The Wife:

I’ve missed Gossip Girl. Dearly. This episode, though it was really quite silly overall, did remind me not-so-subtly precisely why it’s one of the smarter shows on television. Scribe Jessica Queller definitely layered the comparisons between Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence and the world of the Upper East Side quite thickly, and didn’t let us forget for a second that these modern-day socialites were living the same lives as the characters in the book . . . or that movie with Daniel Day-Lewis . . . or, for that matter, the characters they themselves are playing in the senior class play version of Wharton’s novel. GG is filled up modern versions of Wharton’s melodramas, and I appreciate how the show navigates that territory, and does so much more skillfully than, say, The Duchess, which I’ve been told is allegedly an allegory for modern-day socialites, but is hardly allegorical at all. There is nothing about that particular film that truly connects to the modern world, not even in the costuming. (I’m sorry, Michael O’Connell, but I do not think you deserve that Oscar.) But Gossip Girl continually harks back to an earlier time. Even with Blackberries and Burbury and Cartier, I am always, always reminded of the world of Pope or Austen or, yes, Wharton. Queller just spelled that connection out with this episode, and for every silly thing that occurred during this hour of television, I hope that, at the very least, it inspires hundreds of teenage girls to pick up a copy of Wharton’s novel.

I do not understand why only the senior class puts on a play – and why there are no actual drama kids at Constance, forcing people who don’t give a damn to tread the boards for school credit – but put on a play they do! And it has fabulous modern-yet-antiquated costumes, like Serena’s feathered Marchesa gown and Blair’s amazing, amazing, amazing black backless number for her role as the ruined Countess Olyenska, as well as some pretty stellar sets, thoughtful lighting design and, naturally, a Broadway wunderkind director that Serena, with her strange insistence on dating artists that she’s too dumb to understand, develops a huge crush on. And just to make sure absolutely everyone has something to do, Vanessa has decided to make a documentary about the play.

Ah, but then there’s Chuck, who got a doctor to diagnose him with stage fright so he could get out of the play, leaving him to chase around Nikki Stevens from The L Word throughout the whole episode, only to find out that she’s been playing him the whole time. Oh, you thought she was dead? So did Chuck, but he was wrong. Carter Bayson got involved somehow and gave Elle money to get out of the country, leaving Chuck in the dust and losing his trail to finding the Eyes Wide Shut-y gentlemen’s club that his father was once a part of. That’s his entire plot, and that was really odd for two reasons: 1.) It’s really odd to come back to that plot after several weeks off and 2). It’s also really odd to insert that plot into an episode that otherwise would have used the school play entirely as a locus of action. I mean, you can’t have Gossip Girl without Chuck Bass, of course, but exploring the EWS thread in this episode was really jarring and actually the one sloppy part of an otherwise tightly written episode.

She may not be going to Yale anymore, but at least she looks fabulous.

She may not be going to Yale anymore, but at least she looks fabulous.

As dress rehearsal for the play begins, Nelly Yuki finds out that she received early acceptance to Yale, which sends Blair into a tizzy as, like Highlander, there can be only one Constance student at Yale in the fall and she already solved her problem with acceptance before the break. She tracks down the headmistress and demands to know why Nelly got an “early” from Yale, and HMQ explains that Yale rescinded Blair’s admission thanks to a tip from an anonymous caller regarding faculty “hazing.” An unsubstantiated claim from a random tipster will, it seems, keep you out of college. Losing Yale helps Blair finally understand the plight of the Countess, and she goes on an accusational tirade, upbraiding Nelly Yuki for calling in the tip, which Nelly vehemently denies. Everyone then receives a GG blast about Lord Marcus and his secret affair with his mummy, much to Blair’s dismay. She then takes her venom toward Vanessa, claiming that V was the only person who hates her enough to divulge that secret, but Vanessa denies the blame as well, because, really, she’s just not that petty when it comes down to it, even though she has been tempted to do so in the past.

