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Analysis

College and Construction on Gilmore Girls Season 4

Gilmore Girls has reached its mid-point, and it might just be all downhill from here. Last time, we covered the end of the Chilton and Independence Inn era, and went out on the highest note possible – Rory got into the Ivy League College of her choice; Lorelai got to open her own inn.

How do you follow up this high-stakes season with the practically perfect finale? Why, by delivering the only season of this show that has ever won an Emmy, of course!

So gather your hilariously oversized luggage, grab some junk food of your choice, and settle in for some award-winning… Make-up?!

A change of pace

Right off the bat I can tell you that season 4, for the most part, is comfortable viewing. Easy listening for more than one sense. When I freaked out about moving away to college, I watched season 4. When I was depressed from the big void of nothing but studying that is law school, I watched season 4. When my last boyfriend broke up with me, I watched season 4.

It has to change the formula, take us to new settings, introduce us to new characters, and has the tough job of following the season with arguably the highest stakes with what are arguably the lowest. A fact you can see reflected in the title of this very article; College and Construction. Because that’s basically it – the two main settings we’re jumping around between. And it’s not like nothing happens. Just… Nothing too big or life-altering until about the last quarter of the season.

It’s not the best season. Or second best. Third best, we could maybe argue about. But it is a relaxing season. A season of warm milk, if you will.

Rory is going to college, Lorelai is overseeing the construction of her very own inn. In a weird role reversal, it is Rory who just kind of floats around her set pieces, while Lorelai is the one who gets the arc. And a boyfriend, for most of the season.

Rory thankfully also stays single for the entire season, which is a much-needed and well deserved break from the love triangle crap, and –

…Never mind.

A Tale of Two Mattresses

But we for we get to anything as interesting as revisiting the conflict of the last two goddamn seasons, we have to get Rory into college!

The season premiere is, by the way, mostly forgettable, and basically has Rory and Lorelai run around town giving people gifts and telling stories about their time in Europe. Exotifying the place to a ridiculous degree, so much so that I actively get uncomfortable at times. I mean, it’s nothing as bad as Lorelai bringing Asia to Rory, but still pretty bewildering.

Not now, season 7. Nobody likes you.

The saving grace of the episode is undoubtedly Emily’s abduction of Rory, keeping her at dinner for most of the night and making her watch ballroom dance competitions until Lorelai comes by to rescue her – and join in on the madness after a jet-lag fueled fit of laughter.

After that, it’s off to college for Rory! And what a college it is, assigning freshmen to spacious suites in pretty buildings and making the whole roommate thing easily navigable with just one phone call.

Yup. Paris’s life coach believed she has a journey to finish with Rory, and thus she enrolled in the same college and made her dad pull some strings for them be roommates. I’d be ecstatic, but unfortunately I know where this is going.

For now, it’s a fun first night at college for Rory, featuring Lorelai sleeping over and throwing a take-out party with all her roommates and basically every other girl on the floor who all come running when they see pizza.

Oh yeah, and Lorelai gets Rory a new mattress so she doesn’t have to use the one supplied by her dorm. Smart choice, that. However, she made no arrangements to get rid of the old mattress, so Lorelai, and then Luke, and then both of them, and then Lorelai again, drive it back and forth for a bit. This is a plot point that will actually be referenced later on. Yes, I can’t quite believe it either.

It’s a quirky and fun episode that might make you hopeful for the rest of the season and all the potentially interesting things that could happen at Yale. And it is truly a highpoint of this season. But when the highest point comes in episode 2, you’re not exactly in for a land of fun.

Inconsequential but wacky college experiences

Rory is usually relegated to the beta-plots from here on out. Not always, not in regards to certain developments I will not talk about until I absolutely have to, but usually.

As a general rule, Rory’s part of the plot is at its best when she’s not at Yale. Which is a shame, as Yale absolutely had the potential to be every bit as engaging as Chilton was, and although both Doyle (the newspaper’s editor) and Glen, fill every stereotype about a troubled loner and potential school shooter of the early 2000s combined into one neat package and making me incredibly uncomfortable, building Rory a solid and diverse home base of characters to bounce off of would have done wonders for her development this season. Or at all. Hell, even though I’m not a fan, having Mr. Frosted Flakes Sr. make an appearance could have improved things.

As do I. But I also kinda hate you.

Instead, everyone at Yale, with the occasional exception of Paris, is inconsequential window dressing this season. And to spare us all a run-down of all the pointless little anecdotes that could be switched around from episode to episode and still do nothing, I will illustrate the tediousness of especially the first few episodes in the ultimate List of Irrelevant Things That Happen To Rory As A Freshman in College:

  • Lorelai and Paris talk her into hosting a party in the dorm room
  • She encounters a naked guy after said party
  • Wacky roommates fight
  • Wacky roommates fight causes her to go to breakfast in her bunny slippers
  • Naked Guy approaches her again
  • She has an awkward first date with an extra
  • Twice
  • Wacky roommate fight means she can’t study until she finds the perfect tree
  • She bribes another extra to get her study tree back
  • She asks a guy out in the laundry room and is turned down flat
  • She later thinks she’s the crazy chick that guy is spreading stories about and causes a scene
  • Twice
  • She writes a bad review at the behest of her editor and is yelled at by the ballerina she trashed
  • She has to drop a class because she uses the wrong subject in a paper
  • She thinks she only got a good grade for a paper because the professor is dating Paris
  • Spring Break

Wait, no, Spring Break is actually something I have to talk about later on. Still. It does belong on this list, since without certain…uncomfortable contrivances, the spring break adventure would too have been completely superfluous.

