‘Gossip Girl’ recap: Forget Paris

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All right, Upper East Siders of the world. It’s time for brutal honesty. There have always been interesting and boring characters on ‘Gossip Girl.’ And what is really remarkable is that there’s no middle ground between the fascinating ones and the ones who are only there for their more intriguing friends and family members to manipulate. So when the former and the latter happen to be on different continents, the show can feel a bit uneven.

This week, all the gripping action takes place in Paris, where Serena and Blair are preparing to return home, while Chuck and his new lady friend, Eva, have just arrived. As you might remember from last week, I had been hoping Chuck would go off and do his own thing, at least for a few more episodes. But when Lily calls Serena with the news that a body bearing Chuck’s identification has been found, it’s time to put that fantasy to rest.

S rushes off to identify a dead man who, of course, is not her stepbrother and then combs the city until — quelle coincidence! — she finds Eva’s uncle, who’s given Chuck a job in his restaurant. Faster than you can say ‘Paris: population 2.2 million,’ she’s at his door. Still unwilling to face up to the unbearable awfulness of being Chuck Bass, he denies (for Eva’s benefit) that he’s the person Serena is looking for and then sends her on her way. Later, she receives a packet of titles to the Bass business empire, to pass on to Lily, accompanied by the alarming message, ‘I’d rather have nothing than be Chuck Bass.’

In another chance encounter, Blair spots Chuck on the street and speeds away after a horrible moment of mutual recognition. And who can blame her? She spends much of the episode prancing around like Marie Antoinette (who, now that I think of it, may indeed be her true soul sister), shopping and trying on dresses and trying to make herself fall in love with Louis, the prince she’s using to keep her mind off Chuck.

But Paris has one final coincidence up its sleeve. Louis summons Blair to Harry Winston (where else?) to gawk at diamonds — namely, we find out when Serena arrives with French detective in tow, the engagement ring Chuck had hoped to present her with before the Great Jenny Humphrey Incident of 2010. It is sometime around then that Blair realizes she really can’t leave things unfinished with Chuck. In a dramatically lighted scene at the train station, where he has gone to make yet another escape, they trade a classic, pithy Chuck-and-Blair exchange (Chuck: ‘I destroyed the only thing I ever loved.’ Blair: ‘I don’t love you anymore. But it takes more than even you to destroy Blair Waldorf’).

As it turns out, both will come back to New York, but while Blair is going solo, Chuck will have Eva on his arm. We still don’t know much about the new, Czech object of his affections, but I can imagine one of two things happening: Chuck may simply be lured back into his old life, resume his scheming ways, and find that Eva’s uncomplicated sweetness no longer holds much appeal. That’s certainly possible. But I think I spot a foreshadowing twinkle in Eva’s eyes when Chuck first mentions that he has the money to fund their adventures. It’s still kind of foggy what exactly happened before Chuck regained consciousness, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Even though this episode dashes my hopes of keeping Chuck overseas for a while, and despite the many unbelievable mistakes of fate that reunite Chuck and Blair, the fun, quick and drama-packed Paris portion exemplifies the kind of roller coaster action that can make ‘Gossip Girl’ so much fun. And the beautiful shots of the city don’t hurt, either.

Unfortunately, while the interesting characters are in Europe, the boring ones are stuck in New York, where Dan and Nate and fighting over Serena. Again. Except that they’re not actually fighting over Serena because both lack the chutzpah to even get into a good argument. Of course, that leaves them — and shrug-worthy character No. 3, Vanessa — easy targets for the machinations of Juliet, whose super-secret spy or stalker or whatever task seems to be to sabotage Serena’s love life. Although she’s clearly conniving (at one point she volunteers to be Nate’s ‘life coach’ and, for some reason, he takes her up on it), she manages to get Vanessa and Dan back together (after a false start involving what may be the least steamy post-coital scene in TV history). And then, when she can’t foist Nate off on a socialite with a name even more ridiculous than Serena van der Woodsen, she distracts him herself.

Serena steps off the plane from Paris expecting to choose between two guys who have been after her since midway through high school but returns home to find each holding hands (albeit awkwardly) with another woman. Her mission — whatever it turns out to be — accomplished, Juliet makes quick work of dispelling any hope Nate may have that their flirtation will continue now that he’s free of Serena. Before the episode is out, we see her make an awfully suspicious phone call while ripping down the creepy photos and clippings of Nate and Serena (but mostly Serena) on the bulletin board in her room. ‘I had to improvise, but it’s done,’ she says. ‘I’ll see you soon, and we’ll talk about what’s next. Take care, hang in there. I miss you.’ The only image that remains on the board is Serena’s mug shot.

It seems clear now that Juliet is not some lone psychopath but a woman with a goal — and co-conspirators. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to whom she’s working with and why she’s trying to bring Serena down? It’s possible that Nate’s messed-up family, whom Serena got a little too familiar with last season, could be behind it.

The final moments of the episode do bring one more revelation that I’m sure comes as a surprise to no one: Rufus does some blood-type calculations and realizes there’s no way Milo can be Dan’s baby. Among other wonderful things — for example, that Lonely Boy won’t have to sacrifice his youth to child-rearing, a prospect he has approached with baffling nonchalance — this means that next week should bring the return of my favorite troublemaker, Georgina, with some major ‘splaining to do. Add to that the homecoming of Serena, Blair and Chuck, and this slow start may well give way to a mighty exciting Season 4.

‘Gossip Girl’ highbrow reference watch:
‘The life of Serena van der Woodsen is like the most complicated Jane Austen novel ever.’ -- Juliet, to Nate

Your weekly ‘Gossip Girl’ fashion top five:

1. Serena’s sparkly, gold jacket and bright blue pants

2. Blair’s white and navy, one-shoulder frock

3. Louis’ pink and blue plaid dress shirt

4. Blair’s ruffly, red ball gown

5. Chuck’s honest, working-man’s shirt and open vest

— Judy Berman