Woohoo. Jess Mariano appears. You can say what you will but you cannot deny that that is one pretty face.
But first, a summary: Luke’s rebellious, troubled and moderately entitled nephew arrives in town because his mother ships him there without a whole lot of negotiation or consent. Meanwhile, Paris begins her reign of mild terror as editor of the school paper and tries her best to make Rory’s life difficult.
I am genuinely interested in how I will write about Jess. He was the love of my teenage years which makes me biased; knowing his character development in later years makes me biased; having Doormat Dean to compare him to (and wanting Dean to disappear ASAP) makes me biased. But I also now think more critically about him. So we’ll see.
SPOILER ALERT. I have seen all the seasons before, so I am reviewing retrospectively. SPOILER ALERT.
Enter the nephew
I really think I should begin by saying that both Liz and Luke suck for not even talking to Jess and asking him what his thoughts and feelings were about moving from NYC to a small, cheesy town in Connecticut. Even being the mildly emo kid he was, he probably had friends, he had a city, he may have had a partner even. He had a (probably unstable, emotionally weird) life in NYC and the “adults” decided to just yank him out of there because her mom couldn’t get her shit together. I am not saying that he should have stayed in New York because I don’t know that, but at least talking and negotiating with Jess like he is, I don’t know, not a three-year-old, would have been nice. It would have also made Jess less resistant to Luke’s attempts at supporting him.
Jess looks at the town and the song goes “This is hell, This is hell, I’m sorry to tell you. It never gets better or worse…” And the thing is, I love Stars Hollow. But I love to watch it, on a screen, while I am sitting at home in the middle of a vibrant, fun city. For Jess and me both, a small town that does silly events that you’re considered weird for not attending, where everyone knows everything about each other IS hell. Going back to the non-consensual yanking-him-off-of-his-city thing: I would be angry too, and I had a relatively okay childhood compared to the bits and pieces we know about his.
Okay, he is rude. He is angry. I guess how rude versus justifiably angry he is depends on how bad we imagine things to have been for him back in New York with his mom, Liz. But also, he is 17 and he got dragged to the cheesiest town in the US, so… I dunno.
Oh Paris, you evil Queen
One of the wonderful things Amy Sherman-Palladino gave to the world was discovering Liza Weil and writing Paris Geller specifically for her. Liza had auditioned for Rory, and Amy saw Paris in her. I always find it so interesting when writers write characters for a performer. Like, how does one do that?
How does one think “Hmmm this actress looks like she could make Rory’s life a living hell and be an academic overachiever who then turns out to be a loyal, amazing friend to the same girl she hated in high school?”
Paris: Problem, Miss Gilmore?
Rory: No, no problem at all. I love this assignment.
Paris: I’m glad.
Rory: I’m gonna write the best piece on pavement you’ve ever read.
Paris: I hope so.
Rory: And next week when you give me the scoop on the new copper plumbing installation, I’m gonna be just as thrilled.
Paris: I like a team player.
Rory: And no matter how many crappy, stupid, useless assignments you throw at me, I am not going to quit and I’m not going to back down. So you can go home tonight and think about the fact that no matter what you do and no matter how evil you are, at the end of the year on my high school transcript it’s going to say that I worked on the Franklin.
You go, Rory.
A Welcome to the Weirdest Place dinner
I know it seems normal in this town to hang out, as a teen, with 30-somethings that get aroused by the lemons they grow but for normal, angsty, city kids, it is probably one of the circles of hell.
Lorelai acts like it’s the most outrageous thing that Jess doesn’t want to be inside with these people, or that he wants to drink a beer. Lorelai got “lucky” (if by “lucky” we mean “your daughter does nothing even remotely fun or illegal ever”) but most kids, including her when she was young – and far more privileged and sheltered than Jess – do these things. Lor knows nothing about Jess and in the conversation they have, she is implying his feelings and his opinions are just him wanting to be angsty for no reason. Jess shows over the months that he has a lot of anger, that he has street smarts which means he needed them at some point, and that he is never given a chance – except for Luke, kind of. But Lorelai saying that “she’s been there” when her big problem was that her parents were rich and wanted her to get married and his problems are a junkie, drunk mess of a mother, an absent father, a working class childhood probably, and now a new home that he did not consent to be sent to, full of weird friendly people whose idea of a normal teenager is Miss Perfect Angelface Gilmore is just… ugh. Too much, Lor.
I get Lorelai was trying to give some advice but it comes off as terribly entitled and not thinking anything through. Telling a teenager, as an adult, that “they’ll get over it” does not make them get over it. Jess needs to go through that anger and those feelings. Jess will realize Luke is amazing but he will do so eventually. Granted, it takes him fucking long. But Lor giving him the overly optimistic, “you’re so lucky to be here, give life a chance”, completely-ignorant-of-context speech would have made me want to punch her too. Ending the talk with the “I want to throw a pie in your face” thing is also stupid. If you are trying to get through to a teenager, acting like one is probably not going to do the trick.
And Luke is right, it was not her place. She had good intentions, but it was not her place, and her method was terrible. Luke is in way over his head. And Jess is screwed up – by all the adults in his life, mostly. How about asking him how he feels – even if he had said nothing? Recommending him a cool record store? Telling him a funny story about Luke or a ridiculous story about the town? I don’t know. Anything would have been better. It’s like Lorelai was never a teenager when it comes to Jess, and I dislike her a lot when it comes to him.
I have a lot of feelings right now.
Luke throwing it to Lorelai’s face that she got pregnant at 16 and that doesn’t show the best decision-making skills is slut-shaming and a low blow and he DOES deserve a pie to his face.
That scene makes me laugh to this day. But since we are taking this seriously, can we not pretend this is anywhere near the realm of OK? Jess is being an angry teenager about things that anyone would be angry about. He blames Luke for taking him away from his friends and school and city, which is incorrect, but maybe understandable, especially since NO ONE WILL TALK TO HIM. He is dealing with it rather badly, yes, and stealing things is not cool, but pushing a 17yo into a lake does not usually yield positive results. I am just guessing.
After that and to make things worse, without even apologizing (at least not on screen) for pushing him into a fucking lake like he is the angsty teenager, Luke storms into his apartment and takes on an “I’m going to be harsh and irrational” approach to talking to Jess. Jess just told him he feels like Luke personally forced him into the town, how about talking about that? Instead he tries to forbid everything for Jess which is ineffective in every way, and further isolates the kid. Luke clearly needs some help because he is a trainwreck. A well-intentioned trainwreck, but a trainwreck nonetheless.
I know Jess is shitty to Rory later in many and varied ways, but he gets her. And he is as smart as her. And the conversation they had at the end of this episode had more chemistry and seemed more fun than every conversation that Dean was ever capable of. I think I just figured it out, that I like Jess and Rory a lot as friends.
I’m going to end this review full of feels with the visual of a sad pouty face that I made when Rory tells Max that she really wanted him to be her step-dad. Rory never really talks about her feelings on the whole Max breakup thing to be supportive of her mom, but she obviously had emotions invested in that relationship too.
But also a happy face because Max Medina wanted to be a clown, and that is legit. I now want to see him in full clown costume!