Reversals of Fortune is the 1st episode of the third season and the 44th episode overall. It is also the season three premiere.
Welcome back, Upper East Siders. After a long hot summer away, I see it didn't take much time for you to dirty up the clean slates I gave you. My inbox is overflowing, so let's get to the good stuff, shall we? Spotted: Chuck Bass up to his old tricks. Poor B, I guess nothing good lasts forever.
As the summer is drawing to a close, Blair and Chuck are madly in love and adjusting to their new "in a relationship" status, breaking all traditional rules of dating as would be expected. Meanwhile, Serena returns from her European adventure with many secrets to hide. Nate returns from his travels with a mysterious brunette, Bree Buckley in tow. With Lily away in California visiting her mother, Rufus, Dan, and Jenny spend the summer in the Hamptons, adjusting to the van der Woodsen's glamorous lifestyle surprisingly faster than any of them expected. Also, Vanessa introduces her new friend, Scott, to Dan and Rufus.
The episode begins with Chuck meeting Ashley Hinshaw in a bar, where they flirt and agree to take things to a more private place. In The Hamptons, Dan, Rufus, Eric, and Jenny are preparing to leave to head back to the city. Jenny and Eric discuss the deal they made with Serena, to hide her summer exploits from Dan and Rufus, while Dan and Rufus discuss heading to life on the UES. In New York, Nate arrives back via helicopter with a brunette. After talking for a little bit, he discovers she is Bree Buckley from the Buckley family, and she discovers he is from the van der Bilt family; bad news, as their families are political rivals. Back at the bar, Chuck is trying to distract Ashley from kissing him when Blair shows up. She confronts Ashley for trying to get with Chuck, and orders her to leave. Once she's gone, she kisses Chuck and it's revealed it was all a set up and he never intended to cheat on her. At the VDW's, Rufus delegates bedroom assignments for the penthouse and Dan adds that he'll still be living at the loft in Brooklyn. Jenny and Eric go through the mail, and Dan catches a magazine article on Serena partying. He gets a call from Vanessa about meeting up, but tells her he has to reschedule when he sees Serena arrive home with a large paparazzi following. At a coffee shop, Vanessa tells her new friend Scott that Dan can't hang with them.
The next day at the VDW's, Rufus, Dan, and Jenny are impressed with the breakfast Lily had prepared for them. Rufus mentions that they didn't use the emergency money she left, and that she got them tickets to the van der Bilt annual polo match for the next day. Serena emerges from her room to leave, but Dan follows and asks what happened that summer. She stalls and talks around it until he shows her the photos of her partying. She then leaves to go shop with Blair. Elsewhere outside, Chuck vents to Nate that he can't find a new hotel to buy so he can quit living in Bart's shadow. He asks if Nate has heard from his family since he skipped on his internship, but he says no despite the polo match being the next day. Chuck suggests he call Bree to send a message to them, but Nate doesn't think that's such a great idea. However, Chuck keeps encouraging him to do it if his family isn't talking to him anyway. While shopping, Blair explains to Serena about her game with Chuck: about how he flirts with a woman they decide on together, then she enters before anything happens and humiliates her. Back with Chuck and Nate, Chuck explains the game. Nate advises him to make sure Blair is playing the game for herself too, and not just to placate Chuck. Back with Blair and Serena, Serena tells Blair to end the game and the risk of actually being cheated on. While they talk, paparazzi show up and begin to take photos of Serena. Meanwhile at a coffee shop, Dan and Vanessa fill each other in on their summer adventures. Vanessa explains that she's hanging out with a guy named Scott; and he's the same guy they met before summer began. When it's time to pay, Dan offers and Vanessa sees his designer wallet filled with several hundred dollar bills. She asks if they can hang with Scott the next day, but he says he's doing something with Rufus so he can't. She then offers to walk him to the subway, but he says he's on the 6. After he's gone, a waitress brings Dan's sunglasses to Vanessa and she follows to return them. However, she sees him get into a limo instead of the 6 like he said.
