Well this was going to be a “tbt” but by the time I finish typing it will be Friday, so what the hell.
For the last week, I have been driving my roommate a little crazy while bingeing on GILMORE GIRLS. It is one of my go-to shows to watch when I’m doing a lot of writing because I have seen every episode multiple times, so I don’t get distracted trying to pay attention to what is happening, and the dialogue has a fantastic musicality that I love. So for this “Beats Break Down” I thought I would have a nostalgic moment and break down one of my all time favorite series.
The episode chosen is one of the best: Season Five, Episode Twelve, “Come Home.”
A lot of stuff is happening in this episode, so technically the structure is a little soft compared to others. I also believe that this episode is the turning point in the series. Many fans believe that the show went off the rails when the writers introduced Luke Dane’s daughter, others when the drama lost Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, and replaced them with Dan S. Rosenthal. Having now watched this entire series countless times, I personally trace it to this episode. This episode is great, and the episodes that follow are as well, but once we are done covering the beats I will make my case for this being GILMORE GIRLS’ “jumping the shark” moment.
THE BREAK DOWN
Major Players (soooo many…):
- Lorelai Gilmore, the series lead, owner of the Dragon Fly Inn, E-Story
- Rory Gilmore, Lorelai’s mother, the other series lead and this episode’s C-Story
- Lane, Rory’s best friend, this episode’s A-Story
- Zack, Lane’s boyfriend and bandmate
- Mrs. Kim, Lane’s conservative Korean mother
- Kyon, Mrs. Kim’s Korean house guest and Lane’s informer
- Richard and Emily Gilmore, Lorelai’s extremely wealthy parents, B-Story
- Simon McLane, admirer of Emily Gilmore
- Christopher, Rory’s father, teen sweetheart of Lorelai
- Logan Huntzberger, Rory’s crush
- Doyle, editor-in-chief/Rory’s boss at the Yale Daily News
- Sookie, chef and co-owener of the Dragonfly Inn, Lorelai’s best friend, D-Story
- Luke, diner owner, Lorelai’s boyfriend
- Jackson, Sookie’s husband
- Michel, manager at the Dragonfly Inn
Previously on Gilmore Girls…
- Rory has met and developed a crush on Logan Huntzberger, the son of newspaper magnate Mitchum Huntsberger
- Mrs. Kim found out that Lane and Zack were dating and screamed at him in public, scolding him as a “dirty person”
- Emily Gilmore and Richard Gilmore separated, partially caused by the secret though innocent lunches Richard was having with his high school sweetheart, Pendleton Lot. Richard is currently living in their pool house while Emily is in the main house.
- Emily went on a date with Simon McLane
E-Story: Luke has to wake up early for deliveries at the diner, so Lorelai agrees to sleep at his place and go to bed crazy early.
E: When Lorelai cannot fall asleep, she badgers Luke about not having a television set to entertain her while he sleeps.
C-Story: Doyle is freaking out because Mitchum Huntsberger has demanded that Logan be given a byline on a news story. Rory takes this opportunity, offering to help Logan with his story for the paper by giving him her notes from one of her previous stories.
D-Story: Michel announces that the inn has a thief as Toblerone candies are missing from rooms that he has set up and he wants to take security measures. Lorelai quickly shoots him down.
A-Story: Kyon arrives at the diner to tell Lane that Mrs. Kim expects her to be at Lunar New Year dinner. Lane launches into a rant, saying she will not go because of how Mrs. Kim treats Zack.
A: Hep Alien (Lane and Zack’s band) look over the new band photos. The guys are ecstatic but Lane hates how she looks in all of the photos.
B-Story: Richard and Emily have a weekly meeting to go over their schedules. They are very cordial, even flirty, as they notice that they are both expected to attend an event. They agree they will both go albeit separately.
C: Rory meets with Logan to share notes. He mentions he has a family function that he is annoyed to have to attend. Rory tells him he should be extremely excited to get to meet and speak with such influential thinkers.
C: Rory mentions Mitchum and Logan quickly changes topics, asking Rory about herself.
