So if the whole first season, as explicated and explored by the S/Lonelyboy relationship, was about Brooklyn v. Manhattan, no money v. old money v. new money, then this season has to raise the bar by introducing aristocracy, which is the only thing every single person on this show is beneath. Even poor royalty, which BFF Jeremy is convinced they somehow secretly are, is still above Waldorf and Bass, the same way that Bart Bass has more money but less old-money cachet than the Waldorf millions. And you know how much I love the whole theory about the show as a regular drama with the bottom 85% of Maszlow's Pyramid chopped off and tossed in the trash -- mo' money mo' problems, etc. -- so I think it's incredibly canny not only in terms of the show's scope but in the ongoing project that is Blair Waldorf to introduce Lord Marcus and his attendant class warfare bullshit at just this second. Because if we're going to have Blair rising from the flames constantly, which is after all the best thing about the show, you have to put her in the flames occasionally, and last year wore out her stigma card pretty much. So: introduce a higher social class than even the previous ridiculous social class the show was about, and watch her dog-paddle her way to victory. Which I love, of course, but I think what I love the most is the ridiculous dialogue that results: whenever Marcus or the Duchess comes up, everybody starts talking like Cassidine fan fiction written by a bright fourteen-year-old girl in 1982, all "common American/lowly Waldorf" this and "love me for my title" that. It's simultaneously the lamest and most awesome thing about this season.
Dan and Serena take a turn around the rooftop garden; Dan's loving how Blair actually calls Marcus "The Lord," and Serena is all about breaking their rules again because she's so happy to see him, but then spots Chuck Bass over Dan's shoulder and shudders. Aaaand he's there as Duchess Catherine's plus-one. Blair runs up to them with a shiny bright knife in her hand to stab Chuck with, and Serena's having that nightmare where you try to run and your feet don't move, so she can't save Blair from the shit she's about to pull, nor can she tell Dan exactly why this is the worst thing that could happen, because she knows Catherine and her history. Chuck grins and says he thought B would like to meet his friend, which B finds revolting: "Why? So she can warn me about the effects of too much Botox?" Catherine smiles toothily and confirms that she's talking to Blair Waldorf, who smiles tiredly as though to say, "I am already having a day here, bitch," and Catherine -- apparently having misplaced her own copy of DeBrett's -- informs her that she is "Duchess Beaton." Serena OMGs and Blair puts an awesome face on it, despite nearly barfing around the foot she's got lodged in her mouth: "...Nice to meet you!" Catherine smiles, because she remains the reigning champion of women with an unhealthy interest in her stepson, and B just stepped in shit a mile deep.