You know why Arrested Development is amazing? Well, because of its first season, of course. But I’m talking about its second season. This shortened second season. Michael! I mean...Fox! (Takes a deep breath) Anyway, it’s because Mitch Hurwitz & Co. filled almost every second of airtime with something that delivers in either a visual or verbal or emotional comedic sensibility. For instance, the first two episodes of this second season bear titles similar to those of Friends episodes, beginning with “The One Where,” and then the third episode is just called “Friends,” albeit in Spanish, because part of the episode takes place in Mexico. Is it funny? Not especially, but it’s the kind of detail that makes you go, “Wait, did I just see some graffiti written on a wall in that alley? What did that graffiti say?” There could be a series that just aired encyclopedia pages on a split screen with Wikipedia pages about the same subjects, and it might come close to the amount of details that Arrested Development offers its viewers. Funny details, I mean. Not like, dates or whatever.
This is one of the few episodes within the series, beyond the openers, where you can almost step in without having seen anything previous, because it rounds out all of its characters in such a way that what is so familiar to some can still be picked up as refreshing for someone who doesn’t know anything about Arrested Development. As the current bossman of Bluth Company, G.O.B. immediately proves his incompetence. You don’t have to see him put the cue stick through the wall to know what happened there. It’s a pool table in the middle of an office with recently patched up walls. But if you’ve seen the episode, it reminds you of when he did it. This is why all the series that just reset after every episode can never match the comedic depths that this show reaches. Caw! Ca-caw! Ca-caw! Ca-caw!
”You’re the Chiclet. Not me!”
Take that profoundly odd chicken gesture that G.O.B. gives to what few people would recognize as a chicken. It’s a callback joke. But now we see that at one point, G.O.B. pissed off some Mexican folks because that particular dance was a derogatory slur. The joke now becomes something else, beyond just looking ridiculous. And then we find out that George Sr. is actually down in Mexico, and because G.O.B. believes that Michael’s search for their father is actually a getaway plan, we actually get a live (within the episode) scene of G.O.B. doing the fricking dance IN MEXICO, and he gets tackled, another one of the show’s common tropes. It’s roughly a billion things happening at once all within the context of what we only just learned within the last few episodes. This is like an entire city being built around a fictitious paperback novel called Best Jokes For Smart People that was only printed once.
“Don’t be such an Ann Hog.”
This episode gives us three significant things. Michael is allowed to really, really take a mental disassociation from Ann as a person - Who? Her? - both in his comments and by actually leaving her in Mexico and all. It introduces us to Gene Parmesan – SQUEAL! – Martin Mull’s private investigator who assumes all disguises and arrives all over the place throughout the episode; it’s one of those guest starring roles that cements itself within the memory despite a lack of screen time. And it gives Buster one of the most ludicrous and totally buyable C stories that a series can give its audience, in having him spend time at the housekeeper Lupe’s house, believing he’s escaped down to Mexico. You never believe Buster to be an unbelievable character. You just can’t believe that Tony Hale can possibly be someone other than this character.
”Make love in your own hand, Mother!”
Seriously, once you add an amended Buster banner – “You’re Killing Me Buster – with Lindsay’s flirtation with bounty hunter Ice, this episode is a classic through and through. And though Tobias’ appearance is minimal, he utters the line, “Well, I won’t know officially until 8:01. But I figured if I blue myself early, I’d be nice and relaxed for a 9:00 dinner reservation.” He’s got Blue Man Group make-up on. It’s a can’t-miss joke, people!
Things That Make The Episode Memorable
“Might as well keep this make-up on, since it takes so [bleeping] long to get off.” Tobias is talking about why he has to leave the paint on, but we’ve all seen just how easily the paint comes off, especially when he slides across the floor when Ice tackles him. Or when it gets left on every bit of furniture within the show. Details.
Cirsumvrent the law.
There’s a cornballer in the office!
“And second-of-ly, I know you're the big marriage expert - Oh, sorry. I forgot. Your wife is dead.” Delivered with the perfect amount of theatrics that David Cross steals scenes with.
