Tar and Feathers

TAYLOR: The bottom line here is that there is a consensus among townspeople who are in agreement that Stars Hollow was a better place before Jess got here.
LUKE: So this half of the room gets the tar, and the other half gets the feathers?
TAYLOR: Well, there hasn’t been any talk of tar and feathers. Although …

Tarring and feathering is a form of public torture and punishment handed out as unofficial justice, used in feudal England and colonial America, as well as the early American frontier, as a form of mob or vigilante vengeance. The last known example was in 2007 in Northern Ireland, against someone accused of drug-dealing.

The victim would be stripped naked or stripped to the waist, painted with hot tar, and then rolled in feathers (there were usually other punishments thrown in, such as whipping or scalping). The skin would be burned by the tar, and scraping it off later led to the skin being torn off, so it was extremely painful as well as humiliating. “Tarring and feathering” is now used as a term to denote severe public criticism.

Luke is saying the town meeting is on a par with the brutal mob justice associated with the Wild West, in agreement with Lorelai’s earlier comment. It is actually quite horrifying, because they seem to be saying Jess should be run out of town, even though he’s a high school kid who’s only guilty of petty theft and a few mild pranks.

It’s also baffling, because Jess isn’t exactly a stranger – he’s Luke’s nephew, Liz’s son, and the grandson of the respected William Danes. The town should be prepared to take him in as one of their own, and the fact that they won’t is a deeply troubling sign. Maybe there’s a good reason why Liz took off.

Famous Debutantes

CHRISTOPHER: Well, did you tell her about Barbara Hutton, Doris Duke, Gloria Vanderbilt?
LORELAI: Yes, and she’s perfectly willing to marry Cary Grant, get offed by her crazy butler, and start designing blue jeans as soon as the ball ends.

Barbara Hutton, previously discussed. She was first dubbed the “Poor Little Rich Girl” at her lavish debutante ball in 1930. She married seven times. Her third marriage was to Hollywood actor Cary Grant in 1942; although he genuinely seemed to care for Hutton, they divorced in 1945. Grant did not seek or receive money from her in the divorce settlement. He was probably her best husband.

Doris Duke (1912-1993), billionaire tobacco heiress and socialite, dubbed the “Richest Girl in the World”. She was presented as a debutante in 1930, at a ball at the family home in Newport, Rhode Island. She was widely travelled, with an interest in the arts and horticulture. She was the first non-Hawaiian woman to take up the sport of surfing. A keen philanthropist, she donated money to AIDS research, medicine, and child welfare, including supporting the education of black students in the South. Duke died from a stroke, but rumours persist that she was murdered by her Irish butler, Bernard Lafferty (1945-1996). No charges were ever laid, and Lafferty died in his sleep only three years later. He wasn’t “crazy” so much as an alcoholic.

Gloria Vanderbilt (1924-2019), heiress, socialite, artist, actress, and fashion designer. During the 1930s she was the focus of a scandalous child custody case between her mother and her paternal aunt, Gertrude Whitney, which Gertrude won after Gloria’s mother was declared an unfit parent. Gloria made her debut in 1940. Vanderbilt studied both acting and art, managing to have successful careers in both, as well as becoming an author. A model at 15, she ventured into the fashion industry in the 1970s, and in 1976 launched a line of blue jeans which were an immediate success.

(The picture is Gloria Vanderbilt as a sixteen-year-old debutante).


CHRISTOPHER: Yeah, Boston. Baked beans, cream pie, tea party, strangler.

Boston is the capital of, and largest city in, the state of Massachusetts. It was founded by Puritan colonists in 1630. It has a population of more than 600 000 people, is one of the economically most dominant cities in the world, and is known for its diversity of neighbourhoods. It’s about two and a half hours drive from where Stars Hollow would be, so Christopher is significantly closer to them now. It’s also 15 minutes drive from Harvard University ….

Note that Christopher has moved to Boston without letting Lorelai and Rory know, or even giving them the landline number for his new apartment. It seems he hasn’t spoken to them since Lorelai’s bachelorette party, with the excuse that he was giving Lorelai space after she broke her engagement. Which might be reasonable, except he has a daughter, and there’s no excuse for not phoning her. Once again, Rory is an afterthought in Christopher’s relationship with Lorelai, rather than the focal point she should be.

Christopher quickly rattles off a few associations for Boston:

Boston baked beans

Baked beans sweetened with molasses and flavoured with salt pork or bacon. It’s been a speciality of Boston since colonial times, and baked beans with frankfurters is a favourite dish. Boston is sometimes known as Beantown.

Boston cream pie

A sponge cake with custard or cream filling, glazed with chocolate. It’s said to have been created in 1881 at the Parker House Hotel in Boston by a French chef. It’s the official dessert of Massachusetts.

Boston Tea Party

A political protest by the an organisation called the Sons of Liberty in Boston on December 16 1773. It was in protest of the Tea Act, which allowed the British East India Company to sell tea from China in American colonies without paying taxes apart from those imposed by British parliament. The Sons of Liberty strongly opposed the taxes as a violation of their rights, with the slogan “no taxation without representation”. Protesters destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, boarding the ships and throwing chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The British government responded harshly, and the episode escalated into the American Revolution. The Tea Party became an iconic event of American history.

