LORELAI: Hey, who was the guy who used to run the auto body shop?
(We pan up to see Luke lying on the roof with a hammer.)
LUKE: The Stretch Cunningham guy?
LORELAI: No, the Dick Tracy guy.
Jerome “Stretch” Cunningham was a recurring character on the 1970s sitcom All in the Family, played by James Cromwell. Stretch was a friend and co-worker of main character Archie Bunker. (Both Sally Struthers, who played Babette, and Liz Torres, who played Miss Patty, were also in All in the Family; possibly why it was referenced several times on Gilmore Girls).
Dick Tracy is a fictional police detective who first appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strips created by Chester Gould in 1931. The Dick Tracy stories have been adapted into radio serials, comic books, novels, and films – most recently in 1990, with Warren Beatty in the title role.
There is a real mystery as to what the barely-remembered auto mechanic actually looked like. Lorelai first says he is tall and skinny, then corrects herself to say he was short and fat, and that the tall, skinny guy was actually his employee. Then she decides that he looked like Dick Tracy, who isn’t short and fat. Did the auto mechanic (who we learn was named Jim Dunning) look like a short, stocky version of Dick Tracy?
RORY: I’m sorry, the oil vat guy [in your dream] was being mean.
(Rory sits down at the table.)
LORELAI: Yes. And we knew him. He used to live in town. He was that guy who used to run the auto body shop before Maven Hughes bought it. Remember him?
Maven Hughes sounds suspiciously like Maybin Hewes, the name of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s mother. You can see Maybin Hewes in the episode Rory’s Dance: when the yoga class comes in to Miss Patty’s and find Rory and Dean asleep, Maybin is the first student to enter (she’s billed as Yoga Woman #1, and in the picture, she’s the one wearing a red tartan scarf).
The auto body shop (garage mechanic’s) in Stars Hollow seems to have gone through a multitude of owners. In The Lorelais’ First Day at Chilton, Derek, the valet at the Independence Inn, slightly damaged a car, and Lorelai told him to take it to Musky’s to be fixed. Well, before Musky there was Maven Hughes, and before that there was Jim Dunning, and who knows how many others. In the next season, the ownership of the garage will be settled once and for all.
LORELAI: You are not sleeping through this.
RORY: Through what?
(Lorelai walks over to the bed and leans over her.)
LORELAI: The freaking Blue Man Group is outside our house!
The Blue Man Group is a performance art company founded in Manhattan in 1987 by Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton. What began as a series of “street disturbances” by a group of men wearing blue masks became a series of shows combining music and art held in small clubs, and eventually a full performance at the Astor Theatre in New York in 1991, which is still on-going.
The Blue Man Group have gone on a number of concert tours, and released several albums. At the time this episode went to air, The Blue Man Group were booked to play live in Las Vegas, which continued until 2005. The Blue Man Group eventually went international, and in 2017 were bought by Cirque Du Soleil.
Interestingly, Nathan Wetherington, who played Dean Forester in the original Pilot episode, was the drummer with the Blue Man Group for two years.
Lorelai comes into Rory’s bedroom at her grandparents, and they make up their fight, with Rory emotionally apologising for her behaviour the day before. Lorelai lets her know that she has spoken to Dean, and knows about the “I love you” that didn’t get returned.
Rory confirms Dean’s story, but for some reason doesn’t tell her mother that Dean sulked and got angry with her rather than being kind and understanding, or that he seemed to partly blame Lorelai for the problems in their relationship.
This may be because she is hoping to get back with Dean, and doesn’t want her mother to know about it, or because she genuinely doesn’t realise how badly Dean behaved, and completely blames herself for what happened.
Lorelai lets Rory know that she has set her a poor example in relationships, and that she hasn’t thought enough what she’s supposed to be teaching her. She tells Rory that she is still learning too, and that she wants Rory to know how to say “I love you”, even if Lorelai herself can’t say it yet.
This was an unusual moment on a teen drama series, where the mother admitted how clueless she was and that she didn’t have everything figured out either. Amy Sherman-Palladino was always trying to explain to the television executives that Lorelai was a different kind of mother, and Rory a different kind of daughter.
EMILY: So what’s going on at school today?
RORY: Uh, I have a test in Spanish.
RICHARD: Hmm. Are you prepared?
RORY: Oh yeah. I like Spanish.
Alexis Bledel, who plays Rory, is a native Spanish speaker and did not learn English until she went to school. Her father was born and raised in Argentina, while her mother was born in the US, but grew up in Mexico. Rory being good at Spanish seems to be informed by that.
In an episode filled with women showing each other various living spaces, it ends with Lorelai taking Rory and Sookie to see the old inn The Dragonfly, as something she and Sookie might be able to buy and renovate.
Notably, Sookie speaks of opening a bed and breakfast, even though in the next series, it turns out that Lorelai loathes bed and breakfasts.
Lorelai says it will be a long time before she and Sookie can buy The Dragonfly, and in the meantime the whole thing might fall down (the front door falls off just in the time they are viewing it). It will be more than two years before Lorelai and Sookie buy The Dragonfly, opening a new chapter in their lives.
The set used for The Dragonfly at Warner Brothers studio is the same one used for the family house on The Waltons, previously discussed.
LORELAI: I sat her [Emily] down to listen to a Prince song once, and she looked like she was having a stroke.
Prince, born Prince Nelson (1958-2016) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, previously mentioned. His first album, For You, was released in 1978, and his breakthrough was the 1982 double album, 1999, with hit singles such as his signature song 1999, and Little Red Corvette. His most successful album is the 1984 Purple Rain, the soundtrack to the musical film of the same name. When Doves Cry, the first single from the album, became his first #1 hit.
It is unclear which of Prince’s songs the teenaged Lorelai might have played for Emily, but it’s most likely one from 1999, which came out when Lorelai was fourteen (it was possibly the title track). By the time Purple Rain was released in late June 1984, Lorelai would have been six months pregnant, and probably past the point of trying to bond with Emily over pop music.
The incident is one based on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s own life – her mother was likewise horrified when Amy played a Prince song for her.