Serena, with that crush on her director and all, gets Vanessa’s help in acquiring a private rehearsal session after realizing how much Vanessa and Julian have in common. She suggests that Vanessa play her Cyrano and tell her what to say so she sounds smart enough to impress Julian. Nate, however, is already jealous enough of Julian after hearing his girlfriend talk on and on about Bergman films and so on at dinner that he is pretty sure she’s planning to leave him for Julian when he walks in on her end of the Cyrano call. So, being lame like Nate is, he runs away, rather than confronting Vanessa, like a person of interest might do. The rest of the Cyrano date was actually pretty clever, though. Vanessa, although she sometimes sounds like she’s literally just quoting the backs of film theory books, actually seems to know her shit, and I errrrrpreciate when people know things about things. The tactic seems to work really well for Serena, until she receives a confidence-crushing GG text blast explaining that she only got into Yale because she’s got an important name, not because she earned it.

I mean, really, when youre able to wear a Marchesa in a school play, people probably do only like you for your money.

I mean, really, when you're able to wear a Marchesa in a school play, people probably do only like you for your money.

As for Dan, he’s still got the hots for Miss Carr and is trying to pursue his relationship with her on the DL by using costume wench Jenny as his courier. Rachel sends him a note with a key to her apartment for some post-dress rehearsal lovin’, but then Daddy Rufus shows up and finds the note and ruins everything by storming over to Rachel’s house and giving her the key. Here’s Gossip Girl’s color commentary on that scenario; I found it highly enjoyable because there’s a whole lot going on in these two brief sentences:

“Poor Miss Iowa, caught playing Mrs. Robinson. Looks like teacher just got schooled.”

Later that night, Daddy Rufus gives Dan a talking to about seeing Rachel, and Dan insists he’s 18 and can do whatever the fuck he wants. (When did Dan turn 18? And even if it isn’t statutory rape anymore, it is still an inappropriate relationship with a student for which Rachel should be fired!) So what’s his next move? To meet Rachel in the costume closet and kiss her wrist a la The Age of Innocence and then fuck her. This is definitely something Gossip Girl got right about fooling around in a high school theatre: the costume closet is definitely one of the best places to do so. It was at my high school, anyway.

Serena accuses Blair of sending the malicious text, but Blair insists she didn’t do it and turns her suspicions to Dan, who, by the way, is her co-star in the play. They have it out onstage, muttering between their lines to one another as they’re supposed to be falling in love. This is why you don’t require people to do a play, because they do shit like that. The stage is a really bad place to air your dirty laundry, kids. You do that in the wings. But apparently, no one got that memo because this trend starts to spread like wildfire throughout the student actor population after Julian chides Nate for not understanding his character (whose reputation was ruined because his family went bankrupt). Nate forgets a line, gets flustered and starts screaming about how is totally does understand his character, more, in fact, than Julian ever will because he’s lived it. Everyone else starts to follow suit, turning on each other and yelling about various things, officially ruining the play in front of critic Christopher Isherwood. Surprisingly, Isherwood loved the juxtaposition of the formalist first act with the deconstructed second act in which the actors and their teenage angst melded with the characters. I appreciate his reading, I really do, but let’s get this straight: Nate ruined the play. That’s actually what happened.

Julian outs himself to Serena, surprised that she was unaware he was “teh ghey,” and Nate and Vanessa get into a strange fight about liking different things, in which she compares him to a little kid who claims he doesn’t like tomatoes without ever having tried them. Weirdest. Metaphor. Ever. Later, they make up and she brings over snacks to watch sports and finds him, teary-eyed, watching The Age of Innocence. Aww, compromise and understanding! Dan, meanwhile, realizes that the only person who could have sent those GG blasts was Rachel. He calls her out on this, but she is unrepentant, so Dan heads out to tell Blair the truth, as well as bestow upon her the information that he and Rachel just fucked in the costume closet. He also informs Serena about Rachel’s misdeeds and admits to his father that seeing Rachel was a mistake, which is a good realization to come to considering she decides to skip town and head back to Iowa. That’s all for the best, really, because NOBODY LIKED HER.

And after all of this, Chuck, losing Elle, decides he’s ready to come back to the girl who loves him, only she’s busy drowning her sorrows at a bar with Carter Bayson. I look forward to the Chuck vs. Carter contest for Blair’s heart.