Dorothy's dreams of appearing on stage with her tap team, Rose and Blanche, are dashed when she discovers she has a small tumor that needs to be removed. We validate Dorothy's fears of seeking help in a healthcare system that is barely functioning, celebrate her roommate and under-appreciated guest star, Bonnie (played by the late, great Anne Haney) and emphatically endorse old ladies drinking sherry in the park.
Below is the Enough Wicker podcast transcript for Episode 18: A Case of Morton's Neuroma & the Perils of the American Healthcare System, analyzing The Golden Girls Season 1 episode, The Operation :
Hello and welcome to Enough Wicker, a podcast where we dance circles around other fangirls, as we discuss the greatest show of all time, the Golden Girls. I'm Lauren.
And I'm Sarah.
And today we're on the 18th episode in the series, The Operation.
The Operation! The dancing episode, if I'm going with, I guess, my childhood nickname or how I reference each of them. Also the dancing episode and also then a very, you know, intense look at the hospital system and American healthcare, as we get a lot on the show because it's very relevant to the older generation, for sure.
They love a layered episode, you know? In the first season I feel like it's like something really funny and crazy, like they're just tap dancing in a talent show for people about 50, and then also, Dorothy has a paralyzing fear of hospitals and she's receiving really poor health care.
Yes, exactly. Which completely bolsters that fear! Oh, it was amazing. Yeah, actually, well, let's talk about the fun part first, the tap dancing, which is just so cool and so fun to see these ladies do this perfect dance together. And also just thinking about how, like, these women you know, especially for when they were coming up in in Hollywood, that was a thing -- like singing and dancing was much more of a focus, right, than sitcom stuff. So the fact that they would be good at dancing and then think they could feature this as like part of the episode was really cool. Even though I actually learned that Rue McClanahan learned to tap dance for the first time in this episode.
Yeah, no, I mean, it does make sense that she would have had -- they will all would have had -- some background in musical theater. But yeah, it's so great that she, like, did her own stunts. It's really impressive.
I actually just wondered, too -- real quick -- I just wondered, like, was it just convenient, or was Bea Arthur like, 'I won't dance.' ? You know, just conveniently written into the plot that like she's not part of it, right? Or was she just like -- Bea Arthur didn't want to do it?
I don't know that's an interesting -- I feel like it could have been either way. I actually found a clip of Bea Arthur and Betty White dancing together for some TV special about 42nd Street.
Oh, that's so cool!
So she CAN tap dance, like I will verify that!
For sure! Exactly and that's what I'm saying -- I feel like that had to be sort of your calling card, you couldn't just be a one trick pony. You know, you really had to have that multi-talent. It's so cool.
It's so funny though, because this one is like a very funny episode, I think, and when they're doing that dance, Sophia, you know her retorts to every time she sees them dancing are very funny, but I love the one where she's like, 'Margaret Weinstein did the same thing when they changed her medication.'
Oh, right! I thought you meant -- my favorite was when she goes, 'I won't dance, don't ask me!'
That one's so good, too. So great.
I feel like that happens so many times where it's just like, well, what was the episode? I guess it was when Blanche is begging Dorothy to go out with Arnie, which eventually happens to Rose, like, she's like, oh, would you go out with his friend, his brother? And Sophia goes, 'sure, i'm game.'
In contrast to the last one, I think they do a really good job at weaving Sophia into the storyline, even though she's not in their dance group. When she does, her lines are peppered in and it's very funny and it's not, like, out of place. Like it's not, you know, "we're out of milk." It works.
Yeah, exactly! Oh, gosh. But yeah, and also like the fact that we open with her knitting a bottle cover for Sherry that she drinks in the park. I also just love drinking Sherry in the park, like this is just, it's just awesome. That's just a perfect little old lady being a rebel, it's amazing.
Yeah. And she's a member of the cloud society, which is just, like, her and her friends looking at clouds, which I assumed was because they were drinking and looking at clouds -- like I love whatever she has going on.
Oh, I know. Like you think it would be like some CBD joke these days. Yeah, it's great. Like, when when you flash forward to Blanche being nervous about going on, right? And Betty -- Rose, obviously -- is like really just, like, we're doing this, tough crap. Blanche is telling a childhood story where she looks bad, which is like, does that ever happen? She peed her pants? Like even though she was a little girl and it's a cute little story, it struck me so -- it just stands out because she never tells a story from her childhood or otherwise where she actually comes out looking bad.
Yeah, exactly. Well, except when they find that picture. 'Fat, fat water rat.'
Well, yeah. But so far. Also, all of the tap moves they do are named after Cincinnati or they're out of Cincinnati. I know nothing about tap dancing. So it just cracks me up that like there's so many of these. And then like Sophia references going to Cleveland for Uncle Mario's funeral, and it's like how much Ohio was in this episode?
Was tap invented in Ohio?
I don't know, I don't think so. But clearly, Cincinnati got some sort of toehold on it.
Hey-o! Yeah, so it's crazy. So Dorothy has like what she perceives to be like a minor injury or whatever, right? And then it's so bizarre that when they're all kind of talking about what's going on with Dorothy's foot, Rose is like prove it! do a Cincinnati two-step! And it's, like, don't do that if you're injured! What a weird thing.
