Gossip Girl‘s maiden episode begins with the peppy whistling of that cute little Scandinavian indie band. Serena van der Woodsen (or “S,” as the eponymous Gossip Girl likes to refer to as) has been spotted talking through Grand Central Station, apparently coming home from boarding school in Connecticut. Gossip Girl, voiced by Kristen Bell, credits Melanie91 for snapping a picture of Serena’s arrival, narrates that no one knows why Serena left New York a year ago, and no one knows why she is back.
Also at Grand Central are Dan and Jenny, coming home after a weekend with their mother. You can tell that they are poor (or at least middle class) because instead meeting a liveried chauffer like Serena is, their dad Rufus comes to pick them up. That is the only way you can tell that they are poor because they are otherwise all very attractive.
Serena’s BFF Blair is at a fancy party when she finds out, thanks to Gossip Girl, that Serena is back. At the party, we are treated to an exchange between Blair and her mother, establishing that Blair has mommy issues. Mommy Dearest tells Blair, “If you’re going to wear one of my designs, then tell me, so that we can get it properly fitted.
Also at the party is Nate, Blair’s boyfriend, who is the son of a Dartmouth man. Rich kids are required by law to have issues with one or both of their parents, and we find out that Nate is no exception. His father is a Dartmouth man, which means that he must go there too, by God. He lamely tries to say that he wants to consider schools out west, like USC, but that idea is immediately quashed by his dad.
Blair, who looks like a young, brown-haired Reese Witherspoon, is threatened by the news of Serena’s return. Using the only weapon at her disposal to protect herself, she grabs Nate and tells him she is finally ready to have sex with him. Right now. They scuttle off into a room, when Serena arrives.
Serena meets her mom Lily at the party and immediately asks where he is. The “he” in question is her little brother Eric, who is in the hospital after having attempted suicide. But a fancy party is certainly not the place to air one’s dirty laundry, so her mother tells her that they will discuss it later. Serena and Nate catch each other’s eyes from across the room, a look that does not go unnoticed by Blair. Blair approaches Serena and they do the fake-sincere hug that all high school girls excel at. Serena begs off, and tells Blair that she will see her at school tomorrow. Serena is in New York to stay, then.
Serena goes to the hospital to see her brother Eric, and spends the night on the chair next to his bed. Lily arrives in the morning, and we learn that she has been telling all her socialite friends that Eric is in Miami visiting relatives.
But it’s time to get ready for school, so Serena goes home to get changed. “Home,” by the way, is the Palace Hotel, where the van der Woodsens are residing while their home is being renovated. Fancy old hotels are so much cooler than McMansions; ergo, Gossip Girl is so much cooler than The O.C. Anyway, Nate is standing outside the Palace, hoping that he could continue his staring contest with Serena from the night before. He tries to talk to her, but she yells, “I didn’t come back for you.”
Meanwhile, poor kids have to get ready for school too. Jenny is addressing all the invitations for the Kiss on the Lips Party just so that she can have the privilege of attending the party as well. She is a social climber, that Jenny. And observant too. She observes that her brother Dan is acting like he’s interested in Serena. Their dad is like Sandy Cohen-lite, because he’s a liberal and an ex-rocker. We find out that his band was named #9 in Rolling Stones‘ Top Ten Forgotten Bands of the ‘90s.
The kids hurry off to school on the bus, where they see Nate and Chuck. What? This is the most unrealistic part of the episode. Children of privilege like Nate and Chuck most certainly do not slum it with po’ people on the bus. I’m calling shenanigans on this. Anyway, I suppose it sets up an encounter between Dan and Chuck. Chuck doesn’t know who Dan is, and Dan rather lamely says that they go to the same school.
Before school, Jenny delivers the invitations to Blair and her hench-bitches, Kati and Isabel on the steps of the Met. Serena breezes by and notes that they’re having a party, but Blair bitches that she’s kind of not invited. Serena and Blair’s showdown is narrated by the all-knowing Gossip Girl: S asks B to meet tonight. B says no because she has plans with Nate. S totally out-bitches B because B agrees to meet her at the Palace at eight.
The second act begins after school. Dan is helping Rufus post flyers for his concert tonight, when he gets an emergency text message from Jenny. Jenny, it turns out, is in a mall. I didn’t realize that Manhattan even had malls. Anyway, this very pretty blond girl really must not have any friends at all because the emergency she called her brother over for is to help her decide if the dress she’s trying on looks good for the Kiss on the Lips Party. These siblings are awfully close, aren’t they? In perhaps an homage to Brenda Walsh, Jenny says that even though she’ll never be able to afford the dress, she’s sure she can sew one just like it. Serena, who has sneaked her brother out of the hospital for a jaunt at the mall, stops by and talks to Jenny. But Dan has disapparated behind a rack of clothes, because he’s too awkward to talk to his object of desire. Elsewhere, Nate and Chuck stroll through Central Park, openly sharing a joint. Nate is afraid that he’ll end up just like his parents; Chuck just advises him to get high and seal the deal with Blair.
