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Bates Motel Recap, Episode Six: The Truth

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Lots of stuff starting to unravel on Bates this week—including at least one plot line I figured would be in play for the whole season. Let’s get to it.

"Everybody Always Gets Away With Everything.”

We pick up exactly where we left off last week, with Norma sitting on the motel porch, stunned that her savior Officer Shelby was involved in a sex slave ring. While Emma and Norman are debating about how to handle his unresponsive mother—Emma desperately wants to get her some water—Norma takes off running. She jumps in her car with Norman in hot pursuit. When he can’t yank her out of the driver’s seat, Norman opts to leap through the open passenger window, grabbing the steering wheel. The car is careening wildly around the Bates Motel parking lot; they come dangerously close to taking out that iconic sign. Eventually, the vehicle comes to a halt and Norman tosses the car keys out the window.

“He can’t get away with it. Everybody always gets away with everything and it’s not fair!” Norma half screams, half sobs.

Norman promises her that they’re going to get the bad guy, they just have to do it the right way. This seems to appease her, and everyone calms down.

There’s a New Boss in Town


Elsewhere in town, Dylan is telling Gil about his own bad guy justice. Gil is the same guy who “approved” adding Dylan to the team, so he’s pretty high up on the chain of this operation, if not at the top. Dylan recounts the story of the attack on Ethan; we learn Ethan died at the hospital.

“That’s a loss,” Gil says rather flatly, though his jaw is clenched. He asks if Dylan can ID the guy who did it, and Dylan reports that he already took him out by running him down in Ethan’s truck. “I smacked him with it,” is actually what he said, which is a bit of an understatement. Dylan apologizes and says he realizes that there are a lot of delicate politics to this whole shady business, and he’s very sorry if he screwed something up with his vigilante justice.

On the contrary, Gil is quite pleased.

“You handled things in the moment,” he says. “That’s good work. That means something to me.” Gil then gives Dylan detailed instructions on how to dispose of the murder vehicle. It basically amounts to driving it to a remote area and torching it using copious amounts of gasoline, which Dylan does. As he’s watching it burn, another guy approaches, saying he was sent to pick Dylan up. The two of them are going to be working together from now on.

Turns out “Remo” has been working for Gil for 23 years. Dylan kind of starts nervously rambling about how Remo must know everything since he’s been doing this for decades. Remo cops a weird attitude, getting irritated about their age difference and taking offense when Dylan calls him a seasoned pro. Dylan assumes the attitude is because of his age and inexperience, so he tries to explain that he’ll do his best.

“I’m pretty good at this, OK? I helped Ethan a lot. I pick stuff up fast. You’re not gonna be sorry that I’m working for you.”

“You’re not working for me,” Remo sneers. “I’m working for you.”

Let Sleeping Sex Slaves Lie


At the motel, Norma goes to check on Jiao, the girl from Shelby’s basement. She’s presumably still under the effects of the drugs, because she’s out cold. As Norma pulls the covers up, she examines the bloody marks on Jiao’s wrists and the needle marks in her arm.

Emma is waiting for an update at the house.

“She needs to sleep,” Norma reports, almost tersely. Emma is being pretty persistent about getting Jiao to the police station ASAP; Norman, of course, takes his mother’s side about waiting a bit longer.

Undeterred, Emma demands that they call the FBI “right this second.”

“We’re not going to do that, Emma,” Norma snaps. Emma looks a little taken aback at the sharp tone, which makes Norma realize she needs to try a different tack. She comes up with a semi-convincing story about not wanting to traumatize the poor girl even further, and that when Jiao is feeling a little better, she’ll go down to the motel and “make a case to her” about why they need to go to the police—as if the victim is the one who needs convincing. As she’s saying all of this, she tucks a piece of Emma’s hair behind her ear, very motherly and caring.

Norma walks Emma to her car and asks if she’s okay to drive.

“Should I call your mom and tell her that you’re leaving now?” Translation: “Do I need to make sure that someone is expecting you home in the next few minutes so you don’t decide to make a rogue stop at the police station on your own?” The answer is no.

