We take a look at the 4th episode of The Golden Girls, Transplant. Blanche's sister Virginia makes her first appearance and comes with a big ask..she needs Blanche's kidney. A tough decision for anyone, but even tougher when you consider the bitter rivalry built growing up in Hollingsworth Manor. The other three girls care for a baby in one of the lazier B-stories.
Below is the Enough Wicker podcast transcript for Episode 4: Organ Transplants and Water Skiing Accidents: Bigger in the 80s?, analyzing The Golden Girls Season 1 episode, Transplant :
Hello and welcome to Enough Wicker, a podcast celebrating the universally-loved show, The Golden Girls. I'm Lauren
and I'm Sarah
And today we're on the fourth episode in the series, The Transplant. Or is it just 'Transplant'?
Hmm. Okay, This is a rough one.
Yeah, yes, it is.
So I do think this is one where we should just give like a quick basic premise, which is that Blanche's sister Virginia comes to Miami. And the whole time Blanche is sort of suspicious of her, they've never been close, yada yada. But the big reveal is that Virginia is dying and needs a kidney.
Blanche is telling the rest of the girls the entire time that she wants something, and they're telling her she's ridiculous, and she actually wants a kidney, which is probably one of the biggest asks that siblings could give to each other.
Yeah, so um, Sarah, we kind of touched on this last time, but this one definitely feels sort of out of sync, especially because episode three was so good, and I think it starts from the very beginning when Blanche is so worried about Virginia coming to the house that she's sort of buzzing all over and cleaning, and making sure everything looks nice, and it's just so not like her. You know I think she would want to presntable house, but the idea of Blanche doing housework is sort of ridiculous.
Yes, yes. Well, to be fair, she is making Rose do a lot of the housework.
But no, I counted six different floral arrangements, not including the large batch of like, as-tall-as-her pussywillow sticks that she just holds randomly during her frenzy cleaning. And to your point, like, Blanche is going to be concerned about appearances. She's going to be concerned about looking better than her sister, and looking like she has a better life. You know, Nancy Reagan's decorator, etc., but, like, to go to that length is just very bizarre.
Yeah, speaking of dated references, but that's still lands, you know? We all know! But yeah, so that's sort of out of character and bizarre, and then the next sort of weird scripted part of it is that their friend Ted has an accident.
Oh, oh -- not just an accident, the most 80s accident you could have: Waterskiing accident.
So they're just tasked with watching this baby for an indefinite amount of time.
This little ginger baby who looks like he's about three years old when they do like a close-up. It's great. Um, but yeah, it's a very, very weak B story, I must say. But going back real quick to how it feels off. We mentioned last episode that we were unsure about -- I said 'don't quote me on it,' but now you can quote me on it, like, there definitely was an out-of-order, in terms of recording the episodes and writing the episodes, of course, and airing them. So this actually goes quote-unquote back in time before, you know, the Rose the Prude that we, you know, commented on last time, so it actually makes sense that it's kind of off in terms of the character development and how they're written. So, and it's interesting, too, because even just the way it's shot, like there's always a scene in this one particularly -- it is hysterical. There is a very bizarre camera angle focused on Dorothy -- I don't know if you remember this. So when Dorothy is you know, Blanche comes in, she's all upset after Virginia's asked her for the kidney and says she's dying and yada yada. And Dorothy is asking like, what is it? what is it? You know, typical -- that is actually a very good Blanche quality, where she's being dramatic and like the other girls have to be like, Can you just tell me? instead of, you know, throwing your hands up and being in a tizzy, but the camera is like super panned, framing Dorothy in the front doorway, and it's just like an ultra-close-up where she goes 'What? Blanche Tell me!' It's so dramatic and so not like a sitcom. It's like a really, really weird moment and literally forever. I will say, like forever since I've seen this episode, I've always thought it was weird. And I'm not even, like, a big like director / camera angle kind of person. Well, I was looking -- I have this awesome book, which I'll put in a plug for and I have no you know -- we're clearly not --
We're not getting paid.
It's truly just promoting it because we love it.
