Thursday, November 3, 2016

Podcast #91 - S4E20 - Luke Can See Her Face

Hello! Welcome to Return to Stars Hollow - a spoiler-free, retrospective podcast about Gilmore Girls! This is the podcast for Season 4, Episode 20 - Luke Can See Her Face.

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The next podcast will post on Thursday, November 10th, 2016 for Season 4, Episode 21 - Last Week Fights, This Week Tights.


  1. So many things to enjoy in this episode, and one giant turd in the punchbowl. (Sorry if that's too vulgar for the podcast.)

    I'm not going to say too much about Luke/Lorelai (since I'm sure you guys will cover it in excruciating depth). Lauren Graham is a phenomenal actress. It's pretty rare that the show has Lorelai not say what she's feeling, but here she expresses a lot with her face. Even if you'd never seen the show before, you could watch the scene of them dancing and know that this woman is falling in love over the course of 90 seconds.

    I actually like the Luke/Jess and the Lane/Mrs. Kim plotlines even better, because both are about reconciliation. Luke and Jess are a great comedy duo in dealing with TJ, and the last scene between them is really moving. the Danes/Mariano Self-Help Book Club didn't just help them pursue the Gilmore Girls, but helped them express their feelings towards each other. When Luke says, "I'm here, I'm always here," that is as relaxed and genuine as we've ever seen him.

    Lane/Mrs Kim is played more for comedy, and my GOD Zach and Brian are on fire in their scenes. Brian reciting tea flavors like a brainwashed cult member and Zach offering Mrs Kim TWO teapots? Love it. Especially when Mrs Kim returns and they instantly drop the video games and put their neckties back on. It shows both how much they care about Lane and how much Mrs Kim wanted to be reconciled, that she could Jedi-mind-trick herself into approving of them. (Question, though: how awesome would it have been to have the band play Liz's wedding???)

    I guess we have to talk about Rory. (sigh) The idea that everyone is suddenly bugging her about not having a boyfriend is...really weird? It is not that unusual for a 19 year old to be single for a period of time. (And if Emily is concerned about this, maybe she should stop monopolizing Rory's Friday evenings.) I read Rory's calling Dean as her wanting to see him, otherwise she could have called a cab to drive her to the ATM. At least she questions why he's out with her instead of Lindsay. I just don't see any chemistry or actual longing between them, so I can't understand why this storyline is happening.

    As for her showdown with Jess -- I actually really liked it, and would have liked it even more if it hadn't started with yet another round of Jess vs Dean. It seemed very in character for Jess to make another grand gesture with no warning, and for Rory to back away from it. And very mature of Rory; I root for Jess, but he is still a bad guy to bet on at this stage of life.

    Meta-acknowledgment of Stars Hollow ridiculousness: "Kirk has like 43 jobs!"

  2. I also think it's insane how everyone is talking about Rory's "dry spell". I can't remember this idiot's name, so I'm going to go with Duncan Kane, so: Apparently Duncan Kane was supposed to come back in season 5 as a love interest for Rory but then he got cast in Veronica Mars. I'm glad that didn't happen because he is quite terrible. Compared to him, Dean does look like Prince Charming here and we all know that's saying something. Even though Dean's hair is worse than Goblet of Fire hair.

    You have somewhat convinced me of Luke and the self-helf book. I love the scene here where Lorelai is being Lorelai about it, expecting Luke to agree with her and make fun of Jess, and instead Luke shuts her down. And that must be one hell of a book with the way it's immediately working on both Luke and Jess. I love that both of them are now straight up quoting the book to each other.

    Jess is doing so well with Liz and especially Luke throughout the whole episode. And then when it comes to Rory, he is again terrible. I just want to yell at him to stop telling Rory what to do and how she feels. The look on Jess' face when Rory rejects him is quite heartbraking but no, she's right in doing so.

