Gilmore Girls turns 20 this year! That's a reason to celebrate if I ever heard one. And what better way to celebrate than by binge watching the best Gilmore Girls has to offer?
And what was one of the best things Gilmore Girls ever gave us? Jess Mariano, of course!
As the rebellious nephew of our favorite curmudgeon, Jess had a unique view of Stars Hollow and all its inhabitants. He bonded with a certain Stars Hollow resident early on, and the rest is Literati.
It's slightly unrelated, but can we talk about how creative and original the shipper names were for this show? They didn't just combine names. They gave us Literati and JavaJunkies! That's seriously impressive.
Jess, was seriously impressive, too. He was a bad boy who liked books, and he knew Rory in a way nobody else seemed to. He wasn't looking to corrupt or change her, and he knew he would never fit into her world, but for a few brief moments, they fit together.
Many fans feel that Jess should have been Rory's endgame.
I might slightly resent the implication of Jess being Rory's Luke: Luke and Jess are very different. Lorelai and Rory are very different. The relationships each shared, respectively, are very different.
However, I am in no way opposed to Rory and Jess finding their way back to each other.
I won't try to convince you that Jess is the best, both for Rory and in general. You know who you 'ship, and I'm not going to change your mind. Chances are, if you clicked on this link, you already know that Jess is the best.
You may also know, by heart, every Literai scene, but indulge me. Maybe it's been a while, and you need the refresher, or maybe you just want to look at all the petty GIFs. If so, you came to the right place!
Let's remember all the best (and worst) moments that made us love Jess so much!
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 5, "Nick and Nora/Sid and Nancy."
It's the episode that started it all! Jess first arrives in Stars Hollow, and Lorelai knows he's going to be trouble. Jess, meanwhile, assumes he'll be miserable. Given his upbringing, it's hard to blame him.
He doesn't want to be in Stars Hollow, and it shows. Lorelai wants to bash Jess in with a pie. Luke pushes him in the lake. He makes a terrible impression on everybody except the viewers, and the girl with the blue eyes.
Rory's literary tastes attract Jess instantly. She's surprised when it turns out he is as big a reader as her, and she doesn't chew him out for stealing her book.
This scene started a fandom shipping Literati. We all fell in love with Dodger in this moment.
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 8, "The Ins and Outs of Inns."
Jess continues to be charming to nobody, save the audience and Rory. Even she gets a little sick of him.
He's nice to her, but he's giving Luke a hard time, which rubs Rory the wrong way, because Luke cares and he's good. He'd done a lot for the Gilmores, and he's trying to do a lot for Jess.
Much as we hear Jess is this bad-boy, we don't see enough of him acting out. However, the chalk outline of the dead body in front of Doose's? Classic. Even Rory found it funny.
She chews him out because of the Luke bit, but Jess is capable of growth. He fixes Luke's toaster! Sure, he doesn't admit it, but he didn't admit to the chalk outline either.
This episode also marks the first time Jess meets his nemesis Dean, the other boy vying for Rory's heart. Rory never told Jess she had a boyfriend, but now that he knows, all bets are off.
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 10 "The Bracebridge Dinner."
Jess may have marked Dean as his enemy on Gilmore Girls, Season 2 Episode 8, but Dean didn't know the score until Jess tried to hit him. Then he caught Jess and Rory making eyes at each other.
But really, given those choices, who wouldn't pick Jess? He knows who Bjork is! He knew which snowman the Gilmores made, and he hasn't even known them that long!
Sure, just like the chalk outline and the toaster, he never said he ruined the competing snowman, but we all know it was him. Rory clearly knew, and she didn't seem to have a problem with it.
Meanwhile, we get a glimpse at Jess's relationship with his mom that even has Lorelai sympathizing with him.
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 13, "A-Tisket, A Tasket."
Jess is a troublemaker, but in the best sense of the word. While screwing with Dean isn't the nicest thing he's ever done, it was an important step in being nice to Rory. Because he just wants to be nice to Rory. He just wants to be around her and to spend time with her.
