‘Gossip Girl’ Recap: Season 1, Episode 1 “Just Another Girl on the MTA”

15 Min Read

Warning: This recap mentions instances of drug use and sexual content.

Greetings, Upper East Siders. Just as one-shoulder dresses and multi-length skirts have been pulled from the 2012 rack, Gossip Girl’s demise had all the inner workings of a staple piece in one’s wardrobe that knows whether cut or styled; it would always find its way back onto your feeds. That is with a punch of nostalgia as an ashen shoulder-bob newcomer pensively stares out of a train on the high line sparking a voguish déjà vu of socialite Serena van der Woodsen; her fingers the bridge to its reboot aligning the gap between eight-point size Arial font blog and HD Instagram story.

Each cataloged into its immortalized bubble by their home’s layout: Julien imprinting a kiss onto her passed mother’s framed photograph, Monet’s house maidens and fluffy dogs watching her drink water out of a crystal glass, Max wishing his fathers goodbye as he leaves for school, Otto feeding the disprivileged, Audrey and Aki scheduling in time for the morning quickie, and our little, scholarship Zoya uncovering the first tagged about secret … she seemingly shares blood with Julien. 


Julien has her arm looped around a Louis Vuitton handbag, its golden embellishments matching the prestigious architecture of Constance Billard upon posing, ready for her first post of the school year. Only for the ashen shoulder-bob, who we now realize is a teacher, to interrupt with a coffee spill. Kate, that’s her name, embarrassingly follows another faculty member with Julien left behind plotting her demise. Perhaps, something up the heart-pinned sleeve of Blair Waldorf; Nate, on the other hand? Not only a red-strike for potential suspects but also our first name drop; zoom out a little, there’s a past student who goes by the name of Rebecca Shaman telling Gossip Girl’s folklore beside a desktop computer, pulling up the website for a candid photo of Dan Humphrey to surface.

Rebecca leaves uttering how ridiculous of a reveal it truly was, the teachers scurrying around the stranded computer feasting their eyes on their key to keeping the luxurious seven hush. Those who are busy lounging around a table, Julien kissing her boyfriend, Otto, and Aki pinching his fingers across Max’s finely sculpted jawline. Audrey is the one reminding them of the forgotten sister; a quick brush-up and the facts filling out a familial report reads as follows: Zoya’s enrolled into Constance Billard, and their fathers hate each other.

Clearly, in a frazzle, a now ex-teacher storms into the staff room claiming she’s been fired by breach of refusal to change a grade. Power, however, comes in the form of a 280-character word limit and a supposedly catchy username classified under @GossipGirl2.0. Surely, the original would’ve come up with something more kissable. Their first tweet launches. Julien’s side-eying Zoya in the bathroom, its green brick walls predictably matching the envy caught between if it weren’t for the accurate fortune-teller of them hugging each other in glee.


They have matching tattoos! As well as a shared chat history as they’ve been swapping goss for years, with the final dosage being an eventful plan to have them wind up in the same inner circle at the same school. Stage one features the Met steps, Julien dropping a favorable comment about Zoya’s shoes, which wasn’t bought by her hands rather the formers that take to two, an invitation to hang out with them after hours, and then three, successful voting in. Her father grants her permission to attend by the guideline that she’s back by nine.

@GossipGirl2.0 isn’t onto the trending future they had envisioned, leaving the teachers sitting around Kate’s apartment, skimming through past posts to identify the type of language the original used to become successful. As for an interwoven thread, the starring rivalry is best appointed to Julien and Zoya, especially after revealing exactly how her scholarship came to be. All that’s left is to hit publish on an Instagram account, sparking the best filter to cover up any perceived flaw, Kristen Bell’s #iconic voice.

Matching the poppy tones of Ariana Grande’s “Positions,” Julien, in dangling hoops, walks into the lofty upscaled suite highlighting a glass-stained bar littered with multi-colored liquor bottles. Spotted over in the elevator is Otto giving Zoya the once-over; she’s in a golden-brushed collared dress shaking off Julien vibes that come as a startling compliment. They melt into the lounges; their own mutual interest in philanthropy carries through with Zoya mentioning the amount of income the teachers make, Monet understanding why Kate was dressed in one of Zara’s attires. 


A drug-infused makeout sesh is taking place just below a rustic bush-like scenery painting with Audrey strutting along towards it, Max intercepting by stealing her cocktail glass before propositioning her. She begrudgingly refuses, knowing he’s an itch she’s unable to scratch before whisking her boyfriend away into a secret curtain den where she pushes Aki down for oral sex, all the while having her eyes magnetized towards Max. There’s a scandalous ding alerting to the 411 on Zoya’s scholarship; it turns out, Julien used her influence to slide her application on top of the selecting pile.

The city’s rain beats down against the slippery sidewalk, Otto telling Zoya that Gossip Girl shouldn’t be taken too seriously; she’s purely a game, a paparazzied beast those with a hefty-sized following deal with on a daily basis and though there’s an attempt at taking them down, they’ll never be able to. Catching a glimpse at her soaked phone, it’s about three minutes past eight; the offer to drop into a dry haven is too much to say no to, so she undresses inside the Otto family-owned building since his mother despises wet floors. How catchable, a teacher lurks outside with his camera phone glued to the scene. 

