A little note first, dear readers…
Like all sites worth their salt (or all sites, salt-be-damned), HitFix.com will soon be recapping TV shows in a blog we’re tentatively titling Monkeys As Critics.
That’s where you’re going to find my “American Idol” reviews once the season begins (i.e. next week, if I choose to write about the audition episodes), for example. That’s also where you’ll get to read Drew McWeeny puzzling over the mysteries of “Lost.”
Currently, that blog doesn’t exist. But we hope it will soon. When it does, this recap of “Gossip Girl” will migrate into the blog.
It’s also my hope that while I may be writing about “Gossip Girl” this week, somebody different and more uniquely qualified will be taking over next week. It isn’t that I don’t adore the girls of gossip, but a proper reviewer of The CW’s Golden “Girl” should be able to identify the brand and weave of Rufus Humphrey’s brown sweater turtleneck, rather than just wondering why he appeared to be wearing the itchy-looking top for a week. I, alas, can only do the latter.
Without further ado… Some thoughts on “In the Realm of the Basses”…
First, kudos as ever to “Gossip Girl” for using episode titles that might or might not expand the intellectual horizons of its fanbase. If just a dozen teenage girls go out and rent Nagisa Oshima’s erotic classic “In the Realm of the Senses” then Josh Schwarz and Stephanie Savage will truly have done their jobs.
On one hand, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you the connection between Oshima’s tale of obsession, both sexual and otherwise, and Monday’s (Jan. 5) episode. On the other hand, though, what’s the point of living if you don’t bother trying.
Here’s what I came up with, y’all: “In the Realm of the Senses” is about a man whose devotion to his geisha lover becomes all consuming. The sex and passion they originally feel becomes increasingly desperate and dangerous until it tears their lives apart. So it’s about what happens when you leave your mundane life behind for a pleasurable life you think you want until you realize it’s too late.
Yeah, that’s reductive, but I’m transitioning into tonight’s “Gossip Girl,” where the major plotlines involved trying to leave the past behind and what happens when you get what you truly want and discover it doesn’t make you happy anymore.
Look at poor Chuck Bass. Mother? Dead. Father? Dead. Scarf? Last season. As the episode began, Chuck was off in Thailand experiencing what Blair called “some Jim Morrison downward spiral.” Indeed. But the formerly reliable pleasures of Bass-itude were yielding no pleasure for Chuck. The drugs were making him no more joyful, the alcohol making him no more jolly and the women at his repurchased burlesque were looking increasingly grotesque as the episode progressed. Chuck’s worldly appetites were all being indulged and yet he was getting no satisfaction. Wait. That would be a Mick Jagger downward spiral. Anyway, we all knew that liberation would come from Chuck welcoming Blair’s love.
[As an aside, what happened on New Year’s Eve with Blair and Jack Bass? And while I guess that Desmond Harrington is an attractive dude, why does he not have any personality, whether he’s fighting crime in Miami (he was Quinn on “Dexter” this season) or being a Manhattan sociality? It looks like we’re going to be seeing more of him in weeks to come, which concerns me.]
While Chuck was surrendering himself to Earthly delights, Blair was forcing maturity upon herself. Burnt by Chuck’s failure to reciprocate her love, she decided to grow up. Not only did she play lawyer for Chuck at a hearing with the head mistress, but Mature Blair played mediator between Little J and the snobby Girls on the Steps. She even went so far as to buck for admission into the Colony Club, a group of elite society matrons in matching sweaters (“I frequently feed the ducks in Central Park and read to blind children,” Blair swore, in a pathetic effort at assimilated [and simulated] altruism). But having over-indulged on the maturity she thought she craved, Blair was ready to surrender to youthful insecurity by the end. None that excuses the weird Tudors-era collar Blair donned in one scene, crying in the mirror.
And speaking of youthful insecurity, wasn’t it good to see Little J looking, um, “little” again. Amazing what happens when you make the bangs a bit less severe and the mascara a bit less gothy? Suddenly Taylor Momsen looks 15 again. For Taylor and poor Eric, who no longer is entitled to a character of his own, the arc of the episode saw them unwittingly taking down the Girls on the Steps, a power-grab that meant more screentime than usual for Nicole Fiscella’s Isabel, Amanda Setton’s Penelope and the ever-under-utilized Dreama Walker (see her as the pouty teen in “Gran Torino) as the ditzy Hazel. Best line? Penelope’s declaration, “We’re more than one member and the only way Nelly is leaving is in a bodybag.” But once Jenny succeeded, she realized — Detecting a trend here? — that what she got wasn’t what she expected and what she got (becoming Queen Bee again) wasn’t what she wanted.
My favorite part of the Little J subplot was when Jenny and Eric accumulated a host of secrets about the Girls on the Steps (Hazel, for example, got drunk and made out with her cousin… twice) and wrote up a Gossip Girl story that they threatened to post. The CW’s has become adept at accurately depicting blogging as a weapon.
And what of the last major plotline? That of Dan and Serena? Well, it seems that Serena broke up with Aaron half-way to Argentina, which was a good move, since the guy gave off a crazy serial killer vibe. If we never see him again, I won’t be disappointed. So, after the briefest period of making moon-eyes at each other, they finally just started making out in public. This, then, was an example of giving two characters exactly what they wanted at the expense of what everybody else in the world wanted. Blair was disgusted to them them together again. Rufus was uncomfortable seeing them together. And I was bored to tears at seeing them together again. Enough already with Dan and Serena. But “Gossip Girl” is a deceptively clever show. The writers know they’re forcing the couple on us, as Little J abserved, “Come on, get on-board. Dan-Serena. Dan-Serena. Dan-Serena. Woo!”
As we all know now, Dan and Serena have a half-brother out there somewhere and Lilly and Rufus are on the way to find him. Will that doom their relationship? As Chuck Bass put it, “Sharing a sibling? That’s a bit much, even for me.”
For me as well.
A couple other quick thoughts on the episode:
** Is Blake Lively really nine degrees of hotness higher than Penn Badgely? In warmer season when she can show off her legs and cleavage? Yes. But Winter in New York City is the great hotness equalizer.
** No Nate. No Vanessa. Nobody missed them.
** Blair has thrown so many Make A Good Impression parties in the past two seasons, but the gathering for the Colony Club was a real disappointment. Other than her beret, did she make any effort at all? I expect more out of Dorota.
** Having done the long-lost-sibling subplot on “90210” and “One Tree Hill” already in the past two seasons, I’m wondering what’s up with The CW’s mothers and their wayward misspent youths. But none of them would ever have gotten abortions. Because that would be controversial. And risque.
I believe that captures some of the essence of Monday’s “Gossip Girl” return and almost none of the essence of “In the Realm of the Senses.”
Stay tuned to HitFix to see who will be recapping “Gossip Girl” next week!