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

“Wedding Bell Blues,” season five, episode 13, originally aired 2/8/2005 

The buildup to the drama implosion “Wedding Bell Blues” is nothing less than masterful. Luke’s inability to fit into the Gilmores’ world. Stupid Christopher’s still-active pining for Lorelai. Lorelai and Luke’s young so still tenuous relationship. Rory’s crush on Logan. The reconciliation of Richard and Emily. It’s like the show learned its lessons from the lesser “Tick Tock Boom” and “Afterboom” to be able to give us a pair of knockout episodes like “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Say Something.”

Emily, in particular, pulls off being both a sympathetic character here, while also playing the villain. I keep studying Kelly Bishop to see how she’s able to pull something like that off, how she can adorably be getting drunk the night before her second wedding and freaking out about it the day of, picture of besotted sophisticated bride at the wedding itself, will also so icy cold to Luke you almost have to turn away from the screen, it’s so uncomfortable. All this tension is obviously building up into an explosion, which the episode pays off with only a few minutes to spare.

As we were reminded last week, the worst thing you can do in a TV relationship is hide something. Here Lorelai’s secret tequila night with Christopher is bound to come out almost immediately. What’s worse is that there is obviously something there to hide, otherwise why hide it? Lorelai’s unresolved feelings for Christopher will take a while to unravel, but I’m on Luke’s side here: He has every right to be upset. He’s also absolutely right; he has been there for Rory about a million more times than Christopher has.

Christopher, in his over-privileged, unenlightened self, thinks that he and Lorelai should be together because he and Lorelai should be together. His big play is to show up at an event he’s invited to. It’s the worst sense of entitlement, that he can only see things as they relate to him, never mind the fact that Lorelai is obviously happy with Luke so breaking them up will not be the best thing for her. “This wasn’t the way I wanted this to go down.” Story of Christopher’s life, I swear.

The eternally beloved Rory is similarly entitled: Why wouldn’t Logan want to ask her out when every guy she’s ever liked in her life has liked her back? And even Logan can immediately see through her weak “keep it casual” ploy, and her attempt to replicate the Life And Death Brigade (Stealing champagne! Moving the party!) is just awkward, because it’s not who she is. She’ll fit in much better with that crowd as time passes, but for now, she’s a good girl trying for an unconvincing bad girl role. It was nice to see Lorelai actually scold her in a motherly fashion for once, though. All the yelling actually helps build the drama crescendo to its breaking point, when wonderful Marilyn drags everyone in for pictures (“You can’t keep Anglo Saxons waiting for cake. They start to form more clubs.”) and Lorelai cuts her mother to the quick with five sharp words. Take a deep breath, viewer; you’ve earned it.

“Say Something,” season five, episode 14, originally aired 2/15/2005 

In fact, the wallowing of “Say Something” just means more after the frenetic energy of “Wedding Bell Blues,” so much so that we might as well be hibernating in her room with Lorelai. It’s an epic one-two punch by the Palladinos (Amy for “WBB” and Daniel here), the glory of the Gilmores’ wedding followed by Lorelai at the lowest point we’ve ever seen her. I could say this most weeks, but it remains a travesty of TV justice that Lauren Graham never got nominated for an Emmy, as her quick-witted, fast-talking self gets immediately deflated by the loss of Luke, all the liveliness pouring out of her like air escaping a cheerful balloon.

The showing in the movie theatre of My Man Godfrey is significant: In that movie, rich socialite Irene (Carole Lombard) brings homeless man Godfrey (William Powell) to a fancy party when she has “forgotten man” as an item on a list in a scavenger hunt: frickin’ rich people. Of course, he turns out to be tremendously intelligent and witty, so he gets hired as the family butler, and they fall in love, leading Irene to reject her societal trappings. Luke fits the same bill for Lorelai by being someone her parents would never approve of, but also offering her a refreshing, down-to-earth sincerity that the world she grew up in lacked. It’s not surprising, then, that she would fight for him, then fall apart so quickly when he says he can’t be in the relationship anymore.

Even the episode title is great: Sure, Lorelai yells “say something” at her stupid dream (and real) self who failed to reciprocate when Luke told her, “I’m all in.” Like Lorelai, we also want to yell “say something” at Luke several times throughout the episode, like when he shuts down so coldly in front of Lorelai, but worst of all, at the end, when he so obviously doesn’t want the relationship to be really over. If she hadn’t pushed it so hard, would he have been okay with a little more time to process?

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We’ll never know, but Lauren Graham’s bed meltdown is epic, bolstered by Sookie and Rory’s sweet efforts to take care of her. Lorelai being Lorelai, she rallies as soon as she’s hit everyone’s post-breakup low point—the sobbing, “please come over” phone call. But after so many seasons, we’ve now seen what she’s like with her guard down, without her usually omnipresent self-confidence, behind her shining outer self, a wholly complete turnaround from the girl happy whirling around the dance floor the previous week. It’s the juxtaposition of “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Say Something” that make it such a superlative pairing; I can’t even think of two consecutive TV episodes possibly better than these two.

Stray observations

  • “Grandma wants a picture.” “Of this?”
  • Something only rich people say: “It’s only money.”
  • Lane, we’ve all talked about this: Glasses over contacts.
  • Lorelai and Rory have their first but certainly not the last Life And Death Brigade-related fight.
  • This week in Gilmore entitlement: Demanding yellow boots out of your boyfriend’s boating supply catalogue just because you think they’ll make you look like the Morton Salt girl. Waking up your roommate to get a phone message that doesn’t exist. “I fed Frank a nice sandwich,” as if this human adult person is some sort of pet. But really, nothing in Gilmore entitlement can hold a candle to Emily giving an invitation to Christopher to her re-marriage ceremony, in an effort to break up Lorelai and Luke. She admits that she doesn’t even like him that much, it’s just that he comes from a good family, which, much as we love Emily, is the height of snobbery.
  • This week in Gilmore outfits: I am halfway between loving and hating the girls’ wedding outfits, Lorelai’s dress with the fuschia jacket and Rory’s tux. It’s really weird.
  • “Special like ‘stop eating the paste’ special?”
  • “Say Something” is so dire that the delightfulness of Michel stands out even more than usual, so in need we are of comic relief. Like when Sookie wants him to entertain the doll tea party: “Like I’m Sponge Boy Big Pants or something?”
  • Man, does Lauren Graham give good teary phone call.
  • I will never not love the fact that Lane buys Lorelai a toothbrush.
  • Is a Dave Eggers poster on your dorm room the most pretentious poster you could ever have? I’m thinking yes.
  • Marilyn’s longing for an “affair with a gardner” references Desperate Housewives, I believe.
  • Chris calling Lorelai kissing him the greatest day of his life, right in front of one of his kids. He’s a prince.
  • We’ve been talking about this a lot at work lately, when even decade-old shows still have language and references that are insensitive and outdated to say the least. Like Lorelai calling Luke a “Nancy-boy” for being worried about the wrinkles in his pants, and Luke’s various horrors over someone thinking he’d gone “poofy” (I think in the Renaissance Faire wedding episode). Unfortunately, I probably didn’t even notice it the first time around, but now it really stands out as a negative in a show I usually like so much. Anyone else notice that?
  • Next week: Luke and Lorelai’s breakup is almost worth it to see Emily have to enter Luke’s diner again.

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