The show doesn't waste any time throwing us into the latter: every year, The Constance Billard and St. Jude seniors apparently put on a school play.
Participation is mandatory and this year's selection is "The Age of Innocence."
Of course, as Nate notes, Chuck manages to wiggle his way out of it with a doctor's note that confirms "a minute case of stage fright" for young Mr. Bass.
In the night's best, most subtle dig at Jeremy Piven, Nate says Chuck should have gone with "mercury poisoning" instead. Well played, Archibald.
This is a good time to get Chuck's story line out of the way as quickly as the writers did:
Free from the constraints of the play, Chuck sits down at a restaurant, only to spot fellow rich boy/arch nemesis Carter Baizen.
Before these two can catch up, though, Elle walks over to the table.
Carter knows her by a different name, but no matter: this is definitely the mysterious girl that plays an unknown role in the society to which Bart Bass belonged.
Upon seeing Chuck, Elle dashes out of the establishment.
She later shows up at Chuck's apartment, though, and says she needs a way out of the country. Everyone's favorite Basshole must enlist the help of his enemy for this task, as Carter has some serious fake passport connections.
As soon as Chuck drops Elle off in Carter's limo, though, Baizen tells the driver to step on it, as he shows Chuck the tattoo on his wrist: it's the secret society symbol. Nooooo!
Later on, Chuck shows up at Elle's building (thinking she has her passport and the two of them can disappear together), only for her to say the society didn't wish her harm.
They just wanted her to sign confidentiality papers and gave her money to do so. So, you never cared about me, Chuck asked, as Elle made her getaway.
No, she replied, adding: you have a good heart. You should use it on someone that cares. In other words: this entire storyline evidently served as a way to motivate Chuck to fight for Blair.
Speaking of Blair:
Miss Waldorf receives terrible news as soon as the episode begins.
Nelly Yuki got into Yale instead of her. Moreover, the Head Mistress confirms that someone leaked Blair's hazing of Ms. Carr to the school and they rescinded her early acceptance as a result.
Nelly pleads not guilty to this charge, so Blair is left to wonder who ratted her out. The suspicions intensify as everyone received a Gossip Girl blast that outlines Blair's former, shady relationship with Marcus.
Now, Blair knows who the culprit must be: Vanessa. Who else would possess this information?
Vanessa, of course, denies involvement. She's too busy to talk about it at length, though, as Serena has enlisted V's help: S has a crush on the self-involved play director and needs Vanessa to help her get his attention.
A plan is hatched:
The director, Julian, heads over to Serena's apartment prior to opening night of the play. As they read lines together, Vanessa is on a blue-tooth, whispering helpful pieces of information into Serena's ear, the sort of insight into old books and movies that a haughty, stuffy director would appreciate.
Unfortunately, Nate overhears Vanessa speaking sweet nothings into the phone - for Serena to relay to Julian across town, remember - and thinks she is speaking to Julian herself. He suspects that something is going on between these two.
Something is definitely going on between Dan and Rachel.
Even though Rufus intercepts a note intended for Dan - which includes a key and an invitation to meet her at her apartment that night - and tells both Rachel and Dan to end it, neither can deny attraction for the another.
They end up having sex in the costume room at school. Way to go, Humphrey!
Cut to the play itself, where all Hell breaks loose:
With tensions mounting between various characters - another Gossip Girl blast earlier in the episode outed Serena's appearance in Page Six as the only reason she got into Yale, causing S to blame B for the betrayal - none can remain in character.
Nate accuses Julian of stealing his girlfriend, while Blair and Serena go at it like only they can.
Backstage - after Julian is actually given props by The New York Times critic in attendance because he supposedly combined a classic play with modern teenage angst - Dan has a realization:
Rachel was the one that blasted Gossip Girl with the damaging info about Blair.
He confronts her. She doesn't deny it.
Dan ends things with Rachel and tells Blair that she's the one responsible for ruining her chances at Yale (Dan also mentions to Blair that he banged the teacher in the costume room; why keep that information to yourself?!?).
When B threatens Rachel, the latter breaks down and apologizes.
Blair Waldorf then has an epiphany: she brought all this on herself.
Sure, Ms. Carr should have acted in a mature manner. But Blair has been a conniving, dishonest, selfish individual for years.
In the end, she has no one to blame but herself for her life falling apart.
Here's where everyone stands as the episode ends:
Rachel leaves Dan a note, saying she's sorry and she is returning to Iowa.
Vanessa and Nate clear the air regarding the Julian misunderstanding, but also realize they have little in common.
Blair is sitting at a bar, sulking, drinking by herself... but only for a short period of time. Carter sidles up next to her, buys the downtrodden B a drink and has her hand on her leg as we fade to black.
(Source: TV Fanatic)