Tear Jerker / The Golden Girls

  • Dorothy's dressing down of Stan and telling him why his leaving hurt her so much. She tells him that after 38 years of marriage with the good times, the bad times, the kids, the stresses, the arguments and that he had his lawyer break the news of the divorce over the phone rather than going to her in person and having a proper conversation. Just hearing her voice break a few times and Stan getting quiet after she gets her chance to truly say "Good Bye" makes you sorry for both of them.
  • Rose's desperation in 'Job Hunt'. It hits home even more now in these times when many people over 50 find less and less companies willing to hire them.
  • Rose's observations on a local homeless woman in "Rose Fights Back", and her fears that she could end up like that woman if she can't find a job after losing Charlie's pension.
  • The Mother's Day episode where Rose encounters an elderly woman going home to visit her daughter. It turns out her daughter is dead and she visits her grave every Mother's Day.
    • The fact that Rose poses as her daughter just so that she isn't sent back to the retirement home - just long enough for her to escape the police.
  • The episode where the other girls give Rose a dog for her birthday. Hospital volunteer Rose ends up giving the dog to a man whose wife has just died, which doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
    • And a bit of a callback: previously, while telling the story of how the four women came to be roommates, Blanche tells the tale of how she originally met Rose after Rose had just been evicted from her apartment for refusing to give up her only companion, a cat. As Blanche watches from the background, a child comes up to Rose and asks if he can pet the cat. It turns out that the child's own cat had recently died and they had not yet replaced it. Rose selflessly offers her own cat to the child. Witnessing the display of generosity, Blanche immediately decides that Rose is the sort of person she wants living with her.
  • The Whole Episode Flashback about celebrating birthdays. Rose celebrates her last birthday in St. Olaf, talking to her late husband Charlie as if he's there, telling him goodbye.[1]
  • "Ebbtide's Revenge," which deals with the death of Sophia's son Phil, is full of heartbreaking moments:
    • Dorothy is chosen to give the eulogy at Phil's funeral. As she does, she breaks down and starts crying as she says that she's angry at him, because this was the last thing in the world she ever wanted to do.
    • Behind the scenes, Estelle Getty became extremely uncomfortable after reading the script, as it called for her to make jokes about Phil's cross-dressing while standing at his casket. Getty actually called the showrunners and told them that she refused to do the scene, insisting that a mother would never act that way. This prompted the scriptwriters to make alterations.
    • The saddest moment of all, though, is the end of the episode. Sophia's relationship with Phil became strained after her married his wife Angela, and she rarely visited him—and her grandchildren—because of their feud. Sophia claims that the source of the argument was the fact that Angela's family never paid her dowry, which turns out to be forty-seven dollars; Angela writes a check to cover the amount, but Sophia still acts snide toward her. Surprisingly, Rose coaxes the real reason for Sophia's anger out of her: it turns out that she was actually deeply ashamed of her son's cross-dressing, and blamed herself for what she considered a "problem." Rose tells her that Phil's transvestism wasn't anyone's fault, and that it's perfectly OK for Sophia to have loved Phil even though he wasn't "normal."
    Sophia: I did love him. He was my son...my little boy. But every time I saw him, I always asked myself...what I did, what I said, when was the day I did whatever I did to make him the way he was.
    Angela: (moving to embrace Sophia) What he was, Sophia, was a good man.
    Sophia: (completely breaking down) My baby is gone...
  • Also the episode "Not Another Monday" - The conversation between Sophia and her friend Martha, who has been contemplating suicide.
    • As Martha and Sophia talk.
    Martha: No, I want to go. Lydia looked so peaceful. [takes hold of the pills]
    Sophia: [immediately grabs the pills] We're not in this life for peace!
    Martha: You're crying.
    Sophia: No, I'm not, I don't cry.
    Martha: I can see your tears!
    Sophia: And I can see yours, you know what that tells me? You're not as ready to die as you think you are. You still wanna live, kid!
    Martha: Some kid! I don't know what to do.
    Sophia: That's the point. If you're not sure, then you can't change your mind tomorrow. You wanted me to be there for your death. How about letting me be here for your life?
    Martha: Like a friend?
    Sophia: Like a best friend.
    • The end of the episode also qualifies. The girls have been looking after a neighbor's baby, and just before the parents arrive to pick him up, Sophia asks for a few minutes alone with him. She picks up the child and begins talking to him, telling him that while life is going to be difficult, it's always worth living. Seeing a great-grandmother speak to a child who she mostly likely won't live to see grown up is touching, especially when you consider Estelle Getty's later coming down with dementia.
