“Keg! Max!” (season 3, episode 19, originally aired 4/29/2003) / “Say Goodnight, Gracie” (season 3, episode 20, originally aired 5/6/2003)
I’m going to write about these two episodes together, because they are very closely linked, more so than usual for Gilmore Girls. “Keg! Max!” is the episode where Jess and Dean get into a public fight at a keg party, which I suppose is the culmination of their relationship? Dean has long hoped to take a swing at Jess, and appoints himself defender of her honor after he thinks Jess pressured her. “Say Goodnight, Gracie” deals with the aftermath of the party, and its impact not just on Jess, Dean and Rory but also on Lane and Dave’s relationship (a much sweeter story thread).
We’re just one episode removed from Rory and Jess being very cute with each other, but these two episodes are chronicling Jess’ total breakdown. He’s been avoiding school, working constantly to fulfill his concept of self-sufficiency, putting off all of the impending crises in his life, and they are crashing around him. He can’t be a fulfilling boyfriend for Rory, or a fulfilling nephew to Luke, and he deals with that by pushing everyone away. It is honestly painful to watch. I understand hating the Jess character, but I do love him, and his nasty fallout with Luke in “Say Goodnight, Gracie” is a well-realized moment. Jess and Rory never made sense when they were together—the show makes little effort to explore that dynamic. But Jess and Luke’s relationship is much more deeply sketched, and it’s tough to see them fighting like they do. They both understand where the other is coming from, but they can’t back off from their staked-out positions.
Poor Rory, though, is just a bystander in these episodes. She prods Jess to go to the house party, doesn’t understand why he’s miserable the whole time, is taken aback by his sudden attempt at sex (a somewhat unsettling moment for the show, although a plausible one otherwise—teenagers certainly like to press their luck in these situations). As I said earlier, it comes across that for all they have in common, these two never really understood each other. Their final moment is deliberately unsatisfying, a chance meeting on the bus where Jess apologizes for not being able to get prom tickets and says he’ll call. Poor Rory is left as confused as ever.
The problem, of course, was that The WB and Amy Sherman-Palladino were rushing to create Windward Circle, a Jess spin-off that gets its backdoor pilot in the next episode. Apparently The WB had even committed six episodes to this new show, which never saw the light of day because of the prohibitive cost of filming in Venice Beach. I understand the feeling—Jess was an exciting character, but how would he gel with the show once Rory went to college? But still, the whole thing feels like a blown opportunity.
Nonetheless, in “Say Goodnight, Gracie” we get the appearance of Rob Estes as Jimmy, Jess’ no-good dad, who has traveled all the way to Connecticut to sit in Luke’s diner and look nervously at his son without saying anything. Luke first confronts him and calls him a loser, telling him to beat it, but he and Jess finally have their moment, a largely silent one set around David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” that shows just how good this show can be even when it’s selling me on relationships I’m barely interested in. I got no serious beef with Rob Estes, best-known at that point for his two stints as separate characters on Melrose Place (and the ludicrous CBS 90s crime drama Silk Stalkings). But he’s not particularly compelling in his pat argument scene with Luke and his more heartwarming material with Jess. The whole thing feels a little forced.
Guess what’s really awesome about these two episodes that would sadly be dashed by Adam Brody’s casting on a hot new Fox pilot? Yes, the Lane/Dave romance finally comes to proper fruition as a one-and-a-half beers deep Lane drunkenly confesses everything to her mother and when faced with eerily normal, let’s pretend that never happened behavior from Mrs. Kim, has to be even more proactive. It’s Brody who really sells those two scenes in “Say Goodnight, Gracie” where he throws himself on the mercy of Mrs. Kim. First, he busts out this masterpiece:
“A few weeks ago you told me that Lane had a crush on me. Well, I have a crush on her, too. Now, I know you have very strict rules about dating and boys, but I just want you to know that I'm a good person. I don't smoke, I don't drink, I've never gotten a ticket, I'm healthy, I take care of myself, I floss. I never watch more than 30 minutes of television a night partly because I think it's a waste of time and partly because there's nothing on. I respect my parents, I do well in school, I never play video games in case they do someday prove that playing them can turn you into a serial killer. I don't drink coffee. I hate soda because the carbonation freaks me out. I'm happy to give up meat if you feel strongly about it. I don't mind wearing a tie. I enjoy playing those hymns on my guitar, and I really, really want to take your daughter to the prom.”
It’s heartfelt stuff, even when it’s delivered in Brody’s straightforwardly sardonic tone. Mrs. Kim, visibly stunned, says only “Let never day nor night unhallow'd pass, but still remember what the Lord hath done.”
A frantic Dave reads the entire Bible searching for the passage, which is enough to convince Mrs. Kim that he is a worthy candidate. The quote is Shakespeare, from Henry VI. “I like to goof off now and then, too, you know.” They can go to the prom, but they cannot get married, she decides.
It’s a wonderful culmination to what’s been a fairly meticulously plotted arc. And it’s too bad that “Say Goodnight, Gracie” is Dave’s last-ever appearance on the show. Adam Brody was a great find for Gilmore Girls, but he was a great find for Fox, too, and The O.C.’s pilot aired only three months later.
One other thing about these episodes, although it’s barely worth mentioning, is that it’s also the last we’ll ever see of Max Medina, thank God. He admits he’s still completely bewildered by Lorelai and basically needs to get away from her if he’ll ever be sane again. She seems a little confused by this, but…she should understand, really. His feelings are pretty clear. I’m not sure why the show bothered to bring him back at all, because it’s an odd coda—Max furiously trying to walk away from Lorelai and harrumphing when he realizes she’s walking in the same direction.
- The band goes unnamed, but Zach has a suggestion. “Follow Them To The Edge Of The Desert is memorable and classy.” Fans can shorten it to FTTTEOTD!
- “How about The We?” “The We?” “Yeah, we are The We.”
- Chauncey Leopardi makes his first of a few weird appearances as an excitable lad who throws a keg party but doesn't want his parents' carpet stained. I associate him so strongly with being the Freaks And Geeks bully, it's hard to see him doing anything else.
- I think that's the first real appearance of Ceasar, getting yelled at by Jess. “Sew some bacon together, because that lady is getting ham.”
- Oh, and Fran Weston dies and Lorelai and Sookie buy the Dragonfly Inn from her son, played by Melissa McCarthy's husband. Plays out about as interesting as it sounds.
- Oh, and Dean gets ENGAGED. What a horrible writing decision that is. Why does he get engaged? I have never liked that plot twist at all. I will be mocking it much more in the future.