After spending a long time with her and really getting to know her, Michael still doesn’t like Ann.
“I never thought I’d miss a hand so much.” Loose seal foreshadowing on the first degree.
”Two exits to Legoland.” Mo Collins and her Quincy Jones story.
“Way to plant, Ann.”
Chicken dance live!
This time, the episode’s title refers to a frequent Charlie Brown moan from the comic Peanuts. I wondered it when it first aired and I continue to wonder how much of my love for this episode relies on my Sunday comics obsession throughout my youth. If you don’t have the image of Charlie Brown’s depressed look in your head whenever you see George Michael, George, G.O.B. and Tobias do it, along with the key music, then what do these scenes do? There were already two references to testicles being referred to as “Charlie Browns,” and then we get a Linus/penis correlation. I wonder what unaware people think of these nicknames, the Banana Stand sign that says “The Frozen Banana Maker is ‘Out’” or the tiny Christmas tree or the below picture.
Anyway, this is an amazing episode on top of that, or rather six feet below that, as most of the episode’s events revolve around the assumed death of George Sr. – “Frito Bandito” - due to George Sr. figuring out that money buys freedom, at least in Mexico. So all the characters get to pretend that he’s dead, but the sheer lack of mourning is almost flagrant, though it makes almost every single line drip with black humor. Maeby spends the episode trying to get emancipated from her parents, talking Lindsay into wearing her SLUT shirt to impress Ice. And it’s amazing because both of them are naïve enough to think it would work, despite clearly having the capabilities to pull men. I guess.
The show carries some weight in holding a wake for a man who is listening from the attic – and that’s what Pop Pop in the attic means – and giving G.O.B. the heartless choice to use it to his advantage to redeem himself as a magician and getting into Poof Magazine. Few shows on television would dare to just remove any signs of normal behavior for the sake of proving how heartless the characters actually are.
“I am surprised though that she’s going after someone so similar to my own type. But I suppose we all do expose our inner desires, don’t we?” “I think you just did.” “No, I didn’t.”
Not only do these people not react in an extended fashion to George’s death, but they also don’t react overwhelmingly to his being alive and in the attic, nor to his disappearance from the attic. For a series that delves into fantasy and fourth-wall-breaking narration, it’s one of the truest shows out there. Oh wait….
Things That Make The Episode Memorable
“Who left the cap off my [bleeping] Glisten?”
Tony Wonder’s Poof Magazine shot. G.O.B. can’t top the bread trick. Spoiler. Also, ‘I should be in this Poof!” Tons of poof jokes here.
“I didn’t want to say that while you were talking to Egg.” Poor Bland.
“Oscar, close it. You look like the window of a butcher shop.” And somehow, I don’t feel that this insults George Sr.’s naked body.
Let’s all give thanks that we weren’t around when Buster found out about the parakeet and Captain Kangeroo.
“From who, the Nazis?”
Barry Zuckercorn is a shitty human being. “I could have you out on the street in a month.” He should know that she wouldn’t be able to pay him. I meant to say he’s a shitty lawyer. “The will is not here. The will is at my office, next to the hot plate with the frayed wires. I didn’t, uh…It wasn’t, uh…”
I kind of need an Aztec’s Tomb in my life.
Hand to God
“Hand to God” starts with one of the well-connected jokes in the series, with George Michael talking about Ann’s religious group not liking the show Nip/Tuck. “Well, you know, they don’t like anything. Something about God wants people to age naturally. I don’t know. Ironically, she likes Gangy.” And honestly, this definitely isn’t among the “best” episodes of the series, because it doesn’t stand alone very well, and it doesn’t connect stories as well as that joke did. But I don’t get to talk about Buster a lot, and this is my favorite Buster episode by far. Tony Hale constantly forgetting he has a hook for a hand is a perpetual motion machine of comedy. And seriously, this is not the “we found out something major about the central plotline” kind of an episode. This is about everyone getting accustomed to Buster’s hand being gone. Or rather, people not getting accustomed to it.
