Everyone's favorite youth Kabuki troupe has finally returned to the airwaves after a long winter's nap. How did we find our friends? Wholly changed? Born anew? Some! Some are different! Others remain, alas, mostly the same.

You'll remember, I hope, that when we last saw Serena doing her vanilla pudding-filled bone dance, she had resolved things with the late Katie Cassidy, posthumous winner of the Nobel Prize for acting, and was on a mission to get her old high school teacher, Professor J.J. Studentfondler, out of the clink. He was in there because Lily had found out that he and Serena had some kind of special relationship so she made up sex charges against him and then signed Serena's name on the affidavit, because she is a jerk. So Serena was determined to spring Mr. Vaginacuddle from the pen, and was soooo mad, so effing mad, at her terrible mother. She vowed to never speak to her again. Until January 24th, at least!

Yeah, of course they were forced to talk a little last night, with Lily not really apologizing for the past, but saying that she'd work things out with the future. Serena didn't really believe her, rolling her cantaloupe ball eyes in her Bakelite skull and going plotting with her half-brother, Chuck Buckles. Chuckles is also mad at Lily because she is trying to sell Bass Fisheries & Hotel Concern out from under him. It was unclear why Lily was doing such a terrible thing, but oh she was doing it all right. She was doing it very, very hard, right in front of Chuck. And he could not take it.

So Serena and Chuck made a decision. They'd find some proof that Lily has forged a signature on a legal document that ultimately sent an innocent man to Abu Ghraib for forty-six years and then blackmail her with it. Ben would get out of prison, Bass Fishstink LTD wouldn't be sold, and Lily would have to do it some more in front of Chuck. It was a good plan! Too bad someone dumped a bucket of wrenches into it. A bucket of 'em.

First off, Chuck met a new girl on the show, one who had very dark hair and a really deep tan. Wasn't that weird? I mean, everyone on Gossip Girl, with the exception of the cavewoman Vanessa and one of Blair's high school friends, has been possessed of perfect porcelain skin. And then this girl show's up last night and she has been hitting the tanning bed! She must use a tanning bed like a regular bed, because she is dark! So yeah, Chuck met her in the lobby of a spaceport or whatever that building was, and he was trying to talk to her boss, who was a friend of his dad's and supposedly the one buying Bass Motorcoaches, and was very rude to her and she was all "He's not here yet." Luckily for everyone, though, he was coming in from his native Chicago to throw his annual "Hello, New York!" afternoon party (because black tie parties are coolest in the afternoon), so Chuck could talk to him there and, luckily, everyone else in the cast would be there too, because of course they would.

Meanwhile Serena was flitting and farting around town, talking to Dan about how maybe they should get together or something, but not really talking about it. She also talked to Blair about what she'd done over winter break, which included buying a sparkling cowboy hat so she could talk to the judge who helped Lily forge Serena's signature. See she bought the hat because the judge was riding horses on his farm or something. Which makes sense. Everyone who rides horses on the East Coast fancies themselves a cowboy and wears the appropriate accoutrement. That's just what moneyed, East Coast equestrian culture is like. (If Serena had actually scored a meeting with Justice Hootenanny, she was planning on developing a meth habit and dropping her kids off at their aunt's in Cheyenne before zooming off in a pickup truck never to return again, just to get the full contemporary cowboy persona going.) Blair was unimpressed. Really, Blair wasn't paying much attention because she had a sssseeeecret.

The secret was way more mild than I thought it might be, but it does promise interesting things for the future. You see, as it turns out, over the break Blair and Dan made wild baboon love to one another, screaming each other's name in pained ecstasy, climaxing so hard Dorota's baby started crying all the way in Queens went to a French movie together, and, it seems, actually had a decent time together. So now they're not really sure how to act around each other, because it is weird, this not hating each other thing. I for one LOVE IT. I never thought I'd be so gushy about a plotline on this show (that didn't involve Erik and Dan slow waltzing and sharing a tender kiss as a soft snow fell and Nate ice skated on a lonely winter pond, weeping crystal blue tears), but here it is, and I'm lovin' it™. I mean, it's going to devolve into grossness, of course it will, because Dan is a really gross character (not to say that Penn Badgley is gross, not after how charming he was in Easy A) and it's just going to be awkward to watch them smoosh. But smoosh they will, I think, by season's end. And the lead up will be exciting to watch. Then we just need Serena to sleep with Chuck and I think we'll have covered all our bases, right? Then everyone will have slept with everyone? (Vanessa/Chuck, Vanessa/Nate, Vanessa/Dan. Blair/Nate, Blair/Chuck, Blair/Dan. Serena/Nate, Serena/Dan, Serena/Chuck.) That'd be it! Of course Erik has the weirder sex records complete already — Erik/Bart Bass, Erik/Rufus/Dorota's husband, Erik/Wallace Shawn, Erik/Erik, Erik/Around-the-way-trick on East 127th, etc.) — but the main characters finally completing the full incest cycle will be pretty interesting. Come on, writers, you can do it! I believe in you! (I do not believe in you.)

