We're promptly informed which Ivy each character has been assigned to. Serena really wants to go to Brown (is this supposed to indicate to us that somewhere inside her there's a free spirit? Because, please); Blair wants Yale; Chuck settles on Princeton (I think because of a hot rep); Nate's been destined for Dartmouth by his father since conception; and Dan wants Dartmouth because of some intellectual reason I don't really care about. They all compete for usher positions at the mixer, and of course Dan loses out because he's POOR and there's CLASS CONFLICT (this is an important concept). Until, that is, Daddy Humphrey seeks out Mommy Van Der Woodsen and "offers his services," meaning
Meanwhile, Blair and Serena have a little tiff on the field hockey, um, field, and Serena wants truce but Blair plays wounded. She decides to carry out "total social extraction" on Serena. What a great phrase. Secretly, Blair convinces Chuck to spy on Serena for her in a fairly flirtatious exchange; she pretends to be disgusted when he hints at wanting something special in return, but I think we all know these two unabashed schemers are destined to hook up. Chuck sees Serena heading into the Ostroff Treatment Center for family therapy with Eric and her mom, but Blair assumes she knows something big about Serena now, and outs her as a recovered addict when she decides to honor the Ostroff Center at the mixer!
Serena, who spends the early part of the mixer sabotaging Blair with the Yale rep, is now mortified and trapped; rather than outing Eric as the one in treatment, she allows herself to be humiliated. But Jenny, last seen bonding with Eric over his secret and promising never to tell anyone, immediately tells Dan what's really going on. Eric, order your "I'm with stupid" T-shirt now, because when you hook up with Jenny, you're going to need it. Impressed with Serena's selflessness, Dan withdraws his earlier objections to the fact that she's, you know, human and flawed, and they end the episode on a happy note. "If you want someone to talk to, or not talk to..." he offers, and she says she might take up his offer "to get together and not talk" sometime. Dirty!
Heroically, Eric outs himself to Blair, who, to her credit, looks absolutely devastated at what she hears; this catalyzes the best scene of the episode. Blair goes to the place where she knows Serena goes to think things over. At this special place, she finds a large ugly hat with a Serena attached to it, "reading." (Um, sure, show.) Eyes teary, Blair reads aloud a letter she wrote to Serena during Serena's year away, which she never sent. "Dear Serena, my world is falling apart, and you're the only one who would understand [...] Where are you? Why don't you call? Why did you leave without saying goodbye? You're supposed to be my best friend. I miss you so much. Love, Blair." There's a lot of tears and apologies after that, and it's (god help me) truly moving.
Aaaaaanyway. There are, obviously, a lot of problems with Gossip Girl. The class-conflict, parents-planning-everyone's-futures stuff is ridiculously un-subtle and Nate is so boring a character that I stop paying attention whenever he's onscreen. But Chuck is just delicious in his unadulterated evil ("Why should I be chosen to be an usher? I'm... Chuck Bass."), Blair is equally delicious when she's being evil, and the Gossip Girl voiceover is the syrup on top of the fluffy pancake that is each episode. (Dumb simile, my bad.) Josh Schwartz's work on The OC demonstrated his lack of ability to pace story arcs, and Serena and Blair change their feelings about each other about six times a week, but so far, I'm pretty happy with how things are moving along.
In Summary: Whoever's not watching this is missing out on high drama, low blows, and lots of general fun.