‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ Winter Recap: Girl, Unhappy

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Photos: Netflix
Photos: Netflix

Warning: This recap for the “Winter” episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life contains storyline and character spoilers.

From the first note of Sam Phillips’s familiar “la la la” score — we’re not the only ones who got a little teary at that, right? — it felt like the girls were back in town… or rather, we were back in their town, and there’s truly no place we’d rather be this holiday weekend. Especially since this Gilmore Girls revival wasted no time unfolding what the Gilmores and their friends, family, and whatever Kirk is, have been up to lo these many years.

Lorelai and Rory unite on the steps of the Stars Hollow gazebo, where Lorelai is carrying a takeout bag and holding a cup of coffee — Al’s Pancake House coffee, not Luke’s… is that a hint at what is, or isn’t, to come? Be patient. For now, it’s about this mother and child reunion, as Rory has been off doing Rory things, and is back in town for just a day. Lorelai accuses Rory of looking too good to have just stepped off an airplane. “You’ve been Goop-ed,” she tells Rory. “You’re doing yoga in the aisles, wearing cashmere sweatpants, while your comfort dog watches Zoolander 2 on his watch.” Rory denies it, saying she was on the plane wearing her Yonah Schimmel Knishery baseball cap, with a dab of toothpaste on her face to dry up a zit. It’s the signature rapid fire back-and-forth we know and love, and the Gilmores themselves give a meta shoutout to it. “Winded,” Rory says after their opening conversation. “Haven’t done that in a while,” Lorelai replies.

“Felt good,” Rory says, and we couldn’t agree more.

Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel (Credit: Netflix)
Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel (Credit: Netflix)

Lorelai

Lorelai is still running the Dragonfly Inn, with much help from Michel. (As for Sookie… be patient; more on that below.) In her personal life, Lorelai is living in her house, with Luke! They are completely back together, as Luke is at home making macaroni and cheese and parmesan cutlets for dinner when Lorelai and Rory get back to the house.

Photos: Netflix
Photos: Netflix

Lorelai seems happy, though she’s experiencing insomnia and weird dreams that Rory thinks might be her reaction to a recent devastating loss (see below). We also learn about a huge, incredibly hurtful fight she just had with Emily, and something her mother said to her has her wondering if Luke really wants more children. That leads her to call a surrogacy agency, run by one Paris Geller, who is only too happy to try to help Lorelai and Luke have a child via a surrogate mother. What follows is an awkward appointment, during which Luke asks if he’s expected to have sex with the surrogate mother, Paris tries to size up Luke’s baby batter by looking at his crotch, and it’s revealed that Neil Patrick Harris is one of Paris’s clients. Luke is so freaked out by the experience that he calls a halt on the whole surrogacy idea.

Rory

“I feel like this is my time to be rootless and see where life takes me,” Rory explains about her current plans, and lack of a permanent address. But Rory’s 32, a woman with a college degree, as Emily points out, and it is a little (lot, a lot) weird that she has decided to move out of her apartment in Brooklyn and into… a life of living out of the moving boxes of her possessions, which she has shipped off to Lorelai, Lane, Emily, Paris, and London. Why London? Logan. When last we saw him, in the Gilmore Girls series finale, Rory had rejected his marriage proposal, but all these years later, the two are still involved. No one, including Lorelai, knows about their “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” arrangement, wherein she has a boyfriend (keep reading), Logan has a girlfriend, but she makes frequent, allegedly business-related trips to London to be with him.

Photos: Netflix
Photos: Netflix

In one of the least charming bits of the episode — and sadly, it’s a recurring one — Rory has a boyfriend, named Paul, who she’s been seeing for two years. Despite this, and the fact that Lorelai, Luke, and Emily have all met him, none of them can remember his name or any conversations they’ve ever had with him. He even spent a whole day fishing with Luke, bonding over the fact that their family members owned hardware stores, yet Luke can’t remember any of that. Worst of all, Rory keeps forgetting about Paul, and about her intentions to break up with Paul. It’s a very sitcom-y plot that might have even sounded funny on paper, but when it plays out on screen, it’s just mean. Especially when we find out about Rory’s ongoing relationship with Logan. Poor Paul (who sorta looks like Jimmy Fallon); he may be forgettable, but it’s still pretty yucky when Logan picks up her cell phone and sees that Paul called… and Rory’s reaction is to mumble to herself that she’s got to remember to break up with that guy.

