Screenshot: Gilmore Girls

“Afterboom,” season four, episode 19, originally aired 4/27/2004  

If/when people talk about the glory days of Gilmore Girls, this time period is the one they reference (give or take a dance marathon). After last week’s various explosions, “Afterboom”’s only intent is to set the pieces in motion for the trifecta of “Luke Can See Her Face”/ “Last Week Fights, This Week Tights”/“Raincoats And Recipes.” Luke gets officially divorced. Lorelai and Jason break up after Jason announces he’s suing Lorelai’s father. Lorelai and Richard have an epic fight over it, made all the more devastating by supreme performances on both sides by Lauren Graham and Edward Herrmann. Rory and Paris and Asher have a dumb subplot.

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By far the most interesting and devastating result of the dissolving of the Richard/Jason partnership is the effect it has on Emily and Richard’s marriage. They’ve been growing apart for awhile now, as she felt that his new business was taking him in a different direction away from her, and was consoling herself with a lot of retail therapy, as we saw in “Scenes From A Mall.” And let’s not forget the hurtful letter she found from Richard’s mother saying that she never wanted the two of them to get married. But alienating Lorelai by suing her boyfriend: That was a step too far even for Emily. Despite her aloof demeanor and frequent critiques, Emily really loves our girl, and Richard’s cavalier suggestions about having Lorelai follow Jason out of town will not stand. Since Emily’s the one who’s maddest, apparently that’s why she’s the one staying at the hotel, although it seems odd that she would give up her homestead so easily. maybe, as we find out in the revival, it never meant that much to her in the first place.

That whole awkward dinner scene is magnificent, though, with Richard and Emily’s commitment to appearances put to its greatest test. They still can’t prevent themselves from bickering over the ice bucket, but can at least align enough to usher the girls out the door as soon as they can. But even when they’re standing side by side, it’s clear how actually far apart they are from each other. Not even Lorelai’s anvil talk could lighten the mood, when Emily is so rattled that she mistakes Lorelai for Rory.

Lane, on the other hand, is building a new family of sorts for herself, becoming the de facto Wendy to a group of Lost Boys. But they’re not quite there yet, so the raging success of the band’s gig is quickly quashed afterward when she sees that Gil has his wife, Brian his whole weird family, and Zach with some babes (although the “You’re a god” line was a bit much), and she is alone with her drums. Like the Gilmores, the estrangement has built an amazing distance between Lane and her mother, causing her to lash out at the poor exchange student Mrs. Kim has brought into her home. So you could say that Lane’s invasion of her mother’s bedroom is a bit stalkery, but I think it’s understandable: Her best friend is at Yale, she’s lost her Seventh-Day Adventist community, and worst of all, she’s ripped apart from the person in the world she was closest to. It’s tough road for a little drummer to forge (yes, I know Keiko Agena was about 30 at the time).

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“Luke Can See Her Face,” season four, episode 20, originally aired 5/4/2004  

Its clear from the beginning of “Luke Can See Her Face” that this episode is a solely Palladino-penned production. It’s also the best episode Luke (and Scott Patterson) ever got, which says a lot considering that he spends a lot of that time listening to a self-help tape. It’s like the Palladinos were saving up all their best Luke one-liners for this one episode, and many are pure gold. Like telling Jess that he needs to borrow some crack since his neighbors were out, or teasing Lorelai about her poor water pressure and her poultry-supplier suitor. Or my favorite exchange when he buys the self-help books from Andrew but doesn’t want to show him what they are:

Andrew: “What have you got there, porn?”

Luke: “You sell porn?”

Andrew: “No.”

Luke: “You think I brought my own porn in here?

As is typical in a Luke episode, his family makes an appearance, as T.J. and Liz return to announce their impending Renaissance nuptials, and Luke tries to rally Jess into the fold. Another highlight is that we get likely the most De Luises ever to appear together onscreen, With T.J. (Michael De Luise) drafting his real-life brother (David De Luise) to come in for his mud-wrestling bachelor party, while Rory and Lorelai watch Dom De Luise’s Fatso. C’mon, they couldn’t have also gotten Peter to make the party complete? It’s like a Murray brother party without Joel!

Anyway, thanks to T.J., it looks like Liz is on the right romantic track and Luke, after some hilarious soul-searching, is about to get there too. It takes the perfectly chirpy man on the tape to explain why, but Luke finally sees what many of us suspected he already knew: He’s in love with Lorelai, and always has been.

Lorelai, meanwhile, is off stressing about the inn in one my favorite Dragonfly Inn scenes of all time. Melissa McCarthy’s over-exaggerated “He’s sleeping with the zucchini” and the way Michel slowly becomes immersed into the zucchini patch: all spectacular. It also shows why their business partnership works so well, considering how different they all are, and why the Dragonfly is destined to be a success.

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In the end, the tape turns Luke into his own self-help guru, able to even crack Jess’ tough facade. Not sure what Jess’ beef is about walking his mother down the aisle, but apparently he gets over it next episode. Luke at times can be so grumbly and hard to crack himself, “Luke Can See Her face” is a vital step to the culmination we’re about to see in just a few episodes, finally. It’s extremely hard to nail the will-they/won’t they landing, but Gilmore Girls handles it better than most, ranking around the high bar. (What happened after that, however… we’ll see, especially in season six.)

Stray observations

  • This week in Gilmore outfit envy: I think Lorelai’s T-shirt, cute skirt, and heels in this episode that she wore to the inn might have actually informed my own work wardrobe for many years to come. Also Rory was wearing a really pretty yet ruffly dress at that shortened Friday night dinner. Also: I love Lorelai’s Rock And Roll shirt she wore for the girls’ own Friday night dinner.
  • “Every day that you breathe you make my life harder.” “I’ve got a solution for you, Michel.”
  • Some classic Paris in that hospital after Asher’s angina attack, leading to the inevitable breakup with Basil Exposition: “The procedures are the procedures.” “Oh really? I thought the procedures were a hat.”
  • “Whatever, Dean!” Lindsey is the worst. Plus teen marriage is the stupidest. I know it’s meant to set up another Rory and Dean go-around, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
  • Next week: DO NOT MISS NEXT WEEK!

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