“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”

[Jackson moans]

LORELAI: Now say, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”.

A reference to a 1970 Alka-Seltzer commercial, shown on television. It shows a newly-wed couple (played by Alice Playten and Terry Kiser) in the bedroom where the wife has served her husband a giant dumpling. The husband says, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”, which becomes the commercial’s tagline. He quickly and secretly takes some Alka-Seltzer antacids so his wife won’t know how indigestible her cooking is.

The commercial was created by Howie Cohen, who was inspired by a real life incident where he ate everything he was given at a photo shoot out of politeness. When he said to his wife, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”, she replied, “There’s your next Alka-Seltzer commercial”.

The commercial won a CLIO Award, and its tagline quickly became a popular catchphrase.

One of Terry Kiser’s acting roles was playing comedian Vic Hitler in the television series Hill Street Blues. Vic was known as “Vic the Narcoleptic Comic”, which seems a bit similar to Jackson being “Narcoleptic Nate”. Lorelai nicknamed Dean “Narcolepsy Boy” after he fell asleep with Rory at Miss Patty’s, so it seems like an insult she likes to dish out.

Michael Landon

LANE: [runs up behind them] Hey, wait, stop!

LORELAI: Oh look, it’s Michael Landon.

Michael Landon, born Eugene Orowitz (1936-1991), actor and filmmaker best known for his roles in the television series Bonanza (1959-1973), Little House on the Prairie (1974-1982), and Highway to Heaven (1984-1989).

Michael Landon made an autobiographical television film in 1976, called The Loneliest Runner. The story is about a teenage boy named John Curtis, based on Landon himself, who still wets his bed. His mother publicises his problem by hanging the stained sheets from his bedroom window for all to see.

Every day, John runs home from school to take the sheets down before his friends see them. He starts running with the junior track team to channel his anger and forget the shame and hurt of his dysfunctional family life. Ten years later, he is a gold-medal winning Olympic champion, who credits his mother for his athletic success. Landon plays the adult Curtis himself.

Like John Curtis, Michael Landon wet the bed until he was 14, and his mother Peggy hung the sheets out to shame him. He had Olympic ambitions as a javelin-thrower, but a shoulder injury ended his athletic career, which propelled him into acting.

His unauthorised 19991 biography by Aileen Joyce, Michael Landon: His Triumph and Tragedy, relates that the bedwetting was brought on by the stress of having a suicidal mother. As a child, Michael Landon had to save his mother from drowning herself during a beach vacation.

Bunny Carlington-Munchausen

EMILY: I’m so sorry Rory isn’t feeling well. Is it that flu that’s been going around? … Horrible strain. Bunny Carlington-Munchausen has been bedridden for two straight weeks.

The show loves giving outrageous names to Emily’s society friends, and this one is pretty flamboyant. Bunny’s name seems to be an allusion to Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder where people fake illnesses or deliberately make themselves sick in order to receive attention.

The name comes from the fictional character Baron Munchausen, created by German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe, in his 1785 book, Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. The Baron’s story of his exploits focuses on his supposed fantastical and impossible achievements, and the Baron himself is modelled on a real person, the German nobleman Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Münchausen, known for his tall tales of derring-do. The book was turned into a 1988 film, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen.

The name of the illness came to seem flippant and rather heartless, and it is now known, less colourfully, as factitious disorder imposed on self.

There may be a suggestion that Bunny is likewise exaggerating her flu symptoms for sympathy and attention, but it is almost certainly highlighting the factitious nature of Rory’s illness! This is the second person named Bunny in the show, the first one was a Gilmore relative who passed away.

The Contessa and the House Wench with the Talking Mice

LORELAI: And over here you have a tiny but annoying bell in case there’s something here that you need but you don’t have and you want to summon the common but lovely house wench who will promptly leave her talking mice and come to fetch the Contessa whatever she may require.

Lorelai compares Rory to The Barefoot Contessa, a 1954 drama film written and directed by Joseph F. Mankiewicz about the life and loves of a Spanish sex symbol named Maria Vargas, who is known as “the Barefoot Contessa”. Ava Gardner plays the title role as the glamorous Contessa. The film received mixed reviews, but made a big impact on popular culture.

