Hell, yes! So Dan and Serena agree to take it slow for like five seconds, but that lasts approximately as long as it takes Serena to turn the jitney back to Manhattan into a hilariously seductive one-woman show of 9 1/2 Weeks. (I realized tonight that I badly misread the scene last week when Serena was scrubbing his suit and he apologized for calling her a whore a billion times; now I can actually enjoy whatever's going on with them. I am a dolt sometimes.) Blair's emotional cover stories-within-cover stories have gotten so insane that she's now convinced she's actually in love with Lord Marcus, whose judgmental, overinvested mother, the Duchess, is also... Nate's girlfriend Catherine! The cougar is a MILF!
While everyone acknowledges that charming Marcus is a total plot device, both inside and outside the show, the Duchess is actually a lot scarier and cooler than she first appeared. Watching her flip back and forth between cute Catherine and demonic Duchess is... kind of like watching Blair do things, meaning it's awesome. Blair steps in about ten kinds of shit trying to get the Duchess's approval, but only after discovering her ex and her future Duchess-in-law in flagrante does she realize just how many of the cards she's holding.
Chuck, who tries to get in good with the Duchess and Lord to wreck Blair's relationship, doesn't even really register this turn of events, because he's too busy selling his shares of Victrola to pay off the Archibald debts without telling Nate. Awww. Also slipping Nate cash currently is the Duchess, so he made it three whole months before going back to prostitution. He spends the entire episode trying to get somebody to talk to him about the fact that the feds are invading every part of his life looking for his dad and assets, but as usual -- even though he's the only person on this entire show with actual problems -- nobody really cares, so he ends at lowest common denominator Vanessa again; she's still holding a candle for him. (So I guess Nate's gonna be caught between royalty and … whatever the awful fuck Vanessa is … but what I really want to see is the inevitable takedown in which the Duchess finally tells Vanessa what a worthless piece she really is. And then kicks Dan in the nuts, God willing.)
Vanessa is also worming her way back into the Humphriana, having put a coffee shop in Rufus's gallery -- although apparently she got permission first, so I guess she's growing as a person -- and he offers to let her run it while he goes on tour with Tanya Donnelly. (Tanya Donnelly!) Of course Vanessa has all the time in the world, because she's home-schooled. (Of course she fucking is.) After finally realizing that he is the worst parent of all time and that his children are relatively awesome, he decides to stay home. No Eric, no Lily or Eleanor, hardly any Jenny... This one belongs to Sexy New Serena, Dan's pectoral muscles and Blair, who spends the entire episode tossing off awesome one-liners, throwing crappy parties, and rising from the flames like a phoenix in Dolce, while blackmailing the Duchess to let her keep dating Lord Marcus. Next stop matrimony, bitches -- if next week's blackout and attendant sexual misconduct doesn't bring things crashing down on everybody.
"As summer comes to an end, I'd like to share a few of the things I've learned about fun in the sun. Gossip Girl's Guide To Summer, Tip #1: Don't fall asleep on the job. The best hookups are free of morning breath and awkward conversation: the only thing harder than making up is waking up." Serena wakes up on Dan's chest on the beach. Both are still dressed in their excellent outfits from the White Party. She smiles at his face on waking -- I particularly like how his trap is shut when he sleeps, just like a quiet and nonjudgmental angel -- and then thinks a bit harder. She sits up in her bra, and he soon wakes and starts kissing her. She puts on her grandfather's jacket from the '70s and gets weird. He immediately asks if she's "overwhelmed," presumably by the amazingness of their romance and the romantic-ness of having sand in your clothes with the sun coming up, and she's like, "Yes, as in confused." He agrees that last night was mindblowingly awesome, and kisses her again. She's like, "Do you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth?" No, never. He admits that he's confused, so she tries to explain. But just like every other time they fake break up, it doesn't make a shitload of sense, so the burden of proof is once again on the breaker-upper.
"Well, it was so romantic what you did, showing up here," because I know when you travel all the way from the city to call me a whore and act like a total hypocrite that we are truly in love, "And it feels so right to be together..." But, Dan realizes, she's having second thoughts. In order to have second thoughts about a subject, isn't it first necessary to have ... thoughts? "I just think that we should think... Before we get back together, right?" Dan is noncommittal w/r/t this plan of action, because if Serena ever thinks about his behavior for more than one solid minute, she will shoot him in the head. "I thought this meant we were back together," he protests, and he's not wrong, because in fact they are back together, and no amount of running around and farcical hilarity is going to change that. It's one of those situations where what happens is really funny and awesome, but if you think hard about what's really going on, it makes no sense at all. She's asking for "time to think" so that we can witness their ludicrous attempts to keep their hands off each other, and because it's fun and Serena is awesome to watch, that's enough. But if you think about it, that's the ... only reason any of this has happened. This scene is a down payment on a subprime mortgage that buys the storyline in this episode.