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.