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Gilmore Girls 15th anniversary: A (very detailed) look at the best of Sookie St. James

From her adorable clumsiness in the kitchen to ‘Norman Mailer, I’m pregnant!’ and beyond, Melissa McCarthy slayed as Lorelai’s BFF and Stars Hollow’s chef extraordinaire.

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Beware of spoilers from a show that first aired 15 years ago!!

Before Melissa McCarthy was cracking up viewers in Bridesmaids, Mike & Molly, and Spy, (and the upcoming Ghostbusters remake!) she appeared in all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls as beloved character Sookie St. James.  

(This is where devout fans of the Amy Sherman-Palladino hit exclaim, “I liked Melissa McCarthy before she was popular!” and they totally deserve to.)

The show centers on Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) — a hyper-caffeinated, pop-culture-obsessed mother-daughter duo living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut — and their eccentric family and friends.

McCarthy played Lorelai’s BFF and co-worker, an adorably clumsy and hilariously neurotic chef who worked alongside the central mom at a couple of local inns (first the Independence Inn, and then at their own Dragonfly Inn). She often appeared as comic relief, but had a number of heartwarming moments throughout the show too.  

Upon the Gilmore Girls pilot’s 15th anniversary, we celebrate the best of Sookie St. James with a very detailed look at 15 of her funniest and sweetest moments and traits:  

CUTE CLUMSINESS

The moments: Over the course of seven seasons, a lot changes in Sookie’s life. For starters, she falls in love, gets married, has children, and opens The Dragonfly Inn with Lorelai. But there’s always one constant: She’s hilariously uncoordinated.

Why it’s the best: We know Sookie is a talented and competent chef because everyone constantly talks about how delicious her food is, so when she accidentally starts small fires in the kitchen that have to be put out by her co-workers or tears her clothing while doing some acrobatic cooking, it’s rather endearing.  

Standout lines: This one is much more visual, so watch below:

PERFECTIONIST COOKING

(THIS TIME, IN THE FORM OF THE MAGIC RISOTTO)

The moment: A food critic gives the restaurant at the Independence Inn a nearly all-around glowing review, but says “the much-lauded risotto was perfectly fine.” (PERFECTLY FINE?!) It turns out that Sookie believes the risotto to be magic because she served it to her mother when she was on her deathbed — and her mother then lived for three more years. So Sookie goes on a hunt to find out why the risotto received the review that it did and to change the critic’s mind.

Why it’s the best: Sookie is laugh-out-loud funny when she tries to figure out what went wrong — first she’s despondent, then she develops an obsession. She interrogates the waiter who served the critic and tracks down the receipt from his meal and realizes that he drank the wrong wine with the dish (it can totally throw off one’s palate, okay?). The cherry on top is when she shows up at the critic’s house with her back turned to the door because she can’t see the critic’s face, with the risotto and the RIGHT wine in hand so he can give it another go.

Standout lines:

“I narrowed it down and I found a party that had ordered practically everything including…” —Sookie

“The magic risotto.” —Lorelai

“Yes, the risotto, and a Riesling, ha! A Riesling.” —Sookie

“Why not just drink battery acid.” —Lorelai

“Exactly! It changes the entire flavor of the dish, and the fact that Brian [the server who waited on the critic] even served it makes me think Celia [Brian’s girlfriend who kicked him out] is a little bit better off without him.” —Sookie

Everett Collection

INFECTIOUS, UPBEAT SINGING

The moments: Sookie is someone who has a largely positive outlook on life, and it especially shows when she sings. For example, after she and Lorelai make up from a fight, she starts singing Ricky Martin’s “Livin La Vida Loca,” as one does. And let’s not forget her own beautiful musical creations, like when she sings about the cookies and the Dean and the love

Why it’s the best: It’s contagious! (I can’t be alone in thinking that she would make the best karaoke partner, right? I would say Miss Patty, but I’m convinced that she would try to steal the show…)

Standout line: “[Singing] Cookies for the Dean and the Rory and the cookies for the love and the Dean…”

BOLD, ROMANTIC MOVE

The moment: Remember that fight between Lorelai and Sookie we were just talking about? Yeah, well that happened because Lorelai threw some serious shade. “When did you become the relationship expert?” Lorelai asks. “You haven’t been in a relationship in years.” Ouch. Sookie soon asks her produce man Jackson (Jackson Douglas) out on a date and he says yes.

