Directing and writing credits:
"The Real Paul Anka" is directed and written by Daniel Palladino because of course it is! It features a dumb fucking dream that we are forced to suffer through, weird Kirk shit, and a lot of annoying April field trip antics. I don't know what's worse: the "hit song" Zack writes with Mrs. Kim or a bunch of middle schoolers singing about the Periodic Table.
It's pretty cool that the casting directors were able to finagle a Paul Anka (the human) appearance, but my interest in analyzing Lorelai's dream is nil. The best part is when Anka tells Mrs. Clancy that she "has the cucumber eye" in a tone of voice that suggests it's the old man equivalent to "you have a nice ass."
Most batshit crazy outfit:
Finn's floral striped button-down looks like bad 1960s wallpaper and is at least one size too large. I applaud him for taking a fashion risk, but this ain't it!
April wears a frumpy child outfit that I won't critique because I, too, would choose comfort over fashion on a ten-day bus trip. It's perplexing to me when all of the other adults assume Luke is the bus driver because ... he's wearing a backwards baseball hat? He should have made the conversation even more awkward by telling them, "Oh, you think I'm the driver because of the hat? I wear that to cover up my bald spot." That would have shamed Earl Stepton into silence.
I love it when characters rewear clothes multiple times, so s/o to this velvet blazer, complete with glittery lapel pin, that Lorelai last wore in "So... Good Talk."
Most irritating Rory or Lorelai moment:
Both women are needlessly passive aggressive to the men in their lives. Instead of telling Logan that she's still pissed about the bridesmaids, Rory gaslights him at the paper, claiming that she rewrote his piece because she didn't think he would turn it in on time. She also resets his alarm, causing him to miss a class, and reminds him that haphazardly base-jumping off a cliff in Costa Rica is probably not wise (she's correct there). Oh, and let's not forget how Rory uses Jess as a pawn in her immature vengeance game, reminding me that I can never be "Team Jess" because by the time they're adults, he is far too good for her.
Instead of admitting that she feels threatened by Anna and insecure over her lack of involvement with April, Lorelai bangs Luke's new duffle around and foists a garment bag on him in a sad attempt to assert herself. Karen, my therapist, would have a lot to say about this episode but I try not to waste our precious time rehashing TV from sixteen years ago.
Number of times Rory or Lorelai treat their BFF like shit:
Lane's primary concern is figuring out how to destroy the hand-me-down wedding dress, complete with pants, from Mrs. Kim. Lorelai, who has been tasked with arm and height alterations only, turns down destruction bribes but eventually douses the whole monstrosity in coffee. Lane should make Lorelai her maid of honor because she's a much better friend than Rory at this point.
Sookie isn't in this episode. She needed to drive Jackson to the hospital in Woodbridge after he "slipped" and got another eggplant stuck in his butthole. Paris pops up briefly with a jar of fruit flies in the newsroom. Rory first reprimands her, then defends her for the sole purpose of making Logan look like a dick.
Best literary or pop culture references:
Luke, established Trekkie, is going to have his fan club membership revoked over this exchange:
April: And those are your fellow Grups.
Luke: The what?
April: Grown-ups. You never saw the original "Star Trek"?
Luke: Oh, yes, Grups. Yes, I did.
Not only would I expect immediate recognition, but some enthusiasm over the fact that his long-lost child is the type of nerd who watches "Star Trek."
Stars Hollow weirdness:
Luke puts Caesar in charge of the diner during his trip to Philadelphia with the "Little Man Tate"s. As Caesar nearly shits himself with nervousness over the brief promotion, Kirk stages a swift coup and a kerfuffle ensues. Later, once he's back in real estate trainee mode, Kirk tries to sell Lorelai the house from "Ju-On: The Grudge."
Lorelai: Oh, god, what was that?
Kirk: Bat. Don't worry. When you spray for cockroaches, the bats die, too, usually. At the very least, it knocks the wind out of them so they wind up wobbling on the floor, so you can just whack them with a hammer, nothing we can't work with.
This made me laugh so hard when I desperately needed it.
