She takes off to be unbearable somewhere else, and Eric is all, "Here we go again," but Little J has her Invincible Billie Jean face on again as she marches right into another iteration of the "monarchy ends tonight" speech, this time because "the cycle of abuse must be broken." It's a good thing Momsen's such a good actor, because this storyline -- fighting the institution from inside the institution and being swallowed and corrupted by it -- is fun, but damaged by the hamfisted Telling Not Showing disease of this episode.
Serena, who's just lovely in her emerald commencement gown, randomly appears at Dan's side, where he's staring at the ceremony program. His name was left off the list of graduates, so they're bringing out some insert. He literally says, "I'm waiting to approve a special insert for the program," right, but then in a second when it's wrong, he just laughs and lets it slide. Which I'm tempted to think is Dan's famously mordant sense of humor, but it really just seems like dumb writing. "At least you're special!" Serena burbles, because of course she would think having a special insert just for you in every single program is even cooler than just having your name in the program to begin with. Then this totally cute guy with a staring problem brings out the insert card: "We apologize for the inadvertent omission of Daniel Humphrey from the graduation program. He is indeed graduating. Congratulations, Don." And I guess Dan "approves" this incorrect thing, because the kid runs off...
Into a high-concept tracking shot that fails in execution, as Blair randomly tags along behind him on a zig-zaggingly random path through the courtyard so she can have her scene with Chuck. She tries to tell him she broke up with Nate, he stares at her and stands weirdly for a bit, and she fumbles, then runs away while he smarms at her. Then the Headmaster and Queller tell everybody to line up -- "Girls on one side, boys on the other, like we practiced," as though that's really complicated" -- and B offers a lame "good luck up there" in lieu of actual words. And considering nobody's going to walk across the stage at any point, that's just dumb too.
Inside, Rufus and Lily are feeling all weird because they planned all along to sit together. So now it's Rufus and Lily, Jenny and Eric with Jonathan, sitting at graduation and feeling horrible and weird about it. Then Cyrus and Eleanor show up and Cyrus is all ebullient like always, talking about how they're just fucking around dating when they could be getting married, because mortality is always on Cyrus's mind. Rufus and Lily laugh politely and act weird about it, and Rufus gives some mealymouthed Rufus response about the journey or whatever, and Lily shuts him right up about that because she's in no mood. Finally Eric tells everybody politely to STFU, and the Shiny Toy Guns' "Season Of Love" starts playing. It's tonally perfect, all war drums and processional-sounding; it's even nicer when you know it will reprise at the end of the episode, when the actual growing-up happens.
Doppelqueller starts giving some speech about "bright new beginnings" while Blair whines to Serena about how she chickened out from telling Chuck that she's in love with him. Serena, for whom of course every conversation about this is the first one, because she has the attention span of a fruitfly, is supportive. She has her graduation tassel braided into her hair, sans mortarboard, which is awesome on all levels. Blair mans up as a result of her encouragement, and goes, "So what if I'm not going to Yale? You were recently incarcerated, and I'm afraid to talk to Chuck because he might hurt me again. This is our moment. Nobody can take that from us!" So of course -- as DQ is like, "I urge you to go out into the world and show them who you have become" -- everybody's phones go off, because God forbid Blair Waldorf get one second off.
Not so fast. You're not graduating until I give you my diplomas. Mine are labels, and labels stick. Nate Archibald: Class Whore. Dan Humphrey: the Ultimate Insider. Chuck Bass: Coward. Blair Waldorf: Weakling. And as for Serena van der Woodsen? After today, you are officially Irrelevant.
Isabel and Penelope gawp and freak out, and when the admins tell the class of 2009 to stand up, they are incapable of doing so, because this is so amazing what has happened. Little do they know that these labels are actually pretty meaningless at this point, and also: wasn't that the marketing campaign way back in the fall? Those labels sound really familiar. Serena will be damned, though, and says GG is going down.
It sucks because nearly every single moment of this episode is horrifyingly flawed, but the story is so awesomely solid. Even if the labels don't make sense at this point, they're all being herded by them into positions where they have to look at their entire lives to this point -- taking both seasons into account -- and make the decision to get over it, together and singly.
So: the fact that Dan is this huge hypocrite remora who touts his Outsider narrative while taking more advantage of the class of his betters than any of them, is more interesting for being exposed than it is for being true. And then, this also parallels his real irrelevance in the Constance world as signified in the program, and also the way that Vanessa does the exact same thing, and how they both benefit. Jenny too, actually: she's more inside/outsidey than any of them, but I feel like she does it with dignity.
And you've got Blair's personal narrative, which is always going to be about strength and control, and vetting that control on her own body and her compatriots, and is ultimately pretty pointless because it completely misses the point that she's awesome. So she thinks that this has to do with Chuck, but honestly it scores on the deepest level, because without her strength she is literally nothing. And what transcends this particular dichotomy she's having such trouble with is the idea that sometimes strength is about chilling out and not letting fear control you -- which has been the ultimate endpoint of the burlesque the entire time -- that the appearance of strength is usually an indication of its opposite, which is the thing Serena's been trying to teach her forever.
Nate is literally the class whore, right. But he's also been the only person this entire year to actually bear the marks of classism on his flesh: his father's conspicuous consumption, his mother's pride, being caught in the middle of this intergenerational bullshit that has nothing to do with him. He's maintained in the middle of all this by doing whatever's necessary: homelessness, prostitution. DUMBO even. The razor edge balance between being part of his family without becoming Tripp, which is to say the bounce he does between being Vanessa's boyfriend who rises above the Vanderbilts and being Blair's boyfriend who revels in it. Dan and Rufus talk a good game, and Jenny really gets in there and fights, but only Nate has actually, at any point, paid the price for the straight-up fact that some people have lots of money and some people don't, and your best bet is to be super nice and conduct yourself with decorum -- never complain, never explain -- no matter which way your fortunes are going. And I mean there's an argument to be made that possibly he figured this out onstage during The Age Of Innocence, because of the role that he was playing and the fact that nothing he was screaming about had much to do with anything that was actually going on.
Chuck-Charlie-Charles, I mean, his whole point is not being involved in any of this. Glorying in irrelevance. But I do like "Coward," because so much of his story this year, separate from the Blair stuff, has been about literally playing out Hamlet, with the rapey uncle and dead Dad and absolute misery he was so successfully putting off until Bart died and he inherited the kingdom. The parts without Blair are, I think, the more interesting parts because he's involved in two completely unrelated personal stories: the love thing, which involves both Blair and his relationship with Lily and his family, and the grownup thing, wherein he's never acted like a realistic teenager, but once the world actually demanded that he stop being a teenager, he jumped in the deepest darkest teenager hole he could think of to get away from it. His decision was -- and is -- to make no decision at all, which is the most cowardly move you can ever make.
And then there's Serena, who is sort of a plot tool in these last few episodes as she keeps making attempts at "s