Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life recap: Episode 3, Summer
PREVIOUS: Episode 2, “Spring”
We’re officially at the halfway point of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which could have you feeling excited (still two episodes to go!) or sad (oh man, only two more left!), or both! And man, was this one a doozy. We got the Stars Hollow musical, a Rory-Lorelai fight, THE RETURN OF JESS (!!!!), and that’s not even getting to what happened at the end. Let’s get to it..
“Summer,” fittingly, starts with Rory and Lorelai hanging by a pool (Sidenote: Has there been a pool in Stars Hollow this whole time?), debating the merits of even going to a pool to cool off on a hot day (not to mention the chemicals and unmentionable bodily fluids in there — “kid pee,” Lorelai helpfully specifies). By now, word has gotten out that Rory is back home and everyone in town is talking about it — but anytime it comes up, she bristles. She’s not back, she stresses. She’s just… here right now.
Also here right now: April Nardini, back home for a visit after graduating from MIT and professing her love for both chemistry and metaphysics (and not getting Lorelai’s Annie Hall references — she only watches German silent films, because of course she does). Her post-grad plans? She’s taking the summer before grad school to travel with friends to canvass for pot legalization. (“It’s about civil liberties,” she says, telling her dad she doesn’t smoke pot. Later, she admits to Rory that she totally does. Well, she did it once — and ate so much cheese after.) April is also feeling a bit panicky about seeing Rory back home again in her childhood bedroom. “It’s like a postcard from the real world,” she says.
Luke and Lorelai, out in the living room, are also discussing April – how she’s also planning to visit Germany this summer on a trip funded by Luke, who Lorelai points out has paid for part of her college and now grad school, too. She offers to chip in, but he brushes her off. “April’s mine,” he says, and he’s got it. (Watch this space, this idea of keeping this separate comes up in a big way later on.)
After that not-so-uplifting talk with April, Rory goes outside and calls Logan, suggesting that since she’s not really doing much of anything these days, maybe she’d come out and visit him soon. Like, tomorrow? But there’s a minor hiccup with that: His fiancée is in town. And moved in with him a couple of weeks ago. Rory’s unsettled by this (and also by Logan’s suggestion that she could hang out in a hotel until he can come see her), but he says they can keep their arrangement the same… that she can come out in a few weeks, like they’d originally planned, and they can figure it out then. “I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “Me, too,” Rory replies, but definitely doesn’t sound like it.
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At the latest town meeting — where, shocker, there’s air conditioning now! — Babette introduces Rory to the Thirtysomething Gang, a group of kids around her age who’ve all tried their hands in the “real world” and are now back in their childhood Stars Hollow bedrooms. Needless to say, it’s not a group Rory wants to be a part of. Taylor also makes the big announcement that they’re going to do a Stars Hollow musical, with lyrics by Taylor himself (naturally) and music composed by a very forlorn looking newbie named Nat Compton. They need volunteers for a musical advisory committee to watch rehearsals for the show and give suggestions, and Lorelai gamely volunteers — as does Babette, Gypsy, and Sophie (welcome back, Carole King!). Oh, and there’s one other town update: The Stars Hollow Gazette is shutting down after 89 years because its editor, Bernie Longbottom, has retired.
After walking past the line of hopefuls auditioning for the musical (Claudia, Lorelai’s therapist, is among them) and hearing the actress who landed the leading role sing (Sutton Foster, best of the best), Rory laments that there isn’t a paper to cover all these developments… so she goes to Taylor and volunteers to run the Gazette herself. Her salary? $0. Her staff? A whole team of two: the dour-looking, deadpan Esther, and the very old, often sleeping Charlie.
But even with that crack team at her disposal, Rory puts out her first edition of the paper, which she and Lorelai then have to deliver around town themselves (to the tune of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.”) People complain that Rory didn’t include the traditional poem on the front page, Doyle calls and gripes that she cut down his review of The Jungle Book (everybody’s a critic, am I right?), and Lorelai narrowly misses getting cornered by the parents of the Thirtysomething Gang, who gather to compare their kids’ résumés and trade jobs tips.
NEXT: Stars Hollow: The Musical
Nursing their aching feet and mulling over what they ordered last night (Chinese, Greek, and Italian) and what they watched, Rory calls Emily and finds she was still asleep at nearly noon — very un-Emily-like. And then she feigns having to go and hangs up on Rory, which is even more un-Emily-like. After that call, a concerned Rory points out that Lorelai hasn’t been very helpful to her mother lately, to which Lorelai retorts that Emily’s the one who quit therapy.
Michel, now back in town, also asked Lorelai to meet him for a drink so they could talk…and you know where this is going. They go to the Secret Bar, and he says he took a meeting with the W Hotel while he was away, and decided he needs to take the job and doesn’t want to stay in one place forever. Lorelai seems understanding, but also crushed. “I’m really gonna miss him,” she tells Rory after.
Lorelai also attends the first run-through of Stars Hollow: The Musical, along with the rest of the advisory committee. After Taylor swears them to secrecy, they watch Violet (Foster), Carl (Christian Borle), and the rest of the cast perform, and… it’s weird. Really weird. Lots of time traveling, costume changes, bad songs, and an if Hamilton can do it, so can we! rap song that name-checks Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know Taylor thought he was being soooo cool when he came up with it). Everyone’s enjoying it except for Lorelai, who looks mildly horrified. Afterward, Taylor holds a meeting where everyone praises it — Babette even prepped zingers that diss other Broadway shows like School of Rock and The Book of Mormon — except for Lorelai, who asks a lot of very important questions. What was with the weird opening scene? Why the rapping? And the ABBA song the company sings for the finale? (Sophie suggests they can use a song she wrote instead, but when she starts playing “I Feel the Earth Move” Taylor dismisses it as not catchy enough.)
