EXCLUSIVE! 'Gilmore Girls' Oral History: The Cast Reflects on the Dance Marathon Episode

by Leanne Aguilera 1:15 PM PDT, June 11, 2015
Photo: Warner Bros.

Alright, people! Lace your shoes and pin those curls because we're reliving one of the best episodes in Gilmore Girls' history!

In season three, fans were gifted with an episode entitled, "They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?" which featured a classically quirky Stars Hollow event. For 24 exhilarating-turned-exhausting hours, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), Rory (Alexis Bledel) and the rest of our beloved quirky town shimmied and twirled all around the dance floor in an effort to snatch the trophy away from four-time champion Kirk (Sean Gunn).

The rules of the dance marathon -- as decreed by Taylor Doose (Michael Winters), of course -- were simple: "All couples must be touching at all times. All couples must remain moving at all times. The only times you may stop moving or stop touching is when you hear the horn."

The episode had everything: killer costumes, town eccentricities, a gut-wrenching breakup, new beginnings, sweet flirtations, and Kirk.

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ETonline caught up with the Gilmore Girls cast and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino for their 15-year reunion panel at the ATX Television Festival, and asked everyone to reflect back on the episode and spill exclusive behind-the-scenes secrets. Read on for the complete oral history of "They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?" through the episode's conception, look, choreography and more!

Plus, we caught up with stars Milo Ventimiglia and Jared Padalecki about the episode's fatigue-fueled boiling point where Dean and Rory's relationship ended, and Jess and Rory's relationship began -- and their answers will make you swoon, no matter what team you're on.

To properly get you in the mood to relive the episode that totaled up to 43 minutes and 29 seconds of small screen perfection, press play on the song below and let's get started!

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The Concept: "I love the dance marathon!" Palladino exclaimed the instant we mentioned the episode. "Dance marathon was so hard because I wanted to do that for two years and I didn’t have the money. It was a super expensive episode!"

"Any [episode] with a lot of performers or extras is money," she explained. "It was a dance marathon so you had to have the extras, and the music, and a lot of the cast, and for us it was a super expensive episode. It wasn't until that third season that I got them to let me do it."

Due to the fact that this hour was on Palladino's wish-list for nearly two and a half seasons, it has become one of her all-time favorite episodes along with "Rory's Birthday Parties" and "The Road Trip to Harvard."

"There are certain touchstone [episodes] like the dance marathon that really reiterate to the audience that although we do crazy s**t, this is what we're really about," she said. "They [represent] the heart and soul of [Lorelai and Rory] but through the bigger issues of life, and best friends, and love, and moving out, and moving on, and growing up."

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The Look: When we asked Graham about this episode, the actress confessed that she barely remembers shooting it as it was a long blur of dancing, running, and very tired feet. "I think it was probably a 50-hour day -- which doesn't even exist," she laughed.

However, the one episode aspect that she'll never forget was the chic dresses that she and her onscreen daughter wore. "I remember we had really cute outfits," Graham said as she gestured down to her own gorgeous white dress on the Gilmore Girls reunion red carpet.

"Oh yeah!" Alexis Bledel chimed in. "We had cool '40s outfits. I definitely remember the clothes, and the really cool hair."

Palladino said that watching her vision for a '40s-inspired dance marathon come to life was a key moment for the series as a whole. "It was just beautiful and it was really fun," the showrunner said, "and it really kicked off those sort of quirky town things for us."

She further revealed, "Not just festivals to have in the background, but things that were sort of their own character and are a part of the stories. So I loved it."

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The Choreography: Being that it was one of the biggest Gilmore Girls episodes to date, Palladino knew just the man who would be able to take a gymnasium full of extras and transform them into movin' and groovin' Stars Hollow townsfolk.

"That was the first [episode] that Kenny Ortega directed for us," Palladino recalled. "And he was a f**king rockstar!"

Much like her notoriously flirtatious character, Miss Patty, Liz Torres was charmed by Ortega on set and delighted to be reunited with him. "I used to be in dance class with [Ortega] in L.A. and all the girls were in love with Kenny," Torres remembered with a laugh. "He had hair down to here. [Gestures to her back] And when he turned, his hair would just spin. He was gorgeous! And all of us were in love with him."