C: Logan asks Rory if she would like to hang out the rest of the night. Rory eagerly agrees.
E: Luke struggles to fix the diner oven. Lorelai arrives and talks him through it. She read the manual when she could not sleep the other night.
A: Zack notices Lane is not wearing her glasses, but contacts. He doesn’t like it and she tells him to get used to it as she loves how she looks.
B: At work, Richard recommends his associates bring Simon McLane in on a project. His coworkers advise against it.
B: The coworkers tell Richard they did not think he would want to work with Simon because of Emily… Richard pretends as if he knew that Simon and Emily went out and quickly throws out another name.
D: Michel tells Lorelai and Sookie that he believes employees are using the inn’s rooms to have affairs. Lorelai and Sookie blow him off again, teasing him for the suggestion.
C: Rory calls Lorelai and asks for help getting out of Friday night dinner with the grandparents because she thinks she may have an invitation coming for something else (she does not mention Logan’s name). Lorelai agrees.
A: Mrs. Kim goes to Lane’s home and tells her daughter that she wants Lane at Lunar New Year. Lane agrees under the condition that she is able to bring her whole band.
A: At Lunar New Year, the band arrives. Lane introduces all the members. Mrs. Kim is cold as she lets them in.
D: While out and about, Lorelai runs into Jackson. Jackson asks Lorelai to encourage Sookie to ease up as he hates all the late nights Lorelai’s working. Lorelai pretends as if she knows what Jackson is talking about and agrees.
B: Richard and Emily leave for the event at the same time. Emily kindly asks Richard if he has directions and he coldly dismisses her.
A: The band sticks out awkwardly. When Zack tries to get up to use the restroom, a small boy screams at him to sit down until he is told he can move.
C: Rory and Logan meet up again so he can return the notes. Rory waits expectantly for an invite from Logan to his family’s party, but he only tells her to “not be a stranger” as he leaves. She is disappointed.
D: Lorelai catches Sookie lounging in one of the inn rooms, eating a Toblerone, late at night. Sookie explains herself and how terrible she feels to be lying to her husband.
D: Lorelai encourages Sookie to talk to Jackson and Sookie agrees (but first the pair finish the candy and an episode of DARK SHADOWS).
B: Emily waits in her car for the valet at the event, when Simon McLane approaches to flirt. Richard pulls up behind and rams his car into the back of Emily’s.
B: When Simon attempts to assist Emily, Richard chases him away and forces Emily to leave with him.
B: In the car, Richard confronts Emily about her date with Simon, comparing it to his lunches with Pendleton lot. Emily plays down her relationship with Simon.
A: Mrs. Kim tells Lane to help clean dishes at the end of the meal. Lane refuses.
A: Kim scolds Lane for her rude behavior and tells Lane that she has become vain in getting rid of her glasses. Zack agrees with Mrs. Kim about the glasses, he wishes Lane would wear them.
A: Mrs. Kim is happy to hear Zack’s opinion. The two bond as they look over childhood photos of Lane in her glasses.
B: Richard and Emily arrive home. He says he doesn’t want to go back to the pool house. She says “Come home.”
C: Lorelai is surprised to see Rory at the Friday night dinner. Rory says she doesn’t want to talk about it.
B: Richard and Emily announce they are together again and renewing their vows. Lorelai and Rory are both happy, but Rory is particularly thrilled.
B: Emily takes Lorelai upstairs to look at wedding dresses, asking for her advice along with her stylist, Miss Celine. Lorelai is very nonchalant, seemingly uninterested in helping her mother.
B: Miss Celine asks Lorelai if she is married. From her changing room, Emily proudly calls out that Lorelai just opened an inn. Lorelai is happily surprised by this.
B: Lorelai glances through the dresses and seeing one she likes holds it up in front of herself in the mirror to imagine how it looks. Emily watches, intrigued by her daughter’s actions.
E: Back at Luke’s apartment, Lorelai sees Luke bought a TV. She is thrilled, looking at Luke lovingly while he falls asleep.
