Directing and writing credits:
Written by Amy Sherman-Palladino, directed by Sarah Pia Anderson. This is a very solid ASP episode - probably in my top five. My friend Ali and I have a master list of all-time favorite "GG" episodes and "Rory's Birthday Parties" is the first Season 1 episode on it. Sarah Pia Anderson is a director I'm not familiar with, but she did a fine job here. This is the only episode of "GG" she's directed.
I wish I could find some interviews about what it's like to work with the Palladinos. ASP definitely seems forthright about her vision, and I can't imagine outside directors having a ton of control to made bold stylistic choices. I'd like to know more about the workflow and how closely each of the directors worked with Amy and Dan. The Gilmore Guys have done some really great interviews with cast and crew that I should probably revisit in light of this rewatch.
Most batshit crazy outfit:
This episode was filled with gross outfits, but I especially hated Paris's get-up during the college fair. It somehow managed to look both matronly and like something Molly the American Girl doll would wear. Her hair is in a sloppy, long french braid down her back and her tits are positively suffocated by a red turtleneck, layered underneath a brown suede, zipped-up jacket. Her skirt is grey, red, and black argyle and has cargo pockets on the side. I hope they're filled with meth, because it's the only thing that could possibly explain away this goddamn disaster of an outfit.
I also can't not mention Lorelai's outfit at Rory's birthday party. She's wearing a graphic, long-sleeved t-shirt with contrasting sleeves and a furry, leopard print collar. I assume she found this monstrosity in a $5.99 bargain bin at Rue21. She's chosen to accessorize it with a rhinestone barrette, wide leather belt, and more of that godawful brown lip color (this time it appears to be a gloss). She needs to be stopped. If Rory really loved her mom, she'd nominate her for "What Not to Wear" and let Clinton Kelly go to town on this bish.
Most irritating Rory or Lorelai moment:
It's nice that Rory wants to keep the peace between Lorelai and Emily, but she really needs to learn how to express her feelings. Gf really hates confrontation and it's probably the reason why so many people walk all over her. Of course it was annoying that Emily invited a bunch of classmates to Rory's birthday party without consulting her; however, if Rory was as mature as the show wants us to think she is, she would have called Emily and explained the situation. It probably wouldn't have changed the invite fiasco, but at least Emily would have had a heads-up and Rory could have saved her random outburst of anger for something more deserving.
Also, maybe I'm just a shameless materialist, but I bet all those students brought presents. Just take the presents and shut up, Rory. Presents make the social awkwardness worth it. You'll never see these people again after high school.
Number of times Rory or Lorelai treat their bff like shit:
Once again, Sookie slaves away, cooking all the treats for Rory's Stars Hollow birthday party. But do we hear Lorelai thank her? Nope. She consistently takes Sookie's amazingness for granted. And when Emily expresses interest in hiring Sookie for her next party, Lorelai is all, "mom, Sookie has a job." Maybe Sookie wants a side hustle, Lorelai. Not everyone has a seemingly unlimited takeout food and ugly graphic tees slush fund.
Best literary or pop culture references:
"You didn't build one of those machines like in "The Fly" did you? We're not going to find you wandering the streets wearing a raspberry head crying, "eat me!" - Lorelai, on Jackson's rasquat creation
"I think Edith Wharton would have been proud, and busy taking notes." - Lorelai, on Emily's party
Stars Hollow weirdness:
Miss Patty's shameless flirtation with Richard, right in front of Emily. I feel like Miss Patty and Donna Meagle (from "Parks & Recreation") would get along quite nicely.
Although the Stars Hollow gang showed up for Rory's party, they didn't really do anything weird or noteworthy. Kirk was sadly absent from this episode and Babette and Morey only had a few lines each.
Sharpest insult or one-liner:
"Oh, OK, fine. You can get her the bong then." - Lorelai, in response to Emily's desire to buy Rory something special, something Lorelai would get her. A bong would actually be a very prudent gift. If the Gilmore Girls refuse to go to therapy, they can at least do everyone a favor and start smoking weed.
It's not really a particularly snappy insult, but I love the way Lorelai blows off that nosy bitch, Mitzi, at Rory's first party: "You know, what? I see...someone...else...and it's been great." Her delivery is perfect. It's rude, but gives the illusion of politeness. I'm totally going to mimic these evasion tactics next time I'm roped into an unfortunate conversation.
Books mentioned/books Rory is reading:
Weirdly, none, which feels like an oversight. Surely, Rory would have some tradition where she reads the same book every year on her birthday.
Best song of the episode:
"Happy Birthday" by Altered Images. This song plays when Rory finds out Emily has sent birthday invitations out to her entire class. Tbh, the music during this episode is severely lacking.
Miraculously, this is another episode where Dean is actually kind of hot and I understand why Rory initially found him interesting and worthwhile. Even I swooned a little bit when he mouthed "happy birthday" and sauntered out of the diner with his empty to-go cup of coffee (seriously, fill these with fucking water... it's my biggest pet peeve).
