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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The quiet devastation of Gilmore Girls’ Mrs. Kim

Best Mrs. Kim scene ever? (Screenshot: Gilmore Girls)
Best Mrs. Kim scene ever? (Screenshot: Gilmore Girls)

“In The Clamor And The Clangor” (season four, episode 11, originally aired 1/27/2004)

Yes, Gilmore Girls is about the relationship between the two women in the title, and to a lesser extent, their relationship with another Gilmore generation. But it’s safe to say that the theme the entire series is based on is family. Sometimes, the show benefits by using the Gilmores as a springboard to compare other relationships against. In “The Clamor And The Clangor,” the relationship between Mrs. Kim and Lane stands in stark contrast to Lorelai and Rory: a mother and daughter who tell each other everything versus a mother who discovers that she doesn’t really know her daughter at all.

As far as Gilmore Girls characters go, Mrs. Kim is one of the best. She never wavered in 100-plus episodes, plus her way too brief, yet hilarious appearance in the revival. Her consistency (right down to her smock wardrobe) is the greatest thing about her. Her sternness is often played for comic effect, but there’s also something really comforting about someone who is so unwavering in her beliefs, and is certain that she’s always right. This makes her moments of frailty in this episode all the more heartbreaking.

And it’s hard to get too mad at Lane, who, as we’ve known from the first episode, is a cheerful, enthusiastic girl who loves drumming and rock music and many things that don’t quite fit into the Seventh-Day Adventist lifestyle. Her attempt to try to rev up her study group is not only adorable, but a sharp contrast to her CBGBs life with the band. She loves her rock ’n’ roll and her mother so much, she is determined to keep them apart to try to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Frankly, with Rory around, we could use some adolescent rebellion (and Lorelai’s enduring adolescence doesn’t count.) So when Lane’s life of deception blows up, it blows up in the hugest way possible. The saddest scene of all might have been Luke telling Mrs. Kim what a responsible daughter she has, and Mrs. Kim realizing that Lane called everyone but her. Emily Kuroda just straight-up nailed that moment. It’s going to take us all awhile to get over it.

It’s a good thing Rory got some nice moments in with Lane, because otherwise it’s another clunker of a Yale episode for her, with a convoluted non-story about the laundry-room guy. And for what? Maybe all of Rory’s crushing rejection at Yale is supposed help explain why she starts leaning on Dean soon, otherwise I really don’t see the point. But even that isn’t as bad as Lorelai throwing a fit over Luke and Nicole’s living situation. First she’s upset because he moved, then she’s upset because it doesn’t appear like he moved, and she had to spend a whole week being upset about it, like this is anyone else’s fault but her own. The showdown when he asks her why she cares so much is just one of the many near-misses we’ll encounter on our will-they/won’t they corkscrew route (there’s another one just next week). This one is interrupted by the pastor, and the bells are put to rest. Although it’s pretty funny how quickly they go from charming to insufferable.

“A Family Matter” (season four, episode 12, originally aired 2/3/2004)

Maybe that’s why Jess returns in the next episode, just to give poor Alexis Bledel something to play off of. She really comes into her own here in certain scenes, like her cute crying at Stan’s funeral, and stern takedown of Paris’ stormtrooper-like breakup with Jamie (on his birthday, no less!)


The reappearance of Jess for the first time since he left town, along with the introduction of Liz (Kathleen Wilhoite, who made quite a career for herself playing wayward siblings: See also ER), offers us a dysfunctional family contrast to play against the Gilmores. Sure, Lorelai can’t seem to tell her parents that she’s dating her father’s business partner, but that pales in comparison to poor Liz, Luke, and Jess, who seem to want to connect even though they have little idea on how actually to do so. Liz might be the most sympathetic in this regard; at least she’s trying. Jess unfortunately is in his ultimate insufferable Jess stage: When people say they don’t like the character, episodes like this one help that argument.

What’s lovely at the end is Luke leaving the key for Jess, and watching to make sure he gets inside. Jess says, “That’s what family does,” but taking care of someone even when you’re mad at hell at them: That’s really what family does. The quote that Luke is searching for is the first line of Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Each of these families have their varying degrees of unhappiness at this point in the Gilmore cycle, and the show is doing an excellent job of comparing and contrasting the Gilmores, the Kims, and the Danes. Having Luke try to churn out that quote is a bit on-the-nose, but we’ll allow it.


Stray observations

  • This week in Gilmore entitlement: Lorelai somehow making Luke moving three weeks ago all about her. Luke, preach: “You think everything is about you!” Then bugging her poor daughter who’s trying to study just because she’s bored.
  • This week in scarves: Rory’s white lace choking device is everywhere.
  • This week in pointless scarves: Lorelai’s skinny blue and black striped one doesn’t look like it would keep a hamster warm.
  • What’s your favorite Mrs. Kim moment? Mine is the fake egg salad sandwiches from the dance marathon.
  • At least we have the benefit of watching these knowing how everything turns out, but at the time (I think I remember) this point in season four must have seemed pretty dark. Already looking forward to the scenes where Mrs. Kim gets on board with the band and books them a church group tour. And as we know, somehow Jess turns out just fine.
  • Why wouldn’t Lane sleep on the couch in that beautifully furnished common room?
  • I know that the never-appearing Mr. Kim is kind of an in-show joke (and he also shows up in the revival), but his loss is really felt in these episodes. With all this going on, it seems weird not to even mention Lane’s father.
  • How can a sconce be too British?
  • Digger even drives like a douchebag. But his day in Stars Hollow did show that he and Lorelai have a nice, even-keeled rapport.
  • Worst Gilmore outfit: Is Lorelai’s white hat with brim the worst thing that’s ever been worn on this show? So far I don’t have any other contenders.
  • Oh wait, yes I do: Digger’s white sweater, mentioned last week in the comments. Is it better or worse than Lorelai’s hideous hat that makes her look like a cartoon character from The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop? Please compare and contrast, and show your work.
  • Paris talking about Abraham and his handmaiden next to Alexis Bledel blew my mind a little bit.
  • Next week: My favorite Emily putdown of all time in my favorite Digger episode ever.