'Gilmore Girls' Season 6, Episode 9: The Prodigal Daughter Returns

'Gilmore Girls' Season 6, Episode 9: The Prodigal Daughter Returns

Directing and writing credits:
"The Prodigal Daughter Returns" is directed and written by Amy Sherman-Palladino. I'll get into this more in later recaps, but I don't necessarily think it's a horrible idea to introduce Luke's long lost daughter as a plot twist if it opens up interesting storylines. Like maybe Luke catches feelings for Anna (Sherilyn Fenn), April's mother, and rethinks his relationship with Lorelai. Or he introduces Lorelai to April right away and is jealous of their closeness. Or hell, even the storyline they went with might have worked had the writers actually made April a unique character and not a more sciencey, outgoing version of Rory at her most precocious.

Most batshit crazy outfit:
I don't understand Sookie's penchant for layering dresses on top of jeans. This could look cool, but it would have to involve better proportions and a more figure-flattering dress with a pattern that isn't headache-inducing. Even though I don't love the trend, there are some instances where I think it works well:

Here is Sookie's piss-poor Fashion Bug rendition:

Did she borrow the hideous, brooch-adorned shrug from Lorelai?

Most irritating Rory or Lorelai moment:
I'm no fan of Emily and Richard, but leaving their house without at least a brief explanation is the definition of passive aggressive. Even if Rory didn't want to detail her issues, she could have told them something generic like, "I've decided that it's time for me to make up with mom and go back to school." They probably still would have been upset, but not enough to go on a private plane sadness shopping spree.

Lorelai's hesitation to tell Luke the truth about his grandmother's bedroom set feels out of character. Since when does she suppress her own opinions for someone else's benefit? But also, what the fuck was Luke thinking? Even if I were 100% certain of my partner's design preferences, I wouldn't make any huge changes to our shared home without consulting him, especially if they involved cherubs straight out of "The Haunting."

Number of times Rory or Lorelai treat their BFF like shit:
Rory is still temporarily crashing with Lane, whose love language is most definitely acts of service. She makes Rory lunch and performs endless emotional labor, including awkwardly lying to Lorelai and telling Zack to shut the fuck up about his paper towel tallies. Lane deserves much better than Rory, a budding narcissist who drops by only when it's convenient for her. I wish there was a TV show wormhole that would allow Claudia Kishi to enter Stars Hollow and become Lane's new BFF.

Just look at how Lane lovingly serves this grilled cheese.

Lorelai makes Sookie and Jackson sit through an uncomfortable dinner with her and pissed off Luke. I would feel bad about this if not for Jackson's Tomato George "Kansas" accent. In general, listening to Jackson talk for more than ten seconds is just punishment for Lorelai's worst offenses.

Best literary or pop culture references:
Lorelai and I are in total agreement on "The Comeback," an HBO show that premiered in 2005 and was cancelled after one season. I wonder what she would have to say about the 2014 revival that somehow didn't win Lisa Kudrow an Emmy.

Lorelai: You're giving me a Valerie Cherish, you know, an "I don't wanna see that!" It's a great show. You should watch it.
Lane: I will.
Lorelai: It's cancelled.

Also, fun fact:

Stars Hollow weirdness:
The OG townies (even Kirk) are MIA. I want to make fun of Zack's Cheese Nips anxiety, but I know what it's like to be broke as fuck and dealing with a roommate's squatter for an unidentified period of time. When I lived in Park Slope, my roommate let a friend stay with us for an entire month and I was so angered by his presence that I browbeat him into paying our utilities.

Sharpest insult or one-liner:
After Emily places a ban on eating breakfast anywhere other than the dining room, Rory leaves a muffin sitting on the table during her swift exit. Emily bitchily looks at Sumatra, the maid, and says, "Well, if you expect that muffin to fly back to the kitchen, you better go get it a cape." If this were 2021, all of the maids would have a Slack channel where they collectively fantasize about lighting Emily on fire.

Sumatra is daydreaming about innovative torture methodologies.

Books mentioned/books Rory is reading:
The only book I noticed is Graham Greene's "The Human Factor," which is visible in Michel's stack during his tidying session at the inn as he and Lorelai have this delightful exchange:

Lorelai: More books.
Michel: What is wrong with people? Don't they know the written word is dead?
Lorelai: Uh, books are back. Oprah says.

Rory mentions Joe Klein's "Primary Colors" in an attempt to impress Stuart Wultz (Mark Harelik) at the Stamford Eagle Gazette. The title of the episode is a nod to a parable from the Bible, which I begrudgingly recognize as a work of literature (fiction, of course).

Best song of the episode:
No music, only emotionally charged la-las.

