I Love Lucy Was Way Darker Than You Knew: A Fan Theory
In an unassuming little apartment on East 68th Street lives a woman torn between two lives. On one hand, she longs to be on the stage, singing and dancing for an audience. On the other, she fights to be a normal stay-at-home wife and mother for the safety of her family, because she has a secret that could cost her everything. She didn't leave Jamestown, New York, for NYC because she was abused or abandoned; she left because she was the child of the most dangerous mob boss in a town that was notable for its involvement in the bootlegging game. Forced to change her name and disappear into the Witness Protection Program, she left the place where she was born to make a life for herself in the big city.
No, this is not a subplot from Season 3 of Boardwalk Empire. This is the story of Lucy Ricardo, protagonist of I Love Lucy, one of the seven wonders of the sitcom world. Until now, the show was a harmless look into what happens when you give a housewife a funny personality and subpar motor skills. But under the surface, it shows you that no matter what you do you can't fully escape your past.
Lucy Never, Ever Mentions Her Father
Throughout the six-season run of I Love Lucy, Lucy's father, much like her natural hair color and sense of responsibility, is demonstrably absent, even though the rest of the family appears in multiple episodes. Ricky, Lucy's husband, regales us with stories of his childhood in Havana from the first season onward, and the whole family goes to Cuba together in the sixth season to visit Ricky's relatives. Way to rub it in, bro.
And to force Lucy to work in a cigar sweatshop for some reason?
Lucy's mother comes to stay with them and travels with the family to California. We even meet several other people from Lucy's past, including her former babysitter and her damn pediatrician, in an episode titled "The Passports," in which she needs to verify her birth certificate. But her father? Never given a passing thought.
Lucy even avoids mentioning him in situations where it is appropriate and expected to do so. In the episode "Housewarming," Lucy encourages her friend Ethel to become friends with their neighbor Betty Ramsey, and during the conversation, Ethel and Betty discover they are both from Albuquerque. Lucy, finding herself left out of the conversation, develops hives from not being the center of attention for nine seconds and begins to throw in comments about her childhood as well.
Lucy: I'm from Jamestown.
Betty: (ignoring Lucy totally) Oh, my goodness, it certainly is a small world. So you're Ethel Potter.
Ethel: (also ignoring Lucy totally) And you were Betty Foster.
Lucy: I was Lucy McGillicuddy.
In that conversation, we are told the names of both Ethel's and Betty's fathers, and although Lucy is begging to be included in the dialogue, she still never mentions her father's name once, like she is talking about Bloody Mary or Beetlejuice instead of her own dad. It is almost as if she is purposely hiding his identity for some reason, and mentioning her maiden name doesn't really count, because McGillicuddy isn't even her maiden name. It's her mother's.
This is the moment Lucy realizes everyone thinks she's a bastard.
In the episode "Lucy Goes To Scotland," we hear her specifically state that the McGillicuddy clan are her mother's ancestors. If her mother's maiden name is McGillicuddy, her father's name certainly isn't.
We aren't talking about the Smith family or the Miller clan, here. This is an uncommon enough name that you wouldn't have found two unrelated McGillicuddys in a town of that size. It is such a rare name that outside of this show, most people have never even heard it at all. Hell, the network thought having an interracial couple was risque and wouldn't let them use the word "pregnant" when Lucy had her baby. They certainly wouldn't have been cool with hinting at an incestuous family background in a show seemingly devoted to slapstick homemaking. Even in the quote above from the conversation between Ethel, Betty, and Lucy, she never says her father is a McGillicuddy, only that she was Lucy McGillicuddy when she was in Jamestown. Careful choice of words, Lucy!
Lucy Makes Decisions That Are Startlingly Mafia-Esque
When Lucy is faced with a dilemma, she often comes up with a solution more suited to Al Capone than Donna Reed. For example, in the episode "The Freezer," Lucy and Ethel order two sides of beef thinking they are going to get maybe 60 to 70 pounds of meat. Instead, they find out that they ordered several hundred pounds of beef and have no idea what to do with it. I bet the outcome will be something cute and ultimately redemptive!
Some of that will end up in the beds of their enemies.