Boston Strangler

The name given to the murderer of thirteen women in Boston in the early 1960s; most were sexually assaulted and strangled in their apartments with no signs of forced entry. In 1967 a man named Albert DeSalvo confessed to being the Boston Strangler while serving life imprisonment for a series of rapes; he was found stabbed to death in prison in 1973. Although his confession revealed some details of the crimes unknown to the public, and DNA evidence has linked him with the Strangler’s final victim, doubts remain as to whether he committed all the Boston murders. George Nassar, the prison inmate DeSalvo reportedly confessed to, is the major suspect; he is currently serving life in prison for murder. Several films have been made about the case, most notably The Boston Strangler (1968), starring Tony Curtis.

Christopher’s glib associations for the city bring to mind the way Rory summed up Chicago to Dean as “Windy. Oprah”.


LORELAI: You know, you should meet my daughter. She’s about your age. She can show you where all the good wilding goes on . . .

“Wilding” is an American term which gained media use in the 1980s and ’90s to describe gangs of teenage gangs committing violent acts. It is no longer often used.

The word has an ugly history, coined during the Central Park jogger case of 1989, after a white female jogger was assaulted and raped in Manhattan’s Central Park. Five black and Latino juveniles were convicted of the crime, police contending that the boys said they were “wilding” in the park, the police taking this to mean committing violence.

This has been disputed as a (wilful?) misunderstanding by the police. Other theories are that the boys were repeating the lyrics to the Tone Loc song, “The Wild Thing”, or that they said they were “wiling”, meaning “hanging out, whiling away the time”.

The boys served sentences of between six to twelve years, and all later had their charges vacated after a serial rapist and murderer confessed to the crime while in prison. This was in 2002, so after this episode aired (Lorelai doesn’t know she is referencing falsely imprisoned schoolboys).

So far, Lorelai has linked Jess with prisoners and the Mafia, and joked that he may be going out to hold up a liquor store. Once she actually meets him, she connects him with violent gang rape. At this point, her “jokes” about Jess have become openly hostile, and quite nasty.

As Lorelai has joked about a violent gang rape, and used a word with a racist history to Jess, I wonder if this is when he decided he didn’t like Lorelai very much?

Adolf Eichmann

KIRK: That’s right. There’s exactly a thousand of them. The order states that there is to be exactly 1000. Not 1001, not 999, but 1000. You ask for 1000, I bring 1000. I don’t question the orders. I merely fill them.
MICHEL: Job well done, Mr. Adolf Eichmann.

(Otto) Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962) was a German Nazi lieutenant colonel, and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust. After the outbreak of World War II, Eichmann and his staff were responsible for the deportation of Jews to concentration camps. After the war, Eichmann escaped Germany, and in 1950 managed to get to Argentina with false papers.

In 1960, Israeli intelligence agents captured Eichmann and brought him to Israel to stand trial for his war crimes. He did not deny his involvement, but argued that he had simply been following orders in a totalitarian system. He was found guilty, and hanged in 1962.

This is the first time we have seen Kirk (the character named Kirk, not Mick or an anonymous swan guy) in a change of job. He began as the assistant manager of Doose’s Market, and now he is doing deliveries for the flower shop. As the flower shop is right near the market, it doesn’t seem too hard to believe that Kirk could do both jobs, but as the show progresses, the number of jobs he holds blows out to comical proportions.

Sad Lonely Guys (Natural Loners)

LORELAI: Lee Harvey Oswald.
LUKE: John Muir.
LORELAI: The Unabomber.
LUKE: Henry David Thoreau.

Lorelai and Luke disagree about the romantic ideal of the male loner, with Lorelai seeing them as sad, lonely misanthropes, and Luke as mystical hermits of the wilderness. Luke sees himself as the latter, while Lorelai is worried he could be the former.

Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) was an American ex-Marine and Marxist defector to the Soviet Union, described as quiet and withdrawn. According to four federal investigations, he assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963; there is a strong public belief that he didn’t act alone. Oswald was murdered by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while he was being transferred from the city gaol to the county gaol, and never stood trial or gave testimony.

John Muir (1838-1914) [pictured] was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His essays and books about nature have inspired millions, and his activism helped preserve Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and other wilderness areas. He co-founded The Sierra Club, a prominent conservation organisation, and he has many things named in his honour, including the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada, and the John Muir Way in Scotland. He is known as “Father of the National Parks”, and has been described as a patron saint of the environmental movement. As a young man, Muir spent many years hiking alone in the wilderness, but in middle age he married and had children, although still needing to spend time in the wilderness to refresh his spirit.

Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, and previously discussed.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American author, poet, naturalist, and philosopher whose writings are early examples of environmentalism, and who advocated hiking, canoeing, and the preservation of wilderness (although when he actually went deep into the wilds, he came back with a new appreciation for civilisation). Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, or, Life in the Woods, which describes living a simple life in natural surrounds. It is based on a period of over two years that Thoreau spent living in a wooden cabin near Walden Pond among woods near Concord, Massachusetts. The book is both a memoir, and a spiritual quest to discover a better way to live. It tells of how Thoreau managed to enjoy his solitude in the woods, but also the companions that he met, and the friends who came to visit him, and how he enjoyed that too.

That Luke selects Muir and Thoreau as his models of loners, one who married and had a family, and the other who enjoyed friendship and companionship, suggests that he does not wish to be completely alone or isolated in life.

“Key his car”

LORELAI: I warned him. I warned him when I first met him, if he hurt her … Ah. Maybe I could key his car.
LUKE: Or better yet, you can key Taylor’s car, and tell him Dean did it.

To key a car means to use the sharp point of a key to scrap across someone’s car windshield or paintwork in order to damage it; often done out of spite as an act of petty vandalism.

Anna Nicole Smith and Mary Kay Letourneau

(Older man walks by.)
RORY: Why?
LORELAI: Because I’m not Anna Nicole Smith. Next.
RORY: Two.
(Teenage boy on a skateboard goes by.)
LORELAI: Hmm, pass.
RORY: Why?
LORELAI: Because I’m not Mary Kay Letourneau.

Anna Nicole Smith, born Vickie Lynne Hogan (1967-2007) [pictured] was an American model and actress who first gained fame as a Playboy model, winning Playmate of the Year in 1992. She was perhaps best known for her 1994 marriage to J. Howard Marshall, an 89-year-old petroleum tycoon she had met while working at a strip club. It was speculated that she had married him for his money because of the age difference. Marshall died the following year, and there was a protracted legal case over his will; during it, Smith herself died, gaining no money from his estate.

Mary Kay Letourneau (born Mary Katherine Schmitz in 1962) is an American former schoolteacher who in 1997 pleaded guilty to raping a child, her twelve-year-old student Vili Fualaau, to whose baby she gave birth while awaiting sentencing. Due to a plea agreement, she was sentenced to three months in prison, and was not allowed contact with Fualaau for life. She broke the no-contact order soon after being released from prison, and was imprisoned again, this time for seven years, giving birth to another child in prison. After Letourneau was released in 2004, Vili Fualaau, now an adult, asked that the no-contact order be revoked, and they married in 2005. They legally separated in 2017, although they apparently still live together and are still in a relationship.

“Too cabin-in-the-woods?”

PARIS: Read my manifesto, I want your thoughts.
RORY: First thought – lose the word “manifesto”.
PARIS: Too cabin-in-the-woods?
RORY: Don’t open your mail.

A reference to domestic terrorist Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (born 1942), also known as the Unabomber. In 1971 he moved to a remote cabin in the woods in Montana, where he lived as a recluse.

He first began his bombing campaign after witnessing the destruction of the wilderness around him, and between 1978 and 1995 mailed or hand-delivered a series of increasingly-sophisticated bombs that killed three people and injured twenty-three.

In 1995, Ted Kaczynski’s lengthy essay, Industrial Society and Its Future, (known to the police as the Unabomber Manifesto) was published in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He promised that if it was published he would desist from further terrorism, and police hoped that its publication would help lead to his identification.

That proved to be the case: Ted’s estranged brother, David Kaczynski, recognised his brother’s writing style from family records of letters that Ted had written to newspapers in the 1970s, and an earlier essay by Ted.

Ted Kaczynski was arrested in 1996; he pleaded guilty to all charges in 1998 and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He is currently serving his sentence in a Supermax prison in Colorado.

Leopold and Loeb

EMILY: He [Chase] was just telling me that he actually grew up right around the corner from here.
CHASE: … Stone house on the corner.
LORELAI: Oh, the one with the Dobermans.
CHASE: That’s right. Leopold and Loeb.

This refers to Nathan Leopold Jr. (1904-1971) and Richard Loeb (1905-1936), collectively known as Leopold and Loeb. They were two wealthy students at the University of Chicago in 1924, when they kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy named Robert “Bobby” Franks, who was a second-cousin of Loeb, and well-known to both the murderers.

Leopold and Loeb were of high intelligence, and committed the murder to demonstrate their intellectual superiority. They thought they would be able to commit the “perfect crime”, and that their intelligence meant that they could do as they like, even a thrill kill, and claim it as an experiment.

Arrested about a week later, they both confessed to the crime and were represented by the famous defence lawyer Clarence Darrow. The case became a media spectacle, and was billed as “the trial of the century”. Thanks to Darrow’s impassioned pleas, Leopold and Loeb escaped the death penalty and were given a sentence of life imprisonment instead.

Loeb was killed by a fellow prisoner in 1936, while Leopold became a model prisoner who made significant contributions to improving the conditions at Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois. He was released on parole in 1958, married, and moved to Puerto Rico, where he led a blameless life giving an enormous amount to the community in numerous ways – thus justifying Darrow’s defense that the death penalty would give them no chance to rehabilitate.

Chase’s parents obviously had a dark sense of humour when they named their pet Dobermans after two child killers.