“Standing with an ax next to a cherry tree”

RORY: And you believe me?

JESS: Like you’re standing with an ax next to a cherry tree.

Jess refers to a popular legend about George Washington – that when he was six years old, he received a hatchet as a gift (mm, great present for a small kid!). He used it to chop down one of his father’s cherry trees, and when his father confronted him angrily, George said something to the effect of, “Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet”. Instead of being angry about it, his father warmly praised him for his honesty. He should have been happy the tot didn’t cut his own leg off or something.

The story was published in the 1806 fifth edition of The Life of George Washington by Mason Locke Weems, popularly known as Parson Weems. He claimed to have been told the story by an anonymous elderly woman who was a friend of the family, but there isn’t a shred of evidence that it’s true, and official sources all say it isn’t.

Another reference to presidential cherries in Gilmore Girls!!!!!


RORY: Can we not say the word college for at least forty-eight hours? …

LORELAI: How ’bout collage, can we say collage? ‘Cause it sounds the same but it’s actually very different.

Collage (from the French meaning “stick together”) is an art technique which involves assembling paper, photographs, ribbons, paint, and/or found objcts and gluing them to paper or canvas. The technique goes back to ancient China, around 200 BC, but made a dramatic reappearance in the early 20th century as a form of modern art.

The words college and collage don’t actually sound the same, although there is some similarity.

[Collage shown is an untitled work by German Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitter]

Alpha Male

LORELAI: Because I’m the leader of the clan, the provider of the household, the alpha male, and the one whose feet just fell asleep so there’s absolutely no chance of movement.

In biology, a dominant high-ranking member of an animal social group is known as an alpha. Alpha male is used as a pseudoscientific slang term for a dominant male. It is has been sharply criticised by scientists as incorrect, and by others for perpetuating damaging stereotypes about masculinity. It has been in use since the early 1990s.

“You’re not supposed to sit and watch”

RORY: You know, this is a dance marathon. You’re not supposed to come and sit and watch, you’re supposed to dance. He’s just trying to bug me, sitting there right in front of me, staring. Jerk.

People are supposed to watch the dance marathon – Rory was even saying that she couldn’t dance with Lorelai because she had to watch with Dean. Until recently, Dean was also watching. Rory is sick with jealousy and hasn’t slept for more than a day, so she’s not exactly being rational here.

“You like piña coladas”

RORY: You like piña coladas.

LORELAI: And getting lost in the rain.

A piña colada is a cocktail made with rum, pineapple juice, and coconut milk or cream, served either blended or shaken with ice. It may be garnished with a pineapple wedge, a maraschino cherry, or both. The cocktail originated in Puerto Rico, is its national drink, and its name means “strained pineapple” in Spanish. One story is that the cocktail was invented by Puerto Rican pirate, Roberto Confresi in the 19th century; the less exciting but more probable version is that it was invented in 1954 at the Caribe Hilton Hotel in Puerto Rico by bartender Ramón “Monchito” Marrero.

Lorelai refers to “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”, written and recorded by British-American singer Rupert Holmes, released as a single from his 1979 album Partners in Crime. The song is about a man who is bored with his current relationship, and answers a lonely hearts advertisement in the newspaper which begins, “If you like piña coladas …”. When he meets up with the lady, it turns out to be his partner, who was equally bored in their relationship. They realise they had more in common than they realised, and their relationship is now reinvigorated. It was an international hit, and went to #1 in the US and Canada. Ironically, Rupert Holmes has never drunk a piña colada, and the original lyrics were, “If you like Humphrey Bogart”.

Lorelai gets the words slightly wrong. The lyrics are actually:

If you like piña coladas

And getting caught in the rain

not getting lost in the rain.

Emily the Cobra

NATALIE: There she is, the Cobra … This woman gets her way or she squeezes ’til you comply.

Emily’s friend is Natalie Swope, played by Judy Geeson. You may remember her as one of the ladies from Emily’s tea party on the patio in “Presenting Lorelai Gilmore”. Emily introduces Natalie and Lorelai as if they are strangers, even though Natalie asked after Lorelai and seemed to remember her quite well in the previous season, despite not seeing Lorelai since she was a teenager (although, as Lorelai and Rory attended Emily’s Christmas party each year, this doesn’t seem plausible).

Natalie refers to Emily as “the Cobra”, because she squeezes people (puts pressure on them) until she gets what she wants from them. There are various snakes called cobra, but only those in the genus Naja from Asia are true cobras. They are notable for being able to rear up off the ground and flatten their necks to appear larger. They don’t attack prey by squeezing them, however – that’s pythons and boa constrictors. Cobras have highly venomous fangs instead, and all species are capable of delivering a fatal bite to a human.

Lorelai sometimes seems selfish and unreasonable in the way that she instinctively refuses her mother’s requests, but Emily’s reputation as domineering and manipulative, determined to get her own way at no matter what cost to the other party (the auctioneer is actually ill in this episode, but Emily has forced him to turn up and work) provides a good reason for that. She has no wish to be one of the Cobra’s many victims, and what seems like a reasonable request may well turn out to be something more sinister.

Jimmy Buffet

LORELAI: Oh my God … You like Jimmy Buffett? He’s so mellow.