Why it’s the best: It’s a moment where Sookie — again, often the comic relief — is genuinely emotional and scared because she really likes this guy, who we later know becomes her husband. And when the moment does turn to humor, she’s riotous as she thinks she may have crossed a professional line.

[Bonus: Sookie’s move leads to Lorelai’s setup with Jackson’s odd and abrasive cousin, Roon.] 

Standout lines:

“Oh my God, technically I’m his employer. I am, I buy his wares. His livelihood depends on me. [Dramatic gasp] I’m a sexual harasser.” —Sookie

“Well then you need some false eyelashes.” —Lorelai

“This isn’t funny. I am now desperate, lonely, and a criminal.” —Sookie

BIG, BIG MOUTH

The moments: Sookie is sort of notorious for her inability to keep a secret. It’s never deliberate, but one way or another the truth always comes out. Like when Lorelai catches Sookie baking like mad for a surprise wedding shower for her and Max. Or when she reveals to Lorelai’s estranged mother Emily (Kelly Bishop) that she’s engaged when Lorelai hadn’t told her yet. 

Why it’s the best: Sookie always has the best intentions, so when she spoils a surprise or reveals a major secret you can never really blame her. This isn’t always endearing for the people actually involved, but from where we’re sitting (which is usually on the couch, 5 episodes deep and counting, and curled up with a jar of Nutella — or is that just me?) it’s kind of cute. 

Standout lines:

“Oh my God. What is this?” —Lorelai

“The dinner special?” —Sookie

“The dinner special is a heart shaped pastry with Max and Lorelai written on it?” —Lorelai

“I couldn’t find any good salmon.” —Sookie

“Sookie, you’re throwing me a wedding shower aren’t you?” —Lorelai

“It was supposed to be a surprise.” —Sookie

 

NEXT: Sookie beefs with Michel about blueberries and Destiny’s child (yes, seriously). 

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GREAT RAPPORT WITH MICHEL

The moments: Literally everyone has a contentious relationship with Michel (Yanic Truesdale), but Sookie and Michel’s relationship is especially sidesplitting because her love of the culinary world — you’ll recall, she’s a chef and is constantly asking people to try her food — and his fierce opposition to anything remotely unhealthy are constantly at odds. Take, for example, the fight over the blueberry pancakes and Destiny’s Child.

Why it’s the best: Michel always has these crazy health rules for himself, so when you pit him against a chef, you know it’ll stir the pot. But with the fight over the blueberry pancakes, Sookie doesn’t just tease him about his precision with how many blueberries he’ll eat (see below). She challenges him and his favorite girl group trio — and it gets uproariously ugly. 

Standout lines:

“Okay, here we go. Low-fat, whole wheat blueberry pancakes.” — Sookie

“Are there 12?” —Michel

“12 what?” —Sookie

“Blueberries. I can only have 12 blueberries for breakfast.” —Michel

“Or what?” —Sookie

“What do you mean, or what?” —Michel

“What happens if you eat 13 blueberries.” —Sookie

“This is a silly conversation.” —Michel

“Would you die?” —Sookie

“Just hand me the place.” —Michel

“Only if you don’t count.” —Sookie

“I won’t count.” —Michel

“Swear. Raise your right hand and say, ‘May Destiny’s Child break up if I count these blueberries.’” —Sookie

“[Raises hand] Pick another group.” —Michel

“Nope.” —Sookie

“[Slams hand down] I hate you! Hate you!” —Michel

‘ARE YOU PREGNANT?’

The moment: Jackson and Sookie have a fight at Stars Hollow’s Bid-A-Basket event. Sookie had previously told Jackson to renew the lease on his apartment, when Jackson wanted them to take a step forward and move in together. It turns out Sookie does too but was afraid of messing up their relationship by being around each other all the time. They of course make up, and in a big way — Jackson proposes. Sookie’s response? “Are you pregnant?”

