On ''Gilmore Girls,'' Luke and Lorelai shift into higher gear after she has a breakdown; plus, Rory fails to get her dream job

By Karen Valby
Updated April 25, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls
Credit: Lauren Graham: Scott Humbert

”Gilmore Girls”: Lorelai and Luke bond over cars

The last time we got together, I was cheering on the first 45 minutes of the episode and bemoaning the closer. Flip that on its head this week. I knew we were in for a slow burn during the opening bit, when a bashful Lorelai braved the diner for her morning coffee and Kirk blabbed meaninglessly and Miss Patty and Babette were marooned in the corner with nothing interesting to do or say. It wasn’t long before Luke and Lorelai were struggling through some awkward-awkward reflections about the weather. I keep hoping for some interesting tension between the two, but all we got there was some bad office elevator talk. That lame polite routine would eventually reach a charming breaking point, but there wasn’t enough zing or sparkle surrounding the L words to keep the hour hopping along until we got there.

I’ll try to get my whining out of the way fast. Here are a few things that do not make for interesting drama: talking on the phone — be it on a bicycle or on the porch — for long extended stretches, letter opening, waiting for letters, reading letters. As the season has progressed, I’ve been encouraged by more and more glimmers of great writing, but dang if this wasn’t one dull, flat night of bad pop-culture references (not one but two drab nods to Ryan and Farrah and a tinny tip of the hat to Jack Bauer) and whiffed jokes (”How’s the car?” ”Doorknobs.” ”As in ‘dead as’?”). I’m all for scenes with Sookie coming out from behind the inn’s kitchen counter, but her bubbling-over anger at Jackson for knocking her up seemed to come out of nowhere and just as quickly was wiped away. Sad bear Jackson’s description of picking up and then falling into Lorelai’s childhood dollhouse made me both wince and laugh. Why didn’t we get to see that? And the idea of him and Lorelai eating pizza and chicken-nugget appetizers on the sofa made me feel strangely happy and a little jealous. I would have liked to be invited to that. I also would have liked a shot of that.

Alas, we got scenes starring mail. Paris had a monster stack of Ivy League stationery waiting for her on the kitchen table. She made Rory open them for her, while faithful Doyle stood by her like a nervous gerbil. In to Stanford, in to Columbia, in to Harvard, in everywhere. She went from game-winning glee to angry dismay over her options, while Rory blanched as she realized she was banking alone on an offer from The New York Times. Paris broke up with Doyle to get her head clear and proceeded to get blottoed — which should have but didn’t bleed into a dancing-to-Fergilicious scene! — and then told Rory that the two girls were rightfully putting their careers before their guys. Rory’s eyes got wide, and she said there was room in her life for both the Times and Logan (who was off interviewing in faraway San Francisco). Paris cocked her eyebrow and stuck her face back into her pitcher of beer.

Meanwhile, Luke and Lorelai’s defenses finally crumbled nicely while the two were car shopping. Just when I’d given up all hope that they had any chemistry — platonic or sexual — Luke started grumbling about her quirkiness, and she blamed his crabbiness on low blood sugar. And, hooray, off came the cobwebs and the episode kicked into a higher gear. I’d forgotten what a pleasure it was to hear them bounce affectionately off each other. When Lorelai tried to get him to play rock-paper-scissors for a milkshake run and he waved her off dismissively, she gloated like a schoolgirl on the kickball field. ”So you forfeit?” Both actors seemed to be having a ball, and the scene was paced exactly right. What a relief! And later, when Luke showed up at her door and matter-of-factly, with a put-on note of annoyance, detailed the yeoman efforts he went to to resuscitate her old Wrangler, well, who out there didn’t want to give him a bear hug?

So if I’m getting my metaphors right, Luke is the old Jeep, right? Lorelai doesn’t want the fancy, should-feel-right-because-everyone-loves-it Volvo that was Christopher, and she doesn’t want to start test-driving any new models. She wants the same old Wrangler that Rory grew up with, the Jeep that’s a little banged up and well worn, whose engine, or, gack, heart, just needed a little tune-up. And, as long as I’m wringing this episode dry of meaning, Luke and Lorelai’s relationship is the dollhouse. No matter how carelessly it was treated, no matter how big of a dent someone’s ass made on its roof, its foundation can still be salvaged and rebuilt. I loved seeing these two go back to their affectionate barking and needling of each other. The episode ended on a nice, light note, and Lorelai looked 10 years younger. Every woman deserves a man in her life who will hunt down her perfect car and talk the price down by $1,500 bucks. Sometimes, though, that’s not the man you necessarily want to see without his pants on. Just saying! These two might be making their way back to a beautiful friendship, and that might just be a perfectly fine happily ever after.

But what did you think? Had you thought we’d seen the last of the Annoying Art Exhibit Girls? Do Luke and Lorelai seem headed back to their fabulous friendship or back to bed? Did you get a shiver when Paris looked so soft and touched by Doyle’s devotion? Was part of you, the mean, bad part that laughs against your will when you see people trip, happy that Rory got denied by the Times?

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