There is nothing like civic participation. In this episode, we see all four ladies rally together to save an old Oak tree on Richmond Street. While their petitioning tactics vary (and are sometimes questionable), it is admirable to see how seriously they take environmental and historical conservation. The girls have a formidable opponent in Freida Claxton, a crotchety peeping tom of a neighbor who insists the county get rid of the tree, and when Freida pushes Rose too pfar, she is forced to take matters into her own hands.
Below is the Enough Wicker podcast transcript for Episode 29: RIP Pfreida Claxton, analyzing The Golden Girls Season 2 episode, It's a Miserable Life:
Hello and welcome to Enough Wicker, a podcast where we laugh our p-faces off talking about our favorite television show, The Golden Girls. I'm Lauren.
And I'm Sarah.
And today we're on the 29th episode in the series, "It's a Miserable Life."
Ah, yes. Freida Claxton. One of my faves. This one is really great. A fun fact is actually that that actress was 59 years old in real life. They made her look like an old lady to play Freida Claxton and she was Philomena Bosco.
Yeah! Isn't that wild? I mean, obviously, they have some experience doing Estelle Getty's makeup to make ladies who are not that old look older, but I was very impressed when I learned that fun fact.
Yeah! And what a range of that actress that she -- she comes back as a totally different character, which we see a couple times. But, I feel like both of those two, particularly Freida, are so recognizable. They're, you know, they're big - they're big guests.
Yes, exactly. Exactly. Like, as you're -- as you're fond of saying, even a, you know, a novice Golden Girls fan would probably know who Pfreida Claxton was. So. What do you think of this one? Are you a fan?
Oh, yeah, I love this one. I think it's so -- first of all, the caricature of Frida Claxton of a neighbor that, you know, the kids dress up as as Halloween, and it's just so crotchety that you would, like, you would have to rock-paper-scissors to see who would have to go get the ball if it landed on her lawn, you know? That is a type of person who lives on every suburban street everywhere. So I think from that point, the writers did such a good job at -- obviously, she's exaggerated, and she's over the top, but that character is universal.
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's really interesting, too, because like you said, it might be a little overblown, but it actually comes in part of the episode, right? Where it's like, you think that it's like, oh, maybe it's just a misunderstood neighbor, right? They actually write that into the script.
No, no, no.
No, no. You're wrong. It's really she's just, as Sophia puts it, "a scum, sucking crank," you know, "just plain rotten!" But also, this episode really covers -- it's kind of one of the first appearances of the girls being so proactive in sort of local politics and activism.
Yeah, I love -- I love the civic duty aspect of this one. And you're right. It comes up a lot, but it's them sort of deciding that that's what they're gonna do. Like, they take it -- it's under their own accord that they decide to try to save the tree. And you know, they're out petitioning, and there's some questionable tactics going on from, you know, obviously from Blanche taking three hours to get one signature needing to freshen up to get another, and Sophia just being so Sophia, and getting the signatures of a bunch of dead people, which is hilarious.
They're all doing it in their own flavor, right? It's very appropriate.
But it's cute to see them all rally behind this one cause and it's a cause that you can, first of all, imagine them all believing in, but also a cause it would really need this type of involvement, because nobody cares about the tree on Richmond Street, you know, except for the people who live there. So yeah, I love that. I love that part of it. Obviously, that's -- you're probably right. It probably is the first time we really see them, like, going down to, you know, the courthouse to get involved.
Yes, we actually see that set, which is amazing! We'll talk a little bit more about sets later too, because, you know, as mentioned, like, woo! Second season, big budget, really exciting stuff, you know? Like, using the driveway extensively, you know, in the front of the -- of the house that they now have as a set piece. We get, you know, big money to get to a courthouse and a funeral home.
Yeah, no. You have to -- it does it all.
Yeah, exactly. Well, let's talk about in the very beginning, right, so, you know, Rose -- it's hysterical that there's already sort of the in joke about how St. Olaf stories are already obnoxious, right? Like, she...
Yeah! But I just love, you know, they start the story in the kitchen, and then they all just like hurry off and like, she wasn't gonna follow them into the next room, you know? But it's such a great continuation and just the excitement of how it's -- it -- we transformed into a St. Olaf story, because as we mentioned before, there's already been these stories without St. Olaf being named, but now it's already sort of on the viewer to understand that it's just exhausting.
