This Season 2 'Gilmore Girls' Episode Doesn't Get Enough Love
Though I'm sure we all have episodes of the series that we like less than others (as well as ships, which is my way of saying how could anyone ship Rory/Dean are you insane), truly bad Gilmore Girls episodes simply don't exist to fans. Sure, maybe there's some that we just fail to remember altogether, and there are always going to be the ones we favor less, but overall they're all pretty great. Of course, super-fans are likely to all be in agreement as to which are truly the best episodes of Gilmore Girls ever (and for the most part, these are universal), but every fan also has their own personal favorite episode which they believe deserves a little more love. And the most underrated Gilmore Girls episode, in my opinion, is Season 2, Episode 16 ("There's The Rub").
You're probably already aware that a lot was going on by this point in this second season. Lorelai's relationship with her parents was still completely fraught, but repeatedly appeared to be on the mend. Jess was arrogantly parading his and Rory's undeniable chemistry all around Stars Hollow whenever he had a chance to. And Dean was trying desperately to keep Rory as his girlfriend and to keep Jess as far away from her as possible.
What I love about "There's The Rub" is the way that the episode accomplishes so much by way of a story line in which, nothing really happens. I mean, here's the quick overall synopsis of the story for you — Lorelai goes on a spa weekend with Emily leaving Rory alone at home, who takes the opportunity to order takeaway and do some laundry (totally my idea of a fun night, too). Rory's evening is then gatecrashed by Paris (who wants to study), Jess (who wants to hang out and be a nuisance), and Dean (who just wants to surprise his girlfriend with some ice cream. Poor Dean).
And that's pretty much it. Except, the genius of the episode is exactly that — the central conflict doesn't come from any particular event but, if anything, it comes from a distinct lack of action. "There's The Rub" shows relationships at their most casual, banal, and essentially purposeless. It presents the delight of enjoying an intensely deep connection with another person, as well as the other side of that feeling — the hurtful realization that you may not share as deep a connection with someone that you desperately wished you did.
With Lorelai and Emily's relationship, for instance, we see (possibly for the first time in the show) their absolute great potential to be a mother and daughter who get along with each other. They share lipstick, they break out of the boring spa regime to hunt down some steak, and they go to a bar to enjoy martinis together.
On the one side of their relationship, we have Emily allowing herself to take influence from her daughter and let her hair down and have fun, and on the other we have Lorelai taking influence from her mother in understanding the importance of, and pursuing, a close relationship with her.
Though everything is seemingly going great for them both, it becomes quickly evident that this is something that is completely temporary. After Lorelai encourages her Mom to have a little more fun than she was maybe comfortable with (by dancing with a man who isn't Richard), Emily quickly turns on her daughter, returning them their course back toward the slightly soured, dysfunctional relationship as they've always known.
To Emily, Lorelai is improper, careless, and lacking crucial standards. To Lorelai, Emily is uptight, stuck up, and obsessed with maintaining those same standards to a high degree of absolute lunacy. It's a heart-wrenching sequence, particularly for how we're given a glimpse of the sort of relationship both of them want from each other, and are clearly capable of delivering, alongside the obstacles which may always prohibit them from achieving that.
And then we have Rory's story line, which helps to define three of the most important relationships of the entire show — Rory and Jess, Rory and Dean, and Rory and Paris. Though Rory is more than happy to spend her entire night on her own, simply folding laundry and going back for seconds on a gigantic Indian takeaway order, the universe clearly has other plans for her.
Both Jess and Paris arrive at Rory's home, unannounced and uninvited, with extremely flimsy agendas for being there. Jess claims that he is simply bringing food that Luke made for her, and Paris claims that she needs help studying.
As becomes all too evident as the episode progresses, both Jess and Paris appear to be using just about any excuse to simply hang out and see Rory. We not only see the start of Paris and Rory's friendship (which, prior to this point, was exceptionally tumultuous), but we're also given a sad glimpse into who Paris actually is. She's neurotic, yes, but she's also incredibly lonely, and in Rory she's found someone whom she can consider not only an equal, but a companion.
We're also reminded of just how smart Jess is, and how much of an intellectual connection he and Rory share. At one point, we're treated to Paris, Jess, and Rory all enjoying a debate regarding whether the literature of the beat movement has any value or not. He might not have the same quick-paced set of references on hand as Paris does, but he manages to keep up with the conversation and give as good as he gets. Whether Rory wanted to enjoy a night on her own or not, it's clear that the night she ended up with was far more thrilling.
So when Dean finally turns up only to find Jess and Paris hanging out with his girlfriend on a night when she vowed to him that she just wanted to be alone, he's obviously hurt. Like the ice-cream he brings over to surprise her with after she's just filled up on Luke's fast food and Indian take-out, he might be sweet, but it's clear that Rory no longer has space for him.
Ultimately, "There's The Rub," as the title may suggest, is all about those painful, uncomfortable epiphanies that you'd rather never acknowledge. It's about fighting for a relationship which may be beyond saving, and making discoveries about yourself, and someone else along the way. And in the world of Gilmore Girls, where the character development is so rich that you form genuine bonds with these characters, that's probably all the action that you ever need.
Images: Warner Bros. Television (6)