Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Golden Girls: Transplant



Written by: Susan Harris

Directed by: Paul Bogart

Airdate: October 5, 1985

Sibling rivalry makes its first appearance in Transplant, the fourth Golden Girls Season One episode. We meet the first member of one of the character's family and learn that maybe blood is thicker than water.

Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) is irritated that her younger sister Virginia (Sheree North) is coming to visit. She loudly proclaims how much she hates Virginia, much to the shock of Rose Nylund (Betty White). Blanche's fellow housemate Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) is too distracted by a friend's baby she is temporarily watching to give the Blanche-Virginia war much thought.

Virginia is civil, even pleasant to Blanche. However, Blanche is right in that she does have an ulterior motive for visiting. She is dying, in need of a kidney transplant and asks Blanche if she would go for tests to see if she is a potential donor. After some thought, Blanche agrees to go. Fortunately, Blanche ends up keeping her kidney and her sister. Blanche's kidney veins are too small for Virginia, but another donor has been found: a retired Mormon schoolteacher. More importantly, Blanche wants to build a positive relationship with Virginia, grateful for this second chance.

Transplant is the first episode to have a visiting relative come. We learn that Blanche has two sisters: Charmaine and Virginia. As she calls Charmaine her big sister, that would make Blanche at the very least the second child. Unless other siblings pop up, Blanche would be the Jan of the Hollingsworth children, the perennial middle child. We also learn that Virginia was married to a man named Tom, whom Blanche insists was a great love despite only going on two dates with him. Virginia does not dispute that she went with Tom when Blanche went to visit family, though whether Blanche's insistence that Tom was hers is debatable. Transplant is also the first Golden Girls episode that mentions Sophia's son and Dorothy's brother Phil. According to Sophia, Phil wanted to breast feed until he was twelve. 

Three sections are cut from reruns. There is a section where Rose says that she would have donated her kidney to a long-gone dog, Fluffy, had Fluffy needed one. Another cut is a bit about Sophia munching too loud for Dorothy's take. The third cut is a long section where Blanche explains to Rose why she hates Virginia so much. If Blanche's stories are to be believed, Virginia would always do something to Blanche and then tell their father that Blanche had done it. Mr. Hollingsworth, forever in awe of Virginia, would punish Blanche. Virginia even apparently tried to murder Blanche by electrocution on Christmas Day.

What makes this cut a poor decision is on two points. The first is that it gives greater insight into why Blanche is so snippy, petty and downright vicious to Virginia. Without this scene, Blanche's hostility is if not hazy more irrational. It makes Blanche come across as a bit of a bitch, without explaining why Blanche has this near blinding hatred for Virginia. True, the situation with Tom could be used to explain Blanche's hostility, but it does not have the same impact and even humor that the cut section provides.

I say humor because of the second point. McClanahan has a wonderful bit of physical comedy where she goes all rubbery recreating when she gets shocked by Christmas lights. McClanahan does a wonderful job revealing a mix of jealousy and mean-spiritedness that has kept the feud going all these years. 

Without this scene, Blanche's open hatred has no context. She comes across as irrational and extremely unpleasant. Now, at least there is some reason for her to have despised and fought her sister. 

Transplant is dominated by Rue McClanahan, and she runs with it. There is the aforementioned physical comedy. There is also her overall performance. McClanahan was funny but also moving in her doubts about what to do. For Sophia, the answer is simple: she'd donate her kidney in a heartbeat. For Blanche, it is tied in with bitter memories, real or imagined, of her younger sister. There is also Blanche's fears about her own health. While most people, I think, would donate to a relative, some may not. The scene where Virginia gives Blanche a surprise hug is a well-acted moment from McClanahan.

Less so from North. I found her Southern accent weak, though to be fair, McClanahan's Southern tones were always so big that perhaps genuine Southerners might feel like Yankees compared to her. For the record, North is not from the American South. I think North did her best, but to my mind, there was something off. 

Transplant, being a Blanche-centered story, gave the other cast members little to do. I think that is why Dorothy and to a lesser extent Rose and Sophia were placed to watch over baby Danny. I do not remember Rose or Dorothy offering much if any advise or heart-to-heart with Blanche. They discussed the issue of donating organs mostly among themselves. Sophia was, if memory serves right, the only one to comment on the situation to Blanche directly, and that was more in an insulting manner. 

Transplant is not a bad episode, but I felt it a bit weak. I do not think it had that many laughs, though to be fair that would be difficult given the potential of death hovering over Virginia. The subplot of the women, or more specifically Dorothy, taking in a baby is nothing but a way to get them out of the way. Transplant does establish more of Blanche's backstory, but on the whole it was not a standout.

I do wonder how Coco would fit into all this.


Next Episode: The Triangle

No comments:

Post a Comment

Views are always welcome, but I would ask that no vulgarity be used. Any posts that contain foul language or are bigoted in any way will not be posted.
Thank you.