The Bracebridge Dinner
Season 2, Episode 10
Original airing: December 11, 2001
My Rating: 72
The meat of this episode concerned Richard and Emily, which was a very satisfying change. They are always a unique couple on the show in terms of the time they’ve been together and the lifestyle they live in contrast to the townies of Stars Hollow. So putting a bit of spotlight on a stressful situation in their lives was quite interesting.
The story of Richard being unhappy at work was brought up a few episodes ago in S2E6 – Presenting Lorelai Gilmore. Since then it’s been largely in the background with some comments from Emily about Richard being stressed out and traveling too much. So his unhappiness in this episode was already established, which made the quick change to his extremely good mood a very strong contrast. His giddiness at the dinner was fun to watch and led to two great scenes where he is teasing Emily and regaling a section of the table with humorous stories. It’s easy to see at this point why Emily married him. This is obviously the man she fell in love with so long ago.
In some ways, it makes the betrayal of his secret quite painful. As an audience member, I’m skillfully divided between them. I like seeing Richard happy and I support decisions he makes to reach that point. But I also support Emily in her anger. Richard lied to her and made a life-altering decision without discussing it first. This is also why I think the resolution is so perfect. When Richard finally is able to sit down and explain himself, his reasoning is sound. He isn’t making excuses; he’s just giving Emily some understanding for his state of mind. And the fact that his next response is to look at their future is the assurance Emily needs that Richard is looking out for her. The entire presentation is very good and shows how some excellent forethought and groundwork can truly support and enhance a storyline.
The secondary story of Jess, Rory, and Dean is ok. Jess continues to be sweet and rude at the same time. Leaping in to Rory’s sleigh is adorable, but his rather harsh comments about Dean are obviously not welcome. The most interesting moment for them in this episode is actually at the end when Rory sees the smashed snowman. I believe the implication is that Jess did that for Rory. The underlying thought is sweet, but destroying someone else’s hard work is cruel.
I found the tertiary story very interesting. Christopher continues his trend of stepping up his father role by inviting Rory over for the holidays. Lorelai’s response to hide the invite from Rory is very intriguing. Presumably, this is the kind of interaction she’s always wanted from Christopher. We know his involvement until now has been pretty minor. But while Lorelai wants the best for Rory and her relationship with her father, she also has completely understandable feelings of jealousy over his relationship with Sherry. Along with the potential Sherry has to become a second mother figure to Rory, we saw Christopher reject Lorelai in S2E6 because of his relationship with Sherry. I really appreciated that the show had her dealing with some of these conflicting emotions.
Finally, all of the small moments with the townspeople were great. Mrs. Kim’s interaction with Babette over silent prayer was fantastic. Miss Patty crushing on the costumed waiter was very cute. Jackson made an excellent squire and I greatly enjoyed his wig. Kirk’s dedication to his duty in the face of Lorelai’s teasing was perfectly in character. Even Rune worked when he was Abbot and Costello-ing back and forth with Jackson.
Unfortunately, Lorelai’s narcissism reared its head in a few ways that didn’t work as well as her jealousy over Sherry. Her welcome speech to announce the sleigh rides was actual a bit painful to hear. Sookie is standing right next to her, and Lorelai goes on about how she got to do this wonderful thing for her friends. She’s taking an awful lot of credit for a snow storm in Chicago keeping away the intended guests.
I also really didn’t like Luke and Lorelai’s conversation in the sleigh. Both of them come across as a bit pompous with their opinions and it was an uncomfortable, unspoken reflection of their argument in S2E5 – Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy. Luke expresses an opinion on parenting and Lorelai shoots him down. Now, she’s obviously right that Jess wasn’t fooled by Luke’s lie, but it’s all in the presentation here. Luke and Lorelai both use very superior tones and it didn’t feel like a conversation the two of them would actually have.
I didn’t enjoy Jess and Rory’s sleigh ride conversation either. Having Jess point out the incompatibilities in Rory and Dean’s relationship was a weird choice by the writers. In the past, they’ve made a big deal of Rory and Dean going out of their way for the other to watch a particular movie or read a certain book. We know they have shared interests and we’ve seen conversations where they lob references back and forth. So it’s hard to see why the show is now trying to make Dean appear less intelligent. They’ve already done a poor job with his character making him jealousy-prone and controlling. Does he need to be an idiot as well?
I was not happy to see Rune again. Overall I feel like his appearances are just excuses for someone to be rude to the characters we actually like watching. His conversation with Michel was pointless, but the worst was the way he treated Sookie during the prep session. Not okay.
Finally, I enjoyed the idea of Paris attending the dinner. It was a sweet gesture from Rory and of course Paris notes all the historical inaccuracies. I just wish they had done more with her. This was an excellent opportunity for Paris to notice tension between Rory and the boys, or comment more on Rory’s outside of school life, or open up herself about spending so much of her free time alone with her nanny. This felt like a seriously missed opportunity.
Because of how good the story was for Richard and Emily, I was particularly taken with their resolution scene. As I mentioned above in The Good, I felt each side was so well crafted and presented that I was able to support and appreciate both characters at the same time. This is a pretty masterful feat and made their conversation poignant and emotional.
The Bottom Line:
This episode has some misses, but the majority of it was extremely well constructed and enjoyable. Richard’s business woes paid off in spades and the dinner as a whole was highly enjoyable. This is a memorable episode with some stellar performances.