Rory meets Carol Springsteen, the middle daughter of the family who is a year older than Rory and Jennifer, when they run into each other on Rory’s trip back from the bathroom. Rory had earlier seen a photo of Carol and heard her name, but Darren said she was on her “own path” in life. Note that being the middle child is once again posited as being marked out for being “different” in Gilmore Girls.
Rory now discovers that being on her own path just means Carol isn’t attending university, like Jack is and Jennifer will be, but works at a variety of jobs, including waitressing and dressing up as a bunny for children’s parties. Rory says that Carol has a “cool” bedroom – despite not being academically inclined, Carol’s room is filled with serious-looking hardcover books.
It quickly becomes apparent that Carol is another version of Lorelai, who rebels against her upbringing and begins her working life as a teenager. Unlike Lorelai, she didn’t get pregnant in high school, and hasn’t moved out – Darren and Marie don’t really approve of her life choices, but they still support her financially, and she isn’t unhappy enough to run away from home.
Carol is portrayed by Tinsley Grimes (later Webster), who had most recently been on That 80s Show and had a small role in the film The Banger Sisters. Unlike her character here, Tinsley is highly educated. She has a BA in English from UCLA and a Masters of Education in Child Studies from Vanderbilt University. She is currently a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh, and plans to specialise in psychiatry.