Where you lead, I will follow…especially if it’s in Connecticut and costs a looooot to goooo theeeeeeere!”
-My alternative lyrics to the Gilmore Girls theme song, “Where you lead,” by Carole King
Ok, so now that Netflix has officially confirmed that they’re doing a revival of everyone’s favorite show featuring Melissa McCarthy arguing with people about vegetables (except without Melissa McCarthy because there’s drama there), I’ve decided to embark on a new endeavor as a part of this blog: recapping Gilmore Girls.
This is partly an exercise in nostalgia. I loved GG as a teenager, mostly because of Rory’s character (I know, I know)–she and I were the same age, attended the same college, and both were, like, super white New Englanders. However, as Rory’s entitlement factor rose season after season I became less interested, and didn’t actually finish the mostly-awful seventh season until years later.
Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m re-watching the show with a new perspective informed by life experience as well as a strong sense of shame that any of us actually dressed that badly in the early 2000s, and I’ll be sharing that perspective in the recaps.
So, yeah. Let’s dive in!
Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot (a.k.a. Welcome to White Girl Problems, the Show)
“There She Goes” by the La’s play us into Stars Hollow, and apparently that song is supposed to be about heroin use? Who knew? (Well, the whole internet except for me, I guess, but whatevz).
Lorelai heads into Luke’s, and I laugh because Luke’s looks entirely different than the diner we will come to know and love over the next seven seasons.
Lorelai does a bit with Luke where she begs for coffee and he calls her a junkie, and the audience already knows that this is going to be the “will they or won’t they?” guy due to his scruffiness and the sort-of romantic tension over whether or not Luke will serve coffee to…a paying customer. When Lorelai sits down, a Dumb Guy comes up and hits on her. Lorelai owns him with a Jack Kerouac reference that goes over his head, and then a young lady who ALL BOYS ON THIS SHOW WILL INEXPLICABLY FALL IN LOVE WITH shows up–Rory! Lorelai gives her some lip gloss and returns her Macy Gray CD to her because a.) remember when we used to all have CDs? Wow that was a long time ago; and b.) remember that one Macy Gray song? It was pretty good! So that was a topical reference at the time that really must have drawn the kids in!
While Lorelai gets more coffee, Dumb Guy returns to hit on Rory. When it’s revealed that Lorelai and Rory are Mom and Underage Offspring, he splits, and we head into the credits, which I find a little thin without Liza Weil (YAY PARIS!).
After the credits, we get a peek into Lorelai’s life managing the Independence Inn, which is a little boring in hindsight for a fan. It includes a scene with a really annoying harpist who, thankfully, only appears a few times in the first season before the writers allow her to fade out of existence (the actress, Alex Borstein, is great, but her character has no point whatsoever). We also meet Michel, the stereotypically rude French concierge, and when Rory shows up to steal stamps from the front desk, Lorelai offers to have Michel look over her French paper. Michel is annoyed, and I know that Michel is supposed to be a crank, but come on–it’s not his job to proofread his boss’s daughter’s shitty high school French paper. I love Gilmore Girls, but I get annoyed at the actual Gilmore girls when they act obnoxiously entitled and think they get whatever they want because they’re pretty. Rory leaves after her mom teases her about her muumuu-style sweater, and goes to meet her best friend, Lane Kim, before school. While Lane is lamenting the fact that her conservative parents are setting her up on a hayride date with a future Korean doctor, Rory and her muumuu somehow attract the attention of a Hot Boy who’s posing in front of the school building.
In study hall, Rory does homework while some other not-as-smart girls paint their nails and are like, SO GROSSED OUT that she’s doing her assignment instead of writing a love letter or piercing her belly button or something. This scene is meant to show us that Rory is smart and bookish and Not Your Typical Teenage Girl™, and I guess it works. Though I never once saw girls in my high school get away with actually painting their nails in any class, even study hall.
Back at the inn, Lorelai hears an ominous sound coming from the kitchen, where we meet the inn’s head chef and Lorelai’s BFF, Sookie St. James (not Sookie Stackhouse, though I wonder–since Lorelai is catnip to all human men, and Sookie Stackhouse is catnip to all non-human men, what would happen if those two characters ended up in the same small town together, say Bon Temps? Would any of the vamps go for Lorelai over Sookie? If any other TV woman had fairy blood in her veins, it would definitely be Lorelai Gilmore! Interesting crossover potential there…ahem, sorry. Moving on.)
Sookie has had an accident, because she is somehow a master chef who is also so over-the-top clumsy that she spends half her life in a hospital. I don’t care that the show slaps Sookie with the Clumsy Girl label, however, because I LOVE SOOKIE SO MUCH. Lorelai tells Sookie that they have to have fewer accidents, and then they fantasize about owning their own inn together someday, and I fantasize that Sookie is baking me 3,000 cakes and then I collapse into a fantasy sugar coma.
