It’s Alright, Baby

This is the song which Rory is listening to her on her Walkman, which takes us out to the end of the episode.

It’s the second track from the 1998 album What Makes It Go?, from Swedish indie pop group Komeda. The album received good reviews, and is now regarded as their best album. The lyrics of the song reassure Rory that everything is alright, even in a “crazy world”. The madness has ended now, and she can return to her normal life.

Komeda was influenced by The Velvet Underground, one of Lane’s favourite bands, and was chosen to support Beck, one of Lane’s favourite musical artists. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine Lane recommended this album to Rory, and it might even be borrowed from her.

Rory at Lunchtime

The episode ends with Rory back in the dining hall at Chilton, peacefully reading and listening to her Walkman. She hasn’t been made to socialise after all, and the headmaster has been forced to back down and realise that Gilmore girls have to follow their own rules.

Another girl asks if she can sit with Rory, and she takes her own book out and starts reading in silence. Rory smiles at this confirmation she is not the only person at Chilton who likes to read at lunchtime, and now she isn’t a weird loner any more. She has a lunch friend, just as Mrs Verdinas insisted she find.

According to the credits, this girl is named Lisa. She’s played by Connecticut actress Madeline Zima, who already had quite a lengthy CV at this stage, and was most famous for playing Grace Sheffield in The Nanny.

Lisa was one of the other girls who was going to be inducted by the Puffs at the same time as Rory and Paris, although she is never introduced to the viewer and never speaks to Rory that we see (they might have spoken off-screen). She is the girl wearing blue and yellow checked pyjama pants with a grey tee shirt and a blue cardigan.

Possibly Lisa was also told to find some friends, rather than sit and read at lunchtime – although if so, couldn’t Headmaster Charleston or Mrs Verdinas have simply introduced Rory and Lisa to each other, suggesting that they have something in common? You know, like a normal school? Lisa was never shown eating lunch with the Puffs, so presumably she was recruited some other way, or that occurred after Rory and Paris joined the table, and was therefore offscreen.

Do not expect to ever see Lisa again, or hear her mentioned. Did she and Rory ever speak to each other and become real friends? Did they show each other the books they were reading? Did they have anything else in common? These questions are never answered.

In an episode that doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, it finishes with a character that remains an enigma.

EDIT: This article was heavily edited with the kind assistance of Sarah M, who was able to identify Lisa as one of the girls at the Puffs induction ceremony, something I was unable to do.

Directions to Hartford

LUKE: I was giving her directions for the quickest way back to Hartford. It was very romantic. I said you take a right at Deerfield, and you catch the I-5 and you take it south. Oh man, hot stuff.
LORELAI: That is so typical of you.
LUKE: What?
LORELAI: That is not the quickest way back to Hartford. Everybody knows that you take Main to Cherry to Lynwood and then grab the I-11. Everybody knows that Luke. Everybody, apparently, but you!

Neither of these directions are realistic. The I-5 is the main interstate highway on the west coast of the US, running along the Pacific coast between Mexico and Canada. Luke also says that you travel south to Hartford from Stars Hollow, even though everything in the show suggests that you would travel north-east to reach Hartford from the town. The I-11 is a highway in Nevada, running from the Arizona state line to the city of Henderson.

Most people in the US don’t say “the I-5” either, just “I-5”. That’s more of a Southern California thing. Lorelai got it right when she was talking to Christopher.

At least you learn a few street names in Stars Hollow. Main (presumably the main street of town they show all the time), Deerfield, Cherry, and Lynwood.

Lorelai Tells Luke Not to Date Ava

Worried about the interest Ava showed in Luke at the fashion show, Lorelai tells Luke the next day that she’d prefer he didn’t date Ava, because it would interfere with their friendship, and any possible relationship she might have with Ava via the Booster Club. It’s an almost exact swap for the time Luke advised Lorelai not to date Ian Jack, the Chilton dad she met on the first day she took Rory to school, both taking place over the diner counter. (Ava and Ian even have the same number of letters!).

Luke, quite rightly, tells Lorelai to butt out, because he can date whoever he likes. He then explains that he wasn’t arranging a date with Ava anyway, just giving her directions back to Hartford.

Although both wind up indignant at the other, they must also feel relieved. Lorelai that Luke wasn’t interested in Ava after all, and Luke having been given confirmation that Lorelai does have some feelings for him.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

LORELAI: Who do you think you are, the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Are you French, are you circular? I don’t think so.

Lorelai teases Rory for her lame initiation ceremony by comparing her to that other famous bell-ringer, Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, previously discussed.

The fact that Lorelai describes the hunchback as “circular” is a possible indication she might be thinking of the 1939 film, starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo [pictured]. This version gives Quasimodo a very pronounced hump on his back, so that in some scenes he does look almost circular, while later versions tone it down quite a bit.