Hell, to signify that we ain’t at Chilton anymore, Rory even gets a new haircut.

study-tree

Behold, the trim of narrative irrelevance. Also featuring the study tree.

And the sad thing is, there was so much potential there at Yale! So much potential for interesting and well-developed new characters, and to take Rory’s and Paris’s relationship to whatever places the writers could have imagined that are not the queer-baiting uncomfortableness that I refuse to acknowledge at this moment.

Instead, it feels more like Rory is just parked there to work off a literal checklist of college experiences until something exciting can happen. I’d even take ridiculous and baseless high school political manipulations over this.

All the arc we really need

Lorelai on the other hand finally has tons to do this season. She’s building an inn! That’s where the construction part in the title comes from, if you couldn’t tell. I swear to god, it feels like we spend half the season on the construction site.

And that’s a good thing. No really, despite who just so happens to be working there, I think the choice to make the remodeling of the inn a set piece for this season was a brilliant one. We start with the place looking like this:

gg5-look-at-where-we-started

And end with a test run two weeks before the official opening of it. We are with Lorelai every step of the way of seeing this place turn from a ruin to a charming inn full of decor that makes me wonder what their problem with the B&B place from season 2 was.

And it’s a struggle. Boy, is it ever. I mean, yes, Lorelai too suffers from wacky hijinks syndrome this season (nothing embodies this more than that one time Michel babysits Sookie’s newborn son and rolls him under the bed), but most of it feels like part of the process.

For instance, just when they’re about to get started, Taylor refuses to give the okay on starting construction because the site is historical; even the termite infested 23 year old porch they’re seeking to completely renew. He only does this because he wants Lorelai to convince Luke to let him have an ice cream truck for his new old-fashioned candy store that is in the building next to Luke’s diner (and has a window into it). And while Lorelai’s conclusion is over-dramatic, I dunno. It’s also kinda charming, and I’m pretty sure all of us had to deal with people like Taylor in various administrations around the world before.

To have something like an income again, Lorelai and Sookie also start a catering company. They only take up to gigs before Sookie is too pregnant to go on, though. There’s a Lord of the Rings themed birthday party full of 8-year-olds that technically weren’t even allowed to watch the movies in theaters, were they? Around here, all three movies were only for children aged 12 and older, so that’d be PG13, right? I remember being so proud to be the only person in my circle of friends who actually saw Return of the King in theaters when I was 10 but looked old enough to fool the cinema staff. Well, and I was accompanied by my dad, but shush.

Then again, parenting fails are kind of the point of this episode, as Sookie has a mental breakdown over the fact that she just has no idea how to cook for or treat children, which leads to a really good scene where Lorelai reassures her she’s gonna be a great mother.

Speaking of mothers, the other catering gig they almost get is throwing a party for the launch of Richard’s recently extended new business. Richard’s business also gets an arc this season, too. This episode is a very tense one, but with a very touching conclusion. Mostly.

In defense of Digger

Not only does Lorelai get a professional arc that leads somewhere and is actually really well done, no, she also gets a sort of season-long boyfriend like only Rory used to before. She gets Digger!

jason-gilmore-girls

I’m sorry. Befuddled businessman Jason Stiles doesn’t appreciate being called Digger. In fact, it is heavily insinuated that this is part of the reason he leaves his father’s company, the one Richard used to work for, to become Richard’s business partner – and a competitor to his own father.

That’s right. Lorelai’s love interest for the majority of the season is introduced as her father’s new business partner. There’s in fact six episodes between his introduction and their first date, though he asks her out as early as episode 6.

Jason is the quintessential filler boyfriend, and probably the best the show has ever done. He’s just… Fun. Interesting in his own right, weird enough to fit in on this show, and man his actor just gives it all he’s got. His entire involvement is also, however, neatly tied up in the last episode and he is never heard from again afterwards. No awkward contrivances to dig him out of his grave like they did with Max last season. He has plenty of character and scenes and is not a complete non-entity like that Alex fellow from last season who nobody remembers. No haunting the series long after he overstayed his welcome like a certain other fellow. Two, actually, in this particular season; man is it good that Lorelai got a decent romance subplot, because Rory’s stories just suck.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Jason is a fun and quirky character with a complete arc that very plausibly leaves the show forever at the end of this season. And yet somehow it seems he’s back for the revival. What?

His story basically goes like this: he comes in as Richard’s business partner, annoys Emily to no end by turning traditional business practices on their head (instead of the party she would have let Lorelai and Sookie cater, Jason invites all of their clients on a trip to Atlantic City), and has to be invited to a lot of functions with Richard. He and Lorelai get together after Lorelai has a bad blow-out with her mother, but keep the relationship secret because she also doesn’t want to deal with her parents’ reactions to it.

This causes some hilarity, a fun secret relationship, and just a fun dynamic between Lorelai and Jason altogether. He gives as good as he gets and has quirks. Lots of them. He’s a bit awkward on their first date, he can’t sleep with anyone else in the bed, and he has the weirdest dog ever.

gg5-cyrus

Cyrus is watching you. Until you tell him to turn around, that is.

And yes, technically Jason is only here to delay the inevitable, as this is the season when the series’s one true pairing finally gets together, but dammit, he does his job well. Love interests on this show work best if they somehow tie in with characters outside of their love interest and have a life of their own. There’s a reason Luke and Christopher have the staying power they do, and that when you look at “Who’s Rory’s best boyfriend?” polls, the one with ties to her hometown and an entire arc without her usually tops the list.

