Gossip Girl "Monstrous Ball" Review: Shippers, Assemble!

By Cory Barker

Nov 13, 2012

Gossip Girl S6E05: “Monstrous Ball”

Watching television is a really weird experience sometimes. For example, there is really no tangible reason why I should still be watching Gossip Girl, and there's especially no reason that I should be enjoying myself for a few minutes every week while doing so. And that’s of course because Gossip Girl is a legitimately terrible show that seems determined to limp toward oblivion. I’m going to keep tuning in until the end because I still sort of like a few of its characters—though this final stretch is doing its damndest to ruin them—but I’m mostly still interested because GG is so explicitly bad that I can’t look away. Let’s run through the “high points” of “Monstrous Ball.”

1. Serena and Dan, a.k.a. Your Favorite Couple Ever, is alive yet again

There have been some truly terrible relationships on teen soaps before, some of them on other Josh Schwartz/Stephanie Savage shows—'sup, Marissa and well, anyone on The O.C.—but Serena and Dan might take the cake. While they were the centerpiece of Gossip Girl’s world in the first few seasons, the writers have spent the last four systematically poisoning the relationship. And that would be fine, particularly because Serena sucks and Dan tends to reach personal nadirs when he’s around her, if the show weren’t also dedicated to constantly suggesting they might get back together.

"Monstrous Ball" kicked off what will likely be some sort of final reconciliation for two characters that practically no one wants to see together. Somehow, Gossip Girl managed to turn a public reveal of their sex tape—a sex tape that Serena secretly filmed as a way to ruin Blair’s life and prove her ultimate dominance over her “friend”—into a catalyzing moment that brought S and Lonely Boy back into one another’s orbit. And if that weren’t dumb enough, both characters spent the first 35 minutes of this episode tightly holding onto their love for two other people, before more or less deciding that they were better off slummin’ it with the one person who brings out the worst in them.

This is unbelievably stupid. Yet in that final scene, Blake Lively and Penn Badgley displayed more genuine chemistry than they have in like half a decade, and I’m at least somewhat ashamed to admit that I liked it—even though I know it’s going to result in at least four episodes' worth of horror.

2. Best Friends Redefined

As if this episode weren’t retro-feeling enough for you with Serena and Dan sharing all the pie in the world (I swear, that’s not an euphuism, unless they filmed it), “Monstrous Ball” also delivered some high-quality Blair and Serena posturing, scheming, and fake-friending. Blair decided to make Serena think her upcoming engagement was destroyed by plotting with the habitually annoying Sage, solely in hopes of making sure that Sage wears a Waldorf dress at cotillion. This was a silly, fully immature plan in its own right, but Blair made things better by admitting the truth to Serena and reinforcing that she knew Serena would never really get hurt anyway. She just made S feel terrible for a moment, you see!

By the time the sex tape was released, Blair had done what she does best: Climb that high horse. Sure, Serena’s plan to ruin her best friend’s life by recording herself sleeping with a man they both desired was shameful—and probably the result of some truly troubling psychological damage—but I just love how Blair couldn’t believe Serena would do such a thing. You know, because it’s not as if the two of them have spent a half-dozen episodes not talking to each other and constantly throwing around their hatred. Serena’s actions were extreme, but they were also pretty much in line with how these two ladies have treated one another for years. This is something Blair knows because she referenced it in the episode, right after she said she was disappointed that she and Serena couldn’t be friends, despite hating one another.


3. We put the ‘narrow’ in narrowcasting

Although this is an unproven theory, I can’t help but notice that Gossip Girl is pandering pretty hard to the diehard, dare I say “shipper,” audience in this final season. I’ve already detailed my frustrations with the Chuck and Blair pairing—a relationship that is recalibrating how we think of delayed gratification on television, I think—but the show has failed Serena and Dan in a similar fashion. And yet, here we are with only five episodes to go, and it seems like the show is building its entire conclusion around these two, basically original pairings getting together for good. If there’s not at least one wedding and one baby, I’ll be shocked.