Torres continued, "So it was fun having this now-famous director on our show. He had [just choreographed at the 2002] Olympics and there he was right in front of me and he was like, 'Oh, I remember you from dance class!'"

On-Set Secrets: While Dean was sent off to the bleachers to play his role as "Spectator Ken," Padalecki recalled at how thrilled he was to be able to take a seat and relax. "I remember being in that gymnasium, where we filmed it over, and over, and over again," he said.

"I had just gotten a fake ID and I had just gone to Las Vegas for the first time the night before. These were the days before they would swipe IDs," Padalecki, who was only 20 years old at the time, confessed. "And I remember being so tired from that, I fell asleep on the bleachers."

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Luke to the Rescue: With just one hour left in the marathon, Lorelai suffered a horrible dancing casualty. The heel of her shoe broke off (Rory told her not to wear vintage shoes!) and she used her one-time-only emergency card to hobble off the dance floor in search of the one person who was always there for her: Luke.

"That moment when they were all dancing and I was with Lauren was probably my favorite moment of the show," actor Scott Patterson -- who was not wearing a baseball hat -- revealed with a smile. "I think it was my favorite moment with [Lauren] too."

"Whenever Luke supported her or helped her, I just thought that defined their relationship," he said of Luke's quick crazy-glue cobbling skills.

"Lorelai brought that out, those protective instincts in him. That 'I can protect you, and I will be there for you, and nothing will get in the way of that' feeling. That's true friendship. It was magical."

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The Breakup - Dean's Point of View: For all the Team Dean fans out there, the dance marathon episode was a gut-wrenching blow as Dean reached his breaking point for Rory and Jess' antagonistically disguised flirting. Padalecki remembered the process of getting into Dean's hurt, yet aggravated mindset. 

"One of the ways I act as an actor is I try and put myself in that position," the Supernatural star said. "I remember doing this [leans forward with his arms out] and yelling, 'Everyone can see it, Rory!'"

"I remember the humiliation," the actor continued, "and the feeling that every now and again someone is at a position where they're like, 'Man, I feel embarrassed. I feel like I can't believe I've been put in this situation.' So I tried to channel that."

But Padalecki -- who proudly stated that he has always been on "Team Jess" -- does not have any lasting ill-wishes on the matter. "I think [Rory and Dean] were right for each other for the time that they were with each other," he said.

"They served a purpose to help each other learn and grow and that's what relationships are about," Padalecki noted. "Whether it's sexual or platonic, it's about learning from somebody, growing with somebody and I think they were able to do that."

So, would Padalecki ever dump a girl in the middle of a town event? "I don’t think I could," he answered. "Now I'm married with kids, so I'll never be breaking up again, but even before that, I don’t think I'd have the guts to do it."

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The Breakup - Jess' Point of View: After a full season of longing glances, stolen kisses, and undeniable sexual tension, Jess and Rory's relationship finally began, but it took a wildly embarrassing, public breakup to be the catalyst.

"I remember that episode," Ventimiglia said. "After that, Jess and Rory got together and he broke up with what's-her-name. It was like, 'You go do what you need to do, I'll go do what I need to do, and we'll meet back up.'"

Ventimiglia revealed that due to Jess' persistence and antagonistic behavior, it was only a matter of time before he and Rory got together. "Jess is a smart guy, man. He just wore her down," he laughed.

"It was just that undeniable thing," Ventimiglia, who actually revealed that he's always been a "Team Dean" supporter, continued. "It was going to happen with Jess and Rory at a certain point and [that episode] was probably just the ultimate breaking point of, 'OK, we can't hide it anymore.'"

Looking back on his time playing Jess Mariano, Ventimiglia said that he always loved that character's "devil-may-care attitude," and how he wasn't going to let a town full of disapproving people stop him from getting the girl. "Jess didn’t give a f**k. That's what I always loved about him, and he did not care about what other people thought," he said.

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There you have it, Stars Hollow fans! ETonline just shimmied and shook our way through this exclusive oral history of the Gilmore Girls dance marathon episode. (We don't know about you, but we're exhausted!)

Fingers crossed that at some point in the future we'll get our Gilmore Girls reunion and Lorelai can finally end Kirk's reign as dancing champion.

What was your favorite part about Gilmore Girls' dance marathon episode? Are you Team Jess or Team Dean? Shout out your thoughts to @LeanneAguilera on Twitter!