All in the Family (1971–1979)
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Gloria and the Riddle 

Gloria's riddle, where the punchline is about women doctors, exposes sexist attitudes held by Archie and Mike about professions once predominantly held by men.

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Patricia Stich ...
Tammy Robinson
Brendan Dillon ...
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Man in Bar

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Storyline

Questions of sexual equality enter the Bunker household when Gloria's friend Tammy comes over and asks an age-old riddle about the identity of a surgeon who can't operate. Archie is stumped and so is Mike, so Archie takes the riddle down the Kelsey's bar and asks supposed riddle-master Barney Hefner. He can't figure it out either, so Archie goes back home where the riddle is finally solved by Edith. Written by Jerry Roberts <armchair-cinema@hotmail.com>

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Comedy | Drama

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7 October 1972 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In 2010, Good Morning America (1975) performed an (unscientific) survey in which they posed the riddle to 17 fifth-graders, and the majority did answer that the surgeon was the boy's mother; those children who did not give "the mother" as the answer said instead that the boy had two (gay) fathers. See more »

Goofs

When Edith comes down the steps and tells everyone she has the answer, she says "the surgeon could not operate on HIS son, because the surgeon was a woman." The word HIS should have been omitted as it implies that the surgeon was a male. See more »

Quotes

Edith Bunker: [Gloria's riddle about a father, a son and a surgeon has stumped everyone] Maybe the answer has something to do with people that come back from the hereafter, like that milk company.
Gloria Bunker-Stivic: Oh, reincarnation?
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Connections

References A Song to Remember (1945) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Great if only to show how much things have changed since 1972
7 November 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I remember this episode in its original run. Gloria's friend, Tammy, has a riddle that nobody can answer. "The riddle" is: A man and his son are in a car crash. The father is killed. At the hospital the surgeon looks at the boy and says "I cannot operate on this boy, he is my son." How is this possible?

Today the answer is obvious - the surgeon is the boy's mother. Everybody I talk to today immediately gets the answer and looks at me as though I am stupid for even asking. In 1972 there were a roomful of us of varying age - from teens to mid 40's - and nobody could get the answer. We had to wait for the show to reveal it. Everybody had a complicated answer straight out of a movie script. That just goes to show you how much things have changed in 40 years.

Now, looking back, I don't think it was so much that nobody could conceive of a woman doctor. Four years before this show aired, in 1968, the rustic TV show "Petticoat Junction" introduced a female doctor, played by June Lockhart, as a regular character. I think what threw people was perhaps that the woman in the riddle was just not somebody that handed out prescriptions and took temperatures, she was actually operating on people AND she had a child. Those two ideas together - a woman in one of the most difficult and demanding jobs around AND being a mother, just was not something people would think of as even a possibility in 1972.


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