Exactly. It's a big book called 'Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai.' It's by Jim Colucci. And it's really, really good. It's got most of the episodes, in terms of an episode guide and like a really good overview of just, sort of, history of the show, how things came together, you know, behind the scenes, quotes and quips, and talking about reusing sets, and pictures of their outfits, etc. So in there, actually, they talk about this one director. His name is Paul Bogart. And he was really known for these weird camera angles, as well as, like, he really, he was less about sort of the joke flow and less about like the writing, and more about having these 'big' moments on the show. So that's why, in this episode that has a very big heady topic of, you know, sister potentially dying because you may or may not give her your kidney. That's why there's all this weird, just dramatics that is not necessary, and also sort of takes away from the flow of the show. There's even like a -- there's a part where they're sitting around the table and they go 'poor Blanche,' and there's like this -- I should have timed it. It's like a full four seconds before the outro music plays. And it seems like the director was just like, No, no, leave that in there. It's like really good. But anyway, according to this book, what happened was that he really -- Paul Bogart, this director -- really clashed with Betty White, because he wanted her to play her character very differently from the way that she played it, and as we pointed out, Betty White's the one that kind of nails Rose immediately. And he kind of -- he wanted her to get mad and scream and like, do all these things and Betty was like, This is not what my character would do -- like, I know her well enough by now. So anyway, he was he was kind of ousted after he filmed a number of the first season episodes, and this is one of them.
Yeah, that makes sense, because I think the problem with this one is that the, obviously, the subject matter is really heavy. But we've already, in this short time, seen that they can do that. But this is heavy subject matter in addition to the like, really dramatic, tortured four-second scenes about this, you know, super, super difficult decision? I think it does take away from it being any sort of comedic relief. There obviously are some funny parts, because it is the Golden Girls. And I wanted to -- jumping off of how you said that we both agreed that Betty White really nailed it right away -- we have I think, what is a glimmer of the start of a St. Olaf story in this one?
When she's talking about being in the hospital and holding her breath and it's -- it's like a 20-second monologue, basically, about all of these times she's had to hold her breath in the elevator, and just like circling, it's really going nowhere. And it's very funny because you can see Estelle Getty is the only one with her. And you -- her face is just, you know, like, you can tell that she's just like waiting for someone to please god, interrupt. And then somebody does, and she says, oh, wait one minute, we'll get back to your fascinating hospital story later, and it's just, you know, it works. And I think that that must have been the jumping off point for both the St. Olaf stories themselves and also the universally exhausted reaction to them.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's funny you mentioned Sophia kind of helps anchor that, like gives it a punchline of just being like yeah, 'fascinating, whatever,' because I think she really comes into her own here -- and for the comic relief for the heavy subject matter, it's really just her. I mean, she's the one that is being -- she's being, like, the motherly figure and the speaking her mind in terms of just like, you know --I think Rose says, like, 'you hold her life in your hands. What are you gonna do?' Blanche says 'I don't know.' She goes, 'Well, I'm glad you're not my sister,' like immediately is kind of admonishing her from like, this isn't -- this is like a non-issue. You know, like, you do this for family. She goes, 'what does it mean, a little less bourbon?' So she's like, constantly -- and even in front of Virginia. She's like, I'd give you one of my kidneys, but I'm sure you know, you'd want one you could control. Virginia just goes like, thank you, Sophia. She just goes 'welcome.'
Perfect. So she's, she's just really she's hitting all the notes and she, like, is making light of the very serious subject by actually being very serious about it -- by being like, you should do for family.
Yeah, they're Italian.
Ha, yeah -- "she's Italian."
Yes, so I definitely think that the comic relief part comes in those two, for the most part for sure. Blanche has a few moments in the beginning, when she's talking about how Big Daddy called her the bad seed and how Virginia electrocuted her with Christmas lights, and now -- she used to have curly hair!
She goes, 'sleeping with your brothers is Southern.'
So we do see some of it some of what works for her, I think, but it's not, it's still not quite developed. I like the foundation, though, that is laid here of the Hollingsworth sisters and the Hollingsworth family in general, because I think we don't know Charmaine at all, but we know Charmaine exists and she has all of these medical oddities. But I think that Blanche continues to sort of display this aversion -- but really long running obligation -- with her family and even though she's not really sure, like she's worried that people will say she killed Virginia if she doesn't do it. And this actress as Virginia actually resurfaces much later, in another episode, so I feel like that's something you know -- like, you could believe them as very distant sisters, I guess? it's so hard because I do think, like, everything about it is pretty weak. But I think that those two women do get across the relationship and the sort of complicated layers to that.