And at the end, when he gives her the bracelet? Yeah, it's pretty ugly and he wrapped it in tinfoil, but he took the time to actually make her something! My high school boyfriend once bought me a picture frame (sans picture) and Barnes & Noble gift certificate for my birthday, so I would say Dean is slaying the high school gift-giving game.
Luke is also crotchety and adorable in this episode:
Luke: Hey, wrong table.
Rory: Since when is there a right table?
Luke: Since the coffee cake I baked for you and the stupid balloons I blew up are at that table, over there.
Rory: You blew up balloons for me?
Rory: Oh, Luke, you old softie.
Luke: I count to three, it's gone.
Let's all treasure seasons 1-5 Luke before the spawn of satan, aka April Nardini, appears and detonates everything we hold dear. Remember when she convinced Luke to channel Aiden Shaw and wear a turquoise cuff bracelet? Or when she oh, I don't know... broke up Luke and Lorelai and made Luke into the worst possible version of himself? So much unforgivable shit. I'll save my rage for seasons 6 & 7.
On rewatch, it's impossible for me not to think of Madeleine Albright during Lorelai's "I can't believe how fast you're growing up" speech. Imagine if Madeleine Albright was Rory's mother instead of Lorelai. We'd be in a much better, healthier place right now. Maybe Rory actually would be a foreign correspondent and not just a shitty, washed up "journalist" who can't stop talking about her single Talk of the Town piece.
If "Gilmore Girls" has shown us anything, it's how each generation of women fucks up the next. This episode gives us our first good glimpse into Lorelai and Emily's relationship (or lack thereof). We see Lorelai's childhood bedroom, replete with creepy dolls, too much satin, and uncomfortable looking furniture. She tells Rory about her last birthday at the Gilmore house, when she fought with Emily and Richard about her pregnancy. The more we learn about Emily, the more Lorelai's behavior makes sense.
The fight at the end of the first party is exceptionally well-written and a great primer for Emily and Lorelai's relationship dynamic (the most compelling one on the show, imo). Emily shows love by organizing parties, buying presents, and helping the people in her life do what she thinks is inarguably best for their happiness and well-being. This exchange perfectly sums up the disconnect between Emily and Lorelai's parenting philosophies:
Emily: Oh, so I'm a villan now, is that it? I spent a fortune on this party. I spent days planning it, making sure that every little detail was perfect -- the food, the linen, the music. And I did all this for Rory.
Lorelai: Well that's not what she needs. She needs you to accept her apology and come to her party. That's what she needs. You don't care what she needs.
Emily: How dare you!
Lorelai: You don't even know what she needs because you don't know her. You've never tried to know her just like you never knew me.
I feel sad for Emily because she tries to do what she thinks is right/what a mother is supposed to do. She's not a monster who doesn't care about her daughter's happiness, she just doesn't understand what Lorelai needs or how she can provide it. You know who could help explain it to her? A qualified therapist.
- My mom has stolen Emily Gilmore's "creepy" post-it note idea. Any time I tell her I like something in her house, she says I can have it when she's dead.
- Lorelai is eating a pre-pizza apple? I don't buy it. I thought fruit = pregnancy scare in the "GG" universe.
- The invitation to Emily's party is black tie optional. Because of course it is! The card stock seems kind of chintzy for Emily Gilmore, though. I would expect letterpress Dempsey & Carroll invitations, at the very least.
- I can't see Rory carrying a hot pink purse shaped like a guitar. That's the type of tacky shit Lorelai likes.
- Twelve dollars is a perfect present? Jesus, Lorelai. Let Emily buy Rory something dope and $$$ for once.
- Damien's, the department store Emily and Lorelai shop at, looks weird and depressing.
- All of Emily and Richard's rich friends/acquaintances have the dumbest fucking names. Case in point: Tristan's grandfather, Janlen Dugray.
- I was never a big Dean fan, but he looks HOT in the diner scene. Even I swooned a little bit when he made eye contact with her and mouthed, "happy birthday."
- Lorelai's childhood bedroom is terrifying. So many dolls and weird wallpaper, coupled with 80's relics like an Echo & the Bunnymen poster.
- Lorelai really needs to stop wearing lipstick shades with reddish brown undertones and pastel eyeshadows. She needs to go to the Sephora counter and have someone explain how colors work.
- "Morning, popcorn. You want some pancakes?" Goddamit, I love Sookie. Also, "popcorn" is an adorable pet name.
- "Stoli on the rocks with a twist" is the drink Emily requests at Lorelai's. I find it hard to believe that Lorelai actually has a bottle of Stoli lying around, so I'm going to assume she subbed it with some Vladdy.
- "You're pleased that the ice man looked at you like a porterhouse steak." I love that Emily immediately picks up on this sexual tension and is hungry for the deets.
- Richard gives Rory not one, but two envelopes of cash for Fez. Does Rory ever actually go to Fez?