Related: ‘Gilmore Girls’ A to Z: From Al’s Pancake World to Zack Van Gerbig

Rory’s professional life isn’t shaping up much better. She recently wrote a much lauded — by Luke and Lorelai, anyway — “Talk of the Town” piece in The New Yorker, and the topic of the feature wants to collaborate on a book project with Rory. But as follow up work, including a canceled assignment from The Atlantic, fails to materialize, and her book subject, eccentric Naomi Shopshire (guest star Alex Kingston) hints at being more unstable than quirky, Rory’s assertion that she wants to be rootless is starting to seem more and more like her attempts to avoid committing to anything.

Luke

He’s still running Luke’s Diner, which has a new list of don’ts beside the “No Cell Phones” sign: “NO texting while ordering, MAN BUNS!, taking pictures of food, headphones. If I can hear your music through your headphones, WHY ARE YOU WEARING HEADPHONES?”

Cesar’s still head cook at Luke’s which has WiFi, but whose owner keeps giving out fake passwords for it to the customers. Luke has a collection of dictionaries he uses to decipher the letters he gets from daughter April — an MIT student who’s particularly fond of using the word “ontological” — and, because he’s so proud of Rory’s “Talk of the Town” piece, he became a New Yorker subscriber, and he redid the menus at the diner so he could put Rory’s story on the back cover.

Save that surrogacy plan Lorelai hatched with Paris, he’s also totally accustomed to Lorelai’s various and sundry quirks at this point. He even signs off on her DVR lineup, which includes several years of Lifetime Movie Network made-for-TV movies.

Richard and Emily

When Edward Herrmann died on New Year’s Eve in 2014, we knew that any future Gilmore Girls project would have to include this incredibly sad storyline: Richard Gilmore has passed. We don’t learn a lot of details in “Winter,” but we do know his death was sudden, sparing Emily and the girls from seeing him suffer. When we catch up with Emily, she, Lorelai, Rory, Luke, and Kirk — his car breaks down and strands him at Emily’s house — are having Friday night dinner, but tensions are high (surprisingly, none of them because of Kirk).

While Lorelai and Emily verbally tussle a bit about an enormous, wall-size portrait Emily has commissioned of Richard — for scale reference, Lorelai jokes one of his eyebrows is as long as her arm — it’s in a flashback to Richard’s funeral that we find out there has been a new, bigger-than-ever rift open between Emily and her daughter.

As she recalls the incident to Rory (who had had to leave the funeral early to return to London), Lorelai says she stayed with her mother at the Gilmore home. She had down quite a few tumblers of scotch and had not eaten in two days (Lorelai! Two days!), and was sleepy and taken aback when Emily asked a small gathering of Richard’s closest friends to end the day by sharing their favorite Richard story aloud. Not thinking clearly, and not feeling like she could turn her mother’s request down (though she tried, in one of Lauren Graham’s great physical comedy moments), Lorelai rambled on with two tales: one about Richard leaving her locked in a steamer trunk while he left for international travel, and one about how, when she was 15, he caught her having sex in the pool house during a party, and was further horrified when she told him it wasn’t her first time. Emily’s guests are stunned by Lorelai’s behavior, and Emily is embarrassed, furious, and hurt.

Lorelai tries to apologize after everyone else leaves, but Emily isn’t having it. “Your father was a great man, a pillar of the community, a man amongst men, and you dishonor him today like this in his own home,” Emily shouts. “You blow through life like a natural disaster, knocking down everything and everyone in your path.”

Related: Ken Tucker Reviews ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life — Winter’

She goes on to tell Lorelai she only does want she wants, that she probably has never even considered what Luke wants, where he wants to live, whether or not he wants more children. That hits Lorelai hard, and when Emily suggests Lorelai couldn’t care less about her father’s death, Lorelai tells her she’s horrible and leaves the house, before adding, “Full. Freakin’. Circle.”

