Wordpress decided to glitch on this post while I was trying to schedule it on Sunday morning, so email followers might have gotten an earlier, perfectly fine version of it. Now, I was scheduling during the ridiculous last 3 minutes of the Liverpool 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers, so maybe Wordpress was just overwhelmed by the insane soccer.
Last week you might remember that we encountered some weaker Gilmore Girls offerings. The show was clearly struggling to figure out its place. It had moments of sweetness or intelligence, but they got bogged down in characters who felt more like stereotypes than real, multi-layered people. I'm happy to say that this week I really started to feel like the writers understand who they want the characters (especially Lorelai) to be. But more on that in a bit.
Before we start, I should say that there is now a special tab section on my website for The Gilmore Girls Project. If you are coming into this article series cold, thank you! You can catch up and watch along with me or just jump in wherever you like. If you want to leave me a comment, you can do that here, on Facebook, or by tweeting at me using #GilmoreGirlsProject
One of the things that people trying to sell me on Gilmore Girls have told me over and over again is how charming the community of Stars Hollow is (I've been promised I will want to move there eventually). This is the episode where we really see what community means to these people, and how they come together in times of need.
I don't really need to do too much of a wrap up on this episode because really only two things happen. Max* and Lorelai agree to go on a date after a "pre-date" at a Hartford coffee shop. Then Cinnamon, the cat owned by the Gilmores' neighbors Babette and Morty, dies. Lorelai forgets about her real date with Max during the wake. Naturally, Max shows up and Rory realizes that her mother and her teacher are interested in each other.
Cinnamon dies, and the same afternoon the entire town of Stars Hollow descends on Babette's charmingly small house to celebrate the life of her beloved cat. Both Sookie and Luke bring food, Dean shows up with drinks from the store, Miss Patty is there to be Miss Patty. When Max comes, Lorelai tries to explain that they're having a wake for her neighbor's cat. While he clearly thinks that's kind of crazy, it's totally normal to the residents of Stars Hollow. One of their own is hurting so they group together to show their love. Outsiders might not understand, but this is what these people do. It's a lovely sentiment, and one I'm guessing that we'll see revisited throughout the show.
Pop Culture References
M. Night Shyamalan, Valley of the Dolls**, Iran-Contra Affair, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thorton, Rancid's "Time Bomb"
"I'm attracted to pie. Doesn't mean I feel the need to date pie." -Lorelai to Max
"Lorelai, I don't know how many French people you've met over the years, but most of them are insufferable." -Michel
-While watching this episode, I messaged my friend Matt about it. Matt has been a very vocal supporter of The Gilmore Girls Project, which is probably why he drunkenly text messaged me every line in the show's theme song. On Monday, he followed up via gchat^:
Matt: so after i drunkenly texted you the gilmore girls theme song
me: which was my favorite part of Saturday
Matt: i went home and mainlined a few episodes
Matt: (and also ate an entire pizza)
me: you are a champion
-The M. Night Shyamalan reference killed me. Clearly this show was shot in 2000. The Sixth Sense was released in 1999 and Unbreakable was released in November of 2000 (which means it's quite possible that it wasn't even out yet when this episode when to air). How different things are now...
-Chilton must have the most twee school bake sale ever
-The scene between Lorleai and Max when they're walking through the school grounds shows us just how far quality has come in TV. The sound mixing is atrocious in this scene
-This show relies heavily on silver eyeshadow... like much of the early 2000s. I just can't wait for everyone to start wearing frosted blue eyeshadow next season.
*Previously called Mr. Good Hair by me
**Loved that cracktastic book when I read it many years ago (probably well before it was appropriate for me to read it)
^Edited lightly so that you all don't have to pick through the mess of a gchat conversation between two friends who have known each other for years
"Rory's Birthday Parties"
Finally all of our hard work as viewers pays off in this wonderful episode. The writers manage to pack a whole bunch of themes into "Rory's Birthday Parties" including:
- The relationships between generations of mothers and daughters and coping with realizing that parents and children begin to miss out on each others' lives as children age
- The division of classes as illustrated between Rory's two birthday shindigs
- Families that are not tied together by blood
Really though, I don't want to talk about any of those things (except maybe in the Random Thoughts section). That's because something more exciting happened this episode. Luke won me over.
