"You will do no such thing. This goes far beyond bad taste in boyfriends," Lily says, which Serena points out is totally hypocritical considering they not only encouraged her, but were taken in by him themselves, but Lily has a valid point: "If word gets out about this, all anyone will ever think when they hear the name Serena van der Woodsen is how you helped scam your friends and family out of hundreds of thousands of dollars." And when you put it that way, Lily's right. This is a melodrama plot on a melodrama show, so it's sort of genius to have a character point that out and go, "What do we, live in a parallel universe where time and space don't matter, nobody ever goes to school, tweens get served at popular bars and Chuck Bass exists? No way are you going to solve a six-figure investment scam on your own, little lady. This isn't Swan's Crossing."
Lily says she's being naïve, pointing out that "the Madoff people" will ultimately spend a decade in court and never see a dime, and she's not going out like that. "The only plan is for me to quietly tell everyone that the deal didn't work out and pay them back myself." Which again is a good plan. Serena brings up Poppy, and of course Lily wasn't downstairs a second ago when they found out she was the actual baddie, but takes this info in stride. "She can't just get away with it," Serena says, and Lily yells. "Yes, she can. And especially if it means that your name stays out of it. This is an adult scandal. And the adult thing to do is for me to pay everyone back and for you to do absolutely nothing." All true, but way scary: "Now let it go. Am I understood?" Serena slinks off, defeated, and Lily does the whole Wonder Woman transition, moving from chilly to friendly in the time it takes her to cross back to Bruce at the table, and says she'd like to handle Rufus's investment refund "a little differently." Which I'm sure won't activate every Vanessa Abrams self-righteousness neuron in that head of his.
It's always scandal, it's always the weird Bogart "loose woman" thing; it's always the family being protected from Serena's mistakes, just like Bart and just like before. But there's a whole other thing here, which is that Serena knows she's being held accountable for this in some way, and she's got the bling digging into her wrist to remind her of that. So how come Poppy gets to go free, while Serena -- who essentially did nothing wrong, and cracked the case besides -- gets another mark on the infinite Old Serena scoreboard? You praise her for being an adult, jumping the gun from 21 to 18, and then tell her she's not allowed to fix the problem, which she's already admirably doing, in her own self-evaluation?