“Kiss And Tell” (season one, episode seven; originally aired 11/16/2000)
Here we have a duo of episodes that moves each lead character’s romantic plot forward—“Kiss And Tell” nudges Rory and Dean from potential couple making awkward conversation to very real, if adorably chaste, teenage couple. “Love And War And Snow” focuses on Max and Lorelai and obviously has much more of a sexual frisson, a contrast that’s hardly surprising but does perhaps underline one reason Gilmore Girls has such enduring value for many of its fans.
As I’ve been delving back into my DVDs for this feature, I’ve watched a lot of these episodes with my roommate, who hasn’t seen most of them since they originally aired. She noted that on this second go-round, she’s far more interested in Lorelai’s romantic life than Rory’s, possibly because she’s now closer to the elder Gilmore in age (a terrifying prospect all of us once-teenaged Gilmore Girls fans must confront). This show is the gift that keeps on giving, even if Rory and Dean’s courtship now feels too twee for its own good.
I shouldn’t make fun, since it’d only be plausible for young Rory to be wooed in such a lovely, harmless way. Dean plants a kiss on her at Doose’s Market, inviting her to guess which sodas he’s holding behind his back and stealing a smooch as she leans in. Elaborate stuff, but it works, although a stunned Rory can only say “thank you” before fleeing the store and running to Kim’s Antiques (in a single tracking shot that shows off the mighty town square set Gilmore Girls employed).
“I got kissed! And I shoplifted!” Rory tells Lane, producing a can of cornstarch she pretended to shop for at Doose’s. The rest of the episode is given over to Rory not telling Lorelai right away and Lorelai’s resulting confusion. The fissures in their relationship, especially this early on, always revolve around boys, and Lorelai’s desire to be cool and open about the whole thing (in other words, to be the opposite of her mother) while fearing the consequences of such activity, of which Rory is a living example. Rationally, Lorelai knows that Rory doesn’t have her wild spirit or her recklessness, at least partially because she wasn’t raised in a stifling household, but it’s hard not to sympathize with the irrational fears of a teenage mother.
“Kiss And Tell” takes a slightly weird turn halfway through, once Lorelai has confronted Rory about the whole thing and professed that she’s cool with Dean. So they go to the market to buy snacks for a movie night and run into Dean and, with Rory out of earshot, Lorelai… invites him over to hang out with them. She is surprised at Rory’s utter horror, which does not make any sense. Lorelai is not a stupid person. She knows better than to invite Dean into such a potentially awkward situation on the same day that he kissed her daughter for the first time. I tried to justify her behavior in my head—She’s as clueless about this stuff as her daughter!—but it just doesn’t click with her character.
Oh well. The rest of the episode is cute and Lorelai quickly understands that she should leave the new couple alone (Rory eventually realizes what’s happened and panics, but eventually settles down and gets down to a more normal makeout session). Lorelai gives Dean a tough talking-to about the whole town keeping an eye on him, but it’s hard for her to come across as a badass considering she’s been such a klutz for the rest of the episode. We certainly get the impression that she is going to be way too overbearing in this relationship, and that Dean is quite a champion (and quite a fan of Rory) to be putting up with it. It’s really his best quality.
“Love And War And Snow” (season one, episode eight; originally aired 12/14/2000)
“Kiss And Tell” had that one showy shot of Rory running across Stars Hollow, but “Love And War And Snow” is the first episode to really give you a sense of the town and the scale of the Warner Bros. backlot “Midwest Street” set, which had been used for movies like The Music Man and, in a weird TV Club Classic coincidence, played the small town that puts the Seinfeld gang on trial in that series’ finale.
The scenario is swooningly romantic stuff: After some setup where we’re given a background on Lorelai’s love of snowy weather and the town’s love of Revolutionary War reenactments (the “battle of Stars Hollow” included no actual fighting but did see a dozen soldiers wait for enemies who never came), Lorelai runs into Max Medina, whose car has crapped out on him during a blizzard, and the two have a whirlwind date.
Lorelai has already been wrestling with the concept of a freer romantic life now that Rory is growing up and kissing boys of her own. What she’s been up to for the past 16 years is always kept pretty vague, but from Rory’s reaction to Max spending the night in their house (on the couch), she’s never had a man over before. Max has made his overtures already, of course, but it basically takes an act of God to actually spirit him into Stars Hollow and Lorelai’s arms.
Rory is out of town for the whole episode—snowed in at Hartford, where she gets to know her grandparents a little better and provokes some familiar awkwardness by opening up a photo album. First they coo over young Lorelai in her ridiculous dresses but by the time it gets to her debutante ball gown (she never did attend a cotillion because of the whole pregnancy thing) everything’s gotten very quiet. It’s interesting to see Rory wrestle with the obvious love her grandparents have for her and the nightmarish time in their lives that she reminds them of.
Even more interesting is Rory discovering some photobooth snaps of Lorelai and Christopher in 1983 (about a year before her birth) that serve as a window on her mom’s sexuality, which she has to confront once again when she comes home and finds Max in the house. Now, there’s been no funny business because the two were interrupted by a wonderfully teen-angsty Lane looking for Rory, but this is Rory having to confront the very idea of Lorelai being in a couple (with her English teacher no less). Much like Lorelai in the previous episode, she rationally knows there’s nothing wrong with it but I sympathize with her irrational weirdness over the whole thing.
Even though this is Max’s big romantic episode, he never wins me over; however, Scott Cohen seems more comfortable with the rapid dialogue this time around. But it’s hard to be totally taken with him since this is Luke Danes’ first big episode.
Luke gets a cute moment with Lorelai spying on Dean at Doose’s Market in “Kiss And Tell,” but in “Love And War And Snow” we get a lot of background—he’s the town grump, objecting every year at the ridiculousness of the war re-enactors and at tradition in general, remembering his father who was as bad as any of them, and making amends in his special way by taking hot drinks to the shivering soldiers by the gazebo. There’s definitely more of a spark between him and Lorelai in their one big scene together (a monologue by her on her lifelong relationship with snow that he punctuates with sarcastic remarks) than Lorelai and Max ever enjoy.
I also enjoy Lane’s subplot here—she has a crush from afar on someone else in her marching band and, perhaps because she’s somewhat of a repressed girl whose best friend is increasingly absent in the arms of her new honey, she just jams her fingers into her crush’s luscious hair. I don’t know how many teenagers the casting agents had to see, but I was truly astonished at his beautiful flowing locks. I’d get my fingers in there too if I could (although maybe I’d ask permission first).
- Worth noting that “Kiss And Tell” is the first appearance of the town fussbudget Taylor Doose (Michael Winters), who will become the avatar of Stars Hollow silliness for years to come. He doesn’t do much in that episode but he’s part of the reenactors in the next one and will assume the benign leadership role here taken by Mayor Potter (the wonderfully curmudgeonly David Huddleston, who sadly only makes one other appearance on the show).
- Jenji Kohan, who had worked on Mad About You and Tracy Takes On…, and would go on to create Weeds, wrote “Kiss And Tell,” her only writing credit this season (the only season she worked on the show).
- This is also the first appearance of the town meeting and Luke’s irritation/Lorelai and Rory’s popcorn-munching love of the fireworks that always erupt.
- Michel is less enthused by snow. “It is cold and grey like a fat dead pigeon,” he complains. “Not everyone finds the idea of being pelted with frozen water appealing.”
- Emily is horrified at eating frozen pizza. “That’s food you eat at a carnival. Or at a Turkish prison!”