”Gilmore Girls”: Emily takes charge
Fellow tender hearts! I was so expecting to dislike this very special episode. I was worried that the emotional gravity of Richard’s condition would be carelessly strummed like a schmaltz fiddle or, worse, serve as a cheap backdrop for the LLC love triangle. What a surprise, then, to find myself tearing up throughout the episode, a few times damn near dissolving into blubbery chokes. And then what a further surprise to find myself, mid-snuffle, laughing out loud. This was hands down the best episode of the season. Give the writer, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, a raise, give Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop their Emmy nominations, give Sookie and Michel and Babette pies for their kind treatment of Lorelai, and let’s all give Christopher hell.
Seeing Emily walk into the hospital in sneakers and a fleece jacket about broke my heart. But, for one of the few times this season, the snappy writing allowed her to stay true to character throughout the episode. Of course Emily would snap at a pale, timid receptionist who was withholding her sick husband from her. When she ripped into the poor girl, calling her cheery personality more appropriate for a weather girl or a preschool teacher, and then impatiently snapped, ”Oh, please, don’t mope!” at the nurse’s quivering cheeks, I knew we were all in for a good night of TV. Of course Emily is micromanaging her social calendar and Richard’s living will and the omega 3s in fish. Proving that she really is her daughter’s mother, Emily launched into a breathless rant that ranged from the blind receptionist at her country club to the possible drug deals that go on there to the ridiculousness of being charged for meals. Magnificent. And of course Rory is comforting herself with facts and numbers, and Lorelai is soothing herself with processed vending-machine snacks. The best part, though, of this whole scene was seeing the three Gilmore women united in their anxiety, each of them suffering in their private, eccentric fashion but together forming a strong and sturdy unit.
The best part of this whole glorious hour was how the writers were able to blend such real moments of wit and lightness with wrenchingly moving drama. In the beginning, Babette babbled good-naturedly about her leopard-spotted negligee while we the audience knew what awaited Lorelai when she answered her ringing phones. And later Babette soothed her friend while simultaneously trying to tug a bladder-bursting Paul Anka off the porch. I personally teared up whenever Lorelai left Chris those pleading phone messages, timid at first, sorely chastising by the end, and I lost it when she described how small her father looked in his hospital bed (and, poor Richard, pale and wan too!) and how it reminded her of when she was a little girl, looking down at him from a tree. I really started crying when Michel told Sookie to tell Lorelai hello and that he missed her very, very much. And then I burst out laughing when he started kvetching about some guests’ demands for a roll-away bed. Something about Emily peering disdainfully at hospital cafeteria fare — ”is that a sandwich or chicken?” — tore at me, and I was a goner when she steadily ticked off everything about her life that revolved around Richard. Watching Kelly Bishop unwind herself from a stoic woman in a prim matching jogging suit to a frantic woman on the verge of losing her life’s tether was the equivalent of a seminar of acting classes.
I want to take a moment to applaud a seemingly minor but crucial triumph from tonight’s episode. This season has often seemed clumsily directed, with scenes dragging on too long and then cutting away to commercials in a lame over–and-out fashion. Not so in this graceful episode (save for that tediously long and boring business-principles exchange between Rory and Logan back at the big house). Two of my favorite adieus: Richard wearily wondered if he’d rather be in Tucson than in New Haven staring down open-heart surgery. Emily, while blasting Tucson fashions (all those ponchos and turquoise!), declared, ”Men in sandals, spare me!” And…scene. Just terrific. There was another great kicker of a scene following Emily’s outpouring in the hospital store. This masterfully underplayed and moving exchange could have ended with a completely out-of-character hug between the two hurting women. Instead, Lorelai swiped a Kleenex pack from the shelves and handed it to her mother. ”Did you just take those?” Emily asked, shaken from her emotional nakedness by stolen, cheap paper products. Brava! (And, yes, Logan fans. I want to take another moment to commend my GG nemesis for his at-the-ready attention and good care of Rory in her time of need.)
Part of me wishes the episode had ended with Lorelai and Rory in Richard’s hospital room, listening to old phonographs. When Richard slipped off into sleep, Lorelai asked Rory, ”Should we draw a mustache on him?” Now that would have been a killer kicker to this weepy episode. Instead, we got to see more of Luke proving himself to be a man of decency and compassion, free of the ego and temper that so undid Christopher the last two episodes. Of course, when Luke was handing off emergency foodstuffs to Lorelai, Christopher slunk in and acted like an unforgivable baby. I guess I’m glad that he went off with Rory (his daughter, in case he forgot!) to see her granddad. But poor, poor Lorelai. At least she had her magnificent mother standing alongside her, trading clichés instead of the warm embraces that continue to elude them.
Finally, my favorite line of the night: ”There’s nothing to yank; it’s a Jaguar, not a lawnmower.” My second favorite: ”He’s rrrrripe with life!”
But what did you all think? Has my nasty cold softened my critical instincts, or did you too think this was a terrific episode? At what points did you cry? Christopher — death by hanging or impalement? Are Logan’s millions getting ready to go bye-bye? And how many episodes until Lorelai and Luke smooch?