“Visiting Ours” (season 1, episode 5; original airdate 12/7/03)
Given the density of the mythology in Arrested Development, it’s sometimes easier to identify an episode not by what happens in it but by what gets introduced. So here’s “Visiting Ours,” the episode in which we meet Kitty Sanchez for the first time, and hear one of the series’ most memorable lines: “Daddy horny, Michael.”
Because this is Arrested Development, the two intros are, of course, related. It seems George Sr. had an ongoing un-business-like relationship with his secretary Kitty (played by the magnificent Judy Greer), but Kitty has not transferred that affection to her new boss, Michael. Instead she cruelly tells Michael that his dead wife is on the phone (when she really means his mother); and when Michael asks if he can take a look any information on The Bluth Company’s international accounts, she hisses that it’s none of his business, before hastily adding, “Uh… my business.” So Michael is forced to try to get the info from his dad, only to find that George Sr. is distracted by the prison’s softball league—there are rumors that their rivals are about to get José Canseco—and by his biological urges. The moment where George Sr. confesses that he misses the touch of a woman—then creaks out those three special words, “Daddy horny, Michael”—is one of the funniest of the whole three-year run, and a testament to the comic instincts of Jeffrey Tambor.
Yet “Visiting Ours” (and “Charity Drive,” which follows) are also the first episodes of Arrested Development in my opinion that show some seams. They’re both full of memorable moments that pay off—or at least get callbacks—throughout the rest of the series, but these two episodes are less tightly woven than what came before, and they’re weighed down a little by The Narrator re-explaining things we already know. (This is the downside to watching Arrested Development in chunks on DVD instead of every week on TV, as it was originally meant to be seen.)
That said, any “weakness” in “Visiting Ours” is relative to the show’s peaks. Even though this episode’s largely disconnected detour into Tobias and Lindsay’s marriage-counseling sessions seem mostly to be an excuse to reunite David Cross with his Mr. Show partner Bob Odenkirk, it’s hard to complain too much about any scene in which Tobias role-plays as Lindsay, Dr. Gunty (played by Odenkirk) role-plays as Tobias, and the two of them compare themselves to the cast of Friends before almost kissing. (Cue Lindsay: “Aaaand… scene!”) Also, from an ongoing mystery standpoint, the Tobias/Lindsay subplot reveals once again that Tobias wears cut-off shorts in the bathroom, though we have yet to learn exactly why.
And the Tobias/Lindsay marital disharmony could be seen as thematically tied to the rest of this episode’s depictions of relationships in trouble. When George Sr. complains that he hasn’t had sex in a month—“You’ve been here two months,” Michael muses aloud—his son tries to arrange a conjugal visit with Lucille, who’s in a bad mood because the Bluths’ shaky finances mean her club membership has been reduced to pool privileges only. When Michael says that he really wants his mother to visit his father, she inquires, “Golf membership want it?” Soon she’s riding with Michael to the prison and impatiently asking, “Where are we going after?” Unfortunately, George Sr. didn’t want Michael to bring Lucille around, because he already had a conjugal appointment set with Kitty. He tells Michael that he needs him to fix this mess. (“International accounts need me?” Michael asks.)
Luckily, Michael has a back-up plan. Kitty has taken a liking to GOB, and Michael has been trying to get GOB to seduce Kitty in exchange for the international account info. GOB’s not too crazy about the task, since Kitty’s the rare mousy-looking woman who becomes less sexy when she removes her glasses and takes down her hair. (When he corners her in the supply room, GOB hesitates, muttering, “It just seems like there’s still light coming in from under the door.…”) GOB does comes through, sort of. “I [bleep]ed Kitty!” he shouts to Michael triumphantly, though when Michael asks if he found out about the accounts, GOB has to admit that he forgot about that part. So he gets a second crack at Kitty in prison, stalling her while George Sr. and Lucille have their grudging tryst. But because GOB wrote a strongly worded letter to the warden about his treatment last episode, the guards slam him up against one of the conjugal trailers, where he gets a good view of his parents [bleep]ing.
