Above screenshot: Gilmore Girls. Below photo: Warner Bros./Delivered by Online USA/Getty Images

“Women Of Questionable Morals,” season five, episode 11, originally aired 1/25/2005 

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Few people would point to Gilmore Girls’ season five as its best-ever season (more likely two, or three), but these two episodes show that five was fairly solid as it came back from winter break. At least, more solid than I remember. Particularly, the fission in the elder Gilmores’ relationship enabled to do more than just scheme and be mad at Lorelai, which especially stands out in these two episodes. For example, the inclusion of Princess the dog in “Women Of Questionable Morals” is a cute, benign way to bring Richard and Emily together, for them to realize how well they work together and how much they belong together.

Christopher stalking Rory at college smacks of his invading the Gilmore house after his breakup with Lorelai in “Haunted Leg”: Things aren’t the way he wants them, so he will just bust in and try to make things right, even though that’s rarely the best option. Christopher is nothing if not consistently awful. To throw some sympathy his way, Daniel Palladino offs Christopher’s mean dad this episode, so that the Gilmore girls, again, come running to his rescue, leading to a setup that was frustrating when I first saw it on All My Children as a child.

If we’ve ever watched TV before, we know this: Somebody lying to their partner is always going to come back and bite them on the ass in the end. What’s even more frustrating is that Lorelai has the perfect opportunity at the ice rink to clue Luke in, and blows it. And Rory agreeing with her that it’s the right thing to do makes no sense. Rory wants things to work out with her mom and Luke, why would she encourage this deception? It’s one of those scream-at-the-screen moments; this man just built you an ice rink, Lorelai, he will likely understand that you had to go comfort an ex because his father just died. Honestly.

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In other news, Lorelai’s love for snow is so annoying that it’s nice to see it get its proper comeuppance this episode. It’s also inconceivable for someone who lives in Connecticut who loves snow as much as she does not to be wearing snow boots; I live in Chicago, it’s November 4, and I’m already set. Snow is fine, and has its moments of magic, but you have to be prepared. We would also be more inclined to think of this all as real snow and not fake precipitation on the Warner Bros. lot if somebody buttoned a coat once in a while.

But the Stars Hollow reenactment is fun (once we get past all the horrible words like “hooker” and “whore”), and it’s naturally going to end up with Kirk and Taylor, together forever as always. This episode marks a bit of a turning point: At some point the show gives up on creating much of a Yale community (Paris yelling at CNN only goes so far) and just lets Stars Hollow be Stars Hollow, with all the Kirk jobs, all the questionable history, and all the quirk personified.

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“Come Home,” season five, episode 12, originally aired 2/1/2005 

I couldn’t put my finger on why “Come Home,” an episode I probably haven’t given a lot of thought to since I first saw it when it aired, works so well. But now it seems clear: It’s one of the only episodes that includes every main character. Paris. Mrs. Kim. Sookie. Michel. Emily and Richard. Kirk. Lane and Zack. Gil. Even Logan, god help us. This enables so many good things to happen in one episode: Hep Alien at the Korean New Year dinner? Jealous Richard rear-ending Emily’s car? A guy who doesn’t immediately fall down at Rory Gilmore’s feet? Yes, please.

That latter is particularly appreciated, as it’s one of the first times we see Rory put herself out there for a guy and not have him immediately smitten. Of course, Logan isn’t going to hold out for very long, but at least in “Come Home,” he’s still a heartbreaker, and Rory has to come to terms with a guy who is less into her than she is with him. It’s a wax and wane that goes back and forth across their whole relationship, but it’s gratifying to see it kicked off here.

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Not as gratifying to see Richard finally stand up for his relationship with Emily, though. The reveal of Simon/Tad Channing’s date with Emily is enough to turn this usually proper and distinguished gentleman into a jealousy-crazed titan, and he’s all the better for it. The two finally reconciling is a relief as much to all of us as it is to Rory.

Sookie turning out to be the Dragonfly’s ghost is okay, but next to Richard and Emily this episode really belongs to the unlikely pairing of Zack and Mrs. Kim. The band’s willingness to attend Mrs. Kim’s Korean holiday dinner is really very sweet, as Brian studies Korean words on the internet and Gil is just ready to jam, no matter what the instrument. It’s more of a stretch for Zack than for anyone, because we know that this might be the first time he’s ever gone home to a girlfriend’s parents. But Zack and Mrs. Kim bonding over Lane’s glasses lets us know that he’s a keeper: They both love her for exactly who she is, and it’s the affection that both of them have for her than unites them. My favorite Mrs. Kim/Zack scene is when she critiques his music, but the moment over the glasses is a close second.

Maybe “Come Home” works so well because Lorelai and Rory take a backseat for once. With so many great characters in this ensemble cast, it makes sense. That community can sometimes be the best part of the show, and as Gilmore Girls prepares for a massive showdown, it lets some minor characters move to the forefront while Rory and, especially, Lorelai, gear up for the fireworks of “Wedding Bell Blues.”

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Stray observations

  • Also, both of these episodes have lots of Michel, which is always welcome. Lorelai: “What else can we put down?” Michel: “Plenty, I saw two movies over the weekend, both awful.” Lorelai: “I meant on the floor!”
  • Best Gilmore Girls outfits: So many scarves and sweaters these two episodes, it’s kind of hard to tell. But I have to say that Alexis Bledel looks really pretty in white, right before the reenactment. Also: Lorelai’s green dress at the staff meeting was probably something I would have tried to find on the internet back in the day.
  • Worst Gilmore Girls outfits: Do you think the fashion/hair team tried to make Rory purposefully dowdy in her two meetings with Logan so we could see why he wouldn’t be immediately bowled over by her? Because mission accomplished, if so.
  • This week in Gilmore entitlement: Dragging your poor, hard-working boyfriend out of bed and into the cold just so he can be impressed by your snow-smelling skills. Also, Lorelai to Lane: “I have a boyfriend, so maybe this flirting thing we’ve got going on should just end here.” Lorelai, Lane has a boyfriend too, y’know.
  • Kyon on Mrs. Kim’s Korean New Year dinner: “She says not coming is same as spitting on ancestors and ancestors no like spit.”
  • Next week: I love “Wedding Bell Blues” so much. Gilmore family drama at its finest. Then: Lorelai gets a new toothbrush!

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