“We just broke up”

Lorelai returns home with her lovelorn depression all the deeper after the evening’s events. She was set up with a boring man by her mother, who, when challenged, pointed out that Lorelai has had never had a relationship last as long as three months. If she hoped to find comfort with Luke, even the comfort of friendship, she also witnessed him reuniting with his long-lost ex-girlfriend Rachel, leaving Lorelai on the outer.

Lorelai picks up the phone and calls Max, only to get through to his answering machine. Before she can leave a message, Rory comes home and says “We just broke up”, so that Lorelai must comfort her daughter, whose night was even worse than hers.

We never witness the break up between Rory and Dean, so we don’t know what happened after he said he would drive her home. We don’t know who broke up with whom, or if they really broke up at all. Perhaps Rory is so inexperienced at relationships that she automatically thinks a bad fight means you have broken up, even if nobody says anything. (Maybe Dean thinks that too).

At the very least, we know the relationship between Rory and Dean has gone sour, and that the two of them have missed all the clues that they aren’t really suited to each other that the audience has been picking up on for months.

We also see a different side to Dean that has been hinted at in the past but has now become obvious: when he feels that Rory is not giving him what he is due in the relationship, he becomes angry and sulky, and refuses to listen to her. Unfortunately, it sets up a dynamic where Rory pleads with Dean, and tries to placate him, in a way which suggests she is frightened of his temper.

We saw a little of it in the Donna Reed incident, and now we see it full-blown. Despite the break-up, we will see more of it throughout their relationship. More than anything else, it is probably this unhealthy pattern of behaviour which convinces most viewers that Dean is not right for Rory.

“You don’t get pregnant saying I love you”

RORY: Dean. Please, it’s just not that easy for me. I mean, saying “I love you” means a lot. Think about it from my point of view. I mean, my mom and our life. I mean, my mom said that she loved my dad and then . . .
DEAN: You don’t get pregnant saying “I love you”.

Dean is being almost stubbornly dim-witted here, and refusing to consider how Rory’s family circumstances might have coloured her feelings about love, because her parents were teenagers who loved each other, but didn’t stay together. Lorelai told Rory that she would always love Christopher, but she still refused his marriage proposal, and he went away. In other words, Rory knows that love is not enough, it isn’t any guarantee that your relationship will last. Saying “I love you” is filled with anxiety for Rory, because in her limited experience, the next thing that happens is “Goodbye”.

The fact that Dean’s mind jumped straight to pregnancy might suggest that he was hoping a shared “I love you” might be the first step toward having sex with Rory.

“Go home and discuss it with your mother”

RORY: Please, don’t be mad.
DEAN: Why? Because I say I love you and you wanna think about it? I mean, go home and discuss it with your mother? Make one of your pro/con lists?

Dean’s angry comment suggests that there’s some real jealousy of Rory’s closeness with her mother at work, and perhaps the knowledge that everything in their relationship will be talked over with Lorelai rankles. He may feel that things would have progressed faster with Rory if her mother wasn’t always around.

This is the first explicit mention of Rory’s pro-con lists, which are apparently essential to her decision-making process. They will continue to feature in Gilmore Girls.

“I love you”

DEAN: Rory?
RORY: Yeah?
DEAN: I love you. (pause) Rory?
RORY: Yeah?
DEAN: Did you hear me?
RORY: Uh huh.
DEAN: Well, say something.

For Dean, announcing that he loved Rory was the obvious climax to his anniversary campaign of dinner out and promise of a car, perhaps even the icing on the cake of everything else he had given her. The inexperienced Rory did not see it coming, and is taken aback, unable to say “I love you” in return because she is unsure of how she feels.

Rory is ruled by her head rather than her heart, and tends to over-think everything anyway, so it’s not surprising that she cannot immediately know how she feels, let alone say how she feels. Unlike Dean, she has never been in a relationship before, and her very existence is a warning to her that jumping into things without careful thought is a bad idea.

If Dean was more mature or experienced, he would have backed off and given Rory the space to feel love in her own time. But he isn’t, so he sulks and acts as if she’s refusing to give him what’s he’s due – what he’s paid for, with dinner and a car! He’s too young and foolish to know that any love worth having cannot be bought that way.

Rory’s Car

After the anniversary dinner, Dean tells Rory that he is building her a car from a wreck; the seats and windshield were put in the day before. Rory is almost overwhelmed by this gesture, and it’s hard not to think that Dean has gone overboard on this three-month (yeah, right) anniversary.

At this point, the viewer has to feel that Dean is way more heavily invested in the relationship than Rory. Not only has has he kept track (no matter how wrongly) on how long they’ve been dating, he’s booked a fancy restaurant, and ordered pretty much everything on the menu so that Rory doesn’t need to choose, and now he announces he’s building her a car. He’s into hand-made gifts, but this isn’t a leather bracelet we’re talking about – it’s an actual car! (And there is a symmetry that their relationship both begins and ends with a gift from Dean).

Rory doesn’t seem to realise that this is a really huge present, which means that the other person clearly has major expectations of you and the relationship. The only big presents she’s ever got are from her mother and grandparents, and she accepted them as signs of their unconditional love. This is her first experience in a romantic relationship, and she’s about to learn that big gifts come with big strings attached.

Oblivious to what’s ahead, she looks up at the stars in wonder, as if, on this night dedicated to love and destiny, they have blessed her union with Dean the way they bless all young lovers in Stars Hollow. She feels that it’s a moment all too perfect to last, and she’s right, of course. Those distant stars are perhaps more ambivalent about love than she knows.