Now, he goes out on an unpleasant note (though all things considered, which love interest on this show doesn’t? Name one. No, other than Luke. And even there, seasons 6 and 7 might want to have a word with you), but his presence also has another added benefit.

The backbone of the season

With Lorelai’s personal arc so intrinsically linked to her father’s business partner, it only makes sense for Richard and Emily to be very involved this season. And unlike following seasons, in mostly a good way.

As mentioned before, Richard’s business gets a lot of attention; there are functions thrown with tables Emily needs to fill, and parties cancelled for trips to Atlantic City. When the season tries to mimic the last two seasons’ structure and have the plot explode for a bit (even titling the episodes “Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom” and “Afterboom”), it’s about Richard’s business and the ramifications for everyone involved (except for Rory. Refer to the trim of narrative irrelevance).

Lorelai, in fact, only gives in to Jason’s attempts to woo her after a major fight with her mother, which happens before the Harvard vs. Yale game, the one wacky college experience everyone gets to participate in!

yale-football

Compare and contrast.

During this episode, Emily finds out that Richard has been secretly having dinner with his ex-girlfriend Pennilyn Lott, the woman he was supposed to marry before Emily “stole” him. She take this badly, and lets it out on Lorelai, since she’d never have found out if Pennilyn and Lorelai hadn’t talked about her opening an inn. Aggravated by this, Lorelai starts her relationship with Jason.

In another case of the sequence of events being not quite what it was supposed to be, the next big family moments comes in episode 14. Trix is back, for the last time unfortunately, and somehow ferrets out that Lorelai is having financial troubles due to the inn costing more money than anticipated. This causes her to berate first Lorelai, and then Richard for a loan he took from her (what happened to the attitude on loaning money from season 1?) after a bad investment, but paid back within a few months. This is the first time we see Richard contradict his mother and actually be angry at her.

And despite the fact that this should have been a triumph for Emily, the next time we see her is on a shopping frenzy in episode 15. She catches Lorelai and Rory window shopping, and then proceeds to kinda buy out the house.

And people say she has good taste…

The truth behind Emily’s frenzy is soon alluded to – Richard made a comment earlier about how all she does is shop for things they don’t need. He didn’t exactly do it in a mean-spirited fashion, but it’s about as tactful as when he called the charitable social engagements Emily runs frivolous parties back in season 2.

Furthermore seeing Lorelai handle a problem with pictures of the inn in some catalog causes both a very touching moment and a heartbreaking realization on Emily’s part: She has never really “done” anything in her life.

It’s as Lorelai said to Jason when she yelled about him for making plans other than the party Emily had planned for the launch of the business: Emily is a corporate wife. Her one true calling in life is to run a household, organize charitable events and throw parties to further her husband’s career.

She’s… very medieval that way. Huh.

And now that Richard has less and less time to appreciate what she does for him, and she sees Lorelai starting her own business and being more of, you know, what we consider to be the ideal “strong woman” character who has businesses to run instead of parties to throw, her own life suddenly seems empty to her. Meaningless. This is hammered home by the fact that when she shows Richard some of the purchases she made that episode, he doesn’t even notice they’re new and just says “I’ve always liked these.” Ouch.

The straw that finally breaks the camel’s back comes in the very next episode. Trix dies, and while Richard is completely catatonic, it falls to Emily to carry out her overly specific funeral arrangements. As she’s doing this, she finds a letter in which Trix begs Richard to leave Emily at the altar, the night before their wedding, and get back together with Pennilyn Lott instead.

Emily completely breaks down, refuses to do any more work, and leaves all the funeral preparations to Lorelai, who in a nice little parallel to her mother also sort of refuses to let Rory play a bigger part in these preparations. Also in this episode they find out that Trix’s maiden name was Gilmore, meaning she married her second cousin, causing them incest panic that makes the reaction to Kit Harrington’s questionable grasp on how you are supposed to look at your sister seem mild and understated in comparison. It is just as hilarious though.

The funeral is also the first time we get a glance at the extended Gilmore clan – dealing, and eccentric on included. We will only get to see the people once more next season, and I believe much potential for wacky adventures and hilarity is lost there.

However, the focus of this episode is still the foreboding fan that maybe Emily isn’t all too happy with the marriage, maybe it is time to do something about that.

An Emmy, you say?

As mentioned in the intro, he is also the very first and only time this show ever won an Emmy award. But it didn’t win this award for the riding or acting the beautiful set or beautiful music choices, no, it won the award for its makeup.

How is that possible? I mean, this is a show set in the real world and as contemporary as anything (that is, by now, 16 years old) can be. There are no elaborate costumes, or masks, or anything remarkable about the makeup to be found in a regular episode.

That is, of course, until a wacky town event chooses to change all that.

Picture is the festival of living art, episode seven’s title, and also the main event. Townspeople dress up as famous paintings and have to stand no for a given period of time during which the audience can admire the work done. This leads to truly spectacular shots off people as paintings, and an uncomfortable plot of Kirk thinking he is actually Jesus. There is a reason I never talk about Kirk. He’s like a mixture between Abed from Community and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, but treated like a mere town amusement, which makes The Big Bang Theory’s approach seem positively enlightened in comparison.

Another point of the episode is Suki trying to give birth, while her baby seems determined to stay in as long as possible. To be fair, if I were an unborn baby and had any concept of what a house birth entails, I would probably have done the same. I mean, I get the point that hospitals are impersonal and there’ sick and dead people around there, but usually not in the immediate vicinity to a maternity ward. And when it comes right down to it, no matter how positively Call The Midwife has made me think about a mother and had powers of love, there is just no reason to make yourself suffer the cleanup after birth, and of afterbirth, yourself. That shit is messy. No matter how many plastic sheets you put on your bed.

