The following is my contribution to The Lucy & Desi Blogathon, being hosted by Michaela at the blog Love Letters to Old Hollywood on Dec. 1-3, 2017. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ tributes to the stars of “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz!
(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
Every Lucille Ball fan has his or her favorite Lucy episode or moment. For me, it’s “I Love Lucy’s” 20th episode of Season 6, “Lucy Does the Tango.” When the punchline to that tango routine comes, I feel as though I’ve died and gone to comedy heaven.
The best thing about “I Love Lucy” was that executive producer (and, of course, co-star) Desi Arnaz realized that Lucy Ricardo’s craziness had to be rooted in reality and logic. Once a plausible situation was established, then the comedienne could go to town.
“Lucy Does the Tango” establishes that premise exquisitely. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (Ball and Arnaz) and their best friends Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance) are co-running a farm in Connecticut. They invest in full-grown hens, but the hens aren’t laying any eggs. As Fred is the primary farm runner, he’s taking a loss, and Ricky won’t listen to his pleas for a salary. The two men feud, and Fred threatens to move himself and Ethel back to New York if the hens don’t start laying eggs.
Lucy and Ethel are crushed at the thought of separating. So they buy a huge load of eggs, which they plan to hide under the hens to fool the men into thinking the hens are producing. Fred is watching over the farm, so the women decide to hide the eggs in the clothing they’re wearing and sneak past Fred to dispatch the eggs.
Unfortunately, the plan never gets to its last part. Just as the women are swollen with hidden eggs, Ricky makes a surprise daytime appearance at the house so that he can rehearse the couple’s tango number that they’ll be performing for the local PTA.
The only thing better than this premise’s plausibility is its anticipation of what’s to come. The episode begins with Ricky and Lucy properly rehearsing the tango, so you can see how it’s really supposed to go. When they rehearse the second time, you just know what’s going to happen, and the tango routine takes its own sweet time in getting to the climax.
But when it does, the payoff is delicious (for everyone except Lucy). Watch how Ball mines every possible laugh from that payoff. (And you can all but see Arnaz chewing on his tongue to keep from breaking up.)
Here’s some fun trivia about this episode. Lucille Ball’s reaction to the broken eggs was genuine. When she and Vance rehearsed the episode, they didn’t use real eggs because Ball wanted to get the spontaneity of the big crash on film. Also, Lucy’s reaction to the broken eggs prompted the series’ longest continuous laugh — 65 seconds’ worth. The laugh had to be cut in half to get the episode back on track.
The famous scene is embedded below. Savor it for yourself.