“You have a Rory box?”
Yes. I have a Rory box. A Rory box full of all the dumb things Rory’s done in Gilmore Girls. This is my ode to the writing of Gilmore Girls, which, on an episode-by-episode basis is extremely well-done, and it’s doing something super difficult, which is: be both snappy and intelligent. But those of us who love/live Gilmore Girls (it’s a lifestyle) all have our gripes with some of the outcomes, especially as the series progresses. So here we go: How certain stuff actually happened in Gilmore Girls verses how it SHOULD HAVE happened in Gilmore Girls, according to, well, me. (WARNING: This post is very pro-Jess. If you don’t like Jess, you’re probably in the wrong place.)
How it Should Have Happened: The Rory Version (The Lorelai Version, as well as a jig, is forthcoming):
1. How it actually happened: End of season 4 (4.21: Last Week Fights, This Week Tights) – Dean picks Rory up from her date from hell (Veronica Mars cameo: Duncan Kane!) and gives her a ride back to Yale. That same night, Jess intercepts at Rory’s dorm, asks Rory to run away with him to New York. We all die. Rory tells him to go. We all die twice. One episode later, in Raincoats and Recipes, Rory sleeps with (married) Dean in her childhood bed. Jess, as far as we know, is in the wind. At the beginning of season 5, Dean and Lindsey get a divorce, and then Dean and Rory get back together.
Analysis: First, I completely understand why Rory returns to Dean in season 4. She is at a crossroads. Away from home, Rory turns out to be more sheltered and unsure of herself than we previously understood. Despite being raised by a single mother, Rory is sort of a classic Millennial: Never actually having experienced a single moment of rejection in her entire life, naturally, at the first sign of “setback,” she freaks out. Not only does she freak out, she experiences a complete and total regression which culminates in her losing her virginity to her high school boyfriend–and not just ANY high school boyfriend: she loses her virginity to dopey Ol’ Faithful Dean. Dean: who worships at the Rory altar, who, while they were still together, never challenged Rory a day in her life. This is the same boy that Rory dumped specifically BECAUSE of his predictability, but that was way back when things were good. When she was valedictorian. When she was student body vice president and on the verge of getting into Princeton, Harvard, AND Yale. Et cetera. “Rory’s used to getting what Rory wants,” says Lorelai toward the end of season 7. And when Rory doesn’t get what Rory wants? Well, that’s pretty much the brunt of seasons 5 and 6. She sleeps with Dean! She steals a yacht! It’s almost comical.
But while I believe that she’s in a classic millennial conundrum, I don’t believe she’s THIS weak. THIS desperate. THIS much in denial. I HATE that she sleeps with Dean, but I believe it. What I don’t believe is the relationship that ensues when Rory returns from Europe and Dean and Lindsey get a divorce. Barf.
So, how it should have happened (Scenario 1): Rory sends Jess away that fateful night, just as we believe she would. She also has sex with Dean. It’s just as awkward and horrible as we remember: twin bed, pink sheets, “Candy Man,” oh god.
But Rory has her holy-shit-you’re-married revelation way earlier–in Europe, to be exact–and it’s way more intense. In my version, she grows the fuck up, or she simply employs that Rory Gilmore logic that’s been so groomed up until this point. She stops being such a little bitch as soon as possible and, though deeply embarrassed, reclaims her dignity and does what has to be done, and after that, she’s through. Maybe it’s because I’m married now, but I really feel like shit for Lindsey at the beginning of season 5. Her desperation–how her entire marriage hinges on a plate of roast beef–I cry for her. In any case, I don’t want them to get a divorce. Or, I don’t want to know about it, and I don’t want it to be Rory. I want Lindsey and Dean to fade away into the Stars Hollow oblivion. Maybe move back to Chicago. Either way, in my version, Lindsey does not find the letter.
