Hot tub time machine

“That’s For Me to Know” is a fun little episode from early in the seventh and final season that takes some surprising turns. It ends rather poignantly and kind of foreshadows the end of the series. Dorothy is working on putting together a family history, and Blanche wants to install a hot tub on the down low. As I re-watch many of these episodes to capture the fashions, I also notice smaller details that I hadn’t noticed before. Like this:

Rose is recycling! It was 1991 by this point, and I remember a big push about recycling happening at this time when I was in elementary school. Plus we had Captain Planet and Earth Day events, and ecology stuff like that in general was popular then. Reduce, re-use, recycle, y’all! Anyway, I just thought it was a neat touch, and now I’m going to have to look in earlier episodes to see what used to be on that bottom shelf.

Next we see Rose and Dorothy at the kitchen table as Sophia enters.

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Notice the darker table cloth, which was a good choice given that this episode is dominated by shades of blue and teal. Sophia’s dress and cardigan combo is really cute here! The colors are lovely on her, and the dress is a nice length and shape. I like how it flares out a little at the bottom. Dorothy is wearing one of her infamous long vests (H. Alan Scott, if you’re reading this, you had a fun word for these vests. What was it?), and Rose wears a mustard colored sportswear set. The top has a nice shawl collar which you can see when the camera turns. Next Blanche breezes in with news of her hot tub project.

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I apologize for the blurriness of this photo, but it was really difficult to get a good shot of her sweater in this scene. It looks like chenille, and she’s wearing it over light blue jeans. Not my favorite look of Blanche’s. To be honest, except for what she wears in the next scene, this episode is a bit of a fashion flop for Blanche. 1991 was a weird year, though. Fashion was still basically stuck in the 1980’s which, let’s be honest again, really was better than the 90’s (in case you’re wondering, yes, that’s a hill I’m totally willing to die on). I feel like many designers were struggling during this time to come up with new shapes and motifs that felt more modern, which probably took even longer to filter down to mass market women’s wear. I definitely need to do some research on that.

In the next scene Dorothy and Sophia are in the living room recording their family history and arguing over a mysterious locked box that Sophia doesn’t want opened.

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I LOVE Dorothy’s outfit in these next few scenes! You can barely tell here, but the blue tunic has sparkles, probably from little clear sequins. They catch the light beautifully. I also really love the bright blue, white, and gray color palette. It’s very sophisticated and modern and just really looks gorgeous on Dorothy. Sophia wears another cardigan and collar combo, this time in maroon, and what looks like a floral tapestry pattern on the shirt. Should I start a Cardigan Count for each episode? Sophia has a collection that could truly rival that of any librarian, and I should know!

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Alrighty, here we go with the one outfit of this episode that works for Blanche! This robe  is stunning and has the perfect effect when Blanche enters the room. I would love to know the designer. The colors make it seem more late 80’s than 90’s. It’s pretty difficult to find information about 90’s fashion that isn’t focused on grunge or youth styles, but there was so much more going on then. Still, I would date this robe as earlier than 1991. Blanche’s whole goal in wearing this robe is to “entice the muscular men who are coming over to install my hot tub,” but it doesn’t quite turn out that way. I wonder if Rue McClanahan had a cruise or a Mediterranean getaway planned in real life during this time and that’s why she chose this robe for this scene.

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I suppose I have mixed feelings about Rose’s sweater. I don’t hate it, and the floral border around the neck is kind of clever, but I don’t love it, either. Also this is one of those times when an outfit doesn’t really mesh with the weather of an episode. You could argue that hot tubs are kind of a year round thing (I guess?) and so it could be any season, but Blanche’s outfit in the next scene on the lanai suggests otherwise. In general, though, we can probably conclude that Rose must be cold natured since she’s always wearing sweaters. And this particular one is sleeveless and layered over a button down shirt, so perhaps we can also conclude that the weather for this episode is “brisk spring day.”

