It’s a sad fact of life but even in a town as magically quirky as Stars Hollow, where a Tennessee Williams look-a-like contest can put a bridge repair fund “right over the top” – thank you Taylor Doose (Michael Winters) – it’s still possible to have your heart broken.
Yes, even in the middle of a retro ’40s-themed 24 hours Dance Marathon, an annual fundraising tradition where Kirk (Sean Gunn) of all people is the reigning, and might be add, none too gracious champion of five years standing, love’s contrary hand can reach in, grab that bunch of roses, and put it through a paper shredder.
One shaped like, oh I don’t know, Jess (Vilo Ventimiglia) who turns up at said dance contest, which once again gives full vent to Stars Hollows’ gloriously giddy propensity to go deliciously over the top (and not just in bridge repair funds, and Mrs Kim’s (Emily Kuroda) mountain of dubiously-tasty faux-egg salad sandwiches), and spends his time, not so much watching everyone succumb to exhaustion and broken heels, but unsettling Rory (Alexis Bledel) and right royally pissing off Dean (Jared Padalecki) to the point where be breaks up with a nearly-asleep Rory in hour 23 of the contest.
In front of everyone – well everyone who was left standing or sitting anyway – and in a small town in an echoey hall where you can’t fail to hear every word said.
Not exactly anyone’s finest moment really but then everyone is punch drunk with tiredness, the egg sandwiches are about to turn to concrete and love waits for no man or woman, not one’s as cute together as Dean and Rory.
And that’s the thing about Gilmore Girls that makes it so damn compulsively watchable.
Sure it’s ticking every quirky, idiosyncratic small town box on the list and doing with joyously silly vigour, but it’s also a fine drama, one that understands that life doesn’t happen when it’s convenient or un-messy; it just happens and people are left to deal with the consequences come what may.
Even in a town as picture-perfect as Stars Hollow.
To balance things out though, and to prove that Cupid isn’t being a total douchebag that night, Paris (Liza Weil), she of the unmovable deadlines and the steamroller work ethic that plows slower, less-committed beings under, finds herself giddy in love, if you can believe it.
To her surprise Jamie (Brandon Barash), who she went on a date with in Washington a little while back and who professed to like her, returns to town, declares that she can’t think of anything but Paris and asks her out on a coffee date.
Yep just like that, and like a romantic Xanax, he mellows Paris out to the point where she – GASP – agrees to move a school newspaper planning meeting for the 75th edition out a week. Truly miracles do happen!
Even Lane finds her love life, tiptoeing happily forward with Dave (Adam Brody) who pretends, all of his own accord, to adore Mrs Kim egg sandwiches and even more crucially to be a Bible-believing young acolyte who at 5am is simply waiting for his parents to emerge from an all-night Bible study session.
It’s all very sweet, Lane can’t stop smiling, and it underscores how even when love is having a hissy fit – to be fair it was obvious for a while that Jess and Rory had to be together but still … – that Gilmore Girls mostly lets love true love do its thing in a town where fairy lights strung up along Main Street are de rigeur and not a seasonal whim.
Sure there are a potholes along the way – Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) and Jackson (Jackson Douglas) spend much of the marathon having their first marital spat over whether Sookie should have 4 kids in 4 years and whether Lorelai (Lauren Graham should have proffered an opinion on the matter; good news, it blows over – but mostly love is all smooth sailing, fast, smooth talking with Amy Sherman-Palladino’s trademark crispy, witty dialogue on full display, and heartwarming outcomes.
Unless you’re Rory or Lorelai Gilmore.
To be fair, Lorelai gets off fairly easy this episode, sharing one special, high heel-gluing moment with Luke (Scott Patterson) who admits he actually likes kids and would be happy to have some if he met the right person – in front of you! For the love of Miss Patty’s gorgeous silk dress, in front of you! – her only great loss failing to beat Kirk in the contest.
It’s Rory who has to deal with love’s dead hand of romantic disappointment and in a spectacularly public way.
Yes, it was obvious for ages that she and Dean were done for, spiralling into a bland melange of romantic apathy, and that of course literate, intelligent, sweet-hearted with a bad boy persona Jess was the one for her, but the dumping of Rory still comes as a bit of a surprise.
Having said that, it’s written so well, and with so much recognition of the potboiler emotions at play and their inevitable spilling over in that messily practical way that life loves so much dammit, that it all makes sense.
And in a way gives Rory the beginnings of a happy ending, even if she collapses into Lorelai as the contest ends, her heart quite clearly broken.
Yes life can can be cruel and unpredictable, even in the gilded goofiness of Stars Hollow, and it as we have come to expect, also festooned with all manner of pop-culture laden dialogue exchanges and references.
Everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Bobby Brady, Teddy Bundy to Tiny Tim, and even Martha Graham get a guernsey, proof that there is no situation that can’t include a pithy reference to a major celebrity or two, one expressed so perfectly that you accept without a word of complaint that real people speak this eloquently and literately. (That’s the joy of Gilmore Girls – Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing is so gorgeously well done that she makes the show’s level of witty banter seem quite normal, making your own contributions to public discourse just that little bit less impressive.)
Naturally too we have films – Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Boxing Helena, Saturday Night Fever and Blue Velvet – literature – The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and the episode-perfect They Shoot Horse Don’t They? (see Gilmore Girls wiki on the episode for its corollary with the plot of the episode) and music with The Who getting a look-in.
It’s quintessential Gilmore Girls – the reality of living breaking into a picture postcard setting, a reminder that while towns may look just like the doctor ordered, life very rarely plays along as we’d like it to.
It’s all handled poetically and romantically and with great understanding and insight, once again balancing whimsy and quirkiness with hard-nosed realities in a way that oddly can’t help but leave you smiling in recognition.