“I haven’t heard from my mom in 8 years,” Emma responds. “I guess taking care of a kid with CF isn’t the good time it’s cracked up to be.”

“You deserve better. You deserve so much better,” Norma sympathizes, and Emma launches herself at Norma for a huge, needy hug.

Norma hugs her back. It’s almost reluctant at first—a light, one-handed pat on the back. But then she really squeezes Emma tight with both arms and strokes her hair. My guess? Mid-hug, Norma pounced on the opportunity to become a trusted mother figure.

As Norman looks a little uncomfortable, Norma goes in for the kill. “You’re very brave. Had I been lucky enough to have a daughter, I would have wanted her to be exactly like you.”

“I just want to do the right thing,” Emma says.

“I know honey, and we will. Tomorrow.” She’s so syrupy sweet, honey is practically oozing from her pores. As soon as Emma leaves the parking lot, the “concerned” expression drops from Norma’s face, replaced by one of steely determination.

Brotherly Breaking and Entering

Norma is primping upstairs in her bedroom, getting ready to go over to Shelby’s house to look for the belt while he’s asleep. She suddenly apologizes to Norman for not believing him about the girl in Shelby’s basement, which makes Norman flash back to that original conversation—you know, the one where his mother told him that he sometimes lived in an alternate reality that didn’t exist? That one.

“Is there something wrong with me?” Norman asks. Norma says no, of course not, that was just something she said in the heat of the moment.

“You promise?”

Norma is in the process of evading the question when Dylan pops up behind them. Norman immediately fills him in on the latest—they found the sex slave girl on Summers’ boat, and Emma is “hell-bent” on taking her to the cops in the morning.

“If you turn him in, then he’s gonna turn in Norma,” Dylan says. “Take me to the boat. Don’t go anywhere. Don’t talk to anybody, and don’t do anything until we get back. We’re gonna get that belt. And you can wipe that lipstick off.”

On the way to the docks, Dylan tells Norman he got the beach bungalow and starts making the case for Norman to move in. Norman declines to comment.

Once they get to the boat, the brothers ransack everything. As they’re looking through cabinets and peeking in closets—with their bare hands, mind you, which seems like a bad idea when dealing with a cop who has access to fingerprinting equipment—Dylan abruptly asks Norman how he thinks his father died.

“You know. This huge shelf in the garage fell over on him,” Norman says.

“You really believe that? Pretty freak accident,” Dylan scoffs. “I think she killed him, if you ask me. She hated him. She was miserable.”

Norman, of course, says that it’s not possible. His mother would never have killed his father. As Dylan starts talking about insurance money, though, Norman doesn’t look like he stands quite so firm on that statement.

“She’s insane,” Dylan continues. “Dangerous, even. You need to see that.”

Just then, he jimmies open a panel in the ceiling. The missing belt miraculously drops from the sky and lands at their feet. “Stick with me, kid,” Dylan says, satisfied.

They pitch the belt into the harbor. Norman worries that the belt is going to float to the surface, much like Summers’ hand did.

“I promise no one’s ever gonna see this thing again,” Dylan swears, and that sounds like foreshadowing to me. “Now let’s go home and pack up your stuff.”

She’s Just Not That Into You


At the Bates home, Norma hears someone pull up and runs outside, thinking it’s her sons, returning with good news. It’s not. It’s Shelby, and he’s on her like white on rice. She recoils, then tries to distract him with several excuses, telling him that they were trying to be careful not to be seen together, that her sons would be home soon, etc. He suggests going down to the motel. “You’re not gonna turn me away tonight,” he growls, and Norma reluctantly gives in.

Once they’re in the motel room, however, Norma can’t hide the fact that she’s not into it. Shelby calls her out on it. “I’m just worried about Norman,” she bluffs. “I’m sorry. Can we start again?” She starts to muster up her acting skills when Shelby hears running water.

“Who’s staying here?” Shelby asks, and Norma replies that no one is—it’s an old motel, and it’s probably just some weird plumbing issue.