He wants to talk about Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway, who, according to him, only has lovely things to say about Rory. Seriously, who is writing this kid's dialouge? Is it any wonder he becomes a writer?
During their picnic, Jess doesn't try to kiss Rory or cop a feel. He just likes being around her. He wants to be her friend; he doesn't have any in Stars Hollow. Is that so wrong?
Rory wants to be his friend too, despite what her mother says. If she's willing to go against Lorelai, you know it has to be important to her. Good thing we know Jess is worth the trouble.
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 15, "Lost and Found."
Lorelai tries for Rory, but more surprising, so does Jess. He made the worst impression on Lorelai when he met her, and he's done little to rectify it since.
He doesn't do adults. He doesn't do small talk. He doesn't do well-behaved. Yet he attempts all of these because Rory asks him to.
Sure, he gives her a hard time about it. Because what makes her think he cares about her? He does care, and it's so freaking obvious! He cares that she's happy, so he eats cold eggrolls and makes chit-chat with Lorelai.
Plus, we learn about his sleeping habits and living habits, as he and Luke look for a new place to live.
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 16, "There's The Rub."
Jess finds an excuse to come over and hang out with Rory while Lorelai is out of town. When she invites Paris to join them, instead of getting upset, Jess includes Paris in the conversation.
Paris is hard to handle, but she and Jess have a bit of a rapport going. Before Rory tells him to leave, the three of them were clearly enjoying each other's company.
Jess loves the Beats, but he also likes Jane Austen. He's on Rory and Paris's level intellectually, and he gets Paris's stamp of approval.
Much as Jess likes to cause trouble, he still leaves when Rory asks him to, even if he gives her a hard time about it. He tells Dean that he really was just dropping off food.
Yet as Paris points out in the deleted scene, Rory could have gotten him to leave if she really wanted to. She wanted him there. Who wouldn't?
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 19, "Teach Me Tonight."
Jess isn't the most studious, but he'll study if it means he can hang out with his favorite Gilmore girl. True, he spends time doing magic tricks and quizzing her on Clash songs, but he does agree to study after they get ice-cream in cones.
It's always better in cones! A truth universally acknowledged by all Literati shippers (and ice-cream lovers)
He ribs Rory a bit, but he also shows that he believes in her. And she believes in him. She knows he can do more and be more than he thinks he can.
This episode got rather dramatic after Jess turned right, but you could tell by how he was sitting on the bridge that he was devastated. The idea that he could have hurt Rory tore him up inside. This one is sad, but it has so many great moments!
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 21, "Lorelai's Graduation Day."
Rory would never skip school! That is, unless it was to visit Jess in New York. Because she missed him. Because she likes him. Because he called her, and she needed to see him.
He doesn't give her a hard time about it. He just enjoys hanging out with her. He shows her New York. We get to see a little of his world and where he comes from.
He even asks about Luke, because you can't love Jess without loving his dynamic with Luke. Nothing against April, but Jess is Luke's kid. There's no getting around that.
Even Lorelai thinks Rory's trip to New York means something. Jess seems to think so too, because the following episode, he returns to the Hollow.
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 22, "I Can't Get Started."
This episode only has a couple of Jess scenes, but they are doozies. He asks Luke to let him move back, and we know it's for Rory. Well, that and Luke was the closest thing to a parent he's ever had. Sorry Liz.
And then, that kiss! It goes down in the top TV first kiss archive. All the tension these two have been building up all year comes out as Rory launches herself at him.
He doesn't force anything. He doesn't expect anything. He knows she's with Dean, and he wasn't going to make her do anything. But you can't blame a love-struck teenager for kissing her back.
Then when she tells him not to say anything, he agrees. He does everything right here. And that scene, that kiss, is worth anything else, good or bad, that happens on the episode.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 1, "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days."
We don't really see much of Jess on this episode, but I had to include it because of Rory's monologue. Not to mention the "Dear Jess..." letter she never sent. Let's just say, his presence is felt.