Be as it may, the episode ends with the baby pager of going off (so they can do that?) and little baby Davey finally being born.

I mentioned last time that it is maybe not a good idea to start a business when your business partner is recently pregnant with her first child. And, in fact, Lorelai struggles immensely with Sookie inability to be more of more assistance to her. Which usually can be excused, there is a baby after all, but there is one episode in which Sookie insists that she be the one to okay a very special sink delivered from Canada, giving Lorelai an afternoon off to get her hair done. Sookie, however, forgets about this, as she has been getting only four hours of sleep a day, costing the already struggling inn even more money, and being the final drop to make Lorelai break down about her financial and professional and personal situation.

A quick word on finances

This is something I’ve been meaning to talk about since season 1, and since this one is both slim pickings and focuses explicitly on at least Lorelai’s financial situation, I think my time has come.

From the very first episode onwards, I’ve had trouble believing Lorelai anytime she mentioned something about not having enough money for… Anything, basically. Granted, the tuition both for Chilton and Yale is probably astronomical and that’s fine, but other than that?

Remember the irrelevant lowest point of season 2, secrets and loans? Lorelai has a stable income that allows her, among other things, a car, business classes at community college, a very nice wardrobe, and to eat out pretty much every day of the week. Also special movie channels on TV, a bunch of magazine subscriptions, and Rory’s allowance can’t be too shabby either, considering for example, the fact that she has her own car at that point, and is able to get Lorelai rather elaborate presents.

gilmore-girls-pizza

More to the point: With an income this stable, how come no bank would give her a loan? I mean, a bunch of things in that episode don’t make sense, but this is the gist of it.

And I know that the writers are aware of how the general Gilmore Girls lifestyle is expensive. When Lorelai needs money to keep construction on the inn going in season 4, she does stop eating out, cancels her magazine subscriptions and movie channels.

And while we’re at it, Luke is someone whose financial situation baffles me as well. Or more like, what he has to say about his financial situation. When Jess gets his own car in season 3, Lorelai asks Luke whether he could have bought it with what he makes at the diner. Luke responds that he himself doesn’t make enough money at the diner to get a car.

And, true, we never see him buy a car. He just offers Lorelai the loan for her house, gives her a loan over $30,000 for the inn, buys the house next to the diner in season 2, and a family house in season 5. And also allegedly a townhouse with Nicole, who he also took on a cruise.

Why am I bringing this up at all? Because from here on out, social class will be one hell of a focus for the series, and also Lorelai’s actions to save money were so realistic and familiar that the contrast to how money is handled for the rest of the series gave me whiplash.

End of an era

Speaking of financial troubles, let’s talk about Lane!

This is a big season for her. Dave has moved away, so the band needs a new lead guitarist. They find one, in the festival of living art episode, in Gil.

Gil is… Old. He has a wife and kids and owns a sandwich shop. And he’s very… Hair metal influenced. But also fun and fits into the band after all.

Also, he has industry contacts, which gets Hep Alien (they have a name now!) a gig at a club in New York. At 1 AM. On a weekday.

Lane fails to come up with an alibi for this one, so she just sneaks out of the house, and doesn’t dare go back home again. So she crashes at Rory’s dorm suite for a while. When she finally does make it home, she reveals her double life to her mother in a heartbreaking scene, and is kicked out of the house. This makes her an even more permanent guest at Rory’s dorm suite and the cause for more wacky roommate arguments.

After a while, Lane moves into an apartment with her bandmates Zach and Brian, and they have a few more gigs. But between the two guys being good friends and constantly playing video games, when Zach’s not off with at least two girls at a time or Brian is being coddled by his parents, and Mrs. Kim taking in a Korean exchange student as a surrogate for Lane, Lane starts feeling very, very lonely.

gg5-lane-goodbye

With a bit of nudging from Lorelai, however, she ends up reconciling with her mother, who even comes to visit her at her new home where she lives with boys, and they manage to end this season on good terms. More or less.

A wise, willful and wonderful woman (probably)

I have never made a secret of my love for Paris Geller. And that quote shows that she is finally getting the appreciation she deserves within the show, right? And since she’s around at Yale, Rory’s plots there can’t be too horrible, riiight?

Yeah. No.

This season is a bit weird with Paris. It’s almost like someone on set did pick up on, you know, all the homoerotic context and sexually charged fencing that was totally not just in our heads last season. It pulls a case of the Super Straights on us and also dials Paris’s character back to just being obnoxious.

They are so onto us, and not in a good way.

They are so onto us, and not in a good way.

She antagonizes her roommates other than Rory, she treats her boyfriend from last season really badly, ditches Rory at a paper thing and deliberately makes certain things extremely awkward for her. Honestly, instead of the asset who challenged her character, Paris feels more like a burden to Rory this season. And the next. She feels like… Rory’s Emily, almost.

So let’s unpack that. The boyfriend with no discernible characteristics from last season is ditched, unceremoniously, and on his birthday, because Paris has no more time for boys. She’s with a man now.

A 60 year old professor at Yale called Asher Fleming, to be exact. Rory’s grandfather introduced them. Rory is taking a class with him. And apparently, he hooks up with a new freshman every year.

So Paris is two-timing it for a while, giving a show yet another chance to remind us that girls treat great boys like crap all the time, because remember when Rory left Dean? Wait, you don’t? You remember it happening the other way around? Silly you, that was all in our heads.

