"Rory's Dance" & "Forgiveness and Stuff"

The Gilmore Girls Project This week is crazy. I've got NaNoWriMo going at full tilt, Election Day madness at the day job, a friend coming into town with whom I want to spend as much time as possible, and a beta reading pile as tall as I am. Plus my doctor tells me that, although I'm in excellent health, I should be working out at least five days a week because of "preventative health care" and stuff. I'm struggling for time here, so when Tuesday morning rolled around and I had a delayed start at the day job, I thought, "I'll pop in some Gilmore Girls because that will be fun. Oh god, guys. The writers of episodes 9 and 10 are not interested in a fun, pleasant romp in Stars Hollow like the last couple of weeks. They want to pull my heart out and force me to confront all of the messy, teenage worries about disappointing my parents.

Shit got real on the Gilmore Girls.

 "Rory's Dance"

Air Date:  December 20, 2000

Written By: Amy Sherman-Palladino

Directed By: Lesli Linka Glatter

This episode starts out innocently enough. Chilton's having a winter formal, and Rory want to go but doesn't want to go. I knew this struggle well in high school. You don't want the bother of the dress and shoes and date but you kind of really do.

At first, minor problems are presented and solved quickly. Rory needs a dress; Lorelai will make one. Rory is uncomfortable about asking Dean to the dance; Dean agrees although it is clear he'd really rather be doing anything else. Rory goes to the dance and gets bothered by both Tristan and Paris; Dean stands up for Tristan but won't stoop to fighting him because, "it would be like fighting an accountant," while Rory puts that annoying pest Paris in her place.

Okay, I'm thinking. This is all lovely and predictable teen TV.

And it all comes crashing down!

Rory and Dean fall asleep in Miss Patty's dance studio. They're woken up at 5:30 AM by Miss Patty's yoga class. Nothing has happened but clearly Rory's going to be in deep trouble because...teen mother and all that.

Sure enough, Emily wakes Lorelai up (she's been at the house taking care of Lorelai who threw out her back) and the two panic. They get into a massive fight after Miss Patty calls to tell them that Rory is okay. Insults are hurled, and for the first time we hear them air the real grievances in their decades-long fight. Lorelai is an unfit mother because she's letting her daughter run wild the same way she did. Emily smothered Lorelai, and if she doesn't trust Rory she can get out of the house.

Of course, Rory hears her mother defending her. When Emily leaves, she goes to thank her mother. Only problem is, Lorelai turns on Rory. Finally, Rory (who we are learning is not the sweet spot at one might assume) stops her mother and tells her that she's not going to take the blame for Lorelai feeling rotten that's she's been caught doing something characteristically "bad mom" in front of Emily. The issue with Rory staying out past her curfew isn't so much about her staying out past her curfew. It's about making her mother look bad in front of Emily.

A few episodes ago I talked about the poorly written outburst Lorelai has about a sweater. This fight is so different. It feels claustrophobic and it gets under your skin because it's a universal fight. It's about parental disappointment and expectations. Knowing my parents are disappointed in me is of the worst feelings. It's rooted in guilt and expectations. It's knowing that you didn't live up to the ideal someone set out for you even when you know that those ideals aren't right for you and your life. In transferring that over to Rory, Lorelai is essentially doing the same thing to her daughter that her mother did to her. It's gut-wrenching to watch, and that is a sign that it is one of the best pieces of writing and character development we've see so far.

Book Nerd Moments

I'm going to take a moment here to nerd out over the fact that Rory is reading The Portable Dorothy Parker in this episode. She even takes it to the formal with her in her purse (you're my girl, Rory). Parker is worth looking up if you haven't read any of her, but for quick reference you might know this famous quip:
I like to have a martini, Two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.

Pop Culture References

98 Degrees, Tom Waits, Blanche from Golden Girls, VIP, Barbara Stanwyck, the Lambada, Emily Post

Julia Feels Old Moment

Favorite Quote

“All I ever said to her about dances is that you go, you dance, you have punch, you eat, you take a picture, and then you’re auctioned off to a biker gang from Sausalito.” –Lorelai

“Oh, hey…” Moment

Sookie is maybe kind of a hypochondriac pill popper before prescription drug about became a major point of discussion in this country. Watching her pull Vicodin and Valium and Percocet out of her purse in a casual manner that was supposed to be funny was an odd experience looking at it through 2014 eyes.

Reasons Luke is Bound to Break Julia’s Heart

This episode was sadly Lukeless

Random Thoughts

-One of the things that underscores how upsetting the fight at the end of this episode was is the fact that it happens right after Lorelai and Emily actually bonding for the first time. The smart writer Amy Sherman-Palladino gets us invested in the growing relationship between mother and daughter by showing Emily take care of Lorelai. They bond over Barbara Stanwyck movies and a disgusting looking type of toast thing that Emily made Lorelai when she was sick as a little girl. Then it all comes crashing down.