    When Liz first appeared, I mentioned that I thought there was a discrepancy between the character everyone talked about before and the Liz we saw. I recently saw a discussion on tumblr that finally made me realize why this still bothers me so much. It's not just that the writers changed their minds when they decided to bring her on screen or that it's a continuity error, similar to the way they talked about Trix as if she was dead in the pilot. My problem is that, in a way, Liz is still that same character everyone talked about, only now, it's played for laughs. This week, she talks about how she loved to get high and how this is the first of her weddings where she's not drunk, and that is supposed to be funny. And isn't it great how she turned her life around and is happy now? Sure, it is. But at the same time, Jess is right there as a very real consequence of the choices Liz has made in her life and he and his life and his relationship with his mother are seriously messed up because of her. And those two things just don't go together.

    1. Great point about Liz's character. You're totally right - Liz's flakiness is not funny. And maybe it could be funny if Jess were a fully actualized person who had learned to accept his mother and became functional himself. But particularly right now at this moment, everything in his life is hard, and always has been, because of her selfish parenting choices. What exactly do they want us to feel about his sullenness towards her?

  3. I wanted to point out something I thought of while listening to the feedback portion from Afterboom, and that kind of comes up here again with Lane's story regarding her mother. I think the major difference between Lane and Mrs Kim, and Emily and Lorelai is the ideology at the root of the strict controlling parenting behavior. My first thought when you were discussing the difference in those relationships, and saying that Lane just had a tamer personality (which I don't fully agree with) was that Mrs. Kim actually did the raising, and I'm not sure if it's specifically addressed, but I'm pretty sure that Lorelai was raised by a series of nannies. So that, in and of itself, can change the bond that a daughter has with her mother. But what comes to mind during this episode is that even though Lane and Lorelai don't agree with their mother's priorities, I think that Lane might have an easier time understanding Mrs. Kim's motivations. She has a deep spiritual conviction, and she feels like the restrictions she places on Lane are for her eternal benefit. I think that Lorelai has a hard time seeing how societal rules and expectations are important, and so that causes a fundamental lack of connection between them. It's the difference between "my mom is wrong but it's coming from a good place" and "my mom has all these standards that I find ridiculous".

    All the Luke and Lorelai interactions are the stuff of shipper's dreams. I love how nervous Luke is when he's choosing the tie, and how he seems to get more and more confident as the evening goes on, and Lorelai seems to get more nervous, and almost bewildered after she agrees to the movie. And the dance. *sigh* Apparently Scott Patterson can actually waltz (LUKE can WALTZ haha! reference to next episode), but I'm not sure he actually was because as the camera pans back, they are doing some weird sort of shuffling, and not actually waltzing.

    To me, Emily hounding Rory about her lack of dating seems 100% relatable. Older relatives have zero filter when it comes to these things. If she were dating (particularly if said boy was Gilmore-approved), she'd be asking about marriage. If they were married, she'd be asking when they were going to have babies. If they had a baby, she'd ask when the next one is coming. And on and on. Especially, for Emily's generation when going to college was pretty much step one in landing a husband.

    I'm so glad we are going to make it 422 before the revival. It is my absolute favorite episode of the entire series (so far) and I can't wait to get to it. Also, you are welcome for the Luke's Flannel website. I found it while perusing FanForum, there are all kinds of great stuff in the Gilmore threads there, including revival spoilers if that's your bag.

  4. Luke and Jess, oh my god. Was there any need for there to be anything other than that in this episode? To be honest with you, after seeing that scene, I was thinking to myself - wow, they're going to NOT reunite Rory and Jess, and that is a hugely bold choice, but I am completely behind it because Rory and Jess dated for, what, six months? And she is just not the influence in his life that Luke is. Luke is the first adult who provided him with stability and love, and that is so huge. Next to that his brief, conflicted thing with Rory is nothing, and I like that they're going to show that here. And then of course they didn't do that, HELLO! Obviously my feeling that his relationship with Luke is so much more meaningful than his relationship with Rory is my adult perspective, so it wouldn't make sense not to show their reunion.