Presumably Lorelai means that Rory, being in bed, has bare feet, yet will be waited on hand and foot like a great lady. Interestingly, the film has a major plot around infidelity and a love triangle, like that between Rory, Dean, and Jess. Like so many of these references, it ends in violence.

Lorelai compares herself to Cinderella, previously discussed. In the 1950 film, Cinderella is friends with a number of talking mice. Lorelai is saying that she is Rory’s humble servant and will get her anything she needs, just as Cinderella slaved away in the kitchen.

Lorelai behaves absolutely absurdly towards Rory. She has the most minor of injuries, and yet Lorelai acts as if she has two broken legs, at the very least. She not only gives Rory a bell to call her with, as if Rory is crippled, but actually sleeps in Rory’s room.

Why? Is she worried Rory will die in the night without her there, or does she think Rory needs help to go to the toilet with a cast on her wrist? It’s a callback to the years mother and daughter spent sharing a bed, their boundaries completely merged.

It’s almost as if Lorelai thinks she can justify her over-the-top demonisation of Jess by acting as if he has done terrible injury to Rory. She is also trying to make up for her failure to “protect” Rory from Jess by overcompensating now, when it is too late.

Lorelai’s instinct is always to smother Rory when she feels their relationship is threatened; whether this is good for Rory or not is never questioned. Her fussing over a barely injured Rory seems like confirmation that Jess was right – Rory is not cut out for the tough life of a foreign correspondent.

(Note that Rory has a Powerpuff Girls glass next to the bed, a callback to when Lorelai said they were going to buy some. Although they didn’t buy them that day, it’s confirmed they did eventually make the purchase).

Minor Hairline Fracture

DOCTOR: She sustained a minor hairline fracture to her wrist.

LORELAI: So she broke her wrist? ….

DOCTOR: It’s a tiny fracture, absolutely nothing serious. I’m gonna put a cast on it. She’ll wear it for a couple weeks, that’s it.

There is essentially no difference between a fracture and a break – a hairline crack and having a bone shattered into pieces are both referred to as a fracture. The terms are interchangeable. Fractures usually take 6 to 8 weeks to heal, a hairline fracture may be on the shorter side of that, but only two weeks in a cast doesn’t seem plausible. However, it’s not long until the end of the season, which probably has a lot to do with the doctor’s treatment plan!

Lorelai insists that the doctor do some more X-rays, which he agrees to, but hairlines fractures don’t typically show up on X-rays, so it’s a waste of everybody’s time. It’s just to give Lorelai a chance to keep Rory busy while she goes off to do some yelling. Most parents wouldn’t leave their injured kid at a hospital in the middle of the night like that, but this is TV, not reality! Unfortunately for the plot, it makes Lorelai look incredibly selfish. I mean, more so than usual.

“Spastic polka”

LORELAI: I know, life with my mother, one step forward, five thousand steps back. It’s kinda like the spastic polka.

Spastic is an outdated term to describe people with cerebral palsy, a disorder often characterised by poor co-ordination, weak or stiff muscles, and tremors.

In America, using the words “spastic” or “spaz” to humorously describe awkwardness, clumsiness, hyperactivity, or nerdiness is not considered as shockingly offensive as it in other parts of the world. Lorelai’s comment here would be unacceptable in Britain, for example.

Polka [pictured] is a Czech folk dance which was all the rage in the mid-19th century – so much so that the phenomenon was called “polkamania”. Polka made a comeback after World War II, when many Polish refugees moved to the US. Lorelai and Rory own at least one CD of polka music.

“I’m not allowed to have mac and cheese”

PARIS: I’m not allowed to have mac and cheese.

RORY: Splurge.

Paris is allergic to dairy products, which was introduced in the episode, “Concert Interruptus” (Lorelai ordered her a cheese-free pizza). Someone eating something they’re allergic to isn’t a “splurge”, it’s a potential medical emergency!

Paris asks if Stars Hollow, a town of less than 10 000 people, has a 24-hour pharmacy in case she has a severe allergic reaction. Unbelievably, they do! In real life, the nearest 24-hour pharmacy to them would be in Waterbury or Hartford.

Rory may simply be lying, eager to keep Paris there so she is not left alone with Jess. If so, she’s taking a bit of a risk with Paris’ health in the process.