In an interesting twist, everyone but Chuck is being a douche with a hidden agenda. Yes, even Vanessa, who finds herself becoming increasingly like the hoi poloi that she’s so desperately railed against.
Vanessa has been making the grade at NYU, becoming a student activist and the subject of a front-page profile story in the college newspaper. Even more prestigious, V’s been chosen to give the Freshman Toast at the NYU Parents’ Night soireé. Little does she know that she was actually the second choice for the honor, having received it because none other than her roommate, Hollywood starlet Olivia Burke declined the honor and did not plan on attending. Vanessa, proud of her latest accomplishment, calls her neo-hippie family in Vermont and gets them to come into attend Parents’ Night.
Olivia, fresh from a trip from Japan, all sweetness and light, arrives back in New York bearing gifts: A talking compliment watch for Dan (who is almost as cloyingly, annoyingly sweetsie with Olivia as she is with him) and a giant, stuffed, clawed foot for Vanessa. (Gee, thanks!) Dan, prodded by his family and Vanessa, asks Olivia if she would like to “meet the parents” and accompany him to the Parent’ Night fete. She agrees and then calls the administrative liason, RSVP’s yes and is the de facto toast mistress.
Vanessa is not pleased… Nor is Blair. La Waldorf has had her sights set on making the Freshman Toast, as it is would be Phase 1 of her plan for mastering the world. Believing that Vanessa is the one who got the nod is killing her, and giving her black-and-white movie dreams in which she’s not Audrey Hepburn, but Bette Davis! Enlisting her minions to pore over the texts of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and other dominant figures while she marches her impeccably clad keyester into the liason’s office. He tells her “no,” a word Blair is unaccustomed to hearing. Even worse, he breaks the news that it’s not Vanessa, who has at least become something of a campus fixture, but Hilary Duff/Olivia Burke. Oh, hell no!
Vanessa sees Blair coming out of the office and immediately pounces on her. Blair gleefully breaks the news to Vanessa that she’s not making the toast, but her ooey-gooey roommate, Lizzie McGuire is. Even better, Vanessa was the one who made her own undoing by encouraging Olivia to attend Parents’ Night with Dandy Date Dan. Crestfallen, V takes a page from B’s book and sets about a plan to get back her toast. After all, Mommy has come into town and she can’t look like a fool in front of her.
Vanessa’s mommy is, none other than Gina Torres, Destroyer of Shows. (You may remember her from Firefly, Cleopatra 2525, and the final — or next to final, following her stint as a regular on — Alias, Hercules, and Angel. My crackpot theory is, if Gina Torres becomes a regular on your show, expect that it will only last for another season. Please, Gossip Girl. Do not make Momma Abrams a mainstay on the show! You won’t make it to Season 5!) Momma Abrams breezes into nuevo Casa de Van der Humphrey, fresh from the commune and bearing homemade strawberry rhubarb. She also pees all over NYU as a private university and farts in the general direction of college, much to the discomfort of Vanessa, Rufus, and Lily.
With all this on her mind, Vanessa hatches a Blair-worthy plot to gain back her Toast Mistress status from the cutesy clutches of Olivia. Playing the role of the good, trusted friend, she tells Dan that Olivia feels it’s too soon to meet his parents and that the should have a nice, quiet dinner together; far, far away from Parents’ Night. She then turns around and tells Vanessa that Dan’s afraid to have her meet his parents because they don’t approve of Hollywood types. The plan works (for awhile, at least) and Olivia backs out.
It’s almost all going according to plan until Blair comes up with a scheme of her own. She decides to use loyal boyfriend Chuck and his fondness for pretend hook-ups to spice up their relationship to set her plot in motion. She sends the liason on a Tribeca Scavenger Hunt, which involves stealing a smooch from Chuck Bass. Chuck accomodates his lady love and finds himself on the receiving end of the liason’s 5 o’clock shadow making contact with his perpetually pouting mouth with Blair swooping down in the nick of time to catch the little blackmail episode and the liason promising her the spot as Toast Mistress.
On Parents’ Night, Dan burns the dinner he was making for Olivia and they decide to head to Parents’ Night anyway. Olivia dresses up in a saucy Max Azria number and, assuming Rufus and Lily just say “no” to Hollywood types, plays the role of Lindsay Lohan to perfection, setting the Van der Humphrey’s teeth on edge and making Dan cringe and wonder what the hell is going on. He calls her on her behavior and she mentions how Vanessa said that his parents were turned off by Hollywood types. Oh-oh. !
