Thursday, August 11, 2016

Podcast #83 - S4E12 - A Family Matter

Hello! Welcome to Return to Stars Hollow - a spoiler-free, retrospective podcast about Gilmore Girls! This is the podcast for Season 4, Episode 12 - A Family Matter.

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The next podcast will post on Thursday, August 25, 2016 for Season 4, Episode 13 - Nag Hammadi Is Where They Found the Gnostic Gospel.


  1. The show treats Jess's return with the gravity it deserves. There's a showdown with Luke! Gypsy (standing in for all the Stars Hollow citizenry) making fun of him! Lorelai yelling! Rory telling him off! Jess confessing his love! As a character, Jess has always upset the equilibrium and frankly, this season desperately needed shaking up.

    But I really don't know what to think about Liz. It felt like the show was trying to pull off two things at once: one comic, one dramatic, but the comedy feels really out of place.

    First, there's a comedic story about Luke prejudging Liz's new boyfriend and getting his comeuppance. classic comedy setup: expectation, reversal, punchline. Luke expects TJ to be a loser; Luke changes his mind; TJ calls Luke a dick.

    Angry Ranting Luke is always funny (Luke vs Taylor is always a classic), but those rants work when it's Luke's grumpiness versus someone else's cheeriness and enthusiasm. Here, it's Luke versus an extremely stupid TJ, so it's not funny so much as horrifying. And TJ, when you drink someone else's beer and steal their food, you don't get to insult them.

    Much more successful is the really sad story within the same set of circumstances: a pair of grownup siblings with a messed-up dynamic. Liz is the screwup and Luke is the fixer, Liz feels entitled to steal food from Luke's kitchen and Luke feels entitled to manipulate her away from her boyfriend, for her own good.

    Jess is the living symbol of that messed-up dynamic, so when he busts into Luke's apartment it makes the "comedy" of TJ feel really inappropriate. "Liz Dates a Loser" is not just fodder for jokes; Jess himself is a consequence of Liz's choices, including her choice to pass him off to Luke. And it really reflects badly on Liz. While she and TJ are gallivanting around to Renaissance Fairs, is Liz sending Jess any of the money she makes selling jewelry? Does she know he was sleeping in his car the previous night?

    I love that the show is exploring this because we don't have any other sibling-relationships on the show, everyone seems to be an only child. It leads to so much good stuff, particularly the band-aid scene. (I'm assuming your next Luke Doll will be Drunk-Barbie-Bandaid-Wearing Luke.) Liz's arrival really deepens Luke's character; I understand him much better after seeing her.

    But the writers didn't need TJ to be physically present in the show to pull off the second storyline. It would have been enough to hear Liz talk about her new boyfriend, and maybe we could have used that time to see Liz interact with her son. And we would have been spared TJ, who I find horribly unfunny.

    If the writers needed more comedy, how about ten minutes of Gypsy making fun of Jess's hair? I'd watch that.

    Oh, and side note on previous podcasts: great guest host! Please bring him back, particularly for Lane-centric episodes.

  2. Hello! I haven't actually commented here before, though I've meant to, and I'll explain my "origin story" later on, but a brief thought here before I go mow the lawn before it gets super hot out.

    On the topic of Rory being a brat about the coupons, I have a particular way in which one could look at the situation in order for Rory to not be a brat at least at heart, although it may be a bit of a reach. If we assume, for whatever reason, that Rory associates coupon-clipping with financial insecurity rather than financial good sense, then she could be saying everything she says from a place of anxiety rather than actual judgment. Her thought process could go like this: Mom's clipping coupons. Mom is struggling with money. Mom's life is going to fall apart, she's going to lose the house, and my life will fall apart as well. Therefore, it's VERY important that Mom not clip coupons! Fairly irrational, but depending on the specifics of how Rory and Lorelai talked about money while Rory was growing up, and also given Rory's innate seriousness about life, I could see that sort of anxiety taking her to irrational places now and then. Which could then lead Lorelai to seeing this in her daughter, and hiding money difficulties wherever possible. Rory's anxiety also could be triggered much more by coupon clipping than borrowing money for huge expenses like school.

    As a sort of evidence for my theory, we can refer back to the awful episode with the termites. Rory was so anxious about preserving her home and the lack of money available to do so, that she went behind her mother's back and involved her grandmother against her mother's wishes. I think we said at the time this was a thing Rory shouldn't have done, yes? (although of course Lorelai was also being ridiculous about not taking the cosigned loan once it was available...oh that episode...) But it can perhaps be more understandable if we theorize that she has a mild form of extreme anxiety (if that makes sense) regarding money problems which she thinks could affect her home and her family's basic financial stability.

    Just a thought! Love the podcast. I plan to come back and comment on the next episode itself when I have the chance.

