Why I Love Blair Waldorf

s01e04: "Bad News Blair"

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Tyler McCall

May 24 2021

11 mins read

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If you have followed me longer than, oh, say, one day on literally any social media network, it should come as no surprise to you that I am a huge Blair Waldorf fan. I'd like to think it's obvious why she's my favorite, because I think it's pretty clear she's the best character on the show (something I think the writers realize by season two, when I believe she becomes the driving force of the series).

In case it's not, or you have other biases — which you are completely entitled to! — we've reached the perfect point in the series to discuss the complexities of Blair Waldorf, which is the fourth episode of the debut season, "Bad News Blair." As the title implies, she's the central focus of the plot here and the writers do a lot to establish why Blair is the way that she is; like Rufus says towards the middle of the episode, "Usually there's something beneath the surface of people like that that makes them act the way they do."

We meet what's beneath Blair's surface almost immediately into the episode: A deep, profound insecurity, particularly strong when it comes to her friendship with Serena, rooted in her relationship with her narcissistic mother. Eleanor doesn't even call her daughter to tell her that she's coming home from Paris early, and within minutes, she scolds her for interrupting when Serena spoke first and directs her to eat a low-fat yogurt instead of the same croissant Serena is currently enjoying. I mean, how heartbreaking is it when she tells her mom, "I lost two pounds while you were away!" and her mom chirps in approval?

Blair is beautiful and smart but, as the photographer later says, "unapproachable, controlled, perfect [....] Your girl is rigid, like a twig. She’s afraid to let you in." She is a Type A personality, always completely dressed down to the details (the omnipresent headband that Eric Daman once told me operated like "her force field") and terrified of being even slightly out of control.

This perfectionist streak clearly comes from having an image-obsessed mother, who from the first episode is established as nit-picking every single thing she can about her daughter's appearance, from properly fitting the right dress to caring for dry hair ends. Eleanor has thoroughly fucked up Blair in ways the show really only ever skirts past, and she's not even able to take responsibility for her actions, blaming "that fool of a photographer" for the change in models. Still, obviously a 16 year-old girl would be desperate for her mother's approval; when Serena tries to bail on the test shoot, Blair tells her that she has to stay because "I can’t let my mother down." When Eleanor tucks Blair in and tells her that she looked beautiful at the shoot, Blair looks up at her with these big puppy eyes and says, "Really?!" in a tone of disbelief that just breaks the heart.

Her friendship with Serena works so well because Serena is, again quoting the photographer, "warm like sunshine, fun"; in the scene where Serena helps her at the test shoot, we see how S is able to get B to loosen up and let go of that hyper-controlled image. But that same quality is also what makes Blair so jealous of Serena that her stress dreams center around S taking over her dream life.

Throughout the series, and especially in the first season, the show establishes that Serena is someone for whom things always come easily. "Oh God, I forgot what it was like to be with you," Blair moans as they walk through NoLita and Serena turns heads; later, at the photoshoot, Eleanor will tell Serena that part of her charm is how she's always loved the spotlight, though it's more fair perhaps to say that Serena has always attracted the spotlight, whether she likes it or not. Worse, Serena is more or less clueless to the ease with which she moves through the world, which is all the more infuriating to Blair. When Serena asks what motivation she'd have to take the photoshoot from Blair, she screams, "Because you take everything from me! Nate, my mom — you can’t even help it. It’s who you are."

This witty, bitchy girl is actually so soft on the inside, waiting for anyone to love her unconditionally, to choose her first. Her mom sucks, her dad left for France to be with his boyfriend, Nate cheated on her with Serena — no wonder she feels so vulnerable all the time. This is part of what makes her relationship with Chuck work, that the rakish boy chooses her first and above anyone else. (It's also what makes his betrayals so hard to stomach.)

When Dan sits down with her, she hits him with a great line — "Normally I wouldn’t be this close to you without a tetanus shot" — but her heart isn't in it, and as she listens to Dan try to empathize with her, she softens to him. Not much! But it's something, to let someone in and let them see her as she really is: Hurt, sad, insecure.

I love her! And sure, a lot of that comes down to relating to her on several levels — an insecure, blustery, type-A control freak? Hi, it's me! — but I also think it makes her a very real character in a way that Serena just isn't. It gives Blair much more runway for growth and development over the course of the series that's fun to watch.

And, okay, I also think she has the best wardrobe.


Best Lines of the Episode:

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Blair: “That was disgusting. The DOH should shut them down.”

Serena: “The bathroom?”

Blair: “No, the people. It’s called NoLita, not No Showers. [looks at Dan] What are you doing here? Do I smell…pork? And…cheese? [looks at Serena] Okay, well when you’re done with your charity work, come find me. I’ll be at Tory Burch looking at…ponchos?”

Carter: “Exactly. In the real world, the only thing that matters is who you are, not what you own.”

Chuck: “As much as I love this speech about not needing material things from a guy who has that much product in his hair, this part is about excess, not exposition.”

Dan: “Well, she’s best friends with this girl, Blair Waldorf, who is basically everything I hate about the Upper East Side distilled into one 95 pound, doe-eyed, bon-mot tossing, label-whoring package of girly evil.”

