The Ropers

Season 2 Episode 22

Mother's Wake

Aired Tuesday 10:00 PM May 15, 1980 on ABC

Episode Recap

Jenny is leading Anne and Helen in a calisthenics session in the Ropers' living room. After doing jumping jacks and crab walking, they do an upper body stretch and declare in unison, "we must, we must, we must increase our busts." At this point, Stanley descends the stairs, but tries to retreat back up when he hears their declaration. Jenny asks him if he'd like to join, but Helen quips that Stanley doesn't believe in doing "anything" strenuous. Stanley claims that all of that running and jumping is a waste of time because it doesn't get you anywhere. Helen declares that Jeffrey runs two miles every day, but when she explains that he starts and finishes at home, Stanley cites it as proof of his claim. Jenny declares that she thinks everyone should exercise to respect their bodies, and to treat their bodies like a temple. Helen jokes that Stanley treats his body like a museum. Jenny tells her the next exercise will make her into a new woman, and Stanley encourages Helen to try it. The doorbell rings, and Stanley answers the door to find Jeffrey, who angrily declares that Stanley's car was blocking the driveway and he had to push it out of the way, and asks how Stanley expected him to get to work. Stanley suggests he should try running. Jeffrey informs Stanley that he will have to try running himself, because he didn't apply the parking break. As Stanley bolts outside, Jeffrey tells Anne that he's going to work, and comments to the three women that they look marvelous, but they are doing everything wrong. Jenny and Helen ask him to show them the right way to do it, and Jeffrey reluctantly agrees. He pushes the couch out of the way then immediately begins to lead the women in an exercise where he reaches for his foot with one arm while extending his other arm straight into the air. After a few repetitions, he screams in agony and fails to right himself. Anne declares that he's thrown his back out again. She further explains that it can last for hours, and people can hear him all over the neighborhood. Jeffrey lets out another loud scream and he remains bent over. Helen asks her what she usually does. Anne admits that she usually goes to a movie. She then tells him she's going to get his pills, but he tells her not to, because the last time he took them he became so spaced out he tried to walk across the neighbor's swimming pool. Jenny suggests that he sit down in a chair, but he cries out that he can't move. She declares that he can, and shoves the chair under him, forcing him to sit down. Helen suggests that Jenny could help him the way she helped her fix her neck when they met. Jenny tells him to relax and she begins to rub his shoulders, immediately relieving his pain. However, when he turns his neck to speak to her, the pain returns and he repeatedly declares "my neck!" Anne decides to leave to get Jeffries pills, as Stanley returns and angrily asks Helen why Jeffrey is still in their house. Helen informs him that Jeffrey threw his back out. Stanley declares that he's going to throw the rest of him out now, because he pushed their car into the neighbor's lawn. Helen explains that Jeffrey can't move, which Jenny confirms. Stanley says that it's terrible, then grins slyly at the camera. The doorbell rings, and Helen is surprised to see her mother has arrived. Mother calls her Ethel and is corrected. Mother declares that she can only stay a few days, and Stanley thinks it's a shame. Helen orders Stanley to get Mother's bags and pay the cab, then tells Mother she insists on her staying more than a few days. Stanley waves his arms behind Mother trying to get Helen to stop. As Mother explains her itinerary, Stanley switches to a shoving motion. When Mother explains that she also wants to make out her will, Stanley stops and asks her to sit down and make herself comfortable as he gets her bags. Mother thanks him, calling him Hubert. He does a double take, but decides to let it go. Helen nervously asks her if she's all right. Mother declares that she's never felt better. Helen then introduces her to Jenny, who Mother thinks is Helen's oldest child. Helen corrects her, but Mother goes on to screw up the identities of Helen and her two other sisters, Ethel and Hilda, who will be arriving shortly as well. When Mother proceeds to confuse their husbands as well, Helen wonders how anyone could confuse Stanley with Hilda's husband, "Fertile Freddie". Mother agrees, as she walks over to Jeffrey, still suffering in the chair, and tells him she could never confuse him with Stanley. Jeffrey, exasperated, asks what in the world she's talking about. Mother asks why his wife isn't here with him. Jeffrey explains that she's gone to get some pills. Mother thinks it's about time, in reference to Hilda having six children, and tells him he should have thought of that three babies ago. Jeffrey desperately tries to explain that the pills are for him. Mother declares that if he thinks that, that explains why Hilda is always pregnant. Jeffrey cries out that his back hurts. Mother says she can understand why. Jeffrey is at the end of his rope, and instinctively turns his head, causing him to scream in pain. Mother scolds him. Stanley returns with Mother's bags and asks if he can get her some coffee. She declares that she'll get it herself, to give Freddie (Jeffrey) a chance to cool off. As Mother enters the kitchen, Stanley suggests to Helen that they should hang the picture of Mother with the gilded frame in the living room. Helen asks if it's the same one that Stanley claimed got lost during their move. Stanley claims he just remembered where it got lost, and leaves to retrieve it, leaving Helen in disgust. At this point, Anne returns with Jeffrey's pills, and he pleads with her never to leave him alone at the Ropers' ever again. She offers him a pill, but he continues to refuse. She explains that the doctor can't get away for at least a few hours, to which he asks for three pills.