  3. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this title. I kind of love it though it's another weird one. We've had ones before that seem like working titles no one bothered to change (Richard in Stars Hollow) and we've had ones that only apply to one small part of the episode (Haunted Leg being an extreme expample where it only concerned the teaser). This one falls more in the latter category. There's a bad joke in the episode and they make a joke about how nobody understands that joke. And then the joke is explained in the title. That's a slightly complicated but fascinating relationship between episode and title and maybe I've thought about this too much. Anyway, I love it. And it's miles better than the german title which means something like "In the matter of love" or "Re love" which is really boring and on the nose, especially in comparison.

    TJ is a pretty divisive character, I think. I don't know if anyone loves him but there are certainly people who absolutely hate him. I actually don't think he's too annoying here and I like how much he cares about Liz. At least there is that redeeming quality. But Ellie makes some great points. Maybe the contrast here is too stark.

    Oh, Jess... of course he behaves like a complete idiot here (can't wait to hear Michael's comment!), especially when he's telling off Luke. But I think they do a pretty good job of revealing throughout the episode that there's more underneath that anger, especially in that scene with Luke. When he says that people who fail Luke don't just feel like they screwed up, but that they also disappointed Luke, he's very much talking about himself, I believe. He's just not ready to admit and deal with it, so he lashes out instead. And this does lead to that wonderful scene with drunk Luke and Lorelai. His delivery of "Got a handful of Barbie!" is one of my favourite moments of the show. On the other side, I hate the way Lorelai says to Jess "She's *over* you". I can't think of the right word right now to describe it. Mean-spirited, maybe? It's just terrible.

    The other day I saw a gifset on tumblr comparing Dean's and Jess' "I love you"s to Rory, saying that Dean was waiting for her reaction and getting angry when she couldn't immediately say it back (which is true). But then it also said that Jess, in contrast to that, gave her space and didn't expect anything in return and I just could not agree with that. He tells her he loves her and leaves, without giving her any time to process or react. Like, that's not something you do? This isn't some great romantic gesture. It's not even "I just have to say it once and you just have to hear and then we can let it go". No, this is basically "I'm going to dump this on you and you can deal with it". And this after, as Rory points out, a year without any contact at all. And then he leaves town again, which, as she also says, is the same thing he did to her last time. Like, I love this messed up kid and I've defended him lots of times, but I just cannot with this behaviour.

  4. I agree with Ellie that I like that the show is exploring a sibling dynamic. I find Luke's attitude and actions towards Liz very believable, even, and perhaps especially, when he is shooting Liz down a bit. Ultimately, he wants to protect her, but there is still an underlying, adult version of "she's my little sister and she just bugs me so much." I like that they show a process of Luke dealing with Liz throughout this episode, starting with the nuisance of her selling the earrings in the diner, to outright frustration of her choice to date TJ, to acceptance of the relationship. This shows Luke in his family element, which not only reveals a deeper side to him, but also continues to confirm Luke's tendency to exhibit both frustration and protection over those he loves. With the addition of Jess' criticisms of Luke, we see a glimpse of insecurity in Luke, even as he laughs over it while drunk. Luke is definitely a "fixer" but far from an unwelcome burden. Overall, I am very happy with the deeper exploration of Luke's character.

    I think Jess' return and revealing of his feelings needed to happen. I'm not that surprised that he did so in a typical Jess fashion, but I think this needed to happen. Rory needed to say everything she said to him in the end, although Jess just tore her wounds right back open. But I think this needed to happen more for Jess. He confronted his feelings and admitted them out loud, which is different from his typical approach of shutting everything out and resorting to anger, perhaps because its easier? I think he needed to see Rory and see how his actions affected her, and he needed to admit out loud that he loves her. However, I 100% agree with Mareike in that it was really horrible of him to lay that all out and then leave immediately. Still, it seems in character for Jess, and it shows progress for him, but not too much too fast.

    Overall, I did really enjoy this episode and found many moments of great comedy. Gotta love a Star's Hollow festival episode!

  5. Ok, so I was going to catch up to you guys a couple weeks ago, and then I just ended up binge watching the rest of season 4. It gets better. I just finished season 5 which I actually enjoyed more. Going to start season 6. I'll come back when I have to finished the series. Excited for the new episodes in November!

    Back to this season and this episode. First off I had already thought that we met Liz before, but maybe it's just because I remember her so much. I love that Liz says Luke is her hero. It's sweet. I also totally forgot that Jess came back! I like that he keeps running away from Rory, and then she runs away from him.

    I thought it was funny that the girls go over to Babettes just to sit by her fire. I love Emily freaking out over not filling the table. The Bishop, is awesome! I like when Emily says to Lorelai that no one was buying her and Jason as a couple. Maybe she has a point.

    You know TJ reminds me of Joey from Friends. lol. I feel bad for Luke when Jess tells him off. Poor drunk Luke and his cut hand. Does it bother anyone else that Lorelai doesn't clean his hand before putting a bandaid on it? I also love the joke about Luke and Carrie. I think it's cute. I love that all the girls from high school were into Luke. I assume the shorts refer to his wrestling outfit.

    *Loved the Bring It On reference last podcast. Kirk's girlfriend Lulu is one of the Toro cheerleaders in B.I.O. She plays Casey. I love that movie.