“Fourth rung of hell”

RORY: Fourth rung of hell, party of one.

LORELAI: Well, at least my feet won’t get cold.

Rory references the Inferno, the first part of Italian writer Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic poem, the Divine Comedy. The Inferno describes Dante’s journey through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil. In the poem, Hell is described as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth.

It is not certain from this whether Rory has actually read the book, although it doesn’t seem unlikely that she has. There are circles of Hell in the poem, not “rungs”, and the fourth circle of Hell is for the miserly, the hoarders of wealth, and those who squandered it – not people gloating over relationship break ups (those are dealt with in the next part, the Purgatorio). However, that could very easily be a bit of artistic licence on Rory’s part.

Lorelai possibly gives away that she hasn’t read the poem when she says her feet won’t get cold. In fact, the final circle of Hell is a huge frozen lake. Hell does actually freeze over. The frozen lake is reserved for the traitors, who remain trapped in the ice, and in the very centre of the lake is Lucifer, who was a traitor to Heaven.

Junior Leadership Program in Washington

RORY: But if I win then I have to be vice president next year. Plus, I’ll have to spend my summer in Washington for some junior leadership program, which means six straight weeks of me and Paris together in a dorm room.

The program that Rory and Paris will be attending in Washington DC during their summer vacation seems to be similar to the real life Global Young Leaders Conference, where high school students from the US and around the world learn communication, decision-making, and negotiation while interacting with real life leaders, diplomats, lobbyists, and journalists. There are also visits to embassies and cultural landmarks.

Unlike the six weeks Rory has in front of her, the real life program only lasts for ten days, students are housed in a hotel, not a dormitory, and it costs thousands of dollars to attend. Rory never even mentions paying, so perhaps Chilton are footing the bill, or Rory and Paris will be offered scholarships.

Rory Gets Her Cast Removed

When Rory got her cast put on, the doctor said she would need to keep it on for two weeks, but it’s actually been three weeks since the night of the car accident when she gets the cast removed.

Lorelai takes Rory to Dr Ronald Sue, a specialist in orthopaedic medicine – who has an office in Stars Hollow, quite unbelievably. It feels like in Season 1, the writers tried to create a small town in New England that might be a little quirky, or niche, or even slightly magical, but was still a place you could convince yourself might almost exist.

Now it’s only Season 2, but already they are throwing anything into Stars Hollow that suits the plot, so this little town of less than 10 000 people has multiple takeout options which all deliver, a 24-hour pharmacy, a hospital, and an orthopaedic specialist. It feels like very lazy world-building. In this case it seems especially pointless, because there’s no reason Lorelai couldn’t have picked Rory up from school and taken her to an appointment with Dr Sue in Hartford.

Christopher invites himself to the medical appointment, announcing to everyone with self-importance that he’s “the father”, as if Rory has just been born, or like anyone cares. He’s driven from Boston to watch a minor two-minute medical procedure, and now he … drives back again? That makes perfect sense. Is it a hint he isn’t actually in Boston at this point?

Rory wears a red and black tee shirt which says STRANGE 13 to her appointment, as a nice callback to her Emily the Strange sticker.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

RORY: I guess the thought of just being nice to people never occurred to you, huh?

PARIS: See, that is exactly what I need from you, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm for the new millennium. Hey, wear some braids tomorrow with bows. I mean, hell, let’s sell it, sister!

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, a 1903 classic children’s book by Kate Douglas Wiggin. The main character is Rebecca Rowena Randall, an imaginative and charming little girl from a poor family, sent to live with her aunts, Miranda and Jane Sawyer, in the fictional village of Riverboro, Maine. Miranda is stern with Rebecca, while Jane is kindly and finds Rebecca’s lively nature refreshing. However, Aunt Miranda will eventually prove how much she values Rebecca.

Like Rory, Rebecca is a brunette from a small town, and eventually becomes a very good student, especially in English, as well as talented writer.

The book was turned into a stage play, and was made into a film three times, most notably in 1938, starring Shirley Temple. However, Paris seems to be describing the book rather than a film, as the films don’t show Rebecca with the braids and bows of the book, preferring curly-headed heroines.

Connecticut State

PARIS: Harvard loves this kind of crap. Being vice president is just one more thing to put you ahead of the rest of the hundreds of thousands of straight A students who are applying for the same spot you are. Think about it. You say no, then comes the day when the letter from Harvard arrives. They’ve turned you down. Enjoy Connecticut State, sucker.

There isn’t actually a Connecticut State University in real life. There’s a Central Connecticut State University in New Britain (about half an hour from Hartford), an Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic (about an hour from Hartford), a Western Connecticut State University in Danbury (about 40 minutes from Washington Depot), and a Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven (where Yale is).

It’s hard to know which of them, if any, Paris could be talking about, as the location of Stars Hollow kept moving about, but I suppose the most likely candidates are Central, which would be closer to Stars Hollow than Chilton, and Southern, which is in the city where Rory ends up attending college. Both of them are considered only average as educational institutions, and easy to get into. Even a Rory who failed to get into Harvard could probably aim higher.

Sookie’s Wedding

LORELAI: Oh, hey Mom, uh, Sookie wanted to know if you and Dad would like to come to her wedding … Yeah, it’s gonna be great. Small, low key, but fun. She’s catering it herself so the food’ll be fantastic, and you’d get to see me and Rory walk down the aisle in two of the least obnoxious bridesmaid dresses ever created.

EMILY: Well, that sounds very nice. When is it?

LORELAI: A week from Sunday.

Unlike so many episodes of Gilmore Girls, which exist in a sort of timeless vaccuum or even have a self-contradictory timeline, “I Can’t Get Started” has a very clear timeline, with Sookie and Jackson’s wedding on a Sunday, one week and two days from the first scene. There are several reminders of how time is passing, to keep us on track with the wedding schedule.

We were told in a previous episode that that the wedding is planned for the 14th of May, although in real life, the 14th May in 2002 was a Wednesday, not a Sunday.

Sookie and Jackson’s Wedding

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 is Delayed on the Bus

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???

The Ritz

ZACH: Enjoy your champagne and caviar at The Ritz, Your Highness.

Zach refers to the Ritz-Carlton chain of luxury hotels, first begun by Swiss hotelier César Ritz, and perhaps most famously, the founder of the celebrated Hôtel Ritz in Paris, opened in 1898. The name was bought and franchised by Albert Keller in the US, with the first Ritz-Carlton hotel opening in New York in 1911.

Zach may be specifically thinking of the Ritz Hotel in Manhattan at 50 Central Park South. Originally the Hotel St. Moritz, it was bought in 1999 and had just opened the previous month to this episode, in April 2002.

Ermenegildo Zegna

JACKSON: Oh, thanks to my best new friend Ermenegildo Zegna.

Ermenegildo Zegna (born 1955), Italian entrepreneur and CEO of the luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, founded in 1910 by Zegna’s grandfather, after whom he is named. Ermenegildo Zegna Group is the largest menswear group in the world by revenue. Although there are only a few Zegna boutiques in the USA, Jackson could have bought his suit at any number of department stores, including Saks, Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman Marcus.