping public opinion or getting people to see her the way she wants to be seen, why is she (was she?) queen of Constance? Make this make sense, I beg of this show!! I’m grading on a curve this week, so she can have an A-

Nelly Yuki
Last week: Not graded
This cameo underwhelmed me, but it’s cool that in this alternate version of reality, Nelly Yuki is the editor of New York. (Maybe she’s just an editor at New York. Still, good for her and good for plot continuity, since when last we saw her she was working as a reporter at Women’s Wear Daily.) She correctly points out that Obie’s scheming just proves he’s really no better than Gossip Girl, and she would know. B

Last week: D+
Let’s start with the good news: Her tendrils look fantastic. What is your curl routine, Zoya? Share with the class! Also, love her lipstick at Dumbo Hall.

Now for everything else: She has a boyfriend whom she (1) nearly upended her nascent relationship with her sister over and (2) had to BEG her dad to let her date, and she has spent the entirety of their relationship (~one month) ignoring Obie, insisting he just doesn’t understand her or what she cares about, then ignoring him some more. They’ve maybe kissed … twice? They have no chemistry, though this does not distinguish them from any other pairing in this crew. Why are they even together? She is a total sucker for Simon’s scam, but in her defense, she was a mark and he targeted her well. But as a character, she is still mostly reacting to the way other people treat her and not really doing anything interesting for herself. When Simon suggested that she was, in fact, Gossip Girl, I thought, Oh, actually that’s a way better idea … why didn’t they just do that? And in that first scene, her clothes finally lived up (or down, as it were) to Luna’s many episodes of previously baseless bullying. What is that flannel atrocity? Did she find it on the floor of Rufus Humphrey’s closet? B-

Last week: B
I’m putting him this high up because at least he is trying to protect his friend from a serial predator, which is more than I can say for the rest of them. That said, I had no idea a person could beg a friend to stop having sex with his teacher with such a flat, emotionless voice. Look in his eyes and there is nothing, nothing I say!! AKI ARE YOU IN THERE. BLINK TWICE IF YOU CAN HEAR ME. B-

Last week: B+
He started this series from such a promising place, but whatever gleam this guy had in his eye is all gone. He’s scrambling to keep a girlfriend he barely knows and who treats him, at best, negligently. Is he heartbroken over Julien, or was he ever? No clue, can’t tell. Is he still a little attracted to his ex, or is he smitten with his new girl or what? We learn from Aki that he and Julien lost their virginity to each other, and even that registers as a nonevent. Doesn’t really portend well for the rest of his trysts, no? Also a red flag: that he just assumed Zoya would not believe him when he told her the easily fact-checkable truth about Simon and so resorted to JV-level scheming. This is not only a bad sign about their relationship but a bad choice from a storytelling perspective; wouldn’t it be more dramatic if he tried to tell her, and she didn’t believe him and they had a huge fight and THEN the truth came out about Simon? But no, we are not going to do the interesting thing. We’re going to do … whatever this is! C+

Last week: Not graded
Oh hello, undercover New York researcher! The commitment to character is really something; I lost it when he pretended (I assume) to only carry a flip phone. Did any of you suss out his secret before the end of the episode? For a show that was hyped as being soooo woke, I am not not surprised to find so many adults just straight-up abusing or behaving very inappropriately with/toward minors on this program. Stalking, flirting with, and lying to a child (Zoya is 15!) for your article is gross and obviously grounds for immediate termination, not exile to ESPY. Possibly the grossest part is when he emotionally manipulates her into giving him her phone number by saying “a kid brought a gun to my school today, life is too short not to connect with people you like.” Full sociopath shit. Cute hair, though. I also love that he asked, “What does Gossip Girl actually do?” because I TOO have been wondering this, and it would be a joy for a fellow New York Magazine staffer to crack the case. Whenever he’s done transcribing those podcasts. C+

Audrey’s mom
Last week: Not graded
Very sorry to hear about these financial struggles but selling the apartment is probably the right move, money-wise, no? Unless she’d make a prettier penny selling the Cornwall estate. That said, rich people are hilarious, like “well I can’t afford this absolutely massive Upper East Side apartment, I guess I have to… leave New York City completely!” Girl, you live alone with your teen. Find a two-bedroom! NYU grads do it every day. Here’s hoping for a full recovery so Laura can linger on our screens. C