Yeah, these are these Petticoat Junction people that she has a personal relationship with all of them. Yeah, I want to talk about Rose in this one because obviously she is, you know, such a focal point of this episode. First of all, this is the third person that she has been involved with their death. I would like to point out.
I like how you mitigated that, of "been involved with her death." Some might say killed.
Yeah. "You killed Miss Claxton three days ago."
It's, yeah, it's really interesting. There's definitely a fun, on EnoughWicker.com by the way, we cite it, a link about how Rose Nylund is a murderer. And so, this obviously adds to that extensive case. But yeah, even before we get there, though, she's so optimistic, right? As we talked about before, it's the caricature of this person, the crotchety old lady on the street, that she knows she has a super Pollyanna feel to her in this episode. She can find the good in somebody, right? And it's such a wonderful, wonderful portrayal of the Rose character, because, you know, her intensity, as we've talked about before, and we'll definitely talk about again, you know, comes into that competitive nature and the competitive state, but she goes off a cliff. So she's got this endless patience. This is actually how my husband, Denis is, like, endless patience. A straight line, but then when you hit the end, it just is a precipice, you know? And that's -- that's kind of how we see Rose behaving here, where she's really, just really trying, you know. She's using Danish, she's got all of her, you know, pulled out all the stops, and then she just fucking loses it.
Yeah, and it is -- it's so understandable in a way, because obviously, like, when she finally does snap, it's after she's just been, you know, as we assume, berated and just, you know, this woman, like, took the Danish and now she's not gonna do what she said she did. So, that's the line. That prune Danish, man. That's like...
Seemed to do the trick. Always does for me. And also Freida Claxton shows up to -- she doesn't have to show up to say, "Do what you were saying." You know, she shows up specifically to be against, you know, the girls and all the neighbors that signed the petition, obviously. So yeah, she's a real scum sucking crank.
Yeah, that's what -- like, how awful do you have to be to go to court to make sure they tear down a tree? What!?
Also, I just -- even backing up from there, like, a whole hearing just about this tree? It's like, oh, man, simpler times, you know? Especially --
The Menudo concert!
Oh, exactly! "Denied!? Why was the application denied?" That's a whole other alternate universe episode right there. So, but yeah. So the -- I also love from a civic standpoint, right, and this sort of the pre-courthouse scene when they're sitting outside when they're talking about the Danish and it's this whole greatest country in the world speech, right? It's this whole Americana oh, my gosh. We're on top. We're number one. And I just love that it's cut by, you know, Dorothy's just snide line of like, "What do you mean by that?" Like, oh. She slept with two of the commissioners. And Sophia's doing this whole, you know, "bribing people with money is how we got things done in New York. Oh, my gosh, that works in Sicily and New York when Blanche sleeps with commissioners." It is just such a great reversal and it plays into this sort of more progressive theme of like, all right, we don't need this sort of blind patriotism here. Like, this is how things actually work and I just love that they have a nod to that. And of course, Sophia is, like, a perfect vehicle to make these little comments.
Yeah, no. I love that too, because I feel like this show does this a lot where you think you know what they're doing and it's -- it is, you know, it starts as a cliche, but they are able to just kind of punch you in the face with like, why that cliche doesn't work all the time.
And that's one of these examples.
Exactly. You're right. And it's, you know, it's very often obviously Rose and Blanche who play more of a sort of caricature and these stereotypical archetypes of, you know, the Innocent One, and you know, the Slutty One or the Southern, you know, the Southern Genteel attitude and everything that Blanche, you know, brings to it with obviously, Dorothy and Sophia grounding it. So, it's just -- it's real -- it's such a good scene. And honestly -- and then, you know, then Freida Claxton comes in and we get that whole hilarious exchange with the Danish, but she even has that line where she goes, "there's nothing I hate more than someone who thinks every old person that lives alone wants company and a few kind words." You know, she delivers it so well and when she says that I'm like, oh, god. You're talking to me right through the television. Like, this is me. I really -- I get so torn up about, you know, elderly people being alone and it's just so funny. She's just like, how many times do I have to tell you that like this is my -- what most people would consider terrible, but this is my life.
