Express Yourself

LORELAI: Okay. Well, do you remember the rowing scene in Ben-Hur? … I’m sorry, did that reference date me? Should I have gone with the “Express Yourself” video?

“Express Yourself” is a 1989 song by Madonna, a single released from her Like a Prayer album, witten and produced by Madonna and Stephen Bray. A tribute to funk band Sly and the Family Stone, it’s an upbeat dance-pop and deep-funk song about female empowerment. The song went to #2 in the US, and # 1 on the US dance charts, becoming the #55 song of 1989. It went to #1 in Canada, Italy, and Switzerland.

The music video, dircted by David Fincher, was inspired by the 1927 Fritz Langer film, Metropolis. With a budget of $5 million, it was the most expensive music video made until then, and remains the third-most expensive to this day.

The video portrayed a city full of tall skyscrapers and railway lines. Madonna played the part of a glamorous lady, with muscular men in chains acting as her workers (slaves?). Madonna is then shown as a masochist in chains. In the end, she picks one of the workers/slaves (played by Iranian-British model Cameron Alborzian) as her lover.

It’s interesting that Lorelai implies with both her references that Emily is gaining some sort of sado-masochistic sexual pleasure from her treatment of staff.

To me, Lorelai’s reference of “Express Yourself” dates her more than Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur is a classic that had been released on DVD only two years before this episode, while Madonna’s music video was 14 years old at the time – a hit song from Lorelai’s youth.


RORY: Please describe how your mother runs her household.
LORELAI: Okay. Well, do you remember the rowing scene in Ben-Hur?

Ben-Hur, previously discussed.

In the film, Ben-Hur is unfairly condemned to be a galley slave for three years, and in the famous galley scene, the slaves are shown working in time to the beat of a drum, and sometimes being whipped to make them work harder. Meanwhile the consul in charge simply sits back and watches them, apparently for sadistic pleasure, since there is no need for him to even be down there in the galley, which is dark and hot.

Cumberland Sauce

[Sookie walks back into the kitchen]

JOE: So, at the risk of seeming like Joe the drunken chef, I added some more port to the Cumberland sauce.

Cumberland sauce, a savoury sauce of English origin, made with redcurrant jelly, mustard, pepper and salt, blanched orange peel, and port wine. It is thought to be of 19th-century origin. It may be named after a Duke of Cumberland, or have originated in Cumberland county. It is generally used as a sauce for cold meats, and for game. Sookie is pairing it with pheasant.

The amount of port varies from recipe to recipe. Some cooks add only a few tablespoons of port, while a third or a half of a cup is quite usual. Some use as much as a full cup. Joe seems to be at the upper end of the port threshold, and Sookie further down.

The Great Gatsby

LORELAI: He’s liked you for ten years? … Wow. That is some serious Great Gatsby pining … You’re his Daisy.

The Great Gatsby, 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the Jazz Age on Long Island, near New York City, the novel depicts first-person narrator Nick Carraway’s interactions with mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, and Gatsby’s obsession to reunite with his former lover, Daisy Buchanan. The novel was inspired by a youthful romance Fitzgerald had with a socialite named Ginevra King, and the riotous parties he attended on Long Island’s North Shore in 1922.

The novel received generally favourable, if restrained, reviews, but was a commercial disappointment, selling less than 20 000 copies in the first six months. When F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940, be believed himself a failure, and his work forgotten.

During World War II, the novel experienced an abrupt surge in popularity when the Council on Books in Wartime distributed free copies to American soldiers serving overseas. This new-found popularity launched a critical and scholarly re-examination, and the work soon became a core part of most American high school curricula and a part of American popular culture. Numerous stage and film adaptations followed in the subsequent decades.

Gatsby continues to attract popular and scholarly attention. Contemporary scholars emphasise the novel’s treatment of social class, and its cynical attitude towards the American Dream. The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary masterwork and a contender for the title of the Great American Novel.

The 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford as Gatsby, featured Richard Hermann, who plays Richard Gilmore, in the minor role of Ewing Klipspringer, the mooching party guest who decides to simply never leave.

Shields and Yarnell

LORELAI: [hangs up, speaks to Sookie] Hey, Shields and Yarnell, what’s going on?

Shields and Yarnell, a famous mime duo formed in 1972, comprising Robert Shields (born 1951) and Lorene Yarnell (1944-2010). Their speciality was a sketch called “The Clinkers”, where they portrayed two robots. They had their own show, The Shields and Yarnell Show (1977-78), and appeared on hundreds of other programs, including The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, The Sonny and Cher Show, and The Muppet Show. Career highlights included shows for two American Presidents, a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, and a tour of China with comedian Bob Hope. They were married in 1972 and divorced in 1986, periodically reuniting to tour with their act.

Lorelai addresses Sookie as Shields and Yarnell because of the way she tries to get Lorelai’s attention on the phone.

In the picture, Yarnell is on the left and Shields on the right.


LORELAI: [on phone] Oh, no, sir, I’m afraid we don’t offer a complimentary breakfast … Uh, yes, sir, I realize the Ramada does.

Ramada is a large multinational hotel chain, and the first Ramada hotel was opened in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1954. The name is literally Spanish for “branch”, but ramadas (“porches, arbors”) were temporary open-air structures, popular in Arizona at harvest time. The company translates their name as “shady resting place”. It is now owned by Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

There are two Ramada hotels in Connecticut – one in Windsor Locks, just north of Hartford, and the other in Groton, where Lorelai’s relative once lived. Presumably the customer is considering remaining in Windsor Locks [pictured], which is at the airport. It’s a modest budget-priced two and half star hotel, and in reality they don’t offer a complimentary breakfast – they don’t serve breakfast at all, some days. It’s obviously nowhere near the luxury and charm of the Independence Inn.

Calves Liver

JOE: I can’t tell you how many times I kicked myself for not asking you out that summer. It just seemed like every time I got close, we’d end up talking about the best way to make calves liver or something.
SOOKIE: Sautéed with caramelized onions.

Liver and onion is a classic dish, widely eaten in the US, UK, and Germany, often accompanied by bacon. It is sometimes called Liver Berlin Style. There are variations on the dish in French, Italian, Spanish and Latin American cuisine.

Michel’s Deposition

MICHEL: My neighbor had this dog, a frisky little scamp that used to love to yap to his friends all night long. It was so cute. Then one day he disappeared. I told the police what I knew, but sadly the adorable little chatterbox was never found. It was tragic.
LORELAI: You got rid of a dog? …
MICHEL: I will gladly show you the transcript from the lawyer and the results of the lie detector test.
LORELAI: You’re heinous.
MICHEL: And very well rested.

Compare with Richard’s retort that at least he and Emily will be well rested, after Lorelai says they are both going to hell for snapping up a dead man’s property so quickly.

Michel, the (unproven) dog killer! It is actually possible to beat a lie detector test, although quite difficult. Michel is obviously a very cool customer. It’s much easier to fail one while being innocent, due to anxiety. These false positives are why evidence from one is not admissible in a court of law in the US.


[Lorelai walks up to Michel at the front desk]
LORELAI: Okay, so you’ll come in early and set up the conference room for the group from Michigan.

Michigan, a state in the Great Lakes region of the upper Midwest in the US. It has a population of over 10 million, and is the largest by area east of the Mississippi River at 97 000 square miles (250 000 square km). Its capital is Lansing, and its largest city is Detroit, among the nation’s most populous and largest metropolitan economies. The name Michigan derives from a Gallicised variant of the Ojibwe word mishigami, meaning “large water” or “large lake”.