-This is a bad episode for Tristan. First Rory turns him down when he asks her to the dance saying that it would be stupid for him to ask her when he knows that she would say no and, “You are not stupid. Slimy and weasly, but not stupid.” Then, later in the episode, Tristan and Dean get into it at the high school formal. When Tristan demands they, "Take this outside," in perhaps the lamest throwdown ever, Dean tells him, “I’m not fighting you. It would be like fighting an accountant.” Go home, Tristan.

-The only person who might be having a worse night at the high school dance is Paris who inadvertently tells then entire high school that she couldn't get a date and had to bring her cousin. The cousin, by the way, tries to pick up Rory in the scuzziest display of douchebaggery ever displayed by a preppy teenage boy. One day he will sidle up to unsuspecting women in bars across Manhattan, order a Jagerbomb, and then tell them he's in I-Banking. He will likely be wearing a Brooks Brothers suit his mother chose for him. More often than not, he will go home alone.

-Rory and Dean cutely/awkwardly have the, "Are you my boyfriend?" talk. It doesn't get anymore enjoyable as you get older, kids. Let me tell you that right now.

"Forgiveness and Stuff"

Air Date: December 21, 2000

Written By: John Stephens

Directed By: Bethany Rooney

This episode aired right after "Rory's Dance" and right before Christmas, presumably to keep those who celebrate from being profoundly depressed over the holidays (not a verified fact).

We pick up with Rory and Lorelai not really speaking. Lorelai and Emily are definitely not speaking except that Emily still manages to uninvite Lorelai from the family Christmas dinner. During that dinner, Richard collapses. Lorelai finds out while she's eating at Luke's, panics, and Luke drives her to the hospital. Despite obviously being concerned for her father, Lorelai can't bring herself to go into his hospital room. After the family finds out that Richard is actually okay, Luke calls Lorelai on her fear of seeing her father in a hospital bed. She goes into the room, and the two of them nearly have a moment before everyone bustles in and the opportunity is lost. Lorelai asks Luke to drive Rory back home, and she stays at the hospital with her mother. For now at least it seems that the two Gilmores have a truce.

This whole episode centers around forgiveness (clearly, it's in the name). In it we see Lorelai accept Dean's apology for keeping Rory out until all hours. There's the understood forgiveness between Rory and Lorelai when they realize that Richard is in danger. And then there's the moment of forgiveness that doesn't quite happen when Lorelai is about to say something to her father before being cut off. It's a nice, Christmasy message but it's not really the heart of the episode. That comes during a brief scene between Richard and Emily.

Emily is doing her typical Emily thing of being demanding and high maintenance. When she swaps out the pillows for Richard, however, we get the sense that something else is going on. She's upset and being Type A is her way of coping with her husband being in the hospital. At some point he stops her from what she's doing and insists on telling her where the key to the family safe and his will are. She tells him he is not allowed to die.

Emily: I did not sign on to your dying. That is not going to happen. Not tonight. Not for a very long time. In fact, I demand to go first. Do I make myself clear?

Richard: Yes, Emily. You may go first.

The look of understanding and indulgence he gives her is both tender and heartbreaking. You understand that while we may not like everything about Emily, Richard, and the choices they've made about their family, they are partners. Their love runs very deep, and they need each other in their lives. 

Book Nerd Moments

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Pop Culture References

Jimmy Hoffa, every Christmas song ever

Julia Feels Old Moment

Rory rocks a red, velvet dress for the Christmas dinner. I too once had a red, velvet dress like that. I'm not entirely sure it was advisable.

“Oh, hey…” Moment

Jane Lynch plays the nurse that goes head-to-head with Emily at the hospital.

Reasons Luke is Bound to Break Julia’s Heart

When this episode is not ripping my heart out, it's mostly constructed around Luke and Lorelai flirting like 16-year olds. They are so adorable, I want to shout, "Come on, guys!" Apparently Emily agrees with me because once Richard is out of danger at the hospital, she corners Luke for this little exchange:

Emily: So what exactly is going on between the two of you?

Luke: Nothing. Really. We’re friends. That’s it.

Emily: You two are idiots.

I mean, the guy makes her a Santa burger, guys!

Random Thoughts

-Rory reads The Financial Times to Richard in the hospital, confirming that he is the mos ridiculous TV grandfather and I do love him.

-Lorelai gives Luke a new hat at the end of the episode. We shall see whether he will actually wear it or not.