The Age of Dissonance is the 18th episode of the second season and the 36th overall.
On the Upper East Side, all the world's a stage and the men and women: merely players. But once a year, Constance/St. Jude students shed their usual roles and take on new ones for the senior class play. This year's pick? The Age of Innocence. Before Gossip Girl, there was Edith Wharton. And how little has changed. The same society snobs still reigned, only in corsets and horse drawn carriages.
The seniors put on a production of The Age of Innocence and find their personal lives mirroring the play. Serena develops a crush on the play's director, Julian, and enlists Vanessa's knowledge of theater to help her get his attention. Blair receives devastating news about her future that leads her on a witch-hunt for the person responsible. Dan and Rachel agree to stay away from each other but find the promise hard to keep. Meanwhile, Chuck tries to help a new friend, but has to involve a rival from his past.
At Constance/St. Jude's, Blair, Serena, Dan, and Nate prepare for a rehearsal of The Age of Innocence, a play they are required to participate in to graduate. Nate mentions to Dan that he can't believe Chuck got a doctor to diagnose him with acute stage fright so he wouldn't have to participate. In the dressing room, Blair tells Serena and Dorota how her life is perfect now and that she won't be able to truly relate to her character because she's so happy with everything. She asks Serena how she's doing after breaking up with Dan, and Serena says she's trying to distract herself with her crush on their director, Julian. While they talk, Isabel screams and Blair goes over to find what is going on. Isabel excitedly shares that Nelly just got in early to Yale, but Blair doesn't believe her. Nelly shows her the email, directly from Dean Berube, and Blair runs off to find Headmistress Queller. Back out in the auditorium, Julian gives Jenny directions on what else needs to be completed, wardrobe wise. Jenny then mentions to Dan that she can't believe she volunteered to do fashion for the show. Dan notices Rachel arrive and sees her being ostracized and scorned by the other faculty members. Backstage, Nate asks Vanessa why she wants to do a documentary on the school production. She says that all the elements of wealth, publicity, and the story of The Age of Innocence makes it interesting. Nate laughs that The Age of Innocence is the most boring story he's ever read and Vanessa replies that the story is in the details.
Meanwhile, Chuck goes to a restaurant and runs to a Bass Industries associate, Mr. Campbell. The two men greet each other before Chuck goes to his own table. On his way, he sees Elle at a table with Carter Baizen. He asks what she's doing with him but she lies and says her name is Hailey. Before they can really talk, Elle excuses herself. When she's gone, the two exchange insults before the host comes by to tell Carter that his date left through the kitchen. Carter leaves some money to pay and leaves. Once he's gone, Chuck notices Mr. Campbell leave at the same time and follow Carter. Back at Constance, Dan asks Jenny if she saw how the teachers treated Rachel. She says yes and he asks her to deliver a note to her, on his behalf. Jenny skeptically agrees and is able to slip it to Rachel out in the auditorium. She reads it:
I need to see you - alone. Write back when and where.
She writes back a quick response and slips a key to her apartment inside the envelope. Backstage, Blair finds Headmistress Queller and asks about Nelly's acceptance to Yale. Queller explains that she informed Yale about Blair serving detention but didn't say what she was being punished for; but that an anonymous caller did, which she had to confirm. She continues that Yale sees hazing a teacher as a serious offense and have withdrawn her acceptance as a result. Blair begs for help, saying that there has to be something they can do but Queller simply responds that it's over: she will not be attending Yale. Onstage, the dress rehearsal begins. At the VDW's, Chuck arrives home to find Elle waiting for him. She asks for his help. Back at Constance, Rufus arrives and sits next to Jenny in the audience. She accidentally drops the envelope containing Dan's note and Rufus grabs it and looks inside before she can. He sees the note and the key; including Rachel's response:
Tonight. My place. I can't wait to see you.