No, no it won't be. They decide to put it in a baby stroller and wheel it down to the butcher so they can undersell him and steal his customers while literally standing in front of his meat counter. This could only be more mobster-like if they told people it fell off a truck.
"It'd be a shame if something happened to that pretty hat of yours."
In the episode "The Sublease," the Ricardos decide to sublet their apartment and end up making more than double their rent from the tenant who moves in, splitting the profit with the Mertzes. After finding out the all-male nude review went out of business and they no longer have a job lined up for Ricky, they want to take their apartment back, but the tenant refuses to leave. Rather than talking to the Mertzes and asking for the whole of the profit to stay in a hotel or finding another reasonable, normal solution, Lucy decides to trick her way into the apartment and fake a murder to freak the guy out so he'll leave. Somehow, we don't think most average housewives would consider faking a murder a solution to anything except getting out of a timeshare sales pitch.
This is what happens when women are barely allowed to leave the house.
In the episode "The Business Manager," when faced with the prospect of actually living within her budget, Lucy decides in her infinite wisdom to run a credit scam at the grocery store instead of picking up a part-time job or going on a game show or writing an article for Cracked.
Lucy is totally eyeing up whether Ethel can fit in that oven.
Not only does she run a credit scam, she does so knowing it is going to come back and bite their new business manager in the ass instead of her. Only through an accidental stock market windfall does she squeak by that one with no criminal charges.
In the episode "Lucy Wants To Move To The Country," Lucy dresses like a gangster and pretends she has a gun to get out of a financial contract. She obviously knows a thing or two about how to intimidate people. This is all fairly serious criminal behavior.
Lucy's Jamestown influence seems to have no end. Committing perjury? Yep, she does that in the episode "The Courtroom." Cutting the power to the neighborhood? Of course, in "Ricky And Fred Are TV Fans." Faking a fucking kidnapping? She does that in the episode "Lucy Cries Wolf." Recording people's conversations to blackmail them? Yep, in "Oil Wells." Starting a phony charity to swindle people? Oh yeah, in "Ricky's European Booking." The woman seems to commit a serious, felony-level crime in every other episode.
Lucy Can Get Whatever She Wants, Whenever She Wants
Despite never mentioning her father and fabricating her maiden name as part of the Witness Protection Program, she seems to still be maintaining a quiet connection to her Mafioso pops. How else can you explain all the things she manages to get her hands on over the course of the show? I'm not talking about normal things like a walk-in freezer; I'm talking about things that no normal person would have the connections for, like a baby elephant ...
Don't think about 1950s animal rights. Don't think about 1950s animal rights.
... or a gigantic upright bass case that has leg holes in the bottom of it ...
... or 10 children to pass off as her own to ward off an unwanted suitor ...
This was how the Duggars started out before their scheme got out of control.
... or even all of the things one would need to pass themselves off as the goddamned Maharincess of Franistan.
You would think that if Lucy were procuring all of these things on her own, Ricky would start to notice the credit card charges for pachyderms, or perhaps that the bank would call him and let him know that someone just purchased something expensive from Giant Novelty Instrument Cases "R" Us. For her to be finding these things and avoiding detection from her husband, the bank, and the police (seriously, 10 kids! How do you even rent one kid? That question is purely rhetorical, by the way) she would have to have a contact that could do that for her with enough pull that they aren't ever questioned about it. Someone like a father with Mafia connections, who wouldn't think twice about lending his beloved daughter a gaggle of children for deception purposes.
She's Being Followed By The FBI
Throughout the run of the show, we see several characters who bear a striking resemblance to one another. I mean, what a crazy coincidence that quiz show host Freddie Fillmore, eventual neighbor Ralph Ramsey, the train conductor on their cross-country trip, the waiter at their favorite restaurant, etc. all look so much alike!
These are all clearly one guy who is following Lucy around and just really sucks at disguises, like Murdoc from MacGyver or everyone who goes to Comic-Con. Obviously, the Witness Protection Program had to assign an FBI agent to keep an eye on Lucy once she started popping up in nightclub shows, television commercials, etc. They also needed someone there to run interference with local law enforcement to keep her identity a secret, which explains why she is almost never arrested for her zany plots and why we never got the episode "Lucy Goes To Prison And Is Forced To Stay There Forever."
