“Application Anxiety” (season 3, episode 3, originally aired 10/8/2002)
Okay, folks. We’re pretty much back to normal in Gilmore Girls world. Lorelai is on fine terms with the parents. Rory and Dean are at least pretending to be madly in love with each other. Luke is a grouch, Kirk is a job-seeking weirdo, Paris is hyperactive, Jess is sulky. It’s time for things to get moving, for our main plot arcs to advance, for the work of season three to begin. Wait, what’s that now? Oh, right. This is Gilmore Girls. Patience, kids. First, a whole episode about applying to college and another about Lane dyeing her hair.
“Application Anxiety” asks the question that had probably crossed a few viewers’ minds in the first two seasons of this show: Does Rory know how hard it is to get into Harvard? Does Lorelai? They won’t shut up about how she’s going to Harvard and obviously Rory’s an incredibly bright girl, but “Application Anxiety” serves as a bit of a reality check, as Lorelai and Rory both hear your typical application horror stories, and it throws them into a tizzy. It’s pretty much played purely for laughs, though. We know Rory is going to go to college so her paranoia in the first half of the episode is a bit much.
The second half is much more fun as Lorelai and Rory wander into a Connecticut WASP nightmare house to meet with a Harvard alum. Everything’s perfectly pleasant and everyone’s perfectly friendly, but both Gilmore are understandably unnerved by just how… perfect things seem to be. Lorelai makes perhaps her dirtiest joke of the entire series when the chipper Springsteen brother and sister enter the house after a tennis match and excuse themselves upstairs. “Did they just leave to take a shower together?” she wonders.
The “scary Stepford family” spoof is really perfectly done. There’s nothing about the Springsteens that is actually scary, but they are dialed up to 11 and all of Lorelai’s quips seem to sail right by them. The underlying message, though, is a very sweet one. The Springsteens have a wayward daughter who, on first mention, sounds like she’s blowing dudes at truck stops for crack money, but is actually just not attending college and working as a waitress and children’s entertainer. Her scene with Rory, where she figures out that she’s not just talking to another pod person but someone who’s just naturally pointed towards academic life, is nicely done, especially with Lorelai appearing at the very end.
It’s nice for Rory to remember once in a while that she has it pretty good with her mother, who just wants her to be happy (having learned that lesson from her own upbringing). The end of the episode is particularly lovely, as both realize they don’t have much time left together before Rory goes off to college, and they chuck their boring plans to hang out. FWIENDS.
Look, let’s push all that aside. What’s really important about “Application Anxiety” is that it begins Lane’s first really important storyline in the series, which had its prelude in the final episodes of season two as she got good at playing the drums. Here, she meets the softly charming Dave Rygalski (Adam Brody!!!!!!), her future bandmate who yaks with her about Jello Biafra and impresses her with his headphone amp and is generally just the cutest little guy ever. Named after producer Helen Pai’s real-life husband (Lane is based on Pai), Rygalski’s sole purpose is to be the perfect person for Lane, so, he’s kinda hard not to like.
“One’s Got Class And The Other One Dyes” (season 3, episode 4, originally aired 10/15/2002)
We dip our toe in Rygalski water in episode three, but here, we meet Lane’s whole band, including the more abrasive, rock-and-roll-y Zach (played by the wonderful Todd Lowe) and the nervous, reedy Brian (John Cabrera), who says things like “I’ve got a deviated septum, all the women in my family and me have it.” Lane has so far been a lost character on this show, but the band instantly fixes that problem and gives the show a funny little mini-storyline to check up on, one of its most reliable B-plots for the rest of the series.
Lane immediately acknowledges her crush on Dave, because come on, who are we kidding? It’s like he was grown in a lab for her to enjoy. Interestingly, in this episode, the crush is used to shine a spotlight on Rory and Dean’s dull relationship, which kind of comes out of nowhere since there’s not much to compare, but as Lane goes on about their special love and Rory makes a pained, distant face, well, if you weren’t already aware that those two are on the rocks, you sure are now.
I like the plot of Lane dyeing her hair—it sets the limits of her rebelliousness nicely. She just doesn’t have the guts to do anything that’s nakedly defiant of her mother’s wishes, but she has the desire to. This is Gilmore Girls, so Lane’s punk rock behavior is never going to be too extreme, but even within those parameters she’s just beginning to explore the concept of rebelliousness.
The other plot, Lorelai lecturing a class on her business success and seeing it blow up in her face, is a little more baffling. It’s just old news that her teen pregnancy would scandalize anyone, and the whole thing is dramatically inert. Except, of course, for her flirty banter with Luke, which remains as strong as ever. She drags Luke along to the business event, but it takes Jess to point out that she’s the only person he allows to boss him around. Jess, a little meanly, accuses him of waiting in the wings for an opportunity that may never arise, but his point is pretty much on the money and well taken by Mr. Danes.
Eh. This one’s kind of a toss-off. Same for next week’s batch. The early episodes of any Gilmore Girls season always follow this light, pleasant route after a more-dramatic première. It’s fine. Drama is brewing.
- Lorelai fills out Rory’s Harvard application. “Parental information. Mother: breathtaking. Father: ostracized.”
- Taylor convincing Luke to open a soda shop is the typical Taylor storyline—at first amusing, by the end a little grating and windy.
- Rory tries to describe a Stars Hollow High mom to Lorelai. “Blonde hair, medium height, drove a Range Rover?” “Does she also breathe and have toes?”
- “This flannel shirt is my most successful outfit. I’ve closed many a deal in this outfit, it is my power outfit.”
- Luke is horrified by his high school athletics photo. “What’s that doing there?” “What’s it doing? It’s yelling ‘Mock me, mock me!’”