Leighton Meester and Penn Badgley

Are Dan and Blair over already? Blair's blunt brush-off last week certainly made it seem that way, but this is Gossip Girl and there's just no way fans would be rewarded with so little pay-off.

That said, we've got some unresolved issues. Why do we care about Raina, again? Will Vanessa stop pining for Dan? And haven't all the lead actors said recently that they want to move on from the show?

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With these questions burning a hole in our gut, and just four episodes left this season, we turn to executive producer Joshua Safran, who gives TVGuide.com the dirt on that, as well as what to expect for Blair and her trio of suitors, whether or not Ben is really out of Serena's life, and where new girl Charlie fits in.

Are Dan and Blair (Penn Badgley and Leighton Meester) over already? We refuse to believe it.
Joshua Safran:
No, keep watching. Of course that story is not over.

Go on...
Safran:
What I will say is Dan and Blair were four seasons in the making. To come to the place where they were able to admit they were friends was four seasons in the making, so hopefully it will not take another four seasons to find another level in their friendship. The story between them is not over.

So is Chuck (Ed Westwick) in trouble? And we also have Prince Louis (Hugo Becker) back on the scene. It seems like Blair is the new Serena (Blake Lively).
Safran:
Maybe! There are people who we're in love with when we're 16, and they're not the people you end up with — unless they are the people you end up with. The writers are on the same journey with Blair as she takes it. Who knows where it will end up? Obviously, Chuck and Blair have a bond and connection that will never truly be severed, but does that mean they end up together in a conventional sense? We'll see.

But have you mapped it out in your own mind?
Safran:
No. That's one of the things I love so much about television. You get to continue and grow with the characters. The only time I would ever say we had an endgame is if we knew the show was ending. The show is not ending and we look forward to going down the road with these characters. Hopefully that's many years off...

In the past several months, a lot of your actors have expressed that maybe they're ready to move on from Gossip Girl. What do you make of that? Are you anticipating it?
Safran:
At this point, we're waiting for our Season 5 pickup and our actors are all contracted through the end of Season 6, so we look very much forward to working with them for at least the next two years.

Taylor Momsen is included in that?
Safran:
Jenny remains very much a part of the show. As for whether she returns this season, I have to say wait and see — I don't want to spoil it! As for the future, we're still waiting on a Season 5 pickup before we decide anything.

OK, moving on. Is Ben (David Call) gone for good? It seemed like he and Serena were just getting started?
Safran:
There are no plans in the next five episodes for him to return, but the story continues.

Did you feel like the Ben storyline was working?
Safran:
We had planned well ahead of time that this was going to be the number of episodes for that story because it was part of a larger arc. It had to lead to Lilly's arrest. So, it wasn't a question of working or not working — it was always our intention to leave it where we did. We're happy with the way it played out. But it's Gossip Girl, and there's always a chance for people to return, whether it's bearing new secrets or just coming back. In our minds, the doors are never closed to anyone.

Tell us about The Thorpes giving Chuck and Lily (Kelly Rutherford) so much trouble. Now that Lily is under house arrest,  what role does Raina (Tika Sumpter), still serve, other than to make things weird between Chuck and Nate?
Safran:
Well, the Thorpes are all part of the same spine, which is sort of 'the sins of the father,' or parents rather, that we've created this year. You'll see in the last episodes what exactly transpired between Bart and Raina's father Russell  (Michael Boatman)and Raina's mother — that story is of a piece with the Lilly story.

As for Raina, she is like most of our kids — the child of this parent who didn't necessarily go about things the right way, and now the child is paying the price for it. She has that in common with Chuck, and also Nate. It's very much a running theme with our leads, and we thought she folded in nicely.

What's the deal with Charlie (Kaylee DeFer)? Our initial thought was Single White Female
Safran:
Sweet Charlie? No!

OK, that's just the way our minds work then. We'll revise: What is Sweet Charlie's deal coming in this late in the game? She's like a have, raised as a have-not.
Safran:
Right. She hasn't been allowed to be a part of it, so she's coming to grips with just what she has missed her entire life. Whether it's the family she didn't know or the money she never experienced the luxury of. It's about what getting all that does to her. Also, it's about her maybe having feelings for somebody...

Somebody named Dan. Gotcha! Speaking of Dan, Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) always seem to get a raw deal. Everyone's always rooting for Dan and Serena, and this season she really stepped in it teaming up with Juliet (Katie Cassidy) and Little J. Are we supposed to dislike her? Or is she just making bad decisions?
Safran:
Vanessa, in my mind, always serves an important purpose. She's Dan's childhood best friend, and she's watched him slowly become more and more consumed by the Upper East Side — or pulled into it, as it were. His father married into it. She's sort of that voice of reason for Dan.

Now, whether or not that's true reason or what she thinks is true reason, because Dan is going to a place she didn't want him to, that's what we deal with in terms of Vanessa. That's what we play with. In these last five episodes, she's very much trying to help get Dan back to his roots. There are fans that don't like her and fans that do. But as writers, she serves a very specific purpose and without her there wouldn't be a balance.