“No. There’s somebody here,” Shelby insists, then grabs his gun, runs outside and starts pounding on doors. Jiao is in the shower—never a good omen in the Norman Bates canon—and misses the part where he yells “Police!” She only hears the knocking, so puts on a robe and opens the door, probably expecting to see one of her rescuers. It’s quite the opposite. When she sees Shelby, she screams and runs into the woods.

Shelby tries to shoot her, but Norma shoves him, throwing off his shot. He throws her against the wall and calls her a bitch, then takes off running after the girl. As Norma sits there crying, her sons pull up, triumphant about the belt.

After updating her on that situation, Dylan doesn’t give her time to respond. “Norman and I are going to the house and pack up his stuff. He’s leaving with me tonight. He’s not living with you anymore,” he says.

“Shelby’s here. He found the girl in the motel room and she ran off into the woods. He’s there right now chasing after her,” she says, tonelessly. There’s no urgency to her voice, and judging by the way her expression changed when Dylan dropped the beachhouse bombshell, the sex slave in the woods being hunted like game is definitely not Norma’s biggest concern right now.

“Norman, is what he just said true?”

“Yeah, I mean, if Shelby’s here, don’t we need to do something?” Norman says, alarmed.

“Answer me,” she demands. “Why would you do that, Norman?”

“We need to go, okay?” says Dylan, the voice of reason. “Let’s get in the truck.”

“I’m not gonna get in the truck!” Norma yells. “I don’t care if Shelby comes back and kills me. Why would you do that? Norman, why? Why?” Now she’s starting to cry, and Norman decides he needs to know the truth: he asks if she killed his father.

Her expression softens. “No honey. I didn’t.”

While they’ve been hashing this family drama out, Shelby apparently took care of his prey, because he’s back, and he’s got a gun on them. The corrupt cop directs them all up to the house to have a little chat.

Shootout at OK Motel


Once they’re all settled around the kitchen table like the Golden Girls, Norma tries to convince Shelby that none of them are going to blow his cover. “Just shut up,” he tells her, then turns on Norman. “This is all your fault.” He shoves the barrel of his gun right up against Norman’s temple and cocks it. “This is a nightmare, what you’re making me do, here, Norma,” he says, and she assures him again that they won’t talk. “You’re just a lying bitch,” he yells, and slaps her across the face. Ummm, this is not how Blanche and Dorothy would have handled this kitchen pow-wow. For starters, someone forgot the cheesecake.

As his mother is getting smacked around, Norman’s hazy Psycho-vision is coming back. When Shelby hits her again, Norman leaps across the room at him. The impact knocks the gun out of Shelby’s hand, freeing it up to throw Norman through a glass cabinet. Dylan recovers the dropped weapon, but Shelby still has one on him. The pair stalk through the house like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, scarring up the antiques with bullets. Norma throws herself over Norman, who’s knocked out cold in the kitchen.

Shelby gets shot in the leg and Dylan gets shot in the arm. Shelby’s injury is worse, though, and Dylan is just about to finish him off when he runs out of bullets. He runs upstairs to retrieve more bullets from under a bed. While Shelby limps up the stairs after him, Norma drags Norman outside, stopping to grab her purse. He finally comes to on the porch, just as Norma is calling 911. Together, they hobble to the car, where Norma discovers that her keys are definitely not in her purse. She thinks she left them upstairs in the bedroom—the same bedroom that’s currently lighting up with gunshots. Then there’s silence. Seconds later, a figure comes hobbling out the front door. It’s Shelby.

As he comes into the light, we realize that he’s been shot through one eye. He’s pretty damn determined to take Norma out as his last act on Earth, though. He raises the gun, points it at her—and falls over, dead.

Dylan comes outside, and Norma hugs him, probably for the first time since he was a toddler. “You’re safe,” he tells her.

She says she called the cops, then wonders what they’re going to tell them.

“We’re going to tell them the truth, Norma,” Dylan says. “I’m done with this. I’m done with the craziness and the stories. I’m gonna tell them everything I know.”

She says that he doesn’t know the whole truth, then proceeds to tell him exactly what happened the night Norman’s dad died.

