“Gossip Girl” mini-cap: Ex strategy

“The Ex Files” finds the gang back at school and back to ruling the world. Fine, not the whole world, just the teen world of the Upper East Side.

Serena takes back her throne as queen of the school, the Humphreys are back to being nobodies, Nate’s back from being a ho, but — most importantly — the tension between Blair and Serena is back — not quite in full force yet but it’s coming, and I can’t wait.

Now that Serena and Dan are broken up, they have to figure out how they are going to co-exist at school: Should they be mature and be friends, or should they be passive-aggressive with each other until a direct confrontational show down? Well, they tried the former and quickly dissolved into the latter, and boy, was it fun to watch!

The unwritten rule is that the first one to date after a break-up is the winner, and whenever you have a winner, there’s bound to be a loser. But we all know that Dan is really the loser so how did he score a date before Serena? Because of Chuck, of course. Chuck’s trying to get Serena back to the top of the heap to dethrone Blair. I’m still not sure why a dethroned Blair is of any value to Chuck so please post your understandings of this.

There’s a new girl at school and she’s takes a shine to Dan’s literary brain. Blair and her posse care more about how bad this looks for Serena than Serena herself. Blair tries to befriend the new girl just so the new girl will have to follow the you-can’t-date-the-ex-of-one-of-your-pals rule.

Serena tries to stay above it all so she apologies to Dan for how Blair is behaving. Dan gives her the "you weren’t immediately put-off by it” nonsense and, rather than smacking him upside his head and leaving tread marks on his face, Serena suggests that the three of them hang out together at a popular club so that she and the girl can get to know each other and be cool with each other. (Why does Serena try so hard with this guy?)

Dan and the new girl spend time being all cozy and pretentious and exclusive while Serena sits across the table. Growing bored, she picks up an airhead athlete. Dan and Serena exchange a few honest words about breaking up and feeling hurt about it all.

While this is going on, Chuck gives two of Blair’s posse members some Nair in a martini glass. The girls toss the contents on the new girl’s head. Brutal. Dan accuses Serena of being no better than the mean girls, but says at least they accept it about themselves. Serena tries to defend herself from Dan’s accusations, but then decides to screw it. We watch her release her inner kick butt self. Dan is so going back to Lonely Boy status.

Afterward, we find out the new girl is on Chuck’s payroll and was hired as part of Chuck’s plan to make Serena dethrone her BFF from being Queen B.

Speaking of Blair, she had a little shock of her own this episode — and for Blair to be shocked by someone’s behavior it had to be pretty outrageous. And it was. Actually, it was all kinds of nasty. Nate, still confused over why Vanessa thinks he should stay with Catherine, tries to reconnect with Vanessa but Vanessa just wants out of the drama.

Later, Catherine comes to Vanessa’s coffee bar in Angus’ gallery and gives Vanessa five grand for playing along. Vanessa is so disgusted by Catherine’s check that she goes to Catherine’s home to return it. While there she sees the Duchess making out with Marcus! Yes, Catherine got Marcused, too. Ew. Vanessa takes a picture of the royal bonding on her phone and then high tails it out of there.

Vanessa asks Dan what she should do with the info and, as dumb as Dan is, he’s no fool, so he tells Vanessa to give the info to Blair. Blair is really hurt by it all and promises to take care of things. Have you noticed that Blair tends to have six rather than five stages of grief? Somehow, she incorporates the revenge stage in there. Blair works a plan to have Catherine pay Nate’s daddy’s debts and leave the country in exchange for Blair’s silence to the Duke. All goes well, except Vanessa sees Blair with Marcus and assumes Blair’s not handling things, so Vanessa then takes matters into her own hands and tips off the Duke to what Catherine and Marcus were up to. There goes the extortion leverage.

Also in this episode, Lily is back in town. She keeps showing up at Rufus’ uninvited — sort of like he did at her wedding, only less tacky. Lily admits that Bart Bass is out of the country on business and that she’s lonely. (Maybe she and Dan can compare notes.) Rufus is now dating some one and tells Lily that she made her choice by marrying Bart and being buddies isn’t going to work for him. Rufus is right, but seriously, Lily is kind of sexy so we’ll see how long not being buddies will work for him.

I’m thrilled that Catherine and Marcus have left the country. Did anyone else predict that crazy story line as their exit vehicle? I sure didn’t. Is anyone else out there as thrilled as I am to see Serena stop being the good girl? Serena running things in UES has the potential to really drive up the tension between her and Blair, and I want a front-row seat!