All 22 episodes of ‘Gilmore Girls’ Season 6 (2005-06), ranked (TV review)

“Gilmore Girls” Season 6 (2005-06, The WB) is the season I remembered the least about. Even though I watched every episode when it aired, there were entire hours that felt new to me on this re-watching. While Season 6 is not as good as the glory years of Seasons 1-4, it marks a nice recovery from the over-the-top Season 5 and a respectable farewell for executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, who would end up sitting out the seventh and final season.

As I noted in my last review, Season 5 consisted of characters actively being nasty to one another. Season 6 returns to the pre-Season 5 vibe where characters hurt each other by accident, rather than on purpose. Also, while Rory unfortunately doesn’t dump Logan’s ass, she does realize by episode 8 that she should be attending Yale and pursuing her newspaper career rather than staying in her grandparents’ pool house and running DAR shindigs. That having been said, I don’t hate the Bizarro-Rory episodes — every college student is allowed one lost semester, right?

Rory’s and the writers’ return to sanity, along with a lot of vintage-style Stars Hollow episodes in the second half – capped by the finale where the town is overrun by troubadours – makes Season 6 enjoyable. The humor is also very much in place, from Gil washing his hair with bar soap (episode 3) to Richard going on an epic rant about South Dakota (“As I was flying in, I swear I saw one of the heads on Mount Rushmore yawn”; episode 21).

At the same time, Season 6 utterly lacks the butterflies-in-your-stomach emotions of the early years. The acting is as good as ever, but I am left cold when Rory tearfully bids adieu to London-bound Logan in the season finale. And the Lorelai-Luke thing irks me to no end: Luke suddenly learns he has a 12-year-old daughter, April, but he doesn’t want Lorelai to be a part of the girl’s life, and in fact asks Lorelai to delay their wedding so he can get to know his daughter. Lorelai goes the rest of the season without voicing her hurt feelings, until she finally cuts loose in the finale, at which point he rebuffs her suggestion that they elope in Maryland. Luke, what happened to being “All in” (season 5, episode 3)?

Season 6 retains some of the sloppy long-term planning that characterized the previous year. Zach and Lane get married almost immediately after he proposes to her, purely so their union can serve as a foil for Lorelai’s frustration with her wedding’s delay. Rory lands a job at the Stamford Eagle-Gazette in episode 9, and then we never see her working there – or even mentioning the job – for the rest of the season! It’s similar to the Season 5 episode where Jackson beats Taylor in a town election but Taylor is inexplicably still in that post in future episodes.

And while I love Season 6 for featuring the most episodes of Rory in a newspaper environment, I cringe at the anachronisms that pop up in the offices of the Yale Daily News. The writers taking one tour of a 21st century newspaper could’ve solved that problem.

Here are my rankings of the 22 episodes in a season in which “Gilmore Girls” mostly returned to form, starting with two episodes that featured the return of an old favorite:

1. “The Real Paul Anka” (18, Daniel Palladino) – Seeing Jess in his Philadelphia environment, running a small publishing house/art gallery and wearing a blazer over a T-shirt, it’s obvious that he needs to return to “Gilmore Girls” full-time and resume his relationship with Rory. When Rory tells Jess she loves Logan, it doesn’t ring true at all, but such is the curse of actor availability – Milo Ventimiglia’s “The Bedford Diaries” premiered soon after this episode aired. Then in the fall of 2006, “Heroes” became a hit and we never saw Jess again.

2. “Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out” (8, Palladino) – I love the way the writers use Jess (now a published novelist, and someone who walks away from a fight) as the impetus for Rory to get her s— together. Indeed, this episode marks the end of the Bizarro-Rory Era. It’s too bad it’s not likewise the end of the Rory-Logan Era, as Logan’s incredibly rude treatment of Jess should be Rory’s last straw. Instead, they break up only briefly.

3. “I Get a Sidekick Out of You” (19, Amy Sherman-Palladino) – Lane and Zach’s two weddings (Buddhist and traditional) are adorable, but my favorite part is the bachelor and bachelorette revelers (Lane’s cousin is an Avril Lavigne fan, and not ashamed of it!) prowling around Stars Hollow looking for a place to party – they settle on Brian’s aunt’s rec room. On a side note, for me, this episode clinches that there is no Mr. Kim, and that Mrs. Kim is a widow. The idea of Mr. Kim being “just off-screen” at his daughter’s wedding is ridiculous.

