Maybe it was the week off due to Hurricane Sandy, or maybe it was the unhealthy amount of half-price Halloween candy in my stomach, but this week’s episode of Gossip Girl seemed... okay. It wasn’t as joyous as the season premiere, but it was certainly much better than the last two episodes. Two out of four ain’t bad! Let’s hit the “highlights,” shall we?
1. It isn’t so stuffy in here after all
This show is rarely very good, but it’s often much worse when it treats its stupidity with an intense level of seriousness that I just cannot manage. A couple of weeks ago when it was revealed that Sage was Steven’s daughter and the punching and yelling began? That was bad, too-earnest Gossip Girl. Last night, when we found out that Steven actually slept with Lily years ago—and then subsequently forgot about it, apparently, which wasn’t good for Lily’s rep—the show was having a lot more fun with its inherent stupidity.
On a related note, Chuck and Blair’s attempts to subvert Lily’s overactive and clingy motherly behavior allowed the two damaged characters to loosen up quite a bit. Interestingly, the common element is Kelly Rutherford’s Lily, who is almost always relegated to straight-faced nonsense. It was nice to be reminded that she can be funny when asked to be. She occasionally brings a silly aloofness to Lily that the show should have taken more advantage of over the years.
And even outside of the scenes with Lily, this episode just had a little more pep in its step. The show often works well when characters go on half-cocked quests, so Chuck and Blair were about as bearable as they can be as a duo. I don’t actually care about Bart probably illegally involving himself in foreign oil deals, but that’s a better development then him being some other character’s illegitimate father or something. Meanwhile, Georgina’s orchestrated search to find Dan a media-friendly gal-pal felt like a classic, Gossip Girl-y thing to do.
2. Nate Archibald, Titan of Stupidity
In my last review, I noted that Nate is probably the only person in Gossip Girl's lead cast who isn’t out-and-out horrible—and while I stand by that statement, this episode went far to remind us that he’s unbelievably dumb (or at least regularly used to fit whatever the plot needs). Nate decided that the best way to save his always-dying news publication was to ape Gossip Girl and publish rumors about Lily (provided to him by Ivy, because that’s the best she can do). It wasn’t the worst plan in the history of Nate Archibald's Terrible Plans.
However, instead of actually looking at the information he was given about Lily, he just passed it off to “his editor”—who is probably just a chimp that Chuck bought him for his birthday or something—so he could spend time with his teenage girlfriend. And, shockingly, Nate's lack of dedication to his sinking ship of a business led him to submarine his relationship with Lily, Serena, Sage, and Steven (temporarily, but still). How long would have it taken to scan the list of Lily’s sexual partners? Despite her reputation, it couldn’t have required more than 25 minutes, right? 45? C’mon Nate, you’re better than that.
If Gossip Girl wants us to find any value in Nate’s foibles, it should, every once and a while, convince us that he can actually be competent. But at this point, the character is defined almost solely by his stupidity, so there’s that.
3. For the love of targeted marketing
This isn’t a major point, but I always love it when Gossip Girl dedicates itself to offering detailed, random factoids, presumably in place of actually coming up with a compelling narrative. Filling that void this week was the discussion about Gossip Girl and The Spectator's differing audiences. Apparently, people who care about Lily’s sexual history don’t actually read GG—though I can almost guarantee she’s been on there before, suggesting there is an audience for content focused on her, but whatever—and they instead read The Spectator. Demographics! Targeted marketing! I was hoping the writers would use those lines as a way to set up a wink toward the show’s small, loyal audience but then I remembered that it isn’t 2008 anymore and “no one but me” is not specific enough of a niche to joke about.
4. No one is safe
Although I think that most of the characters on this show have grown into legitimately awful people, I'm okay with that as long as they're consistently written as the selfish, close-minded, childish brats they really are. But what really bothers me is when the writers decide to change a character’s motivation like they are flipping a light-switch. It happens with Nate on the reg, but he’s a harmless, mushy-brained pretty boy.
More egregious is what happened this week with Dan, who has spent the last handful of episodes fully embracing his pretentious tool destiny, and absolutely enjoying himself while doing so. At the beginning of the episode, Dan gloated to Georgina about the women he’d been getting it in with since his “serialized chapters” (LOL) started trickling out. That makes Dan a shallow sell-out, but you know what? It makes him something definable. And then at the end of the episode, he was suddenly finished with sexually bulldozing his way through Brooklyn because, I don’t know, it was time for the show to randomly pretend it was interested in Dan having a relationship with Blair again? How in the hell does that make sense? There wasn’t even a scene with him truly questioning his choices. That’s just terrible writing.
5. Still trollin’
With all that being said, that last scene. I hate Gossip Girl for roping me and my weak shipper heart in with more Blair and Dan stories. There’s less than a 10 percent chance that anything worthwhile comes out of him moving into the spare bedroom formerly occupied by Serena, and it likely happened just so the writers had something for Blair to do in the middle episodes of the season before she runs back into Chuck’s arms like the insane person she is. I can already see the two of them growing closer before the sex tape with Dan and Serena goes public. But I guess I’m going to remain in denial and pretend that the show sees the chemistry between these two characters that I see, and that their relationship is going to be treated with the respect it deserves. Blair and Dan don’t have to be a couple, but their friendship—or whatever is—is one of the few remaining things this show knows how to get right on a consistent basis. Make it count, Gossip Girl.