Sicilian spitfire Sophia Petrillo of The Golden Girls joins the Empty Nest cast at the start of season 6. After the short-lived spinoff The Golden Palace, Sophia pops up at Harry’s door. Having missed the old neighborhood, she has decided to move back into nearby retirement home Shady Pines.
Used mainly for background and shock value, Sophia doesn’t do a whole lot on Nest, except stroll in and out of the Weston house firing off one-liners and offering words of wisdom to the gang. Playing mother and grandmother to the Westons, she offers her worldly advice to Harry and Carol whenever they are in need of help and often serves as Scotty’s babysitter.
We hear a lot about Shady Pines whenever Sophia drops by and actually get to see it a time or two. She is often rushing back to the home for the latest social activity, which is usually something outrageous like a wheelchair demolition derby or a safe-sex seminar. She even wanders into the Weston living room carrying a chainsaw for lumberjack night.
Adding to the shock value trend, Sophia is seen in an array of costumes throughout the final two seasons. She becomes Laverne’s biker boyfriend’s new riding partner, strolling in clad in black leather, and attends a Shady Pines square dance with Harry dressed as a cute cowgirl. The photo at left is her attire from the gang’s trip to Mardi Gras.
There are a couple episodes that actually revolve around Sophia and don’t just have her servicing the larger plotline or wandering in and out with jokes. When Laverne begins volunteering at Shady Pines, Sophia’s boyfriend hits on her. Sophia sees them together and assumes Laverne is trying to steal her man, which prompts her to put a curse on the nurse.
In another episode, Sophia gets fed up with the strict rules of the Shady Pines manager and moves in with Harry. Her constant mothering and garlic fetish drive Harry to the verge of insanity, but he can’t bear to tell Sophia to leave.
The addition of Sophia was a good idea to fill the void left by the absence of Kristy McNichol and Lisa Rieffel, if only she had been used more for storylines instead of background. There’s the occasional mention of daughter Dorothy, but nothing about Rose or Blanche, and none of the The Golden Girls cast members appeared during Sophia’s time on Nest. Despite all that, seeing her familiar face and hearing the occasional “Picture it, Sicily” story made her addition to the show a fun move.