  • "End of the Curse" - Blanche is going through menopause and spirals into a depression at the thought of getting old. The girls take her to see a therapist, where she reveals that getting old absolutely terrifies her. When she talks about sometimes seeing her mother's face instead of her own in the mirror tugs at the heartstrings:
    "You know, sometimes, I look in the mirror, and I see my mother's face. Not all the time, just every now and then, when the lights too bright, or too early in the morning, or late at night, or I look real fast. There it is - my mother's face. Scares me to death [chuckles nervously]. It just scares me to death. I just get so depressed I don't want to get out of bed in the morning...I don't want to get out of bed ever again."
    • Thanks to Fridge Depression, the above gets much worse if you've watched the later episode "Mother's Day", where we find out what happened to Blanche's mother - before her death, she was living in a retirement home with Alzheimer's and had trouble remembering who she even was. This is what getting old means to Blanche, and why the thought of seeing her mother's face instead of her own scares and depresses her so much.
  • Blanche saying goodbye to Big Daddy: "I'm nobody's little girl anymore..."
    • Another from when Blanche says goodbye to Big Daddy: "I don't know if love can help you wherever you are, but if it can, then, honey, you got it."
    • That episode had a number of Tear Jerker moments around Blanche. The last time she speaks to Big Daddy she's more worried about planning a festival and doesn't believe he sounds that sick. When she gets the news of his death, Blanche thinks he's just faking to get attention from her, until she breaks down crying wondering why she didn't go to him. And then, after returning to her childhood home for the funeral, Blanche gets into an argument with her sister Virginia and refuses to go to Big Daddy's funeral out of spite, missing her last chance to say goodbye to him face-to-face.
      • After getting the call about Big Daddy's death, Blanche cheerfully recalls how Big Daddy used to put ketchup on his lima beans before breaking down and sobbing her eyes out.
    Blanche: He always made everything sound... so damn special... oh God, why didn't I go when he called?
  • Shortly after Big Daddy passes away, Blanche's "Mammy" (her nanny and best friend from childhood) comes to visit after having left Blanche abruptly and not showing her face for forty years. She asks for Big Daddy's old music box, which was a gift from her, revealing that the two were having an affair. Blanche refuses, demanding an explanation as to why her Mammy had just left her alone. Her Mammy reveals that Big Mommy found out about the affair and furiously kicked Mammy out of the Hollingsworth household, but she was always around for Blanche's life, unseen:
    Mammy: I remember an early wedding in June. Most beautiful young bride I ever did see, dancing with her equally handsome father. The song was Tennessee Waltz. You asked them to play it twice so you could dance with your daddy for as long as possible.
    Blanche: You were there?
    Mammy: I stood in the back by the caterers, so nobody would see me. You have no idea how much I wanted to just hug you. I just had to see my dumpling on her wedding day.
  • The final scene of the original series, where the girls say goodbye to Dorothy.
    • Earlier at Dorothy's wedding, when the priest asks the 'is there any reason these two should not be wed' question, there's a shot of Stan. You can tell he wants to say something, but he keeps quiet so Dorothy can be happy
  • The episode "Old Friends" is one of the saddest episodes of the series. The basic plot sees Sophia befriend another senior citizen named Alvin on the boardwalk; the two become fast friends, but there are hints that something is wrong. It turns out that Alvin has Alzheimer's disease, and what follows is one of the most painfully accurate depictions of the illness ever shown on television.
    • At one point, Alvin begins to become confused and distracted when Sophia brings up his deceased wife; he tries to change the subject, as he doesn't know what she's talking about. When Sophia presses him, Alvin begins to cry, as he's unable to remember his wife in the slightest. Sophia, realizing her mistake, comforts him by telling him that she forgets things about her own late husband, and then assures him that it's OK: "You go ahead and cry. Cry as much as you want."
    • The next day, Sophia returns to the boardwalk, and Alvin, instead of being friendly, is short-tempered and nasty with her, leaving her bewildered and hurt.
    • When Sophia and Alvin make up (though Alvin can't remember fighting in the first place), Dorothy is seen in the background; she followed Sophia to make sure that everything was OK. While there, she meets Alvin's daughter Sondra. The two talk briefly, and while the conversation is pleasant, Sondra breaks down as she's forced to admit the truth: "My father is never going to be OK."
    • The entirety of the scene where Dorothy has to tell Sophia the truth about Alvin. Sophia admits that she already knows that something is wrong and doesn't want to admit it; when Dorothy actually tells her about Alvin's illness, the older woman is stunned. Dorothy then admits further bad news: Alvin's family has made the decision to send him to New York to receive special care. Sophia ends the scene by commenting that even after a long, eventful life, reality can still "spit right in your face."
