SO GOOD. So this poor guy has to decide who'll give the freshman toast at NYU Parents' Weekend, and he's got it narrowed down to two girls: the eight-fer genetic fondue pot that is Vanessa Abrams, and... Blair Waldorf, for some reason. Unbeknownst to anybody, Dan invites the Duffster along, so she accepts the alumnus's original invitation to give the speech in order to surprise him and his family with how down-to-earth she really is.
Also, everybody on the show is wearing the same asymmetrical purple dress and it's super weird. I thought this was another NYU thing but it's not, because Serena is wearing one, and she's now fully made the switch to the Nate Show. After Blair wages serious mental warfare on Vanessa, she gets Dan to uninvite Olivia, then accidentally tells Olivia that he did it because he's embarrassed by her superstar status. This all comes down the pike because Vanessa's mom -- perfect Gina Torres, from Alias and Firefly -- is twice as Vermontalicious as her daughter, hates NYU for a million reasons including H.R. Dufnstuf, and I guess will only give Vanessa the respeito she desperately needs by seeing her give this speech.
Blair basically wants it because she is: Batshit crazy. Having gotten Duffington Post out of the way via the gaping need Vanessa embodies, she sends Chuck in to secure the lips of the alumni liaison -- not to mention a "Previouslies" quote for future seasons when Chuck finally goes gay ("Did you think I'd never kissed a guy before?") -- but then it turns out it's not actual whoring, because the guy just wanted the kiss for a gay scavenger hunt, which is redundant. However, Chuck's upset because he only likes kissing B.
Duffy the Humphrey Slayer eventually drags Dan to the banquet anyway, just so she can embarrass him in front of Lily and Rufus by acting like a Hollywood dick. Then V tricks Blair into talking shit over the microphone, embarrassing herself plus everybody else, but especially B for not seeing a total cliché heading straight for her head. Her overheard confession, however, includes the part about lying/whoring out Chuck, which hurts his feelings -- especially poignant once Lily points out that Chuck would full-on bone a dude if Blair asked him to, because he is just that devoted to her, so she shouldn't have lied in the first place.
(Meanwhile, on a different show entirely, everything is crazy: Nate promises to help Serena win Carter back from the Buckleys through poker, and eventually raises the stakes to include a picture of Future Congressman Tripp van der Bilt with a van der bong, but they lose. The reason he's willing to risk so much for a guy who once bet his ass in a poker game would be more confusing if it weren't Nate. But twist! Come to find out the photo is fake, and the whole thing was a Nate/Grandfather plan to discredit the Buckleys -- meaning S totally got played by Nate! She eventually settles Carter's debts by warning the Buckleys, but too late: Carter throws a fit because he wanted to prove he was a man by settling his own debt, and ends up peacing anyway, dropping a surfeit of smolders on his way out.)
Dan and Shia LaDuff figure out that Vanessa has once again stuck her psycho Navajo jewelry in their relationship, confront her, and before she can cry and lie about it like always, the hits keep on coming: Gina Torres overhears Vanessa talking about what shitty parents she has, and bounces back home on a cloud of self-righteousness and authentic maple syrup. The episode ends with Chuck's trust seriously betrayed, S in tears, Olivia eating Humphrey waffles and Vanessa lonelier than ever, sharing a table at the Bleecker with Blair and watching her not eat a croissant. XOXO.
"To be a good actor or actress or anything else in the theatre means wanting to be that more than anything else in the world... It means concentration of desire or ambition, and sacrifice such as no other profession demands. And I'll agree that the man or woman who accepts those terms can't be ordinary, can't be just someone. To give so much for almost always so little."
"...So little, did you say? Why, if there's nothing else, there's applause."
After the opener, there's not the usual city opening or Gossip Girl voiceover. Instead, we open up like a flower on a sepia dream sequence: The beginning of All About Eve, which is where this episode gets a lot of subtext and a surprisingly small amount of the actual text. In the movie, we're flashing forward to the presentation of the Sarah Siddons memorial award for tragic actresses: She was known particularly for her Lady Macbeth.
Josh Ellis, whom we'll meet in a moment, holds the award aloft in a tux, before an old-timey audience: "...But what truly defines tonight's honored guest is not something that can be easily categorized..." The audio fades for a postmodern wink: a man's voice, telling us snarkily, The distinguished-looking gentleman at the podium is an alumnus of the university. He will go on speaking for a long time. It is not important that you hear what he says...
The theory goes that, counter to our own senses, you're never dreaming about anybody else: It's all parts of us. (That's also, incidentally, why you're doomed to failure trying to apply Oz rules to Where The Wild Things Are: Dreams happen a lot closer to home.) Blair looks amazing, of course, with Bette Davis Eyes; she's sitting next to Chuck, who looks amazing as well. In the olden days everybody looked great. She's getting nervous: "...In closing, those of us at the university who have had the pleasure of getting to know tonight's recipient know that she is a kind and gentle soul..."
That's not her; she knows that's not her. She dropped that one a long time ago. She had to. Chuck asks her if she's okay; she always swears she is. She has to. "...Her humility, her devotion, her love for us..." Blair prepares her sweetest smile, just in time for Ellis to introduce the winner: "...Miss Vanessa Abrams." Vanessa looks amazing. It's a nightmare. She spares Blair a tight little smile before giving everybody a little curtsey, brandishing the award for excellence as Blair begins to scream.