It’s been 20 years since the best episode of Gilmore Girls premiered


Can you believe that 20 years ago, Rory Gilmore traded in her Chilton uniform for her life long dream of attending college? Of course, she didn’t ultimately end up going to Harvard, the school she always pictured herself going to. In Gilmore Girls season 4 episode 2, Rory embarked on a new journey in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale University.

On Sept. 30, 2003, Gilmore Girls aired “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale,” which would, should, and does go down in Gilmorian history as the best episode of the series. Now, “best episode” is definitely up for debate, but for me, it’s a personal favorite that never ceases to remind me why I adore this show, its characters, and the dynamic between Lorelai and Rory.

The fourth season premiere, “Ballrooms and Biscotti” is another personal favorite and classic episode. Lorelai and Rory return home from their backpacking trip in Europe, and Rory realizes she mixed up her move-in date at Yale, leaving the pair scrambling through their to-do list on their last weekend at home together. It’s also gives the gift of the “Jimmy Carter reference” laughing fit.

But in “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale,” it’s officially move-in day. Lorelai borrows Luke’s truck to deliver Rory’s belongings, including the controversial new mattress, to her dorm room. Because of their unspoken fear of leaving each other for the first time, Lorelai makes a couple trips back and forth in that truck before calling a spade a spade and spending the night.

She sets the tone for Rory and her dorm-mates (the one and only Paris Geller included!) and the rest of the girls on the floor. They order way too much takeout, rate the delivery boys by attractiveness (don’t judge them on this), and turn Lorelai’s name into a verb for trying new restaurants. Lorelai and Rory even howl with the rowdy frat boys outside.

What I love so much about this episode, outside of the humor, is the normalization of easing into big life changes. As independent as Rory has been, it’s always been her and Lorelai against the world or, more accurately, against the quirks of Stars Hollow. She was ready to go off on her own to study for a career in journalism, but she also wasn’t ready to immediately let go of her mom, her best friend, an era. I think we need to see more of these stories honoring the anxiety surrounding growing up.

College can be scary for some people, and that doesn’t make them immature or codependent on their parents. Everyone just doesn’t move at the same speed, and that’s okay. Rory having a slumber party with her mom on her first night in her dorm room shouldn’t been viewed as weird or unrealistic. Because honestly, that slumber party was as much for Lorelai as it was for Rory.

“The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale” ranks as a series-best standout after two decades for all of its careful messaging as well as its expert-level ability to combine everything we love about Gilmore Girls. For a show to be in its fourth season and still be at the top of its game, to know its tone like the back of its hand, and to completely handle a major setting transition with enviable ease? That’s rare.

It might seem strange to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the second episode of a show’s fourth season, and it is. But this second episode of a show’s fourth season happens to be an excellent standalone episode of television that also marks a major life development for one of its main characters. Rory started college TWENTY years ago. Are we all feeling older than a carton of stale Al’s Pancake World fried rice in the back of Lorelai’s fridge yet?

Watch all seven seasons and the revival miniseries of Gilmore Girls on Netflix!

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