Backstage, Blair confronts Nelly for calling Yale to tattle on her. Nelly insists she didn't do it and as they argue, a Gossip Girl blast comes in, informing everyone about the Catherine/Marcus scandal. Blair realizes that Vanessa must have outed her and walks away. Onstage, Serena tries to talk to Julian but he isn't into it. Vanessa comes over and asks her about her take on the play. Serena admits that she relates to her character, who is ignored by her fiancee, since Julian isn't interested in her. Vanessa asks if she has a crush on Julian, and the two stare at him. He notices and Serena takes the opportunity to invite him to dinner with herself, Vanessa, and Nate. He agrees to go and they make plans to meet in front. Blair then bursts onstage and confronts Vanessa about calling Yale. Confused, Vanessa denies doing it; saying she doesn't know what she's talking about. Serena takes Vanessa's side and tells Blair to calm down. Vanessa takes that as her cue to walk away and Blair tells Serena to be careful not to become collateral damage. At the VDW's, Elle comes back to the main room after taking a shower. She admits to Chuck that she wanted to contact him but she felt it wasn't safe. She also explains that she just met Carter and he told her he was rich, so she thought he could help her with her new life on the run. Chuck gives her a cup of tea and promises no one will hurt her. She explains that the men in the club are very rich and powerful, so she just needs to escape the country with a new identity. Chuck promises to help her do that, saying he knows a guy who can help. She thanks him before kissing him.
Meanwhile, Serena, Julian, Nate, and Vanessa have dinner. Julian and Vanessa discuss old movies while Nate and Serena stay pretty quiet. Nate says he's going to leave and Vanessa agrees to go with him, but Serena asks her to stay to keep their night with Julian ongoing. She decides to stay but Nate leaves anyway. Once Nate is gone, Julian decides to leave to and goes to pay the bill. When he's out of earshot, Vanessa admits to Serena that Julian is stuck up and really annoying in a know-it-all way. Julian comes back to the table and Serena invites him over for the next day to help her practice before the play. He agrees and leaves the restaurant. Afterwards, Serena tells Vanessa that she has a plan for the next day that involves both of them. At the loft, Jenny tells Dan that Rachel wrote back but Rufus found it. At Rachel's, Rufus lets himself in and returns the key to Rachel himself. The next morning, Rufus tells Dan that he went to see Rachel. He warns Dan that if anyone were to find out, he would be expelled and Rachel would be fired for good. Dan argues that Rachel understands that risk but is taking it anyway. Rufus reminds him that he's still in high school but Dan says he can make his own dating choices, being 18 and all, before leaving. At the VDW's, Serena rehearses her lines with Julian. They then get into a discussion about movies and it's revealed that Vanessa is listening in via bluetooth and is telling Serena what to say. She gives her a line, which Serena is to repeat to sound educated in movie history. While she's at the gallery, she tells Serena to say that Julian is so insightful and she completely understands about lack of passion but unbeknownst to her, Nate hears her compliment Julian. Back at the VDW's, Serena gets a Gossip Girl blast revealing that she only got into Yale due to the publicity surrounding her. She hangs up with Vanessa and Julian suggests that they leave for the theater then. Elsewhere outside, Chuck brings Elle to Carter, due to his knowledge on crossing borders illegally. Chuck tells him to bring Elle to his passport guy to get her out of the country and they'll meet up at Teterboro. Elle gets into the limo with Carter, and as they drive away, he tells Chuck that they'll take good care of her as he shows via tattoo that he belongs to the club as well.
At Constance, Serena confronts Blair about sending in the tip about her to Gossip Girl. Blair denies it but Serena doesn't believe her because only her and Dan knew. She leaves the room and Blair tells Dorota that she didn't do it and if she didn't, Dan did. She realizes that Vanessa told him about Marcus and Catherine, so he could have put that out too. Elsewhere, Dan and Rachel go into the costume closet to talk about things. She begins to cry, saying it was reckless of her to reply to his note and Dan says they won't be able to stay away from each other. They kiss and proceed to have sex in the closet. Onstage, the play begins and when Serena's character leaves the scene, Vanessa asks what happened with Julian. Serena says she had to get off the phone and that she'll explain later. At the VDW's, Chuck meets with Mr. Campbell. He asks point blank about the club, and points out that he left the restaurant at the same time as Carter. Mr. Campbell says he has no idea what he's talking about. Chuck shows him an invitation and says his friend is in trouble, but Mr. Campbell still plays dumb. He threatens to call the police but Mr. Campbell just says he can't say anything before leaving. Once he's gone, Chuck receives a text saying to come to the Eastview Hotel at 10:30 PM.
