Top Episodes is a new feature in which we handpick the definitive best episodes of a groundbreaking, beloved, or otherwise awesome television series. This time, Gilmore Guy Matt Melis and Gilmore Girl Allison Shoemaker take a Hartford shuttle back to a little town called Stars Hollow.
Anytime a guy reveals that he’s a Gilmore Girls fan, it almost comes across as confessional. And even if he openly admits to being a Gilmore Guy, he invariably prefaces this admission by explaining that his wife, girlfriend, or some other woman in his life turned him onto the show. It’s 2016, fellas. Time to own it like you broke it at Kim’s Antiques. Even if a lady dragged you kicking and screaming to Stars Hollow, nobody made you stick around, buy those DVD box sets, or post those impressive “How Well Do You Know Your Gilmore Girls?” quiz results on your Facebook wall. Again, it’s 2016. We appreciate your business.
And what’s there to be ashamed about, anyway? The show has it all: unforgettable characters, rapid-fire dialogue, a junkie-like obsession with pop culture, Shakespearean scheming blended with farcical irreverence, and grudges so fierce that the show’s famous Friday night dinners often resemble an evening in the Thunderdome. For me, I was first drawn in by the quaintest (and most insane) small town on earth, Stars Hollow. Having grown up watching sitcoms like Green Acres and The Vicar of Dibley, I readily latched on to the idea of dropping relatively sane people into a town-shaped loony bin. And it’s within these town limits that I learned essential facts like Al’s Pancake World serves just about everything but pancakes; enough minimum-wage jobs can actually make a guy independently wealthy; and Miss Patty, several husbands ago, once danced in a cage with Tito Puente. Twirl, girls!
In a time when any property the public vaguely remembers gets rebooted or remade, Netflix’s upcoming Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life mini-series feels like anything but a cash grab. We diehards genuinely can’t wait to see what’s become of our many beloved characters nearly a decade later. Are Zack and Lane a husband-wife yacht rock duo living in Brooklyn, is Paris Geller eyeing a run at the White House down the road, and if we stop by the Dragonfly Inn, will we still find Michel turning up his nose at guests and Sookie erasing the single-digit number on the sign in the kitchen that reads “This Many Days Since an Accident”? And then there are the really big questions that have been clawing at us like Cat Kirk: How will Emily Gilmore carry on without Richard (played by the late Edward Herrmann), will Luke and Lorelai still be “all in,” and where has Rory landed and with whom (#TeamDean, #TeamJess, #TeamLogan or #TeamRoryDontNeedNoMan)? For some of us, this is like the countdown to the kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday. Friday can’t come soon enough.
The other reason fans want to revisit Stars Hollow one more time is for the closure afforded by a proper conclusion. Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino infamously didn’t get to take part in Gilmore Girl’s final season (more on that to come), which means she didn’t get to end the show as she always had planned. In fact, Lauren Graham has explained that none of the cast or crew knew the series had ended until a couple weeks after they shot the Season 7 finale. Now we’ll finally get to see these characters finish their stories the way Sherman-Palladino had originally intended. She’s claimed that the show was always supposed to end on four specific words. What are those four words exactly? Speculate away — probably something along the lines of “I love you, <insert name>.” By Friday morning, we should all know. And hell, even if the four-word ending falls through, I’d settle for Babette yelling: “You gotta give it a little something, honey!”
Damn, it feels good to be a Gilmore Guy.
