Good morning, New York! (We’re noticing a theme.) On her way to work in the concrete jungle of a metropolis, Dorota picks up a copy of the latest New York Magazine, with the timely and forever-relevant phrase “SCANDALS!!” emblazoned on the cover. Viewers, meet tonight’s heavy-handed (yet layered!) foreshadowing.
Dan (Penn Badgley) and Blair (Leighton Meester) descend the stairs together. Dan is off to meet with his publicists at Simon and Schuster, whereas Blair is getting ready for a nice long bath. Blair instructs Dan to talk more about himself and less about famine in Africa. “You’re never going to be a trending topic on Twitter,” when talking about dour topics like that, Blair tells him. (She obviously hasn’t heard of KONY.)
Serena (Blake Lively) and Lily (Kelly Rutherford) run into Ivy (Kaylee DeFer) in the courthouse as they’re wrapping up their white rich people proceedings. Fancy seeing you here! Ivy accuses Lily of bribing the nurse while Serena threatens Ivy with a restraining order. Is this Revenge? Apparently, now that the will has been revoked, the money will be split 50/50 between Lily and Carol.
Lily, richer-than-ever, insists to Serena that there’s nothing wrong between her and Rufus (Matthew Settle), and then the two triumphantly open the courthouse doors only to find a horde of press waiting for them. A reporter shouts: “Any truth to the rumors you and your husband are no longer living together?” Memo to Serena: Your mom’s deception is an equal opportunity employer.
It’s sunset at the hotel and Nate is answering Diana Payne’s (Elizabeth Hurley) call with a degree of sass we haven’t seen for seasons. “Every time I look at you now all I see is a Bass in my face.” Diana ignores his newfound personality and jumps right into the heart-to-heart: She still has feelings for him, she knows he still has feelings for her. She’s still wearing a color-blocked dress and looking especially Elizabeth Hurley-esque. It’s like her Elizabeth Arden contract insists on ZERO PRINTS EVER. Nate continues his joke winning streak and quips, “I never saw myself as a sleep-with-your-best-friend’s-mother-kinda-guy.” Well, we’re grateful he’s found some sort of niche to fill.
Nate tells Chuck, “Your mother called to talk to me.” This will never stop being awkward… Or will it? Chuck does his classic slow-smolder-eyebrow-raise thing (seriously, people, why doesn’t NYU have acting classes centered solely around Ed Westwick’s ability to furrow his eyebrows while still looking hopelessly sexy?). Anyway, Nate is apparently having Andrew, the attorney-to-deceived-rich-kids, look into the source of Diana’s endless wealth. Chuck instructs Nate to do what he has to do, but insists he’s staying out of it.
Andrew walks in with his briefcase and hands Nate some documents. Apparently Diana’s getting some money from an Australian holding company — and guess who’s on the board? Jack Bass. Looks like we’ll be seeing more of one Mr. Desmond Harrington.
Blair has somehow finagled a copy of New York Magazine out of Dorota’s KGB-trained death grip. “Dan Humphrey is writing a new book!” she reads, proudly, before spotting herself featured prominently lower on the Approval Matrix. While Dan Humphrey’s second book grants him a “highbrow” rating, Blair’s short marriage — during which she was married for “less time than Kim Kardashian” — has netted her a “lowbrow” rating. Blair turns to Dorota and declares war on lowbrow Blair. “The universe is totally upended and we must right it immediately. I must become as highbrow as Dan.” Oh, if Season 1 Blair could hear her now...
Meanwhile, Serena calls Papa William for help as her head spins around Lily’s many manipulations. William tries to comfort her. “This is just your mother’s process; she wants to make everything look right on the outside before dealing with it on the inside.” Serena urges William to come to the family dinner party, but William says he can’t make it into town on such short notice. Fast-forward thirty seconds to when Serena stumbles upon William and Lola having lunch and stares, mouth agape, as (lying) father and (other) daughter have an intimate “Lola, I am your father” convo without each other (although Serena is not privy to those details yet).
William is explaining to Lola that he was just trying to protect everyone. “The truth is, I was a lousy dad to Serena and Eric. I think I learned from my mistakes” — in other words, let’s just erase and ignore those two other vdW brats, and move forward just us two. Cue Eric Clapton’s creepy father-daughter ballad,“Butterfly Kisses,” as Lola walks down the aisle, as envisioned in our twisted minds.
Super rich Lily knocks on Rufus’ door in Brooklyn. He’s wearing plaid and is still — as always! — surrounded by exposed brick. Lily is wearing fur and carrying a bottle of champagne. Juxtaposition! Lily demands flutes for the bubbly, but Rufus hands her tall water glasses. (There’s nothing flimsy in Brooklyn). Rufus angrily explains what “partnership” means to Lily, who slow-blinks at him while counting her money in her mind.
Lola finds Nate and tries to apologize for the role she played in uncovering the identity of Chuck’s mom. She also wants to talk about the fact that she spent the morning with her biological father and this triggers something in Nate’s mind about the first time he helped Chuck work through his mommy issues… And he runs off, leaving Lola alone with her feelings about her newfound dad. Sorry, Lola — bros before hoes!
