Gossip Girl recap: the Witches of Bushwick

So Serena is back where she belongs, the sordid details of her sleazy love live splashed all over the tabloids.

Last year it was wild summer escapades, this year it is her extra-curricular activities that are raising eyebrows – and Lily’s blood pressure. It’s fine, it seems, for her socialite daughter to date inappropriately, but heaven forbid anyone talk about it! Serena’s defence, by the by, is fabulous.

She whines about doing time “for something I didn’t do”, showing a Bill Clinton-like predilection for the get-out-of-jail-free technicality in every scandal.

But despite Lily’s generous offer of an “endowment” – upper east side for “bribe”, the dean asks Serena to get the hell out of Columbia.

Meanwhile Dan and Mrs Nate Humphrey are squabbling petulantly over who ‘gets’ Serena. Like she’s such a prize. Everyone knows that with her it’s short term ownership anyway, then the gloss wears off and a refund is in order. But Vanessa brokers a boy-ceasefire and they settle on a “may the best lovesick shmuck win” competition.

Unfortunately, Serena’s phone is in the hands of the women formerly known as Macbeth’s three witches, so the whole date-off goes awry and at the end of the day neither are any closer.

Fittingly, in an episode with “witches” in the title, Little J is back. Last we saw she was in cahoots with the Evil Juliette – but was she bluffing? She spills EJ’s bribery plans to Lily…but then, phew, this is Jenny we’re dealing with – it turns out it’s all an elaborate three-way takedown, featuring the delightful divas of V, EJ and LJ.

Remember when Vanessa had a soul? Watching her with the evil blonde duo, gleefully scheming about how to destroy the lives of her erstwhile friends, it’s easy to forget she was once Gossip Girl’s moral compass.

Albeit an intensely grating one with ratty hair extensions.

Juliette’s scheme seems to involve dredging up Serena’s slutty boarding school past. Lily tries to pay her off, which goes down swimmingly with Serena, and they have their bi-weekly battle over approval and atrocious choices.

After destroying Serena’s chances with Dan and Nate, she effectively kidnaps blondie, gets her to drop out of Columbia, and then? Well, it’s not quite clear yet, but what is obvious is that Serena is in something of a pickle. Great, then, that Lily should choose this moment to give up on her daughter.

Chuck and Blair are still enjoying the dangerous tightrope of their animosity-fuelled passion.

Lobster dinners, morning small talk. It’s a recipe for disaster.

First, though, she has to secure her place as the face of Nate’s mum’s foundation. And it appears Mrs Archibald aint to chuffed with Blair’s choice of consort. Ergo, power and position, or lurvvve.

Chuck’s also making a choice – Blair, or keeping his reputation up so gazillions of wannabe Chuck Bass dandy boy’s flock to the Empire Hotel.

Inevitably, they can’t keep apart. But then Chuck goes and ups the drama by telling Blair he loves her. – well, by “blurting it out at the height of passion.”

“Empowered woman” Blair tries to ignore it, but can’t quite. Juliette exposes them, but it’s something of an anticlimax as they are quite clearly so besotted they forfeit this week’s aspirations (until Blair realises that she is to Chuck what pre-senate Hillary is to Bill).

Where Juliette does succeed is in making Blair think (again) that Serena is a backstabbing biatch. Should last a good few episodes, that.

Also, completely off the point, but LOVE that when the doorman asks Serena for ID she stares at him blankly, having never had to comprehend a world where people don’t know who she is. And top marks for using Little J’s Pretty Reckless album as background music for this week’s episode of The ballad of Chuck and Blair.

Gossip Girl recap: Juliet Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

This week started with Serena being so self-absorbed she didn’t even notice Chuck in bed with Blair.

Ah, character consistency.

But, in an unusual act of perception, she does spot Blair with her skirt on backwards and a Chuck Bass shaped guilty conscience. And despite her own questionable exploits, reminds Blair that this is all going to end badly.

Blair announces she can end things whenever she wants. She plans a 24-hour “bassectomy”, which is unfortunate because Chuck has his heart (well one particular organ, anyway) on something a little more racy. Blair has a meltdown – “maybe I need sex rehab”- then pretends she’s dating the Prof to divert attention.

Blondie and Professor Perve are planning a romantic mini break. But as Blair notes, that’s a mistake. “There’s a reason you never get tan lines on vacation,” she yelps. Serena freaks out and calls the weekend off.

