“A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” (season 3, episode 9, originally aired 11/26/02)
This episode is mostly a charming, whimsical holiday episode that has fun with Lorelai and Rory bouncing between their various Stars Hollow families to celebrate Thanksgiving. There’s tofurky and hymnals with the Kim family, a soused Sookie bemoaning her husband’s attempts to deep-fry a turkey on their front lawn, and a sweetly awkward turkey dinner with Luke and Jess at the diner (followed by a much less awkward reunion there at the end of the night).
On the other hand, this is a continuation of the weird “Lorelai doesn’t understand how college applications work” plot that now extends to a meta-textual level. Does Gilmore Girls even understand how college applications work? Rory seems to imply that in addition to Harvard, she’s applying to Yale and Princeton, like they’re safety schools. Look, Rory is a smart cookie, and she’s got (at least) a double legacy at Yale. But I should hope she’s smart enough to look outside the Ivy League for at least one of her applications. Lorelai’s complete unawareness of how any of this works is even more ridiculous, and it hurts the episode.
Gilmore Girls is not a show I really desire much plausibility from, but Lorelai’s freakout at the Gilmore dinner table when Rory reveals she applied to Yale is the only big strike against this episode for me. To put it simply, this show usually does a good job essaying the wedges Lorelai and her parents drive between each other, but the whole college application thing is a rare misfire. Lorelai viewing Harvard as the perfect choice for Rory vs. Yale as an establishment nightmare that will mold her in the image of her parents is just ridiculous.
Whatever! “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” has lots to love. A drunk Sookie is a rare sight, which is too bad, because Melissa McCarthy’s natural comic talents shine the most when she’s being over-the-top. Watching her list the five stages of depression (“denial, anger, I don’t remember these two but they were served on the rocks with salt”) is something I wish she did a little more frequently on this show.
The Kim household is just as adorable in a different way, as Dave continues his concerted effort to win over Mrs. Kim, barely requiring encouragement from Lane. Yes, yes, he’s almost too perfect a potential boyfriend, but I like the concept. Lane is totally awesome—she deserves a man interested enough to wage a publicity campaign against the traditional Kim household. Dave is not the most fascinating, not the most three-dimensional character. But, mostly because of Adam Brody, he’s still tremendously appealing, and their first kiss (wisely scored to “The Man Who Sold The World”) is pretty swoon-worthy.
“A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” also underlines a crucial difference between Jess and Dean most people have probably already noticed—Jess kisses way hotter. Not in front of Lorelai, who mocks Rory’s lame peck after their Thanksgiving meal. But Rory is just trying to avoid PDA, a perfectly wise call, in my opinion. I don’t know if Alexis Bledel and Milo Ventimiglia were dating in real life at this point (I think they were?), but their intense necking underlines their vastly superior on-screen chemistry, no matter what you might think of the Jess character. Dean tries, kinda sadly, to throw a scare into Jess at the end of the episode, saying everyone in the town is on his side, but Jess makes the crucial point: He already got the girl. The war is over.
“That’ll Do, Pig” (season 3, episode 10, originally aired 1/14/03)
Or is it? Gawd. “That’ll Do, Pig” begins the very unfortunate flipside of the Jess/Dean/Rory triangle we’ve been enjoying for a whole season. Now, Rory is with Jess, and Dean is playing the role of spoiler. His campaign is waged very differently, but with the same underlying goal—emphasize the difference between him and Jess. Jess is mean and weird, not into the Stars Hollow nonsense, and lacking a clear future. Dean’s applying to college now, and he’s happy to pal around being Rory’s friend and remind her what a nice time she can have palling around with him.
I don’t have a problem with this storyline on paper. But that it’s coming three episodes after the traumatic breakup in “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?” is just ridiculous. I don’t know the reasoning, but I’d love to pick Amy Sherman-Palladino’s brain about it one day, because the handling of Rory and Jess is one of the show’s biggest flaws in retrospect. As we’ll see later on down the line, there was an attempt to spin Jess off into his own WB show, with the working title Windward Circle (oof). While that’s a little ways away, knowing how TV development works, I’m sure it was already geared up by this episode. The Rory/Jess breakdown comes way too quickly, and while Dean isn’t the only component, his involvement in this episode reeks of rushed plotting. Jess is also weirdly monstrous here, snapping at Dean’s adorable (if annoying) sister Clara over and over again when he could easily ignore her and talk to his girlfriend. I just don’t buy it.
Much, much, much more enjoyable is the surprise return of Trix, here to annoy Emily forever, as she’s moving back to Connecticut after kicking Korn out of her (I assume) sumptuous estate. Apparently they were very nice gentlemen who planted lovely tulips in her front yard. Kelly Bishop rarely gets to have as much fun as she does in Trix episodes. Her face, frozen in terror, when she realizes what’s happening, is hysterical. A few minutes later, she snaps at Rory for being sarcastic, which is simultaneously surprising and shockingly funny considering how rare it is for her to take that tone with her granddaughter.
Lorelai and Emily are never closer than when Trix is around, and here Lorelai gets to educate her mother in dealing with her mother-in-law by using the tricks (no pun intended) she employs to deal with Emily. Find humor in everything, take nothing personally, and test her boundaries once in a while, just for fun, Lorelai advises, and Emily’s crowning moment is at the end of the episode where she refuses to eat on Trix’s hurried timetable, provoking the titular line from Lorelai.
- Paris complains about not having enough volunteer work lined up for Thanksgiving. “You know I ultimately do all these things for the good of mankind, right?” “Oh, of course.” “Good. Cause sometimes I don’t think I come across that way.”
- “What’s the oil for?” “For pouring on Visigoths.” “Lorelai!” “When else do I get to use my Visigoth material?”
- One year Paris asked her mother if she could get a Hanukkah bush. “She made me watch Shoah for the rest of the week.”
- Trix doesn’t want to go to the Arboretum. “I’m not a bee.”