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And Then There's Maude: Episode 13

Our tribute to the 35th anniversary of the debut of Maude continues.

*

Season 1, Episode 13
Episode Title: The Slum Lord

Original airdate: 19 December 1972

Plot: For this episode, the Findlay living room has been nearly transformed into a greenhouse, with houseplants everywhere. Maude has followed the advice of every book and magazine, talking to her plants for weeks and she's scolding them now for not responding more favorably. (I'm guessing any benefit of talking to the plants was outweighed by all the yelling in this household.)

Carol rushes through the front door to tell Maude that a black man is picketing their front yard with a sign that says, "A slum lord lives here." Maude can't believe what she's hearing. "Don't be ridiculous Carol! Do you know what a slum lord is?" She then gives a lengthy definition of "slumlord," prompting me to wonder if the writers' felt it was necessary to define slumlord for the viewing audience.

Before Maude can confront Walter about the situation, Carol calls Philip to drive him to school. Maude doesn't want her grandson to see the picket sign, so she tells Carol to have Phillip scrunch down low in the car as they pull out of the driveway. ("Phillip, there's a new game your mother's going to teach you. It's called Scrunch!")

Maude tells Walter about the picketer (" . . . A Slum Lord Lives Here. And he means you!"), to which Walter answers, "Do you know what a slumlord is?" It turns out Walter is indeed the slumlord in residence, having bought into a building, sight-unseen, on the advice of his accountant. Apparently Walter's tax shelter is actually a tax tenement, with cockroaches the size of Volkswagens. Die-hard liberal Maude is positively mortified. ("Everything we stand for is going down the drain!")

Next-door-neighbor Arthur arrives, proclaiming, "Hey, that's a heck of a new lawn decoration you got out there. It's so much more animated than those little colored jockeys." He sympathizes with Walter's attempt to make a fast buck in the "dog eat dog world out there." Vivienne calls with news that the Findlays are the "talk of the supermarket." Word travels fast here in Tuckahoe.

Maude tells a reluctant Walter to talk to the picketing man. ("As long as that picket is outside the door, Walter, I wouldn't give you two cents for your love life.") Walter invites the man inside. "This is nice," the picketer says, looking around. "How many people live here?" When he's told four, he says, "No, I mean in the whole house."

Walter introduces himself to the picketer, a one George Washington Carver Williams, and asks what exactly is wrong with the building he lives in. Mr. Williams replies, "Just two things. The inside and the outside." Maude enters with a cheery, "Would you like some coffee, Mr. Picket?" She's introduced to Mr. Williams and assures him, in a tone dripping with bleeding heart sincerity, that she and her husband are "very much with your people."

Walter tries to explain how this is just a misunderstanding. He explains the concept of a tax shelter to Mr. Williams, who understands perfectly. ("Oh, you're talking about stealing. No offense ma'am, I mean legal stealing. We even got some black people doing it now. That's progress.") A flustered Walter and Maude babble about how people like them get into these "kinds of arrangements" all the time and they "never know what they are." (Well, at least they had a good excuse.) They keep repeating variations of "we never know what they are" until Mr. Williams says, "And we think we got problems."

Carol returns home with Phillip, who couldn't stay at school because a six-year-old classmate called him a fascist pig. Florida rushes in. She's heard the news and is giving her notice. ("Massa Slumlord, your faithful old darkie is leaving the plantation.") No amount of pleading by Maude gets Florida to stay and after collecting a few things, Florida's out the door. She's back a moment later, to rescue the African violet from Maude's plant stand.

Later that day, Maude is taking yet another crank slumlord phone call. Walter is meeting with his accountant and Maude has learned from the Urban Renewal Office that it will take at least $100,000 to fix the property. Walter returns and Mr. Williams asks to come in to talk with them. Maude assumes he wants to tell them he's made a mistake and understands what good people they really are. No chance - he just wants to use their bathroom.

Walter tells Maude that the accountant has found someone who will buy out his share, but at a loss of $3,200. He's not willing to take the hit but Maude tells him to take the offer. Not so fast, Maude! It's at this point that Walter reveals he's not the only Lord of the Slums in this family. Maude had signed the papers too! What?! Maude is incredulous until she faintly recollects the night when Walter brought her a stack of documents to sign and she was too distracted by an episode of Marcus Welby to read them. "Oh, my God I'm a slumlord too!"