So even though Rory sucks at rejection, she’s still self-aware enough to understand the stigma attached to being the “other woman,” and while she may have made the mistake of having sex with Dean, she’s not going to date him. Again. She’s just way too smart for that. And Lindsey finding the letter is cheap drama. It’s easy. We’ve been rooting against this marriage for a while, but Lindsey, despite her naivete, has never done anything to deserve such an exit. At this point, we all hate Dean. So why keep him around for eight more episodes? Dean and Rory 2.o is somehow both flat and humiliating to watch: their rendezvous at Doose’s with chip pieces and smooshed sandwiches? Their weird, cramped sex in Rory’s Prius? Sad. PURPOSELY sad. If I had it my way, I’d be rid of it altogether.
How it should have happened (Scenario 2): In my version, it’s also possible that Rory DOES run away with Jess, or, something to that effect. Plus, I know this would make a lot of my friends really happy. In this version, Rory doesn’t call Dean to come pick her up from her date from hell. In this version, Rory DOES have money at the restaurant, and she is self-sufficient enough to get herself a taxi. She doesn’t call Dean, because she knows (REALLY knows) that he’s married, and she sees him turning down a dangerous route (especially given the current situation with her grandparents’ separation), and because she is Rory, she’s going to take the conservative path and head disaster off at the pass. It’s also possible that she DOES call Dean, but that Lindsey answers. This is a terrible omen, which deters Rory from any further action.
When she returns to her dorm, Jess is waiting for her, but instead of freaking the fuck out, confessing his love like a maniac, and asking her to run away with him, Jess calmly apologizes for having left her in the lurch (twice), and the reason he’s there is, not to sweep her off her feet, but because he couldn’t wait another moment to make things right. Rory, still sort of confused about the whole Dean thing, thanks Jess for his apology, and the two part. He doesn’t stick around. Out of chivalry, I suppose, which is new for Jess.
At the end of the episode, Rory is still very flustered by the turn of events–Jess and Dean fighting over her AGAIN, only now the dynamic’s changed, and Jess is the sensible one. What does she do? Well, she goes back to Stars Hollow to attend the test run for the Dragonfly, just like she was always going to. She and her mom bond over their “pretty spinster” seasons full of stray cats and pictures with Eli Yale. She thinks she may see Jess there (that he might attend with Luke), but when she doesn’t, she’s a little let down, but Rory is Rory–stoic, remember. It happens, though, at the end of the night–when Rory is on her way back from picking up CDs (the trip that initially ended with Dean stalking her and the two of them getting randy). She runs into Jess in front of the Inn. He’s there with flowers, of all things, a symbol of himself as a “changed man,” something he learned from that dorky self-help tape. It’s also an echo of Luke and Lorelai. Rory and Jess sit on the front porch. They “hang.” It’s like old times, and because they’ve never truly had closure, it’s almost as if nothing’s changed. The episode actually ends ambiguously. They’re on the porch. They smile at each other. They laugh. Fade to black.
What happens next?: Well, Rory definitely doesn’t go to Europe, though we definitely follow Emily there for a few scenes (“The view! It’s changed!”). Then, rather than bang Dean in her Prius, go on awkward grocery store dates, and sit on the floor with him watching TV in his childhood bedroom for eight episodes (just awk), Rory and Jess get back together and attempt to start over from scratch. They are very careful. You see, unlike Rory and Dean, Rory and Jess are UNFINISHED. They have much to achieve, which leaves much in the way of potential awesomeness. Rory and Jess 2.0 is wrought with innovation–as Rory is trying desperately to overcome the shock of freshman year, and Jess is, well, trying to find his place in the world. Rory loses her virginity to Jess after the Town Selectman election. I’m not sure where yet, though probably somewhere creative. In Stars Hollow for sure. Because, hey: it’s spontaneous! They’ve been waiting. They’ve been cautious. But something about all that civic pride…time to get weird. Let’s say they do it at Miss Patty’s, while Lane’s band plays in the background. In any case, they do it, and it’s wonderful, and it’s right.
Wow, this is really super fun wish fulfillment. Who DOESN’T wish they could go back and see Rory lose her virginity to Jess?
2. How it actually happened: Rory enters an open relationship with Logan Huntzberger, ends up dating him for almost two seasons. Believe it or not, Logan becomes Rory’s epic love story. He proposes to her for crying out loud.
