Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Golden Girls: Stan's Return


Written by: Kathy Speer and Terry Grossman

Directed by: Jim Drake

Airdate: November 30, 1985

Stan's Return, also known as The Return of Dorothy's Ex, makes clear what the episode will be about. The ideas of regret play well in the episode, making it better than the last one. We learn that like a bad penny, Stanley Zbornak (Herb Edelman) will not be denied, except for terrific sex.

Homeowner Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) along with her housemates Rose Nylund (Betty White) and Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) are considering various places where they could vacation together. Displeased with things is Dorothy's mother Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), who is being excluded from the trip. She is more displeased when Dorothy's yutz of an ex-husband Stanley (Herb Edelman) comes on business. He and Dorothy are going to sell some property that they bought when they came to Miami on their honeymoon where they had hoped to retire.

It is after they conclude their business when they go for lunch that Stan breaks down in tears. It is not the sale of what would have been their retirement bungalow that causes the waterworks. It is that Stan's current wife Crissy (Simone Griffeth) has left him for a younger man. This leads to Dorothy and Stan sleeping together, shocking everyone. Dorothy is herself shocked when she finds that Stan takes this ex-sex as a sign that they might get back together. She is tempted to rekindle their romance, but ultimately decides not to. Stan goes after Crissy, who has flown in from Maui to get back with him. With that, Dorothy toasts them alone, accepting that neither of them will get terrific sex.

We learn from Stan's Return that the circumstances of the Zbornak wedding were not exactly ideal. If Sophia is to be believed, Stan got Dorothy drunk when he knocked her up. That does appear to be date rape, which is concerning. For a show that prided itself on its progressive nature, managing to make this situation funny is, well, curious. I wonder if that part of how Stan got Dorothy drunk could or should be cut (currently it is not). We learn that Dorothy and Stan honeymooned in Miami. 

If we go by the characters' ages established in past episodes, especially Guess Who's Coming to the Wedding? and The Competition, Stan and Dorothy would have been married in 1945 when Stan would be 25 and Dorothy a shocking 15. Something I never thought of until now is on Stan's military service; if Stan was 65 when The Engagement took place, which is the age Dorothy said he was, he would have been born in 1920. That would make him 18 to 19 years old when World War II broke out, meaning that he should have been serving in the military. Granted, he may have been rejected for service for some reason, but that is speculation. 

Add to that is the idea that if, again going by what has been previously established in terms of ages, how exactly could two kids from Brooklyn not only afford a honeymoon to Miami but also manage to purchase property there while on their honeymoon? This is 1945 and money is not flowing freely. Again, it may be plausible that Stan and Dorothy bought the Florida property later, but that is not how Stan's Return paints it. It is clear that Stan and Dorothy bought the property while on their honeymoon. One more thing with regards to this part of the plot. How is it that Dorothy never seemed to remember that she owned property in Florida where she now lives? Was her honeymoon so haunted that she just forgot that she co-owned land there?

Only one part is cut from Stan's Return in rebroadcasts. It is an extended scene where Dorothy, Rose and Blanche discuss Dorothy's situation about getting back together with Stan. It is when Rose attempts to draw parallels between Dorothy's plight and when Rose found herself being romanced by Eddie Parker, Aqua Midget. It is hard to know whether it is Dorothy and Blanche who cannot control their laughter at this oddball story or Arthur and McClanahan who cannot. 

Stan's Return is a good, strong episode, tackling Dorothy's conflicted view of her ex-husband. When Stan goes over a potential future with her, such as her opening an antique shop that had been a dream of hers, we see the sadness Dorothy has over whether to take that risk or not. As she contemplates opting to reunite with Stan or not, Arthur gives an excellent performance. We get her dramatic moments balanced with amusing ones. The final scene where she meets the second Mrs. Zbornak is funny, especially when Dorothy mockingly uses Chrissy's nicknames for Stan: Big Stan and Stick Man. 

This is, I think, the only time we see Chrissy, the "dumb blonde" to Dorothy. In her one scene, I cannot say Griffeth was good. However, Chrissy Zbornak was meant to be a bit cartoonish, so I give a little leeway. The subplot of Rose, Blanche and Dorothy planning a trip together without Sophia was there to give the others something to do. I still marvel at the idea that they are so close as to plan vacations together. I also do think it is unfair to push Sophia to be the de facto guard dog. 

Edelman makes the second of many returns, and this is the first time we see him voluntarily appear sans toupee. His baldness will become a running gag. Edelman does wonderful job makes Stan into a yutz, but early on, he was allowed a more complex persona. His latching on to Dorothy, hopes for a reconciliation, and subtle calls to a potential positive future were effective. He handled the comedy well but could do the drama equally well. I think in the future, the chances for that balance would grow fewer and fewer.

Stan's Return handles drama and comedy well. It is funny and at times moving. While a bit perplexing in some places, it is good to see Stan's Return.  

I like to think that Chrissy and Coco would have commiserated over men.  


Next Episode: The Custody Battle

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