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The Spirit of Gossip Girl Thanksgiving Lives on in The Summer I Turned Pretty

Both shows have a knack for connecting the dots in a way that results in maximum drama.
  • Left: The Summer I Turned Pretty (Photo: Prime Video); Right: Screenshot from Gossip Girl
    Left: The Summer I Turned Pretty (Photo: Prime Video); Right: Screenshot from Gossip Girl

    Every November, the same Gossip Girl clip inevitably goes viral. You know the one: all the characters have their secrets, scandals, and petty drama exposed at the Thanksgiving table as Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say” plays in the background. The scene hails from the Season 3 episode “The Treasure of Serena Madre,” which premiered in 2009 and has remained in the cultural conversation ever since. It’s not the show’s only Thanksgiving special, but it’s undeniably the most talked about one.

    The episode sees Nate (Chace Crawford) struggling as Serena (Blake Lively) engages in a messy affair with his married cousin — not to mention her boss — Tripp (Aaron Tveit), Blair (Leighton Meester) suspecting that her mother is pregnant, Eric (Connor Paolo) and Jenny (Taylor Momsen) feuding over an incident at cotillion, Lily (Kelly Rutherford) dodging her mother and hiding something from her husband Rufus (Matthew Settle), and Dan (Penn Badgley) wrestling with his feelings for Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) while she’s busy feuding with her mom. All of these conflicts seamlessly come to a head at once in the infamous “Whatcha Say” scene. Now, the spirit of this iconic episode unexpectedly lives on in another recent teen drama hit: Prime Video’s The Summer I Turned Pretty.

    The Summer I Turned Pretty revolves around the love triangle between teenage Belly (Lola Tung) and two brothers: brooding and irresistible Conrad (Christopher Briney) and playful, charming Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno). While the show largely takes place during summers at the idyllic Cousins Beach, Season 2 includes glimpses of the year that’s passed. One episode that particularly stands out is “Love Fool,” which is narrated by Jeremiah and features flashbacks from the previous year’s Thanksgiving.

    There are obvious differences between the Gossip Girl and TSITP episodes. For one, the tone of “The Treasure of Serena Madre” is much more lighthearted and fun than “Love Fool.” Jeremiah and Conrad are grappling with their mother Susannah’s (Rachel Blanchard) devastating cancer while Serena is… making out in the elevator with a married congressman. Additionally, “Love Fool” doesn’t focus solely on the events of Thanksgiving. What the two episodes do have in common, however, is the ability to connect the dots in a way that results in maximum drama.

    Gossip Girl’s “Whatcha Say” moment works because it manages to bring everyone’s conflicts to a head at once. Everything matters, everything connects. Every snide comment, every whisper, every disapproving look between the characters — it all leads up to the explosive dinner. In a 2022 interview with Bustle, the episode’s co-writer Joshua Safran explained, “It’s this thing where every piece connects. When you get to five minutes before the end, everything you have seen comes together to create an incredible completed puzzle.”

    TSITP’s “Whatcha Say”-esque moment is much more subtle. There’s no dramatic dinner confrontation, storming out, or quips about bland sweet potatoes. Instead, the big reveal comes when Jeremiah drops the bomb on his brother that he is, in fact, not cool with Conrad and Belly’s romance after all. “Next time Belly’s coming over, can you give me a heads up or something?” he tells Conrad, who’s apparently totally caught off guard by this. “If you guys are going to be here together, then I don’t want to be around.”

    No matter which side of the love triangle you’re rooting for, the moment works because it makes everything click into place. All of the pieces — Jeremiah quickly turning away when Belly remarks how glad she is that they can all celebrate “together” this year, him asking to go last when everyone says what they’re thankful for, the way he almost recoils when Conrad and Belly hold hands at the table — connect into one big puzzle of teenage angst.

    There are other smaller parallels between the two episodes. Both obviously feature love triangles — between Nate/Serena/Tripp and Jeremiah/Belly/Conrad — but there’s also an overlap with the way tension and pettiness between the characters are presented. In Gossip Girl, Jenny is stunned when she learns that her stepbrother and former best friend Eric was the one responsible for sabotaging her at cotillion.

    “You hate me, but you’ve been pretending to be my friend the entire time?” she asks him. “That’s pretty much it, yeah,” he replies coolly. While TSITP characters aren’t quite as vicious with their dialogue, Jenny and Eric’s conversation feels strikingly similar to Jeremiah’s admission that he’s actually not super stoked about all of this and was merely pretending to be fine.

    It’s not hard to see why so many teen dramas have Thanksgiving episodes, from Gilmore Girls to Ginny & Georgia. Sticking a big group of hangry, stressed people who don’t all get along at one table and throwing in a few bottles of wine and an unexpected guest or two is basically a guaranteed recipe for drama, especially when you add teenage angst and hormones in the mix. Take for example, The O.C.’s “The Homecoming” (Season 1, Episode 11), in which Seth (Adam Brody) foolishly tries to hook up with both Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Anna (Samaire Armstrong) while the turkey is cooking. Sure, you could do this plot in a “normal” episode, but the added holiday madness — his grandfather inviting himself, his mom getting wasted, everyone squabbling in the kitchen — makes the stakes higher and more entertaining.

    The Thanksgiving flashbacks in TSITP are crucial because they showcase Jeremiah’s fractured relationship with Conrad, lingering feelings for Belly, and anticipatory grief simultaneously in a way that would be difficult to accomplish in an ordinary episode at Cousins Beach. All of these things act as pieces of a bigger puzzle — they all lead up to the explosive penultimate Season 2 episode in which the love triangle finally comes to a head. Likewise, the events of Gossip Girl’s Thanksgiving dinner have lasting consequences for all of their characters and their relationships.

    In an era dominated by six-to-eight episode seasons on streaming services, it’s nice when shows still get the chance to embrace the everlasting appeal of the classic holiday episode. The Summer I Turned Pretty may not go viral on TikTok every November the way the “Whatcha Say” clip does, but it carries on the torch of peak teen-drama Thanksgiving specials.

    Kelly Martinez is an entertainment freelance writer covering all things TV, movies, and fandoms. She is based in Los Angeles.

    TOPICS: Gossip Girl (2007 Series), Amazon Prime Video, The CW, Max, The Summer I Turned Pretty, Joshua Safran, Teen Dramas, Thanksgiving