And she goes, 'Okay!' and I'm already wincing before she even starts. I'm like, girl. I also love that they make an STD joke about Morton's neuroma.
How did you ever get your foot?
It's such low-hanging fruit, but it's just great, because it's just a bizarre name for just, like, you know, a cyst or whatever. But anyway, yeah, so again, we see this Dorothy antithesis -- like she's the strong one, right? But she has this vulnerability about hospitals, right? And, you know, 'what about blood? What about death?' Like what are these potential, you know, issues that can come for me taking care of this the way that you know, everybody is telling me that I should. I think it's just it's a really good choice of having this be her fear, because, again, as we see, it's quite grounded in the way that she's treated at the hospital by the doctors.
Yeah, and you know, what else -- it I think that another piece in addition to -- it pairs well with it, but in addition to the fear of the medical establishment and medical treatment is this whole idea of like aging with dignity, and, you know, we see her struggle with that later down the line with a hearing aid.
What? Tell her what the doctor said! Oh my god, it's so far away, but I'm so fucking stoked.
That one's so good. Good news, you can't!
It's literally one of my top five favorite episodes. And I have a great story for when we come on to that, like eight years from now.
But yeah, so I mean, like, it's this thing that is, you know, could be treated and could be fixed, but you have to address it. And I feel like it's a pretty universal situation to be in, and even though logically when you lay it out, it's like why would you not just go get this thing fixed really quickly and then live your totally normal life after that? You know, getting it fixed is a hurdle, and it's it's not as simple as it sounds.
Exactly. And it's interesting, you know, like, yeah, Sophia makes the point where she's like, all right, we're gonna do the operation here and she's like, no, 'I'm just acting as stupid as you are.' And you're like, yeah, you're right, like I should fix this thing. It should be simple but then, again, you go to the hospital. We have this very American healthcare scene, right? Like where it's just like, the doctors like, yeah, it's not your doctor that you're expecting, that you're comfortable with, because you're already afraid. I'm just going to come in here and have you sign forms, like, I'm not actually going to be personable or explain much to you, whoops, I don't want to talk about malpractice but I do, and then you know, like nothing -- like it all is obviously played for laughs and it's exaggerated, but it's not exaggerated that much! Like there is definitely a lot of true beats in there that I don't even know if they were going for when they wrote this episode, but my god does it ring true today.
Yeah, no, definitely. And I think, you know, seeing Dorothy in the hospital and having her navigate that is terrifying, and I related to that. Sophia's reaction to Dorothy's unwillingness to get treatment and the whole, like, let me suffer? You know, that bit? It's also very true. I feel like mothers in any situation when their child is in pain or struggling with, you know, they all talk about how awful that is. But in a situation like this, where it's like she should be receiving better care, but there's nothing you can do to fix that, it must be wildly frustrating.
Absolutely. Also, like, when you know, the pain of mothers, you know, or the pain of mothers seeing their children in pain, and Sophia goes 'worse than the 23 hours of labor it took to bring you into this world' and then Dorothy, like, starts reciting the entire speech? I just love that interplay of like, again, reminding you their mother and daughter and she's heard this for years, but like, literally, I was in labor with my daughter 23 hours. Exactly. What's really hilarious. like, when I watched this episode again, I was like, oh my god, that was like the best part. My entire labor, I guess second to my kid coming out, okay, but I was like oh my gosh, it's like the same same hours for Sophia. That's great.
Yeah. Did you do that on purpose?
You know, no, it just happens man it's nuts. I definitely wouldn't have picked that long. But yeah, also along the lines of, like, the healthcare system and things and Sophia, again, is talking about Sicily and having like, you know, operations with no pain relievers or anything like that. And she says this whole speech, and she just goes, 'Sicily, love it or leave it.' Just interesting because, again, we're before -- we're a little pre the 'Picture it' type of things where we constantly are going back to Sicily, but I also wonder what people who live in Sicily think of the Golden Girls, and think of all these moments, particularly in the 80s of being like, come on, we're not like that. We're not this backwards country, you know? So I'm fascinated by that. I would love to like read an interview with somebody watching it real time.
Yeah, maybe it's, like, banned there or something. And, you know, speaking of the family relationships, we haven't heard too much about Sal yet. Like, I think he's been mentioned here and there, but I think that Dorothy definitely has like subtle issues with him, in general, I think, and his lack of what seems to be being around, but she talks about, you know, the traumatizing experience of being left alone at the hospital when she was a kid, and Sophia is like, well, we had to work like what were we going to do? Which is understandable and relatable, but also like, yes, obviously, Dorothy would be a little damaged from that. So it's interesting that it pops up here.
You're right -- that comes up a couple other times. So just like the way that, yeah, that Sal in particular, like has -- there's a couple of traumatizing moments that Dorothy has gone through with him in particular, so noted for the future appearances.
Wait til we get into Blanche's daddy issues, you think -- we got a whole lot to go through.