20. A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving
Episode #: 09
Original Air Date: Nov. 26, 2002
When the show famed for fitting two hours of dialogue into one hour of television took a crack at Thanksgiving, they did the only sensible thing: they crammed four Thanksgiving dinners into one episode. “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” arrives on the heels of the Dean-Rory breakup, in the throes of another Emily and Richard kerfuffle, and well before Luke and Lorelai got around to the “will” part of the will-they-or-won’t-they. Yet for all the drama, this is a mostly joyful outing. The race between dinners — skipping the rolls, of course — gives nearly every character a moment to shine, right on down to Babette and Morey. There’s still plenty of that delicious Rory-Lorelai banter, but this episode belongs to the ensemble: Lane’s first kiss! Drunk Sookie watching Jackson deep-fry everything she owns! Cat Kirk! Not even another Dean and Jess confrontation can take the shine off this apple. –Allison Shoemaker
Gilmost Line: “What is the oil for?” “For pouring on Visigoths.” “Lorelai.” “When else am I gonna get to use my Visigoth material?” –Lorelai Gilmore, in an exchange with Rory and Sookie
Gilmost Meal: Leftover rolls from Luke’s, “a little something for the walk home.”
Only in Stars Hollow: Kirk’s cat, Cat Kirk, attempts to garrote his owner with a cute ball of yarn, even without opposable thumbs. “He’s beyond them!”
Lane’s Mix: “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie
19. The Big One
Episode #: 16
Original Air Date: Feb. 25, 2003
When it comes to the non-Gilmore girls of Gilmore Girls, only three ever gave Emily, Lorelai, and Rory a run for their money: Lane, Paris, and Sookie. The latter two take center stage in “The Big One”, each hitting a major life milestone that sends ripples they don’t expect. In Sookie’s case, her first pregnancy means joy for her and an episode-long anxiety attack for Jackson, who doesn’t stop to kiss his wife before busting out the calculator, calling a contractor, and throwing out all of Sookie’s potentially baby-killing cooking utensils. Still, Sookie’s trials don’t hold a candle to Paris’. This is Liza Weil’s finest hour on the series, as the character the Palladinos created for her melts down in funny but heartbreaking fashion. Her speech at the Chilton bicentennial may be the single most cringeworthy moment on a series full of them, and when Rory comforts her afterward, whose heart doesn’t break for this lonely, brilliant, wonderful nightmare of a girl? –Allison Shoemaker
Gilmost Line: “I mean, can anyone here believe that I’m not going to Harvard? I can’t. I’m not going to Harvard. I am not going to Harvard. I had sex, but I’m not going to Harvard! And I have to tell you that if you asked me which of those two events I thought would be the least likely to happen, it would not be the not going to Harvard. I’m being punished. I had sex, so now I don’t get to go to Harvard. She’s never had sex. She’ll probably go to Harvard. She’s a shoe-in. Pack your chastity belt, Gilmore — you’re going to Harvard!” –Paris Geller
Gilmost Meal: A Kit-Kat bar, in lieu of pregnant Sookie’s sewery dishes.
Only in Stars Hollow: The mail carrier (Kirk, of course) decides organizing the mail beforehand is beneath him, leading to a tussle on the floor of Doose’s market.
18. Written in the Stars
Episode #: 03
Original Air Date: Oct. 5, 2004
There’s no shortage of romantic gestures in this series, from Dean building Rory a car (his finest hour) to a thousand yellow daisies (still to come on this list). Still, with one exception, this might be the most swoon-inducing moment of them all. Gilmore Girls belongs to Lorelai and Rory, but the central romance really kicks off right here. The horoscope Luke kept for eight years makes for a pretty good indicator of what this means to him. Lorelai’s stunned silence, a rare occurrence, similarly spoke volumes. The greatest indicator of what this relationship meant to the show, however, comes in the form of that jaw-dropping town meeting. Taylor was at his most absurd, but he was also speaking for fans: please, please don’t screw this up.
Oh, and Rory meets Logan. –Allison Shoemaker
Gilmost Line: “She asked me my birthday. I wouldn’t tell her, she wouldn’t stop talking, finally I gave in. I told her my birthday. She went and got the newspaper, opened it up to the horoscopes page, wrote something down, tore it out, handed it to me. So I was looking at this piece of paper in my hand, and under Scorpio, she had written, ‘You will meet an annoying woman. Give her coffee, and she’ll go away.’ So I gave her coffee.” –Luke Danes
Gilmost Meal: The coffee Lorelai attempts to obtain sans pants.