Blair’s Revive Highbrow Blair mission continues as he trys to convince an FIT buyer to carry her line of accessories, but the buyer sassily tells her: “Maybe if you were still a princess, I’d buy it… But since you’re no longer royalty…” Ouch. Dan swoops in on his Brooklyn-coiffed white horse and invites Ms. Waldorf to a party celebrating his book and fundraising for the Young Lion’s Club. A scheme-y lightbulb flashes above Blair’s head.
Serena shows up at Nate’s office also wanting to talk about daddy issues. Nate tells Serena he feels for Lola, that she spent the whole morning with her father, says she obviously seems like she’s going through some stuff. Record scratch! Serena puts two and two together and stares, mouth agape for the second time in the first thirty minutes. (Also, this might be the shortest amount of time it’s taken Serena to put two and two together... ever.)
Lily is carrying flowers around while wearing a leopard-print sheath dress. Serena walks in and announces Lola’s not her cousin but her sister, and Lily promptly brushes all feelings aside and announces the Wasp motto: “Plaster on your best happy face and go get ready for the party.” Then, Lils picks up the phone and calls Ivy. Commence scheme number 5 of one trillion.
Blair decides a “casual book party” means “wear a see-through Eli Saab ball gown.” Rocking some vintage Blair Waldorf deviance, Blair twirls around the party, looking for someone to notice her. No one does — and definitely not the interim Gossip Girl, who’s over at Lily’s loft, grappling with the idea of her newfound biological sister. Dan takes to the podium, but Blair interrupts him before he can begin his second sentence. Waving her champagne flute, Blair announces she’s “anonymously” donating to the Young Lion’s Club. “A toast to Dan, and to literacy, and to me, anonymously.”
Lily, meanwhile, is serving dinner family-style for the first time in Upper East Side history. After all, the family-style dining trend has already jumped the Brooklyn bridge to The Breslin, so it’s only right the UES can co-opt it. And only right that the UES’ idea of family-style involves sharing in the family’s white collar crime, too. Lily’s apparently arranged for Carol to be carted off to jail, and Ivy’s in on the deal; she gets off scot-free for turning Carol in. Cue: Rhodes civil war as Carol is carted off. Lola announces the “truth hasn’t helped anybody,” and William offers to escort her home while a heartbroken Serena stands alone in the hallway in her bandage dress.
Meanwhile, over at the room full of rich mahogany and people who read books, Dan is descending the wooden staircase, leaving Blair to fend for herself in the room she stole from him. Dan accuses her of trying to steal his “highbrow” thunder, says none of it means anything to him. Blair is sick of living in someone else’s shadow (Chuck’s, Louis’), she says, words we never thought we’d hear Blair say — and especially not to Dan Humphrey. Dan utters a line someone should have told Ms. Waldorf a long time ago: “Maybe you are so focused on how everyone else perceives you that you no longer know who you are.”
Nate has broken into Diana’s hotel room— the house of Payne, you guys — but is immediately discovered by Diana. Nate decides to trick her with the only tool he has: his body, so he strips his shirt off, makes out with her, cuddles with her, then tells her to get dressed for drinks. While she’s in the bathroom, Nate grabs something out of her underwear drawer and quickly pulls a Chuck Bass and leaves. We see what you did there, Archibald.
William chases Serena down the street, apologizes for lying to her, and for lying to her mother when he cheated with Carol. Serena is less hurt about the lying than about the fact that he chose to protect Lola over her. Serena is realizing she has no one left in her inner circle; even her own mother has lied and schemed to get what she wants — money.
Rufus finds Lily sitting calmly on her white couch, drinking champagne. (She finally found those flutes, after all). Rufus is principled, despite having shed his Brooklyn wares to don a tuxedo, firmly announcing to Lily: “If this is who you want to be, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.” Lily volleys back: “Where exactly are you going to find some Upper East Side woman to take care of you like I have?” Oh, Lils, how you’ve forgotten your rock star groupie days. Goodbye to all that, indeed.
Dan is sitting in a wingback chair, surrounded by exposed brick, reading, still wearing his blazer. Blair runs in, still wearing her ball gown, and confesses that she’s lost her sense of self. “I lost my true self, but I want to be found.” Dan tells her the real Blair Waldorf is closer than she thinks. It’s in this instance that the Blair / Dan connection finally feels almost real — or, at the very least, functional.
The last scenes flash by in a web of mass deception: William convinces a jailed Carol to sign some papers, Lily pays Ivy for helping her put Carol in jail. William calls Lily to tell her the papers are signed, giving Lily access to Carol’s half of the inheritance. He makes her promise she’ll take care of Lola, too, but after he hangs up, a skeptical William jets off to JFK (with the papers) instead. Lola shows up at Serena’s, begging her sister to work with her, but Serena is emotionally dead to the world and tells Lola she’s not interested in being her sister. Lola then does what a true van der Woodsen would do: she steals the Gossip Girl log-in codes.
Chuck and Nate put their pretty heads together (with Monkey, too) and come to the conclusion that it’s not Diana Payne who’s hiding something — it’s Jack Bass. “It’s not who’s my mom, it’s who’s my dad,” Chuck Bass says, again with the furrowed brow, and it’s at this moment we realize: there are no adults on the Upper East Side, only children with vendettas and heirs to inherit their scheming.