Screenshot: Gilmore Girls

“Last Week Fights, This Week Tights,” season four, episode 21, originally aired 5/11/2004

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The will they/won’t TV romance category kicked off in the ’80s with Cheers’ Sam and Diane’s hilarious, climactic season-ending clinch. It was also even funny, preceded by a massive fight and the following two out-of-the-blue lines “Are you as turned on as I am right now?’ “More!”

Since then, shows have tried to walk the tightrope between dragging out the TV relationship enough for the audience to get involved, while not dragging it on for so long that they lose interest (see also: Ross and Rachel). It’s always tricky to piece the relationship together after all of that buildup (as we shall see), but that first kiss has to be the high bar, as epic as Rick and Ilsa kissing in the dark in Casablanca. With so much anticipation, the potential for letdown is tremendous.

That’s why Gilmore Girls was so wise to spread out the spiked momentum for the Luke and Lorelai kiss over three episodes. Last week, Luke finally came on board. Now he just has to get Lorelai there. He makes significant progress in “Last Week Fights, This Week Tights,” trying to present himself in a manner (wearing a tie! no baseball hat!) that will make Lorelai see him finally as more than a friend. I know Lorelai is all over Luke’s waltzing, but it always struck me as a little odd. Too much hips, or something. But at least it steers things into a new romantic light.

Luke has a surprising helper in all of this: One of the greatest parts of “Fights/Tights” is the mended relationship of Luke and Jess. His nephew helps him pick out that tie, toss his T.J.-used deodorant, and alert him to the bachelorette striptease that’s about to happen in the diner. But the best part is when Jess makes an overdue speech to Luke about how much he really appreciates everything he’s done for him. The new, enlightened Luke assures him that he knows, and underlines: “I’m here, Jess; I’m always here.” For someone like Jess who hasn’t been able to depend on much, just that simple statement has to to mean the world to him (I know everyone isn’t a huge Jess fan, but I think it’s a shame that he’s only in two more episodes after this one—his next appearance is spectacular, but doesn’t show up until season six.)

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Not sure why that sends Jess out immediately to try to get Rory to run away with him, which seems like an extremely far-fetched plan from the get-go. As Rory and Lane remind us the following episode, Jess is unpredictable, and as he heads out into the world again, he undoubtedly wanted the person he loves most beside him. Never mind the fact that that girl would be about the last person to pick up and leave Yale, her mom, Stars Hollow et al. on a whim. The scene is still tremendous though, and Milo Ventimiglia’s long pause when Rory says no for the last time: heartbreaking. Sometimes I think it’s so fun to watch him as the benevolent patriarch on This Is Us because it’s such a leap from the impetuous teen we saw him as a few decades ago.

So as Stars Hollow’s first but maybe not even last Renaissance wedding draws to a close, even Jess’ interruption has failed to stem the momentum that’s pushing Dean and Rory together, Mrs. Kim is finally back in her daughter’s life (yay)—and Lorelai and Luke move even closer still.

“Raincoats And Recipes,” season four, episode 22, originally aired 5/18/2004 

Like other superior Gilmore Girls episodes like “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?” and “The Bracebridge Dinner,” “Raincoats And Recipes” centers on a key Stars Hollow event: In this case, the test run of the Dragonfly Inn for Lorelai, Sookie, and Michel. It even finds a way to get the elder Gilmores in the mix, and unfortunately Jason, so it’s hard to top so much dynamic and odd interaction. For example, Kirk demanding that Michel move all of the things out his room.

Picking up from the previous episode, with Lorelai trying to figure out if she’s actually dating Luke or not, makes this one of Lauren Graham’s greatest episodes ever, if not the greatest. Certainly, it’s her funniest, as her befuddlement over Luke brings out a previously unseen slapstick side to Lorelai (that’s usually Sookie’s forte): knocking over a table at Luke’s Diner where she’s eaten a million times before, stammering when Michel reveals that Luke has confirmed for the opening, or not even caring that she gets clobbered by a door because Luke just brought her flowers. All the while, she’s secretly warming up to Luke’s side of things, looking at him with hilarious suspicion at the diner, then barely able to tear her eyes away from him at the Dragonfly Inn dinner. (She wraps it all up with a solid maternal takedown of her daughter, but we’ll get there in a minute.)