But time lessens (if not heals) some of the wounds, and when Lorelai decides to check on Emily at her house, she finds her mother packing up many of her treasured possessions, things she’s spent years amassing, because a book on decluttering suggested casting off anything that doesn’t bring her joy. Lorelai says Emily might want to talk to a professional about her grief, and eventually Emily agrees she doesn’t know how to live life on her own. “I was married for 50 years,” she says. “Half of me is gone.”

A couple of days later, Emily calls Lorelai and thanks her, telling her she found a therapist and has plans to see her the next week. She says she’d like Lorelai to meet her therapist, too, and invites her to meet her at the appointment. Luke, who overhears Lorelai’s end of the chat, starts waving his arms around, but Lorelai misses his clues and the ones Emily gave her. She’s not just going to the appointment to meet the therapist.

“Oh, crap! I’m going to therapy with my mother,” Lorelai realizes.

Elsewhere in Stars Hollow (and beyond):

* We know Melissa McCarthy is making an oh-so-brief appearance sometime in the Year in the Life run, but it doesn’t happen in “Winter.” Instead, we learn that Sookie left on a six-month sabbatical, intending to take the time to come up with new recipes. But six months has turned into a year, as she’s now working with Dan Barber at Blue Hill Farm (real guy, real prestigious restaurant, at least to the foodies among us).

Meanwhile, with an empty kitchen and dining room at the Dragonfly, Michel has brought in a lineup of famous chefs to do pop-up eateries at the Inn, but Lorelai finds fault with all them, including, so far, Kogi founder Roy Choi (who guest stars in “Winter”), Alice Waters, April Bloomfield, David Chung, and Anthony Bourdain.

Yanic Truesdale (Credit: Netflix)
Yanic Truesdale (Credit: Netflix)

* Lane and Zack (and Brian and Gil) are still rockin’ out as Hep Alien, though Zack is upset that he has been promoted to “route supervisor” — tie mandatory — at his day job. Lane tries to sooth him by telling him he looks like a young Leonard Cohen. Brian still occasionally stays over in their spare bedroom, and their twins, Steve and Kwan, are tweens.

Todd Lowe, Keiko Agena (Credit: Netflix)
Todd Lowe, Keiko Agena (Credit: Netflix)

* Kirk is still an entrepreneur; he launches a ride sharing app called Ooober. Actually, it’s not an app… if someone wants to order a ride, he or she has to call Kirk’s mom, who will then call him with the details of where to pick up the passenger. While Lorelai’s beloved Jeep — yes, she’s still driving that Jeep — is being repaired by Gypsy, she uses Ooober for a ride to Emily’s home. Kirk asks if she wants water, and hands her a pitcher of it. And the only tunes he can offer her for the trip is him singing anything from The Carpenters catalog. By the end of “Winter,” the Uber folks have threatened action for copyright infringement, and Kirk insists it was his brother, “Dirk,” who was stepping on Uber’s legal toes.

Elsewhere, we don’t know the specific status of Kirk’s relationship with Lulu, but we do know that the whole town chipped in to buy him a pig — named Petal — to delay the talks he and Lulu were having about procreating.

Sean Gunn (Credit: Netflix)
Sean Gunn (Credit: Netflix)

* The town troubadour, Grant (Grant-Lee Phillips), is back, and sings some lovely, perfectly winter-y tunes. He also gets into a fight with his sister, who tries to get in some troubadour-ing time of her own. His sis is played by Louise Goffin, who, with her mom, Carole King, sings the Gilmore theme song, “Where You Lead.”

Related: ‘Gilmore Girls’: 10 Times Music Helped Make the Show Epic

* Michel is married! He and Frederick have been together for five years, but recently married. Michel seems happy, but is freaked out about what he sees as Frederick’s sudden desire to have children.

