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As Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) prepares for her 50th birthday party, a serial rapist (David Dukes) attacks her in her home. She escapes but must deal with the emotional aftermath. The episode, the 159th of the series, was one of the first on television that portrayed an attempted rape. "Edith's 50th Birthday" aired on October 16, 1977.
On Edith Bunker's (Jean Stapleton) 50th birthday, her family plans a surprise party for her (though she, in fact, knows about the party and is in the process of baking her own birthday cake). She waits alone in the house, and a young man (played by David Dukes) appears claiming to be a detective searching for a rapist. He soon reveals that he is the rapist and tries to sexually assault Edith. When Archie (Carroll O'Connor) appears to claim a punch bowl, the man hides in the closet and threatens to kill him if Edith says anything. Once they are alone, the man is about to begin the assault but a burning smell comes from the kitchen. Edith's cake is in the oven and the man allows her to pull it out. She suddenly strikes him in the face with the burning cake and runs from the house. She confides to her family what has happened and enters into a state of constant fear and depression. Her daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) urges her to identify the man or the police will drop charges against him and give him the opportunity to assault more women. Edith refuses and Gloria declares her "selfish" and no longer considers Edith her mother. Edith slaps her, which helps her to realize she must identify the man. She leaves for the police station with Archie, hoping that her actions may keep the rapist away for good. Gloria then cries being hurt by the slap.
"Edith's 50th Birthday" originally aired as a one-hour episode. In syndication, it is aired as a two-part episode.
Norman Lear consulted with the director of the rape treatment center at Santa Barbara hospital, among other experts, and showed the episode at various cities in private screenings for legal authorities and social workers.
McCrohan, Donna (1987). Archie & Edith, Mike & Gloria: The Tumultuous History of All in the Family. Workman Publishing. ISBN 0894805274.