BABETTE: Last night, not long after the accident happened, Luke walked him straight to the bus station, stuck the kid on a bus, sent him home to his mom.
MISS PATTY: I can’t believe Luke would send him off like that.
BABETTE: Well, I heard the kid wanted to go. I don’t know. All I know is that Jess is gone.
While watching the film with Lane and her parents, Rory overhears Babette and Miss Patty gossiping, and in this way learns that Jess left town the previous night, after the accident he had driving Rory’s car. Luke walked him straight to the bus station and sent him home to Liz.
We never got to see the conversation between Luke and Jess, so we have no idea why Luke did that, or in what mood he did it. Babette heard that Jess actually asked to leave, rather than Luke throwing him out. Did Luke take Lorelai’s advice and get rid of Jess, or did he regretfully give way to Jess’ request that he go home? We don’t know for sure, but town gossip hints the latter is more likely than the former.
In real life, the last bus to New York City leaves Hartford at 10.30 pm, so Jess would have left Stars Hollow around 11.10 pm, and got to Manhattan some time after 1 am. That might suggest the accident took place somewhere between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm.
After all the town’s complaints about Jess, Babette and Miss Patty seem rather regretful that Jess has gone, saying that they don’t know what they will do for entertainment now (and Jess stole from Babette and pestered Miss Patty’s dance students, so they have personal reasons to wish him gone). It suggests that the town’s exaggerated hatred of Jess was mostly motivated by a desire to cause drama so they’d have something to focus on. Like old Louie Danes, Jess was a convenient sinkhole where they could throw all their negativity.
Lorelai keeps her face rigidly glued to the screen, trying not to betray anything by her expression, but she knows this can’t be good news for her friendship with Luke. Rory looks hurt and unhappy, and turns away from her mother, as if needing privacy for her grief (or possibly as if she is beginning to blame Lorelai for Jess’ departure). It feels as if Jess being gone will cause just as many issues for the Gilmore girls as Jess being there …