The Gilmore Girls series, much like a fantastic Thanksgiving dish, came with a delicious mixture of ingredients that combined to make a perfect show. Take a sweet, strong bond between young mom Lorelai and her teen daughter, Rory. Add in some savory conflict between Lorelai and her well-to-do parents. Smear on a backdrop of a town of seriously quirky characters who do things like hold wakes for cats and debate about town troubadours. Stir in generous amounts of romance, the forbidden and the slow-burn and everything in-between. Season with witty humor and cultural references to everything from David Bowie to classic literature to Absolutely Fabulous.
It always made for a great watch, and that’s why Jen of Heartforms and I are so excited to see the new Gilmore Girls episodes coming to Netflix this week! In our enthusiasm for all things Gilmore, we’ve rewatched the best moments of the series to bring you our top ten Gilmore Girls episodes, complete with recaps of why they’re so essential to the series.
Season 1 Episode 9, “Rory’s Dance”
Rory’s first formal dance at Chilton! This episode is full of great Rory moments and life lessons. Rory, initially reluctant to go, decides to attend after Lorelai convinces her not to skip the dance–or anything else in life–because she’s afraid. Tristan torments Rory one second, gazes longingly at her the next, and later gets into a fight with Dean over her. Emily chides Rory that you don’t go running out the door when a boy honks for you. Dean is in top form too: he doesn’t want to go, doesn’t want to wear a suit, and doesn’t want to dance, yet does all of these things for Rory. And when she asks if he’s her boyfriend, he replies, “I am if you want me to be.” At the end, Rory and Dean fall asleep overnight at Miss Patty’s dance studio, which causes two epic fights: first between Lorelai and Emily, and then between Lorelai and Rory. Both are heartbreaking and real and give us great insight into the three generations of Gilmore women.
Season 1 Episode 13, “Concert Interruptus”
“Concert Interruptus” shows the sparks that fire two of the show’s great relationships: Rory and Paris’s friendship, and Lorelai and Luke’s loveship. Lorelai, Sookie, Rory, and the Chilton mean girls go to a Bangles concert in NYC, where we see the beginnings of Rory and Paris not being total enemies. Madeline and Louise take off with the guys they met at the concert, while Paris chooses to stay and enjoy the show–so much that she later tells Rory, “I think this is the best night I’ve ever had.” Meanwhile in Stars Hollow, Luke flips out when he sees Lorelai wearing a jacket that used to belong to an ex-girlfriend. This prompts Lorelai to start asking about the girlfriend, and Sookie accuses her of being jealous. Of course, we don’t get to see Luke and Lorelai together for a few more seasons, but Lorelai’s too-interested questions about Luke’s romantic past are a great indication of what’s to come.
Season 2 Episode 16, “There’s the Rub”
If I had one complaint about Gilmore Girls, it’s that there wasn’t enough Emily/Lorelai bonding. Sure, they have vast differences in personality, values, wardrobes, and humor, but I’d love to have seen more of an underlying affection (however deeply buried) there. Luckily, in “There’s the Rub,” we get some of that. In the episode, Emily gifts Lorelai a weekend at a spa–and then invites herself along. What follows is Lorelai’s supposedly relaxing weekend growing tiresome by her mother’s incessant chatter and directives. “Compliment your masseur’s hands, Lorelai,” she chides during their massages. The two eventually start to bond when Emily agrees to wear Lorelai’s lipstick (a shade called “Vicious Trollop,” which should’ve been the name of this episode, IMO) and go to a bar together. Of course, because no two Gilmores can get along forever, after they have some fun Emily becomes angry at Lorelai for causing her to behave inappropriately. Later, in a poignant moment, she asks her daughter, “Why can’t we have what you and Rory have?” Eventually, they end up connecting again, through stealing robes, like you do. In the subplot, Rory has her own unlikely bonding when Paris lies on her behalf after Dean is angry and jealous about hot bad boy Jess showing up at her place.
Season 2, Episode 22, “I Can’t Get Started”
This second season episode is great for both its Lorelai/Chris and Rory/Jess romantic plotlines along with some great moments with Sookie, Paris, and Kurt. It will also reign forever as the episode where Lorelai’s catchphrase “Oy with the poodles already!” appears. On a whim, Lorelai invites Rory’s father Christopher to the rehearsal dinner for Sookie’s wedding, and they share a moment on a front step laughing over Brigadoon references. (Also important to note: Lorelai is wearing an incredible dress in this scene.) Chris reveals that he and girlfriend Sherry are on the outs, and later he and Lorelai begin kissing. “I never dreamed I’d get this lucky,” Chris says to her, and they spend the night together–only to discover moments before Sookie’s wedding that Sherry has found out she’s pregnant and thrown a wrench into their plans to rekindle their relationship. Meanwhile, Rory discovers Jess in the woods before the wedding and can’t help but kiss him–despite still being with Dean. (That kiss rating as one of the best kisses in a show packed with awesome lip-locks.) As usual, colorful characters add touches of humor to this sometimes-tense episode. Sookie is adorable as ever as the bride-to-be, and Paris intense and hilarious as she asks the more likeable Rory to be her vice presidential candidate in her bid for student body president–or, as she puts it, the “Damon to my Affleck.” Though the best line belongs to Kirk, who after telling Luke he hopes he can meet a woman at Sookie’s wedding, confesses, “I’m so damn lonely not even Animal Planet does it for me any more.”
Season 3, Episode 7, “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?”