    And Jess botches it completely. Of course, Rory is obviously not going to leave Yale to run away to NYC. But I wasn't sure if we were supposed to think she was tempted? This going back to the how is she actually doing at Yale thing? If she had been consistently doing poorly at Yale, not making good friends, not liking the boys, not enjoying the classes - all of which were hinted at in this whole episode and with her scene with He Who Shall Not Be Named, but then, once again, back pedaled on immediately by reminding us, oh no, she actually does like to read these authors - then I would believe that she could be tempted to run away and leave it all behind. Instead Jess just looks insane, and Rory appropriately horrified by his proposal.

    As to Rory and Dean, I'll just say this. Did you know that Jared Padalecki's middle name is Tristan? Hmmmm... Conspiracy theory anyone?

    Love Lane and Mrs. Kim's reunion, particularly the boys. Could that be any cuter? It really shows how much those guys truly care about Lane. Especially given how young and immature they are, this shows that the three of them are possibly in the most caring, mature relationship in the whole show.

  5. Oh one comment I do want to make about Luke and Lorelai. The dance scene was masterfully done. The way they started out with plenty of room for Jesus and then ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly came together was so beautifully romantic.

  6. Part 1:
    This is one of my favorite episodes in a group of 4 favorites. I can never watch one of them and stop, but have to watch them in a group binge. Once Luke Sees Her Face, it is like being on a roller coaster ride and unable to get off till the end of Say Goodbye Daisy Miller. Juicy plot tension and resolutions, plenty of townie appearances, and a couple of big events to really crank up the volume of emotional intensity.

    I love Kirk's pique at being passed over as Dance Captain by Miss Patty. The idea of Patty having beat up on Kirk is hilarious. Jess actually reading the self-help books based on Luke's recommendation further underscores the shift in their relationship, and Luke's importance as a vital and trusted influence in Jess's life.

    We say farewell to the Yale dorm suite roomies for the summer, and I find it odd that everyone is drawing attention to Rory's single status and dry spell in the most pointed ways, on the last day of class! Why on earth would Emily try and set Rory up as everyone is leaving for the summer. The fact that she lets herself get rooked into being stranded at a bar strains credulity. Rory is always prepared, but it is too convenient and far fetched that the first person she thinks to call is Dean. Ugh. The scene where they are returning to the dorm and she is supposed to be demonstrating her funny-ness is so awkward and strained. They have never had any chemistry, and they still don't. And Dean dodging the issue of the state of his marriage is so slimy. It was a relief when Jess interrupted.

    Poor Jess. He makes such progress in his relationships with his mom and Luke, gets inspired by the books, and totally blows it with an insane proposal that Rory abandon her school plans and run away with him to... what? Live in his shared hovel in New York and work as a waitress? That scene is so well done, so perfectly paced and executed. Jess's face when she says the final "No!" Heartbreaking, and totally authentic. They have more chemistry in a totally rejecting fight than she and Dean ever display. So sad. But Rory made the right decision to say No to Jess.

    Lorelai's intervention between Mrs. Kim and Lane is touching, and wisely tailored to Mrs. Kim's particular hysteria. That Bryan and Zack put on ties and their best, most formal behavior for the evening is even more touching. The mental gymnastics Mrs. Kim adopts to be able to accept Lane's living situation is precious.

    It is endearing to watch Luke try to cover his nervousness as the men get ready for the wedding. TJ cracks me up every time. He is so intrusive and inappropriate, so goofy with his tights obsession. The wedding is classic Stars Hollow with TJ/Liz eccentricities dialed up to 11.I love the running bits that weave through the whole episode. And I love that Luke's mocking shifts into tender regard for his sister's happiness.