Finally, it is time for S and B’s meeting at the Palace. Blair is resentful and Serena didn’t tell her why she even went to boarding school in the first place. Serena acknowledges that Blair is the new queen bee at school and doesn’t want to take that back. Eventually, the frost melts, and the two exchange a warm. But all is not so rosy with Serena, who downs an entire martini—and not a girly pink one—in a single gulp as soon as Blair leaves for her date with Nate. I may have doubted a lot of the New York authenticity before, what with the mall in the middle of Manhattan, but this I know to be true: not very many bars will card minors, so it’s not too much of a stretch that a high school student like Serena is drinking at a bar.
Serena has several more martinis when Chuck arrives and finds her getting hammered by herself. Apparently, his parents own the hotel, so he lures her into the kitchen with the promise of truffle oil (oh, those rich kids!) where he tries to take advantage of her drunken state. He reveals to her that he knows what happened between her and Nate last year at the Shepherd wedding. Serena flashbacks to the infamous night when she and Nate got drunk and had sex. Meanwhile, across town, Nate is overcome with guilt and confesses to Blair about the same night. Blair had planned to cash in her v-card with Nate that night, but instead ends breaking up with him. Serena finishes her flashback and runs out of the kitchen and right into Dan, who had come to the Palace in the hopes of running into her. The contents of her purse fall onto the ground, and she quickly gathers her belongings without even looking at him. Oops! She forgot her cell phone, however!
The next morning, Nate and his Dartmouth dad are running in the park. Nate can’t possibly live up to his dad’s expectations if he can’t even beat the old man in a simple footrace, can he? Nate tells him that he broke up with Blair, but Dartmouth dad disapproves. He explains that Blair’s mother Eleanor has been gearing up for her company to go public, and he wanted in on that deal, so by golly, Nate’s gotta stay with her for the good of the family.
Nate has no backbone when it comes to Dartmouth dad, so he invites Blair out to sushi and tells her that everything with Serena is in the past. Blair is instantly happy and takes him back immediately.
Dan goes to the Palace to return Serena’s cell phone. Serena, in an effort to get deflect her mother’s prodding to attend the Kiss on the Lips Party, uses Dan as an excuse not to go. Dan offers that they are going to see a band. Lily actually knows of the band because she was once a rock groupie and had a thing with Rufus once upon a time. I am so loving the parents’ storyline right now.
It is finally time for the Kiss on the Lips Party. Blair’s mother helps Blair get ready for the party, and is the best passive-aggressive mother on TV. She totally delivers with the line, “You will never be more beautiful or thin or happy than you are right now. I just want you to make the most of it.”
At the party, Jenny stands by herself because she has no friends. I’m going to take a guess here and say that she is Gossip Girl. Chuck decides that he needs another freshman conquest under his belt and asks her to go someplace where they can talk. They go up to the roof. Chuck goes in for the kill, but Jenny doesn’t want to, so she sends an S.O.S. text message to Dan for help.
Meanwhile, in the po’ part of town, Dan and Serena are outside the club. We know that they are in the po’ part of town because Serena mentions that she is overdressed. The thing is, she is wearing a horrendous gold lame tunic that Julie Cooper wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole, so I’m sure she would feel out of place anywhere, except maybe next to Diana Ross. Dan and Serena make awkward but cute first-date jokes, but then he gets two emergency text messages from Jenny. He and Serena leave to go help her, but I’m really not seeing why they have to. If Jenny had the time to secretly send two text messages with nary an orthographic error, then I don’t really see why she can’t just get away from the bastard herself. Plus, they are all the way over on the po’ side of town—how is he possibly going to get to the party in time?
As soon as Serena enters party, the place is immediately abuzz with gossiping and the sound of text messages being sent. Blair is furious to find out that she’s there and orders Nate not to talk to her. Nate is used to being controlled, so he just slumps in the corner with a beer. Dan, who I just realize sounds uncannily like Joshua Jackson, and Serena find Chuck and Jenny up on the roof. Dan punches Chuck out, fulfilling my greatest wish to have another fancy party end with a fight—thank you, Josh Schwartz!—and the three misfits leave the party. Dan and Serena hold hands, as Blair glowers and Chuck swears bloody revenge and Nate mopes.
-Debbie Chang, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of The CW)