Why it’s the best: While her initial response is hilarious, when she starts crying, it warms your heart. I would go so far to say it’s probably her sweetest moment of the show. 

Standout line: None other than the line, “Are you pregnant?”

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WEDDING DAY NEUROSIS

The moment: After a romantic romp with Rory’s father Christopher (David Sutcliffe), Lorelai heads to the kitchen of the Independence Inn where she finds Sookie in her wedding dress frantically taking daffodils off of her wedding cake in a serious bout of night-before-the-big-day anxiety.   

Why it’s the best: Everyone freaks out sometimes — just maybe not about salmon puffs and daffodils. Here is a time where Sookie is very real and relatable, but hilarious at the same time. (But seriously, what’s so bad about serving salmon puffs as a first course anyway?) 

Standout lines:

“What happened?” —Lorelai

“I don’t know.” —Sookie

“When I left you you were fine.” —Lorelai

“I know, and when I went home I was fine and when I went to bed I was fine and then I had this dream where suddenly my dress is really, really short in back. You know? So I bolt out of bed and I put my dress on and it looks ok, but then I panic. What if I’m remembering the dream wrong? What if my dress isn’t screwed up? What if it’s my veil? So I put on my veil, then I remember I’m serving salmon puffs. SALMON PUFFS. Completely wrong, so I had to rush over here and try to find another first course and then I walk in and these daffodils, something snapped and that’s when you walked in here.” —Sookie

DRINKING THE DEEP FRYER AWAY

The moment: Sookie agrees to let Jackson cook the turkey on Thanksgiving assuming that he would roast it, but he gives it the deep fry treatment instead — sending her into a full on panic and toward beer. When Lorelai and Rory return hours later to check up on her, she’s in deep with the drinks.

Why it’s the best: It’s mostly in Sookie’s horrified reaction when Jackson  shows off his “gobbler” and chooses to deep-fry everything (a stick of butter, a napkin, you name it!). And how that horror soon turns to an amusement, thanks to alcohol. 

Standout line: “You caught me at a good time, ladies. I’ve already gone through the five stages of grieving. Denial, anger, I don’t remember these two, but they were served on the rocks with salt!”

AMBITIOUS, DETERMINED PURSUIT OF HER DREAMS

The moments: Sookie and Lorelai had talked about opening an inn of their own for a long time, and when the Independence Inn closes they finally get their chance. They approach Fran from Weston’s Bakery (Linda Porter) who is the owner of the then out-of-commission local Dragonfly Inn. She doesn’t want to sell, but they’re able to buy it after her unfortunate passing.

Why it’s the best:  Did Sookie and Lorelai seriously try to ask if they can buy Fran’s inn at her funeral? Yep. Once they are able to buy and work on the inn, it’s incredibly stressful, but it’s all worth it in the end. 

Standout lines: The entire scene with Sookie and Lorelai talking through Fran’s funeral, trying to figure out what Fran’s friend was saying about what would happen to the Dragonfly. Revisit season 3, episode 20, “Say Goodnight, Gracie.”

NEXT: The neurosis goes beyond her wedding day … yep, expect another anxiety-ridden rant! 

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PREGNANCY NEUROSIS 

The moment: Sookie, who is very far along in her pregnancy with her first child, freaks out because she still hasn’t had her baby. She goes to Lorelai’s house at 1 a.m. and panics about how the baby won’t come out of her and asks how she delivered Rory. She also goes on about how she might be going through a whopping 22-month elephant gestation period.

Why it’s the best: Of course Sookie is not going through an elephant’s gestation period because she’s not an elephant, but it’s amusing to see her go on yet another rant about her insatiable thirst for all the cocktails. Plus, it’s really sweet to see Lorelai calm Sookie down by showing her the box of things she kept around the time Rory was born.

[Bonus: This is from the Festival of Living Art episode when Sookie’s baby pager finally goes off as Lorelai is posing as a character in a painting and must desperately try not to flinch.]

