“Reversals of Fortune”: Gossip Girl says Serena left NYC for Europe a star and has come back a supernova. The paparazzi trail her everywhere she goes, and she gives them tons of material to work with. S is lying to everyone about her summer — except to Carter Baizen. Hot, belt-less Carter Baizen. In a blaze of attention-seeking behavior, S steals a horse at the polo match (after promising Rufus she hasn’t “gone off the rails again”) so photographers will take her photo and her father will see them. And then he’ll call her? Something like that. Carter goes after her and professes his feelings, saying of S’s dad, “Who the hell is he not to want you?” Swoon.
“The Freshmen”: S decides that Brown ain’t for her after all, and shows up at the “Bass cave,” asking to crash there. After she spills Chuck’s secret plan to open a speakeasy and ruins his business meeting, he calls her a trainwreck, and she seems to rise to that challenge. Calling up Carter, she uses him to derail another of Chuck’s meetings. But Carter doesn’t want to be used in revenge plots (not this season!). Now staying at the Humphrey Loft, where Dan prepares her some nice toaster waffles, she decides to defer Brown for a year, chats with Rufus about being directionless, and chats with Blair on the steps of the Met. It’s time for a new challenge for Serena, just as it is for Blair. But first things first: Serena stops by Carter’s to apologize and he accepts. More kissing! (I love these two together.)
“The Lost Boy”: Serena’s worried Carter is still a womanizer — some random girl approaches him on the street, he’s sketchy about his room service bill — and both Blair and Chuck seem to think Carter’s still as bad as he used to be, telling her some guys just are who they are. S realizes that it was Blair and Chuck who are sabotaging Carter. So she buys the Patrick McMullan photograph from under Blair and Chuck’s noses. We finally find out what happened in Santorini: Carter stole a boat to take Serena to see her father (who was about to remarry). Then Carter went on his mission to find Dr. van der Woodsen. Serena also realizes Georgina was behind the Blair/Table Elitaire scheme, and threatens her. At the end of the episode, Serena goes back to Carter and (of course) he takes her back.
“Dan de Fleurette”: As promised, Rufus helps Serena prepare to tell Lily about her decision to defer her year at college; Lily arrives home and ain’t too pleased with Serena’s plan to stay in the city “finding herself” for a year. Determined to prove to her mother that she’s not going to laze around, S goes to job interviews with designers and at galleries — but no one wants to hire an uneducated 18-year-old socialite! Shock. But fate puts her beside Olivia and her publicist KC, and S impresses with her “diva whisperer” skills. S gets a job helping Tyra “Ursula” Banks get her mojo back, and when KC tries to get Serena to manipulate Tyra, S decides not to — and loses her job. Lily still doesn’t agree with S’s decision, so Serena moves out of the VDW and into Blair’s empty penthouse. Tyra gets S her job back.
“Rufus Getting Married”: Carter makes Serena blueberry toaster pastry for breakfast. When she finds out that Rufus and Lily are having some relationship problemos, Serena meddles, getting them both to lunch with the help of Jenny, Eric, and Dan. Serena plans the perfect last minute wedding for Rufly. Meanwhile, Chuck tells Carter that the Buckleys are after him and gives him the option of high-tailing it out of town. Carter tells Serena about his gambling debt and how he deceived Bree’s cousin into almost marrying him. (What is with S’s boyfriends dropping crazy news on her at Lily’s weddings? Geez.) Carter’s hauled off by the Buckley boys and Serena is left at the end of the day worrying about her BF, but knowing he chose being honest with her over ditching. Lily thanks Serena for the wedding, and the two are back to being on good terms.
“Enough About Eve”: Worried about Carter, S gets roped into playing for his freedom in a high-stakes poker game arranged by Nate Archibald. She loses. But that Nate! It was a set-up! Serena barters her new inside info about the Tripp-bong photo for Carter’s freedom. But Carter wanted to pay off his debt to the Buckleys — to take responsibility for his actions and prove to Serena he’s not the same asshole he used to be. (Oh Carter Baizen, j’adore.) Instead of sitting alone and moping, S heads over to the VDW for brekkie.
“How to Succeed in Bassness”: S’s boss KC wants her to break up Dan and Olivia so Olivia can fake-date her former co-star Patrick Roberts. S asks Olivia and Dan to attend Chuck’s party separately. Blair meddles with Chuck’s party, and Serena stays with Chuck after he banishes B — trouble in the BBF-dom of S and B. Serena decides to out Olivia and Dan as a couple, and impulsively decides to play girlfriend to Patrick Roberts.
“The Grandfather, Part II”: Taking care of her fake boyfriend proves tiresome. Nate’s still pissed at her and won’t give her an invite to the Van Der Bilt party — but Tripp will. At the party, she and Blair try to out-bitch each other with B outing S for fake-dating Patrick and S firing back that B’s new fake friend is in fact a prostitute! After B calls S the prostitute, S pushes B into the cake. Blair and Serena are officially enemies again. What Blair says to her — that she’s drifting instead of building a life — rings true to S and she quits her job (by writing that message on Patrick Roberts’ shirt.) At the end of the episode, S finds herself alone at the bar with Tripp, a willing listener. (Nooooo!)
