[8.1/10] There’s been an interesting theme to the teen-focused side of Gilmore Girls since around the halfway mark. It’s been a combination of Jess learning how to be a boyfriend and Rory learning that not all boyfriends are like Dean. It can get a little rote at times, but it’s true-to-life stuff and interesting to see both characters facing adjustments and having to grow and not take things for granted a bit.
For Rory, that means learning not to try to play it cool, but rather to be straight with Jess about what she wants, including making plans to hang out rather than just keeping it fuzzy. (And Lorelai’s cheerleading and reminiscing on that front is an interesting side dish.) There’s also the complication that she keeps running into Dean, the symbol for perfect doting boyfriendhood, to remind her that even if she didn’t love him anymore, he was good at the nuts and bolts of relationships in way that Jess isn’t and wasn’t. And the fact that he’s now kissing some old acquaintance named Lindsay only complicates the possible buyer’s remorse.
And Jess, for his part, is still monosyllabic but making an effort in his two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of way. He’s certainly oblivious much of the time, and thinks a lot of that nuts and bolts boyfriend stuff is lame, but he’s making an effort because of how he feels about Rory, and that makes him sympathetic even when he’s screwing things up.
There’s also some amusing and/or compelling stuff on the side. The Lane-Dave romance continues apace, with Lane going on a fake date with Yung Chu to please her mom, but with both her and Yung Chu pining for their real significant others. And Dave racing across town because he’s a little jealous, and Lane being flattered by that jealousy, is still pretty adorable. Plus in the comedy department, Taylor’s fussiness and Kirk’s overzealous and underinformed attempts to call the hockey game are worth a few laughs.
But the best storyline in the episode centers on Emily and Gran (aka Lorelai Sr.). As I’ve said before, seeing the normally unflappable Emily so flustered by her mother-in-law is always a treat, and the (admittedly sitcom-ish) twist of her walking in on Gran making out with a gentleman caller (officially credited as “Gran’s Kissing Man”) is a lot of fun. The way Emily preens and plans to lord it over her tormentor, and the gasps of the old ladies when she lets the secret slip are all just fantastic.
Still, the real strength of the story comes in the quiet scene shared between these two women who so rarely see eye-to-eye. As hard-edged as Gran can be, the story she tells -- of seeing marriage as a commitment that transcends death, but feeling lonely at times -- is a relatable one. It’s so relatable that it creates common ground between the two eldest Gilmore Girls, with Emily explaining that she too has her pride, and that she too gets lonely, and stating not in so many words that when Gran orders her around or takes all Richard’s time it hurts her on both of those fronts. It’s a nice resolution to the story, and it even produces a hilarious scene with Lorelai and Richard reflecting on what just happened. (Richard laughing and saying “I guess I have a new daddy” is just tops.)
Overall, a very pleasant and well-done episode with the stories feeding one another nicely.
[8.4/10] I’m not sure we’ve ever had a straight up Jess story before. I don’t mean that we haven’t had major plots involving Jess, but I think this is the first time he’s essentially been the protagonist of a story where he’s had an arc from the beginning of the episode to the end. I have to admit, he annoyed me a bit here (particularly at the dinner with Emily), but I like that they’re showing him learning and growing. As with his quiet development early in the season, it makes him more likable and gives him potential as a romantic interest for Rory.
And I like Luke as someone who’s legitimately guiding him. It’s nice that Jess is characteristically reluctant to do the nice boyfriend thing at Emily’s, that he’s upset that everyone assumes he got into a fight with Dean, and that he buttons up and thinks it’s all over when he and Rory get into a fight. But then there’s Luke, the voice of wisdom, explaining that he doesn’t have to be a pushover like Dean to accept Rory’s family and be more open with her. The fact that Jess seems to take it to heart, and talks to Rory afterward is a good place to take it, and shows Little Rat Boy slowly but surely maturing.