No, they do. They definitely do. And it's really -- I mean, she, at the end where she just says, 'I love ya' -- like it's like, there's -- it's very much borne of this woman being completely vulnerable to somebody who she's never really had a relationship with. And she understands -- like she does, she does a really good job of being like, I understand this is a really crazy decision. Like she even defends, you know, Blanche to Sophia, when she's arguing about that. So yeah, they they really sell it very well. It's interesting note, though, no Clayton is mentioned. They don't have a brother.
Oh, right, yeah, that's another family idiosyncrasy.
I know. I know. It's like we're in the fourth episode and there's already been like 17 wrongs. That's great. It's perfect. Um, can we talk about the B story for a minute?
Oh yeah, of course.
Again, waterskiing accident or whatnot. Like, I guess yeah, I guess you would leave your baby with the old lady neighbors. I mean, that seems that seems like something I would do. But I just, there's like, there's so many things about it that's just very bizarre. But my favorite line is when Sophia is talking about nursing, I guess Rose is going through, oh remember we used to use fish ointment or something very, like bizarre, which now is even funnier, like they're like, now they have disposable bottles, you know, and like, you know, 30 years later, we're recoiling about throwing away these plastic bottles. But Sophia's talking about nursing Phil, and she goes, 'I got nothing left up here.' And Dorothy does another one of those, 'Oh, Ma!' It's perfect. It's so great. I feel like Sophia is a -- she's just like a straight shot through that this entire episode. Every time she's on screen, she's perfectly the character. I really I like her a lot in this one.
Yeah, she's great. We finally do get to hear about Phil. Because that was the other thing I wrote in my notes. And it's like, your brother was 12 when he stopped. He wanted to come home from school at lunchtime. And THEN it's like, I got nothing left up here. Exactly. It's that same sort of like cadence that you were talking about in the last one, where you think you have the punchline, and then sometimes there's two more after it!
Exactly! And the funniest ones are at the end -- like it's perfect. You're right. You're so right. That is like -- that's like a triple threat one.
Also on that B story real quick: There's a very weird moment where Rose talks about how she gave her kids brandy for colic, and she's like, 'Oh, I put it in their bottles.' 'Put it in my bottle, I'll be happy too.
God, it's amazing. Oh, about Phil, though -- going back to Phil, where she's -- I guess, she's they're all talking about whether or not they, you know, of course, they would give their children a kidney no problem, Rose says she would give one to a dog --
Yeah. And Sophia is like, oh yeah I'd give it to my children except Phil. And you know, Dorothy's like, why not Phil? You know, because that's the classic 'except Phil' is kind of born here, and she goes all he sends me for Christmas like is a cheese -- spreadable cheese
And she goes, 'I'm Catholic, I can't spread a wise man on a Ritz cracker.' And her face after that is wonderful -- it's like the live audience where they have to learn how to pause in character to let the laugh go -- and Sophia does it so well. Like she just sits there and holds it, it's so perfect.
That's actually -- yeah, that's so true, and actually the next point that I wanted to make is when Dorothy and Sophia are sitting on the couch and Sophia's eating something very crunchy and it's very loud, and Dorothy's face is the punchline. Like, she just looks so annoyed and disgusted and finally she says something, and Sophia comes back and says, "These are Fritos, you want me to swallow them whole?!" She really is the whole -- I feel like every single scene where I laugh, she's involved.
Which might be a typical thing for the series in general, but like, again, this is such an early episode and probably filmed even earlier. So it's like, or at least filmed in this number four slot, that it's pretty impressive to like, already get that feel, because they're doing that all the way through the seventh season.
Right. So then Blanche and Virginia have this very sort of like awkward meal together, where Virginia tells her everything. And then of course, you know, Blanche, 'of course I'm going to do it.' That's sort of how she tells the other girls she's decided to do it, which, again, I think makes her more likable, and is why she works as somebody who's so entitled and so, sort of, like, you know, unabashedly herself is because she is actually very caring, and she knows she is going to do this even though it is, you know, it's a huge thing. It's not, it's not giving them a cup of sugar.