The Truth According to Norma


While Norman was in the kitchen making himself a delicious beverage in the blender, his parents were having a heated fight about money. As the fight escalated, Sam slapped Norma in the face. Without even thinking, Norman dumped the smoothie down the drain, then used the empty blender container to clock his father in the back of the head (“[clang]” is what the closed captioning says).

Immediately after the skull-crushing blow, Norman retreated somewhere into his brain and refused to come out. Even as his mother begged him to answer, Norman stared at nothing, said nothing. She took him to his room, then dragged Sam out to the garage and pulled a shelf full of paint cans down on him.

We know what happens next—Norman came to, remembered that his parents were fighting and ran out to find them. He discovered his father dead in the garage, then ran to the bathroom to alert his mother, who, of course, already knew.

“Sam’s death was an accident, that’s what he believes,” Norma finishes telling Dylan.

Norma says she doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but she intends to protect him. “You can either get out of my way, or you can help me,” she says, and a cop car pulls up behind an unblinking Norman, illuminating the bloody wound on his scalp.

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Lifetime Television
Check Out These 10 Fun Facts About Supermarket Sweep
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Lifetime Television

Thanks to a recent deleted SNL scene in which host Melissa McCarthy lost her mind on a segment of Supermarket Sweep, we started reminiscing about the heart-pumping, family-friendly game show back in early 2016. Back in the day, you couldn’t watch the show—which debuted in 1965—without fantasizing about reenacting it at your local grocery store. On it, pairs of contestants would race through supermarket aisles, attempting to pack their carts full of the most valuable items, in between quiz-style segments. Revivals of the series stopped filming in 2003, but there's good news for fans who can't let the dream of appearing on the game show die: Deadline reports that it's about to make a television comeback. Relive the high of Supermarket Sweep with these fun facts about the game show.


In a special for Great Big Story, former host David Ruprecht confirmed, “All the meat was fake.” Former contestant Mike Futia reaffirmed the fact to The A.V. Club saying, “Everything that was meat, cheese—all that was fake because they’d get the meat juices on their sweaters. And that’s not telegenic, so they wanted to get rid of that.”


“We shot for about five months every year and they used the same food over and over again,” Ruprecht admitted to Great Big Story. “A lot of the food, having been thrown in and out of the carts for three, four months had gotten pretty beaten up.”


Given what Ruprecht said above, contestants were probably thankful that they didn’t get to keep the food. And according to Great Big Story, they didn’t get to keep their sweatshirts either. “They got $5000 but they didn’t get their sweatshirts,” said Ruprecht.


Pro tip: Heading for the beauty aisle instead of the meat freezer could very well have won you the game. “Those who [used this strategy] won,” Ruprecht told Great Big Story. “Instead of five hams and five turkeys that load up your cart, you ... get five hair colorings ... get five of all these expensive health and beauty products. With one cart, you could beat everybody.”


Supermarket Sweep was a TV show, after all, and vibrant personalities have always made for good television. “When we were going through the process, they put you in a room with a few other people and ask you sample questions,” former contestant Mike Futia recalled to The A.V. Club. “And you could sense it was because they wanted to see if you were slouching and things like that ... I felt pretty confident that we’d get the callback to have a taping.”


“It was a syndicated show,” Mike Futia explained to The A.V. Club, “so they taped all the episodes, and you didn’t even know if you were going to get the money if you won unless it aired, which could be six months later, because they then had to sell it.” On the bright side: Even if you didn’t collect, at least you could always say you played Supermarket Sweep.


Most of that time consisted of waiting around. “We literally got in a room when we got called back for the actual taping, and they said, ‘Be prepared to be here. It could be a 12- to 14-hour day because there are three pairs of people on each show,’” Futia explained to The A.V. Club. “That day, I want to say they were taping something like eight shows. So you had 48 people just in a room, and the first thing they tape is your introduction where you run down to the camera and everybody gets introduced to [host] David Ruprecht ... Then they call you back and you tape the first segment.”


