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The Gilmore Girls break up in a solid season 5 finale

Above screenshot: Gilmore Girls. Below photo: Warner Bros./Delivered by Online USA/Getty Images
Above screenshot: Gilmore Girls. Below photo: Warner Bros./Delivered by Online USA/Getty Images
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“Blame Booze And Melville,” season five, episode 21, originally aired 5/10/2005 

Let’s consider Rory Gilmore’s derailing of her own life. She has spent the vast majority of her young life headed for one thing and one thing only: to become a journalist. She rarely strayed from doing the right thing, except when it came to dating a bad boy like Jess or sleeping with her married ex-boyfriend Dean. But school-wise, career-wise—never a wrong move. In addition, she not only had an adoring mother/best friend her whole life, but an entire town that believed she came straight from angel stock. Outside of a bad grade from Max Medina and a pissed-off ballerina, there are very few people in Rory Gilmore’s orbit that have not considered her as God’s direct gift to earth.


So I guess we can’t blame her too much for throwing her life out the window when Mitchum Huntzburger tells her she doesn’t have “it” to make it in the journalism business. Or can we? Even Lorelai notes that Rory should be stronger than this—nothing but positive reinforcement, all those years! It also doesn’t help that Huntzburger’s assessment is, in fact, bullshit: I don’t care what kind of a mogul you are, you can’t tell someone they are destined to fail at journalism without reading a single word they’ve written. Rory’s drive may be limited by her coloring within the lines too much: Why wouldn’t she chime in at that meeting and volunteer herself for a byline or two when they’re talking about recruiting Yale students as writers ? But, to that end, since she’s all of 20 years old, why couldn’t Huntzburger’s evaluation consist of encouraging to speak up more instead of squashing her dream outright? Unless, as Lorelai suggests, he’s really after getting her to give up her career so that she can become a proper Huntzburger wife? As Logan points out, it’s more likely that his dad is just a jerk. Well, we have to get to the grand theft boating somehow, and with a few harsh statements from a newspaper mogul, we’re off.

Also confused about the magazine cover and interview. Lorelai called and cancelled it, right? So why is it coming out now? That said, the way the show handled the harsh remarks about Emily was really funny, and cements why the dysfunctional relationship between Lorelai and Emily works so well. Lorelai knows she has screwed up, and locking herself in a room offered a flashback of what her adolescence with her mother was probably like. Emily’s glee over the rave review of the inn is sweet, as is her acceptance of Lorelai’s apology for comparing her to Pol Pot. The added bonus of the Russian ballet dancer made it impossible for the two women to really go off on each other, and turned what could have been a wrenching emotional fight into a cute non-one.

The Twickham house debacle is made somewhat amusing by Kirk, but if he has all that money, why didn’t he buy his own place before instead of sleeping on people’s couches? I did like him owning Luke at the diner about his poor negotiating skills. But why wouldn’t Luke at least mention the Twickham house to Lorelai before considering this huge step? And Lorelai’s unfounded pregnancy fear, like all TV unfounded pregnancy tours, is pointless.

“A House Is Not A Home,” season five, episode 22, originally aired 5/17/2005

So “Melville” is a set-up, but “House” is a truly great Gilmore Girls episode, even with that devastating conclusion. Amy Sherman-Palladino wisely juxtaposes the disaster of Rory’s arrest against a bike race in Stars Hollow. Even Lorelai and Rory’s post-jail chat is perfectly backgrounded by Kirk trying to tow their jeep to get it out of the way of the race. And the physical comedy of Luke crossing the street and causing all those bike crashes: masterful.

Less successful is that inn consultant storyline that never really landed: Has there ever been a character looming in the wings and never materialized that was mentioned more than Mike Armstrong? I picture someone like Jon Hamm in the part, if Lorelai hadn’t already gone out on a date with him in season three. Lorelai’s dumbfoundedness at Luke’s rant here is ridiculous: They’re in a serious relationship, so of course he would want to know if she’s considering picking and moving or taking a job that would involve a considerable amount fo travel? I hate that he immediately cancelled the Twickham House deal (then why didn’t Kirk buy it then? Sigh, this show sometimes), but Lorelai seems so flighty in that bannister scene that I kind of get it.

