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TV Review: Gossip Girl – “The Kids Stay in the Picture”

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The CW’s Gossip Girl just returned tonight from a six week hiatus, but unfortunately, unlike many earlier episodes this season, tonight’s has quite a few problems and disappointments. Gossip Girl thrives on drama, but it is not known for letting exciting stories peter out without a satisfying conclusion. Yet, that is exactly what it seems like is happening between Blair (Leighton Meester) and Dan (Penn Badgley).

When last the show aired, Blair and Dan were sharing a kiss, their first. The feelings that have been bubbling up between them all season come to a head, and they decide a smooch will determine if there are real feelings between them, something more than friendship, or not. But tonight’s episode is set a week later, and Blair is not returning Dan’s calls. In fact, she has already moved on, and is back to wanting to be with Chuck (Ed Westwick). Did all her quality time with someone who shares her interests mean nothing to her? Blair has become a character with real feelings, not just motivated to get ahead at all costs, as she used to be, and that seems to vanish suddenly.

At the time Blair and Chuck originally split, it was beyond disappointing. Every episode brought another frustrating bout of ‘why won’t they get back together already?’. And then Dan comes along, completely unexpected, and the years of hate between he and Blair begin to cool. Spending time one on one together, with no ulterior motives, allow them to really reveal who they are, and learn just how much they have in common. Now, Blair and Chuck barely seem compatible. While Chuck changes first, Blair changes more, and now she belongs with a man of substance, like Dan.

It is acceptable, of course, for Blair to have reservations about committing to Dan. He is below her station, and it may affect her career. However, the effect will be minimal and temporary. Looking around, there are other powerful women who married men from lower income upbringings and have managed to still succeed with flying colors. Blair’s hesitation should be only temporary. Worse, the series teases, with Blair calling the kiss life-changing. But the change she refers to is a reversal. Good characters do not backslide so completely.

Lily’s (Kelly Rutherford) family is in town, supposedly to support her in her time of need while she faces criminal charges. William (William Baldwin), CeCe (Caroline Lagerfelt), and even the never-before-seen-as-an-adult Carol (Sheila Kelley) arrive. They are not there just to offer moral support, however. In fact, their main purpose seems to be to have a picture taken. This is important to Lily, which is understandable, given the upheaval her life is going through. But did none of her relations care enough to stay beyond that?

It is nice to finally see Carol, Lily’s sister, who was previously introduced as a teenager in flashback for a spin-off that never happened. However, once Carol and Lily reconnect, and a small secret slips out, she really isn’t that important to the plot. Carol’s daughter, Charlie (Kaylee DeFer), who will be sticking around, is even more uninteresting. An attempt to give her a mysterious back story falls flat, and unlike many other supporting characters who drift in and out of the show, she is completely forgettable. Only Rufus (Matthew Settle) is the slightest bit interesting in this plot, as he and William begin to make a sort of peace.

Will Charlie end up adding anything to the show? It’s unlikely, given what she has contributed so far. The problem is, a generic actress who easily fades into the background is portraying her, and what little she has been given has not been punched up to gain attention. This could be writing or acting or a combination, but it’s just not working. Instead, she is a mousy girl who will be eaten alive by the upper east-siders in no time. If she is going to be a fixture for any length of time, changes need to be made fast.

Why is Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) still on the series? She skulks in the shadows, barely popping up, except in some half-hearted attempts to reconnect to the other characters. She can’t decide whether she should apologize or cause trouble, as she keeps doing both, so neither work very well. Either Vanessa needs to make her presence felt and fight for her place in the group, or she should just go away. Szohr could be doing better things with her life.

Despite an unsatisfying episode, the series, and the season, overall have been plenty good enough to retain viewers through the rough patches. Gossip Girl airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. on the CW.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • emily

    Can I just say how much I love this review? Everything is spot on, and as a dair shipper I was quite annoyed with that episode, but I still have hope for season 5 for my bbs. Chuck and Vanessa and Charlie can all run off together for all I care.

  • http://jeromewetzeltv.blogspot.com/ Jerome Wetzel

    LOL, thank you! Am also a Dair fan! SPOILER: Blair will be engaged by the end of this season. Which, in my mind, rules out a Blair / Dan coupling, though I could be wrong.