Wednesday, October 19, 2011

OPINION: Penn Badgley's Dan Takes Center Stage In One Of GOSSIP GIRL's Best Episodes Ever

If I were to rank this week's GOSSIP GIRL in terms of my favorite episode, it would one hundred percent make it into the top three. It did exactly what I love: focus on the core characters in large group scenes that plays off their history with one another. It also set up major drama that is going to play out for episodes to come. You know that they are doing something right when I'm even interested in anything that Chuck and Nate are involved in. It seems that they are really thinking about what they are doing and plotting everything very intricately so that plots have lives of their own but also intersect in interesting and unexpected ways. Dan Humphrey and his novel are in the dead center of this year's tale and I am LOVING every minute of it. 

Dan's novel ends with the character he based on himself finding professional success as a writer but as he  surveys the room of well wishers he realizes that it's  a room of strangers Dan concern is that when his friends and family read the book he is going to suffer the same fate. It's the day of the party to announce Dan as the author and he has yet to tell any of his friends and family about it which is really just a ridiculous thing to do in New York. These people have parties every other day. You have go to get on their calendar as soon as you know the date of your event. Meanwhile, Blair and Louis are making plans for their dinner to announce the pregnancy to their families. Serena is hard at work impressing Jane. She is really standing on her own two feet and making something of herself. Our little upper east side socialite is growing up! At the NY Spectator, Diana wistfully wishes they had gotten their hands on Blair's phone but Nate is adamant that his friends are off limits. They still have Ivy's phone and are obsessing over who it belongs to. Nate comments that he recognizes one of the numbers in the phone. Look at him being an active participant in his own life. Nate ACTUALLY has a story. It's almost too good to be true. Chuck and Blair run into each other heading to Lily and Rufus's after Dan's summons for everyone. They are knocked into each others arms when Chuck's dog gets a little rowdy. A passerby snaps a picture of them tangled up together. That is obviously going to end up on Gossip Girl for Louis to see and get mad about. The flaw here is that Blair Waldorf, the queen of scheme, would never be so stupid as to have an affair out in the open in the middle of the day when she knows that she is fodder for Gossip Girl and now the tabloids. Let's use our heads, shall we?

Everyone arrives at Lily and Rufus's and I officially love this episode. The entire cast in one scene is not something that we see very often. Nate asks Serena if she knows a girl named Ivy as Charlie/Ivy sits right next to Nate. It was Serena's number that he recognized! Charlie/Ivy's radar is now all over Nate. Dan arrives and gives everyone the news, a copy of his book, an an invite to the party. None of them seem too worried about it their portrayal in the book but they also haven't read it yet. The first tidbit that we get is Nate's character in the book is gay. That's the best part of the book. Nate is very very pretty and I would welcome him into the fold with open arms. Nate isn't phased by it. Blair isn't interested in the book or the book party and is ruder to Dan then she has been in a long time. She is certain that she is portrayed as an evil bitch and has no interested in reading it. For someone who has stood by her time and again, you'd think that she could be more supportive. Serena assumes her portrayal is wonderful. If these were my friends I'd tell them to stop assuming and start reading.

Charlie cozies up to Nate spinning a tale of having met someone named Ivy at the party and offering her assistance in tracking this girl down. Poor, sweet, adorable Nate. This story that she is telling is so flimsy a toddler could see through it. Thank God he's pretty. Nate brings her to the office to look through photos from the party to see if she recognizes this Ivy girl. Diana gets pissed the minute that she sees Charlie/Ivy in the office and tells Nate to get rid of her. While they are distracted, Charlie/Ivy swipes her phone back. Desperation I understand, stupidity I don't. She needed a better plan than taking a phone from an office that has no other occupants. They're going to know it was you that took it. Serena continues to shine at work securing a phone conference with Daniel Day Lewis who is notorious for being unwilling to even talk about let alone commit to a project. Is that true? Did anyone talk to Daniel Day Lewis before they went ahead and made him a diva? Serena starts to hear bits and pieces about her character, Sabrina. Dan wasn't very creative with the names that he gave everyone in the book. A little bit more creative license with the names might have made it harder for people to guess who was who especially when you're worried about people's reactions. To be fair he never meant for this to be published but if that's really true then what was the point of writing it? The book is spreading through Hollywood fast before it's even released. Serena's image as a flighty party girl is not doing her any favors. Daniel Day Lewis cancels the phone call and his manager calls Serena, Sabrina. Jane didn't think it had anything to do with the book until the name Sabrina was uttered by Daniel Day Lewis's manager. If I were Dan, I'd be scared of Serena right about now.

Blair finds Louis looking at the picture of her and Chuck on Gossip Girl. He is jealous and apparently stupid. They look like they are falling over in the picture. This prince needs to get a hold of his insecurities. Talk turns from Chuck to the book. Louis is worried that Blair is portrayed horribly since Dan was so adamant about blocking that excerpt from being published. Blair says some nasty things about Dan and doesn't want Louis to read it. The minute you tell someone not do something that is exactly what they want to do. When Blair returns from her nap Louis is acting odd and tells Blair that his family won't make it to town for dinner because of a storm. He tells her to go to Dan's book party. Blair had just checked the weather because of her outfit for the evening and knew that he was lying. I'm not sure what Blair is confused about since the book is sitting open on the coffee table but it takes Dorota confirming that he was reading it for it to dawn on Blair what happened. She picks up the book appalled at what she reads and another hit list has just had the name Dan Humphrey added to it.

