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The Unresolved Golden Girls Plot Line That Fans Still Argue Over

Television isn't an exact science. Even shows heavily lauded by critics and audiences like "The Golden Girls" can be subject to significant plot holes and unresolved storyline twists. Those things range from minor glitches, such as Dorothy Zbornak's (Bea Arthur) children with Stan Zbornak (Herb Edelman) changing their ages to conveniently furnish an episode's plotline, to enormous, elaborate flaws in stories. One error frequently pointed to is the storyline-warping multi-episode arc where Rose Nylund's (Betty White) beau, frugal professor Miles Webber (Harold Gould) is discovered to be, in actuality, mob accountant Nicolas Carbone. Carbone's an innocent man saved by witness protection and given a fresh identity and is forced to leave Miami to be relocated. The plot choice utterly flummoxed fans. After all, they had met Miles' daughter only seasons before.

Never let it be said that "The Golden Girls" fans aren't sharp-eyed enough to pick up these flaws on their own. In fact, one major inconsistency still bugs the folks who hang out at the show's subreddit. It's a flaw big enough to affect the rest of the series and make them wonder about the lack of consistency displayed by the show's writers' room.

Golden Girls fans hold debate about Dorothy's Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

In the Season 5 two-part opener, "Sick and Tired" (per IMDb), Dorothy begins experiencing mysterious physical symptoms affecting her quality of life. Each physician she sees dismisses her troubles as merely being psychological, a situation which grates on and upsets Dorothy. It takes a visit to a specialist for her to be properly diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This leads to an extremely satisfying scene where Dorothy, having taken the girls out to a fancy dinner to celebrate this victory, bumps into one of the doctors who dismissed her and dresses him down in public.

It's an episode that's been lauded by fans of the show, bringing tears to fans' eyes. It's proven particularly poignant to those who have dealt with the illness themselves, such as Film School Rejects' Valerie Ettenhofer. But u/sashie_belle's post to the show's subreddit points out one big problem with this storyline: Dorothy's CFS is never mentioned again, nor does she ever again display symptoms of the illness. "It's a minor gripe of mine when a comedy becomes a dramedy in a couple of episodes to take on something topical and then that same plotline never happens again," they declared.

Fans had a variety of responses to u/sahsie__belle's post. U/beekee404 spoke for many, saying they think that it's possible that Dorothy may have learned how to deal with her symptoms offscreen. "She was happy her condition was finally given a name and that she wasn't crazy." They later added, "There are illnesses where the person just kind of has to learn to live with it and figure out how to easily deal with it."

According to Susan Harris, the plot hole was intentional

Naturally, not every viewer who has personal experience with the illness experienced the episode in the same way. U/the_scientist52, who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, said that they couldn't bear to finish watching the storyline, which hit a personal note for them. "I'm glad it was a topic they brought to light, even now patients still get treated like crap and it was an especially big deal to have it mentioned back then," they added, but admitted that they didn't like that Dorothy's symptoms recede. 

It turns out there's a behind-the-scenes reason for the disappearance of Dorothy's CFS; the show's co-creator, producer, and writer Susan Harris said that the series needed an outwardly-healthy Dorothy present for it to function as normal. Per an interview conducted for the book "Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Beyond the Lanai," Harris said, "Of course, you have to take license with the show; we couldn't have Dorothy chronically tired and sick for the rest of the series. [...] You just have to assume that Dorothy gradually got better and is OK."

As Harris pointed out in the interview, per Healthline, CFS symptoms can recede just as Dorothy's do on the show, sometimes for long spates of time. In fact, as several fans from r/goldengirls point out, Harris based Dorothy's experience on what she went through trying to get a diagnosis for her own mysterious symptoms. While at the time she thought she too had CFS, it turns out Harris was suffering from an unrelated thyroid condition (via Out Magazine). Nevertheless, Dorothy's storyline definitely continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration for CFS sufferers everywhere.