Ahem. More on that later.

So, Paris is apparently special, since Asher keeps her a secret, which according to Doyle has never happened before, and also because Asher wants to take her to England with him for the summer. Oh, and the headline there is a dedication he writes into a book, probably for Paris. We don’t exactly know for sure. It is a little vague.

There was some kind of potential there, as evidenced in an episode where he suffers from angina and Paris freaks out over the situation at a hospital, which ends with a touching moment between the two of them (and the only time we actually see them interact outside of making out).

paris-and-her-love

Nothing ever comes of this, of course, since he is unceremonially killed off next season, and we can’t even be given that information without a distasteful joke coming right after. Oh well.

Yes, yes, I know a rant about how a teacher four times her age with grandchildren closer to her might actually have been the only love interest Paris Geller had that was actually somewhere in the realm of being worthy of her is not what you expect me to talk about here. I’ll get right on that.

Yes. Yes, Paris and Rory actually kiss on the show for like two seconds. This legitimately happens, and in the worst way possible – to get attention from guys at a party when Paris is desperate to do Spring Break “right”. Yuck.

The rest of the episode is actually pretty okay for being a Spring Break episode. I mean, it features Rory and Paris ditching the partying to eat pizza and watch movies instead. This is the relationship I want to see between these two. That and academic competition. And unwavering support. These are however things in short supply this season.

It’s a big bag of meh. Have Paris in a newspaper head, because we all deserve it.

The constant abuse of dead horses

Aka: Is it really not Supernatural yet?

So. The plot finds new and creative ways of keeping Dean around. I guess Jared Padalecki signed a 4 year contract or something.

We first see him again in episode 4, in which he gleefully invites Rory to his wedding, all hunched over position and awkward smiles again. That’s something that came up in the comments last time – a big part of why Dean, especially in season 3, seemed imposing and constantly on the edge of violence is his body language. I’m not sure whether this is a deliberate choice, as Amy Sherman-Palladino still assures us that Dean was supposed to be practically perfect in every way, but it’s also not not there.

Anyway. During that episode, we also see Dean’s Bachelor Party, which features him passing out at Luke’s while muttering about how smart and amazing Rory is and how she’s gonna save the world someday, and why did she leave him?

Gah. This display causes Luke to both shove Dean onto what probably used to be Jess’s bed before, and to tell Rory to maybe not go to the wedding after all. Good choice.

Dean and Rory then go on to be kind of friends anyway. And he works on the inn’s construction crew, overtime. Hey, what happened to the guy who rubbed it in Rory’s face that he got into a four year college while her loser boyfriend wasn’t even graduating high school? Did the very thing happen Rory feared would happen? Why yes, yes it did.

Dean pretty much drops out of college so he and Lindsay can afford a new house and a car and all other kinds of stuff, which causes Rory to go off on a tirade in DMoFM. Given the nature of this place, this is immediately overheard by Lindsay, who up to this point was apparently cool with Dean and Rory being friends, but then forbids Dean to talk to Rory again. Bossy behavior, and not advisable, but seriously, if your husband was hanging out with his ex, and you heard his ex trashtalking you in public, what would you do?

Well, a few episodes later, we do find out that Dean is, like Rory assumed, the only breadwinner in the house, as Lindsay says herself that she spends her days sitting around and waiting for him, instead of, you know, getting a job or something. Also, she learns to cook from her mother for Dean, and they bring him lunch to the inn every day. And apparently, her mother is over at their place so much that Dean slips away from home to play arcade games every night, since they don’t like him in the way when they’re cleaning up. Furthermore implying that Dean can’t clean up himself or help at all. Yay.

gg5-the-gin-joints-are-at-it-again

Look, his wife is so horribly emasculating she makes him buy female products at DMoFM! Right next to that one guy he totally hates! Dean, by the way, feels the need to justify his purchases to Jess here. The only thing either of you two has to justify himself for are these horrible haircuts. Shame on you both.

Dean and Rory even fight a few times throughout this season, most notably when she berates him for dropping out of college when he delivers a bookcase to her dorm that didn’t fit into the inn. And the other time when he saves Rory from a bad date with a drunk driver, and finds Jess at her dorm. Hence the picture above. Which reminds me.

Jess says something

Aka the other horribly abused horse cadaver this season.

This is Liz. She’s Luke’s sister and Jess’s mother and she drops by to tell Luke about her impending nuptials one day.  Luke isn’t holding his breath though, since she’s had crappy taste in men and several marriages before. She also seems completely unconcerned with where Jess is (presumably still in California) because he called that one time.

Luke didn’t take his failure to straighten Jess out that well, though, and tells her about all the shit that happened last season, and how he stole Jess’s car so he’d go to school. Next day, the car was stolen back, and shortly after it breaks down, stranding Jess back in Stars Hollow for a while.

This leads a few tense moments with Liz’s ultimately very sweet,but also horribly obnoxious and annoying fiancé, who Luke wants to do something about, while Jess is of the opinion that nature will take his course and this guy will be gone soon enough, too. You know, if we’d gotten any of this last season, this might have worked wonders in explaining Jess’s inherent inability to talk about anything personal, but hey. Whatever.

This brief stint in Stars Hollow also features Jess running away every time he sees Rory, until she’s finally fed up with this and runs away from him the one time he wants to talk to her. No, not talk, really. More like, drop off a bomb and run.

My shipper heart can’t possibly contain its delight here, folks.

Oh wait. Wait, it gets better. Jess pops back in for his mother’s wedding, the first part of the season finale, and just when you finally thinks he gets it because of Luke and self-help books, he asks Rory to run away to New York with him. For reasons.