Sharpest insult or one-liner:
April may be annoying, but she's full of zingers. If I could go back in time and relive my childhood, I would use it to tell adult men crushingly unfiltered shit like, "Your books are really easy to skim." I hope she also raised her hand in class and told her math teacher that his Chris Rock impression is "borderline racist." Although I'm sure it was actually 100% racist because look at this man:
Books mentioned/books Rory is reading:
From what I can tell, many of the visible books at Truncheon are fake, which makes sense since they're supposed to be an indie press. The only legit ones I can make out are "Ellis Island" by Fred Mustard Stewart and "Emma Who Saved My Life" by Wilton Barnhardt. These are visible on a bookshelf behind Luke during his conversation with Jess, who notes that "The Subsect" isn't exactly "The Da Vinci Code." Luke probably doesn't understand that this is a good thing.
Best song of the episode:
Fuck the KIDZ BOP version, but Tom Lehrer rules. I can't believe I'm going with "The Elements" over "Angst in My Pants," but difficult decisions are a part of life.
"The Real Paul Anka" has a few funny moments but is largely forgettable, despite the epic guest spot. I'm down to watch Paul Anka the human act like Paul Anka the dog (and vice versa), but listening to Lorelai's dream at the start of the episode makes me want to jump off a ledge. If I were Rory, I would put the phone on mute, go do something else for ten minutes, and come back with fake enthusiasm like, "Wow, that's crazy." I prefer the S3 dream sequence opener where we see Lorelai's dream sans narration. At least the "pregnant with Luke's twins" bit reveals something about Lorelai's subconscious. I'm not sure what the human/dog body swap is trying to communicate. If I had that dream, my conclusion would be that I had too much pre-REM weed.
In typical Gilmore fashion, this is yet another episode where Lorelai and Rory ignore their problems instead of acknowledging and confronting them. Luke has fully compartmentalized his relationships with Lorelai and April, treating them like people who live on entirely different planets and could never possibly meet. It's weird as fuck, but Lorelai never calls him out on it, which probably makes it easy for him to carry on as if barring his fiancée from meeting his daughter isn't wildly antisocial behavior. When Luke casually mentions that he's attending Jess' open house in Philadelphia with April, the verbal bitch slap is deafening. Apparently, it's NBD for April to meet everyone in Luke's life but Lorelai. Instead of pointing out his hypocrisy, she makes this face:
Lorelai needs to tell Luke what she wants and if he's not amenable, she should cut ties. I understand the allure of the hot, grouchy diner owner who serves coffee with a side of cynicism, but it's hard to find someone longterm attractive when they're so emotionally unavailable. The season has been building toward their inevitable breakup since April's introduction in "The Prodigal Daughter Returns," but I wish the writers had at least found a way to set up the conflict without changing Lorelai's personality.
It reminds me of "They Shoot Single People, Don't They?," the S2 episode of "Sex and the City" where Samantha cries because "we" William ghosts her up at a fancy restaurant. It's not that Samantha can't exhibit vulnerability, but nothing about her character trajectory suggests that she would break down over some sleazeball club owner with a hard-on for unearned (faux) intimacy. Viewers don't want to see Samantha that way because it suggests that the "tough lady who likes to fuck" part of her personality is a facade ... that deep down, she desires love/intimacy as much as the next (stereotypical) woman.
In the same way, I don't buy that Lorelai would stand by silently, watching as Luke shuts her out of an important part of his life. She's too outspoken and has never struck me as someone who is desperate to be in a relationship. If she were desperate, she would have married Max or stayed with Christopher despite Sherry's pregnancy in S2. Lorelai wants things to work with Luke and I could see her giving him space to figure out his shit, but not standing by idly for months as he blatantly snubs her. I can't believe we have to suffer through four more episodes of this shit before the season wraps in the most unsatisfying way possible.
Aside from the dream and Luke idiocy, Lorelai's main preoccupation is dissuading her parents from moving to Stars Hollow. This is another one of those subplots that makes zero sense from a character motivation standpoint, but we're just supposed to roll with it. No matter the circumstances, there is no way in hell that Emily and Richard Gilmore would sell their insane Hartford mansion and move to a town of gossip-loving poors. I know it's played for comedic effect, but the elder Gilmores would see through Lorelai's whole "this town is a dump" schtick. Instead of inventing fake garbage smells and meth labs, she could have saved time by taking them directly to Taylor and letting his "Code 14/b/14 triple backslash x-8" bullshit do the work for her.