Gossip Girl has always been defined by its romantic coupling (like so many shows of this ilk) and has always had quite a narrow, small audience. But in this last season, the story is playing out like the producers started by choosing the “end-games” the fans wanted to see and have been struggling to build the story backwards from those problematic conclusions. All they know is that Serena and Dan and Blair and Chuck are 4eva; it doesn’t actually matter how they get there, right?

It's lazy to pander to such a small but vocal fan base, but it's even lazier to pander without much of a believable plan.

4. Rufus, more irrelevant than ever

There have been some really dumb and irrelevant plot threads in Gossip Girl’s six-year history. However, is there one dumber and more irrelevant than whatever it is Rufus is doing with Ivy? We know she’s playing him, at least somewhat, and he seems to gather just as much—yet he doesn’t seem to care. Clearly, Rufus isn’t the focal point of the show, particularly when it needs to service the poorly formed couples that the audience actually might care about. Nevertheless, I presumed that Rufus and Lily would end up together again by the time all was said and done, if that’s going to happen, that reconciliation will be even more rushed than whatever is going on with Serena and Dan.

Oh, and can I just say that Ivy’s been a big disappointment thus far? She promised to create all sorts of havoc, yet the best that she can do is team up with Chuck temporarily in between anonymously buying art from Rufus’s gallery? Pathetic.

5. Way to put Frank Ocean to use, guys

Last week, I saw a few press releases going around about Frank Ocean’s music playing a prominent role in this week’s episode and while I didn’t expect much, I have to say that I expected more than whatever it was Gossip Girl did here. Channel Orange is a great record that you should listen to right now and the show picked some of its standout tracks, but none of them were used particularly well. Ocean’s work doesn’t easily graft onto this world, and there was little effort made to actually make it do so.

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  • pixelek25 Nov 14, 2012

    I quit the show back in season 2 but I've seen some scenes here and there. If you talk about fan pandering you might as well mention DB which was clearly fan pandering. I always liked their funny banter but them being romantically involved just didn't make sense.

    The writers have destroyed CB but I think they were always meant to be. Sure, the writers should have written everything differently but this is one of the worst shows on tv atm, I didn't expect much from it back in season 1 or 2 and I sure as hell wouldn't expect more from it now, when it's even worse. Quitting this show is healthy, believe me. :)

  • Miss880 Nov 14, 2012

    I recently got into Gossip Girl, watching all 5 seasons pretty quickly, and now up to date to watch season 6 - and I have to say that the idea that Chuck/Blair ending up together is "pandering" to a certain group is ridiculous. They are inevitable. Their love lives have been intertwined so deeply since season 1 that the show couldn't possibly end with them apart. The producers struggling to give them a realistic story does not equal pandering.

    Whether you hate Chuck, prefer Blair with Dan, or are just sick of the on-again/off-again/on-again/off-again that you had to sit through for 5 years (I wouldn't blame you), I don't think you can deny that Chuck and Blair are connected.

    Dan and Serena, on the other-hand, I'll agree that it could be pandering. Those two have had so many relationships with so many people, that they don't have to be together. You can't say that with Chuck & Blair.

  • lonea Nov 14, 2012

    God, this show has become horrible. The only reason I am still watching is because of the outfits..

  • miss_winnberg Nov 14, 2012

    You know, I get where you're coming from and agree with most of what you are saying, but maybe you should just stop watching GG and let someone else write these reviews. Someone who at least enjoys the show for more than two minutes per episode. This is not fun reading, and neither was the one I read two weeks ago. Way too much complaining.

  • Noor Nov 14, 2012

    At this point NO ONE is enjoying the show anymore! for me honestly I just want to see the final episode out of curiousity!

  • Lala22 Nov 14, 2012

    I disagree. It is fun reading. In fact, I only read the reviews because the show is unbearable to watch at this point. And I love reading other people slamming it. IMO Cory complaints way too little given how contrived, ridiculous and preposterous the plot and the characters have become.

  • smarcos3 Nov 14, 2012


  • CoryBarker1 Staff Nov 14, 2012

    I actually enjoy watching the show. That doesn't mean it's good.