Luckily, she has someone to turn to. There’s something ever so wrong with Dan going to Rufus about his Serena woes.

To break it down he’s looking for advice from Serena’s stepfather about how his son can date his stepsister!

But Dan twigs that Serena is taking her guest lecture rather too seriously, and confronts her. After she ends it, she heads straight for Humphrey – Serena being the type who doesn’t exactly understand what a world without a boyfriend is. The down-trade lasts approximately five minutes, as Colin quits Columbia for lurvvvve. Vomit.

Not that his sacrifice is worth anything – by the end of the night S has moved on again. The question is, with Nate or with Dan? Worthy of Hamlet, that one.

Back in Brooklyn, Vanessa is intent on clearing her name. Which is made easier when Nate discovers Juliette is “a liar” who doesn’t live where she claims to. She feeds him a sob story about shopping at Woodberry Common and doing her own hair (yes, that’s exactly what poverty looks like) but he falls for it hook, line and dimples.

Luckily, V for Vendetta doesn’t, and happens in her Harriet the Spying on the Serena-Professor kodak moment (love that she does so via Four Square and delivery man bribery). Gleefully, she decides that the photos are proof of Serena’s academic sluttiness, but Juliette says no.

So, in an effort to show the world she’s not a thief, she goes right ahead and chups the memory stick.

At the ballet (where else) V confronts the dean, but it all goes balls up. In the end, Juliette is ex-communicated (one doubts for good) in a brilliant performance of Upper East side bullying. “You can believe she does her own hair,” scoffs Blair.

But it’s not over till they eyelinered rag doll sings, as Juliette and Jenny H team up to take down the Gossip gaggle, and presumably trade tips on budget shopping: “how to get the trashy drag queen look for under a tenner”.

Did the student protesters vote last May?

Been having a discussion on Twitter about the student demonstration in London today (hash tag #demo2010). Having watched footage of the students smash up Millbank buildings, graffiti f*** on the walls and other acts of friendly vandalism, I can understand why public opinion wouldn’t be with students.

I’m fully in support of them – I think the proposals to raise fees by such a degree without a proportional improvement in tuition time and teaching standards are a recipe for disaster, and risk doing serious long-term damage to education in Britain.

 But I also think students like to jump on a bandwagon.

I tweeted: “I wonder if all the students out there for #demo2010 bothered to vote in 2010. With the youth vote as low as it is, bet they didn’t”.

 The numbers don’t lie – the British electoral turnout is poor anyway but voting is lowest among the 18 to 25 demographic. Yes, May 6 was exam season, yes, students are busy, yes, they probably didn’t get round to organising a postal vote, but the fact is, decisions are made by those who show up.

 As Alex Richman pointed, if they had voted, they might still be in the same boat. He tweeted back: “People who voted for the party opposing higher fees got them into power. and then saw them agree to raise fees.”

 Dina Rickman added: “Do you think voting would have helped? Tuition fees would still have gone up.”

 On this particular issue, perhaps not. If the Conservatives had got an outright majority, fees would almost certainly have risen, while if Labour had won, despite their current indignation, who knows what would have happened. But in any protest – the Iraq war comes to mind – I’d hazard that not everyone involved bothered to shuffle down to the ballot box.

 But that’s not the point. Political engagement shouldn’t be limited to Election Day, but it shouldn’t be limited to a Wednesday afternoon riot either.

 Democracy is, philosophically speaking, a contract between representative and represented. If you don’t make the effort to choose who represents you – and I’m sure some of those protesting did – you don’t then have the right to complain when you object to what is done.

Gossip Girl recap: War at the Roses

Forget Versailles, or Lisbon, or even the Sykes-Picot agreement. There’s a new peace treaty in town, and it’s ever so well dressed.

 Fed up with the War of the Over-privileged Teens, Nate and Serena initiate an official amnesty, complete with court stenographer for witness. Blair and Chuck are officially in peacetime, and to celebrate, Blair readies herself for her 20th birthday soiree.

 Like every normal 20 –year-old, she thinks the perfect party would include the entire faculty, and of course everyone else who has ever set foot on the Gossip Girl set.

 Because she’s “not fighting with Mr Chuck,” she’s fighting with everybody else, raging at the staff for gladiolas and poor couture choices. Still, the party seems to be going swimmingly, until that is a bizarre video of Blair doing bad karaoke shows up.

