The purpose of the road trip to Harvard was to allow Rory to see something of college life, and see herself as a future college student. For Lorelai, the purpose of the trip was to stay at a working B&B – and even though she didn’t like it, it was a successful concern with happy customers. She can begin to see herself running an inn, and from this moment forth, begins seeking out Luke as a business mentor.
Her dream of running her own inn begins to firm into a reality, and when she leaves Luke’s, she immediately phones Sookie to let her know it’s time they started seriously working towards their goal.
LORELAI: Rory, stop it! We are not gonna have this fight in a flowery bedroom with dentists singing Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves in the background.
Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves [sic] is a 1971 song written by Bob Stone, and performed by pop singer Cher, from her self-titled seventh album. It went to #1 in the US and Canada, becoming Cher’s first #1 single as a solo artist. It gave her a comeback after four years out of the Top Ten, and was her best-selling single to that point. So successful was the song that the album was renamed Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves [sic] after the song, and re-released.
The song is about a multi-generational family in a “travelling show” – the “gypsies, tramps and thieves” of the title, which are the insults hurled at them by the public. Like Highway to Hell, this is another song about life on the road, in line with the episode’s main event of a road trip.
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.
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.
[Early the next morning, Lorelai and Rory are in Lorelai’s jeep driving through Stars Hollow.]
LORELAI: We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.
RORY: We’re practically gone already.
LORELAI: Look out world.
[They stop at the red light and stare at it, waiting for it to change.]
There have been so many mentions of great American journeys in Gilmore Girls, from On the Road to Huckleberry Finn to Thelma and Louise, that it seems in tune with the show’s theme for Lorelai and Rory to hit the road at some point. Their conversation is even vaguely reminiscent of a famous exchange from On the Road:
““Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”
That urge towards the journey and not the destination is the same one that is driving Lorelai away from her home.
As luck would have it, before they even leave town, they get stuck at the new traffic light, which is timed to come on even if there is no other traffic on the road, and will stay on until the oldest and feeblest person in Stars Hollow can safely get across the road. It’s symbolic of the way that it will always be difficult for them to leave Stars Hollow, even temporarily. There is something in the town which holds them captive to some extent.
This is the literal “red light on the wedding night” alluded to in the episode’s title, although strictly speaking it isn’t the wedding night, but several days before the wedding. Symbolically though, it means that Lorelai has put a stop to her wedding going ahead.
While Sookie calls Jackson, and Rory sends Dean a message using her pager, Lorelai slips away to make a phone call as well. Everyone assumes that she is going to call Max, being as struck with the romance of her mother’s wedding as they are, but in fact she secretly phones Rory’s father, Christopher.
It’s interesting that Lorelai begins the conversation by pretending to be a girl named Trixie. Trix is her grandmother’s nickname, and as they are both named Lorelai, the made up nickname has a strange sort of sense.
This is the first time Christopher hears that Lorelai is about to get married, and the viewer can tell that this isn’t welcome news. Lorelai hadn’t even told him that she and Max were together, although he had heard of their relationship through Rory (Rory doesn’t seem to have updated her dad on the coming nuptials, perhaps thinking it wasn’t her place to do so).
Christopher ends by giving her very conditional congratulations, by saying he wishes her well if she has found the right guy, and that he can certainly picture her married – to the right guy. He expresses some doubts as to whether Max is the “right guy” for Lorelai.
Like Luke, he is intent on planting serious doubts in Lorelai’s mind about her decision to marry Max, but is far more successful, as he is naturally more wily and manipulative than Luke. Luke’s clumsy attempts pushed Lorelai into an engagement, while Christopher’s cleverly sown doubts will bear fruit quite soon. The tragedy for him is that he doesn’t know it until it is too late.
Taylor lets Luke know that he is getting a traffic light installed in Stars Hollow, even though there hasn’t been an accident in ten years (he apparently has powers to make decisions unilaterally in the town’s best interests when it comes to public safety).
As usual, Taylor is all about town progress, while Luke is all about keeping Stars Hollow exactly the way it has been – two different ways they show their love for the town. Their struggles and interactions end up giving Stars Hollow better outcomes; without Luke, the town would change too much and lose its character, while without Taylor it would stagnate and become a backwater.
This traffic light is the one alluded to in the episode’s title.