“Dear Emily And Richard” (season three, episode 13; originally aired 2/4/2003)
“Dear Emily And Richard” is, on paper, a beautifully written episode (credited to Amy Sherman-Palladino) with a clever flashback structure and one of the best depictions of Lorelai and Emily, in the present day, just hanging out and being friendly with each other. It’s also one of the most baffling episodes the show ever aired, and that’s in a season featuring the “Windward Circle” episode (anyone who doesn’t know what that means, don’t worry, we haven’t gotten to it yet).
It’s baffling because it’s a flashback episode, showing us brief scenes of Lorelai and Christopher hanging out and being bad, Lorelai’s pregnancy, the fallout with their parents, her going into labor and eventually leaving home (she leaves a note that begins with the titular line). The flashbacks are shot in muted colors—Emily’s marching around with some unfortunate bangs, and Richard is caked with makeup so he appears a little younger. Most importantly, there’s someone else playing Lorelai—Chelsea Brummet, to be precise. It’s a problem.
Chelsea Brummet was a regular performer on the Nickelodeon sketch series All That during the show’s post-Amanda Bynes years. According to IMDB, she recently clocked six episodes on Aspen: The Series, which does not appear to have ever gone to air. Her performance in “Dear Emily And Richard” is adequate (I suppose), but it is a far cry from the Lorelai we know. Our image of a teenage Lorelai, a crazy firecracker of a girl by all accounts, has already been firmly sketched out through stories told and references made over the last two and a half seasons.
These staid, largely uninteresting scenes don’t conform to that image, and mostly seem like they’re right out of a crappy ABC Family show. Lorelai can’t fit into her dress! Christopher’s dad Straub villainously suggests she “take care of it,” practically twirling his mustache. That Richard and Emily would forbid Lorelai from terminating her pregnancy is definitely in line with their characters, but the scene with Straub and Francine is not well done. Everything feels forced, although there are images that are quite powerful, like a pregnant Lorelai showing up at the hospital and listening to “99 Luftballons” alone as she waits to give birth.
Even more bafflingly, these flashbacks are juxtaposed with Sherry giving birth to Christopher’s new child Gigi, and are largely played satirically. Rory is stuck at the hospital with her dad’s new fiancée as she shrieks about her planned C-section going out the window, and her friends say she “screwed up” by going into labor early. Sherry is one of the show’s most grating characters and doesn’t help her cause here. By the time Christopher shows up to get all touchy-feely, there’s complete disinterest in the new arrival.
The one thing I like about “Dear Emily And Richard” is Lorelai buying Emily a DVD player. It’s prompted by her fair, if maybe unnecessarily blunt questioning about her mother’s nighttime activities. With Richard away on business, what exactly does she do with herself, Lorelai wonders. I just like how at ease Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop are with each other in these scenes, even when they’re exploring mother-daughter tension. And this is one of those rare Gilmore Girls plots where Lorelai and Emily have a good time together and nothing goes wrong or screws it up. I love it when that happens.
“Swan Song” (season three, episode 14; originally aired 2/11/2003)
Oh, Jess. Jess, Jess, Jess. What are you doing, Jess? Why are you doing this to yourself? Was it all about the chase? How can you have Rory in your grasp and let her slip through your fingers like you’re doing? How can you screw up so profoundly? Is it just because The WB wanted to put you in a show called Windward Circle? Can that possibly be the only reason? Is this a grudge I’ve borne against everyone and everything for 10 years now? Yes, yes it is.
“Swan Song” is chapter two in Jess’ aggressive campaign to rid himself of Rory as quickly as possible. Much of it revolves around annoying misunderstandings. Rory is shanghaied into critiquing Miss Patty’s one-woman show, “Buckle Up, I’m Patty!” along with Dean, and that arouses suspicion with Jess. Jess shows up to dinner with Emily sporting a black eye, and won’t talk about its origin, arousing suspicion with Rory.
What happened? Apparently he got whacked by a swan (the episode’s one truly fantastic scene is with Jess and Luke where he tells him the real story, earning mockery and sympathy). Why won’t he tell Rory? GOD KNOWS WHY. Why is he such a little bitch to her grandmother, who summons heretofore unheard-of politeness to deal with the little hooligan in her house? WHO KNOWS. I guess it’s just about in line with Jess’ character so far—he’s a bad boy, he struggles with authority, he is not the most emotionally intimate.
But it’s just all so heightened and contrived. It again feels like an excuse to keep Dean in the picture without there being much of an actual reason to have him there. There are aspects of this episode that I like. While Jess and Rory get short shrift once they’re together, the show takes pains to essay the deepening bond between Jess and Luke, and it does it nicely. And the closing shot, of Lorelai and Rory eating silently together, is another nice, intimate moment. Lorelai is especially confronting her daughter becoming a grown-up, and is getting used to the idea that she and Jess get pretty hot and heavy with the makeouts. This remains a pretty chaste show, but sex is creeping in around the edges. That doesn’t frighten Lorelai per se, but it is something she has to get used to.
- Phillip Glenn Van Dyke, as young Christopher, is also kind of a non-entity, although it’s less jarring to see. Looks-wise, he’s decently cast.
- Pregnant Lorelai is watching Quincy on TV when she goes into labor.
- Lorelai gets a package from Emily on proper travel in Europe. “It's heavy. It must be her hopes and dreams for me,” she says. “I thought she discarded those years ago,” Rory replies.
- Oh, Luke goes on a date with Nicole! You get it, Luke. Although Jess tries to leave to give them some privacy and has his thoughts on chivalry corrected by his uncle.
- Lorelai praises her mother’s manipulative abilities. “She’s like Lyndon Johnson with the Senate, effortless.”
- She’s bored by the Lord Of The Rings DVD supplemental materials. “It’s just the drawings and that fat guy talking.”
- Kirk suggests revisions to Miss Patty’s reminiscence about Bette Davis. “How about if she says, ‘Doll, you’ve got the gams, but I’ve got a body in the trunk of my car?’”
- Lorelai educates Luke on teenagers’ sex lives. “Ten minutes. Yeah, that’s pretty much the time it took to create Rory. And that included getting dressed and freshening my lipstick.”
- Jess makes a very valid point re: Emily’s salad. “What the hell are raisins doing in a salad? Why can’t people leave well enough alone?”