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That Damn Donna Reed

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That Damn Donna Reed is the 14th episode of Season 1 on WB drama Gilmore Girls.

Synopsis

Dean and Rory fight about his approval of the 1950s, pearls-and-meatloaf domestic antics of Donna Reed, which prompts her to set up a meal in this light when she cat-sits for Babette. Lorelai admits to Emily she might have feelings for Luke when Emily pesters her about her and Luke's friendship. The episode ends with Rory's father, Christopher Hayden (David Sutcliffe), showing up in Stars Hollow. 

Plot 

The resident hottie of Stars Hollow, Dean, is about to put his foot into his mouth. He swings by the Gilmore house with pizza and Lorelai and Rory hanging out, watching old episodes of the The Donna Reed Show (it ran from 1958-1966). While the girls mock the way in which Donna acts like the dutiful wife, Dean looks puzzled and says that it seems nice to see a wife cooking dinner for her hubby and taking care of her family. To make matters worse, he innocently states, "Maybe Donna Reed really likes it?" The Gilmore's are outraged. First of all, it's a TV show, second Donna Reed is clearly, and third, the dialogue is written by men. Suddenly, Dean feels very unpopular.

At Luke's, Lorelai announces that the diner definitely needs a facelift, like a paint job. It's just been way too long since Luke has spruced up the joint. Well, crotchety yet charming Luke isn't the sprucing type. And nobody knows that better than Taylor, the head of the "keep Stars Hollow beautiful committee." And he just happens to be sitting at the counter to overhear Lorelai's suggestion. Next thing you know, Luke is being bombarded with demands, but it's only Lorelai's offer to help paint the place that makes Luke thaw and cave to such requests. Taylor is pleased as punch.

At the Friday night dinner, Rory's grandparents fight over the fact that they aren't able to make their annual trip to the Vineyard because Emily didn't reserve their usual place in time. Lorelai suggest her parents head to Paris instead, but that just won't do. Emily and Richard are creatures of habit. They go to Martha's Vineyard in the spring and Europe in the fall.

The next day, Babette asks Rory to housesit her new kitten, named Apricot, Saturday night. She agrees immediately, leaving Lorelai super suspicious as to why Rory totally jumped at the chance to spend the night away from her. They've only spent one other night away from each other their entire lives. Lorelai is just going to have to deal with it. Besides, when Rory goes to college, she'll be away every night. Then what?

After school that day, Dean meets Rory at the bus stop. Interestingly enough, Rory has a baby chicken in a cage from Chilton (it's a homework assignment). Soon after seeing Dean, Rory invites him over to Babette's house for Saturday night. Dean agrees, but has to leave Rory now because the store where he works is very busy on Thursdays, perhaps due to all those oppressive housewives buying food for dinner. Rory stops dead in her tracks and thus ensues on hairy argument about why Dean actually thinks it's a good idea for women to be cooking dinner and why Rory thinks the whole idea is ridiculous. Rory stands her ground and says that it's not okay for a woman's only purpose in life to be serving someone else. But Dean explains that his own mom cooks dinner every night, so what does that make her? Rory replies, she had a choice in the matter and that is what makes the difference, Donna Reed didn't have a choice. Now the two have landed themselves into a heated argument. The whole thing stops rather abrutly; Dean goes to work, and Rory goes home and it looks like the honeymoon just might be over.

At home, Rory is totally grumpy but doesn't give Lorelai the scoop on Dean. She goes next door to begin her house-sitting gig while Lorelai goes to Luke's to sell him on her favorite paint colors. Luke couldn't be less interested in actually choosing, making Lorelai's world famous perseverance seem not so persuasive after all. After a few beers, though, she seems to loosen him up a little. Basically, he says that as long as Lorelai likes the colors, he approves. Luke then starts talking about his dad, who really loved this old place, it was his life. And now it's Luke's life too. But it used to be a hardware store, and Luke thought a diner would be more fun. Lorelai thinks it's really nice that Luke feels so connected to his dad, which prompts Luke to remember a spot on the wall where his dad once took an order, and the writing is still on the wall. They find it behind the counter, and in the process get cozy and close. But before they can swap spit or anything, the whole town gathers outside. Apparently this painting gig is a big event in Stars Hollow. She tells Luke to just ignore them; he does and as he looks at her longingly, she just says that she better go.

Cut to Rory caring for the kitten and studying. But she just can't get that conversation with Dean out of her head. She dials his digits but he's out, so she heads over to Lane's to borrow a very specific CD. Only she can't remember the name of it. What follows is a hilarious scene where Lane opens up several random floorboards to reveal hidden CDs, stored in a quirky way that only Lane can understand. It's an ingenious way to keep what her mom would surely call devil music from being snagged away for good. Rory finally finds what she's looking for, but we don't get to see what it is just yet.

When Lorelai gets home from Luke's, she finds that Rory's baby chick has flown the coop. She goes looking all over the house but comes up empty. She then calls Luke for help. He agrees to go over there, but has a questioning look on his face, What does this mean? He gets there and is surprised to see that there really is a chick loose in the house. What did he think was going on? When they can't secure the chick, Lorelai puts Luke on the spot and wants to know what he meant by his comment that she really did have a chick in the house. Was he implying that he originally thought Lorelai was calling him over for another reason? And what might that reason be? Luke successfully avoids answering that question and is essentially saved by the chick, which is finally captured.

