Not your fault, kid. (Above screenshot: Gilmore Girls. Below photo: Warner Bros./Delivered by Online USA/Getty Images)

“The Prodigal Daughter Returns,” season six, episode nine, originally aired 11/15/2005

Honestly, as I critique things, I try to put myself in the creators’ shoes sometimes. For example, imagining the Gilmore Girls staff during season six, possibly slightly burnt out, trying to come up with plot lines for the season. The Rory-Lorelai rift is about to wrap up, Luke and Lorelai have been together happily for over a season and are now engaged, that “Lorelai becoming a hotel consultant” thing never really took off, now what? Oh, we can bring Christopher back in, he’s always good to add some Luke-Lorelai tension. Richard and Emily are now on the outs with Rory, so that’s new. Hmm, but what will really put it over the top? How about a long-lost daughter for Luke, that he inexplicably neglects to tell Lorelai about? I just can’t get over what an awful plot path this is: WHO in that writers’ room thought this was the idea to latch onto?

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Making it even worse in these early days of April, are all of Luke’s (meaningless) speeches and platitudes about how he would never be afraid to tell someone the truth, how he doesn’t want any secrets between Lorelai and himself, how he clearly can’t stand the thought of Lorelai keeping something from him. All of this adds up to absolute idiocy, that his first thought would be to keep the existence of April from Lorelai. Especially since April is an intelligent, somewhat nerdy young girl—which is absolutely Lorelai’s jam. Is he afraid she’ll be upset with him? For what possible reason? It’s not like he knew about April’s existence before this. It’s one of those terrible soap-opera plots that gets drawn out forever: “They’ll be upset with me for keeping this from them, so I better continue to keep this from them.”

Also in the even worse column: The fact that Lorelai and Luke were getting along so well, and had a clear shot at being the rare, successful TV relationship without drama. Even though they fight over Christopher this episode, they quickly make up from it. And then Luke apparently forgets every sane thing he ever said with April’s paternal reveal. She’s less a person than really unfortunate plot device, even though Vanessa Marano does what she can with the giant bike helmet/school science fair material. It’s not her fault. It’s just a bad idea all the way around.

Honestly, the only bright spot in this whole episode (Yes, Rory comes back, big deal. As Paris says the next episode, what was she going to do, drive a forklift?) is the scene between queens Kelly Bishop and Lauren Graham in the plane. Emily is undone by Rory’s rejection of the life she sketched out for her, hit even harder as it’s a redux of her situation with Lorelai. Lorelai at least offers her mother some solace with the thought that she hasn’t really lost either of them, but it’s a powerful, pathos-filled scene, weighted by Emily’s reevaluation of her entire life. As drama-filled as it is, it’s the only bright spot in an otherwise painfully vapid episode, with Rory at her chirpiest (see our week in Gilmore entitlement, below).

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“He’s Slippin’ ‘Em Bread… Dig?,” season six, episode 10, originally aired 11/22/2005 

Things don’t improve much the next episode, even though it’s a Thanksgiving one, traditionally one of Gilmore Girls’ strengths, especially “Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” in the glory days of season three:

Here though, Gilmore Girls tries for quirkiness, which is the worst kind of quirkiness, with Liz of course failing to pull off her Renaissance Faire dinner (and where was TJ?) On top of that, we have a Hep Alien meltdown and Christopher at his most annoying. It’s all so very terrible, especially since we had a stellar episode written by the same person (Daniel Palladino) just a few weeks before.

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What’s worse, the Hep Alien breakup, precipitated by the fact that Brian wrote a song about Lane, and cementing Zack’s status as a whiny man-child? Or a joyous buoyant Chris, exuberant over the fact that his grandfather died and left him money? This plot twist confirms all his many years of privilege, going back to Lorelai and Rory crowing like he’s a massive success when he’s absolutely done nothing to deserve any of it. Things are bad enough already with April in the mix, and yet the episode ends with Luke trying to call her, after giving a fake speech to Lorelai about how he’s glad Christopher is stepping up as a father—leading to the perfect possible segue for him to tell Lorelai that he is a dad as well. And yet, Luke doesn’t do that, dooming the rest of this season to absolute failure (except for one brief, conflict-filled bright spot, coming up the week after next!)

Stray observations

  • This week in Gilmore entitlement: Taking advantage of the one person who gives you a decent reference by badgering and stalking him until he gives you a job that he patiently explains that he does not have. “That’s okay, the reference will be plenty.” That is exactly what you said, Rory Gilmore! Also, how can he hire Rory when Huntzburger explicitly said no?
  • Also: Rory’s grandparents took her in when no one else would, redecorated their pool house to the tune of $40,000, got her a job, and drove her to community service. And just because they dared to attempt to tell her what to do, Rory is so unused to actual parental authority figures that she repays them by cutting them off with Chris’ money the first chance she gets. She is especially insufferable in these two episodes.
  • Best Gilmore outfits: Love Lorelai in wrap dresses like the black-and-white one she wears at the start of episode one. And her cute pink boots at the start of episode two.
  • Worst Gilmore outfits: Why is Sookie wearing a dress over jeans at dinner? Also, this week in pointless scarves:

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  • Gilmore Girls cameo: Hep Alien’s brief tambourine player Joel was Joel Gion from The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • Don’t paper towels actually grow on trees?
  • I love a good “Land shark. Candygram.” reference.
  • Just when I couldn’t hate Christopher any more than I already do, he uses a word like “funnest.”
  • “Sumatra, please tell my grandmother, ‘What?’”
  • Next week: The amazing doggy swami. Le sigh.

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