Yeah, someone get her a dog like that old guy whose wife dies and then is completely fine when Rose gives him the dog.
Oh, of course.
Also, wait. Speaking of bloody, there's a joke -- there's, you know, like obviously this show is rife with like sexual innuendos and stuff, but there's one in this episode that I thought was wild. And I never caught it before or maybe I just have and I didn't remember it. But when they're talking about orator, and she's like, "orator means speaker."
"Orator means speaker."
It's a pretty in your face blow job joke, which...
Yeah, really pushes the boundaries of even what I feel like we expect from this show.
Totally. It's very much, yeah, like the vibrator and The Flu episode joke, right? Where you're like, Oh, damn! They went a little further than I would expect.
Yeah, that got by the censors.
It's also funny because it comes on the heels of we're just joking sort of hypothetically, right? That Blanche is sleeping with two of the commissioners and then we go in there and she's not only has slept with them, but she's like making blow job references. It's -- it's great. I love it. And then we go, I mean, even just from there too, I thought -- I think Rose's speech is amazing. Like, again the fall off the cliff, Betty White thing, and just when she says drop dead and walks away. She's like, "Go on Dorothy," you know like, "Come on," because she's all riled up and everything like that is -- the drop dead part is such a simple joke, but it is so good.
Yeah. And you're right. She does such a good job, because I can't remember what episode this is in, but there's one -- there's -- there's one in the episode where they all are in the jail cell where Betty White is going on and on about how the other people will laugh at her because she'll excel at her work in the library. And, you know, these really long, tangential sort of outbursts, but she does...
Same thing when they're on the desert island.
Yes! That's the other one, right? And they're so long. And she finishes it kind of out of breath in a way that you really would be if you were speaking that way. And it's just really a testament to her talent, that she's able to translate that much, like, short bursts of emotion that are so true to life.
Yeah, you're right! Especially when she says, "Sit down and shut up."
"And if you don't like it..."
Oh, goodness. So the next part I think is really, you know, obviously, like you referenced earlier, "You killed Mrs. Claxton two days ago," where you know, Rose is just sulking, I die every time. "Why do people die, Dorothy?" And she is so exasperated already and Dorothy just goes, "Oh, please Rose. I don't even know why Fools Fall in love." And it's just one of those fun little writer's room jokes that you're just like, man, they must have had that in the back pocket, you know, as some sort of response that Dorothy would have of just all these amazing puns. But again, as always, Bea Arthur just delivers it in this whole exasperated way that makes it all the more funnier, even though it's a funny joke on paper.
Yeah, no, and you -- they do a good job at sort of, like, translating what has been happening while we haven't seen them. Like, we can imagine that off screen, Rose has been terribly annoying about this for days. You know, like, it's all she could talk about and they're all just exhausted by it.
The scene in the kitchen is really nice. It's really funny. There's a lot of crazy, weird stuff. Like, Blanche telling the story of faking her own death. What!?
It is funny, because -- I think we've talked about this before, you know, you're just sort of like, you're on autopilot when you're watching these things, but then when you're really paying attention, that is actually a psychotic story. I also love that she talks about her father like, "He could be a real peckerwood." You're like, dude. Girl, you faked your death! And, you know, there are a lot of great highlights to that where she talks about being like, "a trapped Panther" and Dorothy just goes, "When I was 16, I had acne and played the accordion in the marching band."
Yeah, it's another tallest baby in New York moment.
Exactly. "I had a rash on my head 'til I was two."
Yeah, there's so many! There's so -- that story by itself is just, you know, a real wild ride, but there's so many other little twists and turns. Like, there's the Miss Magnolia pageant, right, which is what set this all off. But so many mentions of childhood beauty pageants in this show.
Oh, absolutely. Oh my gosh. It's funny because, like, Blanche's Southern stories, if they only have a label, you know, it's sort of like, you have Sophia's Sicily stories, you have Rose's, you know, St. Olaf stories, and it's not like we call them Blanche's Atlanta stories or anything like that, but it's kind of interesting that it didn't take the form of its own to be sort of almost its own meme, right? And I think that's just because, like Rue McClanahan, it's not just in her stories that she's hyper Southern. It's everything about her. So it just becomes the character as opposed to this thing this character does. But to your point, a lot of her reminiscing stories are insane, particularly about her childhood.
