TV Recap

Chugging Along

On ''Gilmore Girls,'' Lorelai and Luke struggle to be honest with family members in an episode that needed a little more fuel

Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls | CANOE-DLING Lorelai caught a flicker of compassion from her mom once booze was permitted
CANOE-DLING Lorelai caught a flicker of compassion from her mom once booze was permitted

''Gilmore Girls'': Out of gas?

In the opening scene, after Lorelai tells Rory that her relationship with her daughter's father is once again toast, the truck they're driving in sputters to a stop on the side of the road. We've seen Lorelai break the news of busted relationships to Rory in the car before. We've seen the writers fail to tap into any real conflicted feelings of impatience or resentment that Rory might have for her flibbertygibbet mother. (I get that Rory and Lorelai are first and foremost a team, united against the world, but Rory's willfully wide-eyed, sunshiney dismissal of her parents' splintered marriage just didn't ring true. Nor did Lorelai's assertion that Gigi will always be in their lives. Off you go little one, motherless again!) And last night, in an hour that seemed crammed with missed opportunities and bad vamping, we saw an episode that really was out of gas.

So instead we had a lame Friday night dinner. I know, blasphemy. But apparently, when Emily serves mocktails, the audience doesn't get drunk on fizzy repartee. Richard was a lousy patient and snapped at the girls about his fish. Lorelai couldn't get the nerve to 'fess up to Emily about her split with Christopher. Emily nattered on about the upcoming wedding party. And Rory got in not one, but two jokes about saving the lives of 400 innocent cornish game hens. Snoozeville.

Remember the scene last season when the whole town was crowded into the shop across the street from the diner because they were spying on Luke's out-of-nowhere daughter April? It's that type of nosy, overly concerned, intimately invested small-town dynamic that makes Stars Hollow such a welcome home every Tuesday night. So I was excited to hear how news of Lorelai's break-up ricocheted around town. Now Babette and Miss Patty are always welcome, but their hen-beagle talk underwhelmed me, as did the writers sticking Kirk clumsily in the background.

Plus, we learned offhandedly that Anna is in New Mexico and Luke is bravely handling the separation. Say wha? Then T.J. and Liz crammed into Luke's apartment with the new baby and had a lame late-night conversation with each other, with Luke listening in but 10 feet away, about whether Luke and Lorelai are meant to be. They invoke some Donnie Darko nonsense about space-time continuums and the couple's need to find the right wormhole back to each other. Whoa, whoa, whoa. If we viewers are expected to root for their reunion, we deserve to watch a graceful, witty, believable, slow fall back into each other's arms. We deserve better than a wormhole, for Paul Anka's sake.

Finally, Logan turned 25. Please God, I hope no one gave him any more cashmere scarves for his birthday. Rory wanted to celebrate the, gag, ''miracle of Logan's birth,'' with sticky buns and pinatas and sheet cakes, but his old man ended up taking them to a fancy-pants restaurant. Logan lapped up his father's oily praises — 'You've always ordered well'' — and then Daddy Warbucks praised Rory for turning his son around while Logan took a business call. I usually like to highlight my favorite zingy line of each episode. Alas, here was my least favorite. ''Ever noticed that people in Hong Kong are really chatty?'' Nope. And the runner-up, about the amuse-bouches at dinner: ''My mouth is very amused.'' My ears aren't. And neither were Logan's when he got news that his business deal had gone south. My only hope for this plotline is that Logan will get more interesting when his gilded cage is rattled.

Despite my complaints about this placeholder episode, a couple moments made me glad I'd tuned in:

I liked the way Lorelai purred like a lascivious cat when Emily broke out the bottles of vodka and scotch. Boo though that most of this scene was literally devoted to a run-down of tax terms and computer explanations. I've got my own taxes to do. I don't want to watch my favorite characters do their taxes. I had high hopes for the drunken scene between mother and daughter, but Emily acted like she'd smoked some wacky tabacky instead. Her snap stalled, her wit wilted. And she gave Lorelai a lazy speech about canoes and kayaks and praised her daughter's sense of independence. Whither my Emily and her flawed but steely love?

Even if the wind-up whiffed, there was a nice tender moment waiting for us at the end. After Emily told her daughter that her divorce really wasn't the worst thing in the world, Lorelai looked like she might melt with gratitude in the face of her difficult mother's support. She looked all of eight years old when she mewed out ''Thanks Mom.'' And when Emily went on to suggest that Lorelai might even marry someone else one day (not this season, please!!!), Lorelai disgustedly swatted off the hopeful suggestion like it was a yellow jacket on a sunny day. Lauren Graham is a master when it comes to scenes of self-loathing. And it's nice to know that Lorelai is just as sick of her love life as we are.

On a side note, splitting from Christopher was apparently all the makeover Lorelai needed. Gone were the drab dresses and bad beanies. She should always wear cerulean blue, she should always wear her hair in one of those effortless side ponytails, and if the inn ever pulls up short in profits, she could get some sidework as a jeans model. Lorelai was back to her sparkly best and a bonus to the stylist who picked out that blue dress.

Also, and I know I'm reaching here, but cheers to Aurora the soft-speaking maid. I don't know what it is about this oft-used gag that amuses me so, but when the little mouse was murmuring to Rory and Lorelai, and later to cranky lion Richard, the episode finally gave me a couple chuckles. Yes, it's depressing that I'm highlighting such a throwaway moment, but desperate times, people.

Now I know that some of you will get on me for being such a party pooper. But nothing irks me like comments like ''it's just a show, people. Relax!'' Of course it is. But for the same reason that criticism of their favorite show makes some people defensive, a lukewarm, lazy episode offends some of us faithful viewers too. I have high expectations for my show, and for the last several years, have been delighted to see them continually met and even supassed. Not so tonight. I'll cautiously hope for better next week, although ''scenes for'' have already triggered my gag reflex. Did anyone else's heart drop when they showed Lane going into labor at her baby shower and then being raced through the street in a double bed? ''Nothing will ruin this party...except maybe the baby!!!'' droned the tease. Hiss!

What about you? Did you feel Huntzbergered by this episode? Were you bored during the birthday dinner scene and the 1120 scene and the bland fish scene? Will we ever see April or Gigi again? And does Lorelai seem creepily over Christopher despite the fact that they broke up just ONE WEEK AGO?!?!

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Originally posted Feb 21, 2007