Gossip Girl recap: The sins of our fathers
One of the most quintessential original Gossip Girl episode titles came in its debut season: "Blair Waldorf Must Pie." (Of course, its most quintessential episode description came in season 4 — "It's Blair vs. Dan when both get internships at magazine" — as chaotically pointed out by Mattie Lubchansky on Twitter earlier this year.) So, as a devotee to both the original GG iteration and the new girl, I could only think four simple words for the duration of this episode: Gossip Girl must PIE.
And pie painfully, please.
Some things in this reboot are so gratuitously absurd that they strike that perfect Gossip Girl balance of delighting and enraging simultaneously. For example, a 14-year-old yelling at adults about the true! meaning! of Broadway! and subsequently winning the attention of Jeremy O. Harris for her spot-on critiques that double as climactic! character! growth! Or, say, parental entrapment via the Scruff app — not the kind of teenage impulsiveness that rings true, but definitely the kind of TV-teenage impulsiveness that gets your attention.
But other parts — like say any part involving these nasty, nasty little Smeagol-esque teachers — are so intolerable that they invoke flames on the side of my pore-less, pimple-less, flawless teenage face. As a result, this is the episode where I decided that the only thing that will make this teachers-as-Gossip-Girl storyline worthwhile is if these dummies finally go full-tilt villain. Because I simply cannot tolerate anything less than a full descent into madness, followed by a complete and total dismantling of the woman who, in this episode, snorts, "That's gonna be bad for business," after it's announced that phones will no longer be allowed inside Constance because the students are being spied on and cyber-bullied by — checks notes — her. Kate Keller is an actual sociopath and I'd love her to be presented as a villain we're intended to root against.
It is, of course, fully possible to root for an antihero. But Miss Keller ain't Thanos. You don't hear her plan to make kids better students by publicizing their deepest, darkest secrets, and think, "Huh, this bitch is kinda making some points." You think, "This lady has lost it, and she must be dealt with and destroyed." And hey, if these teens can just work through their many parental and peer issues, they just might be able to team up Avengers-style, and finally get her ass (and her little pals too).
As for the current status of our Upper East Siders, Julien seems to have gone back to disliking Zoya without explanation, except for maybe the fact that Obie likes her too much. Constance's new it-couple are canoodling all over school and in transit because they're not technically allowed to date yet by Zoya's dad. But Zoya has bigger fish to fry than dating woes, seeing as she's become a social media target overnight. There are memes comparing her to pizza rat, rumors that she's an NYC-basher, and Luna has asked the Jul-Lions to get #Zugly trending. Poor Little Z… who Gossip Girl says might become "Lonely Z" if she doesn't elevate her social game to the level that dating the "prince of New York" requires. Which is why Luna, in all her benevolence, offers to make Zoya over Pygmalion-style, but minus the "feminized transformation in order to please a cis man" of it all…
Just kidding, Luna offers because it's becoming clear to both her and Monet (who's busy making out with a girl during this whole conversation, by the by) that Jules is either unwilling, or incapable of reclaiming her place as HBIC, and they don't want to go down with that sinking ship…
Or snorting ship, as it were. You see, Julien has finally accepted what everyone has been telling her all season long (and Max reinforces after her attempts to date a number of non-Obie heirs, including the Bonus Jonas, fall flat): "You're a billboard, not person." Which is even further evidenced by Julien reiterating the same sentiment in a much more cliché way: "It's like I lost myself somehow." But Max knows just how to help Julien find herself again, and it's… drugs, I guess? The next thing we know, Max has taken Julien out for an inhibition-free night of partying where she wears a mostly sheer catsuit and snorts anything put in front of her. While in the bathroom, Julien has the most realistic interaction of the series thus far: two women drunkenly giving each other a bunch of compliments, and dishing out what they're sure is sage advice while peeing…
Unfortunately, the other woman is soon revealed to be Julien's father's secret girlfriend who he's been hiding from his daughter for over a year. And it's revealed by Julien spotting her dad from across the room, and gasping "Oh my God, it's my dad," at the exact same time that Max gasps the exact same thing after spotting his own father on Scruff, listed as "newly single." Cinema, and I'm not kidding. This leads to yet another Extraordinarily Ill-Advised Julien Calloway Plan (copyright pending). Only this time, it's also sponsored by Max Wolfe, who will be executing the same, perhaps even more ill-advised plan!