It says something about how much Arrested Development still has left to explore that only now, in the fifth episode, do we get the first extended interaction between George and Lucille. They’re kind of cute together too, insulting each other into sexual arousal. And it says something about the deep bench of the show that the best storyline in “Visiting Ours” is also one of the slightest, involving George-Michael’s fear of prison (brought on by a young, tin-hatted GM’s accidental viewing of the HBO series Oz, which he thought was going to be an L. Frank Baum adaptation). Michael reassures his son that the prison Pop-Pop is in isn’t that that scary, and yet during the time George-Michael is there, George Sr. is in near catatonia over a softball-related riot, and a prisoner tries to escape by running up The Staircar and over the wall. The situation resolves well, as Michael climbs to the top of The Staircar to reassure his son, and to tell him that his grandfather is guilty and deserves to be where he is. It’s a touching moment, and kind of lyrical, too. Just a father and son, working some things out while perched high atop a service vehicle.
“Charity Drive” (season 1, episode 6; original airdate 11/30/03)
Now here’s “Charity Drive,” in which we meet GOB’s idea for a new banana stand mascot: Mr. Bananagrabber. Like all the best characters, Mr. Bananagrabber is grounded in reality. Specifically, he’s meant to be based on GOB, who creates the larcenous, fruit-loving, banana-shaped Mr. Bananagrabber and offers him to Michael as a way for paying The Bluth Company back for the free bananas he’s coaxed out of George-Michael over the years. And not just regular frozen bananas, either. GOB’s special treat involves two sticks and a double-dip of chocolate. (“What is this, Mardi Gras?” Michael marvels.)
As with “Visiting Ours,” the various plotlines in “Charity Drive” are fairly scattered, though they do come together more definitively by the end. One big piece involves GOB, and just what he has to offer the Bluth family beyond his stellar freeloading skills. When Michael gives a presentation to the company’s investors and mistakenly declares that the necessary work permits have been filed, George Sr. recommends that he get GOB to break into the permit office and move the file, adding, “That’s what he’s for.” In exchange, GOB wants his banana stand privileges back, along with the rights to Mr. Bananagrabber. Michael agrees, though he insists that GOB has to stick with single dip and says, “I retain animation rights.”
Still, the news of Michael’s temporary banana injunction against GOB spreads quickly to the other Bluths, who accuse Michael of being “uncharitable.” (When Michael points out to Lindsay that he works all day everyday for the family, she scoffs that he just does that because he likes to be in charge, which is actually an astute character-assessment.) So to prove everyone wrong, Michael offers a ride to a Spanish-speaking woman that he assumes to be his mother’s housekeeper Lupe. But just like his less-generous family members, Michael has a terrible time distinguishing between Latinos; he actually picks up a stranger who assumes him to be some kind of homicidal maniac.
The rest of the action in “Visiting Ours” centers on a charity Bachelorette Auction to save the wetlands: an event at which Lindsay is hoping to attract a lot of suitors and Lucille is hoping to earn more money than her rival Lucille Austero. (She tries to stack the deck by giving Buster a pile of money and providing Lucille 2 with tickets to The Producers, but Lucille 2 shows up at the auction anyway, at which point a confused Buster bids all his money on her.) Michael, meanwhile, ridicules Lindsay for not even knowing what the charity is trying to do with the wetlands—“Dry them?” she proposes—and so she picks up a litter-spear and heads into the wilderness, where she promptly kills a frog and a crane. She arrives at the auction scratched all over, so an apologetic Michael bids for her. (“Sold! To the man who really knows what charity is.”)
Before Michael and Lindsay can bond over his kindness, he’s arrested and thrown into the back of a police car for abducting the woman who wasn’t Lupe (and for driving her into the wetlands, no less). Unexpectedly, in the cop-car, Michael finds his son, arrested for doing the permit-office break-in that GOB was supposed to do. GOB had backed off the job because during his no-frozen-banana-for-you hiatus he took a bite of a candy apple and developed a conspicuous whistle. And so it all coheres: the banana stand, the permits, the auction and the accidental abduction.
And yet I wasn’t as delighted by the dovetailing as I was by a few simpler moments in “Charity Drive.” I enjoyed George Sr.’s real anger at GOB when he hears that GOB has George-Michael doing his dirty work. (He even violates the prison’s “no touching” rule so he can smack his son.) And I loved all the business with George Sr.’s car, which all the siblings have been using except for Michael, who’s still timid after spilling ice cream in his dad’s car as a boy. It’s fun the way Arrested Development tries to connect everything, but none of that would be as impressive if the show didn’t keep coming back to the characters and how they react to the whirling weirdness all around them. For example, after Michael sees that GOB has burned the front seat with a magic trick, and Lindsay has dripped nail polish all over, and Buster has filled the back with excavated bones, he steels himself, tamps down the scared little kid inside, and says, “Well I’m gettin’ some ice cream, I can tell you that.”
