Families may be at their worst around Thanksgiving (hey, if you aren’t fighting with your sibling over pie, did you even celebrate?), but Gossip Girl’s iconic Thanksgiving episodes are The CW show at its most interesting.
Throughout Gossip Girl’s six seasons, lies, arguments, and betrayals severed the fabulous lives of Manhattan’s elite, but Thanksgiving always brought them back together again — mainly so that further chaos could ensue. The annual Thanksgiving episode (which is strangely missing from season 5) is Gossip Girl in its most Shakespearean form, a comedy of errors built around more dramatic irony than your English teacher could ever hope to explain to you.
As you peel the sweet potatoes, set the table, and ready yourself to deal with relatives who ask why you’re still single, you can at least be assured your actual Thanksgiving will probably be less action-packed than ones involving the Waldorfs, van der Woodsens, and Humphreys. But when your own Thanksgiving environment gets a little too uncomfortable to bear, grab a leftover turkey environment and slip into glamorous Upper East Side life. And if you’re not sure which to choose, here’s our absolute, final, incontestable ranking of all five Gossip Girl-sgiving episodes, from most deliciously drama-filled to least. Though the best way to celebrate is by watching all five, sure to leave you as bloated on gossip as you are from turkey.
5. Season 6, Episode 8, “It’s Really Complicated”
This, the final season’s Thanksgiving episode, is a doozy. It pays homage to past episodes, with shots of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a reunited (again) Dan and Serena, and torn-apart (again) Blair and Chuck. Dan even neatly sums up the show’s Thanksgiving history, saying, “Given our track record with Thanksgivings, it might be kind of risky. Divorces have been filed, affairs revealed—” Before Serena cuts him off, “Yes, but that was our parents, not us.” Oh optimistic Serena, don’t you know children throughout fiction history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their forebears?
Plotwise, just like in her season 4 Thanksgiving arc, Blair is once again trying to fly to Paris for the holiday to spend time with her family (“a pumpkin macaron will have to do!”). Lily and Bart are also trying to fly to the beach to get away from Chuck. And Serena and Dan decide to throw the ultimate dinner by themselves, but surprise, things don’t go as planned.
This episode gets points for all its meta-commentary on GG’s Thanksgiving culture, though it loses points for existing in a season that is on the whole, extremely, over-the-top wild. Example: Georgina, queen of fixing show slumps, appears to say, “I’m your everything,” after Dan refuses to send her his book draft (he instead sends it straight to Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter’s assistant, because sure, that’s a thing). Also extreme minus for Blair and Chuck trying to roleplay Pocahontas/John Smith/John Rolfe — no one asked for that.
4. Season 4, Episode 10, “Gaslit”
In this episode, Gossip Girl gives thanks for the “bounty of secrets” these characters bestow upon her – and to be fair, that bounty is pretty fully-loaded.
It’s Thanksgiving at the Humphrey/Van der Woodsen abode on the UES, and the climate is chilly. Lily is pissed at Serena, Blair is pissed at Serena, Dan is pissed at Serena — but Serena herself is nowhere to be found, until she wakes up in a random bedroom, clearly drugged, and calls 911.
Thanksgiving is interrupted from here on out, as Serena’s friends, family, and doctors assume she overdosed on purpose, and is possibly depressed. She’s sent to the Ostroff Center, the van der Woodsen family’s go-to rehabilitation center. But they don’t know the full story yet, which is that Juliet Sharp (Katie Cassidy) teamed up with Jenny and Vanessa to turn Serena’s friends against her as part of a revenge plot; and Juliet took the plot 1,000 steps further by drugging her.
Amidst all this drama, Vanessa’s tofu stuffing and Blair’s dad’s pumpkin pie recipe lay forgotten, in favor of an immensely detailed revenge plot that involves yet another annoying outside character. Part of Gossip Girl’s begrudging charm is how it makes us empathize with the hardships of the 1%, but this episode (and this season) lays it on a little too thick. All the villains are poor outcasts (Jenny, Vanessa, Juliet, Nate’s dad), while once again, the rich heroes emerge victorious.
While less heartwarming than past Thanksgiving episodes, it’s perhaps the realest Thanksgiving story there is.
3. Season 2, Episode 11, “The Magnificent Archibalds”
The second annual Gossip Girl Thanksgiving episode commences with perhaps its best opening monologue from narrator Kristen Bell: “For the rest of the country, Thanksgiving is when families come together to give thanks. But on the Upper East Side, the holiday thankfully returns to its roots: lying, manipulation, and betrayal. And from what we hear, just like the Indians, someone else is being pushed out of their home.”