* Paris and Doyle were married and have children… but they’ve just split up. Doyle wanted to become a screenwriter, and has actually started to have some major success, which is a fun nod to Danny Strong, Doyle’s portrayer, who co-created Empire and wrote the scripts for Recount, The Butler, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Parts 1 and 2.

* Miss Patty is still running her dance school.

Questions: We Got a Few

*Will we ever get to meet Frederick, Michel’s husband?

*What’s the real deal with Emily’s new maid, Berta, and her husband Alejandro, the new handyman? They speak a language that no one, including someone who works at the United Nations, can recognize, and they’ve persuaded Emily to allow their whole family to move into the Gilmore mansion. They’re helping Emily move her stuff out the door pretty quickly when she decides to declutter and get rid of all her joyless possessions… do we trust that they’re legit? Or could there be some grifting afoot here?

*Why do Lorelai’s bags always look like she’s not actually carrying anything in them? She’s got a beautiful tan Chloe Marcie bag in “Winter,” and it looks totally flat.

Gilmore Gift of Gab

“The fact that the entire town was actually constructed in a giant snow globe probably has an effect on your bar count.” — Lorelai, perfectly summing up the vibe of Stars Hollow while commenting on Rory’s cell phone reception.

“You’ve got more burners than Omar Little.” — Lorelai name-checking the beloved Michael K. Williams character from The Wire while commenting on the fact that Rory carries three cell phones: one for business, one for personal use, one that is likely to get reception in Stars Hollow.

“Don’t make my stress-relief stressful.” — Rory to Lorelai, who wants to record video of Rory tap dancing in the middle of the night. Like her mother, Rory is also struggling with insomnia — yes, she makes a joke about how their middle of the night coffee consumption could be related — and to help her deal with that and her stress, she’s taken up tap dancing, which Lorelai does not think she’s very good at.

“I’m waiting for a part. It’s coming in a DeLorean from 1983.” — Gypsy to Lorelai, on what’s holding up the repairs on Lorelai’s very old Jeep.

“You couldn’t have just said, ‘He was well-read’?” — Rory to Lorelai, after Lorelai tells her about the Richard anecdote she shared at the funeral.

“After you pass the peyote, what bathroom will you use to throw up in?” — Emily, commenting on Rory’s choice to skip having a set address in order to live as a free spirit.

“Oh, that I could.” — Lorelai, after Emily asks her to explain who Kirk is.

“No one gets to have everything they want in life. All in all, I think I did pretty good.” — Luke, to Lorelai, after they have a discussion about whether Luke had wanted to have kids with Lorelai.

“Apologize to your parents, tell them you’ll pay them back for the two semesters you spent studying Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s effect on the feminist agenda.” — Paris, to her young assistant, right after she fired her.

“Please stop sussing.” — Luke, to Paris, after she tells him she was looking at his nether regions to “suss out” the condition of his sperm.

“Sturdy, reliable, great at packing.” — Paris, explaining why Army wives are the premium surrogate mother option.

“Fine, I’ll call and see if she wants to, but the last time it was Brad who put the kibosh on it.” — Paris, to one of her associates, who suggests Paris make a call to Angelina Jolie when one of their clients wants to return a baby.

“When you have a sewer system, you’re part of something bigger than yourself.” — Taylor, sounding full of, well, what that sewer system would carry.

“That was before Brett Ratner gave him the keys to the pool house.” — Paris, when Rory says Paris and Doyle used to be a good team.

“I love that you have a friend named Didi… makes you sound so ‘Fridays on ABC.’” — Lorelai to Rory.

“All those women with red noses and Skechers.” — Emily, telling Lorelai why she doesn’t want to return to her grief support group.

“You’ve been trying to get me into a therapist’s office ever since you saw that Tony Soprano show.” — Emily, to Lorelai’s suggestion that she see a professional to talk about her life without Richard.

“Law of averages.” — Luke, when Lorelai tells him she did something right with her mother.

Remember When…

* Even before the opening “la la las,” an audio round-up of memorable Gilmore Girls quotes plays, including “I smell snow,” “Luke can waltz,” “Norman Mailer, I’m pregnant!” and, of course, “Oy with the poodles already.”