Yeah, you're right. They should -- they should be just as -- they're just as outlandish as St. Olaf and the people in them, I'm sure are frankly, worse people.
That is absolutely certain.
There's no way Ernest T. Minky owned slaves and everybody in Blanche's stories are very suspect.
Absolutely. They -- they even own slaves after it was, you know, post bellum.
Well, you know, similar on the topic, "What's everybody talking about?" "Ma, I can honestly say I have no idea." Again, simple, simple line, but just it's incredibly delivered. But the whole -- I love the scene where Sophia again, she sort of comes in and just owns it, where it's like, we'll pop for her funeral. She is just, like, she comes in talking all business. And she's just like, you know, "You show respect for human life, no matter how wretched it was. You know, any idiot knows that."
I hear that.
Yeah. But it's -- it's such a, like, another example of her coming in, as you know, the matriarch of this group of matriarchs and saying, all right, no. This is what you do. Like, this is how we're going to handle things. It's, you know, it's kind of the same exact, you know, way that you see her acting when, you know, when Stan needs heart surgery. And she just is like, this is how it is. What's your plan? What are you going to do? And she just goes into action here, which of course, you know, gets us this really interesting twist. But of course, the first time I watched this episode, I was just like, oh, you would do that? I guess so. That's actually a really decent thing to do.
I mean, if you believe in funerals and all that, but you know what I mean. Like, even if it's a memorial type of thing. But.
Yeah, and it's nice. I think that she has to be -- it has to be from her, you know, because she's like this old world -- And that's how she justifies it, too. Is like, it's the Sicilian custom. It's good luck to bury someone you hate and Dorothy's, like, you feel bad. And it really works, because I'm sure the rest of the girls, obviously Rose is super guilt stricken, but the rest of the girls do feel bad, but maybe either they don't feel bad enough to raise this idea, or it just doesn't occur to them. So it needs -- you have to have somebody who's so far removed to suggest this idea. And, you know, it's funny. I think that this episode is great. But I always think of -- I think of Freida Claxton and then I think of the p-funeral bit as two separate things, you know, and they're both so strong and so good. But it's funny to watch this one again, you know, as a -- as a scholar at this point and be like, wow, they're both in the one episode and they're both two really separate funny scenes, but the funeral home scene is a classic. It's so good.
It's amazing. Like I said before, I think even just the set kind of blows you away in terms of just what we've seen previously in the show, you know? You're just like, man, this wasn't, you know, was this from another sitcom that they borrowed? Like, maybe. What's the deal? But you're right. It actually feels like this whole separate episode, because it's just so rich with so many funny lines. But also, like you were saying before, this through line of sort of this moral decency. Like whether or not you actually believe that, you know, God is watching and God needs a funeral and you're supposed to be doing something nice for your fellow man or crotchety old lady neighbor, it's still -- it's still interesting from -- even from a topic of closure from the girls themselves, right? And that's what Rose is really looking for. Rose is like, I have to do something to sort of atone for this. And it's like, yes, it's about sort of being decent to your fellow man, but it's also about feeling guilt, right? Like, "Ma, you feel bad." That line, like you said, Dorothy kind of calls her out on it. It's like, this is a way -- this is what we do in our society as a way to provide closure for a death. So it's a different kind of death, because it's somebody you didn't really care about. But, you know, I mean, it's just an interesting little scene. So obviously, they all decide and then we meet Mr. Pfeiffer.
It is -- this thing is so brilliant and it's so simple. So I -- you know, you could read this on the page and you'd be like, eh, I don't know how this is gonna land. Like, it's a funeral. I don't know. But it is so funny. From the beginning when they walk in, to when Dorothy says "p-funeral," to which he says that, you know, "The three of you planning ahead for mother?" There's a break, you know, because the audience is laughing and Estelle Getty takes a couple steps toward him, but she's, you know, so calm and so -- so holding her person. She's like, "How would you like a punch to your p-face?" And it's -- the choice to take the couple steps adds so much to the delivery of that line, it's hilarious. The whole scene is just like, so many laughs.