Talk about dated fashion: “By winning, we didn’t get to keep the sweaters because we got paid,” Futia recalled to The A.V. Club. “But if you lost, your consolation prize was that you got to keep the sweater—but you didn’t get to keep the dickey.”


To prevent contestants from looking like chickens running around with their heads cut off, the show allowed them some time to strategize. “When you’re taping the show before the …  Supermarket Sweep round, you get about 10 minutes or so to walk around the supermarket so you can see the prices,” Futia told The A.V. Club. “Everything has a price on it, so ... you map out what you’re going to do. And it’s the weirdest things that were expensive, like hoses.”


“A little bit bigger than a bodega in the city” was how Futia described the supermarket set that was built for the 1990s revival of the series. “It’s very tiny. It looks huge, but it’s small. Even in the aisles, you had to be careful if you and your cameraman were running and another group was coming down that aisle. You had to make sure you were all the way to the side or there could have been an accident.”

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 
20 Things You Might Not Have Known About I Love Lucy
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

When I Love Lucy premiered on October 15, 1951, no one could have predicted that it would become one of television’s most beloved and enduring programs of all time. But a combination of innovative filming techniques, the dogged perfectionism of star Lucille Ball, top-notch writing, the “can do” attitude of the production staff, and the business savvy of Desi Arnaz, I Love Lucy topped the Nielsen ratings for four out of its six seasons and picked up a handful of Emmys along the way. And even though the show’s main stars couldn’t stay married to one another (Lucy and Desi divorced in 1960, after 20 years of marriage), they remained the best of friends. As Desi would proclaim until his dying day, “I Love Lucy was never just a title.”


When CBS approached Lucille Ball with the offer of turning her popular radio show My Favorite Husband into a television show, she was agreeable with one condition: that her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, would be cast in the role of her spouse (played on the radio by Richard Denning). The network balked—there was no way that American viewers would accept average housewife Liz Cooper (her character’s name on the radio series) being married to a “foreign” man with an indecipherable accent. Never mind the fact that Lucy and Desi had been married more than a decade; such a “mixed” marriage was unbelievable.


Arnaz had a successful career touring the country with his rhumba band, which was one of the reasons Lucille wanted him to get cast as her TV husband—to keep him off the road and close to home. In an effort to show the network (and potential sponsors) that they could work together as a comedy team, they crafted a sort of vaudevillian skit that was inserted into the middle of performances by the Desi Arnaz Orchestra during a tour in the summer of 1950. The audiences roared over Lucille’s antics and her interaction with Desi as she interrupted his band’s concert confusedly, cello in hand, thinking she had an audition scheduled. The “Professor” skit not only convinced the network powers that be that the couple could, in fact, be convincing as husband and wife—it also was such a hit that it was incorporated into episode six of I Love Lucy’s first season.


Lucille and Desi wanted to work in Los Angeles, near their home and their new baby daughter Lucie. But in 1951 the majority of television shows were broadcast from New York, and that’s where sponsor Philip Morris wanted their show to originate as well. In those days the U.S. wasn’t wired for television from coast-to-coast; shows broadcast live could only be transmitted so far. As a result, such shows were preserved on kinescopes (a movie camera aimed at a TV monitor that recorded the show in negligible quality) and shipped to distant stations.

Philip Morris objected to I Love Lucy being performed in California and the kinescopes sent to New York; their biggest cigarette market was up and down the east coast and they wanted the best TV picture quality for that area. Desi Arnaz suggested that the show be filmed with three cameras, like a stage play, which would provide the same quality picture for every market. But multi-cameras had never been used on a situation comedy before, and there were many obstacles involved, not the least of which was accommodating a live studio audience (Desi knew that Lucille worked best when she got immediate audience feedback).

Desi hired legendary cinematographer Karl Freund to help solve the dilemma, and along with writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer and director Marc Daniels, they built a set, and the necessary filming equipment was strategically placed. CBS balked at the additional expense involved in this undertaking, so Arnaz struck a deal: he and Lucille would take a large cut in their salaries and their company, Desilu Productions, would retain ownership of the films in exchange. The enduring high quality of the 35 millimeter film was part of the reason that I Love Lucy became so popular in rerun syndication, and Desilu’s 100 percent ownership of the series made Lucille and Desi the first millionaire TV stars.


