Walking to Sookie’s House

Even though it’s the middle of the night, there’s snow on the ground, and they’re in pyjamas, Lorelai and Rory put on coats and scarves and walk to Sookie’s house. In other episodes, they say that Sookie’s house is a long walk from theirs (they seem to have to go through the centre of town to get there), but for some reason they always walk, even when complaining about the distance. Apparently it is both too far to walk quickly, and too close to drive (perhaps a mile???).

In real life, the sets for Lorelai’s and Sookie’s houses were right next to each other, and could be accessed through a door between them. Note that there are still snowmen standing from the previous episode’s contest – apparently they are left up until they melt in early spring.

Snow in Chicago

LORELAI: They’re snowed in.
SOOKIE: Who’s snowed in?
LORELAI: The Bracebridge group. They’re stuck in Chicago. The dinner’s off.

In real life, December 2001 was warmer than average in Chicago, and it only snowed once, which took place close to Christmas, after the events of this episode.

The writer, Daniel Palladino, must have been thinking of the previous year – there was a terrible blizzard on Tuesday December 11 which raged for hours, with very heavy snowfalls. The storms continued on and off for the rest of the month, making it one of the heaviest snowfalls of all time for the city, an entire season’s worth.

Not being psychic, of course Palladino could only refer to a past blizzard, he didn’t know what the weather would be like in the upcoming December.

(The picture shows a plane grounded at O’Hare Airport in December 2000; flights really were cancelled).

Anne Heche

SOOKIE: We are crazy for doing this.
LORELAI: We’re beyond crazy. We are ‘Anne Heche speaking her secret language to God and looking for the spaceship in Fresno’ crazy.
SOOKIE: Oh Quiness, Nakka dune notta.

LORELAI: Il el nostra doska don.

Anne Heche (born 1969), actress, director, and screenwriter. First became known as a soap opera actress, before gaining mainstream recognition in the late 1990s in films such as Donnie Brasco (1997) and Six Days, Seven Nights (1998). She was also famous for her high-profile three-year relationship with comedian Ellen De Generes, who came out to the press shortly after she and Anne began dating.

On August 19 2000, the day after her relationship with Ellen ended, Anne drove from Los Angeles to Cantua Creek, near Fresno, parking her vehicle on a roadside. She walked for more than a mile through the desert wearing shorts and a bra before knocking on a stranger’s door and asking for a shower. As she seemed reluctant to leave, the homeowner called the sheriff’s department. When deputies arrived, Heche told them that she was God, and would take everyone up to Heaven in a spaceship (she later said she had taken ecstasy). She was admitted to a psychiatric unit in Fresno, and released after a few hours.

While promoting her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, Anne told interviewers that she had been mentally ill for the first thirty-one years of her life due to horrific sexual abuse by her father (a closeted gay man who died of AIDS when Anne was thirteen), which began when she was only a baby. Her surviving family strongly reject those claims, although even without that, her childhood doesn’t sound like a picnic.

Anne said that she created a fantasy world called The Fourth Dimension and had an alter ego named Celestia who was the daughter and reincarnation of God, spoke her own language, had special powers, and was in contact with extraterrestrials. It seems likely Lorelai read Call Me Crazy, as it is the sort of camp celebrity memoir she could not resist (like Mommie Dearest and Tears and Laughter), although all the information could be gleaned from the press at the time.

Anne Heche stated that she had no further mental health issues after the episode at Cantua Creek, and she has gone on to have a successful career in film and television.

Sookie’s statement means, “Oh God, I cannot do this” in Anne Heche’s invented language. Lorelai replies, “It’s too scary for me now”, in the same language. Anne said this when she believed God wanted her to heal a friend’s injured ankle, however she says she did go on to heal her friend through laying on of hands. Anne shared this information, including the example of her language, with Barbara Walters on 20/20 in early September 2001.

Like Lorelai and Sookie, and many others at the time, Amy Sherman-Palladino mocked Anne Heche mercilessly after going public. Their tone was completely mainstream for the time.

Military School in North Carolina

TRISTAN: The police are letting our parents handle it, and in my case that means military school in North Carolina.

A meta comment. Chad Michael Murray, who played Tristan, left the show in order to begin filming the teen drama One Tree Hill (2003-2012), shown on the same channel as Gilmore Girls (The WB); Murray had the lead role of Lucas Scott. One Tree Hill is set in the fictional town of Tree Hill in North Carolina, and mostly filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Amy Sherman-Palladino apparently planned for Tristan to become Rory’s boyfriend in high school/college and her “Christopher”, which, because Chad Michael Murray went to another show, was a role filled by the character of Logan Huntzberger instead. In this farewell episode, you can see the faint beginnings of the tenderness between Rory and Tristan which would have blossomed into eventual love. Anyone wishing to see what would have happened if Logan had been Tristan instead must turn to fanfiction.

In real life, there is only one one military school in North Carolina, and it is Oak Ridge Military Academy, so presumably that’s where Tristan is headed. It was originally founded in 1850, and was one of the first military schools to become co-educational, in 1972. It apparently had a reputation at one time of taking troubled youth, which it is working to overcome.

If Tristan turned up to Chilton in order to say he was leaving for military school, couldn’t he also have stayed to do the scene with them? Does everyone transfer schools on a Sunday night in this universe? (Maybe because they’re boarding schools?).

With Tristan out of the picture, the love triangle between Rory, Dean, and Tristan comes to an end, to make way for a new love triangle, which becomes clear in the very next episode.