Thoughts:
Lorelai's home renovation has finally come to a close and TBH, I have no idea what structural changes were made. We'll see a better shot of her bedroom, which has been turned into a suite, in the next episode, but as for the first floor of the house ...? It looks the same to me aside from new paint and rearranged furniture. Luke, who paid extra for a surprise early end to the construction, is confused when Lorelai doesn't seem happy that the house is finished. In typical people pleaser fashion, she wanted to have a goodbye pizza party for all of the workers, complete with paper hats and noisemakers.

This reminds me of when my old job thought it was a treat to host quarterly team building events that involved shit like escape rooms, karaoke, charades, and "golf putting facing into the setting sun" (thanks, Nadav) 😑 It would have been so much better to go out for drinks and appetizers on the company dime, but I guess HR felt pressure to get creative. (In all fairness, this job wasn't always terrible. I did a lot of fun traveling pre-COVID/before the company was acquired by an evil conglomerate.)

Please note the mantel photos from S1.

Luke's excitement over the bedroom set reveal is heartbreakingly earnest. He clearly thinks he's done a great job by remembering — and executing on — Lorelai's offhand comment from five years ago. Instead of claiming to love it, Lorelai should have told Luke the truth: that she was high on cold medicine when she came to his storage unit and gushed over the "creepy granny bed." Unfortunately, she keeps her real feelings hidden and waits for everything to explode during Saturday night dinner with Sookie and Jackson.

Initially, everything is fine. Luke and Jackson engage in a charcoal chimney-themed douche-off while Lorelai and Sookie marvel over the evil bedroom cherubs. When Luke overhears an answering machine message from Christopher, all hell breaks loose. The message itself is totally benign, detailing some vague promise of "good news," but Lorelai makes the mistake of pausing it and trying to change the subject as soon as she realizes that Luke is listening. Her behavior is a little shady, but I don't blame her considering the previous Christopher shit storm. It seems doubtful that Lorelai was going to completely hide the call from Luke, but she probably wanted more control over the narrative.

Love a Lorelai Gilmore eye roll.

I hate to defend Luke, who reacts to this call with the emotional intelligence of a cockroach, but his suspicion isn't entirely unwarranted. Lorelai did hide the truth about her relationship with Christopher in the not-so-distant past; however, she apologized, Luke forgave her, and it seemed like they had moved past the situation with a clear understanding of what went wrong. If Luke is committed to the relationship, he owes Lorelai the benefit of the doubt when it comes to sharing details about Christopher's involvement in her life. He likewise needs to recognize how immature it is to bottle up anger like a child instead of talking through it quickly and saving everyone the chore of suffering through a tense dinner that ends with these parting lines:

Lorelai: OK! You want honesty? I'll give you honesty. I hate that bedroom set. It's old and creepy, and I hate it.
Luke: You told me you loved it.
Lorelai: I have absolutely no memory of coming to your storage unit five years ago and telling you I love that furniture.
Luke: Well, thank you very much for your honesty about my grandmother's furniture. Too bad you're not a little more forthcoming about the other men in your life.
Lorelai: Oh, my god. Enjoy Wisteria Lane, you major drama queen.

I live for a good "Desperate Housewives" reference.

After Luke storms off to sit in his dark apartment with a beer, Lorelai shows up and initiates a conversation that really highlights his hypocrisy in lieu of the upcoming April dumpster fire. The tl;dr is that Christopher is always going to be in Lorelai's life, but for Luke to feel secure about it, he needs to be kept in the loop. They then make a promise not to keep any secrets while engaging in some mall Santa role play that I wish I could unsee.

In the next Luke scene, April shows up at the diner with her ridiculous bike helmet and reptilian affect, blathering on about Mizithra cheese. I would have a panic attack if some random kid approached me at my place of business, yanked out a piece of my hair without my consent, and took a photo of me. I would be back in the storage room, hitting a vape and screaming at Caesar to make me emergency nachos (with fried chips and full-fat cheese). Although women have not achieved gender parity and are generally hated by society, at least we will never experience the horror of an unexpected child. Let's celebrate this perk!

There's no way for this to exit my vagina without my knowledge.

April gets a lot of internet hate for allegedly breaking up Luke and Lorelai, which I've never understood. Their relationship crumbles (spoiler alert) because of dishonesty and low self-esteem, issues that would have eventually come to a head regardless of her presence. Personally, I hate April because she's a poorly written character who lacks the interiority to surpass her annoying caricaturization. If the writers wanted to make her Lorelai-level chaotic, they should have given her a personality deeper than "science." It doesn't help that the residents of Stars Hollow, who are permanently three lines of cocaine deep, look catatonic compared to April. In my head, she's always whirling around on an Adderall high, waxing rhapsodic about cerulean (just wait).

