“Kill Me Now” (season one, episode three, originally aired 10/19/2000)
In these very early episodes, Lorelai and Rory’s relationship has a volatility that doesn’t really stick around. Sure, there’s many a mother/daughter fight in their futures, but it’s usually over big stuff. But here, as in the pilot (the Dean fight), we see Lorelai and Rory bickering over something minor (the theft and stretching out of sweaters) because Lorelai’s actually mad about Rory getting close with her grandparents. It’s not implausible, nor does it ring entirely false, but the show is obviously still working out the kinks, because the whole thing feels a little forced and on the nose.
“Kill Me Now” is written by Joanne Waters. The next episode is written by Jed Seidel. If those names are unfamiliar, well, they should be, since neither of those people ever wrote another Gilmore Girls episode. In fact, Waters has no more credits to her name, while Seidel has had a nice career on great shows like Veronica Marsand Terriers. I’m not going to read too much into this—it’s just to say the show is still finding its voice, and its tone feels a touch off at times, although it’s also establishing so much of what we know and love about the Stars Hollow universe.
This is a grandparents episode, with Rory getting to know Richard at the country club (Emily schemes to have him teach her golf) and most of Lorelai’s plot business going on at the Independence Inn, which is a real rarity, but makes sense since she doesn’t have any romantic drama to contend with yet and Stars Hollow (particularly Luke’s) is still waiting to be fleshed out.
Lorelai’s stuff is pleasant, but a bit of a snooze. She’s wrangling an expensive, creepy wedding presided over by an acidly funny but profoundly cynical matriarch (played by professional TV guest star Meagan Fay), who hates her spoiled twin children. The reveal that the twin girls are marrying twin boys is well-handled (Lorelai and Michel get to bond in disgust) and the whole thing dovetails nicely with Rory, who sees an uptight mom fussing over her 5-year-old in a fancy dress and realizes that her upbringing was a thousand times chiller than Lorelai’s. But other than that, the inn business is fairly forgettable (sure, Sookie argues with Jackson about fruit, but we’ve already seen that before).
Rory’s plot is more intriguing. It’s so quickly established that she’s the utter apple of her grandparents’ eyes that it’s weird to see Richard be actively uncomfortable at the thought of taking her to the club and teaching her to golf. She really is a foreigner in his eyes: He’s astonished to realize that she’s quite the bright young woman, interested in Mencken’s Chrestomathy and traveling to Fez and so on and so forth. Not only that, but the grumpy old men at the club are impressed with her, which they likely never were with Lorelai—it’s a whole new world for Richard, who’s seemed quite detached from the action until now.
Rory doesn’t have a lot of agency in this story—all she does is go play golf with her grandfather and find the experience pleasant. This sets Emily into peals of joy and Lorelai into a spiral of jealousy, but it’s all minor enough that the stakes for the audience don’t really exist. That’s simultaneously the joy of this show and its occasional flaw: It doesn’t invent ridiculous drama out of nowhere just to serve the five-act structure, but it also can be a little too breezy. That’s also why Lorelai and Rory’s fight feels blown out of proportion, since all Rory did was wear a hat and say she liked her grandpa.
“The Deer Hunters” (season one, episode four, originally aired 10/26/00)
This one, at least, has more realistic stakes. I’ve been in Rory’s position—I was never the 4.0 GPA student she is, but I was enough of a good student that getting a terrible grade became this secret shame I bottled up. For Rory, a “D” is cataclysmic, particularly since it comes in English class and from her (somewhat) cool teacher Max Medina (Scott Cohen in the first of many appearances). It’s hard to believe that Rory would get a “D” on an English paper—I don’t care how stressful her workload is or how high the school’s standards are. That’s an insane grade to give a new student with a smile, saying “learn from your mistakes!” Yeesh.
Nonetheless, Rory gets a “D” and she silently freaks out, studying madly for Max’s upcoming test and turning Lorelai into a chirpy teenager who just wants to go out and party (or at least get ice cream) with her. Then, they both oversleep and Rory misses her test, leading to a meltdown at Chilton first from Rory—who gives Paris a real earful for bullying her while she’s dragged out of the classroom—and then from Lorelai—who gives Max and Headmaster Charleston a tornado of criticism for being such meanies.
“The Deer Hunters” is light on plot: There’s a thing where Sookie can’t stand that a food critic (who gave her a positive review) thought her risotto was “fine,” because apparently it has magic healing powers. But then it turns out he drank the wrong wine, so, huzzah! There’s also a little time spent with Lane (glimpsing her closeted den of music and other sins for the first time) and a glimpse of Luke (who serves Rory some sympathetic pie), but the show’s ensemble isn’t humming yet.
So it’s all about those big moments with Max Medina, who’s stern but understanding, and Headmaster Charleston, who’s mostly just stern. He calmly tells Lorelai that he knows his school is full of jerks and unreasonable standards, and that’s how it goes and if Rory doesn’t like it she can happily go away. To her credit, Lorelai is mature enough to consider that as an option—she can be too rose-tinted about Rory’s genius—but Rory assures her she can do better.
The only problem here is that we know that—and I don’t just say that as someone who’s seen every episode of the show. Of course Rory isn’t going to leave Chilton four episodes in! So again, the stakes feel artificial, and if it’s just a plot to draw Lorelai’s attention to the hunky book-learner Max Medina, it didn’t have to be quite so over the top. But, baby steps.
- We hear the first references to Emily’s habit of firing staff and to Lorelai the first, Richard’s mother, who is discussed in the past tense here (but is later revealed to be very much alive).
- Emily’s Lorelai insults are a little on the nose. “You can use your mother’s old clubs, they’re upstairs gathering dust along with the rest of her potential.”
- Michel takes orders from Lorelai well. “To me, you are the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon.”
- Rory dishes with Richard on his fellow club members. “Mr. Neville likes all things frilly.” “Good God, he’s my broker.” “Well, I don’t think one thing will affect the other.”
- This, I believe, is the last we see of Drella, which is good ’cause she ain’t funny.
- Mrs. Kim disapproves of Rory’s candy. “That is chocolate covered death.” “With a creamy caramel surprise!”
- Max apologizes for the Chilton parents. “It’s a tense time for these people.” “SAT season?” “Their waking hours.”
- The thing with Rory getting hit by a deer doesn’t really tie into the story well enough, but it’s funny.