Photograph by Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max Savannah Lee Smith HBO MAX Gossip Girl Season 1 - Episode 12

“Gossip Girl” Season 1, Episode 11 Recap

Is there a more tragic character on television right now than Julien Calloway? I mean, oh my God. This poor youngster has been watched by sociopathic instructors at all times. Her boyfriend ditched her for the first girl he saw wearing a “Fight The Power” hoodie, which was her sister. And that sister won’t allow her to go through the third period without making fun of her for reasons that are always ridiculous, and typically involve the ex-boyfriend she swooped up without hesitation or regret. And now this ostensibly good-hearted adolescent is facing an online backlash for supposedly encouraging her father’s date-raping habit??

Given how futile the whole Max/Rafa incident turned out to be and how clumsily this show approaches Big Issues, I figured injecting a Me Too scandal at this point in the season (or at all) was a mistake. I just didn’t know how much Julien would be affected by this event. And I don’t just mean emotionally; any youngster, especially one who is in the public eye, would be fucked up by this revelation. Everyone, with the exception of Julien’s friends Zoya and Keller, is blaming Davis’s actions on Julien in a way that is both unrealistic and unrepresentative of the new age of accountability that the show is attempting to portray through social media.

Furthermore, I’m not clear what viewers are expected to get by witnessing Julien go through a series of dreadful situations that she doesn’t deserve to be in. Because it’s not entertaining to watch. Blair Waldorf, at the very least, was a jerk enough to deserve part of the trouble she found herself in. Viewers were treated to a good laugh and a dose of schadenfreude (cue Dorinda Medley’s Siri). She was also resourceful and vicious enough to dig herself out of jams and hit her opponents where it hurt. Julien, on the other hand, is neither a media genius nor a mastermind Queen B, as Monet constantly reminds her. So seeing a toddler play dodgeball against a gym class of teenagers is like witnessing her character arc, which is just a bunch of scribbling.

Nick allows Zoya and Julien to speak to one of his attorneys about the texts they found in Davis’ Blackberry at the start of the episode, which is a scenario that children should not be in. She advises them of all the obstacles they would face pursuing legal action, including the fact that if Riley came forward with her charges, Lauren would be revealed as a liar. Lauren’s involvement in this scandal continues to perplex me. One, because accusing someone of sexual assault on behalf of someone else is a clumsy and dumb practice. It’s also difficult to believe that a musical artist’s “helper” would go to such lengths. A sibling or a best friend, perhaps, but an assistant? As we see when the attorney lays forth the difficulties of this particular subject matter, it appears like the writers tried to add a layer of complexity to a plot that didn’t really necessitate it.

Davis is waiting outside the office to speak with Julien. He maintains that he didn’t damage the women on purpose and that he’s eager to comply with any inquiry that is needed, though it doesn’t appear that one will be conducted. And the music industry is unconcerned about predators infiltrating their sector. Anyway, Julien decides to take matters into her own hands and get “the truth” from the women, as if the very explicit texts weren’t enough proof five minutes before when she was trying to get her daddy locked up.

I have to mention the current storyline with Max and his parents’ breakup before we get into this tonally serious yet quite hilarious chase across New York City. I understand Max’s disbelief, but how many more sequences of his fathers poetically explaining to him that they’re done do we have to watch? We understand! As an audience, we’re also not invested enough in their relationship to actually care. I’d be much more interested in learning about the contrast between Max’s highly “contemporary” love life and his parents’ monogamy, which he views as idealized and absolutist. Maybe it’s how the rejection he’s getting from Audrey and Aki is spilling over into this squabble? Every conflict Max faces on the program feels like it happens in a vacuum, even if they all have the same underlying theme, so I’m looking for one long scene with the school counselor to tie everything together!

Audrey and Aki’s relationship, on the other hand, remains a firm anchor throughout this increasingly turbulent period. Can’t this program just become Scenes From a Marriage with these two as the leads? “Why do these teenagers think they have to be together?” I joked at the beginning of the season. However, as the reboot takes unexpected turns, they appear to be the only connection that makes sense. Audrey’s confidence and acerbity are clearly admirable to Aki. Audrey also requires a boyfriend who is attentive and obedient. Furthermore, neither of them seems to get along with their families. So I guess I’m in favor of them abusing each other emotionally till they separate and never talk again.

Anyway, Aki is irritated that Audrey wants to mess with a pretty barista at Ralph’s Coffee while he is planning to rape a classmate named Rex, who appears to be in graduate school. Aki feels his personal life is fine since he’s looking for something Audrey can’t provide. But, since the barista dude probably only has a dick, he doesn’t see why Audrey can’t use his. It’s a ridiculous fight that ends with the two of them concluding they don’t want to be in an open relationship, though I’m not convinced Aki has officially ended this phase of the investigation.

But, returning to Gossip Girl‘s” attempt to wreck Julien’s life, I should point out that the campaign’s main force is an athletic coach named Scott, who resembles a yassified Ronan Farrow. This show’s attempt to draw a line between Scott and Keller’s use of “Gossip Girl” is ludicrous. They’re all doing the same terrible thing, but Scott has a more blatantly disgusting, Harvey Levin vibe.

Julien’s tweets about her father’s “protection” have gotten so out of hand that she had to go on her truth-seeking trip dressed as wicked Kermit to avoid being stoned. She heads to the ultimate hiding, Bemelmans, with Zoya at her side and Obie as their volunteer chauffeur (ugh), to meet with one of the women, but not without the paps and vigilantes finding her down owing to an incentive placed by “Gossip Girl”. (Audrey, Monet, and Luna try but fail to perplex the paparazzi.) The meeting is ultimately futile because the woman does not want a public controversy to complicate her life, which makes it strange that she agreed to meet with them in the first place.

Because this story is so captivating, Julien, Zoya, and Obie are pursued across the city by paparazzi and teenagers with iPhones once they leave. They’re also attempting to avoid all of the loud and weird SantaCon males. Instead of ending their Nancy Drew Mysteries, Julien meets Riley at yet another secret refuge (a museum!) to advise her not to tell her story because of the impact it will have on Lauren. Keller, in an attempt to shield Julien from everyone’s wrath, records their chat on Instagram Live in order to “exonerate” her. However, everyone on the internet understands this meeting (which is virtually difficult to hear from Keller’s vantage point) as Julien attempting to silence Riley’s assertions.

So, when the news spreads that Julien is silencing victims, we get a needle drop of Olivia Rodrigo’s “traitor.” If Julien had done even a smidgeon of something bad, the use of this song would make sense. (She should have kept her own business, but she was always on the side of the women.) If we’re attempting to connect with Julien at this time, I think we should hear an acoustic ballad about being misunderstood or a song about remorse from Keller’s perspective. People, “I Started a Joke” is right there! The broader issue is that this show has no notion who it wants us to cheer for or what kind of behavior it wants to condemn. So we’re stuck with these jumbled emotional experiences once more, with nothing useful or insightful to take away.