Max's non-cheating dad, who I think is a theater critic, has managed to get 30-ish randos tickets to the opening night of Jeremy O. Harris' new off-Broadway play, Aaron (a loose adaptation of Titus Andronicus, natch), including all of Max's 16-year-old friends. Ahead of the play, Max asks Aki to pose as their teacher Mr. Camparros on Scruff — which Aki pretends to be resistant to, only to ultimately take his assignment quite seriously, striking up a few other chats just in case — and engage his pops in conversation, in order to…
Well, it's unclear exactly what Max wants to achieve. But what ends up happening is that the real Mr. Camparros (gifted a ticket to the play by Max) runs into Pops, who attempts to apologize for their messages. But Mr. Camparros never even gets the chance to be confused, because Max pulls his dad over to reveal that his husband has been messaging other men on Scruff. What follows is a very sad conversation about how Pops thinks Dad (I'm so sorry, they do not seem to have character names yet) has "changed" because, presumably, he has taken on a more femme style than he had when they originally got together. But Dad says he isn't the one who's changed — and they say it all in front of their teenage son who's just realized he may have made a mistake in prioritizing short-term dramatics over long-term resolution while sorting through family matters…
And ditto for Julien. She invites her dad, Davis, to be her plus-one to the play, then invites his girlfriend Lola (Elizabeth Layle from You, still being haunted by the memory of Penn Badgley), who thinks she's been invited by Davis, only to then wiggle her fingers from across the theater in a "gotcha!" wave once she spots them together. Davis is angry, but once it's pointed out to him that he's the one who's been faking business trips to hang out with his secret girlfriend while leaving his teenage daughter home alone, he kind of just has to let her storm off in peace because that is, obviously, messed up.
But if you can believe it, Julien and Max aren't even the weirdest behaving teens at this play. You see, Zoya accepted her makeover from Luna, which came with a Dua Lipa-style list of rules for how to act in public:
- Never speak
- Never look directly at a camera… never look directly anywhere
- Never sweat
- Know your side
- Never eat, cry, PDA, MTA, or wear flats
She says "wear flats" with the most conviction. So, when Zoya shows up looking exactly as beautiful as she always does, but this time in platforms, and Obie compliments her, Zoya takes that as confirmation that he actually wishes she was like this all the time.
Being sad does at least makes it much easier for Zoya to follow Luna's advice to never share her opinions or eat food in public, two of her otherwise favorite things to do. But at the after-party, when Max's dad and another critic are discussing how Aaron was too confrontational, and they'll simply have to give their backing to the gender-swapped My Fair Lady starring Jake Gyllenhaal instead, Zoya can no longer sit in starving silence. Dropping her secret spring roll, she marches right up to them and exclaims, "A provocative play like Aaron is exactly what Broadway needs after a year on pause!"
They are alarmed to find a 14-year-old yelling at them in a nightclub, but they may as well stop booing because she's right: "What Broadway doesn't need is another revisal of anything, especially one devised by white people, about white people, starring white people!" Jeremy O. Harris likes what he hears and steals Zoya away for a chat, but Obie puts on his little puppy dog face after overhearing Zoya's passionate exclamations. Why won't she be passionate with him?!
When Zoya explains her sullenness to him later, Obie reminds her that he of course wants her to be herself, and that's the very reason he broke up with Julien. For that, Zoya has an interesting take: "Have you ever thought about how you might have contributed to that? It's hard to date the Prince of New York when he won't even admit who he is." Obie's itty bitty earring glistens in the streetlights as he's reminded that just because he's aware of his privilege doesn't make him any less privileged. In that moment, he is a changed man — because literally, in that moment, Julien walks by, and Obie is fully prepared to apologize for not accepting any of the responsibility for who Julien became while they were dating.
Julien appreciates the apology, telling Obie, "I spent so much time putting forward this idea of me that I just forgot who I was a little, just like everyone has, apparently," as she glances over his shoulder: "Everyone except her." The sight of Zoya leaned against a building, basking in the glow of singlehandedly beginning to heal the Upper East Side from the inside out actually made me cackle. The old Gossip Girl excelled at absurd villains, but hey, maybe the new Gossip Girl can excel at absurd heroes.
And speaking of the titular Gossip Girl, if you've noticed she's been rather quiet during her students' antics this week, that's because she's in danger. Miss Keller only gets to smirk out one "it's working" early in the episode before all of the Constance-St. Jude teachers are called to an emergency meeting. The parents have finally taken notice that their children are being targeted by an anonymous gossip site, and they've hired a federal agency to get to the bottom of it. Jordan, the guy who's always schilling Yetis and pining for Kate Keller, assures the rest of the Gossip Girl gang that they're protected. The FBI will be no match for the li'l firewall he put on the school servers, so they just need to make sure to only post from school grounds… but also only post outside of school hours now that phones have been banned… and also try to post about things that only disgruntled students would post about, not disgruntled teachers.
So, needless to say, there's not a lot of posting going on. But even so, teachers are suddenly being scheduled for individual interviews with the agents investigating Gossip Girl. The teachers decide they need a scapegoat, and I actually can't believe that they didn't just pin it on a child given their complete disdain for them. Unfortunately for Reema, who always seemed the least sociopathic of the bunch, her husband expresses distaste for the fact that his wife and her friends are bullying kids on Zendaya's internet, and Miss Keller and Jordan take this as a betrayal. They feed Reema a Gossip Girl tip through Wendy that they know she won't be able to resist, remind her that they all have the password, and remove the firewall in the hopes that she makes the post.
Indeed, she does, and the rats have their scapegoat. Jordan assures Miss Keller that they didn't make Reema post on Gossip Girl, and I would like to assure him that there's a little something called "manipulation" that comes ever so naturally to unchecked narcissists. But enough with the childlike adults, let's end with the reboot's most crown-worthy villains: Luna and Monet, looking over their kingdom, ready to deploy the secrets they've been gathering all episode like the Varys and Little Finger of the Upper East Side that they are. See you back here next week for the Re(d)nt-Controlled Wedding.