Don't ever leave us again (Screenshot: Netflix)

Hey everyone: Welcome back to TV Club Classic! I am picking up the years-old, cobwebbed mantle from former A.V. Club contributor David Sims to take us through the final four seasons of Gilmore Girls. As Simmmms pointed out in his final GG review for this site in 2013, there is a definitive break between seasons three and four of the series. Once Rory goes off to Yale, the show is less about these two raising each other and more about contrived events to bring together two people who now live in separate areas of Connecticut. Yes, there are some horrifying things afoot in GG’s final years, but at least in season four, we know that we end on an absolute upswing with “Raincoats And Recipes.” So I will be revisiting two of these episodes per week until we’re finished, so snuggle in for the next year or so. Let’s get started!

“Ballrooms And Biscotti” (season four, episode one, originally aired 9/23/2003)

The girls return from their hostel trip through Europe, delivering gifts and fighting jet lag until they realize that the only have a few days until Rory must head off to Yale, instead of a full week. Unfortunately, this is bullshit, and kicks off the season on a false start. There is no way in hell that perfectly organized Rory Gilmore would flub the biggest date in her young life. It’s merely a plot progression meant to compress the girls’ final days together, compounded by the fact that they have to squeeze in a Friday night dinner with Emily and Richard.

Love or hate Emily (I lurve) but her forcing Rory to watch ballroom dancing until her mother comes to pick her up is her passive-aggressiveness at absolute warrior levels. Emily is obviously so pissed that Lorelai doesn’t come to dinner, but Emily and Richard on their own with Rory are as delightful as we’ve ever seen them, pouring all their grandparently affection onto Rory without Lorelai around to toss barbs at. And Emily and Lorelai’s fight again shows just how determined Emily is to have Lorelai in her life, no matter the cost, even messing up her daughter’s final evening at home with her own daughter. It is a wrenching way for the girls to spend their last night together, but at least it ends with biscotti and televised ballroom dance and Emily, defeated, asleep in a chair.

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“The Gilmore Girls’ First Day At Yale” (season four, episode two, originally aired 9/30/2003)

Better title would have been: The ridiculous mattress saga. And another nitpick: how could Lorelai, who only drives a Jeep, not be able to drive Luke’s shift-stick truck? Anyway.

If we’re going to have a devastating episode that separates our two girls forever, this was a pretty effective way to go. Lorelai is the first one to cave at Yale, unable to leave her daughter behind without another trumped-up load of supplies. Rory’s immediate and parallel freakout on her first Lorelai-less night also makes perfect sense, as her formidable mother has been her focal point for her entire life. The most interesting part of season four is Rory grappling with her own new life, finally out from underneath her mother’s considerable shadow. Of course, she’s happy to still hang out there for a while, letting Lorelai throw the first floor party (in the largest dorm suite in all of academia) and help everyone figure out the best takeout and coffee in town. That extra mattress even comes in handy for a first-night sleepover.

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The B-story this episode is bizarre but at least mildly amusing, with Luke getting pummeled by his soon-to-be ex-wife’s lawyers. The Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe joke is classic. But since the whole Nicole story was just thrown in as a temporary Lorelai/Luke roadblock anyway, ultimately pointless. Best of all is the insertion of our fave Paris Gellar (that ominous “P.G.” on the post-it), now aided by a life coach. With Lorelai now farther away geographically, we can only hope that this leads to much more Paris in Rory’s life, which is always a good thing. And so Rory ends the episode surrounded by one familiar face and a few that are becoming more familiar, even with the best coffee on campus in hand.

It’s a stark contrast to her mother: Lorelai coming home to an empty house for the very first time is as heartwrenching an ending scene as Gilmore Girls ever pulled off.

Stray observations

  • That crazy, quirky Stars Hollow: Taylor and his insane ice cream queen campaign. “Just wear a nice, simple sage-colored floor-length gown and you’ll be fine.”
  • Kirk on his skydiving lesson: “The guy said I was a natural at falling.”
  • It’s true, there’s no possible present or souvenir you could get Luke Danes. Except for maybe a new baseball hat.
  • “I should have killed you the minute you put up those unicorn topiaries in the park, but hey, hindsight, right?
  • Lorelai’s way into her whole “Oh, I’m not interested in Luke but am still nosing my way into his sham marriage” mode.
  • I like how Rory just walks around with that button that tells everyone she doesn’t want to know the sex of Sookie’s baby.
  • “Terrance! I got myself an exposure!”
  • “Do something to make me hate you!” “Go Hitler!”
  • The season begins as it ends, with Kirk interrupting a Luke and Lorelai moment right at the close of episode one.
  • Next week: Sorry everyone, but Digger Stiles makes his unfortunate Gilmore Girls entry next episode.

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