The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “The Competition”

In this episode, three of the girls (Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose) decide to enter a bowling tournament, while Sophia reconnects with one of her former paramours from back in Sicily. In the process, it becomes increasingly clear that Rose is even more competitive than anyone had imagined, causing quite a few tensions in the household.

For me, this is the episode of the first season where the comedy really begins to click. I’m not sure if it was filmed in the order in which it appears (since several of the episodes that followed still seem a bit stilted), but something about this episode feels chemically, organically different than the ones that preceded it. In that sense, it seems to have more in common with the episodes that came up in the second season. Truly, this episode has some of the best (and most iconic) moments in the series’ history, including Blanche’s “I’m devastated” line, which remains for me one of the most quotable moments.

There is also a very heartwarming element to this episode. Certainly, the relationship between Sophia and Augustine is one of the most poignant and ouching in the first season, in no small part because it shows that both of these elderly people are capable of deep affection. It’s important to remember that Sophia is well into her 80s, and for her to still feel such physical and emotional passion is a testament to the sensitivity and depth with which the series consistently treats even its most elderly character.

Furthermore, it also shows the strength of the relationship between Dorothy and Sophia. Of course, it can’t be easy for Dorothy to accept the fact that her mother is at last moving on from her deceased father, and it also can’t be easy to see her other moving outside of her care. Again, this is a dynamic that will  continue to shape the way in which Dorothy and Sophia interact with one another as the seasons progress.

On a somewhat more ironic note (on my part), I’m still left wondering why and how it is that a substitute teacher can somehow afford to pay for her mother’s trip to Sicily, but that’s a question that will come up repeatedly when it comes to the women’s financial abilities. Of course, we’re not really supposed to think about these things too critically, but it is worth mentioning at least in passing.

All in all, this goes down in my estimation as one of the strongest episodes of the first season in terms of its comedy writing. And it’s also a strong episode in that it reveals that beneath her prudish, naive exterior, Rose has a heart of iron that can manifest in some very ugly behavior. But then, that complexity is part of what makes the series so endlessly fascinating and entertaining.

Next up, the girls find out that they have been robbed, forcing Rose to contend with a deep-rooted fear and raising questions about just how safe they can remain in their own home.

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