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Dave Rygalski: The Unsung Boyfriend of Gilmore Girls

Over the past year, Gilmore Girls has become my ultimate comfort show. I love the relationship drama on the show, but I reject all of Rory Gilmore’s unsatisfactory boyfriends. Dean? Controlling. Jess? Toxic. Logan? Trash. And I won’t even get started on Lorelai’s love life. The constant ups and downs of Rory and Lorelai’s volatile relationships leave me scrambling to recover every time I follow them through the seasons. In the midst of their dramatic breakups, affairs, and broken engagements, one person always comes to mind when considering the many love interests who’ve come and gone on Gilmore Girls — Dave Rygalski, Lane’s bandmate-turned-boyfriend in season 3. 

 

Dave Rygalski was the most underrated boyfriend on the whole show. He was sweet, caring, and truly Lane’s equal who proved himself to be worthy of her love and Mrs. Kim’s approval. He shared Lane’s niche taste in music and regularly advocated for her among their bandmates. Yes, he was only on the show for nine episodes and he didn’t actually date either of the titular Gilmore girls. Nevertheless, this is my love letter to Dave Rygalski. 

 

Lane didn’t have much luck in love during the first two seasons of the show. Besides her perfunctory dates organized by Mrs. Kim, Lane’s only real prospect was Henry Cho, Rory’s Chilton classmate. While Henry seemed initially promising, he ultimately wasn’t willing to go along with her elaborate schemes to evade Mrs. Kim’s suspicions and he ended up taking another girl to prom. Lane was left heartbroken, and viewers were left wondering if Lane would one day get the love she deserves. 

 

Enter Dave Rygalski. Dave first appears in the episode “Application Anxiety.” The first night Dave and Lane meet, they listen to music together on a bench and it’s hinted that their love for music is destined to grow into something more. Rory quips that a love song was in their future, and right she was. 

 

Dave Rygalski felt like a breath of fresh air when he showed up unexpectedly at the infamous Stars Hollow dance marathon where the Rory-Dean-Jess love triangle comes to a head in the episode “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?” Dave stops by to see Lane, who’s serving eggless egg sandwiches with Mrs. Kim. Dave ate Mrs. Kim’s eggless egg salad sandwiches without complaint and laid the groundwork for his venture into Christian music during his first encounter with Mrs. Kim. Dave’s sharp wit shines through in this scene. He quickly caught on to Mrs. Kim’s no-nonsense attitude by subtly establishing a rendezvous point for him and Lane to meet somewhere outside of Mrs. Kim’s all-knowing control of Lane’s whereabouts. Dave recognized that earning Mrs. Kim’s trust was an important first step to getting in her good graces, but he was still cunning enough to go along with Lane’s scheming. Respectful, with a hint of a wild side. What’s not to love?  Mrs. Kim eventually awarded Dave the privilege of sitting in the Kim family pew at church, so I think it’s safe to say that him and Mrs. Kim reached a point of mutual respect. 

 

In the episode “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” Dave spent his Thanksgiving playing soft Christian music for Mrs. Kim’s celebration. He of course sneaked a quick riff of a rock song during his guitar performance, proving that Dave is anything but bland. Dave is nothing but patient while braving through hours of Christian hymns and Mrs. Kim’s tofurkey. After Dave leaves, Lane runs his Bible that he “forgot” to him outside and they finally get alone time together. Lane apologizes to Dave about the constant scheming around her mother, but Dave reveals his sense of humor when he responds that playing his guitar for hours gave him “Kurt Cobain calluses.” It’s clear that Dave didn’t view Lane or the (many) hoops he had to jump through to be with her as a burden. He even told her that they should put the $20 he earned from the gig towards their first real date. The scene ended with them having their first kiss. The Bible kiss™ will forever go down as one of the best first kisses on Gilmore Girls. 

 

In the episode “Face-Off” Dave ran over a mile during his 15 minute break from one of his Christian music performances for Mrs. Kim to see Lane when she was on a fake date with Yung Chui, her pretend boyfriend. This was definitely unhinged, but honestly I loved it. Dave stopped by quickly to check in and didn’t linger in a possessive or stalker-y way. While Dave’s jealousy of Young Chui did eventually become more pronounced (“Keg! Max!”), he never took his frustrations out on Lane and he continued to show respect to Mrs. Kim even when his future with Lane looked bleak. His emotional maturity was a refreshing contrast to how Dean, Jess, or Logan would have acted in the same situation. 

 

A few episodes later in “Say Goodnight, Gracie” Dave showed initiative when he finally worked up the courage to ask Mrs. Kim if he could take Lane to prom. Dave’s bumbling yet earnest monologue topped all other professions of love uttered on the show. He stood up for himself while still respecting Mrs. Kim and her authority as Lane’s mother. Here, Dave firmly establishes his strength of character when he stays up all night to read the entire Bible, cover to cover, in hopes of decoding Mrs. Kim’s cryptic response to his monologue. While this was ultimately done in vain because Mrs. Kim was actually quoting Shakespeare, his efforts demonstrated to Mrs. Kim, Lane, and viewers alike that Dave Rygalski was truly a force to be reckoned with. This scene beautifully demonstrated the lengths he would go to for Lane. Unlike Henry who was unwilling to scheme with Lane to be together, Dave was willing to cross bridges and move mountains to take Lane to prom. 

 

Sadly, this is the last time we saw Dave Rygalski. We never get to hear about how prom went for Lane and Dave, and this fuels my villain origin story. I will never forgive Amy Sherman-Palladino for giving us a character so perfect only for him to leave so soon. He’s mentioned a few times throughout season 4, but he soon completely disappears as his absence from the show is explained by him going to college in California. In reality, Adam Brody left Gilmore Girls to star in The O.C., taking our beloved Dave Rygalski with him. 

In conclusion, Dave Rygalski was everything a fictional boyfriend should be. Although his relationship with Lane was overshadowed by the Rory-Dean-Jess love triangle that took center stage in season 3, Dave stood out because he was polite, dorky, witty, and everything else that Rory’s boyfriends lacked. Dave Rygalski proved that you can have a respectful, non-toxic boyfriend who is also exceptionally interesting and unique in his own right. No one can tell me that Dave Rygalski was boring or mediocre. His determination and sincerity set him apart from other love interests on the show who always paled in comparison. Dave Rygalski was one of the finest characters on Girlmore Girls, and by far the best boyfriend on the show.

Howdy! I'm Jackie, and I'm a third-year History and Politics double major and Education minor at UCSC. I'm also the Events Director of HerCampus at UCSC. In my free time, I enjoy reading, knitting, listening to 80's music, and squirrel-watching!
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