There’s also an interesting theme of physical affection that goes through the episode. There’s the reciprocal instances of Rory and Lorelai each walking in on the other necking with a boy, and the awkwardness of it as a moment where their mother-daughter relationship prevails over their best friends relationship. While Lorelai worrying so much about Rory being with Jess feels a little out of character (wasn’t she the one telling Luke to lighten up and telling Rory to kiss Jess more forcefully over the past few episodes), it’s an interesting note to have the character play, particularly given her own history and understandable concerns about history repeating itself on that front.
The final scene between the two of them is just spectacular. There’s a realness to both the uncomfortableness but also the understanding between Lorelai and Rory in that moment. It’s a real issue parents and children face, and I’m glad the show chose to dramatize it with an honest but simple heart-to-heart between them rather than something more overblown. It’s a very well-acted scene, particularly for Lauren Graham.
And while it was mostly fluff, I also enjoyed the Dave-Lane story here. Them having to hide their romance from the rest of the band is sitcom plotting, and the fake out of the “we have to get this out in the open” resolution being that the other bandmembers “out” and accept Dave as a Christian is a bit silly, but it’s nice material with its heart in the right place. The run-in with Mrs. Kim and the difficulty that Lane and Dave have convincing both her and their bandmates that they’re not dating at the same time creates some funny but sympathy-worthy knots for the almost couple.
But most of all, the comedy game was on point in this episode. Luke joshing Jess about being attacked by a swan is hilarious. While the scene went on a little long, Kirk going all Darren Nichols on Patty’s one-woman show is amusing. And my god, somebody go back in time and give Kelly Bishop an Emmy already. The way that Emily is unfailingly polite and yielding to Jess for Rory’s benefit when her granddaughter is in earshot, and then just unloads all her complaints about Jess to Lorelai on the phone is amazing. I mean, my god, her rant is an instant classic. Just the phrases “slap his monosyllabic mouth” and “abominable thug” and the way she intones “he should be in jail” had me in stitches. I’m pretty sure it’s the scene that clinched Emily as my favorite character on the show.
Overall, this was an excellent episode that had an interesting theme for Rory and Lorelai, a nice if abbreviated plot for Lane, a well-done arc for Jess, and some great comic material for Emily.
[7.3/10] So much of show’s like Gilmore Girls come down to execution. There’s something about the “coincidence” that Rory and Lorelai both happen to be going on double dates on the same night that instantly makes me roll my eyes. And yet, even if the premise is contrived, the show uses that structure to create fun scenes and tell compelling stories to where, by the end of the episode, I’d essentially forgotten how the constructed quality of the premise annoyed me.
On Lorelai’s side, it helps that she and Sookie make for a wonderful comic pairing, Sookie’s relatable anxiousness about going on her first date in years, and Lorelai’s smart remarks and support make for a great mix. The actual date was pretty silly, and the rudeness of Jackson’s cousin Rune was too broad, but it had a good throughline. Sookie is out of practice and worried so she’s scared to be assertive. Lorelai nudges her, and it gets Sookie to not only nail down a date with Jackson, but ask him to stay at Luke’s when Rune wants to go. It’s a small arc, but a satisfying one, that sees our dear Sookie being understandably nervous but standing up and going after what she wants.
(As an aside, it’s shocking to me that the show is reputed to play “will they won’t they” with Luke and Lorelai forever because they push that button pretty hard here. Still, I can understand the show trying to stretch the romantic tension as far as it will go because the two of them have fantastic chemistry, and it just exposes how tedious the whole deal with Max was.)
I like the premise of the Lane-focused half of the episode that Rory’s enmeshed in. The idea of “loving” someone from afar and then realizing they’re not for you once you actually talk to them is a very sixteen-year-old epiphany. That said, like Rune, Todd is a little too exaggerated as a dumbo for my tastes. Plus, Rory’s affrontedness when Dean is leery about setting them up perturbed me a bit, but as my wife pointed out, it’s probably an accurate reaction for a teenager.
But what really bumped the episode up a notch is the story with Lorelai and Lane’s mom. It went with a familiar tack that I really like on Gilmore Girls -- Lorelai stands on principle with one person but then gets to the heart of the matter with another. In the episode with Rory’s dance, Lorelai told her mom that she shouldn’t pressure Rory to go, but in private with Rory, Lorelai encouraged her daughter to give it a chance. It’s a nice way to show that Lorelai understands what’s right in terms of “procedure” for lack of a better term, but isn’t skimping on the substance of the issue.
