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And Then There's Maude: Episode 9

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

*

Season 1, Episode 9
Episode Title: Maude's Dilemma (Part 1)

Original airdate: 14 November 1972

Plot: This is it, the controversial episode Maude is most famous for, the segment generally referred to as "Maude's abortion." Just eight episodes into the first season, Maude's creators pushed the envelope of acceptable TV entertainment to the extreme, so much so that advertisers balked and some local CBS affiliates refused to air the two-part episode. Thirty-five years later, it's impossible to imagine a network sitcom using abortion as a featured storyline.

Part 1 begins with a hysterical Maude returning from the doctor's office having just received the news that she's pregnant. ("At age 62, I'll be the mother of an Eagle Scout!") Maude is handling the shock in typical style, pacing the floor, beating herself on the chest, and yelling at everyone.

Maude first breaks the news to her best friend Vivian who in turn breaks the news to Carol. In a twist on the usual mother-daughter talk, it's Carol who reminds her mother that there's "only one sensible way out of this" and she doesn't have to have the baby. "What'll I do?" snaps Maude, "Trade it in for a volleyball on Let's Make a Deal?"

In an amazing display of patient privacy, next-door neighbor Arthur (who has an office on the same floor as Maude's doctor) arrives for a bridge game and greets Maude at the door already in on the secret, cackling in anticipation of the look on Walter's face when he hears the news. First Arthur calls Maude "Little Mother" and then Carol gets on her soap box ("When are men going to take some responsibility for birth control?") leading to a discussion about vasectomies and the human race procreating like rabbits.

The bridge game erupts into a shouting match, which is Walter's cue to walk through the door. He's home from an appliance convention with a big surprise of his own: "I, Walter Findlay, am going into Japanese appliances!" Maude's news trumps Walter's and she leads him into the kitchen to break it to him over a plate of cold chicken.

Ever the light touch, Maude abruptly drops the bomb on Walter and whisks out of the room before the fireworks begin. Walter, having just taken a big bite of chicken leg, chokes on the news and the chicken. As Maude resumes her seat at the bridge table, a sputtering, coughing Walter gropes his way into the living room, madly pantomiming his distress. ("He just loves my chicken," says a serene Maude.)

The group finally realizes that Walter isn't signaling culinary rapture but is struggling to breathe and they rush to help, with Arthur barking out pre-Heimlich maneuver choking instructions. ("He's choking! Get some bread from the kitchen!") Get some . . . bread?

With Walter looking decidedly shell-shocked (Arthur: "That's the look!") everyone leaves to give Walter and Maude a chance to talk. Before she goes, Carol reiterates Maude's options ("When you were young, abortion was a dirty word. It's not anymore. Now you think about that.") Walter says that he's going to go ahead with a vasectomy so this will never happen again and he tells Maude, "Whatever you decide."

Part 1 concludes with the announcement, "And now some scenes from next week's Maude." This is the first time I can recall seeing previews for an upcoming episode of a '70s sitcom. Stay tuned.

Hot button social issue: Abortion and a woman's right to choose. This episode aired in November of 1972, two months before the ruling on Roe v. Wade.

Making her first appearance: Fellow Golden Girl Rue McClanahan stars as Maude's best friend Vivian. Here she looks like her own grandmother, coiffed in a grey rinse hairdo that stands five inches off her forehead.

Fashion statement: Viv sports a pantsuit that could double as duo-tone sports car upholstery.

Neckerchief count: 2

Decorating tip: Bright orange placemats in the shape of flowers and a yellow-green coffee mug with jaunty mushrooms all over it. Nothing screams the 1970s like smiley faces and polka-dotted mushrooms.

Cocktail hour: After Walter hears the news he needs a drink, to which Maude says, "Better make me a double. I'm drinking for two you know." And she does.

Welcome back to 1972 pop culture reference: Modern woman Carol explains it all - The time before Ms.

When Florida asks Carol why her mail has the letters "M-S" in front of her name, Carol gives the Ms.-101 explanation: "That's the result of Women's Lib. You know all men are called Mr. so we can't tell if they're married or single. But with women, we're either Miss or Mrs., so you know if they're married or single or not. Anyway, to make things equal we have this new designation in front of our names. M.S. Pronounced Mizzzz."

Pop culture trivia #1: Maude takes place in 1972 Tuckahoe, New York. Abortion was made legal in the state of New York in 1970.

Pop culture trivia #2: The Heimlich Maneuver was first published in 1974.

Pop culture trivia #3: "Maude's Dilemma" was written by Susan Harris, who went on to create The Golden Girls, starring Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan.

Number of times Maude yells: 6

'70s slang: "You're putting me on," Carol says twice when Vivian tells her that Maude is finally granting her childhood wish by giving her a baby brother or sister.

Memorable quote: "Do you know what that means! I live in a house where an uncle is about to inherit his nephew's potty seat!"

Wow, did they just say that? "It's as simple as going to the dentist."

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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.



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Posted on November 20, 2007


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