Gossip Girl Recap for Season 5, Episode 20, “Salon of the Dead”: Chuck’s Existential Heartbreak (and It’s Not About Blair)
Once again, it’s morning on the Upper East Side, and Blair (Leighton Meester) is wearing a floral dress while sipping tea in unison with her house-husband, Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley). More on that later. Serena (Blake Lively), meanwhile, is picking up the scheming slack where Blair left off, typing on her laptop and responding to Gossip Girl emails. Business man Nate (Chace Crawford) is still sleeping, but his pensive serious journalist slumber is interrupted by his burgeoning-It-Girl girlfriend, Lola Charlie Rhodes (Ella Rae Peck), who calls to gush about how “this It Girl thing has it perks.” Apparently she’s got an audition with the guy who made Kirsten Dunst relevant again: Lars Von Trier. Spoiler alert: all that glitters is not gold, Lola Rhodes.
Dorota, sassy as ever, beams over Blair and Dan while serving them breakfast, and won’t stop calling Humphrey “Lonely Boy.” Blair bats about three eyelashes and continues to harp at Dan about how they need to plan their first public outing as a couple. She’s got Tracy Anderson training to get to, y’all, and she won’t let her boyfriend grace Page Six with her until he showers, or, at the very least, puts some deodorant on. Queen B is slowly learning Brooklyn standards.
Meanwhile, Serena and Lola are trying clothes on together and participating in the age-old Wasp sport that is Passive Aggressive Goading. Serena hands Lola a few of her dresses and tries to sound offhand while observing: “The only person who’s not writing about you is Gossip Girl.” Gawd, it’s like we’re at the country club with Mom drinking G&Ts again. Lola is not fazed by this weird passive-aggro business from Serena (memo to Ms. vdW: didn’t you go to Columbia? We know you were fired and all, but seriously: get a hobby).
Back in Brooklyn, Dan is wearing a tie! Rufus provides some stark contrast by wearing a handyman belt full of tools. Enter: Foreshadowing. Rufus chooses this moment to dole out some heavy-handed parenting advice about how he and Lily are a metaphor for Dan and Blair in the future and there are just SO MANY FEELINGS our minds almost explode from the teaching moment. Rufs thinks he and Lils have stopped being honest with each other and then leads into this gem: “I became a plus one for galas and her life, but in the process, I lost myself.” Dan slow-blinks while processing his future.
Nate has finally awoken from his businessman slumber and is looking professional while also wearing a messenger bag. Elizabeth Hurley struts into Nate’s office in a bright, solid color (colors: so in for Spring) dress. Nate lists his many anxieties, at the top of which is his BFF Chuck Bass’ mission to find his birth mom. Diana feigns concern for Nate but then brusquely walks into the hallway to call Uncle Jack. “Just heard from Nate that Chuck’s still on the hunt. We have to stop him,” Diana whispers furtively into the phone.
Diana gets a text message from the real Gossip Girl, who’s pissed Serena won’t turn the reins back over. GG threatens to tell the world Diana’s secret — the one “that made you afraid of me in the first place.”
Lola shows up at her audition for Mr. Von Trier and is promptly told she’s no longer needed — as the Gossip Girl blast about Lola’s “diva” behavior has already hit iPhones across Manhattan. Serena, fittingly, is sitting on her bed, twirling her hair and eating grapes, making the gossip puppets dance. Lola calls Serena and asks her if she mentioned the conversation to anyone, at which a montage of lying happens as the girls pretend they don’t know the other’s secret.
Dan and Blair walk into a Brooklyn eatery (Sidebar: In Season 4, this would have been the opening to a pretty awesome joke, but in the last leg of Season 5, this is our reality). Dan admits he really wanted to stop into the spot next door because his “friend is covering it for McSweeney’s.” (Did we really need to drop Eggers here? Also, McSweeney’s is headquarted in San Fran). Then Dan and Blair run into Julian Tepper and Jenna Gribbon, the proprietors of the Oracle Club, who Blair appropriately anoints the “Brangelina of the five boroughs,” and they manage to convince Dair that cross-borough living is a wave of the future. Hi, lo, you guys! Just fill your mason jars with Saint Germain.
Nate and Lola are making out in his office, which is lined with black-and-white photos of mustachioed old men leaning against walls (how very Newsies of you, Nate Archibald), and then Lola launches into her theory about how Serena is Gossip Girl. Mood killer! Nate is pissed and tells Lola she’s reached her Zooey Deschanel quirky quotient for the day.
Diana goes to confront Serena about the whole Gossip Girl thing and tries to play both sides, persuasively urging Serena to keep the GG reins because it’s best for both of them. “I am a women who has lived,” Diana explains in her best Joan Rivers impression. “I have plenty to hide.”
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn meets the New World, Dan is pushing for Mason jars at their big “coming out” party while Blair thinks “pub food” includes foie gras. “We both love Radiohead,” Dan concedes, at which point Blair announces the theme is “London Calling” — and she only wants “influencers” there. Like Diana Payne. Oh, and she wants Dan to announce his second book at their big soiree — a fact Lola overhears and sends directly to Gossip Girl in an attempt to prove that she is GG.
Lily gets a call from the Soho Grand, at which point she realizes Rufus has been paying for Ivy’s absence from the apartment. And she’s livid. Again. And in massive gold jewelry. Again. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Then, the salon is happening and it looks like exactly what you think it does: lots of exposed brick, Union Jack flags, and a bizarre mish mash of Etsy-ordered prints of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Since when is Blair Waldorf a calm person? Since when does she order from Etsy? Unless this is a made-to-order Scott Campbell Louis Vuitton collaboration, we’re not buying it.
Serena and Lola crash the party, sitting triumphantly across from each other. Diana shows up and grabs Serena, at which point Lola grabs Serena’s phone and livestreams the Serena/Diana confrontation straight to the Gossip Girl site. This girl learned how to play this game fast. Serena asks a bunch of leading questions until Diana admits the one thing we’ve suspected all along: She’s Chuck Bass’ real mother. At this point, everyone at the party (and throughout the Western Hemisphere) gets the Gossip Girl blast. Diana tries to creep out of the room but Chuck is sitting at a nearby table (presumably drinking from a Mason jar). “Is it true?” he yells, brow furrowed. If you weren’t hooked forever on Chuck Bass’ wounded soul before this moment, you are now.
Blair is furious this happened at her party (even though she was out with Dan when the “this” happened, otherwise we’d expect her to care a lot more about Chuck’s feelings!). Julian and Jenna sneak out, sneering, “this wouldn’t have happened at The Oracle Club.” Blair exclaims, “This wasn’t uptown, or downtown, it was a bloody mess!” Then she has an existential life crisis about how she tried to merge the NYC caste system and create a new world out of the old world but instead it failed and Dan can never live in her well-heeled life and she can never not shower every day. The end.
Just kidding, it’s not over. Diana shows up at Nate’s apartment looking for Chuck, who furrows his brow again (swoon) and says: “I may be angry but I want to know the truth.” So Diana spills it, all of it — how she had an affair with his father, Bart Bass, when they were both married to other people, and how she only returned after Bart died to try to watch over Chuck “from afar.” Then Chuck sums up the episode in one line, “SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?” Diana says: “That’s for you to decide.” What a b*tch.
As night falls on the failed salon, Dan and Blair are arguing about — what else? — the relevance of Damien Hirst. And Lola tells Serena her GG secret is safe with her, for now. “Luck is a funny thing,” Gossip Girl narrates. “It’s easy to accept it when it goes your way. But when it doesn’t, call it injustice, call it treachery.”