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Let’s talk about the Gilmore Girls’ awful Life And Death Brigade

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“You Jump, I Jump Jack,” season five, episode seven, originally aired 11/2/2004 

I keep thinking more and more about how Gilmore Girls is really about class culture. This episode, both Rory and Luke are outsiders looking in at impossibly privileged lives. Luke is bound to be less-impressed because he already has a life that he likes a lot (no matter how frequently grouchy he is about it). Young Rory is more easily swayed, and, as we discover by the end of the season, to her detriment.


Of all of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s apparent fascinations with upper-class trappings (like Rory’s coming out party, and all the Gilmores’ frequent social gatherings), the Life And Death Brigade is the worst of the lot. She is as smitten as Rory, won over by the devil-may-care smiles and attitudes of Logan, Colin, and Finn. For the rest of us, there’s very little to be won over by. What’s so commendable about being born into privilege, learning the best way to swipe bottles from your parents’ lofty liquor cabinets, and speaking at length without using the letter “e”? That Life And Death Brigade main event just looked like scenes from the cutting-room floor from a Great Gatsby adaptation, complete with appropriate soundtrack. (Although the jumping stunt was pretty impressive.)

What’s even more maddening is that ASP’s fascination is fiercely at odds with the beliefs of our main character, Lorelai Gilmore. The origin of the Gilmore Girls story is based on Lorelai’s steadfast rejection of her privileged upbringing, down to raising baby Rory in a potting shed, rather than going home. She reconnects with her parents to get the money to send Rory to Chilton, and Rory sees for the first time the lifestyle she could have had. She’s never seemed to want it before, until the Life And Death Brigade roll in, with their charming, carefree ways and seemingly unlimited bankroll.

The problem with the LADB is that they just keep coming, with the yacht stealing, and the multiple bridesmaids, and the fact that Logan is going to be around until the end of the series. I also hold a great deal of resentment toward them for how much time they took up in the revival, which was limited to only four 90-minute episodes. Really didn’t need to see them and their Beatles song knockoff, when we barely saw Lane and Zach.

As we learn in the revival, Finn and Colin are still just Finn and Colin, purchasing entire clubs and forgetting about it. But at least with Logan, these early days are followed by us finding out that he has his reasons for lashing out. Like Lorelai, he feels trapped by the future his parents have laid out for him, but unlike Lorelai, he’s not strong enough or willing to escape it. It gives him more sympathy than he deserves in these first efforts when he’s not much more than a smug smirk, a verbal sparring partner for Rory that’s more golden boy, less the petulant darkness of Jess. (Let’s face it: Dean is a goner as soon as Logan starts throwing around terms like similes and names like Joseph Miller.) And a guide to not only the world of the Yale Daily News, but the upper-crusters that reside at the university, i.e., the path Lorelai could have taken.


“The Party’s Over,” season five, episode eight, originally aired 11/9/2004 

Is it any wonder, then, that Lorelai looks so horrified at the end of “The Party’s Over”? After all she’s done for Rory, all the sacrifices, despite all her best efforts, that glittery, glamorous world is too tantalizing. Rory winds up drunk on champagne in a limo, surrounded by boys with names like Kip and Jordan. It has to be Lorelai’s worst nightmare come true.


Helpfully, Richard and Emily’s machinations are also a reminder of what Lorelai had to get away from. In these two episodes, Lorelai’s parents refuse to accept the girls’ choices for their own boyfriends, and insist on meddling. Trying to turn Luke into a clean-shaven franchise owner (another effort that reappears in the revival) and attempting to find Rory any relationship option but Dean. At least on that, we agree, but their insistence that they know what’s right for other peoples’ lives is both tenacious and terrifying, leaving us even more impressed with the mettle Lorelai must have had throughout her whole life to get away from it all.

Luke’s family problems with Liz and T.J. pale in comparison, and actually only appear to exist to throw a dumb, inefficient wrench into Luke and Lorelai’s dinner date. It’s the will-they/won’t they conundrum: What do you do with a couple once they’re finally together? This episode, written by Amy Sherman-Palladino herself, no less—appears to indicate that the show’s writers had very little idea how to make that relationship work, finding the need for human roadblocks (Christopher, April, ugh). That goodbye kiss was downright steamy, with Lorelai appropriately dazed afterwards: Couldn’t they have found a way to make that twosome last a bit longer?


At least Lane and Zach continue to charm, and Mrs. Kim is as scary as we’ve ever seen her, lashing out at the boy who’s attempting to defile her dear girl. Looking forward to her Hep Alien musical critiques. But Lane and Zach, as their sweet first date shows, make sense: similar background, income levels, musical tastes. Rory, as we’ll see, is off on a much rougher path.

Stray observations

  • “I’ll bring ‘dick’ up on the internet, see what comes up.”
  • Simultaneous best/worst Gilmore Girls outfits: Rory had the loveliest two-toned scoop-necked dress on at Friday night dinner, which was almost overtaken by Lorelai’s hideous heart sweater.
  • No mention that Lorelai hiding Digger from her parents might be a reason why Emily wants to set up a meeting with Luke.
  • Bunny and Napoleon Barnes and their son Kip? Someone was having fun in the writers’ room.
  • Loved this line and delivery by Kyon: “But Mrs. Kim, she says the fries are the devil’s starchy fingers.”
  • “Campbell, like the soup!”
  • This week in Gilmore entitlement: Lorelai’s boyfriend makes a giant meal for her and she can’t even be bothered to stir the sauce. When she does stir it for a few brief moments, she complains about carpal tunnel. She shows up in a maid outfit and says she won’t clean up. She can really be the worst.
  • Next week: “Emily Says Hello,” and Gwen says, “God, I hate Christopher.”

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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

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