"That slipped out. I hadn't quite made up my mind to admit it. Now I suddenly feel as if I've taken all my clothes off."
PJ laughs and sips his cognac or whatever, his lap-dance lap open wide: "Buy-in's $25,000." Nate drops it, and S gets nervous: it's a lot of money. "So don't lose," he says, and she smiles. She still doesn't know -- who could? -- how far down this goes. How much of an object she's called upon to be. "Pull up a seat," PJ says, as she smiles playfully at him; he calls her "Darlin'." She sits, and he takes her in, tasting ever inch. She is still for it: She's been training for this moment her whole life. All of our lives.
At the Bleecker, Dan can't believe that Vanessa's now telling him to disinvite Olivia. "Remember the whole 'People like you better when they meet your family' thing?" She nods, and folds it into her plot: "You don't want to be outshone by your family. And not to mention she's been in Japan for ten days, she's probably having reverse culture shock." Dan notes that this is not a thing, and that Vanessa is nuts, so she recalibrates. "Why don't you do something more casual, but also romantic? Dinner, just the two of you. You can make your special chicken..." Dan laughs. He has no special chicken.
Vanessa won't tell Dan what's really up, so he goes to get a refill, and she finally "levels" with him about how she's being the worst roommate ever, but in fact Olivia is terrified to meet his family for some reason. Which he knows is bunk, but after all it's Vanessa, so he just kind of gets bummed instead of calling bullshit, even though she pulled this same shit last week. "She just feels that it's way, way too soon," Vanessa explains, and when Dan says he knew this would happen, she's shocked, but she recovers well: "I mean, yeah, of course." She offers to give him a recipe for the "Special Chicken" and leaves, but at least she spares a moment in the entry to feel shitty about how shitty she's being. Say what you will, but Vanessa Abrams will always spare a moment of guilt, even while barreling ahead with whatever vicious shit she's pulling, and that's something.
"Cardboard Robot" by The Meeting Places greets us when we return to the poker game, which as usual is more interesting than it seems, because Serena is always more interesting than she seems: "...Keep you on the other side, in my mind perfect/ Even though we're being told -- in these times, trading lines -- we're all the same.../ Will things work or will it hurt, it's a game/ I'll be the one on the sidelines shouting your name, waiting for thoughts to form/ Try to describe a dream that we can all dissect." That's Serena as cheerleader on the sidelines of her own scary life; that's Nate sitting right behind her.