B: Emily arrives at Christopher’s apartment and tells him it is time to step up and win Lorelai back. She doesn’t believe Luke is an appropriate boyfriend for Lorelai. She hands him an invitation to hre renewal and leaves. Christopher looks to be considering what Emily has said as he looks at the invitation.
Maybe you have not figured it out from reading this, but this show is TOUGH. I am serious, it is a lot of characters and a lot of storylines. Most episodes usually have Lorelai as the A Story and Rory as the B Story, or vice versa. Occasionally you have an episode where one of the other many characters step up, but it is unusual for so many other characters to be driving the story like in this episode. Since you are not likely to be writing a spec of GILMORE GIRLS, it isn’t helpful to break down a traditional episode. Instead, I chose this episode because I think this episode was the turning point in the series and it definitely shows in this structure and the final act. So let’s start by getting a good grip on these beats.
It is important to note that I removed a lot of beats from this list. The beats removed were not beats that pushed the plot forward, but more of establishing or running joke beats. This included a running joke where Kirk (a townie) was doing various jobs at the inn in order to learn the business. It ended in the first half of the episode, an really acted as a way to raise the stakes in our D-Story. When you remove beats such as this, you realize that these are not full structures so much as sequence structure. I broke down sequence/sketch/short story structure for an episode of GAME OF THRONES for LA Screenwriter here. As a quick refresher, these shorter structures break down like this:
Sequence: Set Up, Action, Climax, Resolution
Sketch/Short Story: Set Up, Inciting Incident, Action, Turning Point, Climax, Resolution
With the latter, typically either Set Up and Inciting Incident, or Climax and Resolution are combined into one beat so that it would ultimately be five beats not six.
So to break down just the A-Story:
Set Up: Lunar New Year is coming and Lane is expected to attend.
Inciting Incident: Lane does not like the way she looks in her band photos. Really she can’t accept her old more conservative life that aligns with her mother’s way of living.
Action: She gets rid of her glasses and tells Zack to accept it.
Turning Point: Lane agrees to dinner if she can bring the band (thereby challenging her mother to accept her lifestyle)
Climax/Resolution: While Zack initially stumbles, Zack and Lane’s mother bond over their wish for Lane to wear glasses again. Lane is forced to accept that Zack and Mrs. Kim are supportive of her and she must accept herself.
The theme of acceptance and merging her conservative Korean past with her progressive rocker life runs through the entire series with Lane, and often acts as a point of comparison for the Gilmore family.
So here’s my issue with this episode. They crammed five plots into less than thirty-five minutes. Now, for humor that worked great here. But then you have the B-Story. I listed Emily announcing the vow renewal and going to Christopher as part of this storyline, but from the moment Emily and Lorelai go to look at dresses this really becomes its own thing. This is also, to me, one of the most infuriating moments in this beloved series. While they are upstairs, Emily’s stylist, Miss Celine, asks Lorelai if she is married. Emily is OFF CAMERA when she proudly announces that Lorelai owns an inn. This moment defines everything that happens after this episode and we do not get to see Emily say it. That is ridiculous. If you miss that line of dialogue, Emily’s speech to Christopher comes out of left field. So WHY DOES IT HAPPEN OFF CAMERA? Because of Emily’s pride for Lorelai she breaks up Luke and Lorelai, then Emily and Lorelai war for the rest of the season. Not to mention, Gilmore Girls has this fun habit that many shows have where a couple breaks up and when they get back together, one of the characters feels a little bit “less” like themselves. It happened with Dean, Jess, Max, here it’s about to happen with Luke, and it happens several times with Logan. Also, no matter how much Emily disapproves of Lorelai it always seemed incredibly odd to me that she would take such a drastic step after four and a half years of repairing their relationship. I understand from her speech the why, but that’s not enough of a justification considering her behavior in the past and how far she and her daughter have come. It all started here. And off camera. The effects of the unraveling would not be seen until later on in season but I truly think this moment is where it began to unravel.
And that is my rant that I have been thinking about as I constantly binge this show over and over and over… Maybe now I can finally move on from it. 😉