But this all way in the back seat behind “A House Is Not A Home”’s focal point: The Lorelai and Rory breakup. As the Gilmore Girls circle away from each other, a consequence unthinkable only since the pair’s last season-finale fight, we fortunately have something unbelievably joyful to focus on: Hep Alien’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church tour. The twosomes of Lane/Mrs. Kim and Rory/Lorelai are often set up as a contrast to each other, but never more masterfully in this episode, when both daughters go to their moms with news that they want to quit doing something they love. Mrs. Kim immediately commands, “You are not the daughter I raised! Kims do not quit!” and figures out a way to keep the band together. We even find out where Lane got her percussion skills: Her mother was in an all-girl tambourine band. The way that the Hep Alien guys are helpless to do anything but fall in line is goddamn delightful. I even love Brian’s sad kick at the ground as Mrs. Kim claims shotgun for Lane.


It’s a painful contrast to wallowing Rory Gilmore, who is turning the first bad review of her life into a reason to throw every advantage she has away. “He said I can’t do it, so I can’t do it.” How can this be the offspring of a powerful, self-confident person like Lorelai? Rory’s mother naturally has a hard time wrapping her head around her fucked-up decision-making on this: “What kind of logic is that?” It actually only proves Huntzburger’s point about Rory, that she lacks the drive to make it in journalism (and it must be pointed out, her career floundering in the reunion kind of backs that up). For whatever self-fulfilling reasons, petulant, entitled Rory clings to Huntzburger’s dismissal of her career like an anchor she’ll follow all the way to the bottom of the ocean. Lorelai tries to be as stern as Mrs. Kim, even enlisting her parents in a very sweet scene that’s the manifestation of everything Lorelai has ever wanted from her parents, however short-lived. The show (and Sherman-Palladino) is sympathetic toward Richard; he tries to put off talking to Rory until Friday, like he’s supposed to, but crumbles when she falls apart in his arms. So we feel slightly more warmly toward the elder Gilmores than Lorelai does, as they try to plead their case, but feel the same gut-punch she does when she spies Rory in her new home, the two effectively cut off from each other’s lives.

Again, we have to give it up for Lauren Graham’s amazing acting abilities throughout, but especially in the final few moments of the season. Lorelai enters the diner to tell Luke horrible news about Rory for the second time in a week. He goes off into a Mrs. Kim-like rant (we already know Lorelai loves Luke’s rants) with a half-baked kidnap plan to keep Rory in school. Lorelai goes from devastated over the loss of the girl she’s done everything for, and the betrayal of the parents that she trusted for one brief, lovely second, to the dawning realization that Luke is the one constant in her life. It’s a powerful, wordless performance, resulting in a question that shocked GG fans at the time (who had to wait that entire interminable summer to see what the response would be). Lorelai and Luke are so solid here, the idiocies that pull them apart (April is approaching, people) will give us plenty to rant about ourselves over the next 20-odd weeks. But for now, it’s a stirring and strong moment to end a season on.


Stray observations

  • Worst Gilmore Girls outfit ever in the history of the show: Lorelai’s vest and pants with the big-collared white shirt. It looks like she’s wandered over as an unused extra from the set of Saturday Night Fever. Goes terribly with that leather-cord cross choker she’s decided to wear (is Lorelai suddenly religious?), but I can get past that accessory when there’s something pretty around it, like the purple print (and really low-cut) dress she wears at the proposal. But that vest with the untucked shirt? I love the bread and water/phone post-jail scene so much, but that outfit almost ruins it for me.
    Also bad: Rory’s light-blue sweater vest with the bra straps over the T-shirt? What was happening there?
  • Best Gilmore Girls outfit: I liked Lorelai’s giraffe dress at Friday night dinner until I realized it’s some sort of tunic over pants? Then her whole fashion palette turns orange for awhile, down to her purse. It’s weird. But I did like the reappearance of the green dress from her staff meeting a few episodes ago.
  • This week in Gilmore entitlement: “Miss Driscoll, like she’d ever need birth control.” Ouch. But worse is this little serpent’s tooth from Rory: “You didn’t go to college, so you don’t understand.”
  • Classic Luke: “I don’t want this kind of business. It’s too shiny.”
  • Hey, Rory did steal that cornstarch that time. Maybe there were signs.
  • Nice Star Wars emperor nod in the steamroom scene.
  • Also, funny Arthur nod from Zack: “I’ll alert the media.”
  • “I’ll bring children into the house too! Maybe not my own…”
  • I’ve been in journalism for a long time and am unfamiliar with cover story parties. But then, maybe I just have worked for the wrong types of publications.
  • Best-ever Gil delivery: “Awesome blazer!” Also good, to Mrs. Kim: “Yes, ma’am!”
  • Best-ever Finn delivery: “My god, those are good genes.”
  • Next week: We kick off season six with “New And Improved Lorelai.” And we meet Paul Anka (the dog!) Two seasons down, two to go. This estrangement goes on for eight full episodes, an odd choice for the Palladinos’ last season.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.