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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Gossip Girl: "The Debarted"

Illustration for article titled Gossip Girl: "The Debarted"
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So, I may have been a little hasty when, at the end of Gossip Girl's last three episode arc, I got all huffy-and-puffy about the show revisiting familiar plot points. Because if there's anything that the third season of this show has taught us, it's that in Gossip Girl's UES, everything is cyclical. Everything is orchestrated. Everything occurs exactly how it has before, and the greatest struggle a denizen of this world can engage in is breaking that cycle. And that's why Serena didn't die in a car crash, why Nate gave Tripp the ol' Archibald right hook in front of the hospital, and why Chuck—finally reaching that all important fifth stage of grief, acceptance—had what was the series' most genuinely affecting moment since Dan and Serena had that long, crushing slow-dance at the end of the first season. Now that Chuck can accept that his father is dead, he can now also accept that he is not becoming Bart Bass.

Ah yes, but this is Gossip Girl, so they to address that denial of transformation in the bluntest way possible: By having Chuck ignore the one-year anniversary of his father's death, all the while having the fuck haunted out of him by the ghost of Bart, who delivered his typical mix of cutthroat business advice and not-so-fatherly put-downs from beyond the grave. Aside from raising (again, from the grave!) the question of whether or not Chuck's been acting out his own personal version of Ghost Dad, Bart's reappearance at least served as explanation as to why Chuck's been acting so non-Chuck lately. If Bart truly has been shadowing Chuck every day since he died, than it's no wonder Chuck's become more work-obsessed, more withdrawn, and less apt to wear purple. He's matured too much to return to Old Chuck's more watchable ways, but I was fully expecting the post-acceptance of New Chuck to loosen up a little, maybe try an ascot for the next board meeting—until he encountered what may have been his mother at Bart's gravesite. Can't really make peace with your father if he was lying to you your whole life, huh? Boom, cliffhanger.

So Chuck's left dealing with the fact that his mother might have been in hiding for his entire life, while Serena's hidden parent indirectly landed the girl in a Long Island emergency room. The letter disclosing the recent rendezvous between Keith Van Der Woodsen and Lily Humphrey (a change in surname Jenny reminded us of tonight) has become the show's latest, biggest bargaining tool, used by Maureen to ensure that she can keep playing Jacqueline Kennedy to Serena's Marilyn Monroe. Apparently to keep this storyline going would only mean more JFK analogies and Tripp outliving Serena—only to be felled himself by a magic bullet. We know this can't happen because Serena can't die (prove me wrong, Gossip Girl writers—I dare ya), so instead she put and end to their relationship. What did she get in return? A bloodied noggin, and a car accident Tripp caused (Swerving to avoid wolves!) and blamed on Serena. Therefore becoming a representation of a lesser Kennedy, Tripp was free to recede quietly into the background—until his face met Nate's fist.

At this point, for Nate to resume his fight against his Van Der Bilt heritage is expected by the audience as much as his continuation of the Van Der Bilt dynasty is expected by his family, but for the first time, his motivations aren't driven by a youthful need to rebel or an allegiance to his father. This time it's about Serena, and for once, his brooding is interesting, if not the tiniest bit rote; interesting because he's starting to resemble an empathetic figure (much easier to relate with "unrequited love" brooding than "father fingered for embezzlement" brooding), and rote because Nate and Serena are star-crossed lovers, and what coupling on this show—or any teen drama before it—hasn't been star-crossed? It may seem like he's splitting from the path that was laid out for him, but Nate is the product of a golden child-black sheep marriage, and a Nate-Serena pairing would bear the exact same markings. The pattern repeats itself.      

So with that UES Ouroboros chowing down on its own tail—and Rufus falling into his trophy husband role while Jenny's cycle of rebellion escalating to "coke mule" phase—so concludes the first half of the season and its epic struggle between The Way Things Are, Will Be, And Always Have Been and The Way Things Could Be. With the walls around the show's characters so strongly reinforced by these first 12 episodes, it's hard to imagine that they'll go the second 12 without trying to tear them down. Chuck's already made a pretty good start on his, though even money says what he finds on the other side is just as confining.       

Stray observations:

-This week, on "One Minute Hill": Having finally ended his vacation on the Hill, Luke "Lantern" Jaw hopped on a bus bound for the big city, but not before saying goodbye to his grandson, the youthful drunkard whom we met last week. Meanwhile, a magical hippie banged away on a piano curiously stored in a power plant, showing off his powers by singing the words "fire escape," and commanding Tornada to exit her apartment via fire escape. The mysterious Hill Ocean Self-Drownings continued, this time claiming the lives of Cheryl and Barista Todd in what will most likely be declared a murder-suicide. Someone is clearly trying to cover these killings up, because before we could see Cheryl and Todd end their lives, the show was interrupted by an NBA press conference. By the time the transmission became un-jammed, Cheryl and Todd were gone, and handsome Englishman Alexander Coyne (nephew of Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne) was introducing himself as Brooke's sorely needed new interior designer.


-Further parallels between Chuck's problems with his ghost dad and the film Ghost Dad: Fathers killed in car accidents, both workaholics, both widowers, only the children could communicate with the ghost, both will be looked back upon with a touch of regret.

-Serena wardrobe joke, Dec. 8 edition: Hey Serena, if you're too cold in the Van Der Bilt cottage, maybe you should wear something that covers your sternum!


-Was Tripp and Serena's car accident caused by a reference to the "Three Wolf Moon" Internet meme?

-The use of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' monster hit "Empire State Of Mind": Underscoring the episode's series of broken, breaking, or fulfilled Big Apple dreams, or a sly reference to Jenny's new extracurricular activities ("Took it to my stash spot, 560 State St./Catch me in the kitchen like a Simmons whipping pastry")?


-I haven't been able to find confirmation on how long the mid-season hiatus will last; some sources have the show back for two weeks in January before taking time off through late March, some say tonight was the last episode until early March. Either way, I'll be using my time away from the UES to get married, an incredibly important moment in my life I will then attempt to follow-up by covering the première of Gossip Girl's hiatus replacement, Life Unexpected.