Analysis: I understand the writers wanting to go this route. Dean is the small town first love; Jess is the big city bad boy. The only unexplored territory left (per the politics of the show) is Logan Huntzberger, blond and old-money-arrogant bastard. Logan makes sense. Plus, I think Rory kind of needs him. He opens up her world a little bit, introduces her to a life outside Stars Hollow. Without Logan, it’s possible that Rory would never fully outgrow her emotionally stunted and rather sheltered existence. So I’m not saying that I don’t want Rory to date Logan. I’m just saying that I want Logan to be more of an interruption–a season-long interruption to her relationship with JESS.
So, how it should have happened: The first chunk of season 5 unfolds much like it already does, only Rory is dating Jess instead of Dean. This means that Rory’s grandparents become similarly meddling. Jess, however, doesn’t break up with Rory at her grandparents’ house, after the Male Yale party. You see, Rory would never have forgotten about Jess (like she did about doormat Dean), and she would have known better than to invite Jess to meet her at her grandparents’ house. Anyway, it turns out that Jess, after obtaining his GED, gets a job at a small publishing house in Philadelphia. He takes the job, and even though Rory talks about going with him, (“I could transfer to the University of Pennsylvania,” she says. “It’s not Philadelphia, but we can make it work.”) Jess won’t let her come. He wants her to stay at Yale, achieve her dreams on her own. (“We’ll see each other,” he says. “This isn’t over, Rory. You and me.”)
Anyway, Jess leaves the night of the Yale Male party, and Rory is devastated, but she’s still Rory. She’s forward-moving. She rarely dwells. She instead throws herself into her work at the paper. Then, when her research into the Life and Death Brigade leads her to Logan Huntzberger, their coupling makes sense: Rory’s on the rebound, Logan’s on the prowl. In my version, You Jump, I Jump, Jack (5.7) comes after the Male Yale party, and when Rory is single. Her exhilarating “once-in-a-lifetime experience” with the Life and Death Brigade then symbolizes a very important transformation for Rory: she is somebody new, somebody who takes chances, and so it makes sense that she’d take a chance on Logan. To hell with commitment! For a while, she seems to forget all about Jess.
But this is where I start finding myself extremely unhappy with the writers’ choices in Gilmore Girls: At the end of season 5, Rory goes from the level-headed, well-adjusted, down-to-earth girl she’s always been, a girl who expects success, who finds it no matter what the obstacle, to a spoiled little rich girl who allows the Huntzbergers to control both her life and her future. She relinquishes agency and hands over the reigns to Logan. And you know what the worst part is? He takes them. Gladly.
3. How it actually happened: Mitchum Huntzberger tells Rory she “don’t got it.” Rory, in all of her anger and frustration, finds Logan and the two of them steal a yacht. After getting arrested, Rory uses the experience as an excuse to drop out of Yale and take some time off to find herself. Lorelai, in her attempts to reason with Rory, actually ends up driving her away, and Rory moves in with her grandparents–the ultimate slap in the face to the mother who did nothing but support her and make every sacrifice on her behalf for her entire life. Rory is suddenly a petulant child who estranges herself from her mother’s life and Stars Hollow. Season 6 is the worst.
Analysis: While I can make excuses for the whole Dean affair, and I can understand Rory’s infatuation with Logan Huntzberger, I cannot for the life of me find Rory even a little bit likable for the first half of season 6. Her actions are those of a child, and they are not consistent with the Rory we know. She goes from being a heroine, a role model even, to basically a character on Gossip Girl, living in her grandparents’ $45,000 sex house and working at the D.A.R. while finishing up her community service, and, you know what, I couldn’t tell you why. I cannot explain why Rory drops out of Yale. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a spoiled and petty move. Rory has always been extremely grateful for everything her mother and grandparents have done for her: to drop out of Yale is to send the message that none of that matters, and so far, Rory has shown herself to be so respectful and polite it’s kind of sickening–therefore, it’s just totally unbelievable. Sometimes I think they wrote that whole thing just so they could find an excuse to bring Jess back to set her straight. It’s frustrating.