Rory spends the whole episode obsessing over what will happen when she's sees Jess again.
Her speech to Paris about how you know when a guy is right for you is clearly all about Jess.
Then when she comes home to find him less than single, she reacts with jealousy. It isn't really fair of her, which Lorelai is quick to point out, but it makes sense. She's so gone for him at this point she doesn't know what to do.
Here's a clue for her. Dump your boyfriend!
Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 2, "Haunted Leg."
Again, not a lot of Jess this episode, but the confrontation between him and Rory is epic. Because it's easy to take Rory's side. We thought he liked her! Why is he with Shane?
Then we hear Jess's side. She's in a relationship. He respected that. He didn't kiss her. She kissed him.
After the kiss, she didn't end her relationship. She's still taken. She took off for three months after the kiss. He didn't hear from her in all that time.
This isn't about making Rory jealous or getting back at her for how badly she's treated him. It's about moving on. Shane is a distraction to make him feel better because the girl he likes doesn't seem to want to be with him.
Is it fair to Shane? Probably not. But is it fair to Rory? Heck yeah! If you want to be with someone, you have to speak up. You can't just expect them to wait around while you date someone else.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 4,"One's Got Class and the Other One Dyes."
Jess has spelled out his reasons to an angry Rory, but now Luke needs to be clued in. He doesn't understand why Jess can't find a healthy relationship with a nice girl.
Then Jess makes all our hearts hurt when he says the girls he likes don't give a damn about him. Damn. Poor baby. He shouldn't have to feel that way.
Rory does give a damn about him, of course. However, her treatment of him says otherwise.
Meanwhile, Rory let's her jealousy of Shane get the better of her. She's incredibly rude to Shane when she rings Rory up for her hair-care products.
The real victim here is Shane. But Jess deserves better too. Why can't these two crazy kids work it out?
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 5, "Eight O'Clock at the Oasis."
Again, there is just the one Jess scene here, but it's pretty memorable. And not just because he and Rory are wet from head to toe.
Jess and Rory are still pissed at each other because they are two stupid teenagers in love, but when Rory really needs help, Jess comes through. He always will for her!
They have the first nice conversation they've had since the kiss, and we remember why we liked them so much in the first place. They were good friends.
Friendly as it is, it's still a pretty steamy scene. We know Dean would be jealous if he saw it.
He doesn't though, because, in spite of everything, when Jess has a chance to out Rory to Dean, he doesn't. He takes his leave gracefully and leaves her to her boyfriend.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 6, "Take The Deviled Eggs."
Jess gets a car! And everybody hates him for it! Well, in fairness, everybody already hates him. But people really gang up on him about the car, which is so unfair!
Jess worked hard for that car. He got a job at Walmart, which Luke laughs about endlessly.
What makes Jess better than Dean, besides, you know, everything, is that he has a life outside his relationship with Rory. He has his struggles and aspirations.
He had his relationship with Luke, which means he will always be important, no matter what happens with Rory.
Still, we really want things to happen with Rory!
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 7, "They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?"
Rory and Dean are through! This episode marks the end of the Rory/Dean relationship (sort of) and the beginning of Rory and Jess as a couple.
Rory and Jess both act a little childish, trying to make each other jealous. But as Dean says, everyone can see how into each other they are.
Jess is into Rory. Rory is into Jess. She has been for months, and now there is no Dean standing in their way. Hip-hip-hooray!
Of course, it would have been better if Rory had come to this conclusion herself, instead of Dean forcing her hand, but one step at a time.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 8, "Let The Games Begin."
To quote Lorelai, "that was episode one of Rory and Jess, the early years." They are a couple!
Everything is awkward and adorable at first, like those cute little "hi" moments they have. Not to mention them fumbling through being around each other in Jess and Luke's apartment. Jess may be cool, but he can still be awkward as hell.
Luke's freaking out like a lunatic, suddenly deciding Jess is not good enough for Rory, and Lorelai is trying to be supportive and mostly succeeding.