And also his worst haircut yet. This, of course, happens right after Rory called a married man to save her from a horrible date, said married man is telling her how she makes him laugh while his wife only makes him miserable, and things are extremely uncomfortable. Or just uncomfortable enough to make you briefly question whether going with Jess here wouldn’t have ultimately been a better decision than, you know, what happens in the season finale. But first!

Speaking of bombs

The plot explosion episodes of previous seasons have been as effective as they were because they affected both Rory and Lorelai deeply and changed the dynamic of the show for the episodes to come. “Tick, tick, tick, boom” and “Afterboom” attempt the same thing, but they fall juust a bit short.

So what’s the deal? Actually, it is very much about deals. In fact, the show turns into some sort of business thriller straight out of the 50ies for a while, with men talking and making important decisions over golf games or in cigar rooms.

Jason’s dad wants to have a reconciliation dinner with Richard and Emily. And also Rory and Lorelai because this dinner has to happen on a Friday. Lorelai and Jason are still keeping their relationship a secret, and yet Lorelai is worried enough about meeting the parents that she dresses up extra nicely or something. It’s a little black dress, nothing too fancy, but everyone has to comment on it.

Dinner is pleasant-ish, as far as these things go, until the men go off into the cigar room, and Jason’s dad drops the bomb on them: He’s suing their company for taking away clients they were contractually obligated not to take away. Jason asserts he never did anything to breach this contract, and his father is aware of that, but intends to bury them with legal fees and the like regardless, stalling them out of all their capital and Richard’s pension, which he put up as security for his firm.

Dick move, that.

Also, Jason’s father had a PI tail Jason for a while, so this is also when Lorelai and Jason’s relationship is revealed.

It’s actually kinda cool to watch, but it also makes you question what kind of show you’re watching again. It then ends over yet another golf game, in which Richard and Jason’s dad decide to screw Jason over. His dad drops the lawsuit, Richard and all his clients return to his previous place of employment, despite all they did to him, and Jason ends up empty-handed.

This, of course, all affects Richard and Emily, and also Lorelai and Jason, but Rory is completely left out. Seriously, they don’t even mention that maybe Richard losing money like that could affect her stay at Yale or something. Get her involved, people!

When Lorelai finds out about this, she tries to talk her father out of suing Jason, which would cause him to have to leave the east coast because his reputation would be ruined or something, but Richard will have none of it, as otherwise he’d lose his entire existence, apparently. Lorelai storms off. All of this is witnessed by Emily, who then also tries to talk Richard out of it, as it might be what finally drives Lorelai away from them permanently.

When Jason decides to move against Richard and his father by suing them back, Lorelai breaks up with him, because she can’t be with someone who’s suing her father. Okay then. I think given how Jason is being screwed over here, suing back is totally justified, but hey. It’s nice to have a family theme going, I guess.

Luke can see her face

Oh look who I saved to talk about for almost last! It’s Luke!

First thing, Luke did not listen to his dream Lorelai last season and got married to Nicole on their cruise. Always listen to your dream Lorelais, people! Meaning the first few episodes are about him dealing with getting divorced from Nicole. Right until she shows up and suggests dating again, and wait a minute, something is different about her.

gg5-somethings-different-about-nicole

Oh, yay, Luke now has a blond wife to get rid of, too! Amazing. I thought I was kidding about the show hating blond women last time, but come on.

Anyhow. They start dating again, and Luke allegedly moves in with her in that townhouse he can totes afford. Lorelai freaks out about this, because her good friend moved without telling her, until she sees his apartment upstairs and notes that no, he just occasionally sleeps over at best. Hurray?

Luke and Nicole fight and make up over this while trying to break bells in the town church, by the way. And Luke only just got to ask her “why don’t you want me to move?” when they get interrupted by the Reverent, who thanks god someone is finally taking those bells out again.

Behold, probably Lorelai’s greatest winter outfit on the show.

After that, it’s the part when Jess returns. Luke is upset about Liz’s idiot fiancé and wants to do something about it with Jess, who chooses this moment to tell him how unwanted his help always is and how he guilt trips people and is basically a burden to everyone around him. Classy.

Luke takes this very hard, and ends up at Lorelai’s house fixing things, but breaking more things than he fixes, because he’s also drunk. Lorelai pulls him out of this funk, because this relationship is actually pretty well-balanced most of the time. By the way, Liz also first thinks Lorelai is the wife, because she’s Luke’s type. She also gives Luke earrings she makes to give to his wife – and guess who gets them instead.

Then there’s an episode that features Rory and Lorelai both failing; Rory in having to drop a class, and Lorelai in not having the funds to keep construction on the inn going, and they’re also failing to actually talk to each other, constantly missing the other’s calls. It’s a pretty strong episode, and ends on a touching, but also uncomfortable note.

Subtle.

Lorelai asks Luke for a loan for the inn, because that’s how desperate she is at this point, and Luke of course gives it to her. They make out the particulars on a paper napkin, in the Emily raids a mall episode. Because that wasn’t emotionally devastating enough already.

I mean, when they finally get to see each other, Rory and Lorelai wear roses in their lapels so they’ll recognize each other after all these weeks apart. At the end of the episode, Lorelai gives the rose from her lapel to Luke.

gg5-he-smells-the-rose-omfg

AND HE WALKS AWAY SMELLING IT AND OH MY GOD I CAN’T AAAAAH.

