The Golden Girls’ Rose Nylund (Betty White) is one of the most significant characters in TV history. White entertained audiences with her performance as the kind-hearted yet naive Rose for seven years. The character provided plenty of laughs with her St. Olaf stories, which annoyed her roommates. However, there were also heartbreaking moments with Rose, some of which had fans crying.
The Golden Girls’ Rose Nylund recalls Charlie’s death
Rose was a widow on The Golden Girls, and although her husband Charlie Nylund was never seen, he was discussed. During the Season 1 episode “The Heart Attack,” viewers learned how Charlie died. Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) worries Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) is having a heart attack, which causes Rose to recall Charlie’s death.
Rose recounts how Charlie’s heart attack came when they were making love. After Rose calls the ambulance, she helps Charlie get dressed. Rose tries to remain calm while recalling her husband’s last moments, but she chokes up as she says, “he was all dressed when the paramedics got there.”
As it turns out, the scene was just as emotional for White as it was for her character. According to IMDB.com, days before filming the episode, White’s mother Tess died.
First birthday without Charlie
The Golden Girls took a trip down memory lane in the Season 2 episode “A Piece of Cake.” The episode had funny moments with Dorothy’s birthday at Mr. Ha-Ha’s Hot Dog Hacienda. However, there’s one scene that always gets fans emotional.
Rose flashes back to her first birthday without Charlie. She’s alone in her kitchen in St. Olaf, where she’s about to cut into her cake. Before she does, Rose has a heart-to-heart talk with Charlie. She looks at her husband’s empty chair and tells him of her upcoming move to Miami.
As Rose tells Charlie she loves and misses him, she gets choked up along with the audience.
Rose Nylund goes on her first date
During the show’s run, many recurring storylines are the women’s personal life. Rose is hesitant to date again after Charlie’s death in the first season. However, Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) convinces her to go on a double date with Arnie Peterson (Harold Gould).
Rose is worried about dating again because she feels like she’s betraying Charlie. Yet, she and Arnie have a wonderful time together. As their relationship progresses, Arnie asks Rose to go on a cruise with him. Rose is overwhelmed at the thought of being intimate with Arnie, but her roommates convince her to go on the trip.
The couple’s first night together doesn’t go so well, with a terrified Rose locking herself in the bathroom. The next morning, Rose apologizes and confesses her fears to Arnie. He then opens up about his wife’s death and the difficulty of moving on. He promises not to pressure Rose, and as he’s about to leave, Rose asks him to hold her.
Her HIV scare
The Golden Girls tackled many social issues throughout its run. In Season 5, they focused on the AIDS pandemic with the episode “72 Hours.” Rose learns that a blood transfusion may have given her HIV years earlier, during an operation. She immediately gets tested but must wait 72 hours for the results.
Rose is nervous as she awaits the news, and her pent-up anger causes her to lash out at her roommates. Although she’s worried everyone will leave her if the results come back positive, the girls reassure Rose she has their support. White gave a tremendous performance, and fans applauded the show for bringing attention to a taboo subject.