After a few episodes were filmed, it became an unwritten rule that only Lucy would ever poke fun at her husband’s pronunciation problems. The writers had allowed other characters to make remarks, but in each case the “joke” was met with stony silence from the studio audience. For some reason, it seemed cruel when anyone other than Lucy “mucked” Ricky’s English.


I Love Lucy almost never made it to the air because CBS had trouble securing a sponsor for the show. Finally tobacco giant Philip Morris signed on at the 11th hour. As a result, lots of smoking was featured in each episode, and the name “Philip Morris” was worked into the dialogue whenever plausible. There was, however, one small problem: Lucille Ball was a Chesterfield girl. She eventually overcame this little hurdle by having a stagehand stuff any on-camera Philip Morris packs full of Chesterfield cigarettes.


Lucille Ball was eager to have Gale Gordon, whom she’d worked with on her My Favorite Husband radio show, play crusty neighbor and landlord Fred Mertz. But Gordon, who had a steady gig at the time on the Our Miss Brooks radio program, asked for more money than Desilu had to offer. Character actor William Frawley knew Ball in passing (they’d met back in the 1940s) and phoned her personally when he read about her upcoming TV show in the trade papers to inquire if there might be a part for him. CBS and Philip Morris were wary of hiring Frawley, who had a reputation for being a heavy drinker. But Arnaz (no stranger to the bottle himself) thought that Frawley was just curmudgeonly enough to bring Fred Mertz to life. He met Frawley for lunch at Nickodell’s on Melrose Avenue and offered him the role with the proviso that if he missed work for any reason other than legitimate illness, he’d be written out of the show.


Lucille had worked with Bea Benaderet in radio and wanted her to play Ethel Mertz. But Benaderet had just signed on to play Blanche Morton on the TV version of The Burns and Allen Show and was unavailable. Barbara Pepper was a personal friend of Ball’s, and the two had worked in films together, so she was the next serious consideration for the role. Pepper was the right age and body type to play Ethel, but she was also a known alcoholic and the network nixed her after Frawley was hired; two heavy drinkers in the main cast was too risky. I Love Lucy had already gone into early rehearsals by the time director Marc Daniels saw Vivian Vance performing in a play at the La Jolla Playhouse and recommended her to Arnaz. Pepper did play background characters on several I Love Lucy episodes and would go on to land the role of Doris Ziffel on Green Acres.


Vivian Vance was 22 years younger than her TV husband and resented having such an “old poop” play her spouse. Frawley responded in kind, referring to her variously as “that sack of doorknobs” or just plain “b*tch.” But all that animosity was strictly behind the scenes and known mostly only to the series’ writers and directors. Frawley and Vance were savvy enough to not jeopardize their jobs on TV’s most successful show by openly airing their mutual hostility. Even co-workers like Keith Thibodeaux (Little Ricky, a.k.a. Richard Keith) and Roy Rowan (the show’s announcer), who were on the set daily, had no idea that things were less than cuddly between the two actors until years after I Love Lucy ceased production.


Arnaz listed his height as 5’11” in most official biographies, but those who worked with him knew that in reality he was 5’9” and wore four-inch lifts in his shoes. Lucille Ball stood 5’7” in her stocking feet, and when she wore heels she seemed to tower over her husband. Desi Arnaz Jr. would later explain to an interviewer that his father “was a Cuban with a Latin male’s pride,” which is why it was important to him to be taller than his wife. A dual-purpose, subtle additional cushion (undetectable by the viewing audience) was added to the Ricardos’ loveseat so that Ricky would be taller than Lucy while seated, and would also give him the extra boost needed to gracefully rise from a sitting position up onto his elevator shoes.