“You deserve to go to Harvard”

RORY: So does that mean that you might reconsider my suspension?
HEADMASTER: You’re an excellent student. You deserve to go to Harvard. I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of that.

Utterly, utterly ludicrous. No headmaster would ever tell a student they deserve to go to Harvard, especially one who’d just been caught in his office in the middle of the night. There are many excellent students, Harvard is very difficult to get in to, they won’t all make it. Yet in only her second year at Chilton, Rory is more or less told it is her right to be there.

The writers of Gilmore Girls never seemed to understand how schools and colleges actually operate. Considering how much of the show revolved around Rory’s secondary and tertiary education, it seems like something they maybe should have brushed up on.

“Thank you, Mrs Traiger”

SECRETARY: Headmaster Charleston, the parents are starting to arrive.
HEADMASTER: Thank you, Mrs. Traiger.

Mrs Traiger is Headmaster Charleston’s secretary, last seen in The Lorelai’s First Day at Chilton. I’m not exactly sure what she’s doing here in this scene. Can’t Headmaster Charleston handle this situation without his secretary? Does she have all the keys to the school? Did he phone her and make her get out of bed in the middle of the night and come down to the school, just so she can make all the phone calls to the parents? This woman is not getting paid enough!

Ya-Ya Sisterhood

RORY: And the next thing I know, I’m being pulled out of my bed in the middle of the night and I’m blindfolded and then before I know it, I end up here with the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, reciting poetry and lighting candles, and now I’m gonna be suspended because I was trying to do what you told me?

Rory is referring to the 1996 novel, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by American author Rebecca Wells, the sequel to a 1992 short story collection, Little Altars Everywhere. The story is about the disintegrating relationship between an unusual mother and daughter named Vivi and Sidda.

While Sidda is holed up in a cabin the woods to think things through, Vivi’s childhood friends intervene to bring the pair back together by convincing Vivi to mail Sidda her childhood scrapbook, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood – the Ya-Ya Sisterhood being the secret society Vivi and her friends formed in 1930s Louisiana, in rebellion against Southern social codes of the times. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood devised its own bizarre initiation rites, based on an imaginary Native American mythos.

The novel was well reviewed and reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. It was famous enough that Rory doesn’t need to have read it to know about it, but I can’t see any reason why she wouldn’t have. The focus on a powerful but flawed mother-daughter relationship would surely have attracted both Lorelai and Rory to the novel. Rory’s derogatory comment might suggest that if she did read it, she didn’t think much of it.

The book was made into a film starring Sandra Bullock which was released in June 2002, but Rory can’t be referring to that, because it hasn’t happened yet.

“Sing out, Louise”

RORY: I pledge myself to the Puffs, loyal I’ll always be …
FRANCIE: Sing out, Louise.

Francie is quoting from the 1962 musical comedy-drama film Gypsy, based on the 1959 stage musical, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, adapted from the 1957 autobiography Gypsy: A Memoir by burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee.

The film is about a domineering stage mother named Rose Hovick (Rosalind Russell), who drags her beautiful, gifted daughter June, and June’s shy, less-talented older sister Louise (Natalie Wood) around the country in her efforts to get them noticed. When June rebels and elopes, all of Rose’s efforts are poured into the seemingly impossible task of making Louise a star.

In the film (or the musical, originally starring Ethel Merman as Mama Rose), Rose makes her entrance by shouting, “Sing out, Louise!”, during her daughter’s audition. Francie is likewise encouraging the mumbling Rory to speak up while she recites her pledge.

In the film, the awkward Louise unexpectedly finds success as a burlesque star under the name Gypsy Rose Lee, which is what allows her freedom from her mother at last – a hint that shy Rory will find her own way to escape Francie’s clutches.

Anne Sexton

FRANCIE: The historical bell of Chilton, 120 years old. Every member of the Puffs has stood here under the cover of night to pledge her lifelong devotion to us. ‘I pledge myself to the Puffs, loyal I’ll always be, a P to start, 2 F’s at the end, and a U sitting in between.’
RORY: Anne Sexton, right?

Anne Sexton (born Anne Harvey, 1928-1974) was an American poet known for her highly personal, confessional verse, on themes such as her depression and suicidal feelings. She is often compared with Sylvia Plath, and the two were friends (they were both poets around the same age from the Boston area). She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1968, and took her own life by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Rory satirically compares the sub-literary Puffs rhyme with Sexton’s verse. The gloom-loving, suicide-romanticising Rory would surely have checked out Sexton’s poetry, and the Puffs seem to make her mind automatically swing towards thoughts of self-oblivion.