- There’s been some concern about spoilers in the comment section. Like many of you, I tend not to think of Arrested Development in the same way I think about serialized dramas with big secrets to reveal, though there are surprises in store that I’ve avoided discussing in these write-ups, following the general policy of TV Club Classic. There’s a lot that I’ve wanted to say about the show’s incest themes, for example, but to discuss them would require talking about plot points that haven’t happened yet. (Besides, since there’s a lot of Arrested Development still to come, I know I can get to those themes later on.) You guys should feel free to talk about whatever you like, but for the sake of people who’ve never watched the show before, it’d be nice if you could post a clear spoiler warning before you get into future plot twists. I’m not going to delete any posts by anyone who ignores this, nor am I going to chastise anyone. Just a friendly request.
- Both of these episodes were directed by Greg Mottola, a few years after he made the fine indie comedy The Daytrippers and a few years before he helmed the blockbuster hit comedy Superbad.
- As you can see by the airdates, these are also the first episodes to shown out of order by Fox. They won’t be the last.
- Lucille is appalled by the service she gets poolside. When a waiter hands her a glass of wine with his fingertips on the rim, she scoffs, “If I wanted something your thumb touched I’d eat the inside of your ear.”
- Lucille’s not wild about the cuisine, either. When she belches in front of Michael, she explains, “Pool food. My system’s not used to curly fries.”
- Tobias’ quartet of head shots includes one where he’s sporting a ball gag.
- Lindsay and Tobias don’t really get the whole “don’t let the kids know that the parents are fighting” tactics. When they leave for therapy, they tell Maeby, “Mommy and daddy are going out for ice cream.” When Maeby and George-Michael ask if they can come, they sputter, “Sorry, it’s not for kids.”
- Tobias, doubting Lindsay’s honesty in therapy: “If I gave a performance that good I’d have my own Alias-type show.”
- The Narrator uses a photo to illustrate how much The Bluth Company has lost, showing how a jet and all its accouterments has been reduced to The Staircar. Then he notes the back of the photo and says, “Also, that House Of Pies went out of business.” (This line is especially funny to me because we often refer to The House Of Pies around my house, thanks to a funny moment in an old episode of The Critic. Honestly, it’s too complicated to explain, but just know that if you ever see me looking for something and then exclaiming, “Found him! House Of Pies!” I am quoting The Critic.)
- Michael describes prison as “like a carnival without the half-person on the skateboard who grabs your knee to steady himself.” Michael apparently had a bad experience once at a carnival.
- Michael brings his dad and his son ice-cream sandwiches, saying, “One of these got smushed, but don’ t let that ruin prison for you.”
- When Tobias drives The Staircar to the airport, he gets waved onto the runway, which creates some confusion. As the local paper puts it: “‘Actor’ causes mass delays in western flight grid: Three disembarking passengers fall to knees on tarmac.”
- Lindsay participates in a “Ladies Of Literacy” calendar in which she poses partially nude, with her nipples covered by copies of Oliver Twist. Michael doesn’t like to look at the calendar, so he doesn’t realize that his brothers and sister have been setting a schedule to use their dad’s car.
- Classic Arrested Development detail-building, as the respective messes that the Bluths leave in the car—the burn marks, the red nail polish, the bones—only serve to make Michael look more like a serial killer.
- Lindsay wears a NeuterFest T-shirt to her wetlands clean-up.
- Lucille’s take on her illegal immigrant help: “They didn’t sneak into this country to be your friend.”
- Lucille’s lack of understanding of the way the real world works manifests when she complains to Michael about him denying GOB a banana. “It’s one banana! What could it cost, ten dollars?”
- Buster hands Michael his keys, but then needs them back to retrieve his rape whistle.
- George Sr. has a lot to occupy him in prison: starting a newsletter, deciding what gang to join, et cetera.
- At the benefit for the wetlands, a guy in a frog costume shows up in the back of the shot every now and then.
- “Why would a banana grab another banana? Those are the kinds of questions I don’t wanna answer.”
- The best “on the next” in “Visiting Ours:” George Sr. finally gives Michael a clue as to why he’s in jail, confessing, “There’s a good chance that I may have committed some light treason.”
- The best “on the next” in “Charity Drive:” GOB watches a familiar-looking cartoon version of Mr. Bananagrabber and sighs that he never should’ve given up the animation rights.