A fan favorite, this episode showcases some of the best romantic tension the show has to offer, plus the strong mother/daughter bond between Lorelai and Rory and a smorgasbord of town quirk. “They Shoot Gilmores” revolves around the Stars Hollow Dance Marathon, where couples must remain dancing to Big Band music, minus a few breaks, until one couple is left standing. Lorelai is desperate to win, especially since Kirk usually takes the trophy. After a dance partner bails on her, she cajoles Rory into being her plus-one, and the two start the marathon with caffeine and high hopes. Rory’s still with Dean, but she isn’t over the forbidden kiss she shared with Jess, who’s driving her crazy by making out with a new girl all over town. Rory and Jess are openly hostile to one another throughout the marathon, but each word is spiced with tension–and Dean speaks this truth in the episode’s best line near the end: “You’re into him, and he’s into you.” Along with the high-stakes romance, there are some smaller, sweeter moments with three other couples in the episode: Dave and Lane, Luke and Lorelai, and Paris and Jamie.
Season 3, Episode 9, “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving”
This is another great episode to see the range of weirdness that is the Gilmores’ hometown of Stars Hollow. Lorelai and Rory have somehow accepted invitations to four Thanksgiving dinners–Mrs. Kim’s, Luke’s, Sookie’s, and the older Gilmores–and they’ve got to keep them all. At Mrs. Kim’s, tofu is being served and Lane’s love interest, Dave, is pretending to be a Christian musician to play for Mrs. Kim to get in her good graces so she might one day allow him to date Lane–which, I think, makes him probably the best guy on this show, since he plays for hours without a break and for very little money. Later, Sookie’s horrified at her husband Jackson’s insistence at deep-frying their Thanksgiving meal–and getting progressively more drunk and hilarious as the night wears on. The Gilmore dinner is filled with conflict and tension over Rory’s future, because that’s the dish served most often there. Somewhere in there, Lorelai, Luke, Rory, and Jess sit down to a sweet meal at Luke’s Diner. Though this episode ultimately belongs to Dave and Lane, who share their first kiss in the bushes outside her house, once Mrs. Kim allows him to stop playing.
Season 4, Episode 13, “Nag Hammadi Is Where They Found the Gnostic Gospels”
Jess is back in Stars Hollow after having left town a year earlier and ghosting on Rory. He can’t get back out of town because he’s waiting for Gypsy to fix his car, so of course he runs into Rory a bunch and each time runs away, until Rory, understandably irritated, yells, “I get to leave first!” on the next encounter. Jess chases her through the streets of Stars Hollow and blurts out, “I love you,” gets in his car, and drives off. That Jess loves Rory is a revelation to no one–even Gypsy says, “That’s not her. She cut her hair,” when she sees Jess staring at the back of a girl with long, brown hair–but that Jess finally does an about-face and admits it makes my heart soar. Other stuff happens too, but this episode is all about that “I love you.”
Season 4, Episode 22, “Raincoats and Recipes”
“Raincoats and Recipes” is one of the strongest episodes of the series, and not just because it’s the episode where Luke and Lorelai finally–finally!–kiss for the first time. Lorelai and Sookie’s new inn is almost open, and they invite the townspeople over for a weekend test run. All the familiar characters attend, including Kirk, who asks Luke to babysit him because he’s nervous he’ll have a night terror in front of his girlfriend (and, being Kirk, those nightmares often lead him to end up naked on a rooftop). So Luke’s got one eye on Kirk and another on Lorelai, whom he’s been trying to date. But then her ex Jason shows up and claims they’re still together. An angry Luke confronts Lorelai, and the two argue and then kiss while arguing, taking turns saying, “Will you just stand still?” Meanwhile, Rory has her own first when she chooses to lose her virginity to Dean–a still-married Dean. Lorelai comes home and discovers her, and the two have an incredibly raw and emotional fight. The last scene, of Rory crying on the steps outside, is gut-wrenching but powerful.
Season 5, Episode 7, “You Jump, I Jump, Jack”
Secret societies! Investigative journalism! Jumping! This is the episode where Logan takes Rory to the Life and Death Brigade’s gathering and Rory, in a ball gown and holding Logan’s hand, ends up jumping from on high with an umbrella. Dean, with whom she’s playing endless phone tag, is on his way out, while Logan is clearly on his way in, and we’re all a little relieved because of the whole adultery-with-Dean thing. (Still love Dean, though!) This episode also has some Lane sweetness as she goes on her first date with Zack. Those two are adorable in their awkward cuteness: they get dressed up and … decide to go nowhere. Instead, they watch a movie on the couch, exactly like they did the night before. Zack walks Lane back to her room and their first kiss occurs as Zack is carrying sleeping Brian on his back. That their dates resemble their normal hanging out, with nicer clothes and fewer people (the previous night Zack was in his underwear and Brian was there) just shows that they are made for each other.
Season 6, Episode 11, “The Perfect Dress”
Rory starts putting her Yale life back together after the boat shenanigans with Logan, dropping out, and the epic fight with Lorelai that sent her to her grandparent’s pool house for several months. She moves into Paris’s apartment, which is in an unsavory part of town, and Logan, who’s broken up with her and now regrets it, is trying to woo her with coffee and rescue her from squalor. Meanwhile, Lorelai is planning her wedding, and we can feel a heartbreak coming because it’s all just too perfect. Luke even sees her in her perfect wedding dress, and a flashing red sign might as well have come on the screen at that moment. But for me this episode belongs to Lane and her mother. For most of the series, we’ve seen Mrs. Kim stifle and try to control Lane. Finally, we see evidence of Mrs. Kim’s beating heart. Lane, angry and moody after the break up with Zack and the break up of Hep Alien, sulks around the antique shop giving everyone attitude … a little bit like Mrs. Kim does. Finally, Mrs. Kim has had enough and, after pulling all the shades, retrieves some hidden liquor and sits Lane down: “You have grieved and now we move on.” And after the first shot: “one more.”