At the VDW's, Rufus hears from Vanya that the paparazzi are going through their trash. After talking with Jenny and Eric, he suspects they know something about Serena's summer that he doesn't. At the Waldorf's, Chuck arrives to see Blair. He tells her he arranged for them to go see some models to choose a new girl to humiliate, and she reluctantly agrees to go with him. At the VDW's, Dan walks in on Rufus, Jenny, and Eric going over coverage of Serena's summer. Rufus notices that a lot of the pictures have the same guy in them but you can't tell who it is. Outside, Serena runs into Carter Baizen. He tells her they need to talk, but she says they don't. He then reminds her that she can't avoid talking about what happened, but she does so by untying her dress and getting the attention of the paparazzi. Meanwhile, Nate receives a car from his family to welcome him back to the family and attach a note reminding him that fall internships begin the next week. He calls Chuck to tell him that he knows how he's going to break off from them once and for all. At the coffee shop, Vanessa vents to Scott about Dan lying to her. Scott suggests that Vanessa call Rufus and invite herself to the polo match, and then take Dan aside and tell him how she feels about his lies. At the modeling agency, Blair finds fault with every girl that walks by. He asks if she's okay, and she admits that she isn't sure she wants to play their game anymore. He tells her that he wants her to be happy, and agrees to stop the game. At the loft, Eric admits to Jenny that CeCe isn't doing well and the longer Lily is gone, the more he's worried that her treatments aren't working. They wonder what really happened to Serena over the summer. At the VDW's, Serena arrives home to find Rufus and Dan know about her summer. She promises she didn't go off the rails, and he says that the polo match society asked her to throw the first ball at the match. She agrees, and he goes to call them back. When he's gone, Dan asks about the guy in the picture. She admits it was Carter, then explains that they traveled together at the beginning of summer but he is now stalking her. After explaining, she begs Dan to keep Carter away from her at all costs. When she goes to her room, he calls Blair to get her help. Meanwhile, Scott calls his mom while looking at his birth certificate and tells her that the next day will be the day that he can do what he went there for.
At the polo match, Jenny is excited about having an engraved card. Nate arrives with Bree, and introduces her to his grandfather, William. He also returns the key to the car. Meanwhile, Blair and Chuck are having a boring time. They see a girl who would be a great score for their game, but then remember that they aren't playing anymore. Vanessa and Scott also arrive, and he encourages her to talk to Dan while he goes and gets drinks. She does, but they don't talk long before Dan is escorted away by Blair. At the bar, Scott nervously introduces himself to Rufus. He explains that he's a big fan of Lincoln Hawk. Meanwhile, Blair and Dan have Carter presented with a restraining order against Blair. She says that for the time being, she'll be with Serena and he will have to stay way from the both of them. Serena comes over and asks what's going on, and Carter says her friends are trying to have him thrown out. He threatens to tell them the truth about what is going on with them, which catches Serena off guard. Before she can reply, she is taken to throw the first ball. Blair then sees Chuck introduce himself to the girl they saw earlier. Elsewhere, Scott and Rufus talk about his music. They all see Serena enter the course, but instead of throwing the ball, she runs away on the horse. However, she is followed by Carter, who is also on a horse. Meanwhile, Bree confronts Nate about taking her to a family event. She explains that she is currently estranged her family and she is trying to change that. He apologizes, and then she says she ran away to Europe but while she was gone, she found out her cousin was stood up at the altar and she's looking for forgiveness. He admits he really does like her and wanted to see her again, and she agrees to keep seeing him so long as it's secret. In the forest, Carter catches up with Serena. He tells her that her seeking attention has to do with her father not wanting to give it to her, and she reasons that maybe he didn't ever get her message or didn't know who she was. He tells her that it doesn't matter that her father didn't want to see her, and that he isn't worth anything for not wanting to see her. They kiss.
Back at the match, William finds Nate and Bree and he gives them back the car key. Nate tells him that he won't be taking the internship, and William pledges his support so long as he is happy. He again offers them the car to lessen their risk of being seen, and Nate agrees to take it. After they leave, William calls Tripp and says he finally found a way to get rid of the Buckley's. Meanwhile, Blair can't find Chuck anywhere and asks a security member if he's seen Chuck. He explains that he saw him leave, and that another woman left around the same time. Elsewhere, Vanessa confronts Dan. He asks her to stop making him feel guilty about his new lifestyle, and she tells him to be himself and to not become a stuck up member of the UES world. In the forest, security catch up with Carter, who was ditched shirtless by Serena. Back in the city at The Palace, Blair arrives to try and catch Chuck with another girl. However, upon searching his suite, she finds no trace of another girl. He explains that he came back from the party early because he had a headache and asks if she got his messages. She asks if they need games, but he promises they can never be boring and asks if they can stay in together for the night. Meanwhile, Vanessa and Scott arrive back in the city from the match. He tells her that the Humphrey's seem like good people and she shouldn't write off a lifetime friendship with Dan over an argument. She kisses him, and says someone had to make the first move. At the VDW's, Rufus, Jenny, and Eric arrive and bring another man into the apartment. Outside, Nate and Bree arrive back in the city and start kissing in the car. At The Palace, Chuck and Blair role-play. In a car, Serena calls a disabled number and leaves a message for someone, promising to not stop trying to get their attention no matter what. Back at the VDW's, Rufus uses the emergency money to buy all the paparazzi shots from the polo match to avoid them getting out, except for one photographer's. However, Serena meets with the photographer to make sure he can have the photos run where her father can't avoid them.
