Wow. All sorts of amazing wonders! As much as I ended up liking last week's episode after a week with it, this one just proves what a weird shape last week's needed to be. So much of last week was setup that it's like a prologue -- a quick fumble on the jitney, if you will -- before the real premiere, which was jam-packed tightly with crazy. From the top:
(Columbia) Bree Buckley's face is less pointy this week, but Nate not only has razor burn from hell but some kind of horrible rash that is very distracting. Maybe she gave him scabies. Anyway, they try to live together in her parents' apartment for several days in order to burn through their relationship as quickly as possible -- think Hotel New Hampshire without the incest -- and end up forging all kinds of amazing romantic bonds and shit. Frankly, between the rash and the endless mushmouth love talk they could have planned a bank heist somewhere in there. Any case, it seems likely that the storyline is going to heat up pretty soon and we'll get him back on our show.
(Brown, sort of) Serena secretly doesn't want to go to Brown, and instead of fessing up she couch-hops for a couple of days, scotching a big business deal for Chuck and earning his powerful enmity. I can't remember the last time he was this mad. So he yells at her and says some things that are hurtful enough that she goes all the way to Brooklyn, where Dan makes her breakfast and tells her to ask Rufus for life advice, but when she gets there Chuck's already blown her spot, so she gets into a huge fight with Rufus, and in a fit of pique: defers college for a year, pulls Carter back into her orbit, uses him to fuck up Chuck's dreams some more and alienates them both, then: realizes she's acting completely crazy, apologizes to everybody, has a really wonderful heart-to-heart with Rufus, and tells Carter she wants to be with him.
(NYU) Blair informs Dan and Vanessa (who are still momentary enemies) that none of them know each other from this point forward, and attempts to conquer her entire dorm despite Chuck's sweet request that she stay with him at the Palace. This goes not-so-well, due to her usual mental illness but also to her new roommate GEORGINA SPARKS, who undermines her every strategy, makes friends with Vanessa (who lives down the hall), and earns Dan's sympathy, all with like barely any effort. Dan and Scott make friends, which makes Vanessa creepily happy, but later Scott acts unhinged when somebody asks him what classes he's taking, because he totally didn't transfer to NYU, because he's only there to cut off Dan's skin and wear it over his own.
(Crazytown) Feeling lost and alone, and thrown by Dan's mysterious popularity, Blair eventually asks him if she can go to Georgina's rooftop party AS HIS DATE. Oh, I'll say it again: Blair Waldorf asks Dan Humphrey to take her to Georgina Sparks's party as his date. But at some point this becomes an evil scheme-within-a-scheme-within-a-cry-for-help and she invites the OMJCers to ruin Georgie's party and out her as a Christian. Dan -- both out of a sense of justice and a newfound pride in being more popular than Blair -- makes B look like a total villain, and after a wonderful conversation with Serena about the future, she skulks back to Manhattan and a wonderfully sweet/depression-flagging daytime nap with Chuck.
(Super Crazytown) Everybody's full of familial feelings so there's talk about getting together to discuss the "epicness" that was the Georgina/Blair/Daniel/Jesus four-way cagematch, but Dan's too busy having HOOKED UP WITH GEORGINA! All this, the suddenly ubiquitous/still delightful Phoenix, Leighton Meester's Cobra Starship cameo (twice) and that Just Jack song (three times) too? I was going to say I missed Lily and the kids, but honestly: Where the heck would you have shoved 'em?
Flaubert, sometime between 1855-1901: "Though she had no one to write to, she had bought herself a blotter, a writing case, a pen and envelopes; she would dust off her whatnot, look at herself in the mirror... She wanted to die. And she wanted to live in Paris."
Gossip Girl, more recently: "Every Fall, confident high school seniors transform into nervous college freshmen. They leave their parents' homes for the hallowed halls of higher education; and like any new venture, starting college holds the promise of limitless opportunity..."
Dorota holds a tray up for Blair, who's looking at herself in the mirror: A blotter, a writing case, a pen, envelopes. She takes a headband off the whatnot, and Blair settles it tightly over her hair, where it belongs: "The opportunity to conquer a new territory..."
The facts and the figures, they overwhelm and stifle
Everything that you thought you knew...
That's Just Jack's "Embers," which is not only a great song and well-used thematically throughout the episode, but links us back to graduation, when that Shiny Toy Guns song kept playing the entire time.