Dan is the first person to show up at the book party. Alessandra throws him in a back room so that the big reveal will be very dramatic. Chuck, Lily, and Rufus are the first to arrive. Chuck doesn't really seem to care that his character dies alone not found by his staff for days in. It's the image that Chuck has created for himself. Dan calls Nate to find out how the party is and he's the first one to throw the gauntlet down on Dan. Nate didn't come to the party because he found out that he and Eric were combined to create "Derek" who is gay, two years younger then the rest of the characters and best friends with the narrator's little sister. That sounds a lot more like Eric, Serena's younger brother, than Nate. Oh wait....Dan made the characters family have political connections for a splash of Nate. Nate doesn't care how he was portrayed he's just upset that he didn't merit his own character in the book. Cry me a river, Nate. That is your biggest problem? Get over yourself and go and support your friend. Serena and Blair show up on the rampage for Dan. Neither knows why the other is mad because neither one of them read anything but the parts about themselves. Doesn't a part of you just think these people deserve what they got? They are all furious with Dan but none of them actually read the entire book.

Serena is furious that her flighty, irresponsible, self absorbed character remained that way for the entire book.  Blair didn't enjoy the part where her character had sex with Dan's character. Amidst this rapid fire, Louis shows up to confront them. When Serena finds out what Dan wrote both she and Louis jump to the conclusion that Dan and Blair sleeping together was truth and not fiction. The banter that is flying amongst the four of them is superb. The dialogue is sharp and quick and steeped in the history that all of these characters have. Lily and Rufus come in and don't miss a beat listening to their children talk about their sex lives.Louis storms out unable to believe any of Blair's denials. Blair, not one to take disappointment very well, goes for the jugular with Dan. Blair SHUTS DOWN everything that Dan has been feeling. "There is no us. There never was." There is some mutterings about the loss of their friendship and off she goes chasing after Louis. I should be more heart broken since I am an avid Dan and Blair supporter but her declaration of non feelings just didn't ring true to me. I still say Blair loves Dan.

We're left with Serena and Dan which is the way it all began. Dan and Serena were a couple that I had invested in for many years so it was interesting to see them re-visit their connection in some way other then having them get back together. Serena is in a tizzy because Dan was the only person who saw beyond all of her superficial qualities in high school to the person underneath. She is kind of self absorbed. She's not a bad person but she is self-absorbed. Dan thinks that they all missed the point  of his book. Dan's character is the narrator who judges everyone, is selfish, and doesn't pay any attention to the important things in life. That is why he ends up alone in the end. Dan believes that he was hardest on himself. Dan, not one to give up on love so easily, wants to go after Blair which Serena responds to with what about me? For the love of God Serena. Dan is correct in thinking the potential destruction of Blair's engagement is more important then Serena's hurt ego. Serena disagrees. Dan and Serena confirm that they think that the other is the worst version of themselves. The ending to Dan's novel is the ending to his party as he walks out to a room full of well wishers none of whom he knows.

After Louis stormed out he ran into Chuck who makes a heartfelt plea on Blair's behalf. He doesn't want Louis to throw away a chance at happiness with Blair. I think that our little Chuck might just be growing up. At the NY Spectator, Diana calls Ivy's phone and summons her to the offices. Of course Diana figured out that Charlie and Ivy were one in the same. Charlie arrive and volunteers the information Diana doesn't have. No prodding or blackmailing really, she just sort of word vomits. Charlie claims she is in it for the sense of family that she has found but Diana knows that this family Charlie has grown to love will destroy her when they find out the truth. But they don't have to as Diana is prepared to protect Charlie....for a price. There is always a price. Dealing with Diana is liking making a deal with the devil. The next day Nate shows up to find that Diana has hired Charlie. Diana went from zero to sixty with Charlie but Nate doesn't really question it. He raises an eyebrow but that is about as much brain power as he can muster.

The fall out from the book party continues all over the city. Blair is finally able to tell Serena that she is pregnant right before Louis comes to tell Blair that he is ashamed of his behavior. He should be. He was acting like a lunatic. He presents a valid point when he says there is always another secret everywhere he turns but Blair always has been upfront about her past and that it's complicated. Blair lays down the law for him, "trust me or let me go". Blair is no one's fool. Louis on the other hand is because he says he could never let her go. That relationship is never going to last. A content Serena heads to work where she is given the assignment to get the rights to Dan's book within a week. Serena's bad reputation reflects on Jane and getting this book will help to repair that damage. She almost presents it like a test for Serena to prove that Jane was right in believing in her. Chuck goes to see Lily to explain that he doesn't want to be the unrepentant bad boy he is portrayed as in the book. Lily comforts him and assures him that there are people who love him but takes on that motherly role when he confesses he has realized that he has lost Blair forever. In the most devastating scene of the episode, Rufus comes to see Dan to tell him that the book broke his heart. Dan described Rufus as a has been turned trophy husband who married for money. Really Dan? I know that it's fiction but you didn't think that one might upset your Dad? Really? Rufus pours his heart out to Dan and tells him that he feels like a fool. This is the first that he regrets giving up his career to raise his kids. Rufus might as well have slapped him across the face. It probably would have been less painful for Dan.

That was an amazing episode of Gossip Girl that set the stakes for how the next few episodes are going to play out expertly linking many of the stories together. With Charlie now at the NY Spectator will Nate figure out her secret? Serena now has to repair the damage to her relationship with Dan to secure the rights to his book but if she succeeds does that really make her any better than the character Dan wrote her to be? Plus, Dan must deal with the fall out of having no one in his corner. Shockingly everything that I'm excited about lacks the word, Blair.

Brian Hewson contributes primetime reviews for We Love Soaps. Along with Greg Turner, Brian is the creator, writer, and producer of the web soap, EMPIRE, which can be found at Brian loves soaps.

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