Was it just me, or were certain parts of last night’s Gossip Girl a tad less ridiculous than one might expect? It’s probably just me, and it probably means that this show has eaten whatever part of my soul hasn’t already been consumed by Real Housewives, but I found myself caring about a few of our characters once again.

Actually, what I mean to say is that I found myself caring about Blair and Dan. Maybe it’s just because Leighton’s quite a talented actress and Penn (how do these people have real-life names more ridiculous than their soap-opera names?) is a good humorless foil for her, but whatever the reason, maybe I’m not so opposed to Dair after all. Did I really just say that?

Back on the Upper East Side, Chuck was rolling around in bed with Raina, Serena was getting ready for brunch with her jailbird ex-teacher, Blair was headed to her top secret internship and Dan was headed to an internship as well, but his was not so top secret because we knew that Lily had pulled some strings at Conde Nast. Details were initially fuzzy on where at Conde Nast that might be, but since this show keeps secrets about as well as your gossipy sixth grade bestie, we wouldn’t have to wait long to find out.

Serena was the first person we caught up with and her brunch with Ben didn’t go as expected. With little fanfare, he announced that he was headed up to Ithaca to work for a friend who had just started an organic farm and then ran out the door before they even had the customary Gossip Girl waffles. Serena immediately realized that the “friend’s farm” was surely some sort of setup from her parents, but as soon as Ben made it outside, he saw a Help Wanted ad on the door and decided that maybe he should stay in the city and find legitimate work after all. That literal sign, as it turns out, was also a figurative sign.

Elsewhere in Manhattan and on the way to his first day at the new job, Dan rendezvoused with Blair to discuss their respective internships – or not discuss them, as it were. They talked tersely about movies and art exhibits instead, and I almost wish that the writers had just had them hook up over Christmas break so that we could get it over with. All of this nervousness and fake disdain is going to get old when we all know that they just want to have sexytime already. I’m resigned to Dair’s fate, so why is it that now the writers decide to draw out a plot for more than a couple of episodes?

Eventually Blair arrived at W, as we all knew she would from last week’s previews, and she was greeted by a very busy assistant and a passel of high-achieving interns who were all the Blairs of their respective schools. Moments later, she was also greeted by Dan, whose Conde Nast internship that Lily had promised wasn’t at one of the company’s titles where one might expect Dan to show up. As it turns out, though, W occasionally trots a writer out in order to feel a little intellectual about itself, and one such event would be happening that night at the episode’s requisite party, and Dan would get an introduction because he’s a cute writer boy! I could feel the Blair jealousy welling up even when she wasn’t on camera.

This may seem like a bit of a non sequitur, and that’s because it is, both in the show and in this recap, but Eric is secretly staying with Damian The Drug Dealer. His boyfriend Elliot secretly broke up with him last month and he hadn’t told anyone in his family, who all thought that Eric was staying with him while he worked out his rage issues toward Lily. Naturally, found out all of this when Eric’s other ex Jonathan showed up to “return a book” and spilled the beans. How come Eric suddenly gets a plot? Don’t we have enough plots going around? I guess now that Jenny and Vanessa have both been banished to Outer Mongolia, Eric gets thrown a bone. And by bone, we mean Damian The Drug Dealer.

Back where things matter, Blair was up to her old tricks at W, trying to to sabotage the other interns by putting perfume in cappuccinos and giving Dan the wrong shoes in the accessories closet. Dan’s will to overachieve couldn’t be dampened, though, and come to think of it, a hot, straight, intelligent guy at a fashion magazine would probably be loved, adored and doted on by every woman there, so his placement at W might have been a bigger stroke of genius that Blair or Dan even realizes. Score one for Lily, who would have this whole show under control if we’d all just back off and let her work.

While they were stuffing gift bags on the floor of some nondescript room and pretending like they don’t want to have sex with each other, Blair and Dan heard that the keynote author for that night’s big blog party had cancelled, so they decided to turn the task of finding a new author into a competition as well, despite the fact that a major Conde Nast title would be stocked with people who know famous writers and media types on a first-name basis. The magazine wouldn’t need their sad little intern help, in reality, but Gossip Girl has absolutely nought to do with reality, so the race for the best writer was on.