    I really didn't like that Lorelai nosily peered into Jess's backpack, and then was so idiotic as to mock Jess's books to Luke, his uncle, who has always defended him and supported him. Seriously? So glad Luke slapped her down. That judgmental mocking of others is one of Lorelai's worst character traits. I also thought it was pretty hypocritical of her to mock self-help books when she is the one who said she saw Dr. Phil books in their future in the Dragonfly kitchen in the previous episode. I think that is what sent Luke to the bookstore in search of insight. Then she disses it to his face?

  7. Part 2:
    Then the dance. The delicate transformation from gawky discomfort and self-consciousness, not een able to look him in the face, to the dawning on her face that he is not just attractive, but romantic and sexy, if she would just shut up and they could see each other. That Luke holds her at arms length and then pulls her closer is a perfect reflection of the transformation, and seems to relax him and give him some certainty about this path he has chosen to finally set foot on.

    When they walk to her house and he actually asks her out on a date, and it dawns on her that it is actually a date he is planning. Her expression is priceless. "I'll see you both of those thens" Love that line. And the face he makes as he sighs with relief as he walks away is so touching. You know he has been holding his breath the whole night hoping she says yes to the next date. I also like that he says he can be a 'movie guy' cause she likes movies. Just like he was a 'broadway baby' when Nicole liked Broadways shows. Luke may be crabby, contrary and anti-social, but he is pretty easy-going and accommodating when involved in a relationship.

    We've never seen a sincere, gentle and vulnerable Luke in a relationship. With Rachel he was braced and wary, briefly accepting, then again withdrawing when it didn't feel right. With Nicole, he was a man on a mission, an "I am dating someone" mission, charming and purposeful. The marriage and all the kerfuffle that ensued was just strained, and pained and awkward. I think it is vital to mention, that even though he and Rachel were living together, and she was supposed to have been the tragic love of his life, we never saw them kiss or even hug. The same goes with Nicole, even though they dated, married and then lived together, we never saw them exchange so much as a peck on the cheek or a hug in greeting or goodbye. We have seen Lorelai kiss, hug and sleep with all her significant boyfriends. Odd isn't it? I also thought it was odd that Luke had a double bed when Rachel lived there, and when Jess first arrived, but somehow ended up with a single bed after the apartment expansion,and when Lorelai spent the night when the Independence Inn burned up. Who gets a smaller bed after they make their apartment bigger? Especially a big, tall man like Luke. It goes along with his migrating bathroom and closets over the seasons. Stars Hollow continuity burps.

    Anyhow, this episode is enjoyable in many ways, eventful and clever, but the sense is definitely one of setting the stage and building the tensions.

  8. Part 3:
    I couldn't forget that final scene between Luke and Jess. It is one of the most intimate scenes of familial love, appreciation and respect between two men I have ever seen. That Jess quotes the book back to Luke is a perfect validation of the positive impact a self-help book can have, Lorelai's judgmental contempt notwithstanding. That Luke and Jess now have a shared experience, a language of love, and a fire forged bond of loyalty to each other is one of the high points of the entire series. You see Jess mature a measure right before your eyes. And Luke's dropped shoulders of exhaustion and satisfied relief as Jess exits speaks volumes about the weight he has been carrying and how much he cares.

  9. My origin story, since you asked so nicely :)

    I first watched Gilmore Girls on DVD when I was in high school. I was hooked from the first episode, and I quickly blew through all the available seasons, and then bought the DVDs for the last few seasons as they came out.

    I really related to Rory at the time, and I still do. I’m kind of shy and introverted, I’m a really big reader, and I was goody-goody in school. I don’t read books quite as fancy as the ones she reads, but I totally understand the need to constantly have a book with you. I was one of those kids who would literally walk around with my nose in a book, running into things, because I couldn’t stand to put my book down. (No, officer, I never, ever do that anymore, I swear.)

    One of my favourite parts of the show is the Lorelai/Rory relationship. I remember thinking when I first watched the show that I wanted to have a Lorelai-Rory relationship with my future daughter, and I totally idolized the way Lorelai parented. It’s so interesting watching it again as an adult because I have a totally different perspective now. I’ve spent the last 5 years teaching middle schoolers, and I’ve seen how “best-friend” parenting rarely actually works like it does in the show. Most of the time, when mothers try to be the “cool mom,” their daughters just think they’re embarrassing and the mothers end up letting their daughters do whatever they want because they want to be cool and well liked, and then it all implodes.

