Robert Benchley at The Algonquin

RORY: Fine, but we have a real problem here.
LORELAI: Oh, you think I don’t know that? You think I sit around all day swapping witticisms with Robert Benchley at The Algonquin? No! I am thinking and worrying and using the computer, and I hate using the computer!

Robert Benchley (1889-1945), a humorist best known as a newspaper columnist and film actor. He began writing for The Harvard Lampoon while at Harvard University, before writing for Vanity Fair, and most famously, The New Yorker, where his absurdist essays proved highly influential. He made several appearances in films, and his 1935 film How to Sleep, won an Academy Award in the Short Film category.

The Algonquin Hotel is a historic hotel in Manhattan, which first opened in 1902. It had a reputation for hosting a number of literary and theatrical celebrities, including The Algonquin Round Table (or as they called themselves, “the Vicious Circle”). This group of New York writers, critics, actors, and wits met for lunch each day at The Algonquin from 1919 to 1929, engaging in witticisms which were disseminated across the country through their newspaper columns.

Robert Benchley was one of its most prominent members, and Lorelai is probably referencing the writer and critic Dorothy Parker, previously discussed. Dorothy Parker was a close friend of Robert Benchley, and one of the founding members of The Algonquin Round Table.

[Picture shows a painting of Dorothy Parker at The Algonquin Round Table by Carl Purcell]

Lorelai and Rory Fight

Against Lorelai’s wishes, Rory tells Emily that their house is infested with termites, and they have no way to pay for the necessary repairs. Emily immediately gets out her cheque book, only asking to know how much money is needed. Lorelai turns her offer down, and afterwards freezes Rory out, refusing to speak to her or even look at her – this is a foreshadowing of how other, more serious arguments between them will play out.

This again shows how dishonest Lorelai was with Rory when she said they were a “team” and a “democracy” – but with Lorelai able to play the “mom card” whenever she likes, and Rory forced to obey her. Their fight ends with Rory being sent to bed like a naughty child, even though they have Friday Night Dinner at 7 pm. Considering that Lorelai was in no mood to hang around after dinner, it can’t be more than about 9.30 pm.

Consumption, The Vapours, Leeching

LORELAI: Actually … I’m sick.
EMILY: I knew it, what’s wrong?
LORELAI: Consumption with a touch of the vapors. I’m going for a leeching tonight after coffee.

Consumption: a 19th century word for tuberculosis, an infectious disease mostly affecting the lungs. It was seen as a romantic disease affecting artists, poets and composers, whose creative talent would somehow be amplified. In real life, it was primarily a disease of the urban poor, due to their cramped conditions.

The vapours: an old word, dating to antiquity but still used in the 19th century, for a variety of medical issues which might include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, fainting, or PMS. It was only ever used towards women, and ascribed to female hysteria.

Leeching: from ancient times, leeches were used medically, becoming especially popular in the medieval and early modern period to take blood from a patient, which was thought to balance the “humours” of the body. Although this went out of fashion, leeches began to be used in the 1970s, as it was realised the proteins in their saliva had numerous medical benefits, and they were classified as a medical device in the US in 2004.

“I’ve got nothing left to give”

RORY: I think they would say yes.
LORELAI: Of course they would say yes. And that yes would be followed by, ‘Okay, okay, enough already. My God, please stop. I’m a shell, I’ve got nothing left to give.’
RORY: That’s not true.

Rory is correct – this simply isn’t true. Richard and Emily have never hesitated to give money when it’s needed, and seem to go out of their way to never make Lorelai and Rory feel like a burden, or imply there isn’t enough money to go around. It would be more accurate to say they always want something in return for their support, but for some reason Lorelai doesn’t say this, even though it would make sense given how the episode plays out.

White Slavery

RORY: You know Mom, I hate to bring this up, but I think there’s a really obvious solution to our problem …
LORELAI: I think if I sold you into white slavery, I would miss you.

“White slavery” is a term for sex trafficking dating to the 19th and early 20th centuries, which came to become a blanket term for prostitution, especially that of minors. The name comes from the accounts of white women captured and enslaved in Middle Eastern harems, the so-called “Circassian beauties” from the Caucasus.

“I’ll think about it tomorrow – at Tara”

LORELAI: I won’t think about it tonight. I’ll think about it tomorrow – at Tara.

Lorelai slightly misquotes from the 1936 novel Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, previously mentioned. Set in the American South at the time of the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction, the novel’s protagonist is a beautiful, wilful Southern belle named Katie Scarlett O’Hara who is willing to do anything to claw her way out of poverty and save her plantation, named Tara, even while her heart is breaking over her numerous relationship disasters. It takes her too long to discover that the scandalous Rhett Butler is the only man who ever truly loved her.

