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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Gossip Girl: "They Shoot Humphreys, Don't They?"

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I think I'm on the verge of having a falling-out with Gossip Girl, and I'm worried that no manner of Chuck Bass-orchestrated apologizing will fix this rift. I mean, seriously, Gossip Girl? Another Cotillion episode? Another episode where it looks like Jenny's going to topple down from her Constance throne, but doesn't? Another two people coming to terms with one another while stuck on an elevator? You're treading water, Gossip Girl; I know it, and the Nielsens know it, too: Last week's "The Grandfather, Part II" had the lowest overnight ratings of the show's run, though DVR views eventually bumped those numbers up by 23.6 percent. It should be interesting to see what effect, if any, Dan, Olivia, and Vanessa's long-teased, barely acknowledged (though, if the promos for next week's episode are to be believed, very consequential) ménage à trois involving  has on the ratings. Despite a promised return to the sensational, "mind-blowingly inappropriate" Gossip Girl of old, it added-up to nothing but some casual necking between the involved parties, and then a jump cut to them lying all over one another in bed. The fact that they got the idea to try this experiment in polyamory from a "15 things you need to do before you graduate" student-newspaper listicle should have indicated how tame the scene was going to be.

But it's not just the fictional writers that appeared bored in tonight's episode—the real-life Gossip Girl staff leaned on some old plot standbys that have, in the show's third season, already worn out their welcome. It's probably not a good thing for the growth of the show that the preceding seasons have established a strict and inescapable calendar—as Gossip Girl asked at the top of "They Shoot Humphreys, Don't They?," "Have you forgotten what time of year it is?" (To which I responded, "No, it's sweeps month. That's why you're featuring a 'shocking,' FCC complaint-generating hook-up somewhere in this episode.") But true to the voice of Kristen Bell's word, the first-season episode detailing Serena and Blair's presentation as debutantes, "Hi, Society!," did air around the same point in the season—it was the tenth episode, though its first airing was in early December. It's an interesting parallel to the rigid customs and traditions the show ostensibly provides a window to/satirizes, but isn't that predictability what most of the show's principals are trying to break out of?

Then again, with Blair being the one character who'd be content with Things As They Are And Always Have Been, it's appropriate that this episode revolved, in part, around her umpteenth reconciliation with Serena. In an elevator. Just like that time Serena and Dan broke-up in an elevator. Only this time, it wasn't a blackout behind their stalled vertical transport, but Chuck, who reveled in his god/Carlton, your doorman-like powers, giving us a little touch of that ol', mischievous Bass magic. Speaking of plots you could set your watch to, Chuck and Nate were occupied for most of the episode by one of their "lost weekends," though both gave up on the pursuit to help Serena and Blair—and in Nate's case only, Jenny. Chuck's progression toward humanity continues unabated, which is fine so long as he can play the show's moral barometer while still getting lines like "If you two kiss, it won't count as cheating." This is the word of our Bass; thanks be unto Chuck.

Nate was the knight-in-shining-armor to Jenny's damsel-in-distressed-couture once more tonight, stepping in as her Cotillion escort and preserving (and upgrading) her standing among the queens of Manhattan's other blah blah ugh. Of all the retreads in this episode, Jenny's plot was the most tiresome, if only because every plot the writers have ever put her through follows the same arc: Jenny feels she needs to prove herself, someone (usually Blair, in this case Blair with the aid of Eric) tries to make sure that doesn't happen, their sabotage backfires, and Jenny emerges from the flames, unscarred and carrying a new handbag. It's like she's invincible, or, to play off of the episode's reference to the Mafia's "five families," she's the "Teflon Don" of the UES. Not that the petty offenses committed by a 16-year-old at the top of the social ladder are really analogous to the heinous acts that earned John Gotti a life sentence—it's that all the mud and shit flung at Jenny doesn't stick to her or drag her down.

Eric might be the person who can bring Jenny down—and his alliance with the heretofore-unseen Keira may be enough to bring the Litte J era to an end (until the writers feel the need to return her to a position of power, that is). The conclusion of this three-episode arc promised exciting things in our future—in addition to a revenge-seeking Eric, the final moments of "They Shoot Humphreys, Don't They?" also saw a letter from Serena's long-lost biological father, some uneasy and suggestive talk between Serena and her new boss, Rep. Tripp Van Der Bilt, D-UES, and the news that Dan and Vanessa didn't need to ply Olivia with booze and sex to get her to stay at NYU, because the next installment of the Endless Knights has been shelved. There are some potentially ludicrous moments on the horizon, so—to paraphrase a far better writer than myself—I remain cautiously optimistic. If The CW doesn't get lost in the lurid details of whatever comes next, my feelings for the show won't tip over the edge, and I won't have to act all huffy toward it the next we run into each other at a party.

Stray observations:

-This week's "One Minute Hill" looked a lot like last week's episode of Gossip Girl, in that I missed "One Minute Hill." But I'll bet Luke and Randi partied it up on that hill, as only the legendary Jaw family could.


-Tripp needs to read a biography of any politician ever, and soon, before he gets himself in trouble. Beautiful, enjoyable-to-watch trouble.

-Anybody else think the Masters Of The Universe—the He-Man-loving group of nerds that hang around the NYU coffeeshop—are a riff on the nerds from The Big Bang Theory, which airs opposite of Gossip Girl?


-Did you see Penn Badgley's reaction to Olivia and Vanessa kiss? ACTING!