“I Solemnly Swear” (season 3, episode 11, originally aired 1/23/2003)
Sometimes Gilmore Girls just decides to air an episode without an A-story. It’s such an aggressively bold decision for any TV show to make—it really throws down a marker to fans. “You like this show? Yeah? Well how do you like it when it doesn’t have a plot!? Just sit in Stars Hollow and soak it up, see how you like THAT!”
“I Solemnly Swear” isn’t particularly good, nor is it a particularly memorable episode. But it’s certainly a lot better than it has any right to be, considering that literally nothing happens. The title plays on Lorelai being forced to testify as a character witness for her mother, who is being sued by a maid she fired for clomping around too loudly upstairs.
We don’t know the maid character, nor will we ever. Lorelai’s deposition occurs off-screen and is briefly read to us by Emily, but only briefly. The plot is never resolved. Does Emily settle? Does she take the case to court and win? Or lose? Was Lorelai’s testimony crucial, or irrelevant? There’s so many questions, none of which are ever answered. This episode is Gilmore Girls’ “Pine Barrens.”
What else happens in “I Solemnly Swear”? Well, there’s another Francie plot, which, Jesus Christ already guys. Yes, Emily Bergl is back as everybody’s least favorite senior class president, who is weirdly determined to make trouble for Paris in the world of school administration for reasons that are never clear. This episode (written by John Stephens) contains a tired spoof of All The President’s Men and ends in a fencing-themed showdown between Paris and Rory. But because the issues they’re fighting about are essentially non-existent (Paris is mad at Rory for even talking to Francie behind her back, which…whatever) there’s just no stakes to the thing. Rory and Paris are weird friends, and they work best when they’re weird friends. Why mess with that?
But here’s Sookie coming round the corner to spice this episode up! What’s that? Oh, you’re right, Sookie has never spiced anything up, plot-wise. I assume she spices food up just fine. I have no beef with Sookie the character or Melissa McCarthy, but especially once she slides into her relationship with Jackson, she also becomes a tension-free zone on the show. Her (perfectly cute!) plotline sees her reconnecting with an old friend, who thinks she’s still single. She tells him she’s not, and that’s the end of that, although Sookie is amusingly guilty about it and Jackson is amusingly hurt.
Like I said, there’s just no way this episode should even be entertaining. But it is! It’s pretty fun! It’s not that good, I don’t like the Rory/Paris stuff, and I’ll probably never refer back to it again. But it’s NOT BAD. And considering everything I just wrote, that is a goddamn miracle and a testament to the power of this show’s characters.
“Lorelai Out Of Water” (season 3, episode 12, originally aired 1/28/2003)
Oh, I forgot to mention Billy Burke. Billy Burke! Yes, what’s-her-name’s dad from Twilight and the star of Revolution stopped by Stars Hollow in early 2003 to briefly serve as a love interest for Lorelai. He’s pretty much her only contender in the show’s history who doesn’t have a major arc (spoilers, guys, but Lorelai is not gonna marry Alex). Who was Billy Burke at this time? Shrug. No one in particular. He’d been in some episodes of 24, had a part in Along Came A Spider, nothing much really.
But hey, he’s pretty charming, ain’t he! Lorelai is so entangled with the major men in her life (namely Luke and Christopher) that it’s kinda hard to believe her with anyone else at this point. But objectively, Billy Burke is a charming, handsome fellow. He does all the right stuff—takes Lorelai to a coffee tasting, is cool to Rory, has kids of his own, gets her jokes. In “Lorelai Out Of Water,” he invites her fishing, which means Lorelai has to learn how to fish from Luke, and poor Luke takes the bait (shut up) and helps her woo another man. Poor fella.
It’s enough to spur him to grow a set of balls and ask a goddamn nice lady out on a date. You go, Luke! Ask Taylor’s lawyer-lady, Nicole (Tricia O’Kelley, who went on to play the smarter of the mean moms in The New Adventures Of Old Christine) out on a date! Jess gets his first significant screentime in a bit to egg Luke on, which is nice, because he and Rory really don’t have much to do if their relationship isn’t being beset by problems. Nice to give Ventimiglia a chance to earn that paycheck, folks.
I actually like Rory’s plot in this episode a lot. Not so much the Paris fighting—their dressing down by Headmaster Charleston is well-deserved, but since their fight was so contrived it’s hard to care—but the Lane wedding. No, Lane doesn’t get married, but one of her relatives does, an apparently frequent occurrence throughout her childhood that Rory has always helped out with.
We don’t get to see Rory and Lane just be friends enough, and sometimes it’s irksome when TV shows tell you what pals two characters are, but their chemistry is strong enough that their nostalgic reminiscing comes off very sweetly. You see how the seeds of Lane’s gentle rebellion would have grown through the years, and how Rory (who I assume would never encourage such things, but instead gently go with the rebellious flow) has helped out. I like the moment where Lane and Rory acknowledge what a pain Jess is, and how disinterested in him Lane is. But they’re gonna work on it, cause that’s what pals do.
Lane has a much more melancholy, perfectly played moment later on as her mother springs a surprise Korean prom date on her. Lane brings up Dave Rygalski as the man for her, having laid the groundwork carefully for weeks. And you can see Keiko Agena consider it, even if it’s just for a second, before she flatly (but not harshly) reminds Lane, “he’s not Korean.” Oh, Lane. It’s going to be okay. Oh, Lane.
- “That’s why you fired her?” “Yes.” “Because she made noise when she walked?”
- Rory would hug her hug-a-world to plan trips. “Many a trip to Uzbekistan was planned that way.”
- Lorelai likes Luke’s trout. “They’re all going oooop! like they’re singing in a trout choir!”