    • At the end of the episode, which is funny, sweet, and tearjerking all at the same time, Sophia sits alone on the boardwalk, realizing that Alvin has gone; Dorothy comes over and tries to comfort her. As they get ready to leave, Sophia comments that Alvin might not even remember her—but she'll always remember him. They walk away, and a man comes along to sit on Alvin and Sophia's bench:
    Sophia: Hey! Someone's sittin' there!
    (The man hurries away, and Dorothy takes Sophia by the arm. They slowly leave the boardwalk, both looking back at the now-empty bench.)
    • It really becomes a tearjerker when you learn about how Estelle Getty came down with dementia, just as Alvin suffered from Alzheimer's in the episode.
  • In one episode, Sophia learns a friend from Shady Pines named Lilian has been transferred to Sunny Pastures, which Sophia explains is the bottom of the barrel for nursing homes. It turns out she's not exaggerating, although we learn this is because it doesn't have enough funding and the guy who runs Sunny Pastures is trying to do the best he can despite the aggravating bureaucratic procedures it takes to the run the place. Sophia conspires to break Lilian out, and does, but we learn that she's genuinely senile and suffering from either dementia or Alzheimer's. Sophia is running herself ragged taking care of Lilian, until the girls manage to find a better nursing home for her. Dorothy comments that everything worked out okay... but wonders why she doesn't feel better. Blanche mentions something along the lines of "because there are places out there that are worse than Sunny Pastures and Lilian just got lucky."
    • Made even worse in hindsight because Blanche is still right. Especially in Florida, which has a very high retiree population, the state of most nursing homes is closer to Sunny Pastures' example than anyone would like. The lawsuit deluge of recent years has arguably made it worse by driving malpractice insurance costs up even further, and most legislation designed to punish negligence is questionably effective at best.
  • Miles leaving after it's revealed that the criminal he's been hiding from isn't actually dead. He rushes out after he says goodbye, and leaves Rose his Robert Frost poetry book, telling her to think of him when she reads a certain page. She immediately does:
    "And when to the heart of a man, was it ever a less than a treason?/To bow and accept the end of a love, or of a season?"
  • The entire third act of "Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket?" where the girls go to a homeless shelter to find a jacket with a winning lottery ticket in the pocket. While searching, they have various discussions with the homeless, including a woman Sophia knows from Shady Pines, learning that homelessness can affect anyone. When they do manage to find the ticket, they give it to the shelter, thanking the priest in charge for everything.
    • The version of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" played while the girls search the shelter, juxtaposed with shots of the residents of the shelter (including a mother and her young children), only adds fuel to the depressing fire.
    • The person in the homeless shelter that Blanche meets. He was staring at her purse, and she quickly snapped at him. He said he was wondering if she had any gum; she apologized and they begin to talk. He tells her he doesn't really belong there; he's actually a sociology student studying the homeless for his doctorate. Blanche warms up to him and mentions how he seems more like her own son than a typical homeless person. Then, he let's the masquerade fall: He already has his doctorate, but he still needs to stay in the shelter because he's an alcoholic. He ends by telling her to be extra careful with her purse, since he didn't really want a piece of gum. Sad enough, but when you think about how now youth unemployment (especially among recent college graduates with little to no job history) is currently twice the national average, it becomes eerily tragic.
    • Rose talks to a man about her age. He was layed off from his job as a hotelier when the hotel business took a hit. He tried to find another job, but no one was willing to train someone his age, eventually leaving him with only a box for shelter. It took three months, but he made his way to Miami because he was afraid he would freeze to death if he stayed in Minneapolis. Much like the young man Blanche talked to, it's eerie in hindsight with all of the lay-offs caused by the '08 recession.
  • Even this throwaway joke from the first season: Rose tells her daughter she keeps her will in the cookie jar. It's sweet and sad when you remember that Rose lost her Charlie...
    Rose: Whenever I caught your father in the kitchen, he was always in the cookie jar. This way, he still is!
  • The episode when Rose fears she may have HIV, seeing Rose (who is usually very cheerful and optimistic) feeling hopeless, terrified, and cynical is very sad.
  • When Dorothy announces she is remarrying Stan, Sophia tells her that if she goes through with it she'll cut her out of her life, and Dorothy is very hurt by this.
  • In "Heart Attack," Rose, trying to comfort Dorothy when she thinks that Sophia might be dying, tells the story of how Charlie passed away. At first, it's funny, largely because he had his heart attack while they were making love, and began to argue with Rose about dressing him in a pair of white pants, as it was after Labor Day. But then:
    Dorothy: And...?