Desi Arnaz was an unabashed believer in the American Dream and was very patriotic when it came to his adopted homeland. Desi was 17 years old when Fulgencio Batista overthrew the Cuban government and the Arnaz family fled to Miami with little more than the clothes they were wearing. The family lived in a warehouse with some other refugees and Desi got a job cleaning birdcages for a man whole sold canaries to pet stores. As he said during his acceptance speech on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town in 1954, “From cleaning canary cages to this night in New York is a long ways. And I don’t think there’s any other country in the world that could give you that opportunity.” So when a scene in original script in the episode “Lucy Tells the Truth” called for Ricky to fudge some numbers on his income tax return, Arnaz refused to play it and asked the writers to remove it. He didn’t want the audience to think that Ricky would cheat the U.S. government.


“Job Switching” (often referred to as “The Candy Factory Episode”) has long been a fan favorite, particularly the scene where Lucy and Ethel are stuffing their faces and clothing with chocolates while trying to keep up with a speedy conveyor belt. The previous scene featured Lucy hand-dipping chocolates with a real-life dipper that stage manager Herb Browar found at See’s Candies on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Amanda Milligan had never seen I Love Lucy (she watched wrestling on Monday nights), but Browar hired her anyway; he thought her deadpan expression would make her the perfect straight woman for Lucille to react to. During rehearsals Lucille was worried that the scene just wasn’t going to be funny on film because Milligan seemed hesitant to hit her in the face as the script specified. When the cameras were rolling, Milligan hauled off and smacked Lucille so hard that Ball feared her nose had been broken. Despite her pain and ringing ears Ball didn’t call for a “cut” because she did not want to have to do another take! During a break in filming Lucille asked Milligan “So, how do you like working in show business?” An unsmiling Milligan, who’d spent eight hours per day for the past 30 years putting swirls on chocolates, replied, “I’ve never been so bored in my life.”


Another fan favorite was, interestingly, not one of Ball’s favorite episodes. It wasn’t until “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” was voted tops in many viewer polls over the years that she acknowledged that it was a funny episode. During filming, she was too nervous and worried about messing up her lines (imagine having to say “Vitameatavegamin” that many times during a spiel) to appreciate the humor.

Ball was many things, including a great physical comedienne, but one thing she was not was an improviser or extemporaneous speaker. Every slurred word of her drunken Vitameatavegamin pitch was in the script. Lucille even came up with a backup plan, lest she forget her lines: she had script supervisor Maury Thompson made up and placed off-side in front of her podium holding up her lines (there were no cue cards on the I Love Lucy set), much like a real commercial setting.

By the way, that stuff Lucy was pouring onto the spoon was apple pectin.


As a result, the occasional blooper was left in and sort of papered-over. One classic example occurred in “Redecorating the Mertz’s Apartment,” at the breakfast table when Lucy is musing aloud about how to repair both the Mertz’s marriage and their tacky apartment. See how Desi saves the scene after she mistakenly says “paint the furniture and reupholster the old furniture:”


During season two, Ball discovered that she was pregnant. While the Arnazes were overjoyed (Lucille had previously suffered three miscarriages before giving birth to daughter Lucie in July 1951), they were also concerned about the fate of their hit series. Other than the late 1940s sitcom Mary Kay and Johnny (which also starred a real-life married couple), a visibly pregnant female had never starred on a TV series. It would be impossible to conceal Lucille’s condition because, as Desi told the network, “she got as big as a house when she was carrying Lucie.”

Eventually, the network agreed to write Ball’s pregnancy into the show, and Desi hired a local Catholic priest, a minister, and a rabbi to sit in while each episode was filmed to determine whether there was anything objectionable. CBS deemed that the word “pregnant” was vulgar, so it was replaced with “expecting” (or, as Ricky pronounced it, “‘spectin’”). The scene at the Tropicana, where Lucy finally breaks the news to Ricky, was genuinely emotional for the actors, who both started crying and Desi had to be prompted “sing the baby song!” Director William Asher reshot that scene, but decided that the raw emotion in the original take made for a more poignant moment and used it.


