Jess asks Luke if he would like to play poker with him. He seems practised in shuffling the deck, and offers to lay bets, although says he can’t go any higher than $15 a hand.
Poker is an extremely popular American card game, first developed in the 19th century, in which players lay bets according to how much they believe their hand is worth. Players must then match the maximum bet, raise the wager further, or fold by throwing in their hand (losing the money they have bet so far and all involvement in the current hand). As players may bluff by staking a higher wager than their hand justifies, winning the game involves a subtle mixture of luck, psychology, probability, and game theory.
A good poker player needs to be intelligent, disciplined, independent, have a good memory, and exceptional emotional control. They need to “keep their cards close to their chest” – that is, give away very little about themselves. That’s telling us quite a bit about Jess already. Another character has already been shown to be clever and strategic through their choice of card game: the bridge-playing Emily Gilmore. It would be interesting to see a showdown between the two of them.
Jess smoking and playing poker is shorthand to show what a stereotypical bad boy he is. If he’s been involved in gambling, that would be a clue as to what sort of “trouble” he might be headed for. At this point, Luke may be worried that Lorelai’s instincts might be right about Jess. Interestingly, Fredo Corleone from The Godfather Part II worked in the casino trade …
LUKE: So you get unpacked? JESS: Yup. LUKE: Get enough space in the closet? JESS: Plenty. LUKE: You hungry? JESS: Eighteen. LUKE: What?
JESS: Just counting how many questions ’til we hit twenty.
Jess is referring to Twenty Questions, an American parlour game originating in the 19th century. One person chooses a particular object or subject, but keeps it a secret. Players take turns asking them questions about it, which can only be answered by “yes”, “no”, and “maybe”. Winning the game involves correctly guessing the answer within twenty questions – if not, the answerer wins the game. Twenty Questions has been made into several successful radio and television quiz shows.
Of course, Luke isn’t trying to guess anything, just asking if Jess has everything he needs, but Jess is clearly not in the mood.
LORELAI: [giggle] Good one … Baseball the size of a cantaloupe … ‘Cause a baseball can only be one size, so it’s a Yogi Berra type thing. SOOKIE: Yogi Bear?
Lawrence “Yogi” Berra (1925-2015) was an American professional baseball catcher who later became a manager and coach. He played 19 seasons of Major League Baseball between 1946 and 1965, nearly all of them with the New York Yankees. Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, and is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Yogi Berra was known for his malapropisms, paradoxical statements, and seemingly unintentional witticisms, known as Yogi-isms. Yogi’s nickname came from a friend thinking that the way he sat with his legs crossed made him look like an Indian yogi.
Sookie mixes him up with cartoon character Yogi Bear, previously discussed. Yogi Berra sued Hanna-Barbera for use of his name, but they claimed the similarity of names was a coincidence. Berra withdrew his suit, although Hanna-Barbera’s defense was considered implausible.
KIRK: And those are some self-portraits. LORELAI: Aahh! Kirk, you’re nude! KIRK: No no, I’m wearing Speedos. They’re kind of flesh coloured.
Speedo is an Australian brand of swimwear, founded in 1914 by Alexander MacRae, and now part of the British Pentland Group; in North America it is manufactured for and marketed by PVH. Due to its success, the name Speedo has become synonymous with racing bathing suits, particularly for men.
(In fact it turns out Kirk was actually naked, but Lorelai and Max agree never to discuss it again).
DEAN: You’re going to build a house? RORY: It’s for charity and I’m late, and why don’t you go on inside and you and my mother can continue the “Rory’s building a house” routine, and when that gets boring you can move on over to “Who’s on First?”
“Who’s on First?” is a famous comedy routine by Abbott and Costello, in which Abbott is identifying players on a baseball team for Costello. The comedy comes from the fact that their names sound as if they are answers to Costello’s questions. For example, the first player is named Who, thus the answer to “Who’s on first?” is “Who’s on first”, leading to utter confusion.
This was a style of routine very popular in the early twentieth century, and Abbott and Costello had a big hit with “Who’s on First?” in a vaudeville revue in 1937. In was performed on radio in 1938, and copyrighted in 1944. Abbott and Costello performed it numerous times in their careers, rarely the exact same way twice, and performed it for President Franklin D. Roosevelt several times.
Abbott and Costello included a shorter version of their routine for their 1940 film debut One Night in the Tropics, and a longer version for their 1945 film The Naughty Nineties, considered their best recorded version of the routine. The “Who’s on First?” bit they did for their 1950s television program The Abbott and Costello Show is considered the definitive version.
LORELAI: Shouldn’t we wait for Dad? EMILY: Don’t worry about him. LORELAI: He’s the one with the early plane. We don’t have to go anywhere tomorrow. We can stay all night. Have a party, do some Jell-O shots, play light as a feather, stiff as a board.
Jello-O shots (jelly shots) are made from flavoured gelatine powder, some water to dissolve it, then alcohol added, usually rum or vodka, and set into little jellies served in shot glasses or little plastic cups. The alcohol is contained within the jelly mixture, so that the body absorbs it more slowly, making it easy to consume a lot of alcohol before the effects are felt. Alcoholic gelatines have been enjoyed since the 19th century, but became more common during the 1950s.
Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board is a game often played at girls’ slumber parties. It is a levitation trick, where one girl pretends to be dead while the others chant “light as a feather, stiff as a board”, and lift the girl using just one or two fingertips. At the end of all the chanting and rituals, the girl will seem lighter, or even weightless. The game works through equal distribution of weight, making it easy for a group of people to lift a child. Variants of the game have been played since at least the 17th century, and it always seems to have been a girl’s game (perhaps partly because girls tend to be lighter and easier to lift to begin with).
RICHARD: You know, when I was ten years old, I knew exactly where I wanted to work. LORELAI: That’s because you were always picked last for Dodgeball.
Dodgeball is a game where two teams throw balls at each other while trying to avoid being hit themselves. The main objective is to remove the opposing team entirely by either hitting them, catching the balls they throw, or forcing them to move from the court to avoid being hit.
For many years, it was a popular choice for Physical Education classes in the US, but recently has come under scrutiny because of its potential for bullying and injury, and some schools have modified, phased it out, or banned it.
In Dodgeball the smallest, least confident, least agile, and least athletic participants are generally eliminated first, so they are usually the last to be picked for a team. Lorelai is saying her father at ten years old would have been the kind of wimpy nerd who is bullied in Physical Education class.
LANE: What I wanted to say was, “Janie Fertman, you are a vacuous bimbo who will be turning letters as a profession one day. And the only way you’ll know which letter to turn is when it dings and lights up.”
Lane is referring to the television game show Wheel of Fortune, which has aired since 1975. The hostess of the show turns letters so that contestants can solve word puzzles based on the guessing game of Hangman; the hostess only turns the letter when it gives a “ding” noise and lights up. Since 1982 the hostess has been Vanna White.