This episode is centred around Sookie and Jackson’s wedding day, and the first shot is the poster the couple are using for the celebration. It’s a huge blown up photo of Sookie and Jackson against a field of flowers (possibly a standard photography studio background?), with Sookie holding a wedding cake, and Jackson in a Hawaiian shirt holding a bunch of bananas. It’s typical sweet goofiness from this so-far adorable couple.
Note that the wedding date is prominently displayed as May 19 2002, changed from the earlier May 15. And May 19 really was a Sunday in 2002! This is the first time we’ve got a rock-solid date for anything that actually fits into a real world time frame.
If you keep an eye out, you will see other photos of Sookie and Jackson used on decorative throw pillows and what not in this episode – I imagine that Jackson’s cousin with the printing business was called in to do these, and he quite likely made the poster as well.
RORY: I am sick, I’m ill, I’m cracked. This is not who I am. If I were to write this down in my diary and I would read it, I would be like, Who is this freak? This isn’t me. This isn’t my diary. I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t skip school when I have finals coming up to go see a guy that isn’t even my guy and end up missing my mother’s graduation, which I wanted to be at so badly. That’s someone else. That’s someone flighty and stupid and dumb and girly. And, I mean, I missed your graduation, which is the worst thing I could have possibly done. I mean, I hurt you and I had to spend hours on a stinky bus next to a guy that was spitting into a can, just thinking about all of the minutes that were going by that I wasn’t at your graduation and they were hurting you, and they should have been hurting you because it was so selfish of this person who wasn’t me to do what she did.
Rory’s snap decision to go to New York is something she can’t explain logically, so that she says she must have a physical or mental illness. Not only has she let her mother down badly one one of the most important days of her life, but she skipped a day of school in the lead up to final exams, and it was to see a boy who isn’t even her boyfriend (and her boyfriend wouldn’t be thrilled to hear about this, which he won’t, because Rory has got into the habit of not being truthful with Dean).
Rory’s tearful, extravagant apology and her description of how bad she feels and how much she has already suffered for her actions has the effect of negating any of Lorelai’s feelings, or allowing her to tell Rory how she feels – because however unhappy Lorelai feels about Rory not turning up, Rory feels a million times worse.
It would be quite manipulative if done on purpose, but I think it is done in all innocence and sincerity. However, it’s very unfair on Lorelai, who now has to put aside not only her own feelings, but all the positive feelings she has about graduating, and focus on Rory’s problems.
Rory’s behaviour must seem horribly familiar to Lorelai. A teenage girl acting reckless and boy crazy, making foolish, selfish choices, and behaving in an irresponsible manner? She’s starting to sound an awful lot like Lorelai when she was a smart private schoolgirl.
Note that Rory speaks here about writing in her diary as if she actually has one – she doesn’t say, “If I had a diary”, or “If I wrote this down in a diary”, she says, “If I were to write this down in my diary”. There’s a strong suggestion here that Rory has a diary which she writes in regularly, which seems completely in character for her. I’m guessing the entry for this day would be very painful to write.
The moment arrives, and it is Lorelai’s turn to graduate, after three years of studying business at community college. As her name is read out, we discover for the first time that her middle name is Victoria (oddly enough, the last time we saw the name in the show, it was on a gay bar – The Queen Victoria!).
A popular fan theory is that because Richard named Lorelai after his beloved mother, her middle name of Victoria was chosen by Emily, and was perhaps the name she wishes that Lorelai had. It does seem like Emily to choose a name from royalty.
Richard and Emily look at Lorelai graduating with such pride, and I think feeling glad that they have been included in this important event. They could have been snobbish about her graduating from a community college, or even embarrassed that she doesn’t graduate until her thirties. They could have done the bare minimum; shown up, sat at the back, and given a quick congratulations before going home.
Instead they hire a professional filmmaker to record the ceremony, order dozens of corsages so Lorelai can choose whichever one she likes best, and watch Lorelai graduate with expressions of love and pride. They know how hard she has worked, and the struggles she has been through to graduate, so being there for her big moment is very important.
The writer (Daniel Palladino) has left poor Rory stuck on a bus and unable to get there, but it was so that Lorelai could share this touching moment with Richard and Emily – she gets to graduate as a daughter, not a mother, the way she would have if she’d been sent to Vassar when she was a teenager.
It’s slightly unbelievable Richard and Emily are not more concerned about Rory’s absence from the ceremony, but perhaps they don’t want do anything to ruin Lorelai’s special evening.
Rory has a nightmarish bus journey back to Hartford, which begins with the bus unable to even leave the terminus, as an accident has temporarily closed the interstate. We don’t get much of an idea as to how long that took, but in such cases, the interstate is usually closed for at least an hour or two (sometimes more than a day).
Rory sends Lorelai a pager message to say that she’s been held up, and will try to get to the ceremony by seven, but might be later than that. This sounds as if the bus was delayed from starting for more than an hour. It’s annoying, but Rory can still make the graduation ceremony at this point, even if she misses the first part of it.
The problem is that she soon discovers to her dismay that the bus is making many stops on the way back to Hartford – she caught an express bus in the morning that went directly to New York, but this is a local bus service which picks up passengers and lets them off along the entire route, meaning travel time is much longer.
In real life, buses are often delayed or take longer routes, something Rory may not have known but probably should, since she catches an intercity bus every day to school. Reviews for the New York to Hartford bus service complain of lengthy delays, often taking four hours to arrive, so this is a believable situation. If Rory was delayed from starting by two hours, and the trip took four hours, she might not be getting into Hartford until somewhere between 8 and 9 pm.