4. “I’m OK, You’re OK” (17, Keith Eisner) – In just his second episode, Eisner pens a refreshing throwback as Rory returns to Stars Hollow for a couple days. I almost forgot about Logan’s existence, and it’s glorious. Mrs. Kim and Zach trying to write a hit song together is pitch-perfect.

5. “Bridesmaids Revisited” (16, Rebecca Rand Kirshner) – Although the relationship between smart Lane and dimwit Zach never rang true to me (more scenes of them bonding over music could’ve sold it), and although they are foils for the relationship troubles of the Gilmores, it’s still cute when Zach proposes. Other strong moments come from the sweet Rory-Paris reunion, Rory and Doyle getting drunk, and the utter terror that is toddler Gigi.

6. “The Prodigal Daughter Returns” (9, Sherman-Palladino) – This breathless episode crams in the inevitable, but satisfying, Rory-Lor reunion after “five months, three weeks and 16 days.” I like Lorelai’s box of notes on topics they didn’t get to discuss. Unfortunately, we don’t get one full episode with both Rory and Lorelai in a good place, because in this same hour, Luke learns about April, but doesn’t tell Lorelai. It’s a melodramatic rift that will put a damper on the rest of the season.

7. “Friday Night’s All Right For Fighting” (13, Sherman-Palladino) – This is hailed as one of the best “Gilmore Girls” episodes due to the stylish final sequence with a hand-held camera and time-jumps that chronicles an epic argument and resolution between the four Gilmores. Rory (and, admittedly, Logan) successfully scrambling to put out the paper is also good stuff, but I have trouble with the anachronistic portrayal of the Yale Daily News: “Are they proofed?” “Yeah, but they’re not typed in yet.” It’s hard to believe that Paris, of all people, would not demand electronic submission of materials.

8. “Super Cool Party People” (20, David S. Rosenthal) – Rosenthal, who would become the showrunner for Season 7, pens a mostly delightful hour about Lorelai saving Luke’s under-planned birthday party for April. But it’s undercut by Luke STILL wanting to keep Lorelai and April separate (although this time it’s sparked by April’s mom being a jerk, shades of recent episodes of “Parenthood” where Lauren Graham’s character is likewise banned from her boyfriend’s daughter).

9. “We’ve Got Magic to Do” (5, Palladino) – Richard and Emily learn the reason Rory quit Yale: Mitchum Huntzberger’s harsh assessment of her talents at the end of Season 5. As Bizarro-Rory is crystalized by her military-style DAR hostess getup, it’s delicious to watch Richard rip Mitchum and Emily go after Shira Huntzberger.

10. “Twenty-One is the Loneliest Number” (7, Sherman-Palladino) – Emily and Richard bringing in a pastor to give Rory the birds-and-bees talk doesn’t quite ring true, but Alexis Bledel’s facial expressions in the scene make it worthwhile. Emily is in fine form when she makes out the guest list for Rory’s birthday party and twice calls Lane “your Asian friend.” Again, I love Rory’s reactions.

11. “The Vineyard Valentine” (15, Palladino) – Season 6’s stab at an expensive-looking sweeps month episode doesn’t quite work, as the stock footage of Martha’s Vineyard is obvious. But Luke’s awkwardness with traveling and being around the more cultured Logan (and the Logan-influenced version of Rory) makes for a compelling wedge between him and Lorelai, and one that perhaps could’ve worked better than the long-lost daughter. There’s a palpable sense of returning home to the warmth of Luke’s Diner at episode’s end. Mitchum barging in and breaking up the gathering almost makes me like Logan – almost. From the newspaper anachronism department: Students look at page layouts on a lighted table.

12. “Partings” (22, Sherman-Palladino and Palladino) – Luke and Lorelai’s slow drift reaches its irritating nadir with her decision to cheat on him with Christopher, but at least the rift is well-played by Graham and cleverly spelled out in Lor’s back seat psychology session with the girlfriend of Michael Scott from “The Office.” The positive side to the Palladinos’ swan song is Stars Hollow filling up with troubadours looking to be discovered by a record label.