Carol, ever the voice of morality and conscience, makes her speech of the episode: "Well there you have it, nice people. Half of you standing around with your head in the sand, while the other half of you pollutes the environment and oppresses the poor."

Mr. Williams emerges with a glowing review of the Findlay bathroom. ("Well now, that was a pleasant visitation.") Maude rushes to tell him that a buyer has been found for their share of the building. (Apparently selling off their share - passing the buck - is an acceptable solution that everyone, including Mr. Williams, can feel good about.) Walter objects. Losing $3,200 bucks is nothing to sneeze at. (Mr. Williams can relate.) Maude gives Walter "one agonizing choice: You are either going to lose the $3,200 or me." Mr. Williams pipes in, "That might not be so agonizing," to which the audience applauds and Maude turns to Mr. Williams and utters her now trademark phrase, "God'll get you for that." He leaves.

Arthur returns, having learned from his accountant that Walter's looking for a buyer. He low-balls Walter with an offer of $5,500. Maude urges Walter to take the offer and she'll make up the $2,500 difference herself. It might take a while though; in four years she's managed to save only $40 from her household account.

Saved by the bell! Walter's accountant calls to say a buyer has been found at a loss of just a thousand bucks. Maude is proud of him for losing only a thousand dollars! She promises to make it up to him . . . tonight when they are alone.

She rushes to the door to give Mr. Williams the great news. "We're no longer slumlords!" Still feeling guilty, Maude gives him $60. Florida returns, having forgotten her transistor radio and four-inch Sony TV. Maude gives her the good news. Carol elaborates that to further ease her conscience, Maude has paid Mr. Williams off with cold, hard cash.

Walter gives Maude grief as well. Sixty bucks won't do folks in a rundown building much good. He tells Mr. Williams to "run it up in a crap game." Maude is shocked and apologizes to Mr. Williams and Florida for Walter's insensitivity. Then, Mr. Williams elaborates on what he's going to do with the cash - he'll put it on a worthy cause - which is running at 10 to 1. Florida declares Williams a "smart man" and asks him to put five on the nose for her.

Hot button social issue: Slumlords! Do you know what a slum lord is?!!

Fashion statement: Maude begins the episode in what I'm assuming is her household smock, a blousy front-and-back apron in a pattern of pink flowers on an orange background, over a burnt orange shirt with wide lapels and, of course, the requisite neckerchief.

Neckerchief count: One - worn two different ways. In the first scene, it's knotted at the throat and tucked into Maude's shirt. In the second scene, the ends of the scarf are fancy free, flowing over the blue pantsuit that has replaced the housedress/apron.

Cocktail hour: Walter and Maude commiserate over their slumlord status with a couple of straight shots of gin. Later, to butter up Arthur when it appears he might buy out Walter's share of the tenement, Maude offers him hors d'oeuvres of Swedish meatballs and "pigs in a blanket."

Welcome back to 1972 pop culture reference(s): Ah, the era of talking to your houseplants to get them to grow. Maude isn't having any luck talking to hers. ("Now listen to me guys, you're either going to shape up, or ship out.") Perhaps she should have tried playing classical music for them - that seemed to work in every high school science fair I ever attended.

Describing their precarious financial state, Walter refers to himself and Maude as Mr. and Mrs. MasterCharge.

Number of times Maude yells: 7

Memorable quote: "Why can't you be like other husbands and blow your money on broads?"

Times the live audience breaks out into spontaneous applause: 4

Wow, did they just say that? The morning after Maude has "made it up" to Walter, he's in the living room talking to the houseplants: "Fellas, I'm here to tell you that Maude's love and affection is really going to work for you. Because last night, I can't tell you how it worked for me. I mean, I grew and grew and this morning I feel ten-feet tall!"

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Previously:
Season 1, Episode 1: Maude's Problem.
Season 1, Episode 2: Doctor, Doctor.
Season 1, Episode 3: Maude Meets Florida.
Season 1, Episode 4: Like Mother, Like Daughter.
Season 1, Episode 5: Maude and the Radical.
Season 1, Episode 6: The Ticket.
Season 1, Episode 7: Love and Marriage.
Season 1, Episode 8: Flashback.
Season 1, Episode 9: Maude's Dilemma (Part One).
Season 1, Episode 10: Maude's Dilemma (Part Two).
Season 1, Episode 11: Maude's Reunion.
Season 1, Episode 12: The Grass Story.



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Posted on December 20, 2007


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