This 1996 song by Northern Irish pop-rock band Ash plays at the end of the final scene, as Jess walks away from Rory. It was written by the band’s main lyricist, Tim Wheeler, when he was sixteen, and was performed on British music show Top of the Pops just two weeks after their final school exams. From their debut album 1977, it was the band’s first Top 40 single, going to #11 in the UK and #16 in Ireland.
The song is about a girl the narrator had an intense experience with one night playing cards, and has been unable to get out of his system, with the repeated lines: I still dream of you/I still love you, girl from Mars.
Just in case there are any doubts as to how Jess thinks of Rory!
Oliver Twist, or the Parish Boy’s Progress, is a 1838 novel by English author Charles Dickens. The titular protagonist is a poor orphan boy who is born in a workhouse and apprenticed to an undertaker. He escapes to London, where he meets the “Artful Dodger”, a boy who belongs to a gang of juvenile pickpockets. It’s an unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives, and exposes the cruel treatment of orphans in the 19th century.
Rory jokingly refers to Jess as the Artful Dodger, a boy thief who is known for his great skill and cunning as a pickpocket. It’s something of both an insult and a compliment. More interestingly, the Artful Dodger attempts to seduce the innocent Oliver into a life of crime, as if Rory instinctively sees Jess as a corrupting influence.
Rory is not only teasing Jess, she is setting him a little test. Does he only read the Beat poets, or is he also familiar with classic novels? You know, proper literature, as studied at school? Jess passes the test with flying colours, and Rory beams, as if she has found a kindred spirit.
The book which Jess secretly took from Rory’s bookshelves, even though she had earlier offered to lend it to him.
It’s a poetry collection by American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, first published in 1956. It contains his most famous poem, “Howl”, a biographical poem originally inspired by a terrifying peyote vision. The publisher of the book, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, another Beat poet, was subsequently arrested and charged with obscenity, but found not guilty at his 1957 trial.
Jess now reveals that even though he said he didn’t read “much”, he has read Howl and OtherPoems about forty times. He smoothly implies that “much” is a relative term, after all.
He has also written notes in the margin for Rory to read. The viewer will now either a) be horrified that he took her book without asking and defaced it, or b) sigh over the fact that he took the opportunity to bond with Rory over literature, sharing his innermost thoughts. It is definitely intended as an intimate, seductive move.
It’s interesting to wonder what thoughts Jess had about “Howl”. It’s an intense poem about madness, rebellion, drug-taking, and sex, which could lead to some interesting observations. If Jess knew a lot about the Beats, he might also be able to pick out those parts of the poem which were taken from real life experiences.
Then again, much of the poem is set in New York, and possibly Jess simply compared his own experiences in the locations mentioned. I can definitely imagine Jess taking a day or a weekend to visit all the places around New York in the poem.
JESS: Oh this? Nothing. [does an illusion with a coin] Just another little disappearing act.
We now learn that Jess knows at least one basic magic trick, showing that he must be dexterous and quick with his hands. (Something that would be very handy playing poker, as well).
It’s a reminder that he makes other things disappear with his quick hands – books, beer, money, gnomes … And no doubt a major foreshadowing of what is to come.
Clever Jess has already learned how to hook a girl’s attention: make himself unavailable by disappearing (as he did at the dinner). He is careful not to hang around and chat like some regular person after giving Rory her book back, either, but mysteriously pads off into the twilight.
A phrase that seems to have arisen in 1950s hipster culture, to mean that someone has submerged themselves in the counterculture to the point that they no longer fit in with conformist society. Once used as praise, today it’s usually used sarcastically, as Rory does, to mean the person is too pretentious or above themselves to lower themselves to normal standards of behaviour.
JESS: Potlucks and Tupperware parties aren’t really my thing.
A potluck is American English for a communal meal where everyone brings a dish of food to share. Commonly organised by churches and community groups, the food is rarely of gourmet quality (hence, you’re taking “pot luck” in what you’ll get to eat).
A Tupperware party is one organised to sell Tupperware, a line of plastic storage containers first developed by Earl Silas Tupper in 1946, and sold via multilevel marketing in the home. After being very popular in the 1970s, Tupperware suffered a slump in the mid-1990s, when it began to seem dated, so at this period was considered a rather middle-aged activity.