When Luke shows up at the science fair, he's so taken aback over the paternity reveal that he nearly drinks a Capri Sun. April is kind of just like, "So okay, I guess you're my dad. Cool, huh? Enjoy the rest of your life!" The next time I'm faced with life-altering information, I'm going to try to adopt this attitude.

It's giving me these vibes.

As Luke adjusts to his newfound papa status, Lorelai and Rory finally reunite. When Lane let Rory's temporary roommate status slip to Lorelai, the countdown to those bittersweet la-las began. After exiting the elder Gilmore house for good, Rory re-enrolled at Yale and spent several days debasing herself in exchange for a beginning staff writer job at the Stamford Eagle Gazette. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I can't see myself staking out an office and trying to make myself so useful and/or obnoxious that there is no choice but to hire me. Rory was leaning in before Sheryl Sandberg made it cool. (This is sarcasm. I'm no fan of Sandberg.) Because Rory is a conventionally attractive white woman, her newsroom sit in works and Stuart Wultz (who we've never seen before) offers her a job.

While Rory gets her ducks in a row for a life post-pool house, Emily considers buying a sadness plane a la her S4 mall shopping spree. Although Lorelai and Rory's reunion scene is well-executed, it doesn't hold a candle to this exchange between Lorelai and Emily:

Lorelai: It's not the same, mom, what happened with Rory. It's not the same.
Emily: I lost her like I lost you. Feels remarkably similar to me.
Lorelai: You didn't lose her like you lost me. She was never supposed to be there in the first place, she was always supposed to be at school. She just went back where she belonged. And you didn't lose me.

I would love to see these two act together again (but not in another "GG" revival).

Even though their relationship is rightfully strained, I love the moments when Lorelai and Emily are able to summon compassion for one another. Lorelai knows how difficult Emily can be and doesn't doubt Rory's reasons for leaving, but she recognizes the hurt of rejection. This feels like a true turning point in Lorelai's relationship with her parents. Going forward, she seems more capable of putting aside her own baggage and exerting the necessary effort to maintain civil contact between Emily, Richard, and Rory. It's sad to see Lorelai experience growth as Luke begins to backslide.

The final scene in the diner is a bad omen for things to come. As Lorelai stocks up on doughnuts for the prodigal daughter homecoming, she gleefully tells Luke, "We can set the date. We can get married now because Rory's back." What's the dumb throw pillow quote that is always falsely attributed to John Lennon? "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." If only Luke had continued with the therapy tapes, he might have found the strength to tell Lorelai about April sooner. Unfortunately, the next six months are a whirlwind of lies by omission and irreparable damage.

This is the point where Luke stops becoming attractive to me, even in sweatpants. 

Random observations:

  • Thanks to Lorelai, I have now seen this stoner SNL sketch.
  • Lorelai's DVF wrap dresses are a big step up from what she usually wears, but I still don't love what they do to her tits. This silhouette is far better:
  • Per the above, way too many of my organic search terms relate to "Gilmore Girls" and "tits." Maybe I should start using a different word? THERE IS NO PORN ON THIS WEBSITE.
  • Lorelai invites Sookie and Jackson over for dinner on Saturday night and says, "I've heard it's all right for fighting. Get a little action in." This is a reference to Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," which will surface again later as the title for episode 13.
  • Lorelai made no major changes to her kitchen during the remodel, but she did add candy machines. I guess she's going for a sad Cracker Barrel vibe.
  • I don't believe for one second that Emily and Richard would store their checks in a plastic binder. Those fancy fucks would have a leather folio.
  • Sookie brings chicken and dumplings to dinner in case Luke "happens to burn the chicken or overcook the burgers." How do I get a friend like this in my life?
  • Lorelai's "Mask" reference reminds me ... are you all subscribed to Lindy West's Butt News? She writes about a different old movie every few weeks and never fails to make me laugh.
Share this article
The link has been copied!
You might also like
Podcast Lindsay Pugh

I have a podcast now!

After writing about movies and TV on this blog for 7+ years, I decided to start a podcast. Every time I visit Jo Nesteruk, my BFF/mentor/fake mom, we spend the weekend watching movies and having great discussions. There is a 26 year age gap between us, so we
Read More →
Film Lindsay Pugh

'Butter on the Latch' explores the persistent trauma of sexual assault

This post includes spoilers for "Butter on the Latch." This is meant to be more of an in-depth analysis of the film's exploration of sexual trauma (as opposed to a review), so it's probably going to be useless/boring if you haven't
Read More →
Lindsay Pugh

Gilmore Girls Recaps

I grew up watching "Gilmore Girls" every day after high school cross country practice with my mom. When I moved to NYC after college, it's what I relied on to keep me company when I was feeling homesick and lonely. Does it hold up to modern
Read More →