When Dean calls back, he admits he didn't think Rory would want him to come over. But she does and, conveniently enough, he's right outside and ready to make peace. But he gets the surprise of his life. Rory is dressed up like Donna Reed! Dean doesn't know what to say so Rory just invites him in to see Babette's house transformed into what looks like the set of The Donna Reed Show. Once he enters, Dean realizes that Rory even made him dinner. What is going on here? Rory thought it was obvious. It's Donna Reed night! Dean is psyched about the dinner. But wait 'till he sees the dessert, green Jello and Cool Whip. When Rory realizes that she forgot to make the rolls, she freaks. Donna would have never forgotten the rolls! Dean just grabs his little housewife honey onto his lap and kisses her. Then he says as great as the whole evening was, he really doesn't want her to be Donna Reed. He's happy with Rory exactly how she is. Rory is happy to hear it, but she's got some information on Donna Reed that totally surprised her too. Donna was, in fact, an uncredited director and producer on her own show, she wasn't just an oppressed actress/housewife after all. She was one of the first TV executives. So the whole experience was rather positive. As Rory cleans up the dinner table, Dean takes out the trash. (How man-like.)

After the chick disaster is averted, Luke takes some trash outside for Lorelai and runs right into Dean. They exchange weird glances and then Lorelai comes out from the Gilmore home and Rory exits Babette's house in her Donna Reed dress. Needless to say, Lorelai is rendered speechless (for just a second), giving Rory a chance to explain the dinner. Now Rory wants to know what her mom and Luke are doing. Luke stutters and stumbles over his words, doesn't really get an answer out, and bails quickly to avoid further embarrassment. Dean does the same, while Lorelai can barely stifle her fits of laughter over Rory's dress.

The next day at the Inn, Lorelai gives Sookie the lowdown on her evening, including Luke's assistance. And the comment he made about her possibly making up the whole situation to get him to come over. Sookie doesn't beat around the bush when she says Luke must have thought Lorelai was calling for something else. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) After all, when Sookie and Jackson finally, "did it", it was because Sookie originally called to say there was a bat loose in her house. Basically, it was just a ruse to get him into bed. So, maybe Lorelai called Luke for the same reason. Considering that, out of all the people in town, Lorelai called Luke, there just might be something going on here. Lorelai believes it was just a timing thing. Then she gets all flustered and mad, a sure sign that Sookie has struck a nerve.

At the grandparent's place, Emily and Richard announce triumphantly that they have solved their Martha's Vineyard debacle by purchasing a place just after the untimely death of an old friend. Plus, they want Rory and Lorelai to visit for a weekend. This conversation is diverted when the story of the chick arises and it's revealed that Luke is the one who came to the rescue. Emily's interest is piqued. Lorelai just can't get away from people digging for dirt. Emily points out that it seems like this man is always around when Lorelai's in trouble. He was also at Rory's birthday party and was at the hospital when Richard was ill. So Emily assumes there must be something going on. Does Lorelai have feelings for this man? Long pause. Maybe. Emily just wanted her daughter to admit it, but that doesn't mean she's happy about it. Luke is just not the kind of man she wants Lorelai to be dating.

The next day, Lorelai and Luke make a date for Friday night to start the painting. Then, as she and Rory head to the store, they hear the sound of a motorcycle and see a guy coming right into town riding one. The mystery man pulls off his helmet and Rory's dad, Christopher. Rory jumps into his arms and for once, Lorelai is speechless. Christopher is in Stars Hollow for a visit and needs a place to stay. With Rory's suggestion, it is decided that he will stay the Gilmore home. The next thing you know, Rory hops on the back of the bike and they take off together, leaving Lorelai on the sidewalk whispering, "Christopher."

Trivia

  • The information about Donna Reed, which Rory shows to Dean are from imdb.com.
  • The Town Troubadour makes his first appearance.
  • Christopher makes his first appearance.

Music

  • "Sunday Best" by Grant Lee Phillips
  • "Flower Girl In Bordeaux" by Esquivel
  • "Johnny Angel" by Shelley Fabares
  • "Beautiful Dreamers" by Grant Lee Phillips
  • "Tambourine Man" by William Shatner
  • "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by William Shatner

Photos

Gilmorisms

MUSIC

LITERATURE

  • Cervantes

FILM

POP CULTURE

Dean – What are we watching?
Lorelai – The incomparable "Donna Reed Show."
Rory – Well said, Sister Suffragette.
Lorelai – It's getting a little too Lewis Carroll for me.
Babette – And Morey just got cable so you can watch those 4 girls talking dirty if you want to.
Lorelai – All day long, just chirps like a maniac at the top of her lungs. Now, nothing. Silence. Marcel Marceau chicken.
Lorelai – Luke, Stella got out and I don't know -- do I put seed on the floor? Do I make chirping sounds? Or do I pull a Lucy Ricardo and walk like a chicken so she thinks I'm her mother?
Sookie – Wow, that's very Wild Kingdom of you.
Lorelai – I'm like the Marlin Perkins of Stars Hollow.
Lorelai – 'A Streetcar Named Desire.'
SookieVivian Leigh or Jessica Tandy?
Lorelai – All of a sudden I'm trying to get any poor, unsuspecting person in bed with me. I'm like -- Michael Douglas.
Lorelai – I am being morbid? Joan and Melissa Rivers think I'm being morbid.
Rory – Everything has to be logged. Eating habits, sleeping habits.
LorelaiHoudini habits.

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