It's also, I learned from the, you know, the Jim Colucci book that we're super big fans of, is that Bea Arthur really loved this bit. And I think to your point, you could see something on the page that would be okay, but at table read, it would just slay. Because they're doing things like the pausing and, you know, making these very concerted choices of delivery and again, like, even Bea Arthur's face when she says "p-funeral," like, she just has this, like, she almost swallows it. Like, uck, god, you know, I'm so tired of this already. But, you know, this ridiculous name. Can we just get on with it? And it's amazing how in one line or even just in one look, and we talk about their physical comedy all the time, right? You can just deliver so much more than what's written down.
Yeah. And there's another -- this scene is just so funny. There's another part -- you know, we talk a lot about how some dated references really carry through and I think, in spite of the fact that Bill Cosby is an awful, awful human, that when the show was on it was such a cultural phenomenon. And so when he suggests Thursday night for the funeral and they're like, "Oh, god, no. Not Thursday. I can't do Thursday." And they're all like, oh right, The Cosby Show. That's so funny. And so, to capture that moment in time in that way and not make it a huge joke, you know, it's just a little blip in the scene. Just so smart.
It's actually kind of even one of the weakest blips in this scene, which is really a testament to how funny it is. Also like, "Oh, so what happened?" "She killed her. Rough neighborhood." And he just blows by. I mean, a lot of credit is due to the actor who plays Mr. Pfeiffer, because his choice to play this guy. He has the perfect amount of creep for a funeral director and also, obviously as we see later, one that really can't keep anything straight. They got people going in the wrong rooms. They're hiring high school students and getting cremations. It's just all over the place.
Celia Rubinstein! So good.
Okay, so that -- that scene -- okay, first of all, the woman who is giving this speech is amazing and I think she's a great actress. Like, she really makes you believe that there was this hidden -- it's such a perfect bait and switch, right? That there was this hidden secret about Freida Claxton, but actually, no. Like, each time you're set up and you fail thinking that this woman had this streak of goodness. Even in the seat where Sophia is sitting, you know, going "Such a tragedy," you're just like, oh my god. She's getting so, you know, choked up about this and she's just listening to the baseball game. It really reminds me too, is -- I mentioned this before, but I've watched The Golden Girls with my grandmother sometimes and my great aunt also lived with her. You know, it was -- it was a whole sort of childhood little second home thing that I had and my great aunt for many, many years after was just so stubborn, like many of my family members, and refused to get a hearing aid even though she was completely deaf. But she, I guess being super cheap, or I guess as sort of a weirdo compromise to herself, she got this probably no more than $6.99, like, dollar-ish kind of, like, dollar store-ish, but a little bit more expensive, kind of box receiver with earbuds. So I guess it was supposed to take in whatever was happening around you and then just amplify it in your ears? But it looked like a Walkman, right? Like, it was this big giant piece that stood outside with these crappy earbuds that are just like, you know exactly I'm talking about, just like broken thing. So when we used to have family reunions, she would just park herself on the couch and just be sitting there with his box thing, you know, in the middle with her trying to listen to what everybody else was saying to her. But I had friends, you know, that came to my family reunions. It really started early on being like, "Hey, there's free food at my house. My mom says you can come to this party." But my friends would come in and just never talk to her because they just assumed she was just sitting there listening to the Yankees game. And I was like, oh my god. No, like, this -- she's not listening to a Walkman or FM radio or something like that. She's not actually listening to baseball. She's just waiting for somebody to talk to her in the little Squawk Box like you're ordering drive thru. Anyway, it just really reminded me of that and just this little like, you know, cord running up your sleeve type of thing in a social situation.
"Tell her what the doctor said."
Oh, man. Can't wait. It's so long off, but that one's magical.
Yeah, so she's listening to the baseball game and it also -- the woman who's eulogizing Celia Rubinstein, when she finds out that it's Freida Claxton, she kicks the casket, which is amazing. Like, what an addition to the -- it just furthers this -- the belief that we already have that Freida was awful! Like, nobody liked her.