Meanwhile, Nate realized that his dad had gotten a job with Russell Thorpe in order to help him take over Bass Industries, which was predictably problematic for his roommate, the once and future king of Bass Industries. Chuck stormed right over to Raina’s house to get her to fire The Captain, but as it turns out, Raina isn’t all that impressed with Chuck and declined his afternoon delight as well as the request that she have anyone removed from Thorpe Enterprises. In a later scene where Chuck showed up to beg for her approval once again, a hot guy in a towel waited in the background. Give Raina her own show, please.

At some nondescript coffee shop, Ben was minding his own business when Damian showed up to…I’m not sure what. We found out earlier that Serena’s mom had tried to bribe Ben to leave town with a distasteful envelope full of cash and he hadn’t taken the bait, but I’m still not sure why Damian showed up to harass him or what Eric had to do with any of it. Now that Ben’s out of jail and we know what he did, I’m having a hard time staying engaged with that entire plot. He was kind of hot when he was a jailbird, but now he’s just a guy with a severe haircut who’s moving into Rufus’s loft.

At the W party that night, Blair was working the door like a lowly intern and Eric was inside with Damian, being tattled on by Ben to Serena for hanging out with a drug dealer. I guess it’s convenient to have your best friend work the door when you feel like bringing an ex-con fresh out of jail to a Conde Nast party, eh? Outside, Dan’s chosen writer showed up but Blair’s didn’t, apparently because Dan pulled a fast one and made sure that she wouldn’t. I didn’t pay attention to exactly why that happened because the “why” is never important on Gossip Girl, but I think it involved some paper shuffling and the exchange of a list of phone numbers and Dan totally beating Blair at her own game.

When she realized it, Blair was predictably enraged, and she reacted by knocking Dan to the ground in the middle of the party and sort of awkwardly wrestling with him – sexual tension much? Stefano Tonchi walked into the party at exactly that moment and acted like skirmishing interns were the most common thing ever, but the intern wrangler still fired them both and Blair said some stuff about Hillary Clinton.

As they cleaned out their intern cubbies, Blair revealed that she hadn’t gotten the W internship through connections, she had gotten it by sleeping in Stefano Tonchi’s lobby and faxing her resume to every machine in the Conde Nast building. And my, how the tables have turned – Blair worked hard and went the extra mile for her opportunity while Dan had his stepmom pull strings. Not that Blair’s line about her mom being unable to pull strings at a fashion magazine wasn’t totally untrue – it was – but still, the point stands. Because he still has a conscience, Dan called the intern wrangler and got Blair her job back so that they may eventually have sexytime in an upcoming episode.

Simultaneously, Serena and Ben caught Eric buying drugs from Damian and they had a very parental talk with him about drugs. Then they told Rufus, who also remembered he was a parent for half a second and told Eric not to mess around with sleeping pills. Once all of the group parenting was done (It takes a village, y’all), Ben walked out on Serena and told her that he doesn’t want her and never did, which is patently a lie, you could see it on his face and in his effete little stagger as her turned to leave for good.

But of course he won’t leave for good, because no one on this show ever does, a phenomenon of which our boy Damian is a prime example. While meandering through the back hall of some anonymous restaurant, probably looking to do the anonymous-blowjob shuffle in the bathroom, Ben came out of nowhere, tackled him and told him to stay away from the Van Der Woodsens forever. Once that little display of machismo was done (he had to make up for the previously mentioned effete stagger), Ben clomped off and Damian did the only thing that anyone on this show knows how to do – he got on his phone. He placed a call to Eric in which he offered a friendly hang-out, and it remains to be seen whether or not Damian will stoop to having sex with Eric in order to one-up the teacher who stole his crush back in boarding school. Sweeps is coming up, so I’m betting he will.

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