The highlight of the unexpected Stars Hollow visit is Emily's disdain for Cissy (Savannah Stehlin AKA the little girl from "The Family Stone") upon learning she isn't Luke's daughter. Emily goes from "You said she was smart, but this is something else" to "The kid's a moron" on the turn of a dime. If I needed to explain WASP behavior to an alien, I would show them this scene.
As always, Emily's communication skills could use work, but I don't disagree with her assessment of the Luke/April situation. The saddest part is when she assumes Lorelai is the one stunting the relationship with an abundance of caution when we all know it's Luke. It would be one thing if Lorelai were lying to appease her parents, but this exchange makes it seem more like an attempt to convince herself that the April arrangement was a mutual decision.
Lorelai: Well, he, I mean, you know, we mutually decided that I probably shouldn't have any contact with her.
Emily: What? That's ridiculous.
Lorelai: No, it is what it is. It's what we want.
OK, Lorelai. Sure.
While Lorelai ignores her mounting insecurities, Luke further ingratiates himself with April by chaperoning her hellish school trip to Philadelphia. I'll spare you the details, but it involves a plethora of food allergies and a bunch of other things I don't remember because I blacked out during the boring parts (AKA any scene with more than one child on screen). Sadly, none of these pre-teens got to enjoy the tremendous pleasure of learning about sex via illicit hotel porn. Is it even a school trip if you're not giggling with friends as a couple dry humps on Cinemax After Dark?
The most notable part of the trip is when Luke and April break off from the group to insult the art at Truncheon Books. This is probably the most I've ever liked April. When I was twelve, I would have found Jess unbelievably intimidating. As soon as I got back home, the shitty lines from the poetry reading would have been immortalized in my AIM profile. Luke's copy of "The Subsect" would have been pilfered and treated like secular gospel. I would have never looked at all of those attractive older people in indie band t-shirts and had the self-confidence to think, "Lame." But April does! She rightfully calls out the embarrassing poetry, expresses disappointment over Jess' lack of conversational prowess, and sneers at his pedestrian book selection.
Luke is entirely out of place at Truncheon, having been instantly flummoxed by a basic piece of penis art, but it's nice that he's there to support Jess. He tells him, "I'm very proud of you, of this, of what you're going for here. I don't get all of it, but I'm me." This is all any adult kid really needs to hear from a parent. It baffles me that Luke is somehow emotionally advanced when it comes to Jess but regressive in his relationship with Lorelai. It's funny to think back on S2's "Nick & Nora, Sid & Nancy" when Lorelai lectured Luke about his parenting ignorance. Who knew that Luke would flourish as a father figure while irreparably fucking up as a fiancé?
After Logan leaves on his Costa Rica suicide mission, Rory decides it's a good idea to show up at Jess' open house without an RSVP (gasp). He is visibly stoked to see her and gives a mildly self deprecating, mostly endearing tour. Even though it looks indistinguishable from a wall-to-wall carpet strip mall store, Rory is smitten with Truncheon Books, telling Jess, "It makes me feel like I instantly want to create something. Give me a pen. Give me a brush." The reunion is going swimmingly until their flirty conversation turns to kissing and Rory realizes she's still in love with Logan. Jess handles the rejection with aplomb; Rory looks like a total asshole. Maybe this is petty of me, but there's something satisfying about watching this neglected fuck up come out on top while the Ivy League college student backslides.
- The next episode is Lane's wedding and I want you to remember the brevity of Rory and April's interaction at Jess' event. When the fuck would they have had the opportunity to snap a picture together?
- Ah, yes ... the early 2000s. A time when a man would rub another man's elbow in private while screaming "No homo" in public.
- Does Mrs. Kim think that horseback riding makes women horny? Is it the straddling? 🧐
- I appreciate the production design team for creating this tiki-themed food stand, creatively named Snack-n-Soda.
- "I just need ten more minutes. I took a delete-boring-answers pass on my interview with professor Whittington and ended up with a tidy 16-word piece. His wife must want to suck a tailpipe every night." I chortled.
- My husband says the magic of Kirk's Wicca convention house is that it keeps resurrecting Taylor every time the townspeople kill him. "It’s part of the lore."
- How much money do we think Jess gave Luke? Did he pay him back for the raft bed and the Frosted Flakes?
- My graphic designer friend and I dissected Jess' Truncheon Books flier and while I initially thought it was ugly and that the font was Comic Sans-adjacent, we have determined that it must have been hand drawn. For an indie press, this feels cool/appropriate and I must redact my bitchiness.