    Yet somehow, the show makes it work so that the relationship seems plausible. The small age gap means that Lorelai is younger than the average mother with a teen, and Rory is fairly shy, so she’s not the type of kid to be embarrassed by her mother. It also helps that Lorelai isn’t one of those mothers who tries to tag along with her daughter all the time and fit in with her teenaged friends. Instead, she’s a normal adult with a job and a life and adult friends, and she just happens to also be best friends with her daughter, and I think that makes a huge difference. I also like that it’s not depicted as a perfect relationship. They still have fights and issues, and there are times when her parenting style backfires on Lorelai.

    My mum was 30 when she had me, so we didn’t have as much of a best-girlfriends relationship as Rory and Lorelei have because of the age gap, but we were still very close, and I consider her one of my best friends today. We’ve had our ups and downs just like anyone else, but in the end, we’re there for each other, because nothing can break a bond like that. I love seeing how my relationship with my mum is mirrored with Lorelai and Rory, and now that I’m older, I’m seeing even more the richness of both their relationship and my own.

  10. (continued)

    So, a fun story about the show’s impact on my life: I grew up in Georgia, but I have never felt much like a southerner, and when I watched Gilmore Girls the first time, I completely fell in love with the New England charm of Stars Hollow, so much so that when I finished college, I applied for teaching jobs in New England instead of in Georgia. I ended up getting a job in Vermont, so my husband and I packed up and moved a thousand miles north so I could take the job. No town will ever be as awesome as Stars Hollow, but I love it up here, and I have Gilmore Girls to thank for that. My mother has even moved to Vermont since then, which is awesome, because leaving her behind was the only bad thing about leaving the south.

    Last note in what is probably an overly long comment. I’m the type of person who likes to have a relationship to root for when I’m watching a show. It was obvious from their first scene together that Luke and Lorelai were clearly meant to be together, but I was never as excited about any of Rory’s love interests. Dean is a crazy rage monster, so he’s out of the running for me, and Jess had great buildup but their actual relationship once they finally got together was a total drag. Thus, I’ve decided to try a new type of ship for the rewatch, a Paris/Rory (friend)ship, because their love/hate relationship is way more adorable and heartwarming than any romantic relationship Rory has. Plus, Rory is young, she doesn’t need a man right now. Boyfriends are for now, but Paris is forever, because she will clearly still be clinging to Rory even when they are old and grey. I like to think of them living next door to each other when they're both 100 year old widows with a bunch of cats :)

  11. A few comments for the current episode.

    I thought it was really weird that Rory’s dorm mates were going on about her being single. Maybe it’s different at Ivy league schools, but I always thought people saw freshman year as a time for making new friends and trying new things, not having a serious boyfriend. At least, that’s how it was at my college. Everyone was all caught up in experiencing the newness of college and being away from home and finding themselves that no one had much time to date seriously, and we certainly weren’t judging people for being single. Emily asking about it and trying to set her up made sense to me, but compounded with the dorm-mates scene, it just seemed like the writers twisting things to set up the Dean scene (ugh).

    I love Luke’s face when they are walking onto the dance floor. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him looking so giddy, it was adorable! We need to have a Luke/Lorelai Renaissance Wedding doll set, with turkey leg and hair wreath accessories.

    Just a little comedy note, but I really loved they way Carrie is standing when she comes up to hit on Luke right before the wedding. She’s sort of standing sideways, looking down at him regally, so that he’s looking at her in profile, and she’s obviously trying to show off how much her…um…cups runneth over in her corset. It’s such an awkward way to stand, which is perfect for her, because her flirting is always over-the-top and awkward. I don’t know if it was the acting or the direction, but it really made me laugh.