Old Friends was the premiere episode of Season 3 of The Golden Girls, also the 52nd overall episode of the series.
Sophia makes a new friend, but as the friendship deepens, the old fellow's behavior becomes erratic and she learns he has Alzheimer's disease. Meanwhile, Blanche accidentally gives away Rose's teddy bear to a volunteer girl, who holds it hostage.
The girls donate various personal belongings to the Sunshine Cadets for a charity rummage sale. A volunteer from the Sunshine Cadets, Daisy, helps load their belongings and notices Rose's childhood teddy bear named Fernando. Blanche then gives the teddy bear away to Daisy to thank her for her help, assuming it was an item meant for the charity. Rose becomes upset when she cannot find the teddy bear, and Blanche assures her it was misplaced to cover for her own mistake. Sophia goes to the local boardwalk and makes fast friends with Alvin Newcastle after trading quips with each other.
Blanche attempts to pass off a newly-bought teddy bear to Rose as her missing Fernando, but Rose immediately recognizes it as not hers. After Rose leaves, Blanche admits to Dorothy that she was responsible for giving away Fernando to Daisy. When Dorothy wonders why Blanche cannot simply ask for the teddy bear to be returned, Blanche reveals she had already tried, and Daisy is holding the teddy bear ransom after sending Blanche a cut off ear to show her seriousness. As Alvin and Sophia continue to meet, she asks about Alvin's wife Edna. At first, he appears to try to change the subject, but becomes visibly distraught as Sophia presses him about Edna. He begins to weep, and Sophia comforts him.
Blanche and Dorothy meet with Daisy to explain their mistake in giving the teddy bear to her. Daisy is unrelenting, and refuses to give back Fernando unless they give her a new bicycle in return. Dorothy threatens to call Daisy's parents, but Daisy is unmoved, explaining that she will play the victim of being bullied by Blanche and Dorothy and will receive a new bike from her parents instead. Rose walks in on the conversation, which prompts Daisy to leave while threatening a higher ransom upon learning that Rose was unaware of the entire situation. Blanche and Dorothy attempt to laugh off the ordeal with Rose, but causes an angry Rose to simply demand they get her teddy bear back. Sophia meets with a late Alvin at the boardwalk and playfully ribs him, only to be taken aback when Alvin retorts in anger that she only thinks of herself and that she has stolen his seat on the bench before storming off.
The next day, Sophia is crocheting a scarf to give to Alvin and commiserates with Rose about their mutual depression on missing their respective friends. Daisy then returns to the house with Fernando, and now demands cash instead of gifts in exchange for the teddy bear. Rose then surprises everyone by giving a heartfelt explanation that she has accepted her fate about losing her teddy bear. As Rose seemingly leads Daisy out with Fernando, she tells Daisy that the lesson to be learned is that life can be unfair, and proceeds to snatch her teddy bear out of Daisy's hands and shoves Daisy out the door in one fell swoop. Alvin arrives at the boardwalk this time having bought Sophia a soda. Assuming Alvin is making amends for the "fight" the previous day, Sophia tells him she forgives him. However, Alvin seems to be unaware of having a fight with Sophia, and looks on confused at any mention of it. Behind them in the boardwalk is Dorothy, having silently followed her mother to observe her friendship with Alvin from a distance. She meets Alvin's daughter, Sandra, also doing the same with her father. They both agree their parents have good and bad days due to old age, but Sandra remarks that her father "is only going to get worse."
That evening, Dorothy tells Sophia the truth she heard from Alvin's daughter: that Alvin has Alzheimer's disease. Sandra had began noticing her father wandering off more often, and took a leave of absence from her work to watch and look after him. She has told Dorothy that she cannot continue to support her father this way much longer, and that in a couple of months he will move to New York to live with his nephew, who is a doctor who can give him special care. A saddened Sophia simply remarks that despite being lucky to live to be so old, people need a reason to wake up in the morning, but that "life can turn right around and spit in your face." Undeterred, Sophia says she should have enough time to finish her scarf before he leaves.
On a cold night presumably a few months later, Sophia is sitting on the same bench on the boardwalk, waiting for Alvin. Dorothy had waited and watched Sophia from afar again, and comes to collect her. Realizing that Alvin is probably gone, Sophia explains that she had finished her scarf for Alvin. When Dorothy mentions they could to go to New York to give him the scarf, Sophia refuses, saying she would rather send him the scarf so that she can remember him being on the boardwalk. As they leave, Sophia yells at a man for sitting on Alvin's seat on the bench.
Blanche: Dorothy, I have a confession to make. Rose didn't lose Fernando. I gave him to Daisy when she was helping out with the rummage sale.
Dorothy: Well, then, there's no problem, honey. Just call Daisy and get Fernando back. She's a very sweet kid. She'll understand.
Blanche: I tried that. She said no.
Dorothy: What do you mean?
Blanche: She's not a sweet kid anymore. She's holding Fernando for ransom.
Dorothy: Come on.
Blanche: Dorothy, she sent me one of his ears!
Dorothy: Hey, I didn't hear you get up.
Rose: I never went to sleep.
Dorothy: Now look, Rose, this has to stop. Now you have been carrying on for a week. It was only a toy animal.
Rose: Fernando was more than that. He was full of life, he was full of love...
Dorothy: He was full of stuffing, Rose.
- This episode won two Emmy Awards: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Estelle Getty) and Outstanding Technical Direction/Camera/Video for a Series.
- While this episode dealt with Alzheimer's disease and displayed Alvin suffering from memory loss, Estelle Getty was later in life stricken with dementia and suffered similar symptoms such as memory loss.
- Daisy's ransom of Fernando is based on the ransom of J. Paul Getty III, whose ear was sent to his family.
- When Rose talks about Fernando to Sophia, she mistakes him for Dr. Jonathan Newman, who was a little person featured in the episode A Little Romance.
- Sophia talks about the myth about black men in bed, which she would also talk about in Mixed Blessings.