Warning: This recap for the “Summer” episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life contains storyline and character spoilers.
Lorelai and Rory both have epiphanies about their future, but one of their plans causes a major mother/daughter rift during the summer of this very angsty Gilmore year.
A lot of Lorelai and Rory time — some might say too much Lorelai and Rory time — is spent at the Stars Hollow Municipal Pool. It’s fun to see a new town locale, of course, but (also of course) the Gilmores aren’t there to swim. Their multiple appearances at the pool are more like one of their bits, as they lounge by the pool, reading, people watching, being jointly disgusted about all the kid pee swirling in the public waters, and mocking their fellow citizenry (woe be to the man who isn’t in tip-top shape, yet dares to traipse in front of the Gilmores in his swim trunks). For one day at the pool, they even hire — though we don’t see them actually get paid — local youngsters Dewey and Brandon to hold umbrellas over their heads to shade the sun, and fetch them cold drinks from coolers sitting right beside them. Rory’s man, er, boy, is even trained to refer to her as “Khaleesi.”
Not so fun for Lorelai: As she feared, Michel is leaving the Dragonfly Inn. He wants to make more money and have more interesting and fulfilling work. He asks her if she’ll add a spa to the Dragonfly, which would make him consider staying, but when she says no, he tells her he’ll give her three months to find a replacement before he moves to New York to work for the W Hotel.
Michel’s impending departure, a big fight with Luke, a less big fight with Emily, and a huge fight with Rory are all rolling around in Lorelai’s head when she hears a sad song from a Taylor-penned musical about Stars Hollow (read on). “I am not unbreakable… I am breaking right now” are probably the exact lyrics that lead her to go home and announce to Luke that she’s going to be leaving for a while to go “do Wild.” She means the Cheryl Strayed book, which she was reading earlier at the pool, about the woman who went on a life-changing 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail when she was facing personal loss and feeling lost.
Luke is… surprised, as are we viewers who’ve only known Lorelai as someone who does not love the great outdoors. “There’s dirt, bugs, animals, mosquitos, rivers. You have to carry your own backpack by yourself,” Luke points out.
“You have to sleep on the ground. You cook your own food. You boil your own water. You get your water from a stream… that’s in nature.”
But Lorelai insists. She needs to go find some direction for her future. “Because it’s never or now,” she tells Luke.
Rory’s personal life continues its downward spiral. She still hasn’t broken up with Paul, that running joke that gets less funny, more cruel each time it’s told. Especially since she finds herself in this position: She’s scheduled to return to London to visit Logan in a few weeks, but calls him to say she’s thinking of flying over earlier, as in the next day. That’s when she finds out she’d have to stay at a hotel if she does, because his fiancée Odette, the French heiress, has officially moved into his apartment.
Career-wise, she’s taken a new job: She’s the unpaid editor of the Stars Hollow Gazette. When longtime editor Bernie Roundbottom — go ahead, get the giggles out — retires, Taylor plans to close the paper down, but Rory can’t stand to see that happen since it’s the publication that first sparked her love of journalism. But she quickly finds out she inherits a staff consisting of two very senior employees, a readership that cares about little more than seeing a poem on the front cover every week, and a distribution model that consists of her and Lorelai running (literally) around town to deliver stacks of the paper to local merchants.
A visit from Jess — that Jess — reveals that she’s gotten into the habit of drinking her lunch from a scotch bottle stashed in her desk, but things start looking up, temporarily, when Jess tells her she just needs to write something she knows to get her creative mojo back. Specifically, he thinks she should write a book about her relationship with her mom, and it really does seem like the best thing anyone has suggested to Rory in the whole miniseries thus far. Rory throws herself into the project, planning out chapters and making the decision to move back to New York — to an apartment with a writing room in Queens, more specifically — to focus on her work. She’s suddenly so inspired that she can’t wait to tell Lorelai about the book… and that’s where things really go downhill. Lorelai’s into Rory writing a book about Rory, but she doesn’t want to be included. Her story is her story, she says, and she’s worked hard to maintain control of who knows what about her. She’s particularly upset that Emily will read about how she once left Rory in a bucket in a hardware store. No matter how much Rory tries to explain how the book will be a good thing, Lorelai insists it not be about her, and even when Rory tells her how much the project means to her and how much she needs to pursue it, Lorelai is strangely unmoved, almost to an Emily level of irrational reaction. Rory even tells Lane later, “She looked at me the way she looks at Grandma, that hurt.”
And the day gets worse. In a phone call with Logan, Rory decides to break up with him. “Except we can’t break up, because we’re nothing,” she says.
