Stretch Cunningham and Dick Tracy

LORELAI: Hey, who was the guy who used to run the auto body shop?
(We pan up to see Luke lying on the roof with a hammer.)
LUKE: The Stretch Cunningham guy?
LORELAI: No, the Dick Tracy guy.

Jerome “Stretch” Cunningham was a recurring character on the 1970s sitcom All in the Family, played by James Cromwell. Stretch was a friend and co-worker of main character Archie Bunker. (Both Sally Struthers, who played Babette, and Liz Torres, who played Miss Patty, were also in All in the Family; possibly why it was referenced several times on Gilmore Girls).

Dick Tracy is a fictional police detective who first appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strips created by Chester Gould in 1931. The Dick Tracy stories have been adapted into radio serials, comic books, novels, and films – most recently in 1990, with Warren Beatty in the title role.

There is a real mystery as to what the barely-remembered auto mechanic actually looked like. Lorelai first says he is tall and skinny, then corrects herself to say he was short and fat, and that the tall, skinny guy was actually his employee. Then she decides that he looked like Dick Tracy, who isn’t short and fat. Did the auto mechanic (who we learn was named Jim Dunning) look like a short, stocky version of Dick Tracy?

“Six-thirty in the morning!”

LORELAI: What are you doing?
LUKE: Fixing your porch rail.
LORELAI: That’s right. You are. You’re fixing my porch rail … at six-thirty in the morning!
LUKE: It was the only time I could do it.

The diner opens at 6 am, so what is Luke doing at Lorelai’s at 6.30? Has he just left Rachel and the rest of the staff to cook and run the diner while he wanders off to do handyman work for Lorelai? Or does the diner open later on Sundays?

“Dear God Almighty”

The episode begins with Lorelai asleep in bed, only to be suddenly awoken by a loud banging noise. She cries out something that sounds like, “Dear God Almighty, Mister Mirkel!”. Closed captioning suggests that Lorelai says, “Dear God Almighty Mr. Mirkle”, which is of little help.

It is possible that Lorelai actually says, “Dear God Almighty, Mr. Miracle“, and the last word comes out in a hurried screech because she has been startled awake.

If so, this could be a reference to the comic book superhero Mr. Miracle, who appears in DC Comics. First appearing in 1971, he was created by Jack Kirby. It doesn’t seem unbelievable, as Lorelai has made several references to comic book characters – particularly DC ones, such as Superman and Wonder Woman. DC is owned by Warner Bros., who made Gilmore Girls.

Interestingly, Mr. Miracle is a member of a fictional race called The New Gods, and is the son of the Highfather, the chief of the gods. It’s possible that Lorelai is using his name as a euphemism for Jesus Christ, and giving it her own geeky spin.

Prince

LORELAI: I sat her [Emily] down to listen to a Prince song once, and she looked like she was having a stroke.

Prince, born Prince Nelson (1958-2016) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, previously mentioned. His first album, For You, was released in 1978, and his breakthrough was the 1982 double album, 1999, with hit singles such as his signature song 1999, and Little Red Corvette. His most successful album is the 1984 Purple Rain, the soundtrack to the musical film of the same name. When Doves Cry, the first single from the album, became his first #1 hit.

It is unclear which of Prince’s songs the teenaged Lorelai might have played for Emily, but it’s most likely one from 1999, which came out when Lorelai was fourteen (it was possibly the title track). By the time Purple Rain was released in late June 1984, Lorelai would have been six months pregnant, and probably past the point of trying to bond with Emily over pop music.

The incident is one based on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s own life – her mother was likewise horrified when Amy played a Prince song for her.

Rory Shows Emily the Potting Shed

(Rory opens the door and walks in. Emily looks in from the doorway.)
RORY: I know it’s looks small, but it’s really pretty. Come on. See, we had our bed right over there, and Mom put up this really pretty curtain around the tub so that it looked like a real bathroom. And we would just sit outside at night when the Inn would have parties, and we’d just listen to music and feed the ducks and . . . (Emily walks away) Grandma? Grandma wait, what’s the matter?

This is the potting shed next to the duck pond at the Independence Inn that Lorelai and Rory lived in when they first moved to Stars Hollow, as they had no money for accommodation (like the Holy Family, there was “no room at the inn”, and they were put in an outbuilding, so Baby Rory was just like Baby Jesus).

