Last week's Gossip Girl was one of the best episodes of the fifth season, mostly because it featured the gang urgently but humorously scheming together like old times, but also due to the bombshell in the closing moments.
The question was whether "The Fugitives" would build upon "Raiders of the Lost Art" and generate serious momentum heading into the season finale, or sweep everything under the rug in 2-3 lines of dialogue.
With Gossip Girl, you never know anymore, but despite a couple of plot holes bigger than the ones on Serena's top, tonight was by and large a success, keeping us on our toes and setting the stage for next Monday.
The biggest difference between tonight and the aftermath of the 100th episode, when Georgina was revealed as Gossip Girl, only to later unmasked as a mere stand-in, is the far-reaching consequences for the characters.
Bart Bass was not only redeemed somewhat - at least to the extent a person who fakes his own death and abandons his own family can be - he is returning to face the music now. That alone deserves due credit.
Staging his own demise to protect Lily and Chuck from his business rival, whose hatchet man was none other than Chuck's PI Andrew Tyler? Logistically implausible and haphazardly written. Yet it still worked.
Bart was and is not an ideal father figure by any stretch of the imagination, but he's all Chuck has ... and before last Monday he had nothing. There's still a chance for a relationship now, which counts for something.
Dying/undying relatives seem to bring out Ed Westwick's acting chops, perhaps even more than Chuck's hilarious lost weekends and periods of unabashed hedonism. He was particularly good this evening.
Life works in mysterious ways, and perhaps Chuck stepping up to save his old man will be the catalyst for the old man finally appreciating his only son. As for breaking the news to Lily, good luck on that one Bart.
The elder Bass is right that he and Lily were on the outs at the time of his "death," but the interesting thing is that she and Rufus happen to be in a similarly rocky place right now. So all bets are off.
In addition to reuniting the Basses, Bart's resurrection also brought Ivy and Lola back into the fold. Wow. A threesome featuring those two leggy blondes would've felt incestuous, even if genetically ...
Never mind. Awkwardness aside, it would've been fun to see if the faux and real Rhodes could tag-team this seduce-and-destroy mission, especially since the way the storyline actually unraveled was a copout.
What's next for each of these would-be call girls open question, but as B said, in order to be back in the gang, you would've had to be in the gang at some point. So don't hold your breath, Ivy.
Lola may have a better shot at permanent scheme team membership, given her strengthening relationship with Nate ... who Chuck really should've told about Bart and Diana at the onset, honestly.
Once Chuck discovered Diana's connection to Bart and made the "deal" to ship her out of town in exchange for incredibly valuable information, wouldn't you think he'd tell Nate, vendetta or not?
A minor criticism, really, in an episode that did much more right than wrong. Nate also did the right thing, eventually, by letting Diana walk and hopefully closing this chapter of Gossip Girl for good.
Perhaps most significantly, the second coming of Bart brought Chuck closer to Blair, who enlisted Serena's help as she continued to be there (and struggle with her feelings for) Dan, who invited her to Rome.
Blair has a lot on her plate (everything but gelato, it seems), and from the ending scene tonight - nearly as shocking as last week's, albeit in a different way - her relationship with S is about to take a very dark turn.
Gossip Girl certainly returned with a bang, didn't she? Did anyone else miss her a little?
Serena sending in Blair's diary page was a BRUTAL move, leaving Waldorf and surely many viewers stunned. What did she write after the bit about Dan? Will the blacked-out portions be posted next week?
It would've been a surprise even if the two had been at each other's throats, but Blair and Serena's fun ruse tonight - S even wore a headband as her stand-in! - made the ensuing bombshell even more shocking.
The scene in which S did B a major solid in salvaging Dair's trip to Italy (props for Dorota's hilarious last-minute save) upon Eleanor's return, could also be the undoing of their lifelong friendship. Amazing.
Apparently Serena's jealousy, incredulity at B for not reciprocating Dan's love, and general lack of direction in life reached critical mass when she got a little too excited playing Dan's girlfriend again.
There will likely be extensive debate over her actions in selling out Blair - if she in fact did, as you can never rule out a frame job on this show - but no one will accuse her of being boring certainly.
When B's claws also come out, this could be a cat fight for the ages.
All the Gossip Girl spoilers we've posted up until now have been more or less on point. Blair must make a choice between Chuck and Dan, with Serena possibly throwing a wrench into her plans.
The two men in B's life are polar opposites, but each has captured her heart in their own way. From the looks of the season finale promos, though, her BFF may have her sights on one of them.
Blair says she's not ready to say "I love you" back to Dan, because she wants it to mean forever. Will that moment come soon, if ever, for Dair? Will those 270 meals in Rome possibly take place?
In the Great 'Ship War 2012, it all comes down to next week.
Upper East Side vs. Brooklyn. Mogul vs. Author. Dark Knight vs. Muppet (how unreal was his hair after getting out of the shower?). Who will B choose, and will her friendship with S ever survive it?
Who knows, but kudos to the show on two solid installments that set up the cliffhanger without feeling like filler. Season 5 has been uneven at times, but its conclusion is clearly not to be missed.
Before we turn it over to you, here's the CW's first tease of "The Return of the Ring" and the longer, better Canadian promo as well. Check them both out and see what you think:
What did you think of tonight's Gossip Girl? Discuss in the comments below!