Rufus: “No one’s that bad.”

Dan: “She is. I would barely be exaggerating if I told you Medusa wants her withering glare back.”

My Favorite Outfit of the Episode:

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This is hard — like, really, really hard. It's an incredibly strong Blair episode — the pinwheel Milly! The cream dress she wears lounging around her apartment! — not to mention Serena's gorgeous Vena Cava dress and all the stunning Lorick looks. But ultimately, the one I think holds up the best is this green Catherine Malandrino dress with the red t-strap kitten heels and those curls. Perfection.

Final Stray Observations:

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  • Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first Audrey Hepburn dream sequence, this one referencing "Breakfast at Tiffany's." It's a very nice touch to have Serena wearing the outfit Blair was wearing when we first met her.
  • New Eleanor has arrived! Much, much better casting, imo.
  • All the Eleanor Waldorf designs you see this season are by a real designer, Abigail Lorick! She loaned her label, Lorick, to stand in for Waldorf originals, and you can also spot her as an extra in the photoshoot scenes. These days, she has a surf brand called Ansea.
  • "Until I say so, the only girls you talk to are the ones I paid for" is another gross line from season one Chuck Bass.
  • Sebastian Stan has arrived as Carter Baizen! Who would've guessed back in 2007 that he'd be the cornerstone of a Marvel franchise? This is the first of many great cameo actors in the show, and also, I really do love Carter.
  • "Call me sometime so we can get together and do that thing you didn’t ask me to do." Smooth, Serena!!
  • "Once you turn away from money you see it doesn’t buy you freedom, it pays for your prison" is the moment everyone should’ve known Carter is full of shit.
  • There are some bad, very 2007 throwaway lines about models in this episode, but I cringe every time I hear, "This one missed the cue at the Chloé show because she was throwing up a pear." Yikes.
  • I have some questions about the timeline of Eleanor's career: She says Blair was her first dress form, but that would've made her a baby, which makes no sense — UNLESS Eleanor only just recently launched her line, in which case, where did she get her money? Is she a socialite-turned-designer? The whole fuss over the Bendel's deal would make way more sense if she was a newer label. I'd love to know more details on this.
  • RIP the Sunshine Theatre, a New York City landmark gone too soon.
  • Why are the boys playing basketball all the way down at Chrystie and Houston? Are there no basketball courts between the Upper East Side and NoLita? I assume filming schedules has to do with why everyone is in NoLita this episode.
  • "Few firsts are left for me,” elaborate or stfu Rufus!!!
  • Bex hands over her card with a smooth "If the trains ever stop running," and I gotta say, this is a great episode for pick up lines.
  • Nate delivers a very petulant "You don't really get me, do you?!" and Chuck responds with an extremely astute read on him: “That dream of yours, what is it, really? ‘Cause I hear you talk about how you don’t wanna go to Dartmouth and how you don’t wanna follow in your father’s footsteps, but what exactly do you want?”
  • "Hey S... alright, I hope you’re not already there because as it turns out, my modeling career is over faster than Jessica Simpson’s acting one." Damn, what did Jessica Simpson do to the writers of "Gossip Girl"?!
  • Carter says "Up until now it’s been cards, but from now on its an adventure,” and god, Nate is dumb not to realize he's being played like a fiddle. It takes him so damn long to understand he'd been set up!
  • I do love that Chuck shows up and bails Nate out by telling Carter he can keep the Piaget and the Babe Ruth called shot. I think the show does a decent job establishing that underneath all his bluster, Chuck is a very loyal friend.
  • "You didn’t hear it from us, but in every girl’s life there comes a moment when she realizes that her mother just might be more messed up than she is," is a Gossip Girl line that genuinely shifted my perspective on life at age 21.
  • I can't believe Blair and Serena invented being Instagram influencers!!!!!

And Now, Your 'Dan Is a Psycho for This' Moment of the Episode:

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Towards the middle of the episode, after Serena is a no-show at the Sunshine, Dan laments to his father that he's not sure if Serena is "worth it" and wonders what it says about her that she could be best friends with someone like Blair Waldorf. Bro. How is any of this a revelation to you when you have literally been running an entire anonymous website about the kind of person Serena is? Also, worth what, Dan? Dating? Or, just to reiterate, running an entire anonymous website dedicated to ruining her life? Psycho!

There's also this exchange which I happen to think is a childish little tantrum regardless of whether he's Gossip Girl or not:

"It’s just, uh, I thought you wanted to be on the sidelines here. I thought you wanted to be here for your friend, Blair. You know, we were gonna get craft service, and I’d have your full attention?"

"Say it."

"I don’t think I have to."

[whiny, mimicky voice] "I don't think I have to." Asshole.

I will say, to his credit, I'm very endeared by his pep talk with Blair about wanting to yell at his own mom and never having the guts to do so. I quite like the dynamic of their relationship over the course of the series and this establishes that they might actually have much more in common than they think. No, I promise I'm not going to talk about Dair this early in the series!!!

And that's it! Thank you for signing up for Lincoln Hawk Fan Club; if you have any thoughts, questions or comments, I'd love to hear them. Hit me up at LTylerMcCall@gmail.com. XOXO!

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