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I just saw the series finale of the Golden Girls for the first time but accidentally thought it was an episode from season two and was not emotionally prepared
I'd been watching season 2 episodes all afternoon with my friend Jon, and I had to leave the house for an hour to go to a meeting, and when I came back he was about to start an episode called "One Flew Out Of The Cuckoo's Nest, Part I." Somehow, I guess, I'd reached man's estate without ever knowing how the Golden Girls ended. I'd been dimly aware of the existence of Golden Palace, the one-season spinoff that I was pretty sure didn't feature Bea Arthur, but somehow I hadn't expected that the last episode of the Golden Girls would actually show Dorothy leaving.
Jon hadn't mentioned that while I was out, he'd been flipping around between seasons. All I knew was that this was a two-parter that featured Leslie Nielson, and I figured that, based on the title, at some point he was going to be...I don't know, (mistakenly?) institutionalized, like David Duchovny's character on Sex and the City, or maybe he would work in mental health services? And I thought, that's sort of a weird direction for them to go in for a two-episode arc, but I generally like Leslie Nielson and have a lot of faith in the Golden Girls writing team, so I went with it.
And it was really good. Maybe two of the best Golden Girls episodes I've ever seen, even though the plot is bananas (Dorothy and Leslie Nielson pretend to get engaged to cheese off Blanche, but then they actually fall in love, but then no one else ever finds out they were fake engaged, so when they get engaged-for-real a second time everyone just says 'That's weird, they already got engaged'?). Stanley gets one of the most stirring in-character monologues in TV history. And, you know, Dorothy and Leslie Nielson get married. And then she moves away.
I kept watching and thinking, They're going to have to come up with some reason to get rid of him really fast, because I know the next five seasons of the Golden Girls don't prominently feature Leslie Nielson, who's married to Dorothy and lives next door and is always stopping by for iced tea. But they didn't. He marries Dorothy, and she moves away.
Guys, I thoroughly lost it. I just started bawling. In the damn pilot episode of the show, Blanche almost gets married and leaves everyone, but the guy turns out to be a hustler and a bigamist and gets arrested right before the ceremony, and Blanche takes to her bed for three weeks. She finally comes out of her room to talk to the rest of the girls:
BLANCHE: At first I wanted to give up, to die, truly. Only time I ever felt worse was when George died. But then I had the kids with me and I pulled through it. This time, I thought, "This is my last chance, my last hope for happiness." I just thought I'd never feel good again.
SOPHIA: How long is this story? I'm 80. I have to plan.
BLANCHE: This morning I woke up and I was in the shower, shampooing my hair, and I heard humming. I thought there was someone in there with me. No, it was me. I was humming. And humming means I'm feeling good. And then I realized I was feeling good because of you. You made the difference. You're my family, and you make me happy to be alive.
ROSE: Let's drive to Coconut Grove for lunch.
ROSE: My treat. We have to celebrate.
SOPHIA: What, that she came out of her room?
ROSE: That we're together.
DOROTHY: And that no matter what happens, even if we all get married, we'll stick together.
ROSE: Then we'll need a much bigger house.
DOROTHY: Sure, Rose.
And I kept trying to explain that to Jon, while sobbing. They promised me, you know? Everyone knows that men die first, and then we all get to move to Florida and eat cheesecake and share nightgowns for seven years. Whatever else changes in life, we have that, at least. And they promised me that even if one of the girls got married, she wasn't going anywhere. They weren't the Golden Placeholders Until I Meet Leslie Nielson. They were the Golden Girls. I'd never hated Leslie Nielson before – I thought the Naked Gun movies were overrated, but I didn't blame him for that – but Lord, did I hate him now. He tugged Dorothy through every door he could find. You could barely keep him in a scene. He was always disappearing just out of frame. Let's get a move on, let's get out of here. What are you in such a hurry for, Leslie? There's no rush. Sit down in the kitchen with the girls and have some iced tea. I didn't mind that Dorothy got married, but I minded that he took her away from that kitchen table. There was room at the table for him, if he'd just sit down.
I tried looking up Golden Palace to see if it would cheer me up, but then I read this about that series finale:
Following the cancellation of the series, Sophia returns to the Shady Pines retirement home, appearing as a cast member in the later seasons of Empty Nest. What become of Rose, Blanche, and the hotel is left unresolved.
I know it's probably not a TV show's job to reassure me that everything is going to be okay and no one I love is ever going to change in a direction that takes them away from me, but this made me feel like Mr. Rochester learning that Mr. Mason from the West Indies is on his way to Thornfield –
"Jane, I've got a blow; I've got a blow, Jane!"
We ended up watching the episode where Rose and Dorothy try to write a song about Miami, and that made me feel a little better. But I still knew the blow was coming.