Back at Constance, Julian gives the actors a condescending pep talk before Act II. Afterwards, he targets Nate and tells him that his character suffered bankruptcy and public humiliation; then remarks that he would know nothing about that. Offended, Nate walks away and Julian suggests to Vanessa that she put her camera on a tripod and to come watch the show from the audience. Onstage, Dan and Blair proceed with their scene but make snide remarks to each other as they perform. She accuses him for outing both the Yale thing and the Marcus/Catherine thing but as they walk offstage, Dan realizes something. Backstage, Jenny gives Nate the finishing touches to his costume and remarks that Vanessa said Julian is an amazing director. Nate is pushed onstage then and proceeds to forget his lines. When he can't remember, he takes the opportunity to vent about how much he hates the play and pretentious asshats who steal other people's girlfriends, directly referring to Julian. Blair comes forward and agrees with Nate, saying that it isn't fair to work hard for something and lose it because people are out to get you. Serena then says that at least she doesn't have worry about her best friend betraying her and Nelly jumps in that she hates her fat suit. Nate comes back and says that his family lost all their money after Howard embezzled it so he knows more about bankruptcy and public humiliation than Julian. Dan tries to stay in character but Nate tells him to shut up. Jenny pulls the curtain and the stage goes dark and the house lights come on.
Backstage, Julian reams the cast for embarrassing him in front of his friend and famous critic. However, Charles Isherwood, the friend, tells Julian that he was very impressed with the play and the juxtaposition with Act I and II. Julian pretends it was all his idea and plays it off like he made it up himself. When everyone walks away, Serena remarks to Julian that she can't believe she ever had a crush on him. He tells her he's gay and leaves. Backstage, Vanessa finds Nate and asks what happened onstage. Nate replies that he knows she's into Julian and that he can't compete, since she and Julian are into the same things. He explains that he overheard her phone conversation and she tries to tell him that she was helping Serena and he misunderstood. He admits that they have nothing in common but Vanessa argues that he never even tried to understand The Age of Innocence. She says that maybe if he put some effort into their relationship and common interests that he wouldn't be so insecure but he just walks away. Meanwhile, Chuck goes to the Eastview Hotel and sees Elle on her way out. She explains that the club didn't want to hurt her, they just wanted her gone so they gave her some money to leave town after having her sign a gag order. She also says that she's grateful he was willing to help her but she really only needed money, and she has a plan to leave by herself. He asks if she was using him and she just replies that he should give his heart to somebody who cares. She leaves the hotel. Back at Constance, Dan confronts Rachel for outing Blair to Yale. She doesn't deny it and says that it wasn't fair that Blair did what she did with no repercussions. Dan tells her to make it right with her, but Rachel refuses. He says that she just crushed his ideals and walks away. He then runs into Blair and he tells her that Rachel is the one who outed her, and that they had sex in the costume closet. Blair goes over to Rachel and mentions the sex to her. Rachel again doesn't deny anything and Blair admits that her fate at Yale is sealed, and she doesn't know how to get even. Rachel apologizes and says she doesn't know who or what she's become. Blair says that her punishment is to just live what she did, and she knows from experience that it's not easy.
Dan finds Serena backstage and tells her that Blair didn't send the tip about Yale, that he told Rachel, who sent it. She asked why he would do that then goes to find Blair. At the Archibald's, Vanessa arrives to see Nate and apologize. He shows her that he is in the middle of watching The Age of Innocence on DVD and they kiss and make up. At the loft, Dan arrives home and apologizes to Rufus. He confesses that Rachel isn't who he thought she was and Rufus apologizes as well. Dan continues that while he was right about this but Rufus needs to give him space to make his own mistakes. Rufus replies that he can make all the mistakes he wants once he is at Yale and they make up. Meanwhile, Blair drinks alone at a bar and Serena comes to apologize. Blair says that Serena was right in saying betrayal is in her nature, then asks to be alone. Serena leaves, but says that she is still her best friend as she walks out. At the loft, Jenny brings Dan a note that was left by the door. He opens it and reads:
I'm going back to Iowa, as you must have known. I'm sorry for everything. As Edith Wharton wrote: "There is no one as kind as you, no one who gave me reasons I understood for doing what at first seemed so hard." Thank you.