In the barely lit living room, pulled together by a few spherical lampshades, Otto spills in the gaps to a once blissful relationship now riddled with narcissism as he’s not even sure on who exactly this version of Julien is. He’s merely a character appearing in her perfectly curated life, maybe a reoccurring one, but with no costume or dialogue privileges having everything decided by her cursor. Zoya then trades in her own take as she thinks back to the first message she received from Julien two years ago, knowing no matter how far the person she can be is, she is still in there somewhere.


Waking up to a zillion notifications can lean into two oppositional things, either there’s a rush of surprisingly good news, or unfortunately, for Zoya, she’s nearing the eruption of a girly volcano with Gossip Girl igniting the lava as these teachers are also calling upon You-inspo, framing underwear-clad photos of minors into a love-infested fiction. It’s more of a false start, though, as Julien knows there’s no ounce of truth to it, and Zoya is only being used for collateral damage with her being the one desiring to be chopped off the blue-tick list. 

That it does as the school’s entrance storms with students already believing the written word is truth even if all three parties state otherwise, calling onto an emergency scheming ploy to bring Julien back on top of the social chain. So, limos were meant for Chuck and Blair’s, which sort of makes Julien and Zoya riding in a standard Lyft okay as the latter questions how does one beat a lie? With an even juicier one, of course. Its succulent plotting squeeze will be the tabloid favor for the Christopher John Rogers fashion show. Julien sunglass-shaded is strutting into the building, knowing while Zoya will be granted access in, she won’t be on the list for the after-party, therefore, staging a diva meltdown. However, firstly it must be fed to Gossip Girl. 

A subtle pink is seemingly the theme, appearing as short, spiked strands on Aki’s head, slim-thick in Audrey’s leg-slit floor-length dress, and hugged around Max in a button-up. He’s passing a tye-dye faded into a blue shirt over to Aki with the follow-up question of why go anywhere else to change if there’s a perfectly good mirror where they are? Caving as he strips off, teasing the slither of a black tattoo etched onto his shoulder blade. Audrey looks on, gawking at the both of them in a polyamory nudge of what’s to come. Meanwhile, there’s a steady decrease in followers as students swap fashionable sides to take a seat at Zoya’s cliquey table. Julien has laid witness to the sour point, giving the approving nod to Monet as a way to up the humiliation. Shakespeare may get the notable mention, but a brewing feud between Z and J is worth the front-row seat.


Play Zoya walking into the venue; black strands blow-dried into voluminous curls resting into a vibrant sequin-speckled orange jumpsuit reflecting the blue-ish tones surrounding her. Running straight into Monet, that’s more staged than accidentally intended, who trades phones by dropping the others back into their clutch. Luna sneaks Max off to a bathroom stall, needing to take the filthy d*** pic. The pleated curtain shatters down, revealing a three-room dollhouse with models segregated into each; Julien’s slumped on a chair in the top-right square watching the sight of red fabric disappear as each makes their way onto the runway located just below. It goes to plan. First, there’s the heartbeat flash of cameras acting as a harmonized melody to ROSALÍA’s  “A Palé,” the sight of trickled water brushing the runway as the models pass. Then as the beam shines from above to announce Julien’s arrival, there’s the airdrop ding with the sender pegged as Zoya causing security guards to escort her out captured onto the laptop all the teachers are watching. 

Out onto the streets, there’s Z and J finally meeting their girly volcanic eruption. See, when Zoya decided to come to New York, she thought she would get the half-sister outing she always hoped for rather than the dynamic bow down she had just encountered. Appearances strategic to Julien’s image, an image she’s been exhaustingly constructing since forever, are more cared about, but now Zoya wishes she never came at all. However, this Genie has only granted her two with the toss-up between studying Julien or being kicked to the frenemy curb. “She’s learned enough,” Zoya says bitterly, realizing there’s room for the both of them. Julien disappears into the black SUV, Otto being the side passenger unable to utter out a few words at first until he admits he’s finally seen the glimpse of who Julien truly is, the vanity rush spawning a breakup. 

At home, Zoya’s father sits next to the Net-A-Porter bag turning his laptop around to face her with a TMZ article sprawled across. He’s worrying about the fraud going onto her permanent record; she, if she would’ve been good enough to get in on her own terms. Audrey’s having trouble in bed, that is until Aki grants her permission to think about Max perhaps acknowledging that’s too where his mind is. On the steps of Constance Billard, up above each prestigious doorway a member of the seven align, Zoya walks into school with Otto beside her with promises they’ll help the needy afterward. While Julien is having a hard time looking on, is that a change of attitude? Apologizing to Kate as a spilling of coffee mirrors the starting minutes of this episode, wondering how long that’ll last …

Gossip Girl airs on HBO Max on Thursdays, with episodes coming out weekly. 

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By Rachel
Joining the Nerds and Beyond team back in February 2019, Rachel Finucane graduated university with a Bachelor of Arts (Humanities) majoring in Screen Arts. She’s been passionate about all things television and film-related since penning her first Neighbours fanfiction aged twelve, before inevitably taking that pen to dabble in fashion, sports, and music. She can be spotted on Twitter at @rachelfinucane_.
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