- 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
- Connor Paolo as Eric van der Woodsen
- Sebastian Stan as Carter Baizen
- Aaron Schwartz as Vanya
- Joanna Garcia as Bree Buckley
- James Naughton as William van der Bilt
- Chris Riggi as Scott Rosson
- Ashley Hinshaw as Herself
- Nacho Figueras as Himself
- Alexandra Richards as Herself
- No Sex For Ben by The Rapture
- Something We're Becoming by Time Machine
- Don't Slow Down by Matt & Kim
- Plastic Jungle by Miike Snow
- Oh! Forever by Brakes
Chuck: What if I have a girlfriend?
Ashley Hinshaw: Chuck Bass doesn't do girlfriends.
Serena (to Blair): Playing the scorned woman and actually being the scorned woman is a slippery slope.
Chuck (to Blair): I want you to be happy, however that's achieved.
Vanessa: If you don't mind, Dan and I are in the middle of something.
Blair: If you don't mind, or even if you do, Dan's coming with me.
Serena: Why don't you leave me alone, Carter, you're not my boyfriend.
Carter: Well, I seem to be the only one you tell your secrets to.
Vanessa: You're at a polo match, in a $3,000 suit and your name's in the program. And after I take a bus across the state line to apologize, you ditch me for Blair Waldorf and totally disappear!
Dan: CeCe set me up with this suit, alright, and Jenny got a dress too, if you'd also like to make her feel bad about it. As for Blair, it's not like we're shoe shopping or sipping martini's, there was something going on with Serena.
Vanessa: And what is that?
Dan: I wish I knew. All I do know is that Lily's mother is very sick, my dad is struggling to keep it together, not to mention my family is just generally in the middle of a massive transition so please, please, give me a break with the "rich people suck" thing.
Vanessa: I don't care if you're rich, which you aren't by the way. Ride in a limo, break a hundred, that's fine. But if you're gonna be in this world, be yourself in this world because I actually like that guy. And I hope he's the one who turns up at NYU.
Chuck (to Blair): I'm not Chuck Bass without you.
- Kelly Rutherford is absent for this episode, as well as the next two episodes, to recover from her pregnancy. Lily van der Woodsen's absence is explained that she is visiting CeCe Rhodes in California.
"Reversals of Fortune" was watched by 2.55 million viewers and received mixed reviews.
New York Magazine hailed the return of the third season and praised the premiere's theme of change as "Last night's episode was all about new beginnings. About taking on new roles — or shaking off old ones." and "a fresh start, a chance to do something, to be something different." Michelle Graham from Film School Rejects reviewed the episode unfavorably, noting a lack of interesting storylines. "For a season premiere, this episode lacked a lot of the punch designed to motivate viewers to stick with the show." but judged the premiere as a "calm before the storm lull" further stating that "Of course, with college just around the corner, things are soon going to change for everyone, so perhaps more of the fire will return to GG then." Enid Portugez of the The Los Angeles Times had mixed thoughts on the episode. "Overall, my mind wasn't blown by the premiere, but the season's only just begun. Bring on he drama."
With the Humphrey clan moving into the world of the Upper East Side, New York Magazine examined the altercation that occurred between Dan and Vanessa. "When Vanessa confronts Dan at the polo match, he presents a list of totally valid and sympathetic reasons he's not the same old Dan, which includes an illness in the family and major life changes, and brings up the very valid and obvious point that Vanessa is a shrew with class issues." The Los Angeles Times however, was unsupportive of their move, stating "Their arty loft and bohemian existence was part of their charm," and sympathized with Vanessa's perception of their move, "I still felt just as Vanessa had when she saw Dan climbing into that limo—bittersweet and somewhat betrayed." Film School Rejects considered Dan's speech to Vanessa as the high point of the episode.
Film School Rejects called Blair and Chuck’s game "predictable, with the whole set up screaming, well, set up." The Los Angeles Times compared it to Samantha and Smith's courtship in Sex and the City and looked forward to the progression of their relationship.
Serena's storyline was heavily panned with Graham calling it a "side plot" but found Serena fleeing from Carter interesting. "Serena's wild child summer didn't have the meat to hold up the bulk of the episode, which the writers attempted to have it do." In contrast, Jacob from Television Without Pity praised Serena for using Gossip Girl's blog for her personal ends and her motive for using it. "She's used GG and the tabs against Bart, she's used it against Rufus and Lily, she's even used it against Blair, she's been victimized by it more than any of them [...] And then Graduation, when she called GG's bluff sixteen times in an episode, bringing the world crashing down around her. So maybe it's just the wording, coincidentally: Maybe this is the strongest, smartest choice Serena could have made, and the lies are just about protecting Dan and Lily from how far she's willing to go."