And it’s coupled with a really great mini-plotline about Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ non-blind lawyer character Maggie coming back non-pregnant (though everyone thinks she is). It ties up the Maggie plotline, in which Michael went from assuming he was the father of a baby and regrettably deciding to care for it to finding out he wasn’t the father of a baby and then regrettably deciding to care for it. Michael’s heart and mouth are on a quicker connection with what his brain is tied into. The fake bellies and the updated fake bellies and the real bellies are a good example of the short domino effect this show has of ending its sub-plots effectively. In a short amount of time, a large amount of backstory is implicitly delivered for these homosexual cops, played with gusto by the always amazing Jay Johnston and Jerry Minor, and this baby that didn’t exist in the way that we thought it did. Comedies should always grasp onto mini-arcs.
“Mom, you’ve got to stop starting conversations like that.”
Buster’s missing hand and missing memory are the combined source of so many memorable moments in this episode, it almost outweighs all the others on sheer Power of the Single Joke. Before it’s definitively clear what’s happened, Ian Roberts’ Dr. Fishman says that Buster is “all right,” implying that he’s lost his left hand. Perfect start. Then we get Buster jovially accepting the seal-sourced amputation of his hand – “I heard there’s gonna be a bay-bay,” - which means he doesn’t have to go to Army, enough so he can casually make a hand-related pun to Michael. But when Michael tries his own lame pun, Buster freaks the fuck out. “Get. Him. Out of here. Get the [bleep] out of my room!” By the time it gets to the end of this storyline, with Buster screaming, “I’m a monster!!!” while tearing apart the living room, it could only end in one way. In an end. With a claw in it. “Hey, campers.”
“Close call there, Bullet. I am so sorry about that.” One of the most progressively uncomfortable moments in this series is when Jay Johnston's cop says that Jerry Minor's cop was hiding inside Maggie's house - the one that Michael urged George Michael to break into - and that his gun was drawn. Just a weird little moment of character mortality that just doesn't happen that often. And the fact that Michael's first instinct is a casual joke is all the more amazing.
Things That Make The Episode Memorable
“You’ve been warned about touching.” “You said spanking.”
Tobias stands up to make his comment about a seal only reacting if it had a taste for mammal blood.
Watching G.O.B. try to catch seals using a cat, though it is severely under-utilized.
George Michael gets a “Her?”
G.O.B. gets a claw in his ass. Still.
“Welcome Home Buster” banner.
While Lucille feels terrible about thinking Buster’s hand being bitten off had something to do with her prayers, she then prays again, declaring it okay for G.O.B.’s hand to be the next hand to go, should that be necessary.
“Give my son the juice!’
The joke involving George Michael mistakenly going down to the morgue beneath the hospital is incredibly stupid and silly, but it’s played perfectly, and his implied future discomfort is absolutely worth thinking about.
“Up yours, Granny!” “You couldn’t handle it!’
Are you kidding me? “Motherboy XXX” is legendary in nearly every single way, down to its duplicitously punned name. The costumes, the meta jokes, Carl Weathers’ return, the dolls, G.O.B.’s inability to do anything to save himself. Right here up top, I’ll go ahead and say this episode’s only true fault is a gaff, as the zipline slide that Buster was planning to take would have put him below the hotel balcony that George Michael was standing on, yet his hook ends up flying through their window. It’s a weird error that really gets under my skin for some reason. I don’t care about seeing cameramen’s shoulders and obvious ADR corrections, but this one irks me. The one thing about this series. There, I said it.
”And yet anything goes at bathtime.”