    Rose: And...he told me he loved me...and...then it was over. And I put a pair of gray flannel pants on him. And a blue shirt...and a striped tie. (Voice breaking) And he was all dressed when the paramedics got there.
    • This entire episode deals with the very painful reality that our parents have to die sometime, and how you're never fully prepared to deal with it. Dorothy confides in Blanche that, if Sophia dies, she'll be an orphan, and it doesn't matter how old you are, "when you lose a parent you might as well be six."
  • Rose's breakdown over not being smart enough to keep up with her boyfriend Miles in 'Dancing In The Dark'.
  • The entirety of the last episode. Two lines from the episode include:
    Sophia: Goodbye, my girls.
    Dorothy: You will always be my sisters.
    • Stan saying goodbye to Dorothy.
    • Sophia actually intending to give Dorothy money.
    • The final shot of the three remaining girls embracing and sobbing as Dorothy has exited their lives for the last time.
  • The end of the episode "Mrs. George Devereaux" when Blanche wakes up and reaches her arm to the empty side of the bed, realizing it was All Just a Dream and George is still gone.
    • Becomes a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when Blanche tells the girls that this time she hugged George in her dream, and truly felt his presence as if he really was there.
  • "Where's Charlie?" was an episode that had Sophia at her worst. She plays upon Rose's belief that Charlie is trying to contact her from beyond the grave for the sake of getting money from Rose, but the end result of her joke has Rose returning the ring Miles gave her and potentially ruining their relationship. When Dorothy finds out about this, she flat out calls Sophia a horrible person and orders her to admit the truth. Rose may have been gullible, but she had every right to be upset with Sophia.
    Rose: You mocked my relationship with Charlie, and you nearly ruined my relationship with Miles! How can you be so cruel?!
  • In one episode, Blanche receives a visit from a strange young man named David asking about her husband George. When he doesn't leave even after learning George has long since passed on, Blanche finally calls him forward to learn what his story is. He reveals that George Devereaux was his father, meaning Blanche's lifelong sweetheart had fathered an illegitimate child with another woman. Her Tranquil Fury quickly boils into open heartache as she is quickly overcome by feeling betrayed.
    • Later evolves into a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when Blanche comes to terms with what happened and grants David the right to know who his late father was. The turning point was when David admitted to Blanche that he's angry too, at his father for being absent his whole life, and his mother for lying to him right up to her deathbed. He was just as much an innocent victim of the whole mess as Blanche.
  • Dorothy falling in love with Stan again and intending to re-marry him. Just when it seems all is set for the ceremony and she has won the blessing of both her friends and her mother, Stan approaches Dorothy with a pre-nuptial agreement, unraveling all the trust rebuilt between the two and seeing Dorothy order Stan out of the house before they have even walked the aisle. Dorothy later accepts that it simply was not meant to be, but in that moment you can just see and feel the betrayal she feels as she is forced to announce to her friends and family that the wedding is off.
    Dorothy: I have an announcement to make.....I've decided not to make the same mistake twice. I'm sorry.
  • "Room 7" focuses on Blanche trying desperately to keep her grandmother's plantation house from being demolished. It was a huge part of Blanche's childhood, and she can't bear the thought of losing a place where she always felt loved and wanted. After a heart to heart with Sophia, she decides to finally let go, but not before one last look around, as a way to say goodbye. She stands in the foyer, now stripped bare, and there's an echo of a young Blanche's laughter. Blanche smiles, laughs a bit, and quietly leaves.
  • In "Journey to the Center of Attention," Blanche grows jealous after Dorothy's singing starts attracting the male attention at the Rusty Anchor, where she's the reigning queen among the men. She tries to steal Dorothy's thunder by singing a sexy solo, but makes a fool of herself instead. When Dorothy goes to comfort Blanche, she tearfully confesses to Dorothy that the only thing she's assured of is being the center of attention, and seeing Dorothy so beautiful and confident made her feel threatened. It's tough to see Blanche this vulnerable.
    • Dorothy gets another, smaller moment at the end of the episode. When Blanche asks if Dorothy ever feels jealous of her, Dorothy says, with genuine pain in her voice, "Every day of my life." For as much as Dorothy's Hollywood Homely looks are made the butt of jokes on the show, she's still deeply affected by her own insecurities.
    • Dorothy singing Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do." The song is all about someone abandoned by a lover, and how devastated they are by loneliness. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize that Dorothy's feelings for Stan—confusing as they are—are a running theme on the show; this performance suggests that their divorce and relationship really did break her heart, and that she's still struggling with those emotions.