This episode was the tearjerker of the series — the last time the original foursome from All in the Family — Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers — would regularly appear together. There would be two follow-up episodes where Reiner and Struthers appeared as guests, and Struthers appeared again in 1982 by herself, but this episode — "The Stivics Go West" — marked the end of the classic era of AItF. Sure, it would continue for another five years, one as AItF and the last four as Archie Bunker's Place, but for many fans, this was it.
And this is the episode which, according to at least one source, took more than 30 takes of the definitive "farewell" scene, to get an acceptable take in the can. All four of the principal actors were simply too emotional, knowing they'd never work together again, and even producer Norman Lear was emotional.
The best scene came near the end, when Mike graciously tells Archie thanks for the good times and your help ... and Archie admits that for all their differences, he's glad Mike has been a part of his life and he wouldn't have it any differently that he is is son-in-law.
Then the taxi arrives, the tearful goodbyes are exchanged, and Archie watches forlornly as the taxi drives out of sight. Archie walks sadly over to his chair, in tears, and Edith is also trying to compose herself after having cried. A piece of them had left home ... forever.
Tropes associated with this episode:
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The memorable scene where Archie and Mike admit they do respect each other, Mike expressing gratitude for Archie's help through the years and many good times they celebrated together. For once, they put their vastly different views on hold ... and it ends in a very awkward, but tender, hug.
- Man Hug: Between Mike and a reluctant — but ultimately accepting — Archie.
- Put on a Bus: Mike and Gloria — don't forget little Joey — move to Carolina.
- Series Fauxnale: At one point, Norman Lear — knowing two of his key stars, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers, were not coming back — wanted this to be the final episode of the series. Instead, the show continued on for one more year as AItF, and four more years after that as Archie Bunker's Place.
- Tearjerker: The defining scene at the end of the episode, where everyone is saying their goodbyes, Archie watching the taxi drive away and the two sitting in their chairs, silently and struggling to grasp their emotions.