Desperately Seeking Serena is the 15th episode of the first season and the 15th overall.
There are three things we do alone: we are born, we die, and if we're a high school junior headed for college, we take the SATs. And while the test is said to measure our best traits, preparing for it inevitably brings out the worst. Humility becomes self doubt, striving becomes obsession. Some are driven to self medication, while others cling to the security of being part of a group. And anyone who's used to bending the rules will find themselves breaking them.
Serena's world is turned upside down when her former partner in all things bad, Georgina Sparks, returns to Manhattan to stir up trouble and expose Serena's past. Meanwhile, Nate finds romance with the last person he was expecting to connect with and Jenny meets a new guy who just might be her ticket to permanent popularity. Finally, Blair hatches a secret plan to sabotage her biggest rival, Nelly Yuki.
After a long study session, Dan falls asleep while trying to write an essay and is awoken by Rufus. He confesses that he's a choker and it will probably happen when he takes the SATs. Jenny is about to leave for school but Rufus insists on walking her. He reminds her that what she did was wrong and out of character and he wants them to reconnect. She agrees, so long as it's not in front of her friends. He relents, saying that they can talk at dinner that night. At Constance, Blair and Serena use SAT prep devices to practice. Blair worries that Nelly Yuki, a fellow student, also has her sights set on Yale and has better qualifications to get in. She gets up to leave when she sees Chuck approaching and he takes her seat next to Serena. He informs her that the girl who sent Serena all the gifts, Georgina Sparks, is in Belfort, dating the prince; so she can't be anywhere near Manhattan. Serena is relieved and thanks Chuck for finding out for her. Inside, Penelope, Hazel, and Is vent to Jenny about how they're stressing over the SATs. Jenny invites them to come over to the loft that night so she can help them study, but Blair interrupts and invites the girls, sans Jenny, to come to her penthouse for a spa study session. The other girls accept the invite and follow Blair outside. Elsewhere, Dan runs into Nate outside school. They exchange greetings before Serena surprises Dan with a kiss. She apologizes for being off the radar lately and they wish each other a good day before parting ways. Once Dan is gone, Georgina emerges from the shadows and comments that Serena always left men wanting more. Serena is shocked to see her, and asks why she isn't in Switzerland. Georgina says her dad didn't need the G5 and asks her to come get a cocktail with her. Serena doesn't answer, which Georgina takes as a yes to her invite.
On the street, Jenny and Elise go boyfriend searching so Jenny can upstage Blair. As they search, Jenny gets run into by a boy walking several dogs. They knock her hot dog out of her hand and the boy offers to give her a dollar. She declines, and he gives her his number instead. He walks away and Elise remarks that he is gorgeous. However, Jenny is unimpressed; as she feels she deserves better than a dog-walker. At a diner, Nate finds Dan studying with Vanessa and hands over his old SAT study materials, hoping Dan can use them. While Dan is grateful for the donation, Vanessa rudely tells Nate that they don't need his hand me downs. Nate leaves and once he's gone, she notices a practice essay inside one of the books, and pulls it out to read. At a bar, Serena and Georgina are boughten drinks by two strangers. Serena confronts her about the gifts but Georgina smiles that they were funny. She asks for them to hang out like old times and Serena agrees to have one drink. At the Waldorf's, Penelope, Hazel, and Is arrive for the study session but Blair informs them about Nelly Yuki and her accomplishments. She proposes that they can either study with manicures, or find a way to annihilate Nelly. The girls choose to scheme. Back at the bar, Serena and Georgina get drunk and reminisce about old times; such as when they played as Savannah and Svetlana. Two guys come over to flirt with them and while they talk, Georgina's phone rings. She answers it but Serena grabs it out of her hand and realizes it's a cocaine dealer. Realizing Georgina hasn't changed at all, she gets up to leave and calls Chuck from a quiet corner, asking him to call Dan to cover for her not showing up for their study date. After they hang up, he calls Dan and says that Serena has food poisoning so she won't be able to come over. However, Dan doesn't completely buy this.