This Is Why Ricky Won't Let Her Be In The Show
In the third and fourth episodes of I Love Lucy, there is a story arc that is missed by all but the most observant viewers. In Episode 3, "The Diet," the concept of Lucy wanting to break into Ricky's show is first introduced. Ricky makes noise about not letting her perform but quickly lets her come to the audition and ends up promising her that if she can fit into the costume, she is welcome to the part. After several days of extreme diet and exercise, she manages to squeeze into the costume and does a phenomenal job in the role of Sally Sweet to Ricky's Cuban Pete.
Everyone manages to be remarkably un-racist for the time.
In the end, Ricky tells her the only reason she isn't allowed to continue the role from that point forward is because the doctors are concerned that she is malnourished. This doesn't really sound much like the Ricky we come to know, who fights tooth and nail to keep Lucy off the stage. But why the change?
In the next episode, "Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying To Murder Her," Lucy gets scared by a murder mystery she is reading and becomes convinced Ricky is going to kill her. That sounds insane, but when you're raised by a guy that always has to look over his shoulder, any little sound could be someone cocking a gun behind you. After a bunch of crazy behavior, she takes what she thinks is a loaded gun down to the nightclub to confront Ricky about his failed murder attempts, only to find out that there had been a big misunderstanding and he wasn't going to kill her after all. Awww. The paranoia that nearly inspired first-degree murder is just a gag.
That sax player has seen uxoricide a million times.
Wait, what the hell? Can you imagine the dinner-table conversation when he comes home that night? "Hey, honey. Pass the potatoes. Also, why in God's name did you come down to my work to assassinate me?" And this is when she would spill her whole story, explaining about her father, joining the Witness Protection Program, and running away to New York City. There are nearly six whole seasons of show left. It's kind of hard for a marriage to come back from "My wife stormed into my job and threatened my life," unless that wife confesses to having a childhood full of life-threatening shit.
With a better understanding of what she has been through, the importance of keeping her face out of the papers and off of the television is obvious. He will never be able to change who she is, of course, and she will forever be pining for her moment in the spotlight, but he can work to keep her exposure minimal so she won't be in any danger.
Lucy Is A Smooth Criminal
All of the above points could have other explanations if it weren't for "The Kleptomaniac." In this episode, Lucy needs to convince Ricky that she is a thief, so she fills the apartment with jewelry and other valuables. So far, par for the course for Lucy Ricardo hijinks, right? Until Ricky, Fred, and a psychiatrist friend of theirs find the blueprints for the 72nd Street branch of Chase National Bank, along with a blowtorch. The blowtorch might get a pass, but how in the world would someone in the pre-internet era find the blueprints to a bank in less than a day? That seems like a pretty special fucking skillset to have. You know what else seems strange for a housewife? A comment about knocking over a gas station and a big bag of money to prove you did it. And a Tommy gun in a guitar case.
Come on, Ethel, at least try to pull off the gangster look.
But even if we were to assume that Lucy has some kind of amazing ability to come up with all of these things for the sole purpose of tricking her husband, she still outs herself as having a criminal background when she picks the psychiatrist's pocket and steals his watch. At the 4:30 mark in this video clip, you can see him patting his pockets, searching for his pocketwatch, before Lucy pulls it from her own pocket and tosses it back to him. Lucy does not have the time between deciding to pull this gag and the doctor showing up at the apartment to fill the apartment with loot, find costumes for her and Ethel, procure a bag of money along with a gun and an elephant, and learn to pick a pocket at the same time. This is a skill she obviously acquired and perfected long before then. She would have needed someone to teach her how to pick a pocket. And how to find a blueprint for a bank. And where to get a Tommy gun in just a few hours.
After all, what are fathers for?
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Check out which stars might as well have been in Witness Protection in 6 Insane Reasons Formerly Famous People Dropped Off The Map, and try not to be scared of Lucille Ball's statue in 8 Statues Of Famous People (That Look Absolutely Insane).
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