This irreverent retelling of the brutal and horrifying real history of Thanksgiving may not be the most relevant to the ritzy, comfortable lives of the Upper East Side — though we appreciate the acknowledgement of what really happened to Native Americans during the romanticized U.S. holiday. In this case, it’s Blair who feels like she’s being pushed out by her new stepfather Cyrus Rose (Wallace Shawn), who may be instating some new family traditions, but who is actually super charming and endlessly kind in the face of Blair’s scheming.
Early on in the episode, Dan tells Serena, “This year’s gonna be a little quieter, I guess.” He’s, of course, very wrong, though no Thanksgiving could measure up to the drama of season 1 (see below). But how could the holiday not be dramatic? Jenny Humphrey has left home and is trying to emancipate herself from her parents (because fashion, duh); Dan is spilling the news to Serena’s new (and newly sober) boyfriend Aaron Rose (Cyrus’s son, because of course) about her sordid partying past; and Nate is hanging out with his father, who is on the run from the FBI and trying to scam his family into joining him in Dominica.
The episode, while admittedly very exciting, ultimately involves a lot of characters who are kind of irrelevant on the whole (seriously, Aaron, please go away) — though any scene with Wallace Shawn and Leighton Meester is a scene worth watching.
2. Season 3, Episode 11, “The Treasure of Serena Madre”
“The Treasure of Serena Madre” is one of the most Gossip Girl-iest Gossip Girl episodes in existence. On the buffet table: Vampire Weekend soundtrack, Serena’s poor romantic decisions with married congressman Tripp Vanderbilt (Aaron Tveit), Blair and Serena squabbles, references to the Dan/Vanessa/Olivia (Hilary Duff!!!!) threesome, surprise dinner guests, lots of mother/daughter conflict, Jenny and Eric tension, pregnancy misunderstandings, and so much more.
But the most important thing this episode brings to the Thanksgiving table is an absolutely iconic dinner scene set to Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say,” in which everything falls apart in typical dramatic holiday fashion. It kicks off when Nate lets Tripp’s wife Maureen know that Tripp and Serena are having an affair, and Blair subsequently lets Jenny know it was Eric who plotted to ruin her cotillion.
As the glasses of champagne shiver, CeCe drops hints to Rufus that all is not quite right with Lily (Dan: “CeCe’s heart pumps secrets and gin.”), while Dan tries to not let Vanessa know he has a crush. Jenny confronts Eric, who insults her sweet potatoes. Blair tries to make her mom admit she’s pregnant (spoiler: she isn’t). And Rufus tries to lighten the mood with a toast to his and Lily’s first Thanksgiving as a married couple — but his joke about pilgrims starting a band (Plymouth Rock!) falls flat, because Maureen threatens to expose Serena and Tripp’s elevator rendezvous with video proof, and Lily overhears. Soon, half the table has left their chairs, exasperated, while CeCe sits back and says “cheers” to the drama.
By the end of the song, cinematic history has been made, hearts have been broken, and nothing will ever be the same. Until next year, of course.
1. Season 1, Episode 9, “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”
We saved the first for last. Season 1’s inaugural Thanksgiving episode sets the tone for all future holiday episodes. It has everything: flashbacks to Thanksgivings past, exposed secrets, and Serena staggering around the Manhattan sidewalk while Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” booms in the background. The episode’s main conflicts? Blair vs. her mom vs. her dad, who dares to not show up at Thanksgiving — despite their pumpkin pie tradition — after leaving the country to live with his new partner.
Meanwhile, things are headed for a crash between the Humphreys and van der Woodsens. Serena and her family have nowhere else to on Thanksgiving after she gets in a fight with Blair about Chuck, but luckily, her boyfriend Dan steps in with a ride to Brooklyn and the promise of a family feast. Little do Dan and Serena know, their parents actually know each other — in fact, Lily van der Woodsen used to date Rufus Humphrey, back when they were young and sowing their wild oats. They’ve also reconnected with some romantic energy after their children began dating (yikes!), but little does Lily know, Rufus has actually patched things up with his wife, who he’s been separated from for months.
The whole crew ends up around the dinner table, where all kinds of fights breakout, and eventually, Serena brings Blair Waldorf to crowd the party even further. When Serena walks in, she utters, “Wow, weird vibe.” Pretty accurate summary of the episode, honestly.
This is the episode where tropes and references gain their roots for later, and major Gossip Girl plot arcs begin to take shape: Can Dan and Serena date while their parents have a shared history, and possibly a shared future, without being super squicked out? Will Blair ever make peace with her mom and dad? Can anyone finish a meal on this show? Next time, on Gossip Girl.
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