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The Great Golden Girls Marathon: “The Actor” (S2, Ep. 14)

It’s been entirely too long since I journeyed into the world of The Golden Girls, and so I thought I’d take a few minutes and share my thoughts on the 14th episode of the second season, entitled “The Actor.”

I know I’ve said this about many episodes of this show, but “The Actor” is without a doubt in my top ten favourite episodes. In it, Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose find themselves competing for the affections of a dashing actor, Patrick Vaughn, who has been contracted to perform with them in their community playhouse. Hijinks ensue, of course, given the fact that Patrick is carrying on an affair with all three of them, as well as with most of the other members of the community players.

Part of my love for this episode comes from the performances. In what is perhaps the funniest moment in the entire run of The Golden Girls, both Blanche and Dorothy recite lines next to Patrick. While Dorothy is swept up in her passion for Patrick in their on-stage kiss and “ad libs” a request for him to “take her, right here on this stage,” Blanche wears a pair of inflatable breasts that would make Jezebel blush. This moment, as my boyfriend has remarked, is a brilliant piece of blocking, as it requires that Blanche move about the “stage” in order to keep the viewer’s attention. It’s more than that, though. Blanche’s sheer exuberance, her ability to inhabit the role of Josie so completely, is hilarious precisely because it fits so neatly with the overdramatic southern belle persona that she has so thoroughly crafted for herself. The fact that Patrick inadvertently “pops her bosoms” just makes this moment all the more uproarious.

As humorous as the whole episode is, there is a moment at the very end that captures something deeply and emotionally resonant about this whole madcap affair. Each of the three women speaks of the thing that Patrick made them feel. He made Dorothy feel beautiful, he made Blanche feel young, and he made Rose feel smart. Though it is, of course, played for laughs–particularly when Dorothy responds to Rose’s confession with “God, what an actor”–it is also a moment of profound vulnerability, when each of them relates to the others their deepest insecurity. It’s one of those brilliant moments that the writers of The Golden Girls were so adeptly able to capture.

The only slight drawback is that Sophia is something of a bit player in this episode, though she does have some some great one-liners, such as her introduction of herself as “Linda Ronsatdt,” or when she informs Rose that she is off to “discover the Straits of Magellan.” Given that the episode focuses on the other three and their romantic competition, that makes sense. Nevertheless, her jokes are one of the key parts of my affection for the episode.

Yet the greater part of my affection comes from the fact that narratively it is the perfect distillation of a plot that the series will draw on several times: the competition for a man. In our culture, generally speaking it is precisely this competition that so often pits women against one another, forcing them to choose between their romantic desires and their bonds with one another. As this episode makes abundantly clear, they will always choose their each other, precisely because men are so transient, so willing to betray the women in their lives so long as it pleases their own desires.

Next up, we’ll see what happens when Rose suffers what she thinks is a heart attack and begins to change the entire way she lives her life, with very mixed results.