- “She's right. I don't know my daughter at all”
- —Emily to Richard
Emily (Kelly Bishop) throws Rory (Alexis Bledel) an elegant birthday party and invites Chilton students, but Rory is embarrassed that the kids she doesn't get along with have been forced to come to the party by their own wealthy parents. Rory blows up at her grandmother, then tries to smooth things over by inviting Emily and Richard (Edward Herrmann) to the wild birthday bash that her mom (Lauren Graham) is throwing the following night.
Rory Gilmore is about to turn sixteen years old. But the idea of having a low-key birthday party quickly turns sour when Emily insists on throwing her granddaughter a "proper" party. This all occurs during the weekly Friday night dinner that the girls have with Rory's grandparents. After eating, Lorelai and Rory must put dibs on certain items they want in the swank house. Emily needs to know exactly what the girls want when she and Richard "kick the bucket." After looking at different antiques in the house, Lorelai tries her best to put the kibosh on Emily's posh birthday party. (After all, she throws Rory a great bash every year). As usual, Emily's mind is made up and can't be changed, so now two parties will be thrown in Rory's honor. Later on, Lorelai gets a call from Emily; she wants to go shopping for a special present for Rory and needs help. Lorelai agrees because it seems that her mom is actually trying to make an effort to open up. As the two browse through the mall, Emily keeps picking out equally garish gifts, from pearls to hats that belong on the head of the Queen of England. Emily is clearly shopping for her imaginary granddaughter while Lorelai gets increasing annoyed because her suggestions are ignored over and over again. Emily finally finds some bracelets that say "Rory," but complains that they are only $12, not enough to spend on a present. When Lorelai insists the bracelets are fine, Emily makes the purchase and it looks like mother and daughter are really making some headway.
Meanwhile, at school Tristan wishes Rory a happy birthday and reveals that he has an invitation to attend Rory's party. It turns out that Rory's grandmother has given an invitation to almost everyone who attends Chilton. The situation is beyond Rory's worst nightmare, but she cannot bring herself to tell Lorelai after seeing her mom so happy about the progress she is making with Emily. She complains to her best friend Lane who offers some warm sympathy while they chow down at the local diner. Next, Dean comes walking in for some java to go. He smiles at Rory and mouths "Happy Birthday," and we can see Rory swooning inside. At exactly 4:03am, Lorelai wakes Rory up to wish her a happy birthday. She crawls into bed with Rory for a sweet mother daughter talk. "I think you're a great kid and the best friend a girl could have," says Lorelai. Friday night arrives, and disaster is in the air. Emily is being a psycho host to her hired help, determined to make everything as perfect as possible. Rory is having a horrible time, forced to mingle with classmates she hates (particularly her arch-nemesis Paris) and eat food that smells funny. Tristan arrives to mock her with faux professions of undying love. The one good thing that comes out of this party is that Rory gets a lot of fat envelopes filled with money from stuffy old friends of her grandfather. But when Emily tells Rory to make a speech in front of everyone, she freaks out and makes a fool of Emily. This of course does not sit well with Grandma, and Lorelai does not have a clue why Rory is acting totally bizarre. Emily calls Rory the rudest girl in the world and tells Lorelai she ought to be ashamed of herself for being such a bad mother.
Rory hides in Lorelai's old room and then confesses the whole Chilton invitations to her mom. When Lorelai hears Emily invited the snotty classmates on her own accord without consulting Rory, she feels really, really bad. And she feels even worse that Rory kept the news from her so that Lorelai's truce with Emily would not be ruined. Emily refuses Rory's invite to her other party the following evening. Now Lorelai is furious at Emily for treating Rory so poorly. They fight like screaming alley cats while Rory waits in the car. Next morning, Rory is going to a college fair in town so she can pick up another Harvard brochure. While there she meets Paris, who is super annoyed that Rory is at the Harvard table because this means that they both might end up going to school there. The two decide that Harvard is a big campus, so it should be big enough for the both of them. All of a sudden, Paris asks Rory if she is dating Tristan. Due to the fact that Rory practically despises Tristan, she replies with a big, "No." This makes Paris quite pleased. Pleased enough to tell Rory she had a nice party.
Saturday night arrives and Rory is having a blast with her buds. She gets an iMac from Mom and starts cutting her Sookie-made cake when the doorbell rings. Surprise, it is Emily and Richard! Turns out they have never even set foot in Lorelai's home. Emily feels out of place almost immediately and gets some private time in Lorelai's room. When she spots a picture of Lorelai with her leg in a cast, she makes the sad realization that she doesn't know her daughter at all. She never knew Lorelai broke her leg and it happened three years ago, when Lorelai did yoga. Before they leave, Rory gets another big check from Grandpa and is generally happy that they came to her party. As Emily and Richard drive off, there's major sadness hanging all around Emily and it is too strong not to notice, even by her absent-minded husband. At the end of the night, Lorelai looks out the window and sees to her complete surprise, Rory and a boy. It's Dean, and he's giving her a gift, a bracelet that he made for her. He puts the bracelet on her wrist, puts his hand in hers, and Rory is smitten like a kitten. But Lorelai is a different story.
- Product placement – Scene with Emily and Lorelai, two Starbucks cups are on the side table.
- happy birthday | ALTERED IMAGES
- this old house | BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA
- what a wonderful world' | LOUIS ARMSTRONG
- why does it always rain on me? | TRAVIS
- the lathe of heaven | Scott Abels, Aaron Owens, Matthew W. Parker, David Fuentes, and Brian Dixon
- The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (referenced by Lorelai when she walks into the Gilmore home)
- Emily – My daughter, Henny Youngman.
- Lorelai – So, how'd you like two parties this year?
- Rory – You couldn't get her to cave.
- Lorelai – No, but she did agree to make the string quartet learn "Like A Virgin"
- Rory – So, is this party grandma's having going to be a big deal?
- Lorelai – Not really. The government will close that day. Flags will fly at half-mast. Barbara Streisand will give her final concert... again. Now, the Pope has previous plans, but he's trying to get out of them. However, Elvis and Jim Morrison are coming, and they're bringing chips.
- Sookie – It's too bad you couldn't get your mom to relinquish Friday.
- Lorelai – No, she has her Vulcan death grip on that one.
- Lorelai – Lucy, I'm home!
- Lorelai – "And Justin is just so dreamy. He can't marry Britney. I'll just cry and cry and cry."
- Lorelai – You're shopping for your imaginary granddaughter, Barbara Hutton
- Emily – You wanted me to get her a Filofax and a mermaid eraser. Oh yes, and there was the T-shirt with the Farrah Fawcett face.
- Lorelai – A hero to many who aspire to the perfect feather flip.
- Rory – I wonder if the Waltons ever did this.
- Emily – Well, what do you think?
- Lorelai – I think Edith Wharton would've been proud, and busy taking notes.