Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 5, Episode 14 of The CW's "Gossip Girl," entitled "The Backup Dan."
This week's "Gossip Girl" picked up right where the milestone 100th episode left off, with Blair turned Runaway Bride and the rest of the Manhattan apparently on the hunt for her. After the twists and turns of last week, "The Backup Dan" seemed choppy and strangely paced in comparison, lurching across New York as Blair and Dan tried to escape the evil Grimaldi clan and their Bond villain accents. Serena, Chuck and Georgina were hot on their heels, but since we ended up almost exactly where we started -- with Blair reluctantly departing for her honeymoon with a man she doesn't love -- it kind of felt like a wasted hour to me (not to mention one that offered up some deeply disturbing subtext for Blair's relationship with Louis -- but more on that later).
Regardless, here are the stand-out moments in an otherwise underwhelming episode.
1. My Love Don't Cost a Thing
Apparently, nothing creates a stronger foundation for marital bliss than prenuptial blackmail, at least, if you're royalty. After Blair discovered that Louis intended to keep her as a loveless trophy wife, she (understandably) decided to escape the display case, with her heart set on divorcing her new hubby without his consent in the Dominican Republic, Elizabeth Taylor-style.
Sadly, the pesky pre-nup that she was so reluctant to sign had some truly dastardly small print; if Blair defaulted on the marriage, then the Grimaldi family could reinstate the dowry they'd waived, forcing the Waldorfs to fork over a right royal fortune for the embarrassment. One would think that having a soulmate who happens to be a billionaire would come in handy during such a crisis, but Blair, masochist that she is, refused Chuck's offer to pay off the dowry. Their scene was as heartfelt as it was heartbreaking, with Chuck once again pleading for Blair to reconsider her pact with God and abandon Louis once and for all. While her refusal was undoubtedly frustrating for all the fans still rooting for Chuck and Blair to work things out, her reasoning was actually pretty solid, in this case: If and when the star-crossed couple finally ends up together, Blair wants them to be equals, without one owing the other anything. Considering how unequal their relationship has been in the past, I was actually impressed that she wanted to find her own way out of the mess she'd gotten herself into, without letting a man save her.
I suppose she was also morally right in stopping her mother from selling her business to help her, but that won't ease the stress and worry it'll place on her parents. Even though the story gave Blair a good opportunity to try and solve her own self-made problem, the overall plot point of a man blackmailing a woman into a marriage in exchange for money was an extremely troubling concept for me. (See Moment 5.)
2. Georgina Isn't Gossip Girl?
Nothing is ever as simple as it appears on this show, so even with last week's revelation still ringing in our ears, it didn't take long for Georgina to drop another bombshell. She confirmed what many predicted after last week: She is Gossip Girl's self-appointed successor, but not the original troublemaker. Isn't it nice to have your cake and eat it too? She's still sticking around to cause optimum damage, though -- stalking Serena and Chuck around town to discover where Blair was hiding from Louis -- but her evil plan backfired when the princess ended up back with her frog. Still, she obviously has another plan up her sleeve, since she knows who really leaked Blair and Chuck's video. Judging by the lingering shot of Dan we closed out the show with, he's our prime suspect. Was he simply hoping to drive a wedge between Blair and Chuck, since he knew everyone would assume that our resident Basstard was the sabotaging type?
3. A Dan For All Seasons
Though Humphrey spent most of the hour being treated like Blair's chauffeur, butler and personal bank account, the long-suffering Lonely Boy did finally put his foot down and insist that Blair should treat him less like a slave and more like a friend. And, horror of horrors, Queen B actually listened to him. Not only did she admit that she cares for him, she also gave him a thank you and an apology -- it just got very chilly in Hell. While I still don't think that Blair's in the right place mentally or emotionally to reciprocate Dan's obvious feelings, they undeniably have a real friendship now, and it's clear that Blair believed that she could rely on him to help her without all the baggage that Chuck or Blair would bring. What the girl really needs is a break from guys altogether -- some "me" time in the Dominican Republic probably would do. Still, their honest moment in the hotel bar was one of the most genuine of the episode.
4. Family Matters
Poor Lola Rhodes. No matter how well she thinks she's hidden herself from her mom's influence, there's no escaping family. Even when she's minding her own business and picking up odd jobs to pay for the dorms at Julliard, she just keeps getting pulled back into her aunt's orbit. Now we know why Carol seemed so convinced that her relatives would never run into the real Charlie: She thinks her daughter is safely hidden away in Michigan, not flirting with a guy whose family is almost as messed up as hers is. It's only a matter of time before Nate or Lily figure out the real family connection, (you can certainly see the fake resemblance -- kudos to the casting team) but will she get to confront Ivy in some kind of Charlie catfight, winner take all the inheritance?
5. OMG WTF? (a.k.a. What is "Gossip Girl's" obsession with treating its women like property?)
I hate to end on a sour note, but this time around, I feel like it's warranted. This is more of a meta OMG moment than a plot-driven one, but are the show's writers seriously unaware of how deeply problematic it is that they continue to write Blair as a commodity to be bought and sold by the men in her life? First, Chuck sold Blair for his hotel, and now, Louis has bought her for a year of marriage in exchange for a dowry. "Gossip Girl" has always walked a very dangerous line in failing to delineate between consensual and non-consensual acts (especially in storylines relating to Chuck). The entire premise of the series is built upon the idea of commodifying a bunch of rich teenagers' lives so that complete strangers can interfere in their romantic and personal interactions, like they exist purely for the entertainment of Gossip Girl's site visitors.
Similarly, there is no way to skew this current Louis/Blair arc into anything but a forced marriage, in which Louis will at least kiss Blair in public without her consent, if not more. Yes, this show is vapid and frothy and silly in the extreme, but Blair and Serena are also characters that -- wisely or not -- are role models to young women. Maybe most of us don't take "Gossip Girl" seriously, but if there is even one girl out there who thinks that she needs to compromise her integrity or desires to please an overbearing and emotionally manipulative man, the show has done a great disservice to its audience and its actresses. I'm disappointed that the writers couldn't find a more responsible storyline to keep Blair and Chuck apart without needing Blair to both martyr herself and give in to psychological abuse. Rationalize away, but nothing will convince me that this is a worthwhile narrative to pursue.
"Gossip Girl" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.