The full quote is: “I’ll think of it tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him [Rhett] back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” They are the last lines of the novel.

Gone with the Wind was a runaway success, a bestseller before the first reviews of it were even published. Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and it was turned into a box-office smash film in 1939, starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara (the film slightly alters the quote from the book). It is the second favourite book of American readers, only beaten by the Bible. It is considered controversial because of its derogatory depiction of African-Americans and romanticisation of white supremacists.

Scarlett O’Hara seems like a forerunner of Lorelai Gilmore – a beautiful, headstrong brunette with a powerful will to survive, and a tendency to mess up all her chances at romantic happiness. Lorelai wanted to give her house a name, like a Southern plantation, and is as deeply attached to it as Scarlett is to Tara. As in Gilmore Girls, blondes tend to be the antagonists in Gone with the Wind. One of the girls at Chilton even suggested to Rory that Lorelai was a Southern belle name. It’s not hard to imagine a teenaged Lorelai reading this novel and identifying with the feisty, rebellious Scarlett.

The Coreys

LORELAI: Aw honey, it’s not the amount of places that turns you down that matters, it’s the quality of the place that turns you down that matters. And when you’ve got Jacko’s Loans and Stuff not wanting your business, you know it’s time to hang out with the Coreys.

The Two Coreys, or The Coreys, are actors Corey Feldman (born 1971) and Corey Haim (1971-2010). In the picture, Feldman is on the left, and Haim on the right.

The Coreys were child actors during the 1980s, and close friends, who appeared in nine films together, including The Lost Boys (1987). They became teen idols, but experienced career downturns in their late teens due to drug use. This is why Lorelai equates “hanging with the Coreys” to being an unsuccessful loser.

After Corey Haim’s death, Corey Feldman became increasingly vocal about the sexual abuse he and Corey Haim were allegedly subjected to as child stars by Hollywood paedophile rings, with Feldman saying he was repeatedly molested and assaulted, but Haim actually raped numerous times. They were each allegedly given drugs before the assaults, the origin of their drug addictions. In 2020, he brought out a documentary called (My) Truth: The Rape of the Two Coreys, identifying the people openly he had earlier only alluded to.

This put their fall from grace in a much darker context, and now unfortunately makes it seem as if Lorelai is calling child sex abuse victims “losers”.

Cup-a-Soup and Slim Jims

RORY: Four people asked me when we were tenting, two people asked me if we were moving, and one person asked me if we were atheists.
LORELAI: See, we have to stop talking to people. We have to stay at home with the curtains drawn collecting stacks of old newspapers, muttering to each other, eating nothing but Cup-a-Soup and Slim Jims.

Cup-a-Soup [pictured]: an instant soup mix sold in sachets, added to boiling water and stirred in a cup or mug. Comes in minestrone, chicken noodle, tomato, and chicken and vegetable flavours. In North America, it is made and marketed by Unilever’s Lipton brand.

Slim Jim: a processed meat snack in stick form that is basically a fermented sausage, very popular in the US, manufactured and sold by Conagra. It was invented by Jack Cornella in Philadelphia in 1929, and developed for production in the 1940s.

Silkwood

RORY: And then [Mrs Kim] chased me halfway down the street with the hose. It was like a scene from Silkwood.

Silkwood is a 1983 biographical drama film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep, based on the book Who Killed Karen Silkwood? by Howard Kohn. Karen Silkwood was a nuclear power whistleblower and union activist who died in a car crash in 1974 while investigating unsafe practices at the plutonium plant where she worked. Although the film ends with her death, in real life a 1979 lawsuit ended with the jury awarding $10 million in damages to the Silkwood estate, with the company settling out of court for $1.38 million.

The film was a commercial and critical success, with Meryl Streep receiving praise for her performance, as well as supporting actors Kurt Russell and Cher. Silkwood was released on DVD in 1999, so Lorelai and Rory would have seen it within the last couple of years.

In the film, Karen Silkwood and her fellow workers become contaminated by radiation, which the nuclear plant officials try to blame on Silkwood. The decontamination process is brutal, ending with being blasted in the face with a hose – now known as a “Silkwood shower”. Rory compares her treatment from Mrs Kim with Karen Silkwood’s decontamination, as well as the suggestion that she is being unfairly blamed for the termite infestation.

Mrs Kim’s behaviour is, of course, comically wrong. Rory cannot “carry” termites to Mrs Kim’s store, and spraying someone or something with water won’t get rid of termites.