At the Waldorf's, Chuck arrives to see Blair, but Dorota tells him that Blair isn't home. Chuck simply says that he'll wait for her and takes a seat. Back at the bar, Blair continues to drink when Carter sits down next to her. She asks what he's doing there and he says that he's there to buy her a drink.
- 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
- Sebastian Stan as Carter Baizen
- Zuzanna Szadkowski as Dorota Kishlovsky
- Amanda Setton as Penelope Shafai
- Yin Chang as Nelly Yuki
- Nicole Fiscella as Isabel Coates
- Laura Breckenridge as Rachel Carr
- Linda Emond as Headmistress Queller
- Harmon Walsh as Julian Rawlins
- Kate French as Elle
- Beau Gravitte as Mr. Campbell
- Charles Isherwood as Himself
- Hong Kong Garden by Siouxsie and The Banshees
- North London Trash by Razorlight
- Carmen, Act II: La Fleur Que Tu M'avais Jetée by Jose Carreras
- Kiss Me At The Gate by The New Monarchs
Blair: My life is so bountiful, I don't need a boyfriend to feel fulfilled.
Nelly: What is your problem?
Blair: My problem is a two faced, four eyed, devious little snipe in a fat suit. Did you really think you could rat me out to Yale and get away with it?
Nelly: I don't know what you're talking about.
Blair: Everyone's jealous of me because my life is perfect and you've always been the most jealous of all!
Nelly: People aren't jealous of you, Blair. THEY. HATE. YOU. I didn't call Yale and good luck figuring out who did. There's about a thousand people who would relish taking you down.
Vanessa (on Serena): She's obsessed with Bette Davis.
Serena: Yeah, Bette Davis... I, um, love her eyes. Her hair is Harlow gold.
Blair: I've lost everything. I'm humiliated and shunned. They've made me a flesh and blood Countess Olenska.
Dorota: You're an actress poured into the role. Use pain onstage.
Blair: You're right. I'm an actress. No, I'm a seagull.
Serena: No, you're a shameless bitch.
Serena: I always want to believe the best in you, Blair, but bottom line is, betrayal is in your nature.
Blair: Do you know how hard it is to get revenge when your enemy is changing every five minutes?!
Dorota: You need to calm nerves and warm vocal chord. You want tea?
Blair: No! I want Dan Humphrey's head on a platter.
Blair (to Dan): The only one who knew it all, it just has to be you.
Nate: Yes, I've, um... you know what? Whatever. You want feelings? Well, I-I, I hate these clothes, I hate this play, and I hate pretentious asshats who try and steal other people's girlfriends. In fact, I might just spontaneously punch one next time you get in my face.
Blair: I know just how Mr. Beaufort feels. Working so hard for something and losing it because people are out to destroy you.
Serena: Well Countess, at least you don't have to go through your whole life worried your best friend will humiliate and betray you.
Nelly: I hate this fat suit!
Nate: And there's one other thing. My whole family lost all of our money before my father went to jail for embezzlement, so I think I think I know more about humiliation and bankruptcy than some lame dilettante director. Okay?
Dan: Oh, what amusing companions.
Producer: Oh. My. God.
Dan: Why don't we retire to the parlor for some port with Mr. and Mrs. van der Luyden?
Nate: No one gives a damn about the van der Luyden's, Humphrey!
Serena: You know, I don't know why I ever had a crush on you.
Julian: Serena... I'm gay.
Vanessa: You're like a kid who swears he hates tomatoes and has never even tried one.
Nate: Well, maybe you should be with a guy like Julian, who already likes tomatoes.
Elle (to Chuck): You've got a good heart. You should give it to somebody who cares.
- The episode title is based off the movie The Age of Innocence.
- This is the last appearance of Rachel Carr.
- The episode takes place March 6-7, 2009, a month after the last episode.