“Lost And Found” (season 2, episode 15, originally aired 2/26/2002)
Okay guys, we are now in the shit. Voices are being raised, pained looks thrown, Lorelai is saying “bull,” it’s all hands on deck. Jess has graduated from pleasant nuisance to full on sex hurricane and Dean is digging in for dear life, whining and grunting and glowering as best he can in the face of actual charisma. Season two is definitely a slow, gentle build to genuine drama, and “genuine drama” on this show is a bit of yelling about a misplaced bracelet and an early dinner. But come on, Gilmore Girls fans, you know this is what you’ve been waiting for.
At the end of the last episode, Jess collected Rory’s bracelet when she dropped it and kept it, because he’s a sap, or a creep, or both. We can assume he didn’t know its importance (Dean gave it to her after her birthday, if you remember) and he returns it anonymously once he sees what a panic she’s in, so really, not much harm done. But the impact still feels weirdly seismic.
The whole brouhaha happens as Jess and Lorelai are finally starting to make some progress thawing the ice, with Rory nudging them both towards friendship and arranging for him to clean out their rain gutters. Both episodes underline things Jess and Lorelai have in common (their shared line about Indian food in the next episode is the most obvious example), as if that wasn’t clear to the audience already. Jess and Lorelai have different upbringings and different reasons for being estranged from their families as teenagers, but Lorelai should sympathize with the kid more.
But no, she’s too attached to Dean and too willing to believe that Rory is happy and settled with him even though she’s a teenage girl who’s probably going to have more than one boyfriend in her life. Jess is the one who points out that it took weeks for Rory to realize she was missing the bracelet, which is enough to get the last word in their argument (something it’s very hard to get out of Lorelai).
“Lost And Found” sees Jess lurking passively on the sidelines for most of the hour but it’s a very nice episode for him, also showing signs of change in his relationship with Luke. The apartment is a pigsty (his mother finally sent the rest of his possessions) and Luke is losing his mind, but there’s not that automatic tension between the two of them anymore. Now they have relaxed, sarcastic interchanges and Luke’s parenting decisions come a little easier. Sure, he still needs to vent his fears at Lorelai but he’s also, for the first time in his life, escaping from his hermitage, buying the building next door to the restaurant and smashing a bedroom for Jess into it.
For all the fighting and yelling going on, “Lost And Found” is a lovely episode. Lorelai is nasty to Jess at the end but their moment with the Chinese food is heartening to watch. Lorelai pretending to be Luke’s wife with the real estate lady is one of her best bits of flirtation and the look on Scott Patterson’s face is priceless. My only complaint would be that there’s not enough Rory/Jess action, but that comes with the next episode (which, crazily, aired like six weeks later. Momentum killer!)
“There’s The Rub” (season 2, episode 16, originally aired 4/9/2002)
I think the most pivotal thing in this episode is watching Jess interact with Paris. It’s the first time we’ve seen him play nice with someone who isn’t Rory, and even though their lit banter is argumentative and painfully high-school-junior (Jess: “I like Kerouac!” Paris: “How about Jane Austen!”) it’s also basically friendly. He can be friendly! He’s not just a jerk to everyone as a matter of course! What a breakthrough!
“There’s The Rub” is one of those Gilmore Girls episodes that, if you describe it out loud, sounds super-boring. Lorelai and Emily go to a spa, where Emily is kind of a clingy pain. Then, they go to a bar, and Emily dances with an old man. She gets flustered and leaves, but some progress has been made with her daughter. Over in Stars Hollow, Rory tries to have a night alone but is visited by Paris (to study), Jess (to flirt), and Dean (to fight) in succession. Some drama occurs, but all is largely well by the end of the episode.
But oh, what fun it all is! Lorelai and Emily’s tension in the spa isn’t that fun but their tentative bonding at the 60-40 club is terrific. It’s always fun to let Emily’s hair down (her instant love of bar peanuts is a highlight) and to let Kelly Bishop dance, and even though Chet the pick-up artist is too unappealing for words, the point is that she feels she’s flying too close to the sun.
The real meat of the episode is Rory’s impromptu dinner with Paris and Jess, which lets both characters show off how personable they can be. The fact that they’re all arguing about books is crucial—this is why Rory and Paris are officially friends now (forever and ever, amen) and the critical temptation offered by Jess. He’s smart! He has opinions! Dean is happy to read what Rory gives him and dotingly agree with whatever she thinks, but Jess is a little more of a challenge, and after a year of her boring boyfriend, Rory’s excited about it.
Dean’s justifiable freakout at the end of the episode and Paris covering for Rory is a little less interesting but had to happen just to raise the stakes for the close of the second season, which we’re pointed towards now. Lorelai tells Dean not to worry about the whole brouhaha. “Rory wouldn’t lie, right?” Dean asks. “No, Rory wouldn’t lie,” Lorelai assures him, as they watch her chat with Jess at Luke’s. You stare into your doomed future, Dean! You stand on the brink of destruction.
- Lorelai is charmed by Luke’s messy apartment. “It looks like a white trash Hearst Castle!”
- Lorelai wants a Mel Brooks tattoo on her butt, and also wants more food. “Trying to give Mel a bigger canvas to work with?”
- Luke tries to describe the apartments he’s seeing to Lorelai. “It had walls with kind of a floor with a light.” “Hold on here mister, if you tell me it has a roof, I’m stealing it out from under you.”
- Luke’s rant about “Taylorville,” a town owned by Taylor Doose, is priceless. “Everyone will wear cardigans and have the same grass height.”
- “There’s The Rub” has the first appearance of Tom, the sardonic contractor, one of my favorite minor Gilmore Girls characters. “There’s nothing that I like more than a good moving-a-pipe joke.”
- Jess does have one cute line about Jane Austen. “I think she would have liked Bukowski.”