After school, Rory and Lane are laughing at the silly Nail Polish Girls from earlier as they walk into Lane’s house, which also doubles as a chair maze/antique shop, so we can meet Mrs. Kim. I LOVE MRS. KIM AS WELL, even though her character starts out as a mildly offensive Tiger Mom-ish caricature. The evolution of her relationship with Lane over the course of the series is one of my favorite aspects of the show. For now, Mrs. Kim offers them some gross muffins and then asks them if any of the girls at school got pregnant and dropped out (heh). When Rory replies that one girl had a glow about her, Mrs. Kim makes this face, and it’s great:
Meanwhile, Lorelai surprises Sookie in the kitchen at the inn (where Melissa McCarthy is killing it with the physical comedy) with the news that Rory got into the Chilton School, a fancypants private school of fanciness and snobbery. Lorelai’s super psyched, because this means Rory will get to do all the things Lorelai couldn’t after she got knocked up at age 16, including going to Harvard and being fancy. Rory shows up and is equally psyched, though at first she thinks her mother is happy for another reason:
Rory: You’re happy.
Rory: Did you do something slutty?
Lorelai: I’m not that happy.
In hindsight, this exchange is a little weird, because…Lorelai is many things in the show, but she is not “slutty” by any means. She’s a serial monogamist, if anything. Not that there’s anything wrong with being “slutty,” aka having sex outside of marriage (according to some evangelicals), but I just found it a poor joke to make about Lorelai’s character. Meh.
Of course, in the next scenes, Lorelai gets the enormous bill for Rory’s tuition, which she has to pony up before Rory’s first day. She calls Chilton to see if they’ll cut her some slack because she’s an innkeeper, for God’s sake, and they’re basically like, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, which is the first of many instances when the Chilton administration proves itself to be comprised of assholes.
Lorelai frets to Sookie, who reminds a reluctant Lorelai that her estranged parents are super loaded and could solve all her problems for her. Lorelai really doesn’t want to ask them for money, but the sight of Rory all excited in her Chilton plaid skirt settles it, and she heads to Hartford the next day to beg for some ca$h from the ‘rents.
Lorelai’s mother Emily, who despite her faults is usually my favorite character in any given episode, answers the door, and thank God this is the only time we see her with this haircut. And also, did the makeup team just not get to her on set that day? I’m not shaming the actress, who is beautiful, I just think the hair/makeup people did her a huge disservice in the pilot; she looks normal the rest of the show’s run:
Richard, Lorelai’s dad, also shows up, and realizes immediately that since Lorelai is there on a non-holiday that she must need money. They’re pleasantly surprised to learn that the loan is so Rory can attend Chilton, but before Richard can write the check, Emily decides that there will be strings attached: Lorelai and Rory have to join the Gilmores for dinner every Friday night, and Lorelai has to keep them updated on the girls’ lives. Lorelai really has no choice but to agree, but she asks that the fact that she’s borrowing the tuition be kept a secret from Rory. Emily agrees, and the narrative thrust of the show is officially a go! Copy, Houston, we have a premise!
Back at Stars Hollow High, Rory is cleaning out her locker when she knocks into Hot Guy from earlier. Rory makes a Rosemary’s Baby reference, immediately bonding them together, and Hot Guy tells her that he’s just moved to Stars Hollow from Chicago (Rory: Chicago: windy…Oprah; Me: heheh) and that his name is Dean. The credits list him as Dean Forester, but I feel like we never actually hear his last name spoken aloud in the show? I’ll have to keep an eye out for that upon re-watching.
Rory is immediately smitten, and they end up leaving the school together so Rory can show him where to find Miss Patty, the town dance teacher/yoga instructor/former Broadway star/badass/general gossip, who will be able to help him get a job. As they walk, Dean confesses something to Rory:
Rory: I mean, I know it’s kind of cliché to pick Moby Dick as your first Melville but… Hey, how did you know I was reading Moby Dick?
Dean: Uh, well, I’ve been watching you.
And I’m like:
Then he explains that he just “noticed” her around town “every day” because she’s “nice to look at” and I’m like…this isn’t getting any less creepy, dude. Dean then praises Rory because one day she was concentrating so hard on reading her book in the town square that she failed to notice a guy getting his nose broken by a football. I would laugh at this, because never in my life have I heard of a guy falling for a girl because she’s such an intense reader that she neglects to notice bloody injuries occurring right in front of her, but this is Rory Gilmore, magical attractor of all boys in her vicinity (as the show will prove over and over), so I’ll let it slide. Rory is flattered by Dean’s interest, really flattered; so flattered, in fact, that she tells her mom at dinner at Luke’s later that evening that she doesn’t want to go to Chilton anymore.