Yes they’re both more or less dating different people at the time, but shush. The state of Luke’s marriage is ever a questionable one. In fact, after finding out that Nicole is probably cheating on him, he finalizes the thing two episodes later. After beating up the other guys car and having to be bailed out of jail by Lorelai, that is. She does things for Luke too, you guys.

This most recent failure finally causes Luke to want to make a change in his life. So he goes out and buys self-help book that are supposed to help him find love. They include an exercise in how to figure out who you want to spend the rest of your life with, and well. Luke can see her face.

  

A tale of pink dresses

Stricken by this sudden revelation we all totally didn’t have four seasons ago, Luke finally, finally actually makes a move. No, really. Instead of waiting for Lorelai to fall into his arms for being the nice guy who always helps her and fixes things, he does the radical thing: he asks her out. To his sister’s ridiculous wedding.

By the way, he carts Jess into town for that one, too. He walks his mom down the aisle in his worst outfit and haircut yet.

jess-mom-wedding

Jess, by the way, was living in a rundown apartment with a bunch of other people on dirty mattresses when Luke picked him up. He is allegedly not a drug dealer. So what does he earn his money with, and why does he live there, and who are these people? Commit, show!

By the way, this also leads us to the following exchange:

Luke: Look, if you really hate your mother this much, you shouldn’t walk her down the aisle, and you shouldn’t be here.
Jess: I don’t hate my mother.
Luke: Okay. Is it me, then? You hate me that much?
Jess: I don’t… Hate you. I… came here because of you.

Don’t mind me, I’m just bawling my eyes out over here.

Anyway. The wedding is… Ren-fair themed, because Liz and TJ work on one. It’s a pretty nice affair, actually, but what sticks out to me is, well, Lorelai’s choice of attire.

Haven’t we seen something like this before?

Come on, the resemblance is uncanny, okay? This is not just in my head, dammit.

Come on, the resemblance is uncanny, okay? This is not just in my head, dammit.

Anyway, Luke and Lorelai hit it off on their first actual kind of date. It also features Lorelai catching Jess with Luke’s self-help books, which Luke gave to him after Jess told him about the Rory thing. Liz drops the hint that Lorelai will be a great sister in law to someone. Really. Subtle.

We also find out that Luke can waltz.

Dancing is almost as sexy as… No, screw this, this is really sexy.

So Luke brings Lorelai home, and asks her to see a movie next week or some time, which in front of an independent jury consisting of Rory and also the audience means that yes. Finally. They are totally dating. Woohoo!

Speaking of woohoo moments, before taking off, Jess waits to catch Luke and thank him for everything he’s done for him. And also insists on paying Luke back eventually. They then awkwardly quote the self-help books at each other. And then… Then…

gg5-im-always-here-jess

“I’m here, Jess. I’m always here.” – “Thanks.”

DID I MENTION I’M BAWLING?!

And just when you think yes, this is a nice send-off for Jess, he pulls that stunt at Rory’s dorm, and you are reminded why Rory’s B-Plots this season are so inferior.

The Grand Opening

Well, no, the test run of one. The entire town is invited to the finally-done Dragonfly, and I gotta say, as far as satisfying endings go, half of this episode is right up there with that of season 3. The other half involves Dean.

Dean, who is mad at Rory because Jess was at her place, so he freezes her out, until they talk and declare in that Max-is-so-irresistible kind of breathlessness that Dean is only mad because Jess doesn’t treat Rory right. Then they almost kiss before they’re interrupted.

There’s also a scene with Rory and Lane, where Rory talks about what happened at her dorm the other night, and how she’d always felt so totally safe with the guy who yelled at her for having a school project with another guy, having other people over at her house, having extracurricular activities for Harvard, who threatened to kill someone in her presence, and who stalked her then-boyfriend into dark alleys so much that boyfriend had reason to think he might have defend himself against this guy eventually, and then actually had to. Yeah. Totally the kind of guy to feel save around.

Lane then says: “Yeah, but you dumped him.”

I go: “Oh my god, is this gaslighting contagious?”

Rory goes: “Yeah, I really blew it there.”

And I go: “WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT, HE DUMPED YOU, WHAT IS THIS CRAP, ALSO HE’S MARRIED, WHAT ARE YOU DOING.”

Meanwhile, Lorelai and Rory have had the suspicion that Emily and Richard broke up over all those shady business deals a few episodes back, and to confirm this theory, Lorelai makes them stay at the holiday suite of the Dragonfly, after guilt-tripping them into attending the test run due to family obligation. She truly did learn from the best.

This causes Emily to snap at Lorelai and confront her about it and reveal the break-up after a few episodes of awkwardness. It had been a long time coming, though.

Just like the grand opening of the inn! We’ve been following Lorelai trying to get this place to run for almost every single episode of the season, seen her deal with all of the shit, stress out over everything, and it is finally done and pretty and running!

dragonfly-dry-run

Meanwhile Lorelai also deals with the ambiguous question of whether or not she is dating Luke, and runs into doors over this conundrum on occasion. It’s pretty entertaining and also cute to see her thrown-off like that.

I can’t stress enough just how great it is to see the place up and running, though. It just feels so earned! Like Rory’s graduation! Honestly, combine Rory’s plot from last season with Lorelai’s plot from this one, and it’d be the perfect season with the perfect ending, but alas.

gg5-gaaaaaah

Why settle for one triangle when you can have two?

Jason hasn’t really gotten the memo about him and Lorelai being broken up, shows up at the inn, refuses to leave, and insists he and Lorelai are meant to be. And is very bad at hearing no, in a long-standing tradition of men on the show.

