Recap: Tootie, Jo, and Mrs. Garrett - who's finally returned from her "vacation"! - are refinishing a used bookshelf for Natalie that they plan to fill with a set of encyclopedias and then present to her as a high school graduation gift. A few seconds later, Blair returns home...and when Jo snarls at her for not helping out with the bookshelf, Blair says she would have if she didn't have so much darn studying to do. She adds that Natalie's new bookshelf will look nice in their communal bedroom, and Mrs. Garrett says, "Only if she goes to college here." An alarmed Tootie's all, "Wha-a-a-a-a?!" and asks her if she has the inside scoop on Natalie's future plans, and Mrs. Garrett assures her she doesn't..but that it's unrealistic to expect that they'll all keep living under the same roof together, well into adulthood, under the watchful eye of a house mother (and then later a replacement house mother) who seems to revel in the responsibility of babysitting four grown women for an unfathomable duration of nine fucking seasons.
When Natalie returns home, the rest of the Facts gals throw a blanket over the bookshelf and pretend as if they're all studying together while standing up. Natalie shoots them a suspicious glare before heading into the living room...and once she's out of earshot, the rest of the Facts clan discusses the importance of Natalie selecting Langley as her primary college choice.
Natalie asks Blair and Jo why they're all acting so weird, and Blair responds by talking up the awesomeness of Langley and how it's provided her and Jo with the perfect college experience. Jo gets in on that action and waxes on and on about the fabulousness of the Langley social scene and academics, and Blair "assures" Natalie that they aren't trying to push her into anything...even though the choice to do anything other than enrol as a Langley freshman in the fall would be a disaster of gargantuan proportion.
Natalie strolls around the mall and seats herself on a bench beside an irked looking older man. She chirps hello at him and natters about the movie she just saw...and he grumbles about how his daughter and son-in-law drag him to the damn mall every week 'cause they just assume that he enjoys this type of outing. Natalie nods sympathetically and says that people generally mean well, and that she too has something to tell her friends and family that they're not going to want to hear...namely that she's decided to put off going to college. She says she finds the idea of attending college right after high school depressing, and is considering applying to a school she has no hope of being accepted to, and use that rejection to shut everyone up. The old man urges her to just be honest about her plans, and she mulls that over for a few seconds and agrees that he's probably right. She then thanks him and says that their little chat has given her a fresh perspective on how to best handle her conundrum.
The Facts clan throws Natalie a surprise graduation party at Edna's Edibles...and Blair has invited the best looking A-listers from Langley College's various clubs so they can lay it on thick to Natalie about how it's the best college choice in the entire universe. When someone screeches, "Natalie's coming!", they shut off the lights and hide...then yell, "Surprise!" after Natalie enters the store and turns the lights back on. Natalie says she's thrilled by the surprise party, then glances around and discreetly asks Tootie why they invited so many strangers. Tootie explains that Blair invited a bunch of Langley socialites...and Natalie looks troubled by that, then tells the Facts gals and Mrs. Garrett that she needs to talk to them in private, pronto.
Natalie announces that she's putting off college so she can travel, to which Jo snarks, "Don't be an idiot." Natalie says she made this decision months ago - just as Jo hands her a letter that just came for her from Princeton University. Natalie says she assumes that this is a rejection letter, then is all, "Wha-a-a-a-a?" when she opens it and learns that it's actually an acceptance. As the other gals woot and cheer, Natalie stares despondently into space.
The party breaks up soon after Natalie's no college announcement, and she further explains that she really really wants to put off college so she can take a year off to travel, find out who she is, and be exposed to the real world. When Mrs. Garrett asks her what part of the earth she plans to wander, she dreamily replies, "Wherever the bus takes me...New Mexico...Canada..." Blair looks horrified at the notion of taking a bus anywhere, while Jo rails at her for turning down Princeton. She shrieks, "So many people never get a chance like this!" and disgustedly calls her need for a gap year "a waste" ... and says this as though Natalie's life choices are, in any way, any of her damn business.
When the encyclopedias arrive in the mail, Tootie, Jo, and Blair are annoyed that they're no longer an appropriate graduation gift for Natalie. Jo wonders aloud if they can return them, but Blair says her dad got them on sale and therefore can't get a refund. A few seconds later, Natalie and her mother enter the communal bedroom, and the rest of the Facts gals hastily hide the encyclopedias and rush out to give the two some privacy.
Mama Green tells Natalie she already knows about her decision not to go to college 'cause Jo and Blair spilled the beans to her...which I thought was pretty dickish of them. Natalie explains that she's merely putting off college so she can spend a year traveling and experiencing life. Mama Green asks her how she plans to support herself during this exploration of self discovery, and Natalie's like, "Uh, I just figured you'd pay for it." LOL. Mama Green's like nope and reminds her how important education was to the late Papa Green...and that even though she hates forcing her into anything, she feels so strongly about a year long delay in applying to college that she's willing to withhold any kind of financial support. Natalie moodily stares into space and despondently agrees to throw in the towel on her travel plans.
Graduation Day! Mrs. Garrett is putting a giant bow on the bookshelf filled with encyclopedias when Mama Green arrives for the ceremony. Upstairs, Natalie is dressed in her cap and gown, and gets oohed at by Tootie when she enters the bedroom. Natalie assures her that they won't drift apart after she goes off to Princeton 'cause their friendship is destined to last forever, and Tootie's all, "Phew!" while the two hug.
Natalie goes downstairs to back pedal on her back pedalling about skipping college for a year. She explains to the Facts clan and her mom that she's been stuck in private schools her entire life and needs to take a break from learnin' so she can see which direction she wants to go in...then points out that her fancy Eastland education has prepared her for a world she hasn't even seen. As everyone contorts their faces into bummed out expressions, Natalie tells her mom that she's fully prepared to face the financial consequences of going against her wishes...but her mom says she's reversing her earlier threat to cut her off and now has her full support. She gushes about how proud of her she is, and the two hug.
Mrs. Garrett marvels at Natalie for being all grown up, then shrieks, "How could you dooooo this to meeeee?!" Natalie looks touched and says she's ready to receive her graduation present now...and everyone exchanges uncomfortable glances until Blair explains that it's probably no longer appropriate. When Natalie insists, the gals unveil the bookshelf and encyclopedia set, and Natalie squeals about how much she looooooves it. She says she'll leave it in the communal bedroom for safekeeping, but will take the atlas with her...in case she gets lost while aimlessly wandering around North America.
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