In the kitchen, Mother thanks Hubert (Stanley) for pouring her coffee. Stanley corrects her, then explains that Stanley brought in her bags, paid for her can, and sprung for the tip. Mother tells him to thank Stanley the next time he sees him. Stanley lets it go, and asks if she would like sugar or cream, and who she's going leave her money to. Mother declares that she hasn't made up her mind, but she wants it to bring happiness, and not be squandered on lawyers and divorce. She further declares that she's not leaving a penny to any of her daughters who isn't happily married. Stanley contends that it isn't fair for her to do that. They return to the living room, and Stanley asks Helen if she missed him, calling her sweetheart. Helen is confused as Stanley grins and embraces her uncharacteristically. Stanley tells Mother that he can't keep his hands off of Helen. Mother seems impressed. Helen asks him if he's been drinking, causing him to declare "only the kisses from your lips." He then tells Mother that you can't be happier than that. Mother wishes that Stanley could be more like him. Stanley is left frustrated.

On the other side of the room, Anne asks Jeffrey how he's feeling. Jeffrey is in a light spirit, and declares that the pills are starting to work. The doorbell rings, and Helen declares that it must be Ethel. Stanley says that he thought he could hear a dog howling. Helen opens the door and they blow each other a kiss. As Ethel greets Mother, Hilda enters, showing the advanced stages of another pregnancy and greets Helen. Helen asks why she didn't announce her latest pregnancy, and Hilda explains that she was tired of hearing people say "not again!" She proceeds to greet her mother, who greets her back by saying "not again!", and she tells Freddie (Jeffrey) that he should get a refund for his pills. Ethel notices Jeffrey sitting in the chair, and asks if she and Mother can have some privacy. He explains that he has a severe back problem and cannot move. Ethel declares that it's a shame, and proceeds to push him in the chair to the other side of the room, causing him to crash into the organ, sending him into further agony. Ethel tells Mother in a loving voice that she would like to talk about her will, referring to her as "mommy dearest". In the meantime, Helen declares to Stanley that she's worried. Stanley says he is too, because he fears Ethel is going to ace them out of the will. Helen angrily clarifies that she's worried about why Mother has decided to make out a will. Stanley tries to comfort her, explaining that Mother is just trying to be practical, and it will be just their luck that she'll probably be around another ten or twenty years. At this point, the doorbell rings and Stanley answers it. He opens the door to find a well dressed man holding a covered platter. Stanley lets him in, and he's followed by four men wearing red sport coats, carrying baskets and tablecloths. Stanley demands to know what this is all about. The man takes the cover off the platter to reveal hot hor devours and cold cuts. Stanley angrily explains that he didn't order any of this. Mother breaks in to tell Hubert (Stanley) that she did. She further explains that this is the reason everyone has been summoned to the Ropers', and tells Helen that she should invite some of her neighbors. Helen is overjoyed, jumping up and down and declaring that they are having a surprise party. She then becomes confused, and asks what the party is for. Mother declares that it's for her wake. Everyone is stunned. Helen asks her if she's alright, and Mother reconfirms that she's never felt better. Helen asks again why she doing this. Ethel breaks in to scold Helen, explaining that the answer is as plain as the nose on her face. Mother agrees, and tells Ethel to tell Helen the reason. Ethel, of course, is at a loss for words. Mother tells Ethel that she's afraid Ethel's mind is beginning to wander. Mother turns to Helen and explains she wanted to have her wake while she is still alive, so that she can enjoy it. Stanley enthusiastically asks where she got such a great idea from. Mother explains that she was at a friend's wake, and her friends said so many nice things about her and her appearance, things that she never heard when she was alive – probably because she never looked that good while she was alive. She concludes by telling Ethel that she wants to hear all of the nice things people want to say about her, and that she hopes everyone won't be too shy. Ethel proclaims that she doesn't need any excuse to say nice things about Mother. Mother takes Ethel by her right hand, and declares that it was such a nice thing to say. Ethel tells her to take her left hand, because it's closer to her heart. Stanley breaks in to declare that he doesn't need an excuse either, even though she isn't his mother. Mother exclaims that was lovely too. Ethel declares that she is the most wonderful mother a daughter could have. Stanley retorts by declaring that she is an even better mother-in-law. Stanley and Ethel continue to exchange glowing remarks about Mother, but the tone of their voices become progressively more angry. The caterer breaks in to give Mother his bill. Ethel intercepts the bill and insists on paying it. Stanley then insists he pay for it, because it's his house. He then notices the bill is for $385, and hands it to Ethel.