“They Shoot Humphreys, Don’t They”: Dressed reasonably appropriately for a job interview, Serena finds Tripp eager to give her a job in his office as a media relations person. Yep, an 18-year-old with two weeks experience shuttling James Franco’s underpants to him is qualified for the job. (It couldn’t be that Tripp is interested in something other than S’s PR skills?) Serena is hosting a debutante party at the VDW where she is slated to be Jenny’s mentor. When Blair arrives demanding an apology and insulting her, S quits and leaves Jenny to Blair. Serena brings some late-night dinner to Tripp at the empty office. Wisely Tripp cuts the escalating sexual tension and asks her to go. Chuck gets involved in the friendship fight between S and B and tricks them into talking, locked in an elevator. Serena finally tells Blair about her whole epic search for her father, admitting she’s even jealous of Nate’s relationship with the Captain. She can’t let it go or get anything right anymore (so true, S). Blair makes her promise not to see Tripp anymore, so Serena heads over to his office to quit. But she doesn’t. Blair arrives to rescue S and Serena turns her away. (Mistake!)
“Last Days of Disco Stick”: Blair gives Serena the cold shoulder when S won’t admit that there’s still some sexual tension between her and Tripp, who’s moving to DC any day now. Serena turns to her old pal Nate for help, and he gives it — he gets her to cancel her plans to “help Tripp pack” and instead they spend the day together. Serenate! Stupid Tripp shows up at the bar where S and N are just a wee bit tipsy and Nate has just told S how he feels about her. Finding out that Maureen is the one who orchestrated the Hudson Hero scheme makes the “line blurry” and S leaves with Tripp, and smooches him in his study. This episode also featured S sporting some hideous shoulder pads.
“Treasure of the Serena Madre”: Serena’s big plan is to secretly spend Thanksgiving with Tripp, instead of with her family. Lily runs into matching-jacket Maureen and asks her to come to Thanksgiving so S can be with her family instead of at a soup kitchen. Nice one, S. Serena thinks she’s maintaining some sort of moral highground since she isn’t going to sleep with Tripp and he’s asking Maureen for a divorce. So they make out in the elevator at the Empire. (An elevator I have now actually been in. And when I was in it, I said to my pal Erino, “Serena and Tripp made out here.” And she looked at me like I was a little too far gone.) For Thanksgiving, Serena puts on her best black catsuit with a plunging lacey neckline (srsly) and there’s awkward times with Maureen, and with Chuck (who tells them to never make out in the elevator again), and epically awkward times when Maureen confronts them about the affair with video evidence, at the dinner table and with Lily looking over S’s shoulder. Lily brings swift judgment upon her daughter (seems like someone has cheated on Lil in the past), and when S is not willing to give Tripp up immediately, she banishes her from the VDW. Serena decides to end the affair, apologizing to Maureen and swearing to never see Tripp again. She and Blair have a nice moment in S’s old room (now Jenny’s) where Blair invites her to come to Paris to have old S&B times together. (I really want to go to Paris with Blair Waldorf.) When they open the safe to get S’s passport, they find the letter from Dr. VDW. Tripp makes an “I love you” appeal to Serena, and Blair gives her blessing. (I do not agree with that part. Seems a pretty big change of heart for Blair who earlier was calling S an “18-year-old blonde coincidence.”) On her way out, Serena confronts Lily about the letter, telling Lily she has no right to judge Serena ever again. (What does that letter say??) Outside the VDW, Nate asks Serena to stay with him but she chooses Tripp. The jilted Maureen takes the wrong jacket from the VDW and finds the letter.
“The Debarted”: Holed up with Tripp at the Van Der Bilt cottage, she’s all “we’ll get through this, baby” and he’s all “hmm my career may crumble due to this reckless, idiotic decision I’ve made.” Tripp leaves to secretly talk to Maureen, and Serena pouts like a spoiled child. This may be the most annoying and pathetic we’ve seen Serena so far. She calls Nate because she’s sooooo cold and can’t figure out how to operate a thermostat, and he directs her to his weed stash. (Nice. Also, Serena reveals a preference for Fitzgerald over Hemingway. Not surprising.) Maureen shows up with an offer: S can be the Marilyn, Maureen will be the Jackie, and Tripp can keep his scandal-free career. Maureen also gives us a hint of what’s in the letter: apparently Lily spent the night in Dr. VDW’s hotel room. “Knowing Lily” she cheated on Rufus. (I do not think she did.) S calls her mom and lets her know what’s up. Wearing a cute knit hat, Serena leaves the cottage planning to hail a cab in the middle of nowhere. Tripp arrives in the nick of time; wolves appear on the road (weirdest moment on GG in three seasons?); and the car crashes. Tripp calls Maureen, not 9-1-1, and abandons S with a big bonk on her head. Once she’s safely in the hospital, Serena is surrounded by her family, Nate and Blair. The girls have an impossibly cute moment (“Nice outfit.” “You too.” Aw.) and S says she’s learning the hard way. Let’s hope that bonk on her head knocked some sense into her. In the closing montage, she seems more than a little pleased that Nate is her devoted prince, asleep in the chair beside her hospital bed.
Serena’s had a pretty plot-twisty season already — paparazzi intrigue, romance with Carter, fights with Blair, a fake romance with a movie star, an affair with Tripp, tension with Lily, two jobs, a car accident, a true-love confession from her best boy friend, and a seasons-long search for her father that seems to finally be coming to a head. I think the back half of season 3 holds some good Serena moments with Nate and with her father and family. Serena’s a tricky character — she makes the worst decisions but those often lead to the best storylines. What I’m hoping for is a little Serena-Jenny battle. We saw them at odds last season during the Sweet Sixteen party episode and with New Evil Jenny on the rise, this could get very, very interesting.