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Then Jason shows up. When (more likely if) people wonder why I hate Digger Stiles so much, this episode is the main reason. Lorelai has been working on this project, as she said, for about 20 years. This weekend is one of the hugest in her entire life. The last thing she needs is her recent breakup wandering in, refusing to leave until she resolves things with him. His whole take on their split is a bit deranged as well, considering it a rough patch instead of the final tear that it actually is. It’s so rude, and selfish, but Digger’s presence is almost worth it for Richard’s reaction upon seeing him in the Dragonfly living room, demanding of Lorelai without missing a beat, “Are you trying to kill me?” Also, at least Lorelai’s glare at Jason, after he asks if he can have her parents’ room after they leave, is appropriately withering. Have fun in the bathroom, Digger. See you at Richard’s funeral.

Digger at least pushes Luke to demand of Lorelai if something is really happening between them. I’m sorry to say that Nick and Jess’ kiss in New Girl’s “Cooler” recently bumped this one off the top of the charts for me in will-they/won’t they culmination land (the kiss in that Cheers episode, frankly, was more two faces getting smashed together than actual lips). But in their two, almost three kisses, L&L so quickly fall into each other so tightly, it’s as if they both know that’s where they’ve belonged all along. It is forceful, masterful, and pretty close to perfect, and likely will solidly always rank as my number two (Why yes, it’s possible I watch way too much television. Why do you ask?).

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A lesser show would give the audience what it’s been wanting for four full seasons—the long-awaited Luke and Lorelai kiss—and call it a day, capping off a great episode that included all of our favorite cast and characters under the same roof for once. But Gilmore Girls (and Amy Sherman-Palladino, who wrote and directed this episode) will not settle for that. Season four is capped off with Rory Gilmore losing her virginity in an adulterous manner, a shocking turn of events for the girl whose biggest misstep until that time was falling asleep after a dance (the yacht-stealing comes later). As with Luke and Lorelai, Rory and Dean have slowly been circling each other over the last few episodes, with the unpleasant realities of Dean and Lindsey’s marriage slowly coming to light. So the tryst seems inevitable, even as, just like Rory, we can hardly believe this is happening (not Dean though: “I can”).

No one is more disappointed than Lorelai, however. Her face crumbles as she sees Rory’s messed-up bed, knowing that her worst fears are confirmed. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a drag-out fight between these two (even though that started the series—and that one was also over Dean), and it’s emotionally harrowing. Lorelai barely raises her voice, but it’s clear she has never been this disappointed in her daughter before. Rory—who is still a teenager, let’s remember—tries to rationalize it, even as she likely suspects that her mother is right. After she storms out of the house (“I hate you for ruining this for me!” she goes to call Dean, only poor, confused Lindsey answers. That harsh reminder dissolves Rory in (fake) tears—then we don’t even see Lorelai’s face, just her high heels walking toward her daughter. This one’s going to be hard, but Lorelai will always be there to help lift Rory up. An amazing way to end the episode, and the season overall.

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Stray observations

  • Didn’t Luke say he was going to pick up Lorelai at her house for the wedding just last week?
  • Lane halting Rory’s Jess story until she has a chip in hand is one of my favorite Lane moments ever.
  • Couldn’t Jess have worn a punk skinny tie or something to his mother’s wedding?
  • This week in Gilmore entitlement: I was going to say peeking in Jess’ backpack, but sleeping with your married ex-boyfriend because “he was my boyfriend first” and “he’s my Dean” is up there.
  • Things you notice on your bizillionth viewing of these episodes: the patrons in Taylor’s ice cream parlor also enjoying Liz’s bachelorette stripper.
  • Can we also comment on how horrible the hair of the otherwise-handsome Jared Padalecki is at this point in his life? It’s like a bad bowl cut. Not that there are any good bowl cuts.
  • The moment when the three partners realize that their new inn is going to work is extremely satisfactory.
  • “You should do Europe right at least once in your life”: Classic burn from Emily on Rory and Lorelai’s previous hostel trip.
  • Tights = “air pants.”
  • A gift from Mrs. Kim: “Multi-grain soy pudding, extra chunky the way you like it.” Love how sweet Zach and Brian are with their bandmate’s mom.
  • Next week: It’ll be good to watch “A Messenger, Nothing More’ in the peak of the fall season. Apple down!

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