Ah The Golden Palace. I wanted to love this show so so much, but let’s face it The Golden Girls just doesn’t work without Dorothy. I at least hope they had more fun filming it without the on-set tension. Plus I’m not sure I love the hotel vibe. There’s so much to do at a hotel that it makes me miss the days when the girls had more freedom to randomly star in school plays or spend all day watching I Love Lucy.
One other item of note before we get into the episode is that I totally forgot they re-recorded the original theme song for the spin-off. I’m definitely partial to the original, but this version isn’t bad either. In this Christmas episode, we hear the standard GG musical interludes but this time with a little sleigh bell action superimposed. It’s quite nice.
At the top of the episode we learn that the hotel’s chef, Chuy (Cheech Marin) hates Christmas because of a string of very bad Christmas luck, including: being drafted, getting divorced, having to be a walking display for a cake at a restaurant and having other humans eat directly from his body (I am so sorry that really needed some kind of warning).
Meanwhile, Rose coaches hotel manager, Roland (Don Cheadle) on how to be the perfect Santa Claus for the children’s hospital. She’s kind of a drill sergeant. It’s really great. She enlists Sophia’s help in a mock present request demo. But Sophia sexually harasses Roland, which yeah…this is uncomfortable. Let’s move on past it.
Next Roland must deal with a seminar full of people who have been traumatized by Christmas and will be staying at the hotel to avoid it entirely. Only no one seems to have told Roland this in advance and he’s now tasked with stripping the hotel of any reminders of the holiday season lest he loose out on a block of fifteen rooms.
Enter Rose: dressed as an elf, ready for some more Santa coaching. She doesn’t react too well to the idea of skipping Christmas. “I’m gonna wear my elf costume or I’m gonna walk around naked.” Blanche then explains that they can still have fun as long as they keep quiet. For example, she still plans to have her date with a Dickens caroler. (This is followed but a lot of Dickens inspired double entendres from which I will spare you.)
But Roland isn’t willing to take any chances. Rose has to ditch the costume and Blanche has to ditch the date. Chuy, as the only grinch, is the one staff member to be happy about the new hotel’s new anti-holiday stance.
That night Chuy awakens from a dream and is greeted by an angelic Rose a.k.a. “The Ghost of Christmas Past.” That’s right. This is a Christmas Carol episode. Turns out those Dickens double entendres were some kind of weird foreshadowing. Chuy says, “You’re not really here. You’re just something I ate at Woodstock.” But of course we’re going on this journey whether or not you believe she’s real. Christmas Rose and Chuy travel to his father’s restaurant. The kitchen looks suspiciously similar to the Golden Palace’s kitchen. But don’t worry about that. It’s an in-show joke. Rose tells Chuy that if his father had an oven and a sink in his kitchen, then it’s close enough.
Oh GOD this is a flashback to the scene that Chuy mentioned earlier where he had to walk about the restaurant dressed as a cake. NO. Hard Pass. Chuy’s dad spins this as a “great honor” and grown Chuy appreciates this whole situation in a different way than young Chuy did. It’s all about “a warm friendly place to celebrate the holidays,” his dad says — which like yeah I get that but can you not do that with a regular table?
Adult Chuy magically returns to his room and Christmas Rose disappears, replaced by Christmas Blanche a.k.a. “The Ghost of Christmas Presents.” (That is not a typo.) Christmas Blanche asks Chuy to tell her what presents he purchased for his coworkers this year. He tells her that he didn’t purchase anything for them.
Christmas Blanche leads Chuy to a walk-in freezer, which is the only place the guests cannot hear or see the Christmas celebration Chuy’s coworkers are having — which includes non-ghost Blanche. The non-ghost version of Blanche tells the others that they can’t open presents until Chuy gets there. Uh-oh. Christmas Blanche asks Chuy if he feels like a total jerk now and he agrees that he does. She then returns him to his bedroom where he meets Christmas Sophia a.k.a. “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.”
Christmas Sophia guides Chuy to a very dingy looking version of the hotel. Rose is scrubbing the floors in rags and we quickly learn that she, Blanche, and Sophia no longer own the hotel. We also learn that the new owner refuses to let anyone celebrate Christmas. Oh and also future Blanche is a spinster who abhors attention from men. We soon find out that Blanche swore off men after her ex-husband stole the hotel from them. Weirdly enough, her ex-husband is Chuy.
Christmas Sophia tells Chuy that he turned into a horrible person because he hates Christmas. Sounds like solid logic to me. Let’s move on. Future Rose begs Future Chuy to let them have a small Christmas celebration. He agrees as long as they let him dictate the festivities. Unfortunately, this involves forcing Future Sophia to wear the cake table and dance for them while everyone else claps along. I genuinely may have nightmares about this. Not even joking.
Thankfully, present day Chuy wakes up in time to stop this atrocity from happening. He hops out of bed and runs through the hotel yelling “Merry Christmas.” (Guess he forgot about the extra special request from that 15-room block.) When he cannot find his friends, he checks the freezer that Christmas Blanche led him to only to find they’ve all frozen to death. Wow. Dark. Luckily, this too is just a dream.
A now fully awake Chuy rushes into the conference room and shouts “Merry Christmas” at a room full of traumatized seminar attendees. Chuy then engages in some sort of proselytizing. In the middle of his speech, we cut away to Rose drilling Roland on his Santa impression in the lobby. Then Chuy and the entire seminar rush into the lobby, full of holiday cheer. (Whatever Chuy said seems to have worked. Whatever it was.)
Then they all sing O Come All Ye Faithful and Estelle Getty breaks the fourth wall to wish the fans a Merry Christmas.
Very Special Christmas Lesson: I have honestly always found the people-as-tables thing to be disturbing and this furthered my view on that point. Anywayyyy, I guess the more positive message here is that it’s never too late to change. So let’s all carry that into 2021! Happy Holidays, Very Specials Readers!