I am so sorry to start off a recap this way, but it’s time to face the truth: Our beloved Rory Gilmore has grown up to be an entitled asshole. When I look back on Gilmore Girls, I think of Rory in her sweet Chilton uniform, stealing the valedictorian spot away from Paris. I think of her reading constantly and engaging intellectually with her little corner of the world. I think of her delighting and uniting her parents (birth father and father figures alike) as well as her grandparents. Her taste in men was her only true fault. We were all rooting for her.
But then I remember her time off from Yale, crashing in her grandparents’ pool house while doing it with Logan Huntzberger and not speaking to her mom, and I realize that Rory has always had the ability to disappoint us. It’s not that we should object to her feeling adrift, or that we should judge her consistently bad taste in men. (Many of us who’ve survived our early thirties know what that’s like, and even Paris is feeling insecure — she’s megasuccessful and she has a five-story townhouse in Manhattan, but her briefcase is empty. Quite the metaphor.) And it’s not that Rory’s ghostwriting gig fell through, either. We all know that book wasn’t going to be the next Cloud Atlas and it’s good she got out.
It’s that we’re now three hours into Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and we’ve yet to see Rory with a book in her hand. It’s that she’s rested on her meager laurels, even though one Talk of the Town and a few pieces on Slate does not a career make. It’s that she’s hooking up with Logan while he’s engaged to some socialite. It’s that she falls asleep during a reporting job for GQ, sleeps with one of her subjects, and then immediately tells her mom about it: “I slept with a Wookiee.” It’s that she’s totally unprepared for an interview at Sandee Says, a startup website that seems corny yet on the brink of great success. (They could totally take over HuffPo within the year.)
If Rory is way less self-aware than we might have hoped, then at least her mom and grandmother are trying. Sort of. Lorelai and Emily are finally in therapy! It’s the perfect venue to see all the marvelous dysfunction of their relationship, all the passive and not-so-passive aggression that’s built up over the years. And truly, Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop are doing some of their finest work of the series in these scenes.
Their therapy appointments are characterized by awkward, angry silences, followed by massive blow-ups just as the clock is about to run out. Lorelai offers blanket apologies for everything she’s done wrong ever; Emily doesn’t accept. Emily, who had been married for 50 years, berates Lorelai for living with Luke for the past nine years as “booty buddies” and not husband and wife. Lorelai tries to storm out of the session, but it has already ended. When Emily quits therapy (let’s just hope she got a prescription or two before her unceremonious departure), Lorelai stays on, which means that she finally gets her own Dr. Malfi. We’re used to seeing Lorelai in circumstances where she has to lie or repress her anger, so it’s a nice change to see her be open and honest about her ambitions and her fears. (“I don’t want to be like my mother” is obviously at the top.) Maybe she can bring Rory next time?
Stalled ambition is another key theme for this “Spring” episode. We see Michel feeling frustrated at the Dragonfly, which is hosting B-list actors who are filming a big movie in a neighboring town. “What’s the point of living if we’re never going to bag Jennifer Lawrence?” he cries. Has the Dragonfly peaked, even though Rachel Ray is in the kitchen making sammies? Or, as Rory suggests, will simply playing some Skrillex calm Michel down? Even worse are Richard and Emily’s ambitions for Luke. From the grave, Richard imposes his will on his not-quite son-in-law: He’s left a trust for Luke specifically to expand and franchise Luke’s Diner. Emily is on hand with a real-estate guru within hours.
While Rory hits pause on her globetrotting life to crash with her mom in Stars Hollow for a bit, big questions loom about Lorelai’s future: Do she and Luke have ambitions outside their comfy little town? Can they truly be happy as they are? It seems Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino have read a blog post or two about just how provincial Stars Hollow really is. Along similar lines, “Spring” contains a variety of meta-responses to criticism about the show’s lack of diversity, but it’s hard to tell whether it’s all in fun or just tonally weird and defensive.
The trouble begins with the Stars Hollow International Food Festival, which is run by Taylor and set in the town square. Although 195 countries are supposed to be represented, only 15 show up. Of course, we’re supposed to delight in the comedy of errors that the festival becomes: Lane mans the Korean booth and serves up bibimbap, and Mrs. Kim approaches her daughter’s booth like a drill sergeant followed by a choir of terrified-looking Korean children. “Sing out, Louise Pang!” she screams, like a megareligious Mama Rose. Meanwhile, Gypsy serves paella in the Spanish booth, until Taylor decides that everyone must double up on nationalities and tells her to “whip up a quick poutine, you’re taking over Canada.” There’s also a Vietnamese booth operated by a man we’ve never seen who’s roasting a pig on a spit. Kirk, newly devoted to his dear Petal, accuses the man of “pig genocide.” Then Luke points out that Kirk ate bacon at the diner very recently.
The responses to criticism get even gutsier at the town meeting, where Taylor announces that Stars Hollow will hold its first-ever gay-pride parade on Liza Minnelli’s birthday. Progress! The only problem is, how many people will participate? There’s only one token gay man in town: Donald, who’ll be marching with his chow chow Sherlock. (“Sherlock’s gay?” Babette asks.) “Are you sure you’re not missing anyone?” Gypsy wink-winks. “Absolutely sure?” As if none of the straight people could possibly march in a pride parade.
Meanwhile, Rory and Paris return to Chilton as successful alumni to speak to current students. “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me,” Paris says, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson. The books and the meals have always been integral parts of the Gilmore Girls experience, and yet, nearly everyone seems dissatisfied and unfulfilled in the present day. When Rory confesses to Lorelai that she feels very lost, Lorelai wisely says, “Peaks and valleys, kid.” Here’s hoping the valley of spring will lead to happier summer peaks. Otherwise, what will we watch when we want to escape?
- … Dean?
- … Jess?
- After Kirk’s over-the-top tribute to David Lynch in this episode, will the next one complete a hat trick of Twin Peaks references?
- Why would Chilton ever deign to invite Tristan back to speak?
- C’mon, can’t Rory just talk about Elena Ferrante already?