The shed is sturdy but rustic, and is stocked with gardening tools and plants, like any potting shed: it isn’t clear if those things were there while Lorelai and Rory lived there. Their bed is no longer there (they must have shared a single bed together), but the bath has been left, including the curtain that Lorelai put around it to serve as a bathroom wall. Lorelai mentioned that it has rosebud wallpaper, but the is shed painted white inside and doesn’t look as though it’s got the kind of walls that you could easily wallpaper.

It looks impractical for bringing up a baby, and we learn later that they moved to Stars Hollow in the autumn, so it would have been very cold as well (we don’t know what they used for heating). We don’t know how long they lived in this temporary accomodation, but long enough for Rory, who was only a baby when they came to Stars Hollow, to have some memories of it, and long enough that the weather became warm enough for them to sit outside at night. I would guess at least a year, and possibly two. Who looked after baby Rory while Lorelai was working is unknown.

This is the first time that Emily has ever seen the potting shed, and she is clearly distraught to discover the conditions her daughter and granddaughter lived in. Lorelai told Sookie that her parents visited them a few times at the inn while Rory was a baby, but they never saw where they slept at night. Lorelai was probably clever at keeping them away from the shed, but their lack of curiosity is surprising. Perhaps they were scared to push it in case Lorelai ran even further away.

In this case, it is Emily who runs away, too upset to spend any more with time with Rory or even say a proper goodbye to her. This incident serves as a device to keep Emily at a distance from Stars Hollow. Emily was having a good time with Rory, and was fitting in well with the townspeople, finding that she had things in common with Mrs. Kim and Michel. By showing her in the potting shed, it explains why Emily doesn’t visit Stars Hollow more often in the future.

Where they lived between the potting shed when Rory was a baby/toddler, and moving into their own house when Rory was eleven, is a complete mystery and never mentioned. Perhaps Lorelai saved up enough money to rent a cheap apartment for them, but renting would make it hard to save for a house. They could have lived in a friend’s house (with Sookie?), but if so, nobody ever refers to it.

In real life, it wouldn’t be legal for anyone to live in the potting shed under Connecticut zoning laws, but I’m not sure that would stop Lorelai anyway – rules were made for non-Gilmores!

“I work here”

EMILY: Do you spend a lot of time here? [at the Independence Inn]
RORY: Yeah. I work here a couple afternoons a week, and I help out with special occasions. They have a lot of weddings here.

We learn that Rory, on top of her heavy school workload, also works part time two afternoons per week at the Independence Inn. This is different to what Rory told Headmaster Charleston in The Lorelais’ First Day at Chilton,  when she said that she sometimes worked at the inn after school, so on weekdays. In the Pilot, Lorelai suggested she might want to help out and “earn some extra money” when Rory had a day off between changing schools, which could mean on top of the usual work she did at the inn, or to suggest that Rory helped out sometimes when she had free time.

It’s possible that Rory took on more regular work at the inn once she turned 16 (in Connecticut, there is a limit as to what kind of jobs a child under 16 may perform, although it is legal to work from 14 onward). As Rory doesn’t get home until nearly five pm from Hartford on weekdays, I can only think the two afternoons she works must be Saturday and Sunday – although it’s Saturday afternoon in this episode and Rory isn’t working, so I don’t know. She also says she works extra hours on the numerous weddings, which would mostly be on weekends anyway.

Maybe Rory works for just an hour or so after school twice a week. We never see her at this regular part-time job, so it’s hard to say how she manages her schedule. The job doesn’t seem too onerous, as it never seems to conflict with homework or social life (nor do we ever see Lorelai and Rory arriving home from work at the inn together). It’s possible that Rory is exaggerating her work schedule to impress her grandmother.

“$250 000”

LORELAI: You lost out on $250,000 today.
RORY: What?!

Trix never said how much she was giving Rory in the trust fund, so I’m not sure where Lorelai got the figure of $250 000 from. Maybe Trix told her offscreen, or Lorelai has just added up everything Rory needs for her education and decided it must be around that amount. I guess we have to accept the figure as something Lorelai knows and we don’t.

Trix originally intended the trust fund to be something Rory could access when she was twenty-five. It isn’t clear whether Rory is still getting that arrangement, or whether Trix was so angered that she decided not to give her any trust fund at all.

She did say that she now thinks “that trust fund” was a bad idea, sounding as if she had decided against any trust fund. However, as she was angry at Emily and Lorelai, it doesn’t seem fair to punish Rory for their behaviour (she specifically says she thinks Rory is mature enough to handle the money).

Trix seems to be leaving Hartford before consulting a lawyer, which looks bad, but she’s taking a train, which might mean that when she said “into town” she meant New York, which looks good.