The event that this episode revolves awkwardly around – the mother-son/grandson costume sub-gala Motherboy – gives us all the family dynamics that the series’ best episodes give us. It’s family first for Michael, but he goes back on his own slogan by not wanting to hang around hook-handed Buster, who is having problems with Lucille over going to the event. George Michael is sent to hang out with Buster and then gets roped in by Lucille to do what she wants. I think the success of the will they/won’t they quasi-incest that George Michael and Maeby have going is due to it being one of the only goals that George Michael gets to work on accomplishing, and he’s happy about. But his do-good nature makes him a malleable pawn for all of the selfish people around him, and so he goes along for the ride observantly, but with no real want. His top choice for that day’s plans would not have included dressing up like a sailor, Sonny Bono or a gypsy. Also, it’s fun to watch Buster give advice on how to be Buster.
”Did you know you can get a refill on anything you want here, and it’s free?”
This episode is such a gem due to all of the ways in which it speaks to the viewers about itself and about pop culture in general. Carl Weathers comes back because he’s directing the Bluth-themed episode of the dramatization-filled Scandal Makers, and gets Tobias to sign on for the story rights. (That the TV movie ends up giving away George Sr.’s location in a later episode is amazing unto itself.) So in having Tobias be the inside source for Carl, it’s telling us that “true stories” can sometimes come from the most fucked up person involved in the story. That’s interesting. And where do they meet? Burger King, in one of the most blatant, look you right in the eye product placements ever to exist. And after that wonderful bit of hyperbolic advertising, we get one of the most iconic moments in the series: Henry Winkler (as Barry, of course) says he’s going to Burger King, and then jumps over a shark for the second time in his career. Like the Atkins diet jokes, the phrase “jump the shark” has lost a lot of its impact over the years, but considering the phrase came into existence by referencing Winkler waterskiing over a shark in a Happy Days as being the defining moment when that show went over the edge. Only the word meta is more meta than that moment there. Community can collapse upon itself.
And for that extra bit of reality – “I swore I’d not go reality.” – the explicitly stated difference between the event Motherboy and the band Motherboy was a potshot at the hip-hop group Arrested Development, who tried to hit the show with a lawsuit for having the same name.
”I had to take all the pumps out of here a long time ago.”
George Sr.’s creeping senility from being stuck in the attic begins to bloom, and his asides with the tea party dolls could never work with anyone else as well as they do with Jeffrey Tambor. Then you have Buster’s “I’m a monster!!” freak-out, which could lull me out of any depression. And then you get a guest spot by Amy Poehler and her “huge cans” as G.O.B.’s seal-loving wife. Their back and forth over marriage consummation is a well-crafted nutshell of everything wrong with G.O.B. Thinking that other people’s opinion’s matter more than the truth, and thinking that sex is more important than achieving personal success. It’s a well-rounded episode that gets better with each viewing, just like all the rest of them. Only this one ends with the Motherboy theme. Huzzah!
Things That Make The Episode Memorable
"The didn't. But it would have been."
“Stop licking my hand!”
Based on his license plate, we get to consider what Tobias’ audition for House M.D. would have been like.
Al “arm off.” I’m a fan of all the references to Buster’s hand that this show lobs out.
“Nice to see you again…Usarmy.”
Two Tobiases in the same room.
The little red-headed boy who so desperately wants to get away from his sailor-suited mother. How is he the only one doing this?
Buster winning Saddest at Motherboy is ridiculous, as is the inherent sweetness behind him and Lucille dancing after everything else went down.
“Do you know where I can get one of those necklaces with the T on it?” “It’s a cross.” “Across from where?” A regular Abbot and Costello, these guys.
“I misunderestimated you.”
The Abu Ghraib picture, because how did they even get away with that?
Honorable Mention: Sword of Destiny
I really wanted to include this episode, because Ben Stiller’s performance as Tony Wonder is so goofy and amazing, and his lame tricks and general standoffishness make him as core to the Arrested Development ethos as anyone else. But his involvement is sadly too slight.
And then there’s George Sr.’s video, which is taken to be a terrorist message due to the towel on his head. It’s one of the broadest pieces of humor this show has given, as well as the “Ancient Chinese secret, huh?” gag, which is also in this episode!
And it’s the episode that features the cameo from Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellenaeta, as an over-the-top surgeon whose mistakes engage him to do things unheard of in the medical field. He actually says, “D’oh,” and he switches G.O.B.’s middle finger and index finger. Love this episode.