Rory surprises Emily at her house and gets a surprise there of her own: Emily Gilmore has voluntarily allowed a TV to be moved into the living room. And she ate dinner in front of it on a TV tray. Rory asks if she’s been doing anything besides running errands or her DAR meetings, and tells her grandmother to get out a little and have fun. What she does do is email Lorelai — the first contact they’ve had in a while — about Richard’s gravestone. Apparently, this is the fifth one they’ve had made, as previous versions all got chucked for various infractions noted by Emily, and she wants them at the gravesite to unveil the new one.
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Meanwhile, at the Gazette office, Rory gets a visitor — Jess (!!!), who’s back in town to help Luke deal with his mom and TJ and the weird vegetable cult they accidentally joined. They share a drink and catch up: His book press is doing well, no one permanent in his personal life — which reminds Rory she still needs to break up with poor Paul — and she tells Jess how unmoored she’s been feeling. “I could have been a contender,” she laments. “I’m broke. Busted. Beggared. I have no apartment, no car. … Everything I own is scattered in boxes around three different states. I have no job. I have no credit. I have no underwear!”
Jess replies that she’s just in a rut and needs to something find something to write that she’s passionate about: “You should write a book.” And not just any book — a book about her and her mom. As he tells Rory, it’s a story only she can tell. He departs (hopefully not the last we’ll see of him!) and Rory seems to be considering it — she goes back through old issues of the Gazette on microfilm and finds one with the absolutely ridiculous (but totally Stars Hollow-worthy) headline, “Teen Mom Lorelai Gilmore Arrives in Stars Hollow, Takes Job at Independence Inn.”
A week later, Lorelai goes to her mother’s house and finds Emily sitting with someone named Jack Smith, a friend of her dad’s who spoke at the funeral. They’re on the back patio, where he’s making gimlets, offering to drive everyone to the cemetery, and making Lorelai thoroughly weirded out. She ducks into the kitchen and calls Rory, who admits she’s the one who encouraged her grandmother to go back to the club and get out a little bit more. When Lorelai asks her mother about him, she says she and Jack are just friends and her daughter responds that it’s just weird to see her moving on — to which Emily interprets as Lorelai saying her mother can now be someone else’s problem. Twisting the knife, she tells Lorelai about the plan in Richard’s will to expand Luke’s Diner and asks why Luke never called her about their real-estate field trip. Which, of course, was all news to Lorelai.
NEXT: A mother-daughter breakup
All this leads to a very loaded visit to the cemetery, and Jack thankfully waits in the car. They unveil the new gravestone, which Emily finds yet another thing wrong with — there are single quotes around the Longfellow quotation and not double ones — and while she goes off to deal with that, Rory and Lorelai lay flowers at the grave. Rory tells her mom she’s been researching apartments in Queens and excitedly shares the news that she’s writing a book! “It’s about me and you,” she tells Lorelai. “It’s about our journey, and the journey you took before I was born.” Lorelai is stunned… and says no. It’s her life, and she doesn’t want Rory to write about it. And she’s even less thrilled when she hears the idea came from Jess. Lorelai says Rory didn’t think this through, but Rory fights back: This is what she feels she’s supposed to do. Without it, it’s grad school or begging for jobs she doesn’t want. This devolves into a full-on stalemate: Neither will budge, and Rory leaves Lorelai standing there at the cemetery.
Reeling from Emily and Rory’s respective news, Lorelai goes to the diner and picks a new fight with Luke, asking why she didn’t tell him about looking at franchise locations with her mother. He counters with her not telling him about going to therapy with her mother anymore and says they had a deal — that she keeps her crazy family away from him, and he does the same for her. “That’s how two people who are partners are supposed to be?!” she retorts, asking why everything is so separate with them. Luke argues she’s the one who set things up that way and he just went along.
As that’s happening, Rory is trying to justify her side of the story to Lane. While they’re talking, she pulls out her phone and reflexively calls Logan, hanging up in horror when he picks up. And then she does it again. Lane tells her Lorelai will calm down. “She looked at me the way she looks at Grandma,” Rory laments. “That hurt.” Logan calls back and asks what’s wrong, but then has to take the call outside because his fiancée is nearby. Rory says she can’t talk to him anymore because of Odette, so she breaks up with him — except, she notes, it’s not really a breakup since they weren’t really together. Cue the sad guitar music in the background as Lane comforts her friend.
Lorelai gets a message from Taylor to come listen to a new song from the musical at Miss Patty’s and when she does it’s Violet singing a ballad that could have been written directly for or sung by Lorelai. “This should have all worked itself out by now,” Violet sings from the stage, ending with, “I need to be unbreakable somehow, it’s never or now.”
The rest of the committee hates it, but Lorelai is practically moved to tears. She comes home and tells Luke they need to talk: She’s going away for a few weeks to live out Wild (the book, she specifies, not the movie). She wants to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, or part of it, even though Luke points out it’s outdoors and in nature and not a typically Lorelai thing to do. When he asks her why, she uses Violet’s song as a response — “because it’s never or now” — before walking out and leaving him standing there in her kitchen.
There was a lot to take in here, and the musical provided a very weird detour, but we also got the return of Jess, a “breakup” with Logan, and fresh, painful confrontations between Emily and Lorelai, Rory and Lorelai, and Lorelai and Luke. There was a lot of plot development here. Will this time away give Lorelai some perspective? It has to, right?
Episode grade: B+
NEXT: Episode 4, “Fall”