Last week: B
Didn’t Audrey want her mom to get her act together? I feel like that was the theme as recently as three weeks ago. We have such limited, stop-and-start-and-wait-start-over character development on this show that it’s very hard to keep up — and that’s coming from a professional keeper-upper. So Audrey’s mom is making the difficult but necessary financial decision to sell their apartment because she is unemployed and in debt. And Audrey responds by throwing a shitfit and threatening to call dad and blah blah blah. It’s all very teenage, but does it add up with the Audrey we have seen thus far? Didn’t she just learn to have empathy for this woman? And wouldn’t Audrey know better than to summon all these so-called “friends” who’ve been MIA for the years her mom’s spent struggling with her divorce and alcoholism? I thought she was supposed to be a smart cookie. Still, since we’re grading on a curve she makes it out of here with a C.

So are these guys all friends, or…?
Last week: Not graded
Audrey announces her mom wants her to move to Cornwall, and her supposedly nearest-and-dearest buddies have exactly no reaction to this information, save for Aki pushing back on the notion that the five-acre residence is a “shanty.” Pretty sure high school best friends would be appalled and devastated at the idea of one of them having to leave their school and city at this pivotal juncture. Meanwhile, Monet literally refers to her efforts coordinating Julien’s social media as “work.” Did I miss something? Is she in fact being employed by Juilen? Does she get a cut of all these deals? Or is she just an asshole who views this relationship as strictly transactional? None of these people seem to like each other, be attracted to each other, or even know each other all that well. And the big central relationship that’s supposed to be driving our show, Julien and Zoya’s half-sisterhood, is a big blank nothing. C

Nick, Zoya’s dad
Last week: F
Watching him flirt with Kate, with whom he has no sparks and whose whole deal is very yikes, is painful. But I’d say he’s otherwise doing okay in the earnest-dad department, wearing a corny but could-be-much-worse Halloween costume and trying to get his daughter’s favorite teacher to tutor her so she has another adult in her life looking out for her in this crazy world (little does he know what a trash idea that’s going to turn out to be). Seems awfully calm for a guy who was supposed to be evicted by now, but of course that would require actions to have consequences, which … C

It would be cool if any actions had consequences
Last week: F
So before we even bother addressing or resolving Zoya’s housing crisis, we’re just going to throw Audrey into one, too? A plot so nice you need to bust it out twice? Little early in the game to be recycling a story line unless something actually interesting happens here. (Do they move in together? Two birds, one apartment?) I’m feeling hopeful and will withhold harsher judgment for the time being. In my great benevolence: C-

Last week: Not graded
Because the original explanation for making @GossipGirl did not make any sense, alas, every explanation for why it should either be revived or destroyed makes even less sense. I don’t know if the writing at the top of the show is bad on purpose — that is, if we are supposed to think whichever of the teachers is currently running the account is doing a bad job — but honestly it’s so convoluted and tryhard it makes the not-so-twisty-twist of Kate getting rejected from the Paris Review quite predictable indeed. C-

Kate Keller
Last week: D
Kate says @GossipGirl — a blog whose sole purpose is to spread rumors about students, which Kate and her fellow teachers brought back from the dead because they told themselves that doing so would essentially embarrass/terrify these students into submission — is “inadvertently” a platform for bullying??? LITERALLY, YOU MADE IT FOR BULLYING. GOOD LORD. Does anyone on this show know what a bully is or does? Our theoretically reluctant but practically eager villain has yet another revelation that leads her to the light (the light is @GossipGirl): She wants to make a difference! And the only way to do it is … to be Gossip Girl! Why try for The Paris Review? After deactivating the account, she brings it back with a blank slate and no comments allowed. (For everyone keeping track, this is only the fifth episode of the series and already we have had the GG account suspended, reinstated, deactivated, and now rebirthed, wooo boy.) She taunts her followers by saying, in a list as if they are equivalent acts, “You bring a gun to school” and “You sneak out on your boyfriend.” I write in my notes: I want to throw myself into the Hudson. 