Meet The Veals
“Who’d like a banger in the mouth?” A well-tested theory of sitcoms is that comedy comes from putting an outsider within the path of a show’s wacky cast of characters and watching the hilarity unfold. That’s the basis behind this wonderful episode, and it’s skewered and subverted in true Arrested Development fashion. And these outsiders aren’t just any old schmos; they’re the God-fearing parents of one Egg Veal, er, Ann, as played by Ione Sky and Alan Tudyk. These guest spots are worth this entry alone.
This episode features two of the zaniest creations this series put forth in Mrs. Featherbottom and G.O.B.’s puppet Franklin, and includes really strong performances from everyone involved, but this is one of the few episodes where Michael is by and large the most interesting one to watch. This is a man who is not mentally equipped to be himself around Christian people, and that antithesis is a perfect comment on the general consensus that Michael is the “good” one in the family. He sees that his son wants to ask Ann to get pre-pre-engaged, and he wants to destroy that happiness for his own selfishness. He sees that the Veals are happy about it and he wants to make them despise the idea as much as he does. He sees that for once that his family isn’t always as horrible as they are in his mind, and he tries to bring them down to his level. And he gets to be the one to finally get fed up and call Tobias out on his/her disguise.
“I just don’t want him to point out my cracker ass in front of Ann.”
Franklin is nearly as important to some fans as any of the human characters. For a show that features barely any “African Americany” people other than the few major guest stars (and perhaps Tobias), Franklin is a way the writers got to work in a lot of awful-in-a-good-way race-related humor, and further developed the rift between G.O.B. and other cultures. While Franklin shines more in later episodes, it’s a pretty powerful debut, especially when you get George Sr.’s “I said that’s enough!” in the attic.
”Just stuffing the mushroom…”
But while the puppet wasn’t going full stop, another fabricated person look-alike was. First, Mrs. Featherbottom leaping off of the stairwell balcony with an umbrella and crashing through the table is one of the best stunts on the show, and it’s a three-second cutaway gag. But aside from that, David Cross kills it in this episode, as he mixes up which person he’s been giving people – because Tobias is as much a persona as it is a reality for him – and we get the real sense that he would do anything for his family, despite whatever personality issues he has. (“I keep forgetting I’m in the colonies.”) And it grounds this patently absurd storyline, while still playing it for laughs, since these ego-centric people would rather obviously take advantage of him than subtlely appreciate him.
The anniversary party gets everyone together in the same room, and then a smaller grouping occurs at the church near the end of the episode, and seeing all of these personalities playing off of each other is just so fun to watch. Motivations change at the turn of a phrase, While Skye’s mental retreat from Christianity wasn’t that believable, it was utilized with perfection and tied the stories together. Even Maeby got to have some fun in this episode.
Things That Make The Episode Memorable
“That means Mrs. Featherbottom isn’t here. Which means she didn’t iron my blouse, which means I don’t have anything to wear for my premiere. For the Premier…of Canada. He’s going out with my gym teacher.” My favorite example of how Maeby’s twisted little brain works.
“I had this shipped over from Blackstool. It’s what I used to drive the Roger Moores about in.” Someone should do a psych exam on Tobias.
Seeing Maeby’s “Marry me!” line turn into “Babysit me!”
George Sr. in yet another wig.
“I didn’t run. What I mean to say is, I think I broke my ankle.” It astounds me how much wordplay goes into these scripts.
G.O.B. is so close to seeing George Sr. and Lucille have sex again. Somebody fix that limo radio!
We get George Sr.’s “Her?” from a vent.
When George Sr. reveals himself to G.O.B., it’s a fantastic moment seeing G.O.B.’s shock immediately spin into ire towards his brother for hiding their father. “Is this where you’ve been…Michael.”
“Hey, what you trying to say to me?” One of my favorite jokes in the show. It’s like the sound of George Michael getting a boner.