A 50th birtday party can mean a lot of things. For Edith Bunker, it was supposed to be a celebration of family and friendship, and a look ahead at years of raising her grandson, caring for others at the Sunshine Home, and many memories more to be made with Archie.
The day of the milestone birthday ends far from that. In fact, "Edith's Fiftieth Birthday" will have a much darker ending that she'll always remember but will never celebrate.
The episode was universally lauded for its realistic portrayals of trauma and fear, and the aftermath Edith experiences as she tries to forget what happened to her ... even though she knows full well that this rapist is likely still at work and if he's not stopped soon, even more tragic consequences could result.
Tropes associated with this episode:
- Angst Coma: For at least two weeks after the attack, Edith is unable to function normally. She cannot sleep, won't talk to anybody, refuses to kiss Archie and is constantly ironing the bedsheets. In short, she is shaken to the core, and woe be onto the person who tries to bring the subject up.
- Attempted Rape: Fortunately, the rapist is never able to fully initiate sex. Edith manages to babble on (in her own, unique way) to try to keep a step ahead of her attacker.
- Birthday Episode: When all is finished, it's not a day that will be celebrated, but it'll be one that will always be remembered.
- A Birthday, Not a Break: "Happy birthday!" ... chilling words from Mr. Lambert when Edith, in seeking mercy, tells him what day this is. This only ramps up his sadism even more! (And you thought Christmas was a bad time for the Bunkers.)
- Cake In The Face: Usually a comedy trope, this time, a burning one in Mr. Lambert's face the is opening that allows Edith to finally get the upper hand on her would-be assailant.
- Continuity Nod: Gloria refers to her own frightening experience from Season 3's "Gloria the Victim" (where a man tries [unsuccessfully] to attack Gloria while walking by a construction site) and her own decision to not pursue criminal charges.
- Groin Attack: When Edith finally gets the upper hand on the rapist (by shoving the burning cake in his face), he tries to brush away everything and shake it off. He can't, however, shake off a well-placed knee right where the sun doesn't shine, and that's enough for him to get knocked onto the service porch and force him to flee.
- Happy Birthday to You!: Edith's family and friends sing the song when she unexpectedly stumbles in the house, a few even complaining they didn't even get to light the candles yet. Of course, they are unaware of the horror Edith had just gone through.
- Heroic BSoD: Edith, when she finally gets the upper hand on Lambert.
- I Have No Son!: In the final scene, where an exasperated Gloria cannot convince for the life of her to get Edith to press charges against Mr. Lambert, she finally tells her that she's a cruel, selfish woman and that she is unworthy of being her mother.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: To try to get away from her attacker, Edith tries to explain that she has to go to her party next door, and to use the bathroom. This rapist, however, has heard this all before and is determined to not let Edith out of his sight ... or grasp.
- Ironic Birthday: A 50th birthday should be a milestone, a happy occasion where the honoree reflects on a life filled with family, friends and accomplishments. That's how it should have been for Edith ... but instead, a rapist makes sure her 50th birthday will be remembered far differently. In fact, at one point, when Edith tells Mr. Lambert that it is her birthday, he sadistically congratulates her ("Happy birthday!").
- Meanwhile, Back at the...: The living room attempted rape scene cuts at one point to the Stivic house, where Archie and Mike are arguing (as usual, over whose fault it was) over a broken punchbowl. This sets up Archie's trip over to the house to get the other punchbowl and Edith trying (subtly) to hint that something very wrong is going on.
- Oh, Crap!: The moment Lambert presents a gun and points it at Edith's face. The look of sheer terror and fright — and certainly not in a comic sense — is spine-tingling and nightmarish, to say the least.
- Seen It All: "Would you like some coffee?" "I've gotta go to the bathroom." "That's Archie ... he'll stop you!" Yes sir, it can be implied that Mr. Lambert is experienced and — determined to complete this sexual assault — has seen it all before (hot coffee thrown in his face, an escape from the bathroom window and so forth), and why Edith has little success shaking him. Fortunately, he doesn't quite expect a burning cake in the oven, much less one thrown in his face.
- Show Stopper: Edith throwing the burning cake in Mr. Lambert's face and kneeing him in the groin before pushing him out of the house garnered the longest bit of applause — some stories say it was a standing ovation that lasted several minutes (and was ultimately edited down) — in the show's history.
- Serial Rapist: Gloria learns (and reveals to the others) that Lambert is one. Given how well he is able to thwart Edith's attempts at a getaway, he is a very experienced one.
- Surprise Party: Although Edith kinds of knows about it beforehand.
- Very Special Episode: Several episodes aired during the 1977-1978 season had very adult themes, and this was one of them.