Brad Langford (Adam Wylie)

BRAD: I’m Brad. From the third period Shakespeare.
LOUISE: He’s the answer to our lack of boys problem. Isn’t that swell?

This is the first time we meet Rory’s schoolmate Brad Langford, played by Adam Wylie. Although uncredited for this episode, Wylie was already an experienced actor with a lengthy CV. Brad was a gentle soul who lived in terror of Paris, and seemed to get along fairly well with Rory.

Brad is roped in to provide a male character for their group project, even though he tends to throw up from nerves when speaking in public. This leaves the role of Romeo open for Tristan.

Boise

RORY: I wonder if Grandpa’s still in Akron?
LORELAI: Well for Akron’s sake, I hope he’s moved on to Boise.

Boise is the capital of Idaho, a city with a population of around 240 000. It’s more than two thousand miles from Akron, so not a natural place to “move on to” from there.

David Lynch, previously discussed, grew up in Boise. As he’s Amy Sherman-Palladino’s favourite director, I expect that’s why it rates a mention.

Glitter

LORELAI: I heard [Jess] controls the weather and wrote the screenplay to Glitter.

Glitter is a 2001 romantic drama musical film directed by Vondie Curtis Hall, and starring Mariah Carey, previously discussed. The screenplay was written by Kate Lanier. The film is about a club dancer who aspires to be a professional singer, and falls in love with a nightclub DJ who helps her in her career.

The film came out on September 21, so Lorelai would have seen it in the cinema only recently. It was heavily panned by critics, with Mariah Carey’s acting efforts considered amateurish, and it failed at the box office. It has been called the worst film ever made. Even before the film was released, Mariah Carey was hospitalised with a breakdown, much later revealed to be bipolar disorder. Carey herself expressed a lot of regret over, and disappointment in, the film.

Amy Sherman-Palladino was one of the many people who hated Glitter, which is probably why it gets mentioned here as Lorelai’s joke about the “evil crimes” of Jess. Lorelai doesn’t like Jess, but even she thinks the town is going too far in their treatment of him. She has the good sense not to offer her own issues with Jess (stole beer, talked back to her, prowled around her daughter), as grist for the mill at the meeting.

Santa Barbara

LORELAI: So, Mia, how’s living in Santa Barbara?
MIA: Horrible. Did you know the damn sun shines all the time out there?
RORY: They’ve written songs about that.

Santa Barbara is a coastal city in California about ninety miles north of Los Angeles. Situated on the Pacific Ocean with a dry sunny Mediterranean climate, it is promoted as “The American Riviera”. Due to its geographic positioning, it has both cooler summers and warmer winters than surrounding areas, and despite what Mia says, it tends to be wetter in winter than its surrounds too, although rainfall is very variable.

It’s the sort of expensive place that wealthy people retire to, suggesting that Mia has done very well out of the hotel industry. Is it really possible she got that rich just from the Independence Inn? Surely she has other properties or investments as well? Maybe she’s a wealthy widow?

People in Stars Hollow seem to be strangely attracted to distant California. Christopher and Liz ran away to California to start new lives, Fran went on holiday there, Mia retired there. The writers live there, the show’s filmed there …

I’m not aware of any famous songs about the sunshine of Santa Barbara specifically that Rory might be thinking of, but there’s several songs about California.

Mia Halloway (Elizabeth Franz)

In this episode, we meet Mia Halloway, the never-before-seen-or-heard-about owner of the Independence Inn, and therefore Lorelai, Sookie, and Michel’s boss. Her unannounced appearance leads to a certain amount of flustered rushing about, but Mia hasn’t come to inspect them – this is more of a social visit.

Mia is cast in the role of fairy godmother and kindly innkeeper, the woman who rescued Lorelai and Rory when they ran away from Richard and Emily’s house. It is clear that the Gilmore girls love her, and see her as a substitute mother/grandmother. They seem much closer to her than they are to Emily, their actual mother/grandmother, and feel freer in the way they express themselves and joke around. Mia conveniently faded out of the picture before Lorelai and Rory became a regular part of Emily’s life again … there would probably have been some friction otherwise.

We’re meant to see Mia as a sort of fantasy mother figure (Mama Mia!), with all the loving fun stuff, and none of the difficult painful stuff attached. The trouble is, I can’t help thinking that this is the woman who put teenaged Lorelai and her baby to live in the potting shed, when we now know they arrived in the depths of autumn, already very cold in Connecticut!

I think the issue is that the scriptwriters (including Amy Sherman-Palladino) wrote the potting shed as some quaint, adorable little wooden cottage with rosebud wallpaper and curtains at the window, and the scenery people produced … well, a pretty standard corrugated metal garden shed, not possible to put wallpaper on, and obviously utterly freezing in winter, particularly at night (and very hot in summer).

It seems more like something the wicked stepmother would have come up with for Cinderella, not the fairy godmother. Another issue is that Gilmore Girls appears to be set in a fantasy TV Connecticut where it never gets any colder than southern California.

We only learn that Mia’s surname is Halloway from the credits. Given the time of year Lorelai and Rory first arrived in Stars Hollow, the connection with Halloween is made very clear, as if Mia herself is the embodiment of supernatural forces bringing them to their correct destination.

A fun connection is that actress Elizabeth Franz was born in Akron, Ohio, the same place Richard Gilmore is sent to for work in this episode.