Luke eventually comes over there to actually quite pleasantly make small-talk and find out why he’s here. And after hearing Jason repeat the crap about him and Lorelai still being together, Luke confronts Lorelai about it, and on whether or not his intentions have been obvious. And Lorelai has to admit, yeah, they have been obvious, but also, Jason is talking out of his ass, and what am I even doing narrating this.

Cheesy? Yes. Earned? FUCK YES.

Ahem. But because we can’t have nice things, a naked and screaming Kirk comes running down the stairs, requiring Lorelai to run home and get band aids after he falls into a rose bush.

Which finally leads to Lorelai coming upon this:

gg5-whoops

Yes, the race for Rory’s hymen is finally over, and in true Dean-fashion, the scene is uncomfortable to the max. When Lorelai goes off on Rory (“He’s moving out? He’s getting divorced? He’s got a lawyer?”), she’s actually asking questions Rory tried asking herself, but Dean just kept on talking about how his marriage was a mistake and isn’t working out and how they both know that, and doesn’t let her get a word in. And then they just… Do it. Right there. Rory claims it was safe, so someone apparently carried a condom around with them, or something. Meaning Dean was prepared for this? And she gets really mad when Lorelai points out that she’s the other woman now.

So… Rory sleeps with a man who is in a committed relationship with a woman he also lives with, after nothing but flimsy assurances that it’s over, and they both feel it. I wonder where she got that from.

Okay, Lorelai shoots that down immediately (“I set one crappy example for you, and you have no choice but to follow in my footsteps?”), but still. Things there affected Rory, and that especially shows up around Dean.

Also, this show never leaves out an opportunity to twist facts around.

“He was my boyfriend first!”

“But you dumped him, you rejected him, you picked someone else!”

Was 3×07 just some sort of mass hallucination we all had?

Rory storms off and tries to call Dean, but breaks down into tears when Lindsay answers, and that’s the image we end the season on. Way to kill my buzz, show.

gg5-buzzkill

Conclusion

Yeah. Season 4 is so weird to me. I mean, I was always more in the target audience of Rory’s storylines, but this is where I start to just get annoyed by her constantly. Her storylines this season were half-assed to insufferable, her arc was a downward spiral, and the place she is left off at is just… Ugh. Both Dean and Jess could have just stayed away from her this season, the college stuff could have been so much better, but nooo.

And the frustrating part is that from here on out, Lorelai’s stories on the show, at least until the steaming crap fire that is season 7, are pretty great. I love her part of this season. I love about 90% of her interactions with Luke, and damn I love the hell out of the scenes between Luke and Jess.

That doesn’t change the fact that Rory’s half just drags everything down. Not to rock bottom, oh no, but… Down. And yet, being mostly through season 5 at this point, I already miss this season plenty.

Random Remarks

  • The first episode has Lorelai and Rory mentioning that they took a train from Paris to Prague. Why. Why would you do that. Not that these aren’t beautiful cities to visit, but it would take around 8 hours, and you’d be crossing all of Switzerland and Austria like that, or southern Germany. All beautiful places to visit outside of a train coach you’re stuck in for 8 hours.
  • The take-out marathon in episode 2 features the following exchange: “Germany fell on France half an hour ago.” – “Well, that’s Germany for you.” Outside of being the second nazi joke that episode, what the hell is German take-out food? Pommes Currywurst? I shudder just thinking about it. Sauerkraut and Schweinshaxe? Well, that sure gets the party going. Someone enlighten me.
  • Tragically friendzoned Marty will have to wait until next season.
  • Stars Hollow High has its own fight song. They sing it during Dean’s Bachelor Party.
  • During the Mall Raid, they take Emily to the fast food court and she eats a hamburger with a knife and fork. It’s hilarious.
  • This season has too many stupid and uncomfortable Kirk sideplots.
  • But that’s nothing compared to next season.
  • The inn has horses!gg5-da-steht-ein-pferd-auf-dem-flur
  • Sometimes they even stay in the stables
  • The spring break episode even brings back Madeline and Louise to remind us all how great a guy Dean is!
  • There’s a pretty good chance I’d actually maybe kind of tolerate Dean if the show didn’t insist on twisting facts around in his favor.
  • I’ll get into parallels and theories when I cover my expectations for the revival. Soon.
  • When I say Asher Fleming is almost worthy of Paris, I mean that he’s not horrible like Doyle and wouldn’t hold her back in life. I don’t mean to excuse the fact that this is a 60 year old guy regularly dating girls the same age as his grandchildren.
  • Rory and Paris have two more roommates, Tara and Janet. They’re completely irrelevant. Just imagine what had happened if they’d had roommates that could have contributed to the story. So much wasted potential.
  • This season has some great music choices. The Shin’s “So Says I” is way too cool to be played at a club during Spring Break, and Luke and Lorelai waltz to “Reflecting Light” by Sam Philips.
  • Favorite episodes are difficult, because as much as I love 21 and 22, Dean kinda drags down everything. So I’m going with 2. And Scene in a Mall, actually. That one just kept on breaking my heart.
  • Worst episode is also hard, the beginning stuff with Rory is kinda boring, but I’m going to settle on episode 10. It has Rory thinking the guy she asked out in the laundry room has been spreading stories about her and acting passive-aggressive in response. It has Michel the baby sitter. And it has no redeeming qualities.
  • On my scoring system, season 4 averaged a 3.52. Everything under a 3.5 actively bores me, and starting at 2.5 I start to get mad at the entire episode. 2.5 has only happened in season 5 so far.

Images courtesy of the WB.

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Jana should be studying for her law degree right now. She prefers to obsess over pop culture instead.

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