After the craziness of the last two weeks "The Remains of The J" felt like a step backward, a return to the themes of Season 1. Yes there was plenty of romantic intrigue and two new couples got together (for the moment), but the story of Jenny's mixed-up Sweet 16 party was a distraction from the main event.
Surprise! It's Jenny's 16th birthday and over breakfast at the VDW's place (that's how Jenny abbreviated Van Der Woodsen on Gossip Girl) Lily and Serena reveal their plan for an old-fashioned East Side catered swankfest for J's big night. It looks like that New York's youngest fashion designer is so over the Manhattan social whirl; she just wants an evening of family, board games, and home cooking. Sounds good, right? No one gets in trouble and the Humphrey and VDW clans can bond. They had better like each other, because Dan has been rejected for financial aid at Yale and Rufus is considering selling the loft in order to pay the tuition bill. Like any series with a large cast, GG's characters tend to alternate between taking center stage and receding into the background and while it was about time for Jenny to get off the bench again I much prefer Jenny as the hungry fashionista than they stay-at-home teen. There isn't really room for quit kids on GG, is there?
A chance encounter with her old running buddy Poppy brings up some old social issues for Serena? Is she the social queen of New York or the girl who likes keeping it real with the Humphrey's in Brooklyn? We'd kind of left that behind since earlier this season, as Serena plays second fiddle to Blair's college angst and the whole Jenny as Guerrilla Fashion Designer thing. Poppy's tales of handsome boyfriend and trips to Spain give Serena some old longings; she reboots the birthday party as a launching pad for a social renaissance. When Jenny and Dan show up at the VDW's with board games and chili in tow Jenny finds exactly the kind of party she didn't want. In retaliation Jenny posts the party on Gossip Girl and turns it into a sort of MTV Spring Break East 70's. The resulting damage to Lily's apartment leads to Serena's being unfairly blamed and heading off for Spain with Poppy and boyfriend. All very entertaining, but I'm way past caring about Serena's identity crisis. If the show winds up following her to Brown it's there where the big changes will come.
What to say about Blair-Nate And Chuck-Vanessa, the two rival couplings this week? Neither felt authentic to me, but Blair and Nate scenes at least brought out some warmth in Leighton Meester that we haven't seen in awhile. I'll give this plot another episode before I pass final judgment. "The Remains of The J" had little new to offer.