Edith's 50th Birthday
|"Edith's 50th Birthday"|
|All in the Family episode|
|Directed by||Paul Bogart|
Bob Schiller |
|Original air date||October 16, 1977|
"Edith's 50th Birthday" is the third episode of the eighth season of the American television sitcom All in the Family. The episode, which originally aired October 16, 1977, was written by Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf, and directed by Paul Bogart.
The episode depicts a man who, while posing as a police detective, attempts to rape the Bunker family matriarch, Edith, on her 50th birthday. This all happens while her family, unaware of what is happening in the Bunkers' living room, prepares for a surprise party next door (at Gloria, Edith's daughter's, house) to honor Edith. The scenes following the assault depict Edith struggling to deal with the aftermath, and her family's attempts to both comfort her and help bring her assailant to justice.
The episode, the 159th of the series, was one of the first on television that portrayed an attempted rape.
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On Edith Bunker's 50th birthday, her family plans a surprise party for her at her daughter Gloria's and son-in-law Mike Stivic's house next door. As Edith is in the process of baking her own birthday cake and waits for her cue to go to the Stivics' house, two visitors come over. The first one is her friend, Sybil, who complains to Edith for not inviting her to her party, thus spoiling the surprise. Sybil soon realizes that Archie (who hates her) was the one who invited all of the guests and not Edith. Edith invites her and the both of them chat for a while.
As Sybil leaves, a handsome man in his early 30s and dressed in a suit arrives. The man identifies himself as a police detective named Lambert, claiming to be searching the neighborhood for a rapist. During his explanation, the man describes the clothes he's wearing himself and locks the door; Edith quickly realizes that Lambert is himself the rapist.
Lambert tries repeatedly to assault Edith, and despite all her attempts to get away from her attacker, he is too strong and too smart for her. Edith offers the man coffee (he declines), explains that she has a party to go to and rambles on about her plans (he keeps her restrained, but with a stunned look on his face), tries to go to the bathroom (he offers to escort her), and has a panicked telephone conversation with one of her friends (Lambert waves a gun at her, warning her that letting slip about her predicament will mean death). Later, when her husband Archie appears to retrieve a punch bowl, the man hides in the closet and threatens to kill them both if Edith says anything.
Once they are alone for the final time, and it appears Edith has exhausted all of her getaway attempts, the two smell something burning from the kitchen. It is the cake Edith was baking, and Lambert escorts her to the kitchen to pull it out. However, Edith uses this final opportunity as her chance to escape her ordeal, pushing the burned cake directly into her attacker's face. With his face burned, and before he can regain his senses, Edith pushes him out of the kitchen and onto the porch and slams the door behind her. Edith then flees the house and runs to Mike and Gloria's, where—just as the party is about to get underway—she breaks down in Archie's arms.
As the second half-hour opens, Edith confides to her family what has happened. Archie, who is furious, wants to press charges, but a confused and shaken Edith wants to just forget the ordeal.
Gloria tries to press Edith to call the police, reminding her mother that she herself had suffered a similar attack three years prior. Archie reminds Gloria that, after being told by police that the lawyers would "turn it around" and make it look like Gloria "asked for it" if the case went to court, the family had decided to not press charges.
Archie and Mike go inside the Bunker household to see if Lambert might still be inside. Mike finds his clothes in the closet, and Archie tells him not to "put his fingerprints all over the evidence". Mike then enters the kitchen and slips on the burnt birthday cake.
Later, two police investigators arrive at the Bunker house, announcing they had picked up an apparently injured man wandering around in a back alley who fit the description of a subject wanted in a series of sexual assaults. At first, they mistakenly restrain Archie - thinking he is the rapist but Mike clears that up almost immediately. When the investigators attempt to get a statement from Edith, she immediately flees the room in a panic when she is shown the tie Lambert left behind in the closet with his hat, jacket and fake badge.
Two weeks then pass since the attempted rape, and Edith has entered into a state of constant fear and depression. Even Archie's unusually sensitive attempts to bolster her self-esteem (he kisses her) do no good. When they find out the same man has been arrested for attacking another woman, Gloria urges Edith to identify Lambert in a police lineup, or else the police will have to drop the pending charges against him; Edith continually changes the subject and refuses to listen. Eventually, an exasperated Gloria declares her mother "selfish" and shouts, "My mother always helps other people. You're not my mother!" Edith slaps her, and her shock at having done so snaps her out of her depression; after expressing remorse for her action, Edith realizes she must identify her attacker. She leaves for the police station with Archie, hoping that her actions may put the rapist away for good. The episode closes on a comedic moment, where Gloria loudly whines from the pain of her slap, and Mike comforts her.
"Edith's 50th Birthday" originally aired as a one-hour episode. In syndication, it is aired as a two-part episode.
Norman Lear consulted with Gail Abarbanel, the founder and director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica Hospital, and hosted advance screenings for police and hospitals across the country. 
It was originally suggested that this storyline be written so that Ann Romano (portrayed by Bonnie Franklin) would be the one attacked on an episode of "One Day at a Time". However Norman Lear changed it to Edith Bunker because he wanted to make a statement that this could happen to anyone, even someone as simple and naive as Edith.
The episode mentions events from the third season's "Gloria The Victim", in which Gloria was sexually assaulted while walking home from work. In that episode, Edith relates an incident where she herself had been the victim of an attempted date rape as a teenager in the 1940s, during a double date visit to Rockaway Beach, but due to the social norms of the time she had not pursued justice.
According to an interview in the E! True Hollywood Story, which covered All in the Family, the scene where Edith uses the burnt cake to attack the rapist and then escape prompted the loudest cheers and applause from the studio audience in the history of the entire series. David Dukes maintained that he received persistent vitriol for years for his portrayal from viewers.
- McCrohan, p. 75
- McCrohan, p. ?
- TV Guide's "100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History" 1996
- E! True Hollywood Story, All in the Family August 27 2000
- McCrohan, Donna (1987). Archie & Edith, Mike & Gloria: The Tumultuous History of All in the Family. Workman Publishing. ISBN 0-89480-527-4.