The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “Break In” (S1, Ep. 8)

In today’s entry, we discuss the episode “Break In,” in which the girls come home from a Madonna concert to find that their house has been burglarized. While Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia recover fairly quickly from the incident, Rose finds herself caught up in a mental health spiral, unable to move past the incident. At last, however, she does manage to do so, but only after accidentally assaulting a parking garage attendant.

I’ve always found this a particularly compelling and in many ways heartbreaking episode. White continues to show her versatility as an actress, delivering comedic lines and expressing vulnerability with equal grace and skill; the scene where she finally breaks down always makes me choke up. Rose truly does suffer from a form of emotional paralysis, convinced that the robbers will return at any moment, a fear compounded (the narrative suggests) by her still-raw grief over her husband. In this episode, Rose cannot even find solace in the psychiatrist, who she sees as her last hope for returning to a state of emotional normalcy. She still struggles with the fact that she has to make sense of her life without the stable (male) presence that Charlie (who she oddly refers to as Charles in this episode) provided during their years together.

Through Rose’s central conflict, the series both asks and answers the question:  can women living on their own truly consider themselves safe? It is only when Rose learns that she can in fact defend herself that she can finally overcome her terror and return to a state of emotional balance. While the incident in question is a misunderstanding, it nevertheless allows the series to demonstrate that the four women are more than capable of taking care of themselves.

There are, of course, a few lighter moments in the episode, such as when Blanche realizes that she hid her jewels in the freezer rather than the flour jar. And of course there is the moment (which happens off-screen) when she inadvertently maces herself at the police station. While this is humorous in and of itself, it is McClanahan’s delivery of the recollection that really steals the show, as she delivers it with that absolutely fantastically hyperbolic Southern accent. And of course no discussion of the episode would be complete without mentioning the hilarious incident in which Rose accidentally shoots Blanche’s Chinese vase.

This is one of those finely-tuned episodes that so mark The Golden Girls at the height of its powers, when it manages to combine moments of biting social commentary with equally pointed moments of uproarious humour. With its message of female empowerment and uplift, this episode in particular demonstrates why the series continues to be as popular and timely as it was when it was first released in 1985.

In our next installment, Blanche decides to start dating a younger man, while Rose has to contend with the fact that her mother is growing steadily older (and we get to see guest star Jeanette Nolan, who is always a pleasure!)

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