The next day at school, Dan orders Chuck to leave Serena alone. While he does so, Serena comes over and says her migraine is healed. Confused, Dan says he thought she had food poisoning and she hesitantly says that came after. He doesn't buy this either and tells her he has to go to class. Chuck asks Serena why she can't just tell Dan about Georgina and her ways, but Serena says she can't. Meanwhile, Penelope and Hazel invite Nelly to join their group of friends. However, Nelly isn't interested and says all she wants is to never hear Flo Rida again, since her boyfriend dumped her at a Flo Rida concert. In the background Blair, listens to the conversation and downloads a Flo Rida song onto her phone. On the street, Jenny and Elise see the dog-walker boy again. Jenny is unamused, until she sees him hand over the dogs to a woman dressed in a housekeeper uniform. Elise points out that he is not the walker, but the owner, and Jenny decides to give him a chance. Back at Constance, Blair spots Nelly studying in the hallway and slowly walks by while playing a Flo Rida song. Nelly says that song reminds her of her ex and Blair offers a sympathetic ear to hearing about her breakup. She invites her to come over to her penthouse to cry it all out and Nelly decides to accept her offer. Meanwhile, Nate meets Vanessa at a Greek diner. She apologizes for being rude before and says she read his practice essay; and that she was wrong for judging his cover before reading the book. He accepts her apology and they continue to hang out. Elsewhere, Georgina calls Serena to invite her to come out to dinner with her. She admits that Serena's transformation is a big inspiration to her and that she wants her advice on how to be someone new. Serena thinks about this, and decides to take her up on the invite; despite knowing the SATs are the next day.
At the loft that night, Dans studies for the SATs while Jenny finishes her homework. Rufus arrives home and Jenny shows him that she finished her trig, Latin, and literature homework. He tells her that while she's still grounded, he bought her a new sewing machine. She says she met a new guy that she's supposed to meet for lunch the next day, but Rufus says she isn't old enough to date. She insists he's just a friend but argues that it's not fair for Dan to date someone rich if she can't. Rufus reminds her that she said it wasn't a date and she storms off to her room. At the Waldorf's, Blair and the girls watch Nelly get a massage. During which, Nelly's ex, Todd, arrives to see her. He tells her that he feels badly over how their relationship ended and asks to talk about it in private. She happily agrees and thanks Blair before leaving with him. Once she's gone, it's revealed Blair set him up to come over to act as a distraction for Nelly. Elsewhere, Nate and Vanessa discuss what fun they had at Vanessa's sister's concert. He asks why she takes SAT practice tests if she isn't planning on taking the real test, and she explains that it's to help Dan; and that since she's a filmmaker, college isn't necessary for her. Nate admits he's never met anyone who thought college was optional and Vanessa answers that the same was Archibald's go to Ivy League schools, her family doesn't go to college. They arrive back at the cafe where she works and they kiss before going inside together. Meanwhile, Georgina and Serena have dinner. Serena explains how she likes the way she feels when Dan looks at her and Georgina says that from what she can see, Serena has genuinely changed a lot. Serena realizes she should call Dan to wish him luck before the SATs and excuses herself to call. While she's distracted, Georgina slips a drug into Serena's soda. When she returns, Georgina proposes a toast to ensure Serena drinks the roofie.
The next morning, Serena wakes up in Georgina's hotel room with no recollection of what happened the night before. Georgina tells her that she brought her back to her hotel because she got out of control and had to make sure she was okay. Realizing she's late for the SATs, Serena calls Chuck to ask him to keep the doors open until she gets there. Back at Vanessa's diner, Nate surprises her and says he's taking her somewhere. He tells her it's a one time offer with a clock ticking, and she decides to get into the car. At the loft, Rufus asks Jenny if she wished Dan luck while they eat breakfast. She asks again if she can go meet with her new friend, Asher, but Rufus brings her the phone so she can call and cancel in front of him. At Hunter College, Nate brings Vanessa to take the SATs and assures her that there is nothing wrong with keeping her options open to following her own path. She listens to this and decides to go inside and take the test. Meanwhile, Nelly arrives at the school and Blair asks what happened. Nelly tearfully says Todd doesn't want to get back together and she spent the whole night crying. She becomes so flustered she drops her calculator, which Blair picks up before wishing her luck. Nelly goes inside and Blair shows the other girls that she was able to swipe the batteries from Nelly's calculator as extra insurance. At check-in, Blair spots Dan and asks where Serena is. He says he doesn't know and Blair offers to save a seat for her. Dan calls her and is in the middle of leaving a voicemail when he overhears a redhead girl check in as Serena van der Woodsen.