Here's a quick rundown of our action. Emily decides she is going to throw Rory a classy birthday party on their usual Friday dinner night even though Lorelai wants to throw her one the same night. Lorelai winds up taking Saturday for an alternative birthday. Emily reaches out to Lorelai for help buying Rory a birthday present, and they have a not awful shopping experience. Rory sees that her grandmother and mother hung out without fighting and doesn't want to tell her mother that Emily has invited all of the awful people at school to her birthday including Tristan (formally called Smarmy Prep School Guy on The Gilmore Girls Project). The classy party is, naturally, a disaster, and Rory fights with Emily. The alternative birthday with seemingly all of Stars Hollow is a huge success until Emily and Richard show up and it gets awkward. There is a touching moment when Emily realizes that she doesn't know that Lorelai broke her leg three years ago. Rory and Emily make up. Emily tells Richard that she doesn't really know her daughter after all.
*gasps for breath*
Okay, fine. Now Luke.
So I acknowledge that I have a soft spot for grouchy heroes. Just to clarify, not every grumpy character qualifies as a grouchy hero. He needs to exhibit some heroic qualities (even if they are small, subtle ones) to elevate him. In this episode, Luke does.
The writers use a three-beat to develop Luke throughout the episode and give us a deeper look at the backwards baseball cap-wearing coffee shop owner. First, Lorelai plops herself down at his counter and we get this exchange.
Luke: Will you marry me?
Luke: Just looking for something to shut you up.
The way that Lorelai grins at him afterwards tells us that this is not to be taken personally. This is just Luke being Luke. And yet we as viewers get the sense that Luke isn't entirely joking (go ahead and squee, fangirls).
The second beat with Luke gives us a nice look at his relationship with Rory. On her birthday, she also plops down at the counter with Lane when Luke walks up.
Luke: Wrong table.
Rory: Since when is there a right table?
Luke: Since the coffee cake I baked for you and the balloons I blew up for you are at that table [points]... I count to three and it's gone.
Later we see that there's a pink candle stuck in the coffee cake and the balloons have "Happy birthday Rory!" hand-written on them in Sharpie. In this very quick exchange we learn a lot about Luke. He knows Rory's birthday and goes out of his way to do something special for her. He not only bakes, he blows up balloons and decorates them for her. Underneath the grouchy exterior, he cares for the 16-year-old. These are the little things that let us know that this man isn't just a grump. These are the very quiet markers of the good guy hero.
Rounding out our three-beat, Luke shows up at Rory and Lorelai's house at just the right time. The party has run out of ice, and Lorelai is just about to run out for more when he shows up on their doorstep with two bags because everyone always needs ice. She launches herself at him, hugging him full-on, and we know that this is a big deal for Luke even if Lorelai doesn't realize it. In his own, quiet way, Luke cares. He cares about Rory, and he's clearly romantically interested in Lorelai even if something is holding him back.
TV shows are great at the slow burn. If I'm reading this right and Luke is going to be the man we know that Lorelai should be with, it's going to take them like five seasons to finally get together. The "will they, won't they" romantic relationship gets helped along with these tiny moments of revelation brought to us to three-beats like this. We're learning more about our characters and becoming invested in them at the same time. Until he does something to ruin that for me (which he probably will because, again, it's a TV show), I'll be rooting for Luke, the grouchy hero.
Book Nerd Moments
Pop Culture References
Madonna, Elvis, Jim Morrison, the Vulcan Death Grip, The Fly (but which version?), The Waltons, Cosmopolitan Magazine
How can I not list Luke's exchange with Rory about her birthday coffee cake.
"She did agree to get the string quartet to learn 'Like a Virgin.'" -Lorelai on Emily, party planning monster
-Emily and Richard's idea of a rager of a night is sticking Post-It Notes on objects around the house so that Rory and Lorelai can claim them as part of their inheritance (although it does beg the question, who else would inherit?)
-Emily calls Lorelai and when they are on the phone I realized that Emily is sitting next to a needlepoint pillow depicting Raphael's Madonna del Prato. It feels so tacky and yet so perfect after asking her daughter to stick Post-It Notes on household objects
-There are a few lovely scenes that reveal more about the relationship between Lorelai and Emily in this episode. First we have the shopping trip for Rory. Then Emily finds out that Lorelai broke her leg, but Emily never knew. And finally, Emily has a moment in the car when she tells Richard, "She's right. I don't know my daughter at all."
-I adore Richard. Rory sets him up on the porch with an issue of Comso and later in the episode he proudly announces that he is an autumn
-Does Dean own a change of clothes? Every time I see him he is in the same green striped sweater, jeans, and leather jacket. Every. Single. Time.
-Speaking of Dean...continuing the sweet, awkwardness of the last episode, Dean and Rory have a moment at the end of "Rory's Birthday Parties" when he gives her a charm bracelet he made. Lorelai sees this out the window and we know that she doesn't quite know how to process this. She tries to be the cool mom, but at the same time, there's a boy around her daughter. I'm sure that we'll be seeing more of floppy-haired Dean and Lorelai's uncertainty about him soon
-I want all the pink feather boas at my next birthday party