“That’s how you look?”

PARIS: So, that’s how you look when you’ve just woken up?
RORY: Um, yeah.
PARIS: Nothing in my life is fair.

Of course, the viewer knows that this isn’t how Rory looks when she first wakes up. Lorelai warned her the Puffs would be coming over, and told her to put on cute pyjamas, brush her hair, and wear lip gloss. Instead of going to bed, she stays up reading, then quickly jumps into bed when she hears the Puffs at the door, so she hasn’t even been asleep, let alone woken up.

Liza Weil is attractive, so they had to work quite hard to make her look frumpy for these scenes, including putting on a skin treatment which she obviously didn’t need. She still ends up looking pretty cute.

Waffle From Belgium

RORY: Lorelai Gilmore. Nope, doesn’t sound model-y enough. You need something that stands out more. How about Waffle? We could call you Waffle and say you’re from Belgium?

Rory is referring to the way many models have unusual or exotic-sounding names, sometimes the one they were given at birth, and sometimes self-chosen. (Alexis Bledel began her career as a model, so presumably would know of many examples).

Waffle is from Belgium because they are famous for this foodstuff. American love “Belgian waffles”, which were introduced to North America in 1962, and popularised in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair – a variant of the Brussels waffle, served with strawberries and whipped cream (the Belgian cook who brought them over didn’t think North Americans would recognise Brussels as the name of a Belgian city).

There are several different types of waffle in Belgium, and none of them are called Belgian waffle. They tend to be larger and lighter than Belgian waffles in North America, with larger squares and a deeper grid pattern. Unlike in North America, they are not served as a breakfast food, but more often as a dessert or afternoon snack with coffee. [picture is the American version of Belgian waffles].

Shecky

LORELAI: Oh Shecky, you kill me.

Shecky Greene (born Fred Sheldon Greenfield in 1926) is an American comedian, known for his headline performances in Las Vegas during the 1950s and ’60s. He also appeared in films and on TV, and made appearances at Carnegie Hall and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Amy Sherman-Palladino became a fan of classic Jewish comedians as a young teenager from listening to her father’s old records. How Lorelai has also gained such knowledge of them is left to the viewer’s imagination.

The Bridge

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.

“I wanted to be a clown”

RORY: Have you ever thought of doing something other than teaching?
MAX: Well, my father wanted me to be a doctor, and my mother wanted me to be President, and I wanted to be . . . a clown.

This backstory for Max Medina is based on actor Scott Cohen studying to be a professional clown at the State University of New York. After graduating, he worked briefly as a clown, but was fired from the circus for not being “happy” enough.

Rory and Lorelai Visit Harvard University

After examining the map, Lorelai surprises Rory by driving her to Harvard University, which is in the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts, part of the Boston metropolitan area. Why Rory didn’t think of it herself is really the big surprise in this scene – surely she knows where Harvard is, and wouldn’t she have been begging her mother to take her there? Apparently not, as they get all the way to the front gates before Rory seems to realise where they are.

Rory wants to get a guide to the university – Harvard offers free one-hour guided group tours of its campus, given by students. Lorelai opts for the self-guided tour: you can navigate yourself around the university with the help of a brochure. Rory already knows the foundation date of Harvard (1636) by heart.

Lorelai reads about important scientific discoveries made at Harvard. The idea for the pacemaker was first originated by John Alexander McWilliam from Aberdeen University in 1889, while the first pacemaker was devised by Mark C. Lidwill from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Edgar H. Booth from the University of Sydney in 1926. The brochure is probably talking about Paul Zoll (1911-1999) from Harvard Medical School, one of many who helped develop and refine the pacemaker during the 1940s and ’50s.

The other scientific advances mentioned seem to be referring to Sheldon Glashow (born 1932), a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who is a Professor of Physics at Harvard University. In 1964, in colloboration with James Bjorken, he was the first to propose the existence of the charm quark, which helped to solve a number of problems in quantum field theory. In 1973, in colloboration with Howard Georgi, he proposed the first grand unifed theory, a model in which the interactions of electromagnetism, radioactivity, and nuclear forces are merged into one single force.

Lorelai is disturbed to see that out of 18 000 applicants to Harvard in the previous year, only 2000 were accepted. It’s a piece of news she should already know by now, and comes as a stiff reality check. Possibly for the first time, Lorelai gets an inkling that Rory’s dream of going to Harvard may be out of reach. The odds are even worse now – although Harvard still accept around 2000 students per year, nearly 40 000 applied to graduate in the year of 2022.

The scenes of Harvard were filmed at the University of California, Los Angeles campus in Westwood, which doesn’t resemble Harvard University. The front gates that Rory and Lorelai enter were made for the show.

The Cheshire Cat

LADAWN: Welcome to the Cheshire Cat.
LORELAI: … Okay, she’s named the place after an Alice in Wonderland character. This is my worst nightmare.

As Lorelai says, the Cheshire Cat is a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, previously discussed and frequently referenced. The cat likes to engage in amusing philosophical conversations, and is known for its distinctive grin; even when it disappears, as it does a few times, the grin will be the last thing to vanish.

The character is a personification of the English saying, “to grin like a Cheshire cat”, meaning that the person has a very wide smile. The saying dates to the 18th century, but its origins are obscure. Cheshire was known for its dairy industry, with milk and cream making cats happy, so that’s one possible explanation.

Presumably LaDawn chose the name of her B&B after her large cat, Sammy. In real life there are numerous B&Bs in the Portsmouth area to cater to the tourist trade. Scenes at the Cheshire Cat were filmed in the same set used for the Black White Read Bookstore.

Haden’s Nut House

On their trip, Lorelai and Rory stop at a roadside stand called Haden’s Nut House for snacks. Its name is another sign of how “crazy” Lorelai feels right now, while Haden is very close to Christopher’s surname of Hayden.

In real life, roadside nut stands are far less common in New England than they are in California, where the show was written. The filming location for Haden’s Nut House was Griffith Park, Los Angeles.

Lorelai and Rory’s Road Trip

We see Lorelai’s road trip plan in action – she is driving aimlessly around, and neither she nor Rory know where they are. It’s an obvious metaphor for how lost Lorelai feels at the current moment, and how she has no plans on how to navigate her life or move forward from here.

It’s also an opportunity to show Lorelai and Rory’s different outlooks on life, with Rory becoming increasingly alarmed and panicked at their lack of planning and direction. Interestingly, Lorelai makes an offhand remark about driving into the Pacific Ocean of the west coast rather than the Atlantic Ocean of the east coast – have her thoughts naturally wandered to Christopher in California? Or perhaps it’s a sly meta-comment about the road trip obviously being filmed in California rather than New England.