Santa Claus

JESS: Actually, I came down the chimney and pulled a Santa Claus.

Jess refers to Santa Claus delivering gifts by coming down the chimney, a common tradition in many European countries. It probably pre-dates Christianity, as in Germanic legend, the Norse god Odin was said to bring gifts down the chimney at Yuletide, and in folklore elves and fairies brought gifts down the chimney to leave on the hearth. The fireside and hearth has been held sacred since ancient times, probably since humans began using fire.

Santa Claus coming down the chimney became part of American tradition upon the publication of the 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore, which begins, “’Twas the night before Christmas …”. Enormously popular, it had a massive effect on Christmas traditions in the US, many of which can be dated to the publication of the poem.

Jess is quick to counter Lorelai’s suggestion that he broke into their house to steal the bracelet by instead aligning himself with a benevolent figure who actually brings gifts, rather than steals them. Jess does the right thing in returning the bracelet as soon as he can, but gets nothing but grief for it.

EDIT: Edited to change a Jeff to a Jess, thank you to Carol Stamm for help in my battle with autocorrect. Otherwise we’d all be reading about Laurel Gilmore and her daughter Dory, in the little town of Tars Hello.

Mission: Impossible

LORELAI: What, did you break into our house, you got all dressed in black and pulled a Mission: Impossible?

Mission: Impossible, award-winning television series about the exploits of a small team of government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force, used for covert missions against hostile Iron Curtain governments, third world dictators, evil organisations, and, later, crime lords.

Each episode opened with a montage of clips from that episode accompanied by the theme music, and the first scene showed the lead characters receiving instructions from a voice on a recording, beginning, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it …”. The recording invariably self-destructed when complete.

Financed and filmed by Desilu Productions, owned by Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball, it originally aired from 1966 to 1973, and was revived in 1988. It also inspired a series of action-adventure films starring Tom Cruise, the first one released in 1996.

Lorelai Accuses Jess

After catching Jess coming out of Rory’s bedroom, and Rory’s bracelet coincidentally turning up under her bed when she’d already looked there numerous times, Lorelai puts one and one together and draws the obvious conclusion that Jess had Rory’s bracelet and had secretly returned it.

She immediately accuses Jess of stealing Rory’s bracelet and keeping it out of jealousy towards Dean, not caring that he was upsetting Rory in the process. Lorelai doesn’t bother trying to get all the facts, because Jess didn’t deliberately steal Rory’s bracelet, but held onto it after she lost it. He didn’t know it was from Dean, and was not trying to cause trouble between Rory and her boyfriend by keeping the bracelet.

She makes the mistake of attacking Jess as if she is a teenager herself, calling him a “little jerk”, rather than behaving like a concerned parent. This mother-daughter relationship where Lorelai tries to be both a mom and a best friend often goes wrong when she tries to be a friend when she should be a mother, and vice versa.

Lorelai has a temper and tends to go off halfcocked, especially when it comes to safeguarding Rory. Jess has no hesitation in talking back to her, and this episode will leave Lorelai with deep distrust and a simmering resentment against Jess which will explode later in the season.

Bye, Bye, Birdie

JESS: It’s really that big a deal?
RORY: What do you mean?
JESS: I mean, I know it’s got an ‘I’ve been pinned’ Bye Bye Birdie kind of implication to it, but it was just a bracelet.

Bye Bye Birdie, 1963 musical comedy film directed by George Sidney, based on the award winning 1960 Broadway musical of the same name, with music by Charles Crouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, and book by Michael Stewart.

Set in 1958, the story was inspired by Elvis Presley’s draft into the US army in 1957. Jesse Pearson plays Conrad Birdie, a teen idol based on Elvis, his name a play on Conway Twitty, Presley’s rival at the time.

Conrad Birdie is giving a farewell performance in Columbus, Ohio, to end with his song, “One Last Kiss”. It is arranged for him to kiss a randomly chosen high school girl at the end of the song before going into the army. The teenager chosen is Kim MacAfee (played by Ann-Margret) from the town of Sweet Apple, but Kim’s boyfriend Hugo Peabody (played by Bobby Rydell) isn’t thrilled, as he and Kim have got “pinned” – he’s given her his fraternity pin to wear, indicating a serious commitment between them. When Birdie kisses Kim in a rehearsal, she swoons.

Elvis Presley himself was the first choice for the role of Birdie, but his manager Colonel Tom Parker wouldn’t allow it. The film helped make Ann-Margret such a star that in 1964 she appeared with Elvis himself in Viva Las Vegas.

Jess is saying that Rory and Dean are the small-town teenage sweethearts, and he is the sexy outsider. It seems slightly egotistical, and a bit demeaning to Rory, as if he has randomly chosen her for a meaningless encounter; it strongly suggests Jess doesn’t intend to stick around.

The film ends with Hugo knocking Birdie out before he can kiss Kim on stage, which might be what Jess is expecting from Dean – that he’ll punch Jess before he gets a chance with Rory. In the stage musical, the story continues with Kim going off to hang out with Birdie, and he is arrested for attempted statutory rape. Kim claims to have been intimidated by Birdie, and gladly returns to Hugo.

Quite a few warnings for Rory in this apparently casual reference! Foreshadowing, on multiple levels.

The reference to Birdie being about to go into the army makes me wonder if this reference was originally meant for Tristan, who went off to military school. Jess is much more of a Birdie than Tristan, however.

Franny and Zooey

LORELAI: Did you get lost?
JESS: No, I was looking at Rory’s books … I wanted to see if she had Franny and Zooey. She does.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, comprising his 1955 short story, “Franny”, and his 1957 novella, Zooey, both originally published in The New Yorker. The collection was published in 1961.

The book focuses on Frances (“Franny”) and her brother Zachary (“Zooey”), the youngest members of the Glass family, who frequently appeared in Salinger’s short stories. They were a large family of highly precocious children , the offspring of two vaudeville performers in New York City, the father an Australian Jew, the mother Irish. The Glass children all get college educations by winning a radio quiz show.

Both stories reflect Salinger’s interest in Eastern mysticism, particularly Zen Buddhism and Hindu Advaita Vedanta, as well as Eastern Orthodox Christian spirituality. Franny and Zooey was very popular, spending 26 weeks at the top of the New York Times Fiction Best-Seller’s List, but received mixed reviews from critics.

The book was a strong influence on the 2001 film, The Royal Tenebaums, which had only been out a few months before this episode aired.

Jess seems to have been careful to choose a non-romantic book, as Franny and Zooey are siblings who talk about philosophy together. Perhaps he is trying to tell Lorelai that he and Rory have an intellectual brother-sister relationship. (Later on, they do end up related to each other).

Franny does have a boyfriend in the book, but they don’t have much in common, and he doesn’t seem capable of understanding her (the boyfriend is named Lane!). When Franny is at a particularly low point, Zooey is able to get through to her by secretly talking to her on the telephone, and giving her some words of wisdom. When the phone call ends, Franny lies on the bed and smiles.

This might be a hint of what Rory and Jess’ nascent relationship is like. Unsatisfied with her boyfriend, Rory is enjoying her secret phone calls with Jess, which are on a different level to the conversations she has with Dean, and leave her smiling at the end. Although all this is offscreen and never directly referred to, we can see that their friendship has progressed and grown closer, and chances are they have continued talking on the phone in secret.