In the interest of being kind I will say: I liked her delivery of, “Sometimes even Batman has to just be Bruce… whatever.” Also smiled at her response to Jordan saying, “You found it” when she got to the Halloween happy hour: “You gave me the address and I have a phone.” D+

Last week: Not graded
I’m just ranking him lower than Kate because he is the one who is psycho enough to have a crush on her. And unlike Nick, he knows what she’s capable of! “Gossip Girl forces conversations … it isn’t just important, it’s vital.” Okay, no. NO. I will not have this weird, pathetic poptimism take on the @GossipGirl account, which does NOT force conversation; it just creeps on minors and causes general uninspired medium chaos. D+

Pippa and Bianca
Last week: Not graded
Ah yes, just what this show needed: more characters. (And if someone were going to dress up as Blair and Serena for a costume party, they’d obviously do deconstructed school uniforms, not debutante attire.) D+

Wait, what exactly are these teenagers supposed to care about, again?
Last week: Not graded
Look, I am not a teen. However, I have listened to the music of Olivia Rodrigo and I spend too much time on TikTok, and I’m pretty sure that qualifies me to say that this show’s read on what clout-chasing teenagers will consider chase-worthy is way, way off. The “holy trifecta” of Vogue, Harper’s, and WWD? Yeah, no. There’s no way rich teens give a shit about whose Halloween step-and-repeat shot gets posted on the Harper’s Instagram account, which (based on a brief, requisite skim) is like 80 percent aggregated content. And all of these teenagers think the coolest duo to dress up as when the category is “New York legends” would be … Beyoncé and Solange from the elevator video? From 2014? I mean, if they wanted to do something a little retro and if our definition of “New York legend” is expansive enough to include “events that occurred in New York City even though the people involved are not necessarily from there,” I would’ve said they should go at least ten years back — otherwise it’s not vintage, just out of date — and do something with a more striking visual. May I suggest Taylor and Kanye at the VMAs if you must go celebrity? Or (and this is what I would do) Pizza Rat and a slice? D

Last week: C-
I’m reserving most of my scorn for his paramour who should obviously, totally know better, but I will point out that showing up to a party where you expect to see all your friends and be photographed with the teacher you are secretly fucking — and all you do to hide his identity is give him a mask, but don’t bother obscuring his hair and easily identifiable upper-body, which I assume has been seen by most of the gay guys in Manhattan — is genuinely one of the dumber things I’ve seen anyone on this fine series do. Which is really saying a lot. Go home, Max. D-

Last week: F
When did she and Monet have the time or interest to (if I’m understanding this correctly) make a PowerPoint of sister-couple costume options for two other people? And maybe I missed her explanation for her outfit, but who was she supposed to be? All these costumes are lame, sorry. F

Last week: F
MONET. WHY. IS. JULIEN’S. SOCIAL. MEDIA. SO. IMPORTANT. TO. YOU? WHY????????? And I’m all for heightened, clever dialogue, but honestly, the way these kids talk … it’s an unfortunate combo of overwriting and JV acting, no? Everybody sounds like they’re tripping over sentences they would never have crafted themselves. “You lost credibility the minute you took your finger off your apps,” says Monet, which, in addition to being a batshit thing to say to someone who is supposedly your friend, is just bad social-media strategy. Constantly posting is so passe! All the biggest stars create anticipation and build mystery by not being accessible 24/7.

Monet’s big move is selling out Julien to move “up” to two girls whose power is so vast we had literally never heard of them until this episode and whom Zoya (ZOYA!) easily dismissed with a “blood is thicker than Franzia.” But okay. Monet tells Julien she’s tired of doing her “dirty work,” but this means nothing; we have seen none of this work!! Julien doesn’t do anything dirty!!! I wish she did because she is dull as all get-out!!!! F

Last week: F
Oh, okay, so we’re just getting blowjobs from our students on school grounds next to an open door, yes, yes, of course, makes sense, absolutely tracks. And then we threaten the well-intentioned and genuinely frightened friends of our 17-year-old (17! year! old!) hookups. We say, “Leave the adults to make our own decisions,” and in this sentence, the word adults refers to “me, a teacher, and a 17-year-old high-school senior.” Of course, Rafa’s thing is grooming, fucking, and forgetting his students; another story that would have even a teeny tiny bit of impact if it had been allowed to develop over some normal period of time. F

Gossip Girl Report Card: The Liar, the Bitch, & the Wardrobe