"Well, I don't know, Dad. I mean, do you... Do you have any wild guesses? Any thoughts?" Rufus pours coffee, jittering and nervous, cowardly and confused. She hasn't given an answer yet: could mean something, could mean nothing. He hopes it means something; he hopes to read the yearning and the terrible rage of a mourning son like tea leaves. "Who knows? The kid's dad just died, he's upset." Dan nods: That's what CeCe said too. Another bearer of the secret, another person protecting Lily and Serena and Dan from the truth.
The whole incest taboo thing with Rufus and Lily and Dan and Serena not dating at the same time has always seemed kind of silly, a conceit, you know. Like way worse things haven't happened in the families they know: child labor, prostitution, rape, B&E, murder, extortion, kidnapping, Vanessa Abrams... But in this episode it's absolutely necessary. The characters talk a good game about how they're consciously mirroring the finale last year: Serena's request that Lily marry Bart to keep the Humphreys off the table, Lily and Rufus both agreeing to smile like they mean it, etc. That this is a reversal and payback, somehow, for the things that they gave up or had taken from them. That's exactly half the story.
Because you don't have four players here, you have eight. Four sets of parents and four sets of children, playing a complicated dance Jane Austen would probably have a name for. The parts of it aren't going to stop whirling, so we might as well jump in anywhere, so let's see. Eleanor's food stuff with Blair = Bart's burlesque stuff with Chuck = Rufus's van der Woodsen stuff with Dan = Lily's Humphrey stuff with Serena. Four cases in which the son carries his father's burden and the daughter carries her mother's, and everybody knows it, and nobody says anything. It's everybody that takes over their parents' roles in this episode: the controlled characters abandon the burlesque and themselves to emotion and worse, and the freer and more authentic characters are bound tighter than ever before:
Blair flees from her mother's particularly sick brand of control into the overgenerous arms of Cyrus Rose, almost begging for a relapse in her hunger for love. Chuck flees from his father's controlling surveillance into a nightmare of his own devising. And Dan and Serena, played like knights in a chess game by their adulterous parents, put themselves into straitjackets they don't even understand yet: Serena knowingly and deliberately playing out the Rufus/Bart conundrum in Aaron's arms, and Dan retreating into a loneliness we've only ever heard about. Dan and Chuck's paths now seem like parallels down a tunnel, sold out by their parents and orphaned by their own inability to play the game properly. And echoing B last week, when the Roses disappoint Blair and Serena -- and eventually, you know they will -- it's going to unleash horror. And it all starts here.