TV & Movies

20 Years Ago, Rory Began Her Worst Gilmore Girls Era

One 2003 episode set her on a questionable path.

Fall usually conjures the urge to rewatch Gilmore Girls. And with that comes analyzing details you previously missed and asking yourself questions like, Who’s funding all this food? Or, who is Rory’s baby daddy? (Come on, that one’s obvious.)

But one of the fandom’s perennial discussion topics is Rory’s fall from grace.

Yes, that’s a dramatic way of putting it. But considering Rory’s privilege and her natural proclivity for the written word, she’s made some questionable choices in that area — from sleeping through an interview to being weirdly entitled about her job prospects.

So, where did the descent begin? Getting negative feedback from Mitchum Huntzberger, stealing a boat, and dropping out of school in Season 5 all might seem like the most obvious turning point.

But as it turns out, there was a sign even earlier in Rory’s Yale career that signaled a shift — and it’s in Season 4’s “Die, Jerk,” which first aired exactly 20 years ago.

Rory’s Review

To recap: Rory is new to the Yale Daily News when Doyle, her editor, says he didn’t print her chamber music review because it was boring.

Rory takes on another assignment reviewing a ballet, where she and Lorelai exchange body-shaming comments about the dancer. (Sadly, that’s not the weird part. They do that a lot, but it’s usually in private.)

Warner Bros.

To make her next review less boring than the first, Rory actually works those mean comments into the piece — going so far as to compare the ballerina to a hippo.

Though she questions that decision after being confronted by the dancer, Sandra, it’s clear by the end of the episode that she hasn’t learned much. “Sometimes you have to make an enemy,” she tells Lorelai, defending it as part of her job as a journalist.

A Knee-Jerk Reaction To Criticism

The entire saga is messy and mean-spirited, and the girls are like that sometimes.

What makes the episode telling in terms of Rory’s overall career is that it starts a trend of her having impulsive, knee-jerk reactions to criticism.

We know that Rory has been able to thoughtfully write her way out of tricky assignments before — like back at Chilton, where she turned a story about parking lot paving into a moving piece that even made Paris jealous.

Warner Bros.

If she had given Doyle’s comments a little more time to marinate, she probably could have turned in an equally compelling, non-evil review about the ballet — even if she hated it.

Her Foreshadowed Fate

As if the episode’s connection to Rory’s future wasn’t clear enough, Richard also drops a prescient pearl of wisdom while defending his granddaughter’s article.

“Sometimes, people don’t know at a young age that they’re not good at doing something,” he says. “Now that poor girl can go to business school.” That’s quite similar to what Mitchum would tell Rory during her Season 5 internship at the Stamford Eagle Gazette. He said she wasn’t cut out to be a reporter — after which she stole a boat, got arrested, and dropped out of school.

Warner Bros.

A decade later, in A Year in the Life, Rory is so flustered by her book project falling through that she hastily signs up for an article she doesn’t really want to write... and ends up sleeping with a source dressed like a Wookiee.

Though it might not seem like a super impactful episode at first glance, “Die, Jerk” established a pattern of Rory internalizing criticism about her work — to disastrous results.