Seems like this happened in Season One, with the strike: A variable number of episodes meant a sort of summing-up right before the finale, because the numbers kept getting rejiggered. You had a normal story, told in normal ways, that got stretched and tinyfied all over the place, with the big Come to Jesus so the finale would still be awesome. And I can't even remember right now if that happened this year (25 to 22? Am I making this up?), but I can say that's exactly what it feels like.
In which case you have a lot of options, because all this episode has to do, like any episode of any show, is get from A to B. In this case, the A-to-B is about explaining the entire season, vanderwise: Where Lily was and why Serena is crazy this year. And one option -- the one they went with -- is to have everybody sit around awkwardly explaining the entire season to each other in various locales.
Now, on the one hand that's embarrassing, because there are literally infinite ways to do this without making everybody Nate talking to Nate. But on the other hand, at least they gave it to the best director the show's got, who can shine some shinola real pretty, in the desperate attempt to make it an actual story instead of essentially Gossip Girl & The Deathly Hallows: A friend's account of the Cliff's Notes version of the story we could actually just be watching. Not a silk purse, not the tailor's fault.
I almost wanted to write this whole recap as a conversation about what the recap might be about, could be about, should be about, will be about, but I thought no, that would be really fucking annoying. The difference is that I love you, and I would actually think about things like that. And if I did it, I would at least know that I was doing it, instead of turning it in last minute like a term paper for a gimme class, which is what this script is. But instead, we're going to get this over with as quickly as possible, because there's not a whole lot to talk about here.
On paper, bare bones, this idea is amazing: Two teams, Chuck/Jenny (which let's talk about years of tension, sexual and otherwise) and Dan/Nate (which let's talk about mostly sexual tension) both maneuver their way around the entire UES and Lily's useless ass in order to solve a mystery, and of course in both cases the only thing they need is Blair. That is genius, and right on the money. Especially because the other major player, Miss Serena, is so wacked out on Will -- and so dangerous generally, should she so choose -- that they can't even let her find out Thing One about what they're trying to do.