Meanwhile, Blair shows up to Parents’ Night (wearing a gorgeous, metallic lace dress, for those of you playing the fashion game at home) and prepares to give her speech. She gloats to Vanessa about pulling off this latest coup before chatting up the liason (probably about hot guys). B shouldn’t have gloated too soon since Chuck spotted them and realized that he was just a pawn in Blair’s bid to win the Toast Mistress honor. Chuck and his increasingly purple wardrobe storm out of the gala and leaving Lily to explain her boo-boo to Blair.
Adding insult to injury, Vanessa plans to bring Blair down even further and smuggles a PA-linked microphone into her purse, with Blair accidentally broadcasting plans to turn NYU from a liberal enclave to a monarchy with Blair as its queen to those in attendence.
Things still aren’t quite rosy for Vanessa once butthurt Dan and Olivia confront her about her lies. After Olivia tells her that she would have given up the toast if she knew how much it meant to Vanessa, V apologizes and cites her own anti-establishment family as the basis for her lie. Things get even worse when Momma Abrams comes up behind her daughter, having heard the entire exchange, and wishes her luck.
At the toast, a disgruntled Blair and Vanessa stand by as Olivia flounces up to the microphone and gives the toast. Guess there is a hierarchy in place at NYU after all, Blair!
Later on, a depressed V sits at the campus cafe, crying into her croissant after talking to her mother on the phone. Turns out, Mommy Abrams is headed back to Vermont early. As Vanessa tearily hangs up, Blair joins the ranks of the plebs and enters the cafe, sitting down to nosh and look miserable with Vanessa. Awww… This widdle odd couple just might become friends!
Meanwhile, in this episode’s side plot, Serena and Nate team up to wrest Carter and his debt from the Buckley clan… By playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Poor pretty Nate has been relegated to a side plot again, having broken up with Boring Bree (Trust me, Nate! It’s for the best!) and has gotten to work on his cousin’s campaign for public office. Nate comes up with a plan to bail Serena’s beau Carter out of hock with the Buckley’s who want him to come on down to Texas and work off his debt on the family oil rigs. (Have you seen Carter? Does this guy look like he would even be able to work on an oil rig?)
Nate ponies up the cash for Serena to sit down at the card table to play against Bree’s brother, who is an odd conundrum to behold: A Texas good ol’ boy with spiked hair and a popped collar. Even stranger, how did he manage to get the accent and Boring Bree stayed so drawl-free?
After Serena is wiped out the first time, Nate puts up some more cash, along with a photo of his cousin going all Michael Phelps at his bachelor party up for grabs in exchange for Carter’s debt. Brother Buckley accepts, knowing that this is a primo opportunity to make his family proud and lay a political beatdown on a Vanderbilt. Serena loses the hand, the photo, and the prospect of bailing Carter out.
A distraught Serena visits Nate the following morning at Vanderbilt Headquarters and overhears Nate’s convo with his grandpa. Turns out, he had wanted him to get the photo to leak because… The bong cuz was holding in the picture was Photoshopped in. With the Buckley’s armed with false ammo in a smear campaign, it would further disgrace the family and help his cousin win the seat. Serena confronts Nate on this and he shrugs it off as nothing.
Ultimately, Carter is bailed out by Serena and resents it, Bree’s bro finds out the photo is a fake, yet it still does nothing to deter Carter from moseying off to Texas to work off his debt the old fashioned way. Serena sits in her room and cries. However, as in the case with Nate and Boring Bree, “Trust me, honey. It’s for the best.”
Curiously, Jenny’s BFF Eric was absent from the episode. Hell, he was even absent from the Humphrey/Van der Woodsen breakfast table. What gives? Are they trying to pull a Judy Winslow? Is he off playing board games with his new half-brother? Speaking of, where did Love Child scamper off to this episode?
With Serena now Carter-less and Nate dateless, perhaps they’ll mend fences and hook up. It could be interesting to see how Blair reacts, particularly since S and B haven’t had too much quality time together this season. Plus, they need to figure out something for Nate to do besides be pretty scenery. In terms of other characters, I’m eager to see Jenny’s inner-bitch emerge at Constance and am really enjoying Vanessa’s slow turn towards the Dark Side!
Next week is the Gossip Girl Halloween episode. We’ll see what the Great Pumpkin brings to the Upper East Side… Or Chuck’s new speakeasy-style club!
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