“Dead Uncles And Vegetables” (season 2, episode 17, originally aired 4/16/2002)
After all of the Rory/Jess/Dean excitement and yelling, Gilmore Girls needed to decompress and air an episode that is exclusively pleasant. The minor conflicts—Emily meddling with Sookie’s wedding, Luke fretting about his uncle’s funeral—are resolved before our time is up. Rory’s flirting with Jess is something out of Pleasantville this week, as she drags him out of his apartment by his ear, interrupting his viewing of I Dream Of Jeannie, so he can do his chores at the diner. Later, she commends him on becoming a contributing member of the town. I know, it’s steamy stuff.
The crux of “Dead Uncles And Vegetables” is that Luke’s mean old uncle Louie has died and will be brought back from Florida to be buried alongside Luke’s father with all his memorabilia. Turns out Louie was a bit of a grouch who, among other thing, kicked Kirk’s dog Toto and repeatedly hit on Sy’s wife. There’s some grumbling by the town revolutionary war re-enactors and some typical Luke rage (he’s worried he’s as grumpy as his deceased relative) before everything comes together for a happy, sweet conclusion.
I’m predisposed to like “Dead Uncles And Vegetables” because it focuses on Luke, and episodes that focus on Luke are usually standouts. Scott Patterson is an underrated performer and I like the little arc he follows here. At first, he’s putting on his usual stoic face about the whole thing, then he begins to crack, then we get a nice, hilarious outburst about baseball cards after Louie won’t fit into his coffin. Like “Lost And Found,” this is another episode that deepens his bond with Lorelai without being too sexy about it—they’re just more and more entangled in each other’s universes, something Emily quickly spots.
Emily’s unholy alliance with an addled Sookie plotting the most demented wedding alive (it involves giant papier-mâché mushrooms and dancing midgets) is barely a diversion and mostly seems to be there to fill time. I did like Emily’s final moment with Lorelai on it, though, where she says Lorelai’s wedding would have been themed about the Russian royal family and, well, it also sounds preposterous, although maybe a little classier than Sookie’s nonsense. Emily admits she’s abandoned that dream, asking Luke, “What do you think of the Romanovs?” “I think they probably had it coming.” “Match made in heaven,” she sighs.
This week’s C-plot? It revolves around Taylor Doose, always a sure sign that a Gilmore Girls episode isn’t going to cause too much of a fuss. Taylor is incensed at the return of Dave (Gruber) Allen who has a farmer’s market now; it makes for two terrific moments, one where Taylor mumbles about his turnips at Luke’s (“They’re not as big as that crenate freak’s, but who needs bloated turnips? Mine are unassuming! I have nice, humble turnips”) and probably the best town meeting so far, where Taylor’s ranting about cart, kiosk, cart/kiosk permits is met with bemusement by the rest of Stars Hollow.
One great thing about “Dead Uncles And Vegetables” is that it just lets Lorelai and Rory be funny. For once, they have no individual drama to deal with and spend most of their time running the diner and talking like 50s waitresses. “We certainly are entertaining, Mac!” “Indubitably, Tosh!”
“Back In The Saddle Again” (season 2, episode 18, originally aired 4/23/2002)
This is another breezy episode where not a ton happens, but this time there’s the added undercurrent of change on the air. Rory isn’t grabbing Jess in the street and making out with him, no. She’s being very pleasant with her boyfriend and apparently seeing him whenever she can (although there is no evidence of that in this episode). But she’s also pretty much bored by him. He has to corner her on the street or lurk outside her house to get her attention these days. Dean has more screentime with Lorelai than he does with Rory in this episode.
This episode is technically about Richard discovering his appetite for business again. He joins Rory, Paris, and other Chiltonites on a school project and gets all worked up about it. He and Paris make as delightful a team as you might imagine. Madeline and Louise get some choice interjections. Best of all, Brad returns, on the advice of his psychiatrist and rabbi, to face his fears. Liza Weil summons some truly punishing stares for him, but my favorite exchange is between him and Madeline, who wants to build a locker robot. “He looks like he should know.” “I’ve never built a robot,” Brad says. “But you’ve tried, haven’t you?” “Yes, I have.”
There’s also an appearance by Michel’s stylish and hilarious mother Gisele, played by Janet Hubert (the original and best Vivian from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air) doing an insane French accent. She really sells the line “you are a CURSE.” There’s not much to unpack there, but it’s too bad we never see Gisele again, especially since she tries to do some prying into Michel’s private life (always a great mystery), asking where he goes out at night, etc. I suppose we shall never know.
But no, the most intriguing part of “Back In The Saddle Again” is just how nonchalantly Rory and Dean’s relationship is falling apart. Which makes sense—they’re teenagers, Rory has a whole life ahead of her, she might be getting bored. But poor Dean is understandably taking it hard. I do feel a twinge as he stalks away from the Gilmore house at the end of the episode, blown off in favor of listening to CDs with Lane. It’s not the end, but it could be the beginning of the end.
- Michel announces a call from Luke. “The flannel man with the protruding ankles. I forgot his name from the desk to here. That’s how memorable he is.”
- Kirk demands quarter-caff coffee, three-fourths decaf, one-fourth regular. “I four fourths don’t care.” “Fill her up.”
- Taylor “banged the meeting in half an hour ago.” “Dirty!” Lorelai exclaims.
- Lorelai invents a “lucky duck cluck”: foie gras with chicken and green shamrock frosting. Luke asks why anyone would order that. “If they’re high?”
- Louise’s dad is in court for six weeks. “Lawyer?” “Defendant.” “We won’t pry.” “I have no idea what he’s up on anyway.”
- “You know what happens when you assume,” Michel warns. “What?” “I don’t know, something about a donkey. It is a stupid American phrase!”