And the petty decisions that you think make a difference
So tiny that they blow away like dust
"Or to try and be a little less Lonely," GG muses, as Dan pops a toaster waffle in his mouth and tries to summon up the courage to leave the empty DUMBO loft where he lives now. Meanwhile Serena, in a flurry of clothes and bags and giant-ass purses, gets a text from far-away Lily about how proud she is, and wishing her a good drive to Brown. Serena sighs and sits in the pile of her crap. "But just because the opportunity presents itself doesn't mean everybody is ready to take it."
Chuck and Blair make out near a limo at the Palace; she's wearing a completely inappropriate but adorable red dress, and he's paired a purple tie -- with which he cannot stop fidgeting for anything -- with a purple white-collar and, as we'll see, a pink pocket square. So I guess he's feeling much better. He's feeling horrified by the idea of B living in the NYU dorms -- "Fluorescent lighting, communal showers, public school girls? There's a place for that, and it belongs in the back of a video store" -- but she assures him it's only until she has minions in place. (Here Chuck makes some dumb anachronistic joke about "queens" and "Liza" that we won't actually dignify because it makes no sense at all, unless there's some kind of continuing education outreach program for irrelevant faggy Nathan Lane roles, or Chuck doesn't actually know any homosexuals under the age of retarded. Both of which seem unlikely.) "Chuck. I trust that when you say Never drink absinthe with Daniel Baldwin, you know what you're talking about." He almost giggles. "But when I say the first week of college means scared vulnerable freshmen needing someone to guide them..." Season One Chuck's massive rape boner at these words twangs out whatever she says next; more kissing; driverman pretends he's not suicidal at having to wait on these bastards' every whims.
Serena and Dan discuss his totally interesting relationship with Vanessa Abrams because of how she stalked him to Connecticut in order to act like an asshole in a new location, and Serena pretends that this is interesting, and she is all excited for him because finally they'll be going to the same school, because I don't know if you remember this but the kind of asshole that Vanessa is, is the homeschooled kind. "I guess you're right. It's probably not the best idea to be avoiding my only friend at NYU." God, when that friend is Vanessa it's just heartbreaking.
Serena tells him once again that he is going to make tons of friends at NYU because A) All freshman are the same kind of desperate and B) It's NYU. She keeps saying that and he never registers it as a total burn. Like how clueless: "Right, because the world of Greenwich Village intelligentsia is Dan Humphrey's natural habitat." (IT IS. YOU ARE THEIR ARAGORN.) "You're so lucky, NYU is exactly the right place for you," Serena repeats for the millionth time, and he mumbles something about Brown, but she's going into some kind of fugue state.
"Deep down, all the while, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she kept casting desperate glances over the solitary waster of her life, seeking some white sail in the distant mists of the horizon. She had no idea by what wind it would reach her, toward what shore it would bear her, or what kind of craft it would be... She listened for every sound, gave sudden starts, was surprised when nothing happened."
He says her name until she pulls it together, and she neglects to tell him what we have already figured out: That she's not going to Brown. And honestly all three of them did so much to sabotage themselves last year that I can't remember if we knew that or if it's part of the marvelous neverending grab-bag of crazy Serena brought with her this year.
Serena wishes Dan luck and hangs up, and some nosy girl -- one of the Greenwich Village intelligentsia -- gets on his jock about how he was published in The New Yorker that time. He's too giggly and she's too smarmy for him to go into the whole McInerney thing, but she doesn't care, she's just all over it. Oh yeah, she read it, and she loved it, but first she hated it, because she also submitted a thing to it, but then the thing she was submitting was her dignity, here now in this coffeeshop: "But then I read it and I was like okay fine I accept defeat at your hands, Dan Humphrey." Even Dan, to his credit, is amazed/embarrassed by that shit. I hate her terribly, and then more again: "Anyway, I have a writer's group. We meet every week. We're meeting here at noon tomorrow. You should come." Um, obviously he will? But also I think he just did.
Rufus and Serena have a way-awkward stepfatherish gadabout when he comes to tell her the car's there and that it's a big day and Lily's so proud and he's so proud too. Serena hugs Rufus in precisely the way you hug your mom's new live-in boyfriend: Affectionate, wise, and squirmingly uncomfortable. At NYU, things are similar. Remember unpacking all your stuff at the dorm? Random people's faces and you didn't know if you'd even ever know them, or hate them, or what would happen, and everybody's parents Rufussing around and being awkward, and everybody else being awkward, and nobody knows anything, and everybody's consulting little pieces of paper? The mad rush of feeling like an asshole, at like the one time in your life where you know everybody's exactly as lonely and clueless as you are.