Only in Stars Hollow: Town selectman Taylor Doose presents charts tracing the economic impact of a breakup on the town.
Lane’s Mix: “Lily-A-Passion” by Grant Lee Phillips (aka The Town Troubadour)
17. I Get a Sidekick Out of You
Episode #: 19
Original Air Date: Apr. 18, 2006
Amy Sherman-Palladino filled the world of Gilmore Girls with strong, opinionated women — ladies who won’t budge or back down when they know they are in the right. Of course, we all know that Lorelai turned down a comfortable future in order to carve out her own quirky life in Stars Hollow, complete with monkey lamp. But she’s far from the only “bold broad” on the show who insists on having it her way. Emily Gilmore, Paris Geller, and Mrs. Kim are all unstoppable forces of nature who rule their respective spheres with dictatorial conviction. And that’s what makes an episode like “I Get a Sidekick Out of You”, or any of the episodes in which Richard’s mother (the original Lorelai) drops in on Emily, so wickedly delightful. Sure, it’s fun to see Lane and Zack tie the knot, but the real joy stems from seeing Mrs. Kim forced to assume the role of obedient daughter, bending over backwards (two weddings!) and forwards (the ritual of 108 bows!) to please an unreasonable, fastidious parent. But it’s not just a case of the wedding tables turning on a tyrant; throughout the series, Sherman-Palladino reveals the layers beneath all these characters, showing us that there’s more to anyone than what we see on the surface. In this case, we learn that devout Mrs. Kim, in her own hymn-singing, Tofurky-cooking way, actually passed the rebel gene down to her punk rock-worshiping drummer daughter. Now, if only we can find out what happened to Mr. Kim. Uh, oh. Gotta run. Why? 58 seats, 62 Koreans. Go! –Matt Melis
Gilmost Line: “Lorelai Gilmore: disappointing mothers since 1968.” –Lorelai Gilmore
Gilmost Meal: Naughty-shaped bachelorette party cookies that expanded to obscene sizes when baked.
Only in Stars Hollow: Kirk starts a male bartender service called Yummy Bartenders to bring “truly yummy bartenders to the lonely women of Stars Hollow … we’re talking mouthwatering, tasty morsels of manhood.”
Lane’s Mix: “Heart of Glass” by Blondie
16. Women of Questionable Morals
Episode #: 11
Original Air Date: Jan. 25, 2005
While there might be a heated debate over #TeamJess, #TeamDean, or #TeamLogan, I think it’s safe to say that any actual or honorary resident of Stars Hollow (save for maybe Taylor Doose, who fears that a Luke/Lorelai breakup would cast the local economy into a Great Depression-like spiral) proudly flies the #TeamLuke colors. This episode shows why. Lorelai has always had a magical relationship with snow, which seems to always bring good tidings into her life. However, when this year’s first snowfall proves to be a cold, frozen kick in the ass, Luke steps in to reconcile the two. When she comes home from one of the lousiest days ever — complete with being offered the part of Town Whore in a Revolutionary War reenactment — she finds Luke waiting with an ice rink set up in her front yard. Who but Luke Danes, grumpy crank that he is, would go out of his way like that to cheer her up? It’s not a landmark episode in any way, despite seeing Kirk in colonial drag, but it’s such a sweet gesture that tells us all we need to know about who really deserves to be with Lorelai. Hint, it ain’t Digger Stiles. –Matt Melis
Gilmost Line: “If I run into any moderately weighted whores in my travels, I’ll let you know.” –Luke Danes
Gilmost Meal: Rum, milk, cookies, and hangover pancakes.
Only in Stars Hollow: The town Revolutionary War reenactment committee sets out to reenact the time a colonial prostitute from Stars Hollow changed the outcome of the American Revolution, resulting in understudy Kirk seducing a British general (Taylor) and leading him by hand to his warm boudoir. Glad the local media turned out in droves.