Yeah, exactly. Her -- her reputation, you know, it went far beyond Richmond St., clearly.
Yeah. Okay, so you talked about this -- you mentioned this, but the mix up? That's a pretty big mix up, my guy, Mr. Pfeiffer.
Yeah, seriously. I guess they went to the cheapest funeral home, obviously. But seriously, it's a little much.
Not the right Superman.
Right! But like, obviously, you know, I mean, this is Miami, right? Death is a theme and I think this is kind of an interesting thing, too. Like, to your point about the woman who comes in talking about Ceila Rubenstein, like, already knows about Claxton and it's just -- yeah, Pfeiffer's got to get his shit together, because he's got a lot of business.
Yeah, yeah. So they never should have hired a high school student. I think that's really true. So then it's really interesting, because it's kind of, you know, it doesn't convey this message exactly, but every single thing that goes wrong is like, you know, this is what you get for doing good. Like, I can just -- I can just hear, you know, somebody being like, you know, that's why you never -- you never go too far for somebody. Because now they're stuck with these fucking ashes of this woman that they hate. What are you gonna do with them? You can't just -- but again, I feel like it had, you know, the theme of Rose being the problem solver or Rose sort of taking it into her own hands. Really, from beginning to end, that's what this episode has. It's a little bit in the background, because there's so many other other funny things. But, you know, she's ultimately the one who decides to sprinkle the ashes around the tree, which I think is a little bit ethically questionable, I'd say. You know, for all of these things that these ladies did to preserve Freida Claxton's legacy, like, they put her ashes in the one place that she obviously despised.
She went to court to talk about how she despised it. I know it's really funny, where it's like -- Rose is saying like, "You know and now her life has meaning," and all this stuff. And it's, like, legacy to your point, it's -- it's actually not what she wanted. It's the closest you could get to someone's actual last wishes or a will or something of hey, when I die do this. It's, like, you could make a pretty big guess, because literally, she died defending the fact that she wanted this tree out of there.
Exactly! See! Yeah, they should have just sprinkled it in a new, you know, a new construction site. Now there's an idea. But yeah, it is funny. And it kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier, which is they're looking for this closure, but it's really about their own personal closure, right? Like, you can pretend it -- I mean, it's a gray area, of course, because you are mixed up in good, you know, human, ethical, like, you know, sort of this moral mumbo jumbo about what happens when you die and how should people honor you and how should people who are still living process it? But it's really funny, because it's, like, there's a, you know, I was a philosophy minor in college, and not a major because, you know, there were so many irritating people in these classes. I couldn't take it any longer. But it's interesting when you talk about moral, ethical philosophy. It's, like, there's -- there's a whole school of thought that there is not actually any selfless act, because even if you are doing something nice for someone else, you get that good feeling, or you get this belief if it's tied to religion, that you're doing something good for karma, you know? So it's really interesting. And it's just this whole idea of like, Rose saves the day and actually does this whole kind of brilliant idea politically to save the tree, which just reminds me of the Shandy Pines hotplate discovery that happens later. Where sometimes she's just brilliant on these really wacky, you know, kind of crazy thoughts, but honestly, for her and for the Freida Claxton summary, it's just, like, yeah, that's not what she wanted.
Yeah! But you're right. Like, I mean, that whole Chidi Anagonye bit that you shared, that's totally true. And I think...
Hashtag The Good Place
Another show we love. It's true in funerals -- you're right. Like, it depends I guess on what you believe happens when you die and things like that, but funerals largely are for the living to find closure. It's not for the person who died. So, so yeah. It makes sense that -- I don't think Rose ever intends to do these, like, you know, super morally complicated things that end up getting her what she wants, but ultimately yeah, now her life has some meaning. She's preserving this -- this 100 year -- this century's year old oak tree. And you know, she didn't want it, but guess what? That's where she is!
That's where she is. And, you know, and now Rose Nylund feels even better about her third death that she's responsible for.
Yes, small consolation.
And, scene! Oh, my gosh. All right. Well, I think that's it, huh?
All right. Well, join us next time. We're going to discuss Danny Thomas's sexual preferences and renting porno movies on VHS. Take care, everybody!