So, OK, where was I? Oh yeah, so. Rufus and Lily had a little brunch thing and Serena was mad that they were there and she yelled at them and stormed out, so did Erik, and Dan just sat there making strange banjo sounds with his mouth. Lily was sad. But what could she do? Later Dan was supposed to meet Serena before his big literary internship meeting, but she stood him up, and his new secret friend (though they weren't admitting it to each other yet) Blair did not approve of Serena's behavior. She wasn't quite sure what this new, electric blue urgency she was feeling inside of her was, but all of a sudden she knew that it was not a good thing to be mean to Dan, poor sweet future failed writer Dan. She hated Serena for her breezy blonde forgetfulness, knew for a brief blitz of a second before she pushed it out of her head that if she could just get her arms around Dan once, she'd never let his warm firmness go. Never ever, never ever.

But this was not proper! So she didn't do it. Instead, everyone went to the party. Serena and Chuck were ready for their silly Lily dilly, as they'd found a xeroxed copy of the smoking affidavit in Lily's seeeeecret family safe, where she keeps nude pictures (apparently), copies of illegal affidavits (always want to make copies of those), and the key to her vault at Gringotts. "Jackpot!!" Serena and Chuck had yelled, slapping five and almost twining fingers. It was beginning, the Master Plan, the end all and be all, the ceasing of days, the congress of the sun. Or something. Oh, right, so Serena had the bad note in an envelope and Chuck was all ready to go but then he had an impromptu talk with Lils about the bills, and she was all "We broke, homes! Bass Fireworks Company has been really hit hard by the fireworks recession, and it is the best thing for us to sell." Chuck nodded his head and he understood. Lily was looking out for his best interests. So he told Serena to take a chill pill and wait a day to springing her manila envelope trap. So they waited a day and that day was the day of the afternoon mixer, hosted by another tanned person played by Michael Boatman.

Chuck went right over to talk to him about how he is purchasing the company and, uh oh, he was not actually the buyer! But if he was the buyer, Boatman said, he'd tear the company apart and sell it for scrap, because Bart Bass was an old jerk and this would be fitting revenge. Chuck gulped and widdled himself a little and ran off to find Serena. Serena was busy talking to Dan about various things, like how she tries to cover up her innate egg salad smell with heavy perfume but then just ends up smelling like a makeup counter employee's lunch, so what's the point. Also she told Dan about her stupid plan, and Dan frowned and, when she wasn't looking, switched his internship application, also in a manila envelope (it's just what the kids carry around these days), with her affidavit xerox. Then some confusion and silliness happened and Lily's actual deal fell through and Serena tried to give the document to a reporter, but obvs it was the wrong one, so Lily wasn't sent to the slammer, but she and Serena are pretty broken, so that is sad for them. Meanwhile, Bastardly Boatman announced that he's moving back to New York, and that he has his sights on Bass Crop Dusting & Daycare Centers. His daughter — who turned out to be the tanned girl that Chuck was rude to! — seduced Chuckles later on at the bar and so complications will arise, of course.

Serena went to the prison to see Ben and was told he'd been let out on early parole, as per the orders of a judge. Lily had talked to the judge, not to protect herself, but to get Ben out! See, she is not such a monster after all. I mean, she sent an innocent man to prison for several years, but who hasn't done that? (Sorry, Mumia!) Ben was all "I was just waiting for the bus, but.... wanna hang out?" So Serena said "Oh, well, normally I have work tonight, here at the corner by the prison exit, but sure... I'll go smoosh, I mean have coffee, with you." So off they dittered into the night. Later (earlier? I can't remember) Serena and Dan had some conversation that was basically like "We like each other, but we're busy," or something. Was that the gist of that convo? I couldn't tell.

Dan, meanwhile, ended up at Blair's house (oh, Blair had a whole boring plotline about trying to get an internship that was a total snoozefest) and said that he was going to a French movie and... well, if she... y'know... and Blair said yes. Yes, she would like to strip all of his clothes off right then and there, to have him take her right there on top of the grand piano, to shatter the crystal stemware with the sound of their engorged moans and guttural hollers, to fall into a sweaty, naked, pheromone heap on top of each other, panting and heaving go to the movie with him. So off they went, a new thing dawning. Next week they end up at the same internship, so welcome to Smoosh City, population Dan and Blair. I really can't believe how much I'm looking forward to it.

That was basically it. Oh, wait. No. Nate. Yeah, Nate had a story this week concerning his no good pops, who is out on parole but refuses to look for jobs. So Nate was feeling all upset about that, but what could he do? He tried jogging with his pops, telling his pops not to play so much Wii, basically everything a guy can do for his pops. Nothing worked. Though pops did eventually find work — with the evil Bastard Boatman! — Nate wasn't aware of that. So after the afternoon party, dejected and lonely, still slightly blurry and glowing from champagne, Nate made a phone call. "Hey, what's up? No, nothing, just here. Yeah, don't know where my dad is. Dan's off... I dunno. He went to some movie. I don't know who with. Yeah. Anyway... was just wondering if maybe you might want to come over. Watch a movie or whatever. Or whatever. You know. I don't know. You do? Oh, awesome. Great. That's awesome. I'll, uh, I'll put a bottle of something on ice. Great, great, see you in a bit."

And he tidied up the apartment quickly, checking his hair in the hallway mirror when the doorbell rang. He swung open the door and standing there, an old friend in amber light, was Erik, tuxedo still on, tie undone, hair a soft flop on his forehead. Nate grinned. "Hey. It's so good to see you." "Yeah," Erik said. Nate swallowed. "Yeah." They stood there, regarding one another. Erik smiled too.


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