Why would you guarantee a pilot on the fall schedule, then put it untested in the hottest time slot of the entire week? Wednesdays are the new Thursdays, not to mention the fact that three of the four nets are aiming for the same demographic, and my God, you think Private Practice skews older? I wish. It's called the Carrie Bradshaw Phenomenon and it means that from age ten to thirty-five, you always watch shows about people ten years older than you, because it's aspirational, because they wear better clothes and have more dramatic relationships than you do. What the CBP means on Wednesday night is that half of this show's target is watching Addison Montgomery dancing around naked, men are playing Halo 3 and don't care, and everybody else is watching that awful Bionic Woman show. Aren't you just asking to get the show canceled at that point? Who would do that? It's especially upsetting because this is maybe the best show in the entire universe, possibly, and every week is better than the last. Not only do Kati and Isabel continue to dress like crazy Yeah Yeah Yeah elves from Planet Cobraskank, but the school choir totally sings Fergie. It's like a fairy tale. On a sixer of Sparks and a bottle of Robitussin.
Anyway, this week's party with a fight inside is the Constance Billard/St. Jude Ivy Week mixer, where the Juniors meet and greet the collegial elite. Dan's hoping for the chance to squire the Dartmouth rep, Nate's looking to ditch since he doesn't want to stay on the East Coast, Blair's on the hunt for a Yale offer, and Serena is a shoo-in for Brown. Meanwhile, Kati (as token Asian science whiz) invented Post-Its. Who knew? Not Jenny, who wears her second-hand Eleanor Waldorf dress to the party and continues to fall deeper and deeper in love with Eric. To be honest, I see where she's going with it, because he's awesome in this episode. Also excellent? Miss Blair Waldorf, who fakes a traveling injury, among other outrages, in her agenda to destroy Serena. She employs Chuck in this pursuit, and he takes pictures of Serena entering Eric's treatment facility. This leads Blair to loudly and hilariously proclaim Serena's nonexistent drug rehab to the entire mixer. In order to protect her brother and mother, S goes along with the ruse, earning a little bit of respect from Dan and Lily both. In the end, Nate and Dan come to a sexy rapprochement, Serena and Dan get close again, Lily and Rufus can't stay away from each other, and Eric puts a serious smackdown on Blair, flashing his scars at her and daring her to continue acting heinous. She meets Serena at the Bethesda fountain in the rain, and reads her the letter she would have sent a year ago, when she was herself cracking up -- if she'd known where the hell to send it. They tearfully forgive each other, but all is not forgotten and they don't really hug or anything. Next week, the watchword seems to be "Fidelio." If we even get there...
After the endless recap, Gossip Girl warns us about Serena's response to Blair's non-stop assaults: "It takes two to tangle, and girls like these don't go down without a fight!" Unless they're Serena on the night of the Shepherd wedding last year! Zing!
Those awful credits, and then we're into the best teaser yet: The principals of the show getting ready for the last day of Ivy Week while the Constance Billard Choir sings "Glamorous" in the background. It's pretty awesome, but the long version is better. This whole act of the show is really interesting from a narrative point of view, because it skips around about six timelines the entire time, linking certain points of dialogue to certain events from earlier in the day, and it does it without ceasing, and it does it without calling attention to itself, and it does it without being particularly challenging to follow, which is craftsmanship. But if you were to actually diagram this act, like a sentence, it would fuck you up.
Serena looks fabulous, if harried; Blair looks, if possible, even more perfectly put together than usual; Nate and Chuck are Nate and Chuck, which is to say they're both pretty variable but well-lit; and Dan is covered in shaving mishaps. Also, I think this is the point where he chooses his lipstick shade for the episode. They've always done weird things with makeup on this show, especially with the boys, but the truly bizarre thing here is that I don't think he's actually wearing lipstick at any point. I think Penn Badgley's lips are naturally Urban Decay Chicago Sheer Frost Lube In A Tube-colored, or else this week Dan's being played by a very sexy corpse, but it's super-distracting either way. While these five people are staring at themselves in the mirror, and the song is playing, we're getting a third line of data from GG herself: "There's plenty of upside to being the spawn of the fabulously wealthy. But the downside? Super-successful parents accept nothing less from their offspring. And when it comes to college, that means the Ivies. It's more than just getting into college, it's setting a course for the rest of your life. And for those few who aren't legacies, the pressures are no less. When parents have sacrificed for their children's futures, what kid would wanna let them down?"
I am on the record as a longtime hater of Fergie. I think she's vapid and trashy and inspires trashiness and vapidness in others, and thus makes America worse and not better. She also pees in her pants. But the number one thing I can't stand about Fergie is her constant lyrical desire -- as though she even writes her own songs, or is more than functionally literate -- to have it both ways. "I'm a glamorous fashion whore, but I also eat Taco Bell in my Mustang," "big girls don't cry, but they do talk in ridiculous infantilized abuse-survivor stripper baby-voice, and refer to themselves as 'big girls,'" et cetera. Fergie to me is like some kind of My Name Is Earl nightmare where getting on COPS is the same thing as being famous. My hatred for her is no less real for being irrational and creepy in its own right. However, I will say that this show has made me love this song, both versions of it, and also that "Clumsy" is awesome. But the awesomeness of all this Fergie in Chapel is obvious, in terms of the heightened reality that this show keeps trying to tell you it's shooting for. In real life, choirs don't sing about poppin' champagne in a private jet or driving through Taco Bell "raw as hell." But in the UES, this is how we roll, and that is brilliant. I wish they would do that ten times as much as they do, because it seems really watered down and just kind of weird, instead of cracked-out Popular-style madness, which frankly is the only thing S4 of The O.C. was missing. You cannot say the words "heightened reality" to me without me immediately thinking about Mary Cherry, and I don't mean the silliness or even the over-the-topness of it, just the general feeling that these are not our people and they are not playing by our rules. God knows Dan Humphrey's the only person ever on television more irritatingly superior than Sam McPherson.
Constance Billard, the girls' school, and St. Jude, the boys', are having Chapel together, which is where Jenny is singing Fergie with her choirmates. She's wearing knee-socks, either because she's such an Alternative Humphrey and thus is an individual, or because she's stepping out with the Blair Army behind her and thus is an individual, I can't tell. We've reached the end of Ivy Week, the Billard Headmistress explains, and per tradition, the juniors of the two schools will split responsibility for the culminating Friday Night Mixer. The girls will do the thing itself, and certain of the boys will squire the various school reps as "ushers," or what was once known in the land of Sparta as the aïtas. "For those of you who dream of attending an Ivy League school, this mixer is the most important event of your life. But no pressure," she chuckles, and that means Dan.