LUKE: I’ve just been to a few shows, that’s all.

LORELAI: A few shows? Oh my God, you’re a Buffett Head.

James “Jimmy” Buffett (1946), singer-songwriter, musician, author, actor, and businessman. He began his musical career as a country singer in Nashville in the late 1960s, bringing out his first album, Down to Earth, in 1970.

After busking for tourists in New Orleans, Louisiana, he went on a busking expedition to Key West, Florida, in 1971, he moved there permanently, and began establishing the easy-going beach-bum persona for which he is known. His style of music is called “tropical rock”.

During the 1980s, Buffett made far more money from his extensive touring than from albums, and became known as a popular concert draw. He is one of the world’s richest musicians, with a net worth of over $900 million. Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band gave concerts at the Meadows Music Theater in Hartford almost every year in the late 1990s, giving Luke ample opportunities to see him live.

Jimmy Buffett fans are actually called “Parrot Heads”, not “Buffett Heads” – it’s after the parrot hats all his fans seem to wear. Lorelai appears to recall that the the word head is in there, but not the details. She may have misheard or misremembered the term.

At this point, the viewer, like Luke, thinks that Lorelai says, “Oh my God” because of the Jimmy Buffett shirt. In fact, we later learn she says it because she’s seen Jess’ girlfriend Shane in the closet, and quickly covers for it by immediately gabbling about Jimmy Buffett as a distraction. She certainly gives Jess some hard looks, though, as he continues to confirm, or appear to confirm, all her worst fears about him.

Junior College

RORY: Or hey, you can go to college in Boston.

DEAN: I’m going to junior college.

RORY: Boston has junior colleges.

DEAN: But not dorm rooms.

In the US, a junior college is a two-year post-secondary school whose main purpose is to provide academic, vocational and professional education. The highest certificate offered by such schools is usually an Associate degree, although junior college students may continue their education at a four-year university or college, by transferring some or all of their credits earned.

Dean might be planning to attend Goodwin College, a junior college in East Hartford that used to be a school of business. They have student housing available so that Dean would be able to live on campus.

There are three junior colleges in Boston – Bay State College, Fisher College, and Labouré College of Healthcare, which provides training for nurses and is probably not for Dean. Bay State and Fisher are mostly for business and administration degrees. Both Bay State and Fisher do have halls of residence for students to stay in, so Dean isn’t correct about that.


DARREN: In which play does Falstaff appear?

JACK: That would be plays … Henry the Fourth, Part One and Two, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

DARREN: So that was a different Falstaff than Henry the Fifth?

Sir John Falstaff is a comic character created by William Shakespeare. A fat, vain, and boastful knight, he spends most of his time drinking with petty criminals, living on stolen or borrowed money. He is best known from Henry IV, Part 1, where he is the companion of Prince Hal. Although Falstaff is a drunken, corrupt lowlife, he has charisma and a zest for life that the prince enjoys. In Henry IV, Part 2, Prince Hal is on his path to kingship, and ultimately rejects Falstaff as a companion. They meet briefly only twice in the play, and Falstaff is ageing and unwell.

Darren is incorrect that Falstaff appears in Henry V – he dies offstage, but another character memorably describes his death.

Sir John Falstaff appears in the comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor. He is vaguely recognisable as the same character, but there is otherwise no connection to the earlier plays, and it has been argued that it isn’t the same Sir John Falstaff. Although nominally set during the reign of either Henry IV or Henry V, everything in the play suggests that it actually takes place in Shakespeare’s own time, around the late 1500s. Tradition has it that the play was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I, who asked Shakespeare to write a play where Falstaff falls in love.

[Painting shown is Falstaff II by Eduard von Grützner, 1904]

Alumni Dinner

LORELAI: [Headmaster Charleston]suggested setting up a meeting with a Harvard graduate, like a dinner or something. He even gave me the number of someone he knows.

RORY: An alumni dinner?

An “alumni dinner” is actually a dinner given for alumni of a university, not by an alumnus. Harvard holds several alumni dinners each year.

Headmaster Charleston seems to be talking about meetings for prospective students which are set up by institutions such as the Harvard Club – there is a Harvard Club for Southern Connecticut in Wallingford. My understanding is that these are official events, which at least a couple dozen of the best and brightest from each area attend at the same time – not just one student being given a phone number by their school principal, which seems incredibly sketchy.

After meeting with prospective applicants, the alumni association involved (such as the Harvard Club) will then meet with an admissions officer from the university, and put in a good word for the students they think would make great “Harvard material” (or whatever university it is). It sounds like privileged kids getting even more help to be accepted into university, but these associations are apparently very keen to increase diversity, and may advocate strongly for bright, successful students from a variety of backgrounds.

It almost seems as if Headmaster Charleston considers Rory to be one of these “non-traditional” Harvard applicants, who might benefit from some kind of assistance. I’m not sure Rory is actually that non-traditional, but in any case, I’m pretty sure the situation in this episode doesn’t happen in real life – and if it does, it shouldn’t!

Somehow we’ve gone from Rory being special and having the brains and hard work and tenacity to get into Harvard to Rory needing to be shuffled in the backdoor through some shady deal with a Harvard alumnus.