13. “Just Like Gwen and Gavin” (12, Palladino) – “Gilmore Girls” tries to capture some of that old magic with another Stars Hollow Winter Carnival episode. It doesn’t quite work, although Zach’s “Welcome to the SH, bitch!,” aimed at a presumed rival for Lane’s affections, is a funny play on the classic line from “The O.C.” The stakes don’t seem as high as they used to be: When Lorelai learns Luke had been hiding April’s existence from her, she’s upset, but not overly much. The writers finally show some knowledge of the newspaper industry when Paris bellows: “Do you think it’s going to be any easier in the workplace? Every newspaper in the country is cutting back staff.”

14. “The Perfect Dress” (11, Sherman-Palladino) – This episode illustrates a theme of Season 6: That everyone is living in two worlds. Rory lives in a scary New Haven apartment with Paris and Doyle, yet dates rich-kid Logan. Luke is engaged to Lorelai, but has a daughter he doesn’t tell her about. Lane breaks up with Zach and returns to her old home life (although Mrs. Kim isn’t nearly as stuffy as she used to be). And Lorelai plans her wedding even as Luke might be slipping away from her.

15. “Driving Miss Gilmore” (21, Sherman-Palladino and Palladino) – The revelation that Emily was shopping for a house for Lorelai and Luke, not herself, is a neat twist. But, as I wrote in my notes: “L&L’s problems are so stupid.” And Sookie and Jackson lugging around trash bags of marijuana is a rare quirky Stars Hollow plot that lands with a complete thud.

16. “The UnGraduate” (3, Rosenthal) – Lane’s financially strapped band, Hep Alien, gets some screen time, and Gil (Sebastian Bach) delivers my all-time favorite “Gilmore Girls” line: “I’ve been washing my hair with bar soap.” In his first episode, Rosenthal proves he knows the rhythms of this show.

17. “He’s Slippin’ ‘Em Bread … Dig?” (10, Palladino) – The random invention of Christopher being rich is almost as inexplicable as the Gilmore girls never gaining an ounce from their diet of burgers and coffee. And I’m not sure why it’s necessary, except to draw a clear line between Luke’s Blue-Collar World and Christopher’s Rich World for the Season 7 love triangle.

18. “Fight Face” (2, Palladino) – The Bizarro-Rory saga kicks into gear as she joins the DAR as a secretary and gets into a fight while doing community service, then finds out secondhand that Lorelai is engaged to Luke. The scene of Rory and Lorelai yelling at each other during Rory’s road clean-up shift feels partly sad, partly false. In arguing that Obi-Wan having the high ground wouldn’t matter to a Jedi, Luke delivers the best “Star Wars” prequel jab since Xander stumbling over Yoda’s “Fear leads to anger” quote in Season 4 of “Buffy.”

19. “New and Improved Lorelai” (1, Sherman-Palladino) – As Rory moves into her grandparents’ pool house, it’s already clear to viewers that she doesn’t belong there. I like Lorelai’s surprisingly calm parenting approach, which she outlines to a flabbergasted Luke: “She’s smart and she’s strong and hopefully she’ll figure it out, but I’m not going to force my way in.”

20. “You’ve Been Gilmored” (14, Jordon Nardino) – Another newspaper anachronism comes up when Andrew hands Rory a folder of printed-out stories. This episode where Rory takes over as Yale Daily News editor might’ve been a good place to throw in a line about how she has to quit her job at the Stamford Eagle-Gazette, but apparently we’re supposed to believe she’s still working there, too, just off-screen.

21. “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (6, Eisner) – Eisner’s first episode is a bit over the top with the running “Sores & Boils Avenue” joke and the packages piling up in Lorelai’s yard. Emily being miffed that Rory sleeps until 8:30 a.m. sums up the (two)-generation gap nicely.

22. “Always a Godmother, Never a God” (4, Kirshner) – For what it’s worth, Kirshner hits the balance between sitcom humor and melodrama that became the trademark of the show’s final three seasons. While I prefer the less jokey first four seasons, I admit that I smile at 90 percent of the jokes even in the weaker seasons. On the sitcom side, there’s Jackson’s family, particularly Nick Offerman’s Bo and his awkward passes at Lorelai. On the melodrama side, there’s the Lor-Rory feud, which continues even as both are holding Sookie’s and Jackson’s babies.

How do you rank the 22 episodes of Season 6? Share your thoughts below.

More “Gilmore Girls” reviews:

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

Season 7

Season 8: A Year in the Life