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Now this outfit of Blanche’s is really interesting and seems almost totally out of character. Clearly, Rue was trying out some new styles in her personal life that perhaps carried over to what she chose on the show (which of course she got to keep, as stipulated in her contract). The Kraft macaroni and cheese orange isn’t very flattering on her, and neither is the tunic with chain belt silhouette. And what are those leggings?? I never could make out the pattern exactly. Pansies? Teddy bears?? It’s just too weird for words. Kudos to her for wearing them, though! As we saw in the previous scene she’s definitely got the gams to pull it off! She’s also wearing some dangling gold starfish earrings which just further proves my theory that Rue must’ve had a vacation planned.

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So it turns out that the Blanche needs a permit for the hot tub, but the inspector also tells her she needs a boarding license to rent to more than two people once Rose spills the beans that they’re all renters. Dorothy finally pries open the box and finds a wedding photo of Sophia with someone other than Sal. Sophia refuses to tell Dorothy the truth about it. Meanwhile, Dorothy has an idea for Blanche to make them co-owners of the house, but Blanche can’t bring herself to accept that so the girls all argue about who has to leave and who will stay in the house with Blanche. They have a drawing and everybody votes for Dorothy to move out, even Dorothy because she didn’t want to hurt Rose’s feelings.

But back to the fashion. I like how Dorothy has basically just changed layers here from the previous scene and now sports a gold, striped shirt over the white shirt. It shows up in another episode later in the season, too. The vertical strips are very flattering on Dorothy, and it’s a nice overall casual look for her. I think she’s wearing different, larger gold earrings, too, and I like the open collar look better than the previous shirt. Rose looks lovely in this dark fuchsia pants set that she pairs with low-heeled pumps. But the shirt that’s layered over her blouse has those awful cargo pocket things that should really be outlawed. Her beaded pocketbook is fab, though! Sophia and Dorothy trade some hilarious barbs in this scene here when Sophia enters.

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Now this look for Blanche is extremely 90’s. The jacket is layered over a blouse and pants for a look that’s just not flattering on Blanche at all. Plus the jacket has elastic at the bottom edge. This outfit is basically a complete 180 from the robe and swimsuit ensemble. Oh, but the earrings! The gold triangle piece is bigger than her nose! This is also a very mall outfit, like it totally would’ve been on a mannequin in a store window. I’m also not really digging Blanche’s hair here, either, but her makeup is lovely and subtle.

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After Blanche tells the inspector that she’s decided to share the title of house with the Girls Sophia makes a wacky joke about being a landowner now and planting crops and keeping rabbits. Again she goes with the cardigan and collar look, only this time her dress has a lace collar. Cardigan Count: 3! The gold, puffy square buttons on this one are cute, too.

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The closing scene is really touching between Dorothy and Sophia. Everything sort of comes full circle in this episode with Blanche agreeing to make all of the Girls co-owners of the house. Sophia also admits the truth to Dorothy about her first husband and reveals that it’s how she ended up leaving Sicily for America after she had the marriage annulled. Dorothy finishes recording the family history and reminds us, as only she can, why The Golden Girls continues to endure:

“In 1920, your great-grandmother, Sophia Petrillo, became a pioneer in the women’s rights movement. She single-handedly dragged her family into the 20th century by refusing to be thought of as property and demanding instead to marry a man she loved. To do so, she had to leave behind everything she’d ever known. And that is the kind of courage and strength that flows through your veins.”

Then Dorothy calls Sophia a tramp and they hug. Classic! Of course we all love these moments between them, and there are more to come as the episodes progress toward the finale. Casual sportswear ruled the day in this episode, but I think that’s a real testament to Judy Evans’ talent as a costume designer and the Girls’ knowledge of their characters. After all, the entirety of this episode takes place at the house, so fancy dress wasn’t required. There’s lots of funny dialogue in this episode, and Bea Arthur’s acting especially shines. If this were a blog about the writing and acting of the show then this episode could really be a masterclass. It’s an important episode in the story arc of the final season and one that I think deserves a little more credit than it tends to get.

2 thoughts on “Hot tub time machine

  1. Pingback: Summer 2018 Golden Girls Style – Golden Girls Fashion Corner

  2. Pingback: A Brief History of Sophia’s Purse – Golden Girls Fashion Corner

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