After Rory steals that yacht, I find most of her decisions to be antithetical to the Rory we’ve known and loved for five seasons. I think they kind of removed her backbone, her sense of pride, her gracious nature and connection to her roots. And I don’t know why. I can only hope that the Palladinos were being pressured by the network to add more drama, because let’s face it: up until season 6, Gilmore Girls was so lovable precisely because its drama was always low stakes and realistic, and it was always couched in its signature humor. There was NEVER any high drama. Even Richard and Emily’s separation was done quietly, and boy did it take a long, long time to breach the surface. Richard and Emily’s separation is probably the most well-written, believable arc of the entire show, and it was never “high drama.” Gilmore Girls was never a show where a character steals a yacht and goes to jail and shuns her mother and drops out of college. It was never a show about long-lost daughters and ultimatums in the square–not until season 6. It just wasn’t.
So, how it should have happened: First of all, after Mitchum tells Rory “she don’t got it,” there’s no way Rory steals a yacht. That’s…first and foremost. Even if she does have the crazy idea of stealing a yacht, there’s no way Logan allows her to do it. I don’t care how much of an arrogant putz he actually is. HE AND RORY DO NOT STEAL A YACHT TOGETHER. It’s ridiculous. I hate that decision. It’s high drama and manipulative and completely full of shit. It’s a play for ratings. It’s the kind of decision that, had I not loved the first four seasons so furiously, had the potential to turn me off to the show forever. That’s how much I hate the fact that Rory and her asshole boyfriend STEAL A YACHT.
Anyway, so they don’t steal the yacht, and that changes everything. What the fuck happens if they don’t steal that yacht? WELP, the world opens up. Rory, rather than feeding into Mitchum’s bullshit with her insecurities, actually becomes wildly defensive. She even blames Logan…for not defending her, of course, when she tells him the story of what happened. Like we’ve already established, Rory’s used to getting what Rory wants, and when she doesn’t get it, she gets upset. She may become a little insecure, but she definitely doesn’t lash out rebelliously. She seeks comfort in the people she loves (re: Dean in season 4) and the stuff she knows. In any case, she certainly doesn’t believe Mitchum. She already kind of hates the Huntzbergers. They’re total snobs. And it bothers me that she’s so desperate for their approval (“But…I’m a Gilmore!”) that she would allow Mitchum to crush her dreams like that. She is also extremely quick to abandon her roots once he does. In other words, the more rejection she gets from these people, the more desperate she is to become one of them. It’s pathetic, and it’s not Rory.
So, instead, after the whole thing with Mitchum, Rory becomes disillusioned with Logan and everything he stands for. Therefore, instead of stealing a yacht and getting arrested, Rory spends her season 5 finale driving to Philadelphia to see Jess, because if there’s anyone who can put her back together again in a time of crisis, it’s him. In fact, the last shot is Jess opening the door to his apartment, Rory standing there, and him saying, “Come in.” For the audience, it’s an excitement and a revelation. We haven’t seen Jess in a while, and we’ve been rooting him.
In conclusion: My ultimate fantasy for Rory at the end of Gilmore Girls is that she, in fact, ends up jobless after college (just like we all do), and she goes on that roller coaster road trip with her mother after all. I think it’s sort of disingenuous to seal everything off with a bow and a job on the Barack Obama campaign, also Christiane Amanpour in the Dragonfly. SUPER contrived. I’m also certain that season 5 is not the last we see of Logan Huntzberger. In fact, a Logan/Jess rivalry is right in the Gilmore Girls wheelhouse. It’s probable that Jess catches Rory in her weakened, rich girl element and bolts either to New York or back to Philadelphia, feeling inadequate and insecure. But in the end, they both somehow end up in New York. It’s probable that, once she gets back from her roller coaster road trip, Rory DOES get that internship at the NY Times, and she ends up another small fish in a massive pond, her next batch of trials ripe ready for conquer. Meanwhile, Jess gets a better job at a slightly bigger indie press in Brooklyn, and my best guess? Rory and Jess meet back in Washington Square Park, their old haunt, and it’s probably by accident. Because let’s face it: They’re meant to be.