Note that Rory’s backpack on the seat beside her looks remarkably flat and empty – did she throw all her school textbooks away while she was in New York???
Bush League is American slang for something which is of an inferior standard; unsophisticated, unprofessional, mediocre.
The slang comes from baseball, where the small-town teams below the minor league became informally known as the “bush league”, because of their rural origins, and because they often played on rough fields bordered by bushes. The slang dates to the very early twentieth century.
Note that the role of the repellent Zach is portrayed by Seth MacFarlane, who Daniel Palladino (the writer of this episode) worked with on his animated television sitcom, Family Guy.
JESS: I mean, you ditched school and everything. That’s so not you. Why’d you do it?
RORY: Because you didn’t say goodbye.
JESS: Oh. Bye, Rory.
RORY: Bye, Jess.
Only at the very end of their time together does Jess ask Rory why she’s come to see him in New York – out of the blue, and skipping school to do so, which Jess recognises as out of character behaviour for the academically minded Rory.
Rory tells him it’s s because he never said goodbye to her before leaving Stars Hollow, as if she just wants closure. Jess says, “Bye, Rory”, to give her what she asked for, and she says, “Bye, Jess”, but the look she gives him through the bus window is so wistful that it seems as if she really wants him to say, “Hello”, to come back into her life. The bashful smile from Jess suggests he can tell that.
Note that Jess never said goodbye to Rory on the phone either, ending their conversation with “See ya”, as if he expected their relationship to continue at some point. That seems to be enough encouragement for Rory to come to New York, as if taking “see ya” as an invitation to come see Jess.
TOURIST: Excuse me, I’m so sorry to bother you. Which way is 44th?
RORY: Oh, um, that way.
44th Street is two blocks north of the bus terminal, and Rory has sent the tourist south instead. As Jess says, they will hopefully soon notice that the street numbers are getting smaller rather than bigger, and turn around. (The tourist made a rookie mistake by not asking at least one other person for directions!).
44th Street is in the theatre district, with numerous hotels, clubs and restaurants the tourist may have been looking for. It’s also the site of The Algonquin Hotel, at 59 West 44th Street, so this minor interaction feels like a hidden homage to Dorothy Parker.
RORY: No, for my mom. This was her favorite group when she was my age, and it’s signed by Belinda. This would be the perfect graduation present. I’ve been looking for something all week long, and I couldn’t find anything and now I have Belinda.
The Go-Go’s, rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1978, the classic line-up consisting of Charlotte Caffey on lead guitar and keyboards, Belinda Carlisle on lead vocals, Gina Schock on drums, Kathy Valentine on bass guitar, and Jane Wiedlin on rhythm guitar. They are widely considered the most successful all-female rock band of all time.
Originating in the punk scene of the 1970s, their 1981 debut album Beauty and the Beat went to #1 on the Billboard charts – the first (and so far, only) time this has been achieved by an all-female group writing their own material and playing their own instruments. Considered a cornerstone of the new wave movement, it had two major hits – “Our Lips Are Sealed” (#20) and “We Got the Beat” (#2). It spent six weeks at the top of the charts, and sold more than two million copies. Their follow-up albums were Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984).
The Go-Go’s broke up in 1985 to follow solo careers, and have regrouped several times in order to tour together. Their most recent album is God Bless The Go-Go’s (2001), and they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011. Although their 2016 performance was billed as a farewell tour, they remain active. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.
I’m not sure, but I think the album that Rory picks out is their first one, Beauty and the Beat. You can only see the back of it, but it has the same colour scheme as the debut album. It is signed by Belinda Carlisle (born 1958), the band’s lead vocalist. She had a successful solo career in the 1980s, with such hits as “Mad About You”, “I Get Weak”, and “Heaven is a Place on Earth”, the last reaching #1.
JESS: Oh, come on, let me see your withering stare.
RORY: It’s dangerous. I could hurt you.
JESS: I’ve been hurt before.
A serious statement masquerading as a joke. Jess truly has been hurt by life, and he’s probably also been hurt by Rory, and her efforts to keep him at bay and continue seeing Dean, even as it became increasingly clear that she didn’t really want him any more. Jess comes this close to saying, “You’ve hurt me before”. Don’t worry Jess – Rory has more emotional pain in store for you!
Note that Jess and Rory walk past a florist’s, a romantic symbol, but it’s selling balloons – condoms can also be used as balloons. The car driving past has a licence plate of INQ 069 – ink + 69, as if writing and sexual attraction is what’s drawing Rory and Jess together. Sex, romance, reading; the holy trinity of Rory and Jess!
Rory walks through Chilton’s front gates with Paris, Paris doing all the talking. As Paris heads to her locker, Rory looks around apprehensively, then walks back through the gates. She’s not only skipping school but also missing out on a meeting of the school paper which she told Lorelai she had after school, meaning she wouldn’t be at the graduation ceremony until 6 pm. This doesn’t seem like something a really keen journalist would do. Perhaps Rory hopes to make it back to school in time for the meeting.
Skipping school for no reason, especially at this crucial point of the school year, seems like something Chilton wouldn’t be very impressed about (let alone Paris). However, we never see Rory face any consequences for it. Perhaps she made up the work she missed, or Lorelai wrote the school a note or something to explain her absence.
Note that even while approaching the school with Paris, Rory is already looking away as if wishing she was somewhere else, or looking for an escape route.