My God. There's a lot of weird ones. Can we talk about Bonnie.
Oh, yeah, Bonnie!
Yeah. Also speaking like I was saying that healthcare scene is very American and very real. But also what is very not real is the fact that Bonnie is sleeping over in the hospital the night before her surgery. I mean, maybe she had tests and pre-op stuff, but like, come on, she's like, getting surgery tomorrow. I'm just like, hanging out here. I was like, I'm pretty sure that's not how it works.
But I like what they're using -- like, I like the reasoning behind Bonnie.
Of course, of course. No, it's wonderful. And she's a great character. I kind of wish that we had her as a fuller episode. And I love that, you know, she just -- like Dorothy says, you know, she feels like a damn fool. Like it's it's so real and very, very relevant to like when when you're being neurotic about your own life and then somebody just checks you on it, and they're not even intending to, right? You just sort of put the pieces together yourself. And it really puts things into perspective for you. And that's like, the way that Bea Arthur delivers that line is, like, you can see the wheels turning in her head already, of just like, all right, like, I gotta do this. I am being stupid.
Yeah, no, it's great and and the dynamic between Dorothy and Sophia is obviously maybe a little bit ahead of this other one, but the one between Rose and Blanche is really, I think, blooming here. It's so funny when -- So first of all, I love when Rose runs in because she saw a big ugly man with a limp near her window. Which is so great.
Also, again, playing on sort of that 'big ugly man thing' with Bea Arthur and her being able to take it in stride and play along so well. Then she's like, 'but then again, it was dark and I tend to overdramatize...' And then Dorothy just really gently nods her head. It is perfection -- there's the subtle acting where it's, like, just gently nods her head. And it says so much in that one look and that one action. It's amazing.
It is -- it's so good. And I think Rue McClanahan kind of does it on the other side where she could have easily over-acted during the time where she's trying to get out of performing in the show, when she's like, I think I caught what Dorothy has, and one little girl wet her pants, but it's so funny and it really works. And it works because, like, we've seen that Blanche is not good under pressure. She wasn't, you know, and like this is another one of those moments where her facade of being this incredibly confident and always confident woman. She has to strip it down because she doesn't want to do it. Of course, you know, we're all thrilled that she does because it's a wonderful performance, but yeah. It's nice to see that friendship kind of like on its own, really flourishing in this one.
Yes, exactly. And, you know, constantly carries into their acting and like their doing things together, apart from the other two outside the house, which is really, really fun.
And it's funny. I mean, this is going forward a little bit but, um, I would have referred to this episode as 'the one where it ends on the freeze frame' because like, what is that? It never happens again, it's never happened before, were they just trying it one time? What a weird thing!
Does it only happen in this episode? Is that true?
I think so. I don't ever recall it happening ever again.
I just also thought -- that is really funny. So again, let's explore that moment because, okay, Dorothy had to be in the hospital, so they kicked her out of the act and formed The Two Merry Widows, so she can't dance with them again. You're also recovering, but you're really that mad? Like you're gonna punch through their hat? It's just very bizarre, but also did -- oh man now I'm just like reminded of like, almost every fuckin television show ended on a dorky freeze frame like that in these days. It's funny. But yeah, it's again another stretch where you're just like, is that really what you'd react to? Anyway.
I also think that this is a nice sort of foreshadowing to all of the times -- we've talked about how theater plays like kind of a bigger role in this show than maybe in real life, but all of the times that you see Rose and Blanche in costume in an inappropriate setting. Because, like, there's this one where they walk in but I couldn't help think of the one where Rose is gonna go for a walk when she's like dressed as like a cat, cuz --
Oh yeah, the cats are amazing and the nuns! You're right, there are like a ton of those. That's right. Oh, man. There's got to be -- hopefully some superfan put together a montage of that on YouTube. Otherwise, I guess we're gonna have to do it. But that's right, that sets a great precedent. Oh God. I think the only other thing that we didn't talk about here is just -- we talked about how many weird cops there are in the show, but then there's just like another weird priest, like, just count it again. Like, he comes in, and he wakes her up. Like the best is she wakes up from being splashed with holy water, which is kind of awesome. And again, I think it's another callback -- it's so bizarre, but if you think about it, just for a second, that also could very much happen. It's just bureaucracy, and the priest is just like, oh, whoops came to the wrong room, like totally classic for an old man priest just wandering around the hospital, and just, like, not even paying attention. 'I'm just doing my checklist.' It's so stupid. But it's actually, you're like no, actually, that that could probably happen, too. Hospitals are really weird places.
Yeah, and then he's like, and then he's like, do you need last rites while I'm here? You would never say!
But again, they would! Like I've met -- like it's an irreverent priest. I've met so many of them, where they're just like, oh, by the way, yeah, you're gonna die today? Are you worried about that? Get the hell out of here.
Yeah, they're always offering blessings and you're like, I just want your fucking blessing, guy! Keep it to yourself.
Oh, man, you got anything else?
No, I think we covered it all!
I love it. I love it. All right, well, join us next time when we discuss the lifestyle contrasts of flying in a private jet and installing your own toilet. Take care, folks.