Spotted: Lisa Loeb, looking exactly the same as she always has, singing the song she's always sung, and playing host to Rufus and Lily's reconciliation and boot-knocking. That part was awesome, because of course their sad, Laura-Ashley-lunchbox-purse love could only be reignited at a “Where Are They Now?” party for lame '90s bands. It also goes well with the storyline, which is straight out of Boy Meets World.
The good? Seeing an entire storyline based on the fact that Dan is sometimes a judgmental prick, which does more to rejuvenate his character into awesomeness than anything else could. Also: seeing Nate, Blair and Chuck team up to save Serena after she goes on a bender. Apparently after she dropped the murder bomb on Blair last night, she stumbled out into the street and engaged in bad behavior like getting hung over and losing her phone. Chilling! Lock up your daughters! In case they lose their phones!
The bad? The murder was less of a murder and more of the Serena van der Woodsen consequence-free spin. The guy in the sex tape, which is not even of a threesome, did a line of his own coke preparatory to boning Serena, and keeled over dead. While it's understandable that she'd be this freaked out and drama about it (sixteen-year-olds seem to really overreact when people drop dead in front of them, not to mention the fact that this story would have played out a lot longer before the Strike), but from a narrative standpoint, it's kind of anticlimactic. Big reveal: Serena dutifully called 911 and then waited outside to watch the paramedics wheeling his dead ass off! Somebody page the Parents Television Council! We are out of control!
So Lily -- after a Rolling Stone interviewer mostly nonsensically moves the Rufus plot along -- sees the non-sex of the non-sex tape, freaks out on Serena for about five seconds at the rehearsal dinner, and then Blair talks her down. She takes time out of her day to drive Serena to the guy's house so that his parents can tell her she didn't do anything wrong, and the whole problem is solved. So Lily's confrontation of Serena about the non-murder, and Serena's absolution of the non-murder -- arguably the point of the entire show right now -- both take place off-stage. OMFG! Scandalicious!
After Serena lies to Dan that she cheated on him during her bender -- Which she did not! I'm so scandalized! -- Vanessa and Dan learn that Sarah is really Georgina, but don't seem very interested in that info, even when Chuck and Blair show up to murder her. (That part was pretty awesome.) Then Dan and Georgina go off and fuck while everybody peacefully stands around staring at each other and refusing to give a damn about anything, wearing chic outfits. It's basically like, imagine The Hills, but with even more staring and chewing and ennui.
Okay, so obviously the worst episode of this show -- which this is -- is still better than anything else that was ever on television -- which it also is -- but the whole thing's very interesting. I don't know anything for a fact, but this job has taught me a little bit about television, so here's what I'm thinking. Basically every television season, from the monster-length ones like The O.C. to the itsy ones like Weeds, generally operate on a three-act structure. Blame Aristotle or whatever, but generally you have the first act, The Little Bad, which in this case was Blair, taking out her misery and loneliness on Serena. Then you have the second act, which resolves the Little Bad (Blair's fall from grace; Jenny's rise) and then the third act, presaged in the first act, coming to fruition: The Big Bad (Georgina).
Every episode of this show starts with a very simple, whispered question: Why did Serena actually leave? I always wondered why, since we'd seem to have exhaustively covered that, and now we know: the third act. Usually, a pilot gets ordered to season with a thirteen-episode commitment: that's the first two acts, a complete story, with the back nine ordered later. But Gossip Girl, because of its total awesomeness (and the fact that the CW is no longer majoring in awesome), was given a 22-episode order sometime around like the first or second episode.
And what should have happened is a normal 22-part, three-act structure like any show. But because of the Strike, it went on hiatus at exactly the same time it would have ended if it had been a thirteen-episode commitment: "Thin Line." That' s a complete story: the reconciliation of Serena and Blair, and the fall of the House of Waldorf. And you'd still have nine episodes of the Big Bad to finish things out.
Except that post-strike, the third act got cut by half. Half: from nine to five. The whole season being broken a year or two ago, including the finale, there's no way around that. Something had to take the heat. There had to be an episode to serve as the Serena for the season, and cover the ass, and this is it. Next week, that was already set in stone: it's the finale, whose elements are implicit in the preceding 17 chapters; last week, the best episode of the series to date, worked perfectly. This is where the crunch happens because this is where it has to happen. And you know, in five days I've really turned around on it. I was disappointed by the blur of movement that it represented, but looking at it as an episode unto itself, it's not bad. All the stuff is there, just moving super fast.