The show returns to the same move here. When Lane’s mom catches her daughter out with boys, she drags Lane away, and Lorelai, while not quite so fiery, takes Rory to task over her being selective with the truth in describing their outing with Dean. I loved Lorleia’s exclamation that Rory is truly her daughter after realizing that she left out details so that Lorelai wouldn’t have to lie to Lane’s mother and break the “mom code,” and her affirming that she wouldn’t lie to Lane’s mom for that very reason.
But then the episode follows it up with a great scene between Lorelai and Lane’s mom, where Lorelai affirms Lane’s mom’s right to raise her daughter the way sees fit, but implores her to see that she’s already done a great job with Lane and that she’s a good and responsible young woman. There’s some comedy in bridging the philosophical divide between the two women, but it’s a nice back-and-forth that gives both sides some solid points, understandable concerns, and frank admissions.
That’s one of the best things Gilmore Girls does -- take wacky sitcom premises like a daughter’s reluctance about going to a dance or a coincidental double double date (quadruple date) and turn it into a heartwarming than harrowing exploration of the generational relationships among mothers and daughters, or potent reflection of the unspoken camaraderie between moms (even moms with starkly different views on parenting), or the universal anxieties about impressing someone you like and standing up for getting to spend time with them. Nice to see the execution outstrip the premise here.
8.6/10. A really well-balanced episode in several respects. For one, I loved the show's use of Ted and The Mother's first date as a frame story, and the way that it used that as a device to tell stories within stories (e.g. Ted telling her the story about when he was at the wedding telling the story about how he met Gary Blauman.) One of the deftest strokes of Season 9 is how it filled in the gaps of Ted and The Mother's future together little bit little to where by the time they meet, we get a pretty complete, if abbreviated picture of who they are. The two of them continue to be cute together, and the fact that Ted didn't blurt out an I love you (among other callbacks to the pilot here) and the way it led to Ted and The Mother's first kiss was well done and downright heartwarming.
But it wasn't all warm fuzzies! I often complain about the broadness of the show in its later years, but I have to admit, as exaggerated as it was, I loved everyone milking the reveal as to whether they were going to say "love" or "hate" (or some variation) when it came to how they felt about Gary Blauman. The various flashback stories about him were fun (especially all the dorky Teddy Roosevelt jokes between Ted and Gary), and Marshall's impromptu courtroom bit was a fun touch as well.
The show also found a really nice way to give closure to a wide swath of its secondary and tertiary character without it feeling forced. Many of them were cute or clever (Scooter ending up with Stripper Lily and Jeanette ending up with Kevin were oddly perfect) and the fly-by device gave everyone a moment without overcrowding the episode. On top of that, tying those little updates with the theme that friends drift apart and if you care about someone, you have to hold onto them, and having that pay off in the story of Ted and The Mother's first date (with The Mother making the move!) was a really neat way to handle it as well. Overall, a nice lead-in to the finale.
It's so refreshing to see things from a different perspective. I believe it's even more interesting now that we see the version of a real couple with their real struggles instead of the versions of lovebirds. I paid attention to everything I could knowing how things can change from one's perspective. Helen's a really dark one. Noah's still playing hero on his head, as when he was so worried about his son's stomachache (in Helen's version it wasn't even commented) and when he shows up to the mediation meeting with a nosebleed (in Helen's version he was just fine). A few other things are interesting and differ a bit more than they usually do (as when Helen goes to the police station bringing Noah a good lawyer and when on Helen's version both Noah and the mediator sit in front of her - and the camera shots intend to show how confronted and alone she is in this).
It was definitely one of the show's best episodes so far. MUCH MORE MATURE than season one. Much darker as well. I'm really hoping next week we get to see Allison's Vs. Cole's version! For those thinking you can't really tell a long story about an affair, that was a good slap in the face.