Sometime later, the wake is well underway, and Ethel declares to Helen and Stanley that it is the most depressing thing she's ever seen. Stanley agrees, because at the rate people are eating the food, there won't be any leftovers. Ethel reiterates that the party is morbid, but Helen reminds her that it's what Mother "would have wanted." She then corrects herself. As Mother walks up behind Ethel, Ethel contends that Mother doesn't know what she wants. Mother asks Ethel if she agrees that this was a good idea, and Ethel confirms, and claims that she just told Helen that Mother is an inspiration to all of them. Mother says that Ethel's wake will probably be an inspiration too. Stanley breaks in to say that it will be an inspiration to him. Helen asks them to excuse her and Stanley, and she scolds him. Stanley asks if she notices how Ethel is buttering up Mother. Helen declares that it's disgusting. Mother looks over at them, and Stanley puts his arm lovingly around Helen and smiles. Mother smiles back at him. At this point, Jeffrey quietly calls Stanley's name from his chair, grinning widely and clearly under the influence of his pills. Jeffrey declares that the pills made him thirsty, motioning for Stanley to get him some water for the glass he is holding. Stanley gets the pitcher of water, but as he begins to pour it into the glass in Jeffrey's hand, Stanley is distracted by his attractive neighbor Debbie who says hello to him. Stanley proceeds to pour the water all over Jeffrey's lap. Jeffrey simply sits there and giggles, oblivious to what has just happened.

At this point, Reverend Munson enters the front door, and declares to Mother (not knowing who she is) that he was next door and heard about what happened to Helen's mother, calling it a tragedy. Mother asks if he would like an appetizer. He declines, and asks if he could say a few words to the family about the deceased. Mother tells him to say the words directly to her, because she IS the deceased. Munson is shocked, and Mother takes him by the arm to get a drink. Meanwhile, Jenny asks Debbie to take a plate full of fried chicken pieces to Jeffrey. Debbie takes the plate to Jeffrey, and asks him if he would like a breast or thigh, to which he simply grins at her. Anne overhears the question, and is clearly upset. She tells Debbie that Jeffrey can get that at home. As Debbie walks away, Anne grabs Jeffrey by the neck and angrily asks if he isn't in enough pain already.

On the other side of the room, Helen is trying to convince Ethel that she doesn't want Mother's house or any of Mother's money. She tearfully explains that she doesn't want any more family squabbles about money. Ethel admits that she feels ashamed, and that Helen has opened her eyes. Helen assumes this means Ethel doesn't want to be in the will either. Ethel angrily tells Helen she must be out of her mind, and storms off. Stanley approaches and tells Helen that for once he agrees with Ethel, that Helen must be out of her mind. He takes Helen by the arm to the other side of the room, right next to Jeffrey, who simply grins widely at them while still in his chair. Stanley would like some privacy, so he pushes Jeffrey blindly into the kitchen, where he runs into Hilda, causing her to sit in Jeffrey's lap. As Jeffrey goofily giggles at her, she says she's sorry. Jeffrey asks if he can drive her somewhere. Mother enters the kitchen and scolds Freddie (Jeffrey) for attempting to get fresh with his wife in her condition. Hilda explains what happened, but Mother tells Hilda that she needs to learn to say no once in a while. Hilda laughs and explains that he's not the father. Mother is outraged, and asks who fathered all of her other children. Hilda becomes enraged at the insinuation and storms out. Jeffrey asks Mother if she would like a ride somewhere.

Back in the living room, Helen asks Jenny what she thinks of this crazy affair. Jenny admits that she thinks it's wonderful, because Mother is having a blast and there's not much more you can ask for. Stanley says he would like to ask to have a peek at the will. Jenny explains that the only thing missing is presents. At this point, Mother wheels Jeffrey out of the kitchen, and explains that she would like to give away her possessions now, so that she can see and enjoy the looks on her daughters' faces. Stanley exclaims that it's a great idea, which elicits stern looks from Helen and Ethel. Stanley clarifies that it's a good idea if it makes Mother happy. Mother asks Freddie (Jeffrey) what he thinks. Jeffrey responds, "fine with me, Mom."

Mother takes a seat on the couch and begins to announce the allocation of her possessions. She explains that her late husband loved automobiles and bought a lot of stock in automobile companies. As she begins to announce what Ethel will receive, Ethel breaks in to ask Mother if she means the real Ethel, of if she means someone else since she always confuses the three daughters. Mother doesn't understand the question, so Ethel tells her to go ahead. Mother gives Ethel 500 shares of Pierce-Arrow stock. Ethel is elated, until she realizes the company went out of business fifty years ago. Mother then hands Helen 200 shares of Tucker Motors, and 1000 shares of Auburn Motors. Stanley immediately cries out that they are worthless too. Helen thanks Mother anyway. Ethel then demands to see all of the other stocks, which all turn out to be defunct automobile companies, except for 500 shares of IBM. She calmly asks Mother who will be getting those. Mother explains that she's keeping those for herself, because she heard they are worth a bundle.

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