The Arnazes already knew that Lucille would give birth via Caesarian section when her time came (as that was how Lucie had been delivered), and Ball’s obstetrician regularly scheduled all his C-sections on Mondays. As luck would have it, I Love Lucy aired on Monday nights, so with the pregnancy episodes timed just so, Ball went to the hospital the same night that Lucy Ricardo did.

What the Arnazes did not know in advance, however, was the gender of their pending bundle of joy. I Love Lucy head writer Jess Oppenheimer had decided that the Ricardos would have a boy, so when Desi Arnaz Jr. was born, Desi Sr. joyfully called Jess to announce proudly, “Lucy followed your script! Ain’t she something?!” (By the way, a record-breaking 71.7 percent of American televisions were tuned in that Monday night to see the Ricardo baby, which topped the number of folks who watched Dwight D. Eisenhower get sworn in as President the following day.)


“Lucy’s Italian Movie” faced a variety of obstacles. First was getting a vineyard to donate the necessary grapes for stomping. The company that ultimately agreed did so with the proviso that it must be mentioned in the script that foot-pressing was an outmoded method of making wine in Italy. Next was the local extra cast to wrestle Lucille in the grape vat; Teresa Tirelli didn’t speak any English and an interpreter had to explain the scene to her. Apparently something was lost in the translation because Tirelli didn’t grasp that this was supposed to be a filmed-from-the-waist-up fake fight and she literally held Lucille’s head under the grape mush until the star very nearly drowned. And even though the show was broadcast in black and white, Ball, Arnaz, and the production staff were sticklers for detail so a formula for a purplish/blue dye had to be worked out that would properly tint Lucille’s flesh and hair without irritating her skin or reacting with the chemicals used to keep her permed locks that famous henna color for that final scene.


Ball was a long-time admirer of Harpo Marx, but when it came to actually working with him, she was unprepared for his “never the same way twice” approach to his comedy routines. In the Hollywood episode where she was required to mirror his moves, she insisted on incessant rehearsals to get the bit just right. But Harpo’s attitude was “I’ve done this bit for 35 years, why do I need so much rehearsal?” In the end, this was one of the few instances where the scene was re-shot several times after the studio audience had left and was later pieced together by editor Dann Cahn.


When Lucy hid dozens of eggs and then danced the tango with Ricky (resulting in the inevitable blouse full of scrambled yolks), the audience roared for so long that ultimately some of the laughter had to be edited out in the final film. Neither Ball nor Vance had used eggs during rehearsals so that their onscreen reactions would be more genuine when the shells cracked and the albumen slimed its way down their flesh.


No matter how wacky the situation, Arnaz tried hard to maintain some veracity, thinking that that the audience would believe it (and thus find it more humorous) if the actors believed it. So when a scene in “Pioneer Women” required an eight-foot-long loaf of bread to pop out of the oven, the producers found a New York bakery willing to bake one. (It was rye bread, by the way, and when filming was finished it was cut up and served to the audience.) Likewise, in “Deep Sea Fishing” when Ricky and Fred entered into a bet with Lucy and Ethel to see who could catch the biggest fish, two 100-plus pound tunas were purchased at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, packed in ice into child-sized coffins and air-shipped to Hollywood.


Quite often when Lucy Ricardo was stepping into a precarious situation, a woman in the audience could be heard uttering “uh-oh.” That was Dede Ball, who attended every taping and tended to get wrapped up in the proceedings. I Love Lucy sound engineer Glen Glenn was the co-founder of Glen Glenn Sound, and in the 1960s and ‘70s his company was one of the leading providers of laugh tracks, or canned laughter, to TV sitcoms. Many of the yuks used in their recordings were culled from I Love Lucy and The Red Skelton Show, which is why Dede’s “uh-oh” could be heard years later on shows she’d never seen, much less been in attendance.

Additional Sources:
A Book, by Desi Arnaz The Lucy Book, by Geoffrey Mark Fidelman Meet the Mertzes, by Ron Edelman and Audrey Kupferberg The “I Love Lucy” Book, by Bart Andrews Lucy & Ricky & Fred & Ethel: The Story of I Love Lucy, by Bart Andrews Laughs, Luck….and Lucy, by Jess Oppenheimer


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