Correct. And that -- the way they write it, again, that goes back to the writing, like, 'and of course, I'm going to do it,' like it's not -- it was implied the entire time that like, it would be a worse decision to let your sister die. And, you know, again, like Sophia sort of egging them on and like you said, she's she's got actual depth there. And it's you know, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of the Blanche character that I think the writers really kind of made that character evolve because Rue McClanahan is so good at, like, playing that superficial upfront but really having depth when it when it counts kind of thing.
And I think we totally see that when she tells them that she can't because she's too petite, so her blood vessels are too small, like, you know, it really does -- it ties it all together and it's it's -- it's a really nice happy ending which I like, I'm not you know I don't need like a cliffhanger on the Golden Girls.
Right, exactly. 'A retired Mormon school teacher.'
Right, I'm cool with that!
Also, how many -- I feel like there's so many shows of this era that also just decide like we need a heavy topic. Organ transplant! Like it just -- it doesn't happen that often in life. LIke, I feel like this just like a kind of a go-to little schtick. I don't know, I can't cite any other show. But I feel like this is just one of those things where it was like, 'Oh, yeah!' Like as a kid, I thought this happened like, WAY more often. At least to a person -- like to one person, like I would know multiple people who are just swapping organs.
Yeah, no, I agree -- it's definitely a running theme. It doesn't work like that. But, you know, also how often are people getting in waterski accidents and then just leaving their kid with somebody random for an indefinite -- like we don't know when they're coming back! He has to have surgery, no one's concerned -- what happened to Ted?
The line, like -- and it's always Blanche -- just being like, Why is there a kid in my house? Again? Still? and like, I think, Dorothy says it twice, the same line, like 'oh it's taking longer than expected.' 'Oh it's taking longer than expected.' Like they just got so lazy on this B story, there's nothing else. It's like talking to a salami. Also, as a new parent I just love that -- like I was saying before they're like oh pop ups and disposable bottles and we made our own formula! is just like such a bizarre theme, but also, like -- she's like talking about like, a baby is sleeping in the day, like oh, no! And you're just like, babies sleep all the time. Like I even knew that when I watched the show, as a child, like what are you talking about, Rose? You guys were mothers.
Yeah, dude, so many kids.
It's hysterical. Also one of the things that I've always hated was at the very end, when the kid is finally, you know, quote unquote getting picked up or they're walking him over to, you know, Ted and the waterski broken legs. Dorothy goes, 'Say 'bye-zee-bye!'. I just always hated that.
Oh my god. It's cringey.
It's very cringey, right? It's very bizarre.
Is it better or worse than, 'Be happy!'
Oh, no, it's so much worse. Be happy is perfect for Rose. It just doesn't fit for Dorothy.
It doesn't at all -- it's totally bizarre.
But it's -- this is a precursor to them watching many other babies. There's, there's at least two other baby storylines that work much better than this one. I don't know, I think because it just seems thrown away, but it's funny because it's like -- like we said -- such a heavy thing, we're already -- we're talking about family yet again. And we're covering, like, possible death of family and, like, estrangement, and organs flying all over the place and then they just have this sort of like, oh, what are we going to do with the other three? I don't know.
Yeah, how many times are they watching a baby that's being threatened to be abandoned by its parents -- like there's so many where there's a baby just left there.
Seriously. Or a potential baby that's been born yet? It's amazing.
But yeah, I think that the, the foundation that's that's set here for the three Hollingsworth sisters is really interesting. Yeah, because also, even though we don't know Charmaine, we know already that whenever Blanche is on good terms with Charmaine, she's sort of automatically not on good terms with Virginia, and how that trades, and I think that that really does carry through, and it just sort of also adds to the whole complicated mess that is Blanche's family relationships. And that, you know, that continues throughout.
Exactly, exactly. And you know, we heard, you know, the second episode really covered Dorothy's sort of past, the third one covered Rose's, and this one covers Blanche's in a way. So it actually is a good order to, you know, to queue us up for for continuing in the series.
Yeah, I'm excited for the next one. I'll tell you that. This one I think you know, it's heavy. There's some funny moments, but it's not a real laugh out loud one for me. But the next one, though -- The Triangle -- I'm really here for.
All right. Well, that's perfect time to key us up. So join us next time when we discuss what happens when Dorothy and Blanche fight over a man who's bonged everyone at his country club.
All right, buhbye!