Quite rudely, Jess equates the lavish dinner Sookie carefully prepared to welcome him to Stars Hollow with community meals suitable for the dull and old-fashioned. This yet another meal prepared by Sookie which gets ruined, as Jess and Luke leave without eating, when the dinner was meant to be for them.
Kabbalah is an esoteric discipline in Jewish mysticism, containing a set of teachings explaining the relationship between God and the universe. It dates to around the 12th century and originated in Spain and southern France. There are different traditions and streams of thought within it, that might focus on theosophy, meditative practices, or (more controversially) white magic. It has been a strong influence on Jewish philosophy and mysticism.
Since the 1960s, universalist schools have opened up which teach Kabbalah to people of all faiths and ways of life, one of the contributors to New Age spirituality. You can also sign up for six week courses in introductory Kabbalah, making it very accessible. Possibly such courses are held in Stars Hollow, although it is slightly surprising Luke knows about them and approves, as he doesn’t seem the most mystical person. The show did seem to just give random Jewishness to characters whenever it felt like it.
Freeway (a mistake for highway????) beautification projects
Community groups often sponsor a section of highway in the US in order to maintain it, and provide volunteers to work on it. Such projects might include planting trees, shrubs and ground cover plants, mowing grass, weeding, mulching, and removing roadside litter. It seems like something Taylor would almost certainly organise for a highway near Stars Hollow.
Color Me Mine pottery painting
A chain of studios, founded in 1996, where people can paint their own pottery and ceramics. In real life, there aren’t any Color Me Mine studios in Connecticut (but plenty in California, where the writers live).
Humorously, Luke’s suggestions of social activities he might approve don’t sound like anything most teenage boys would be interested in.
Work in the diner after school until the diner closes
Homework will be done between the diner closing and bedtime
Weekends are for chores and pre-approved social outings
I wonder whether Luke’s plan of only allowing Jess to attend school, work at the diner, do homework at night, and chores on weekends, is an indication of how his father brought him up. It certainly gave Luke a strong work ethic, although it also drove Liz away. It might explain why Luke seems to lead a rather joyless existence, with a distrust or even dislike of having any fun.
Jess’ response is to immediately make like his mother and leave, and when Luke asks where he is going, he says, “Out”. Yes, he’s done a Liz and gone off to do “God knows what”.
Luke mutters, “Well, at least I asked”, showing that he’s not expecting to become the world’s best parental substitute overnight.
(Note that Jess is wearing a completely different outfit in this scene – because his other clothes got wet when Luke pushed him into a lake).
After pushing Jess into a lake, Luke goes straight to Lorelai and admits she was right – he is completely out of his depth, and has no idea has to raise a troubled teenage boy. Lorelai immediately assures Luke that he can do it, but it’s going to take more than buying some new sheets to make it work. Luke did act as though just providing Jess with a safe and stable home environment was going to be enough to change his attitude.
Lorelai doesn’t tell Luke what to do, so she has learned one valuable lesson from their fight. Instead she asks Luke what he is going to do about Jess. It is his choice how he raises Jess. Their fight is made up when they both acknowledge they were wrong, and the end is signalled when Luke tells Lorelai she is allowed back at the diner.
Luke waits for Jess after school, then as they walk home, confronts Jess about taking money from the donation cup for the bridge repair fund at Doose’s Market. Jess tells Luke to leave him alone, and in frustration, Luke pushes Jess off a low bridge (more of a walkway) into a lake. It’s the #1 fan favourite scene in this episode, with good reason.
It feels as if this should be the bridge that Jess stole money from, as a sort of karmic punishment. However, if the bridge needed to be repaired (an ongoing community project, it seems), then why is it still safe to walk on? Or is the money for future repairs?
Also, in an earlier episode, a poster is shown for the bridge fundraiser the previous year, and it says it is an old bridge over Muddy River. This bridge doesn’t look old, and it’s said to be over a lake, not over a river, let alone a muddy one. It doesn’t look like the arched bridge with a handrail in the picture. Then again, props people don’t have access to canon – they got Rory’s birthday wrong on her invitation, after all.
Luke tells Lorelai that he pushed Jess into “a lake”, rather than “the lake”, suggesting that Stars Hollow has several lakes (there is one behind The Independence Inn). In real life, the area around New Milford and Washington Depot has several small lakes and ponds surrounding it.
This scene was filmed at the Jungle Pond on the Warner Bros lot in Burbank, California, used in numerous Warner Bros films and TV series. It is the same set used for all lakes and ponds in the show.