Lorelai, already bummed because she is now indebted to her parents for her daughter’s sake, understandably is like, “We have to go to your grandparents’ for dinner tomorrow for an unspecified reason and also ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME?” They leave the diner in a huff, passing Lane on her Korean Future Doctor Chaperoned Hayride date, which looks about as fun as it sounds:
Then they walk by Miss Patty’s, where the brilliant Liz Torres is hamming it up in the role with a cigarette holder and troupe of mini ballerinas. Miss Patty tells Rory she found Dean a job at the market, and Lorelai realizes that Rory’s change of heart re: Chilton is due to a guy, because, as she puts it, “You’re me!”
At home, they continue to fight, and Lorelai makes some really good points to Rory about not throwing away an opportunity to get a top-tier (if asshole-ridden) education for a guy (who, by the way, she could–and does–totally still date while going to Chilton). Rory, in a moment of well-played teenage brattiness by Alexis Bledel, is all, “WHATEVER I DON’T CARE WAAAH!” Lorelai ultimately pulls the “mom card” and tells Rory that she’s going to Chilton no matter what, and I yell “THANK YOU!” at my screen. Then they both listen to Macy Gray’s “I Try” in separate rooms on separate boomboxes, and the audience remembers once again that, yes, this show was filmed in the year 2000.
The next day, Lorelai is cranky at work, and not just because Sookie broke a gazillion-dollar Viking stove (and is still a master chef, come on, now!). She tries to make up with Rory by giving her a shift at the inn to earn bucks, but Rory remains bratty, so Lorelai is like, whatever.
Huh…why did I like Rory so much when this show was on again? Oh, because I was also a bratty sixteen-year-old? That must be it.
That evening, Lorelai and Rory are still in a fight when they arrive at Gilmore Manor, but they agree to put that aside in order to get through the meal. Emily does her best to start things off on the right foot with a toast to Rory, but Richard quickly derails the night by bringing up Christopher (do not get me started on Christopher, that’s for later recaps), Rory’s father, who is doing well with his internet startup in California:
Richard: He always was a smart one, that boy. (to Rory) You must take after him.
Oh, Richard, Richard, Richard. Don’t you know it’s Emily’s job to say shitty underhanded stuff like that? Is this opposite day?
Lorelai is upset by this remark, which, well, YEAH. She escapes to the kitchen, and Emily follows to try to calm her down, which of course backfires. Lorelai points out that her parents didn’t like Christopher so much when he knocked her up at age sixteen, and Emily argues that Lorelai’s life would be much better now if she’d just married Christopher like she was “supposed” to do. Of course, this is all just a lead-up to the real issue at hand: Lorelai ran off with Rory and shut her parents out of her life, wounding them both terribly. Lorelai explains that she needed to live her own life without her parents trying to control her, but this obviously doesn’t make Emily feel better. The whole scene is really well-written and acted beautifully by both Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop, and I love it. Gilmore Girls is always at its best when it focuses on family relationships, especially Lorelai/Emily and Lane/Mrs. Kim (in my personal opinion), and this scene is a brilliant example of that dynamic.
Their fight escalates, until Rory overhears her Lorelai mention that she wasn’t “too proud” to ask Emily for money for Chilton, and then Rory feels bad, which is good, because RORY IS BAD AND SHE SHOULD FEEL BAD.
Richard, however, does not feel bad:
Post dinner, a chastened Rory takes Lorelai out for coffee at Luke’s, and they make up. Rory tells Lorelai that it was really brave for her to ask her parents for money, and agrees to go to Chilton, because her cute-boy-related fit of insanity is over.
Finally, Luke comes over, looking “nice…really nice,” as Lorelai points out, though I don’t think his hairstyle is really working for him, even if it is the year 2000:
Anyways, Lorelai is intrigued by his hairline, and Luke is like, “yeah I’ve been in love with you forever…I mean, you want coffee?” and so the audience is reminded again that Luke and Lorelai are Endgame. He tells Rory not to drink so much coffee, because he doesn’t want her to end up like her mom. Rory tells him it’s too late for that, and the episode closes with the Gilmore Girls gossiping about boys in a scene that will serve as the end of the credits for seven seasons.
So that’s it! My first Gilmore Girls recap! I hope you enjoyed it! I want to do one of these a week (they take longer than you would expect), so join me next Wednesday for episode two, when we put on our uniforms, take the bus to Chilton, and meet Paris Gellar.