Empire of the Son is the 17th episode of the fourth season and the 82nd overall.
They say Rome wasn't built in a day, and yet, what a difference a day makes.
Unresolved issues between Ben and Serena come to light when his mother visits. Meanwhile, Russell puts his relationship with Raina at risk and reveals a tragic secret about Bart to destroy Lily and the Bass family legacy. Nate and Raina explore their feelings for each other, and Lily prepares to face legal consequences for her part in Ben's false imprisonment. William van der Woodsen makes his return to the Upper East Side. Plus, Dan and Blair's relationship reaches a turning point that changes everything.
The episode begins with Lily heading into a meeting with her lawyer and an assistant DA to be receiving her official statement. Rufus promises to wait for her, and watches as she enters the room.
Time rewinds to 12 hours earlier, and Lily and Rufus excitedly read the newspaper article about Bradley Kidd backing them. Chuck rings the NYSE bell, Nate and Raina meet up, and Serena sees she has missed calls from Vanessa. Downstairs at the Waldorf's, she and Blair have breakfast. She and Dorota notice Blair is acting happy and cheerful, and Serena confesses that Ben hasn't called her since they had sex. Blair suggests she go and talk to him, and she does. Once she's gone, Dorota tells Blair she knows something is up with her. She mentions she hasn't complained about anything, and Blair orders her to pick up her cocktail dress for Chuck's party that evening. Once Dorota walks away, Blair texts someone to come over now that the coast is clear. Meanwhile, Chuck goes to see Russell at his office. He tells him he wants to invite Raina to his party that evening, and Russell tells him that Raina and Nate have been spending a lot of time together. At The Empire, Nate suggests plans to Raina but she asks if Chuck knows they're dating. He promises to talk to Chuck that day. At the Waldorf's, Blair and Dan make plans for their day. While they talk, Dorota calls that she's coming upstairs and Blair shoves him into her bathroom. Dorota comes in and says she forgot the dry cleaning slip; then asks who she was talking to. Blair replies that she's probably hearing ghosts and offers to go with her. She heads out, and Dorota lingers behind long enough to see and grab Dan's copy of New York Magazine. At the loft, Serena drops by to see Ben. However, a woman emerges from the back and asks what she is doing there. Ben introduces Serena to Cynthia, his mother, and he explains that Serena is a friend of Dan's, and sends her away. He follows her outside, and says he didn't tell her about their relationship. At the VDW's, Vanya drops off a rack of clothes and when Lily sifts through them to check that they're all there, she notices an orange jumpsuit with a note telling her to wear it that night is inside. Back at the loft, Serena asks for a chance to win his mother over and she invites him and Cynthia over to the Waldorf's for lunch. Back at the VDW's, Lily shows Chuck the jumpsuit. He remembers how Russell mentioned their celebration is premature, but also knows Russell has no proof or he would have already released it. Chuck suggests that it was Ben, but Lily doesn't think so. However, he encourages her to check.
Elsewhere outside, Dan and Rufus go out for coffee. He asks for advice on hanging out with someone but not telling anyone, and Rufus suggests that something else may be going on. Meanwhile, Dorota confronts Blair about having an affair with Dan. She denies it, but admits they have been hanging out. To prove it, she offers to skip the exhibit and go shopping instead. At the Waldorf's, Serena, Ben, and Cynthia wrap up their tour of the penthouse. They go to the dining room, and Serena reveals she ordered pizza. However, Cynthia says she's lactose intolerant so Serena gives her a salad. Before they eat, Serena gets a text fro Lily asking to call her. She does, and Lily asks if Ben would tell anyone about the affidavit but Serena promises he hasn't. At the VDW's, Vanessa arrives and tells Lily she has to tell her something about Ben. Back at the Waldorf's, Ben admits to Cynthia that he is dating Serena. She isn't pleased, and says she came to New York to end it. She explains that the only way for him to even be a suitable person for Serena is if he clears his name, but he refuses to, saying he won't destroy her family. She gives up, and says she's leaving. Unbeknownst to them, Serena hears the whole conversation. On the streets, Blair and Dorota are shopping when she spots Dan. She sends Dorota away and demands to know why he wasn't meeting her. He asks why she isn't meeting him, and she says she was standing him up and they aren't through talking about it. He says they are, and she walks away. At The Empire, Chuck confronts Nate about seeing Raina. Nate promises they're just hanging out but Chuck thinks he didn't even try, but asks him for a favor anyway. At the loft, Blair goes to see Dan and explains Dorota's theory to him. Dan says Rufus thought the same thing, so they plan to tip off Gossip Girl about a big secret coming out and the they reveal they're just hanging out, people will think it's no big deal. Back at The Empire, Chuck tells Raina about Lily's forgery and that he thinks Russell is going to use the information to ruin his deal. He asks her to stop him, but she says she doesn't believe him and won't confront him. At the Waldorf's, Lily arrives to see Serena with Vanessa in tow. Vanessa reveals that Ben was the one who had Howard attacked, but Serena doesn't believe her and tells her to leave. Lily again asks if it's possible Ben told Russell, and Serena says he wouldn't and that the affidavit is the only proof. She goes upstairs to check if it's still in her dresser but when she checks, she finds it's gone.