When Luke isn’t busy playing lifeguard at the municipal pool (seriously, “Summer” writer Dan Palladino really rode those pool storylines until the wheels fell off) and being the subject of Baywatch quips from the Gilmores, he’s playing daddy. Yep, April, the daughter all GG fans like to blame for that nasty blip in the Luke and Lorelai romance, pops in for a visit. She’s 22, an MIT student, about to go to grad school, has a nose ring that Luke hates, and she smokes pot. Or, that’s what she wants everyone to believe. When alone with pseudo stepsister Rory, she admits she has a lot of panic attacks and smoked pot just once and then ate a lot of cheese, and she begs Rory to take out her nose ring. Rory shares her tap dancing for stress relief videos with April, while Lorelai offers to help Luke pay for April’s tuition or summer trip to Germany. He refuses, saying April is his kid, and we’re reminded of how it’s not just Lorelai who makes certain parts of their lives so separate from each other.
Oh, back to the pool: Luke is the sponsor of the vandalized floaty hut at the pool. The man who once proudly sponsored a girl’s softball team is now the financial backer of the shed that houses the communal blow-up toys the children of Stars Hollow play with in the pee-addled waters of the municipal pool, and he’s so distressed about the hut being vandalized that he takes it upon himself and his tool box to fix the hut. Like we said, that pool set got a lot of focus in the episode. It must have set Netflix back some bucks.
Emily is awakened one Saturday at noon by a call from Rory. To repeat: Emily Gilmore… sleeping. Until. Noon. Yeah, she’s not dealing with her Richard-less life very well, and Rory is worried about her. She visits her at the Gilmore mansion, and when she sees Emily has a huge TV in the living room and is eating meals on a TV tray (to repeat: Emily Gilmore… TV tray), Rory suggests her grandma go to the country club and get involved with people and activities there. She took that advice, and when Lorelai arrives a week later to accompany Emily to the cemetery to unveil the headstone for Richard’s grave, Lorelai is introduced to Jack Smith, who may or may not be Emily’s new… companion? It’s actually a reintroduction, as Jack was at Richard’s funeral (and witnessed Lorelai’s awful sex in the pool house story), but he and Emily recently reconnected at the club. Lorelai’s freaked out at the thought of the coupling, which she shares with Emily. A fight ensues, as Emily accuses Lorelai of being relieved that she doesn’t have to worry about her anymore if she has a man in her life. Emily also lets Lorelai know she spent a half a day with Luke, looking at potential locations for him to expand the diner. Luke hadn’t told Lorelai about it, because it was the same day he found out from Emily that she quit therapy, something Lorelai lied to him about.
Luke and Lorelai confront each other about the lies and omissions later at the diner, and a fight ensues in which she asks why their lives are so separate, as partners, and he answers that it’s because that’s the way Lorelai wants it, that’s the way she has set it up.
Emily has yet again been the spark of another major Luke and Lorelai fight. But, for the first time, it may be because she actually wants them to make their relationship more permanent.
Elsewhere in Stars Hollow (and beyond)
* Beside Rory’s desk at the Gazette, she has hung a photo of the late, great, great, great David Carr, the New York Times media columnist and bestselling author who died in 2015.
* Our obsession from this episode is Lorelai’s Totes Y’all pool bag. It is all kinds of adorbs, but to own it would mean not only shelling out $165, but also making Reese Witherspoon $165 richer… the bag’s from her Draper James lifestyle brand. What to do, what to do?
* During a town meeting that unveils a new, very noisy air conditioning system, Rory is encouraged to join the Thirtysomething Gang, a group of locals who have returned home to squat with their ‘rents after getting chewed up and spit out by the real world.
* Everyone in town is annoying Rory by congratulating her for being back in town. She insists she’s not, but her invitation to join the Thirtysomething Gang, as well as Lorelai’s invite to join the Parents of the Thirtysomething Gang Gang — suggests otherwise.
* Bootsy, who runs the Stars Hollow newsstand, is getting a lot of time in this miniseries. Feels like we’ve seen him more on Netflix than we did in the entire run of the original series. He’s joined at the town meeting by Tom the contractor and music shop owner Sophie, two old faves we see for the first time in A Year in the Life.
* The town meeting also includes Taylor’s announcement of Stars Hollow: The Musical, an “enchanted” musical history of the town, with book and lyrics by Taylor. He hired gloomy composer Nat Compton to write the music, and he knows Nat is good, because he once lived in Brooklyn. Lorelai, along with Gypsy, Babette, Tom, Sophie, and newbie Donald, agrees to serve as the musical advisory committee for the play.
* We see the secret town bar that we learned about in “Spring.” It’s in a gated alleyway in town, and while Michel and Lorelai are having their talk about him leaving the Dragonfly, everyone suddenly shouts “Five-0! Five-0!” when Taylor is walking toward them. They immediately shut everything down and close the gates, and reopen when he passes. Lane and Zack are playing an acoustic gig as the venue’s entertainment.
* A song in Stars Hollow: The Musical is about an incestuous brother/sister couple during Revolutionary War times. Sample lyrics: “It’s a love revolution in a revolutionary time.”
Questions: We Got a Few
* Lorelai and Rory didn’t want to reach into a cooler sitting beside them to grab their own strawberry sodas. Do we really think Lorelai is going to rough it on a Wild-like hike for thousands, even hundreds, even tens of, miles?
* Until that phone call, did Logan think his affair with Rory would go on indefinitely, even if he marries Odette?