 Who is behind it? Well, continuing with the war metaphor, Eric has apparently left Switzerland. He’s planning a peacetime stealth attack to take down Chair for the demolition of Little J.

 Enlisting Dan as his cavalry; they plan to bring out Jack Bass as their secret weapon. It’s all very adorable, but their eager-schemer routine, complete with furious typing and self-congratulatory plotting reeks not of Blair Waldorf but of the rather less devious Buffy Summers and the Scooby Gang.

 It doesn’t work, because Blair and Chuck, with their ability to see into the future and whatnot, outsmart him. But Dan manages to get his hands on the treaty after Nate leaves it within full view of him.

Were it not for the fact that this is exactly the sort of dumb-jock behaviour expected of Mr Archibald, it would be a gratingly annoying plot device.

 He finds a clause involving the embarrassing karaoke tape, and plays it at the party. As plots go, it’s pretty tame.

Blair automatically rails on Chuck for breaking the terms of the treaty, but Dan, chuffed with himself for being so Machiavellian, confesses, just in time for Rufus to show up an be disappointed Dan is “one of them.” Honestly, how can he be disappointed with either Dan or Jenny these days?

By Season Two they’d already earned themselves a place in the treachery Hall of Fame.  

 The upshot is that the treaty is dead in the water, making this the perfect time for the long-awaited Chuck and Blair hook-up-out-of-anger. It’s a piano, not a limo, but it’s clear they’ve still got the classic Chair chemistry.

Meanwhile Serena, who tells Juliette with a straight face that she “would never put her academic future at risk”, is obviously doing exactly that for Professor Pervy. Nate comments on how happy she’s looking, shrewdly picking up on why: “Well, if I know you,” says Nate, “There’s a guy at the end of that story.”

Aware that she can’t go near him for six weeks, but also astonishingly aware of her inability to control her urges, she appoints Nate as buffer. Briefly, it’s fine, but Nate gets distracted by Juliette – who he suspects is also studying with Professor Pervy (as insinuated last episode). Actually, he’s her sugar uncle, a cousin  paying for her to go to college. But it looks like he’s about to become collateral damage in her mission to take down Serena.

 Sidepoint. If you’re going to make the effort to introduce the show with a witty comment about the season change, why dress your characters as if they are going clubbing on an equatorial beach? Serena has a hole in her dress, for heaven’s sake, and with that much flesh – front and back – on show, she’d be bedridden with pneumonia if this genuinely was autumn.

A Republican tantrum is just what Obama needs

If I was Obama I’d probably want to stamp my feet right about now. “It’s not fair,” I’d cry. “How can I be so unpopular, Look what I’ve done.”

But there’s a reason Obama has the support of half a country (and he still does – plenty of people still went for the Democrats in the mid-terms, and I don’t. Here he is, fresh from his party’s worst performance since 1948, humble and conciliatory. Robert Gibbs, his spokesman said: Obama would be “open to listening to what the debate is on both sides” of the tax-cut issue.

That may be just talk, he may be, inwardly, fuming and anything but “open to listening”. But he has to appear as if he is willing to reach across the divide, to promote bipartisanship and act as though he understands what the voters are upset about.

Because the Republicans are hungry for power, hungry for revenge, hungry to erase everything that the Obama administration has achieved over the past two years. What they aren’t is in a particularly conciliatory mood; they are unlikely to be up for working together.

And of course, as Bill Clinton’s experience suggests, the more Obama offers to cooperate, and the more the Republicans refuse, the better it is for his reelection chances. In 1995 the Republicans refused to play ball on the budget, and turned down any chance of a deal. They told Clinton that “they would shut the government down and my presidency would be over”, if he didn’t give in to their demands.

Well, the first part of that was true. On November 14, the federal government did shut down, but public opinion went against the GOP and Clinton came off as the good guy, returned for a second term in 1996.

Obviously, it was a different situation, but at the heart of it was that the Republicans, and in particularly Newt “Contract for America” Gingrich, looked petty and childish. They looked, essentially, like they were throwing a tantrum for not getting their way.

The Republicans, with their tax cut plans, their ambitions to destroy healthcare reform and so forth, may be on their way to tantrum territory. The more Obama supports them, the more he shows willingness to compromise, the more it could all end in tears for the Republicans.