At the party, Chuck explains to Lily that Raina will be in the kitchen when he blackmails her, and she'll realize he isn't who she thinks he is. He promises that the only thing more important to him than ruining them is his relationship with Raina. Meanwhile, Serena arrives and tells Lily Ben hasn't returned her calls. Lily promises it isn't her mistake, then they see him arrive. On her way to talk to him, Serena runs into Blair and tells her she thinks the GG blast about a huge secret has to do with Lily and the affidavit. Serena confronts Ben and says she knows he stole the affidavit but he denies doing it. She asks about Nate's dad, and he admits he did have it done. Upstairs, Lily is confronted by Cynthia. She sees Russell arrive, and Lily realizes she was the one who stole the affidavit: not Ben. Downstairs, Rufus laughs to Dan about what if Blair was his secret friend, and Dan quickly laughs along. Lily asks for a second with Rufus alone. In the suite, Nate is headed downstairs and runs into Raina, but they hide when they hear the elevator. Chuck, Lily, and Russell arrive in the suite. He reveals he has the affidavit, and that unless they sign over Bass Industries, he will ruin their family. Raina then emerges with Nate, and reveals how shocked she is that Chuck was right about him. She then angrily leaves. Russell isn't fazed, and reminds them about his offer. Lily reveals that she called the DA ten minutes ago, and she's headed downtown now. She leaves, and Chuck tries to get Russell to leave. However, Russell asks why Chuck isn't even curious why he was willing to sacrifice anything to get even. He brings up Raina's mother, and Chuck decides to hear him out. Outside, Nate tries to comfort Raina. It works, and they kiss before heading off to catch the game highlights. Back at the party, Serena talks to Ben. He admits that Damien is probably the one who ratted out Lily and that he got physical with him in the past. He breaks up with her, and and they go their separate ways. Upstairs, Russell tells Chuck that his wife Avery was killed in the fire Bart intentionally set (previously mentioned in Bonfire of the Vanity), and that no one knows the truth. Downstairs, Blair tells Dan that their GG blast was prophetic and maybe the world isn't ready for them to reveal they're friends. After meeting with Russell, Chuck comes downstairs and orders Serena to shut the party down.
At the DA's office, Ben is told that thanks to Lily's confession, his record will be fully expunged. Lily says she knows it doesn't make anything up, but it's at least a fresh start for him. The DA mentions that Lily seems to be in good spirits for someone facing jail time, and she admits that her kids haven't smiled at her in a long time and that when she said she was turning herself in, Serena smiled at her. Downstairs, Rufus is surprised by the arrival of William in town. He reveals CeCe is heading into town as well to help support Lily. Meanwhile outside, Nate and Raina are surprised to find Russell waiting for them. He tells Raina he's headed back to Chicago, and she says she's not coming with him. He hopes she'll forgive him one day, and tells her what an amazing woman she is. Back at The Empire, Chuck drunkenly rambles to Serena about how all he wanted was for Bart to let him in and know him. He leaves to find and talk to Blair, and Serena hurries after him to make sure he's safe. At the Waldorf's, Dan arrives to see Blair and asks if they know for sure there is nothing going on with them. Blair says there isn't, then asks what he had in mind to make sure. He suggests they kiss, and she hesitantly agrees. He waits for a second, then she pulls him in and kisses him.
- 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 (Credit only, as she does not appear in the episode)
- Kelly Rutherford as Lily van der Woodsen
- Matthew Settle as Rufus Humphrey
- Zuzanna Szadkowski as Dorota Kishlovsky
- William Baldwin as William van der Woodsen
- Aaron Schwartz as Vanya
- Michael Boatman as Russell Thorpe
- Tike Sumpter as Raina Thorpe
- David Call as Ben Donovan
- Marsha Dietlein as Cynthia Sharp
- John Bolton as Bruce Caplan
- Where You're Coming From by Matt & Kim
- Don't Wait by The Duke Spirit
- Blister In The Sun by Nouvelle Vague
- Can't Stop Thinking by Buva
- Catastrophe by Nous Non Plus
- Humanised by Sola Rose (feat. Bajka)
- Don't Let Me Fall by B.O.B.
- Somebody Else's Child by The Vaccines
- Les Sauvages by Les Sans Culottes
Dorota: I have a sixth sense.
Blair: You have no sense.
Dorota: You don't come to me with any complaints about anything! You're too happy! Content. I'm worried you join cult.
Rufus (to Dan): You mean hang out hang out or... hang out, hang out?
Chuck (to Nate): Seems the Archibald charm isn't as rusty as you thought, unlike the knife in my back.
Chuck: Why put off till tomorrow a party you could throw today?
Cynthia (to Lily about stealing the affidavit): Well, as parents, sometimes we have to make those tough choices. After all, isn't that what you told yourself?
Lily: Just promise me one thing. Before Thorpe leaves here tonight, tell that son of a bitch where he can stick it.
Chuck: Thank you for saving his legacy.
Lily: Bass Industries isn't his legacy, Charles. You are.
Nate: Finding out your father isn't the person you thought he is sucks. But that doesn't mean he loves you any less.
Raina: Then what does it mean?
Nate: It means he's human.
Ben: You ever have a dream that feels so real and when you wake up you just want to lie there with your eyes closed, to hold onto it? I barely remember being a teacher at Knightley. Being with you makes it feel real because you remember.
Serena: I do.
Ben: But maybe it's time for me to open my eyes and let it go.
Serena: You mean let me go..
Ben: I obviously have a lot to figure out.
Serena: Well, that guy that I fell for at Knightley, you're still him. And I can see that even if you can't. I don't know, maybe one day, when you do.
Russell (to Chuck): But I think you know your father well enough to believe that he was capable of deliberately taking a life.
- The episode title is based off the movie Empire of the Sun.
- This is the third episode of the series to begin with a slight jump in time, and then to switch back to real time to explain how it happened. The first being with Blair dancing for Chuck in Victor Victrola and the second being Serena and Tripp van der Bilt's car accident in The Debarted.
- Russell's statement on how Bart is capable of taking a life proves to be more relevant than was intended during the episode.
- This episode marks the last appearance of Ben Donovan.