* Did Claudia land a role in Stars Hollow: The Musical?
Gilmore Gift of Gab
“There’s two of them, man. And when they get mad, they become like five little Korean people, and they focus all their Korean vitriol on Lane and me.” — Zack, explaining why it’s so crucial that the floaty hut at the municipal pool be fixed, lest the Van Gerbigs face the wrath of pool-toy-less twins Steve and Kwan.
“It’s like a postcard from the real world.” — April to Rory, upon seeing Rory living back at Lorelai’s house, in her childhood room.
“Fatherhood is just going to be a loooooot of pretending for me.” — Michel, explaining that Frederick has made him come to the municipal pool to get used to being around kids and pretending he doesn’t dislike them.
“That was a total clam jam.” — Babette’s cringeworthy reaction to Lorelai telling her to stop flirting with a young auditioner for Stars Hollow: The Musical.
“I’m here.” — Rory, to Taylor, when he asks her what her qualifications are to be the new Gazette editor.
“Do you have the George Clooney tequila? The one he enjoys with his celebrity friends on his many tequila-filled nights?” — Michel to the server at the secret bar. By the way, Michel, the tequila is called Casamigos.
“She’s the one who quit therapy and drove that poor woman into show business.” — Lorelai, about Emily, to Rory, who accuses Lorelai of not looking after grieving Emily. Lorelai is referring to Claudia, the therapist who’s now auditioning for Stars Hollow: The Musical.
“You think Michel only sees as far as his own reflection.” — Michel, endearingly speaking about himself in the third person while telling Lorelai he knows she’s been diverting part of her salary to him, to keep him employed at the Dragonfly.
“They should make a movie about poor Tori Spelling falling at Benihana… Tepanyaki: Grill of Death.” — Lorelai to Rory.
“I remember you. Punk.” — Esther, a Gazette employee, to Jess when he visits Rory at the newspaper office. Jess and Rory reveal they haven’t seen each other in four years.
“You sent a vulnerable, wounded turtle into a nest of horny, gray-haired honey badgers.” — Lorelai to Rory, about Rory steering Emily to socialize at the country club.
“There hath pass’d away a glory from the Earth.” — the William Wordsworth (not Longfellow, as it is mistakenly attributed in the episode) quote on Richard’s headstone (which has been redone five times, and still doesn’t meet Emily’s exacting specifications).
Remember When …
* A callback to the beginning of A Year in the Life: a song in the town musical confirms Taylor got the sewer system he so desperately wanted in “Winter.”
* Screenwriter Doyle does a favor for Rory and writes a review of The Jungle Book movie for the Gazette, but he’s unhappy with how she edits it. Just like how she was upset with how he edited her back at the Yale Daily News, where she was writing reviews of campus plays and comparing ballerinas to hippos.
* Rory did always love the Stars Hollow Gazette. Remember when she got herself a subscription to the paper when she went to Yale?
You’ve Been Gilmore-d:
* Guest stars in “Summer”: Sam Pancake (Lauren Graham’s real-life BFF) as Stars Hollow resident Donald; Ray Wise as (Emily’s new boyfriend?) Jack Smith; and (Tony winners and former real-life marrieds) Sutton Foster and Christian Borle as Violet and Carl, the stars of Stars Hollow: The Musical.
* Music in “Summer”: “I Feel the Earth Move” performed by Carole King as Sophie the music store owner; “Summer” by Charlotte Hatherley; “Bubbles” by the Free Design; and “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra.
* Pop culture and cultural references in “Summer”: Annie Hall, Woody Allen, MIT, Noam Chomsky, The Returned, NoDoz, the Savoy, the Dorchester, Matilda, Game of Thrones, White Walkers, W Hotel, The Godfather, Aaron Sorkin, Baywatch, David Hasselhoff, MS-DOS, Halt and Catch Fire, Pat LaFrieda, Chinatown, There Will Be Blood, Michael Bay, snooker, Bataan Death March, Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear, Co-Ed Call Girl, Tori Spelling, Benihana, James Nesmith, Hamilton, Broadway, ABBA, “Waterloo,” Nostradamus, Joe Allen, School of Rock, Fiddler on the Roof, Edward Albee, Buster Rhymes, Lin-Manuel Miranda, RZA, Kinky Boots, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, yard sales, Lucy van Pelt, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the Federalist Papers, Matlock, Andy Griffith, Longfellow, Duncan Phyfe furniture, Lou Grant, Dave Eggers, Nora Ephron, The Mysteries of Laura, On the Waterfront, “Gold Digger,” Kanye West, Narcos, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Sandra Lee, Ina Garten, and Lipitor.
* The food they ate in “Summer”: Popcorn, macaroni and cheese, O-So Strawberry soda, coffee, Pop-Tarts, hot dogs, Greek food, Chinese food, and Italian food.
* Stars Hollow celebrations in “Summer”: A town meeting, the opening of the municipal pool, the planning sessions for Stars Hollow: The Musical, and, upcoming, 2016’s Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer event.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is streaming on Netflix.