  • justamodernrock Nov 14, 2012

    ...pandering to Chair shippers by keeping them sexless and apart owing to another. damn. GG. pact. while Chuck fails at a scheme to bring down his father? Giving more screentime to GUEST STARS, about whom I think no one cares, at all? I really don't see that as the writers and producers giving me, a CB fan/e.g. the show's core fanbase, anything I want...or really what any GG viewer would want. And destroying Serena and Nate in the process? All the awards, GGwriters. Not even sorry. My investment in Chuck remains, and I'll enjoy the CB happy ending, but otherwise, I'll be glad to see this show go after a lackluster sixth season.

  • superjulia Nov 14, 2012

    I'm not a huge fan of Serena/Dan and Blair/Chuck but I get it. Back to the roots and everything.. I would really like to see Dan and Blair get back together but I know that's not gonna happen anytime soon, so I just sit back and see. Oh well, this show..

    Who I really liked this week was Serena. She just seems more real than ever. Maybe I'm talking nonsense because Gossip Girl has blinded me with ridiculousness but Serena for once seemed like a real person.

  • bethzc Nov 14, 2012

    team dan and blair tbh.

    but yeah i think regardless of where they were going they could have written in better than they did AND it's ridiculous to pander to the extent that it messes up the storytelling.

  • Lula19 Nov 14, 2012

    all i have to say is I really dont understand why chuck cant give blair 1 minute out of his day for a measly kiss, or maybe even take her on a date, but no thats not possible since he spends his entire waking time on obsessing over the fact that his father is evil (which by the way, all of manhattan should already know by now)

    why prolong dating blair in public or in the privacy of their own homes. its not like everyone doesn't know they have something going on with each other, since she wears a necklace with an engagement ring attached to it, it doesnt take a lot of brain power to figure out that shes with Chuck. She's publicly admitted shes in love with him, and has been seen with him numerous times

    chuck has sadly become one of the worst characters, i really thought this season was going to redeem his character for all the shitty things he did in past seasons. the only time i can remember liking chuck was when he was with that french girl, who was played by i think clemence posey?

    and did Blair say that chuck sleeping with an underage,emotionally wrecked Jenny, was in no way in comparison as bad as what Dan did to her in this episode?

    I'm getting really tired of Blair, wasn't it like a season or a few seasons ago that Blair has always been or wanted to become this powerful, independent and strong woman.

    I would write about how bad the other characters in this show including Serena are but its too tiring btw georgina is the only character left that i love

    and also this whole series should be given to classes to criticize and nitpick the bad plots and characters and basically the entire writing cause its just horrible.

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Nov 14, 2012

    I agree. It's a ridiculous barrier that only exists on TV. No real people would act like this.

  • Star_0315 Nov 14, 2012

    Well given this show hands out call sheets like candy on set, if you poke around enough you can find out how it ends. Lol

    This show has to take cake for worst and grossest show ever aimed for teenagers. I mean, Blair thanks Chuck for never sleeping with Serena, when the only reason he didn't is bc she kicked him in the jewels in his attempt to rape her, AND this is what the writers use to make him the better man for Blair. Oh well he pimped her and shoved her against a glass wall but hey now he didn't sleep with Serena, well what a catch.*sigh*

    Aside from all the shipper stuff, since this episode was just an hour long manipulation to prop DS and Chair, this show is really just gross. They have long had this weird fasciation with prostitution and rape that is really twisted. I can't believe women run this show tbh. I hate that it was such a crap show no one ever paid attention to all the horrid messages it sends out to young women. Every show does questionable things, but on this show its the good things that are rare. Its such a heartless show, with very weak female characters and they are supposed to be the focus. Its just....I will never watch a Fake Empire production again. They made an attempted rapist the hero of the show and the guy that a girl is willing to wait for a KISS for. Like what....

  • sanrac16 Nov 14, 2012

    can we make a teen PSA re: domestic violence and use clips from gossip girl - particularly the chuck/blair scenes?

    seriously - the shippers for this couple: please don't love real people.

  • pixelek25 Nov 14, 2012

    "seriously - the shippers for this couple: please don't love real people. " lol what a mature comment. Don't judge people you don't even know.

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Nov 14, 2012

    It was really odd that the show made jokes about that part with the references to the Gods (should have pointed that out in the review). It's so warped.

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