Still, nothing can keep this Romeo and Juliet apart. They meet up and share the second of many kisses. And folks, it's one for the record books, with XTC's "Then She Appeared," playing in the background.
Is it just me, or does Literati have the best kiss scenes?
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 9, "A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving."
Jess is trying so hard for Rory! The girl lives in a microscope, and she's terrified of what the town will think, or what her ex will think.
Jess dials it back when she asks him to, but then Rory decides she wants to flaunt it just as much as Jess does. Kiss number five in counting, and it's another great one.
Meanwhile, Jess tries to avoid fighting with Dean. How sad is it that he knows Rory would blame him if they got into a fight? Dean is happy that it's no more Mr. Nice Guy.
There's a bit of foreboding because of that, but everything about the Literati relationship this episode is still shiny and new.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 10, "That'll Do, Pig."
Rory and Jess are a couple. Yes, they've been a couple for a couple of episodes. But now they're really a couple! What do I mean?
I mean they're the kind of couple who are already in the habbit of nearly getting hit by cars because they're so busy making out.
They're been together for a bit now, but they're still in the hot and heavy, can't-get-enough-of-each other stage. Oh, that it could last forever.
Dean tries to mess with them a bit, mostly with Jess, but he can't come between them. Because Rory likes Jess's crazy hair, and Jess tolerates Dean's little sister for Rory's sake.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 14, "Swan Song."
The episode that coined the term "booktease." You Literati people know what I'm talking about.
Jess isn't the sort of boy you bring home to your grandmother, but he's powerless to say no when Rory bribes him with a book and a kiss.
His insecurities really show this episode, as do the cracks in their relationship. We love Jess, and his insecurities make us just want to give him a hug. He'd never let us though.
The lie about the black eye marks the beginning of the end for these two, but not before Rory seriously contemplates losing it to Jess.
Oh, how we wish she had. If only "keep thinking what you're thinking," had led where it should have.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 15, "Face-Off."
Does Jess know how to treat Rory? Not according to Lorelai. Of course, she doesn't know about the Distillers tickets.
So, yeah, Jess has some stuff to figure out. So does Rory. She needs to stop comparing Jess to Dean. Jess is not Dean, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
And if Rory is upset with Jess, she needs to tell him. Otherwise, how is he supposed to know he did something wrong?
Somebody, anybody, please, make these kids communicate before they destroy everything we hold dear!
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 19, "Keg! Max!"
Jess has been having some trouble in school. He's smart, but he doesn't think he's going to college, so why waste the time in high school?
Except now he can't take Rory to her prom, and he sees everything he has slowly slipping away. He's going to lose Rory. He's going to lose everything!
So his behavior isn't the best. We will always mourn what happened in Kyle's bedroom.
As for the fight though, that was all Dean. He threw the first punch, and he had no right. Rory isn't his to protect anymore.
This one will make you cry and ask why we can't have nice things, but it's an important one for every Literati shipper to watch.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 20, "Say Goodnight, Gracie."
Rory tells her mom about the thing in Kyle's bedroom. Lorelai hits the nail on the head. The issue is communication. These two just never learned to do that.
Jess had a broken childhood, and he doesn't know how to trust and open up. So they avoid each other like the plague. He finally tells her he can't take her to prom on his way out of town.
Because Luke kicked Jess out. Stars Hollow is his home no more.
Where will he go? What will he do? Stay tuned.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 21, "Here Comes The Son."
We have to be grateful this spinoff show was never picked up. If it had been, Jess likely would not have worked out his issues quite so neatly. Good TV isn't full of healthy, normal people.
Still, it was nice to get a glimpse of where Jess ended up in this backdoor pilot episode.
Jess went to stay with his father, and while he acted like he didn't care what happened to him back in Stars Hollow, he admits to Jimmy how lost and scared he is.
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to come back stronger. We're sorry it had to come to that for Jess, but we're always rooting for him.
Meanwhile, back in the Hollow, Lorelai tells Rory that Jess is gone. Cue the tears.
Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 22, "Those Are Strings, Pinocchio."
I spoke too soon. Here's where you cue the tears.
Jess is only on this episode for a minute, but Rory's goodbye phone call to him breaks our hearts.
It wasn't easy for her to say those three words to Dean, and sadly, she never said them to Jess when they were together.
He gets to hear them from her through a payphone in California, as she tells him she'll move on and be fine without him, and that she's not going to pine.
She comes off pissed, and she is, but she also can't hold back the tears when she says what she thinks will be her final farewell to Jess Mariano.
Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 12, "A Family Matter."
Jess comes back to Stars Hollow to get his car.
This episode marks the introduction of Jess's mom, Liz, who isn't quite as bad as we'd pictured.
She calls Jess and let's him know that Luke stole his car, so he shows up to take it back. The two of them have it out, screaming at each other, but Luke still let's Jess stay the night.
Meanwhile, Rory and Lorelai see him asleep in the back of his car. Rory is not thrilled to see him.
Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 13, "Nag Hammadi Is Where They Found the Gnostic Gospel."
The whole town is buzzing about Jess's return.
He hurts Luke, and he pisses off Lorelai, so in a way, it's like he never left.
Except Rory is no longer so thrilled with his existence. She's downright pissed, and we don't blame her.
After chasing her Rory through the street, Jess tells her what we've known since we first fell for these two. He says those three little words, and she just stands there stunned as he drives away.
Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 20, "Luke Can See Her Face."
Why won't Jess come to his mother's wedding? Why, Rory of course.
Luke and Jess have a conversation about communication, and Luke gives Jess a book that both would be ashamed to read.
Still, it helped Luke with Lorelai. Maybe it can help Jess with Rory.
Also, Jess gets into a fight at a strip club.
Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 21, "Last Week Fights, This Week Tights."
Jess is really working on himself.
He's reading a self-help book. He's trying to mend fences with his mom. He's finally letting Luke know that he appreciates everything our favorite diner owner did for him.
It all seems like great progress, until he shows up half-cocked at Rory's dorm room and asks her to run away with him.
Impulsive? Yes. A little insane? Sure. And probably not the wisest decision for either of them right now.
Still, it was romantic as hell. Our hearts broke again when Rory said "No!"
Gilmore Girls Season 6 Episode 8, "Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out."
Time heals all wounds. It's been a year and a half since Rory and Jess last saw each other.
Jess is in a good place, and we are so proud of him. He has a job in publishing! And he wrote a book! And he came all this way to tell Rory he couldn't have done it without her.
Rory is not in a good place. Her life is seriously screwed up. She's living with her grandparents. She dropped out of Yale. She and Lorelai aren't speaking.
Good thing she has Jess to talk some sense into her. Everyone else was telling her she had to get her stuff together, but Jess was the only one who could make her listen. If that doesn't say soulmates, I don't know what does.
Gilmore Girls Season 6 Episode 18, "The Real Paul Anka."
A sad ending to the Literati saga in the original series.
Rory has her life more together now, except for the part where she's still with the boyfriend that cheated on her.
When she tries to use Jess to get back at Logan, she breaks something between them. After all this time, she still hasn't learned the proper way to treat him.
He's ready for her, but she's not ready for him. She loves Logan. He accepts that gracefully, even giving her permission to tell Logan something happened between them if she likes.
And that would have been the end ...
But Wait! There's More!
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, "Summer," "Fall"
Jess is tragically underutilized in the revival, but we do see him. He comes to Rory's rescue yet again, giving her the idea to write "Gilmore Girls," the story of her and Lorelai that has been building for decades.
He also has some nice moments with Luke. They're both men now, and they can talk about their lives and relationship problems.
Jess listens when Luke is worried Lorelai is going to leave him. He's also there to help Luke get ready for the wedding when that turns out to be the oppostie of true.
While time has passed, and it may be too late, one final glance tells us that he still has a special place in his heart for a certain blue-eyed Gilmore Girl.
Here's hoping for another revival that does Jess and Literati justice!
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Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..