After the test, Blair and Dan exit the school. Dan goes off to find Serena while Blair calls her but both spot Nate and Vanessa hugging and getting into a car together. At The Palace, Dan goes to Chuck's suite, where he finds Serena inside. He asks what happened and she lies that her stomach began acting up again. Dan says it's okay if she freaked out over not studying but she insists that she was sick. Dan isn't happy with this response, saying that he's surprised that's the best she can do since she paid someone else to be her. Confused, Serena turns to Chuck and says that she asked him to keep the doors open but when she arrived; they were closed. Chuck says they don't keep the doors open and he hired the girl to try and help her. Dan pleas with Serena to tell him what's really going on but she asks if they can just talk the next day instead. He agrees to that and leaves. Chuck shuts the door and Serena tells him he went too far. He replies that he knows Georgina has something on her and it must be really bad, if she isn't willing to tell him what it is. Afterwards, Serena goes to Georgina's hotel and informs her that she never wants her to contact her ever again because she makes mistakes when they're together. Offended, Georgina says that what happened a year ago was just as much Serena's fault as hers; but Serena yells that she isn't going to talk about it. She again orders her to stay out of her life and leaves. At the loft, Asher brings over a bag of hot dogs to have lunch with Jenny and Rufus. Jenny is pleasantly surprised to see him there and Rufus decides to invite him to come in. In Central Park, Dan sit alone but is jumped on by a dog. Georgina claims the dog and talks with Dan before introducing herself as Sarah.
- Blake Lively as Serena van der Woodsen
- Leighton Meester as Blair Waldorf
- Penn Badgley as Dan Humphrey
- Chace Crawford as Nate Archibald
- Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass
- Jessica Szohr as Vanessa Abrams
- Taylor Momsen as Jenny Humphrey
- Kelly Rutherford as Lily van der Woodsen (Credit only, as she does not appear in the episode)
- Matthew Settle as Rufus Humphrey
- Michelle Trachtenberg as Georgina Sparks
- Amanda Setton as Penelope Shafai
- Zuzanna Szadkowski as Dorota Kishlovsky
- Dreama Walker as Hazel Williams
- Yin Chang as Nelly Yuki
- Emma Demar as Elise Wells
- Jesse Swenson as Asher Hornsby
- Nicole Fiscella as Isabel Coates
- Jefferey Omura as Todd Jansen
- Do The Panic by Phantom Planet
- Campus by Vampire Weekend
- Crimewave by Crystal Castles
- Nice Sweet Sexy by Difx (ft. Imperio & Cru)
- Elevator by Flo Rida (feat. Timbaland)
- We Started Nothing by The Ting Tings
Rufus: You used to beg me to walk you to school. You'd cry if I didn't walk you to class.
Jenny: That wasn't me. That was Dan.
Blair: Nelly Yuki must be destroyed.
Serena: Why do you keep saying her name?
Blair: Because it's Nelly Yuki!
Georgina (to Serena): You of all people know nothing gets me talking like a Cosmo.
Jenny: So it's okay for Dan to date someone rich though?
Dan: Oh, it's not without it's complications, believe me.
Blair: Lucky for us, mental acuity and common sense rarely come in the same package.
Nate: Next time your sister's band is in town, I want front row seats.
Vanessa: You don't strike me as a lesbian punk fan!
Nate: You know, I'm almost offended by how much you underestimate me, Miss Abrams.
Vanessa: You like punk?
Nate: Oh, you said punk? Because you had me at lesbian.
Is: You never did tell us how you got Todd to play along.
Blair: Isabel, what are you doing later tonight?
Is: Uh, not Todd.
Blair: Okay, I guess I'm going to have to come up with something else.
Georgina: So you want to distance yourself from your mistakes by staying away from me? You were there too, Serena. It was just as much you if not more-
Serena: This is NOT about last year, it's about last night.
Georgina: Like you were just some innocent bystander who walked in on-
Serena: I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT IT, GEORGINA, OKAY? And neither are you. If I go down, you go down with me. In the meantime, stay out of my life.
Georgina: I don't need anybody in my life who doesn't want to be there.
Serena: Then we're agreed.
- The episode title is based off the movie Desperately Seeking Susan.
- This is the first appearance of Georgina Sparks and Nelly Yuki.