"What are friends for?" Vanessa asked Dan during a pivotal scene of tonight's Gossip Girl. Well, in a good episode of this show, like "Enough About Eve," friends are for deceiving, manipulating, and using to score a major blow against your political rivals. The political was personal—as was pretty much everything else.
It speaks to the relative moral depravity of Gossip Girl that the best episode of its still young third season is the one with the most backbiting, but it also proves what I (and you, dear commenters) have been saying since "Reversals Of Fortune": The show kind of sucks when the characters aren't behaving badly. And we're not rinky-dink misbehaving like Serena stealing a polo horse or even seemingly large scale stuff like Georgina's attempts to get back with Dan—what we've been asking for, and what we received in "Enough About Eve," is some evil action from Blair. And, surprisingly, that evilness was met and possibly exceeded by an unlikely foil: Vanessa.
I definitely had this season's best rivalry incorrectly pegged, but with Blair and Georgina pitted against one another as roommates, who didn't expect great, bitchy things? Meanwhile, this whole Waldorf v. Abrams thing has been bubbling up under our noses for five episodes, and tonight it came to an entertaining head. The clues were all there, I've just been ignoring them out of my disinterest in the Vanessa character: She's a mentor to Jenny (the only other character who's stood down Blair and won), and, starting her nondisclosure of Nate's letter to Jenny last season, Vanessa's been one of the show's savviest traders and holders of secrets (which as we all remember from "The Lost Boy," are the true currency and source of power in the Gossip Girl universe.) It took a prized speech at an NYU parents' weekend dinner to bring to bring out the rivalry.
But as the episode showed that Blair and Vanessa are more alike than they'd like to admit, different motivations led each to desire the speech: For Blair, it was another rung on the NYU social ladder, while for Vanessa the speech symbolized a big "I told you this private university isn't corrupting me," to her difficult-to-please mother Gabriella. Played to a one-note tee by Firefly alum Gina Torres, Mrs. Abrams seemed perpetually two seconds away from a lengthy discussion about why she doesn't watch TV (most likely reason: shallow salacious shows like Gossip Girl)—that is until her mouth was left agape by Vanessa's confession that she wished her parents were Rufus and Lily. (PS Vanessa: Your mom's awful, but you could find better parents than Mr. and Mrs. "Starpower" in the garbage. Or on a Seth MacFarlane show.) Still, swiping the mic before the speech so Blair can out herself as a terrible human being in front of several of her classmates and their well-appointed parents: Classic. Sorry, V, but this private university is corrupting you.
Vanessa's microphone trickery was a move worthy of Blair herself, though, to save face, Blair would probably argue that she had it planned all along. "Enough About Eve" played like a more or less smooth go-round on Leighton Meester's Wild Emotional-Range Ride: vindictiveness toward Vanessa, disappointment after being passed-over for the speech for Olivia and then Vanessa, heartbreak after a more heartbroken Chuck dismisses her for a fake business meeting, and an indignant haughtiness during her accidental speech about how she was "bred" to not only address the dinner attendees but to push people around as she pleases. It was nice to see a return to Blair firing on all "Queen B" cylinders, but such extreme behavior was bound to be met with a tremendous fall—especially after she admitted to using Chuck as sexual bait in order to secure her spot at the podium. At the end of the episode, she entered the coffee shop, sad and alone, only to end up sitting across a table from Vanessa, who had just been ditched by her mother. They met at potential turning points for their characters, points where, feasibly, they could switch roles. Feasibly, not hopefully: Because as much as "Enough About Eve" benefitted from Vanessa acting like Blair, this season won't be helped along by Blair acting like Vanessa. But the fact that Blair wasn't playing an Audrey Hepburn role in her Turner Classic Movies-damaged opening dream sequence (instead, she found herself as an erstwhile Bette Davis to Vanessa's Anne Baxter in All About Eve) signals a big and permanent change for the character some time soon.
I feel like I have a million of these ill-defined "you can tell it's a good Gossip Girl episode when… " indicators, but the episodes I tend to like the most are the ones where the principal characters are left temporarily alienated from a large swath of the other characters. This episode leaves Blair and Vanessa stranded at that café table, with Chuck upset at Blair for violating their relationship, and Vanessa on the outs with Dan and Olivia for her hijinks involving their relationship. And, following the conclusion of the B-story, Serena isn't talking to Carter or Nate, as the former doesn't want her feeling sorry for the fact that he has to work off his debt to the Buckleys on an oil rig (wait, what?), and the latter used her and Carter as unwilling footsoldiers in the ongoing Vanderbilt-Buckley war. Nate and Serena's double-crosses showed that they've learned a lot from spending time with Blair, and accordingly, they're suffering the same consequences as she. They could all keep digging their holes, but somebody's going to be redeemed eventually. Knowing the way continuity works on Gossip Girl, those holes could be filled by next Monday.
-At the brilliant suggestion of my fiancée, I'd like to introduce a new feature on Gossip Girl TV Club: Brief, completely uninformed recaps of the final scenes of One Tree Hill, caught in the period of time after I switch to The CW from House, and before I start taking Gossip Girl notes. Let's call it "One Minute Hill." On this week's edition, Cheryl is shocked to wake up in the middle of the night and find Todd, her regular barista at Starbucks, sitting in the corner of her bedroom. Meanwhile, Tara rolls out of bed to uncover a secret tissue filled with the pills she needs to take from transforming into a wolf and mauling sleeping husband Drake. Finally, Tornada stands on a sandy beach, working up the courage to walk from the Florida Keys to Cuba. Will she make it? Find out next week "One Minute Hill"…
-From the looks of this MTV interview with Leighton Meester, it looks like Blair has some Joan Crawford dreams in her future. Yikes.
-Oh, "Enough About Eve" was the episode with Chuck's same-sex kiss/split-second attention grab. It will probably inspire an uptick in Gossip Girl slash-fic writing, as will this priceless line, delivered from our sexually omnivorous antihero to Blair: "I'm upset because i kissed somebody that wasn't you. You really think i hadn't kissed a guy before?"
-Gabriella says "Pay it forward" on the Abrams' outgoing message. Also, Vanessa's dad's name is Arlo. Fucking hippies.
-The fake picture of Nate's politician cousin Trip with a giant red bong cracked me up. Even if Serena hadn't stopped the Buckleys from leaking the shot, it probably wouldn't have done too much damage to his career, because Trip didn't look like he knew what to do with the thing.
-So is it safe to assume that when The Stepfather sunk at the box office last weekend, it took Penn Badgely's movie career with it? His comedic flailing at the burning chicken showed that a Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker-style farce might have been a better jumping-off point.