* Paul Anka donned a headpiece to play The Amazing Doggy Swami in the original series. In “Winter,” he wears a 2016 tiara in one scene, and later walks through the town square wearing a plaid shirt, with an order pad and pencil hanging from his collar. Yep, he’s dressed like Luke, who asks why he’s missing the baseball cap. Lorelai says Paul Anka’s head is too big for Luke’s hats.

* Wonderful callbacks at Richard’s funeral: many of his beloved books, including Leaves of Grass; the Chuck Berry: Live at the Fillmore Auditorium album Rory had given him as a birthday gift; his golf clubs; and a gorgeous photo from Richard and Emily’s vow renewal celebration.

* Jason Stiles (guest star Chris Eigeman) didn’t end his relationships with Lorelai or Richard on a good note, but he did show up to pay respect to Richard, his former business partner, at Richard’s funeral. He also, knowing about Emily’s dislike of him, kept “a living room’s” distance from her, but toasted to Lorelai when she assured him she is happy. They even called each other by their childhood nicknames, “Digger” and “Umlauts.”

You’ve Been Gilmore-d

* Music in “Winter”: “Cat’s in the Cradle” (as sung by Lorelai), “Winterglow” (performed by Grant-Lee Phillips), “Top of the World” (as sung by Kirk), “Top of the World” by Shonen Knife, “Time” by Tom Waits, “Bye Bye Blackbird” by Peggy Lee, Joe Jackson’s “I’m the Man” (as performed by Hep Alien), Fountains of Wayne’s “Valley Winter Song” (performed by Grant-Lee Phillips), and “Here You Come Again” by Dolly Parton.

* Additional pop culture references in “Winter”: Ben Affleck as Superman, Fitbit, Lena Dunham, Neil Patrick Harris, Doogie Howser, Huckleberry Finn, Trainspotting, Inside Out, The Odd Couple (Lorelai is the Oscar, Luke is the Felix), Marvel, the Kardashians, Eastern Promises, Radio City Music Hall, The Rockettes, The Atlantic, Gail Collins, the 92Y, The New York Times, Rock of Ages, Anthem of the Seas cruise ship, Twitter, Anthony Bourdain, Conde Nast, Vanity Fair, Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols, Johnny Depp’s “Wino Forever” tattoo, Cyrano de Bergerac, Peter Jackson, The Argonaut, Spinal Tap, Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Inside Llewyn Davis, John McPhee, Brangelina, Benicio del Toro, Candies, Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Woody Allen, and The Sopranos.

* The complete list of LMN movies on Lorelai and Luke’s bedroom DVR: Baby Sellers, Unfinished Betrayal, The Girl He Met Online, The Boy She Met Online, Deadly Vows, Lies He Told, My Nanny’s Secret, Restless Virgins, Deadly Honeymoon, Killer Crush, Accidental Obsession, Murder in a College Town, Crimes of the Mind, Fatal Acquittal, and Not With My Daughter. Extra credit pop culture mention: the 2013 flick Restless Virgins stars Vanessa Marano, who played Luke’s daughter April on Gilmore Girls.

* Food and drink consumed in “Winter”: Coffee from Al’s Pancake World, coffee from Luke’s, coffee from the Dynasty Makers office, coffee at Lorelai’s house, mini donuts, Luke’s mac and cheese and parmesan cutlets, tacos from Al’s Pancake World, martinis, two bags of breakfast food from Luke’s, a sprinkle donut at Luke’s, dinner at Emily’s (something that was crunchy and mushy at the same time, and which may have contained peanut butter), scotch, bourbon, half a cheeseburger, fluke carpaccio with lime and chilis, and glogg.

* Stars Hollow shenanigans in “Winter”: a winter festival during which Kirk sells glogg, and Taylor’s campaign to get rid of septic tanks throughout the town and switch to a sewer system instead. Taylor has placed signs all over town, including a very festive one that reads: “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth… and sewers for Stars Hollow!”

* Rory lives (lived) in Brooklyn — hence the mention of Yonah Schimmel — as does Alexis Bledel.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is streaming now on Netflix.