Standout line: “It’s lodged in there. It’s stuck for God’s sake. It’s not … coming … out. It’s growing, all the time. Just getting bigger and bigger. I’ve forgotten what it’s like not to be expanding. I’ll get so huge, I’ll be the fat guy in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. I’ll explode and slime the whole room. People could die.”

‘NORMAN MAILER, I’M PREGNANT!’

The moment: Sookie works herself into a fit because Norman Mailer keeps coming into the Dragonfly but only orders iced tea, and she finds out that lunch is being canceled to cut costs. She does whatever she can to save lunch, including enlisting Kirk (Sean Gunn) to pass out flyers — which he does in front of Luke’s, sending Luke (Scott Patterson) into a rage — but loses the battle. Naturally, she takes her frustration out by yelling at the famous author.

Why it’s the best: It’s completely ridiculous to think that Norman Mailer is singlehandedly responsible for lunch being temporarily called off at the Dragonfly, and Sookie sounds absolutely crazy when she goes on — you guessed it — a rant blaming him. She realizes she’s pregnant with her second child as she’s badmouthing Norman Mailer, and then excitedly exclaims the news to him (below). 

Standout line: “Norman Mailer, I’m pregnant!” (also the episode title).

Warner Bros./Getty Images

SNEAKY, SURPRISE VASECTOMY

The moment: After giving birth to baby number two, Sookie surprises Jackson and tells him that he’s getting a vasectomy … and when a large nurse appears, it’s clear that Jackson is having the procedure straight away. Jackson complains that he wanted four kids (see the four kids in four years fight they had at the dance marathon) but Sookie says that she wanted three, so this is a good compromise (because that’s how compromises work?).

Why it’s the best: It’s all in her joking look and tone, but serious message. A wide-eyed and smiling Sookie tells Jackson that she’s arranged for his procedure and he thinks she’s kidding, and it almost seems that way to the viewers too. But when Jackson fires back that she has a dark sense of humor and she deadpans, he realizes that she’s for real, setting up some major drama and laughs to come down the line (aka he doesn’t get the vasectomy and doesn’t tell her so they have another child).

Standout line: “I’m not joking, sweetie. We’re cutting that tube, if it is a tube. I’m not really up on the procedure. The doctor doing it will be though, so I’m sure he’ll know.”

BEST, BEST FRIEND FOREVER TO LORELAI

The moments: Sookie is always there for Lorelai, especially in the cooking and baking department. But some of their best moments are just the two of them hanging out and chatting, be it serious or not.   

Why it’s the best: In those moments where Sookie and Lorelai are talking about coffee or boys or their future business plans or their kids, their friendship feels sincere. Sure, they fight but that’s what friends do (see their heartwarming make up about moving forward with the inn below). 

Standout lines:

“You don’t want to move forward?”—Lorelai

“No, I do but I need your promise that you’re not going to lose it on me again.” —Sookie

“I promise.” —Lorelai

“Because I couldn’t take losing a business partner and my best friend in one fell swoop. It’d be too much.” —Sookie

“Sookie I will place my hand on whatever you want and swear that you can trust that I will not lose confidence in our dream.” —Lorelai

“That’s good enough because I know you don’t like to put your hand on things.” —Sookie

“We’re going to give it our best shot.” —Lorelai

“And if we go down after two years…” —Sookie

“It’ll be the most exciting two years of our lives!” —Lorelai

AND BIG SUPPORTER OF RORY

The moments: No surprise, Sookie is also always there for Rory, again in the cooking and baking department. (See: the cookies for the Dean and the Rory and the love …) But more than being a sugar enabler, Sookie really cares about Rory — and that especially shows when she attends Rory’s graduation from Chilton.   

Why it’s the best: She’s truly emotional, in the sweetest way. When she and Lorelai are “not crying” and “not blubbering” it’s truly genuine, and so clear how much she loves her best friend’s daughter.  

Standout lines:

“Not crying.” —Sookie

“Crying a little.” —Lorelai

“Crying a little, but not blubbering. That’s what we meant when we said no crying. No blubbering.” —Sookie