Credit: The CW

Eleanor Waldorf returns from the vague European city in which she’s been holing up, and promptly accuses Blair (Leighton Meester) of ruining the Waldorf reputation. Usual mom stuff. Eleanor lectures Blair about her “two natures.” Eleanor has been briefed (presumably by the now-absent Jean-Pierre) about Blair’s recent runway bullying. “My Grace Kelly can defeat my Grace Jones,” Blair says. (We’re totally stealing that line when we explain the voices in our head to our therapist.)

Over in Brooklyn, Ivy (Kaylee DeFer) is wearing a horrible plaid shirt like this is the ‘90s (where is her copy of Infinite Jest?). Rufus (Matthew Settle) is making breakfast like the kept man he is (more on that later), while going on and on about his art show. Ivy has apparently been too busy LiveJournaling to check the RSVPs for Rufus’s gallery show. When she does, it’s a gruesome scene of grown-man whining.  “Even Bex said no. What the hell happened?” We ask ourselves that every day.

Credit: The CW

Turns out, Lily (Kelly Rutherford) is hosting some posh benefit auction the same evening. “It’s not just me she’s sabotaging. It’s the artists,” Rufus says, presumably because he lacks real problems in his life. Two things: IVY SOUNDS LIKE TARA REID AFTER A BENDER, and what happened to Rufus’ singing career?

Across the bridge, Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) is watching TV with Monkey on the couch. His life partner BFF Nate (Chace Crawford) walks in to rib him about his couch time, but Chuck throws him some shade and explains he’s watching the security footage from the time when Bart discovered Ivy in the van der Woodsen apartment. He’s literally zooming in at footage of a revolving door, scouring for a return address or distinguishing marks on the envelope Bart Bass was carrying.

Over in the van der World, Dan (Penn Badgley) is squatting in Eric’s room. Serena (Blake Lively), wearing a bold geometric necklace (a recurring theme during this episode), says she found his essay about blair on Vanity Fair online (is that a thing?). Dan flashes his check from VF and announces he’s ready to find his own place. That was fast! Serena offers to help him look for apartments. Cue: a million jokes about NYC neighborhoods relevant to 5% of the people watching the show.

Credit: The CW

Over at Chuck’s apartment, Nate’s popping bottles and talking about “urgent business matters.” (Their relationship is our ideal marriage) while interrogating the Bass Industries CFO about his accounting abilities under false pretenses about “saving The Spectator.” The CFO is more interested in his entourage of escorts than in saving a newspaper, so Nate hands him his jacket, but not before stealing his phone.

Back at the UES’s Grey Gardens, Eleanor’s only positive feedback to Blair is that she liked the peonies sent to the Board members. Dorota coos something about “grace and dignity” but Eleanor is NOT HAVING IT and wants “amends to the fashion community.” Then Nelly Yuki emerges from the shadows wearing a necklace made of gold balloons.

The storyline that consumes most of the episode is by far the most boring: Rufus and Ivy decide to crash Lily’s art auction. Ivy, flush with cash from CeCe, offers to buy all the artwork, but Lily picks up the scent of the ploy before her society night out can be ruined and donates “the rainbow lady painting” (as Chuck calls it).

Turns out, the rainbow lady painting is the linchpin of Bart Bass’s grand and way too complicated scheme (which can’t really be all that intricate considering it hinges on a painting that he doesn’t even own). Nate and Chuck discover one single clue in the Bass Industries CFO’s phone: “Bass Traffic.” They then — after playing some hilarious free association — deduce that this phrase is code for the fact that Bart Bass has hidden his very important envelope in the back of the rainbow lady painting, the very same one Lily has spitefully put up for auction. Oh, the webs we weave.

Credit: The CW

Having taken a break from the grueling task of West Village apartment hunting, Dan and Serena play pool in a bar during the day, blissfully unaware of the dually boring and complicated schemes circling their respective families.

Serena isn’t the only one who has read Dan’s Vanity Fair tome about Blair’s scheming. “Daniel Humphrey was right about you. His central thesis is correct,” Eleanor over pronounces. “Relapse is part of recovery,” Blair spits back, but not before Eleanor has decided to return to reclaim her fashion line — and save the family name. Blair hunts down Dan, threatens him on some random corner, and then realizes what she has to do: orchestrate a very public fall from grace.

Blair — wearing a bold royal blue headband — walks in to Lily’s benefit (which has, at this point, been co-opted fully by Rufus and Lily) looking contrite. She walks straight up to Nelly Yuki and Eleanor to apologize for the tyranny of her dark side. “I’m a bad seed, Mother, send me away to the village of the damned.” Then, she has a meltdown about lacking talent. “Everything I have was from scheming and lying and working the angles.” (Isn’t that the heart of capitalism? Then again, Bernie Madoff is now spending the rest of his life in a prison cell.)

Chuck is sitting in a limo grunting throatily into the phone, as Chuck is wont to do. But this time he’s wearing a purple brooch. The limo is stuck in a clog of plebes traffic, so Chuck gets out and runs into the benefit. Lily has, at that point, figured out that Ivy has enough money to buy the beloved rainbow lady painting out from under her, at the same time Chuck arrives and sets his sights on finding his father’s hiding place. Chuck, Lily, and Ivy engage in a bidding war that is then won by Rufus “Kept Man” Humphrey from across the room after the three digress into a shouting match.

Credit: The CW

Dan walks in on Serena and Nate discussing his worst personality traits (all because Serena admitted she was beginning to have feelings for Dan again). Nate flees the awkward “yo dudebro, we both used to sleep with this chick” scene, and then Dan and Serena get stuck in an elevator with their feelings. Neither wants to admit they harmed the other, and then the power shuts off. Well played, writers.

Bart texts Lily to tell her she can’t sell the painting. Chuck negotiates with Ivy to buy the painting for twice the amount she bought it.

In elevator land, Dan apologizes. Everyone is their worst enemy and all that. Serena says, “I had to believe you were terrible in order to protect myself.” Then she bites her lip a lot while wearing terrible leggings as pants. Finally the elevator works again and they go back upstairs for chocolate-covered strawberries. Then they make out and she asks him to stay over and he does.

Blair is pouting alone on the steps at the Met. Nelly comes to thank her for giving the exclusive on her existential meltdown and “maybe to gloat a little.” Nelly sits down on the steps, berates Blair for always bullying her, and Blair makes the perceptive observation: “Why are you still sitting below me?” Nelly: “Remnant habit. Like the headband.” In a flash, Blair realizes her bullying has been her greatest influencing power all along.

Blair storms into Eleanor’s office, Eureka style. “My dark side is my talent. I’m not talking about my management style, I’m talking about my design,” Blair explains. “It was my Grace Jones that got everyone wanting to dress like me, because they were fascinated by my ferocity.” That’s deep.

Chuck and Nate cheers their scotch glasses as the rainbow lady painting is unpacked. But sorry, bros, Ivy stole the envelope out of the back of the painting. She makes a secretive phone call to a secret person, whispering: “I have the silver bullet,” in her super porny voice.

For better or for worse, everyone’s suddenly back where they began.

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Credit: YouTube Photo: Promo for Gossip Girl Season 6, Episode 7: Chuck Tells Blair They Can't Be Together (VIDEO)