Revisiting Arrested Development – Season 1, Episode 8: In God We Trust

Greetings, never-nudes! That’s right, I know there are dozens of you. Uh, Barry’s not here. Can I give her a message? Go on. Call me something. I’m redoing my kitchen… I use one adjective to describe myself, what is it?

It’s…

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SEASON 1, EPISODE 8: In God We Trust
Written by Abraham Higginbotham
Directed by Joe Russo
Original airdate December 14, 2003

This is the first of two Christmas episodes Arrested Development’s done so far (the other being season 2’s Afternoon Delight, one of my all-time favourites). Though I suppose they’re not so much “Christmas episodes” as “episodes that take place during Christmas.” Holiday-themed episodes are a pretty normal thing for a broadcast network comedy around this point of their season, and they can be tricky to pull off correctly, though Arrested Development generally uses holidays for world-building purposes – establishing here the family’s annual involvement in the Living Classics pageant, wherein affluent figures of Orange County reenact famous paintings. This pageant proves to be the catalyst for every plot in this episode, giving the show its first opportunity (since the pilot) to have a George Sr. plot outside of prison, along with pushing Buster and Lucille 2’s (still very clandestine) relationship into a more public realm, and providing Michael and Lindsay with the perfect opportunity to conspire against Lucille. George Michael also gets a very funny sub-plot, which ties in perfectly with the revelation of Tobias being a never-nude, though sadly, Maeby is relegated to being a sentient punchline for the most part of the episode, and while her cliched characterisation of “overlooked daughter” is employed farbetter than it has been in other shows (Lisa on The Simpsons and Alex on Modern Family would be prime examples here, with Meg on Family Guy undoubtedly showing the trope at its most downright deplorable), it’s still a shame to see Alia Shawkat being so underused. The writers wouldn’t quite figure out how to utilise Maeby until her film studio executive story arc in season 2 (barring a few exceptions; the Surely arc and Not Without My Daughter, both in the final third of season 1, certainly spring to mind here), though they at least make the smart choice here of having the joke be more on Tobias and Lindsay than Maeby herself.

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In God We Trust also introduces us to two lawyers who would both become recurring characters on the show, Barry Zuckerkorn and Wayne Jarvis, played by Henry Winkler and John Michael Higgins, respectively. Zuckerkorn in particular – perhaps best described as an even seedier Lionel Hutz – would become both a fan favourite and a frequently re-appearing guest star, though he’s really only characterised by three running jokes here. The first is his highly suspicious practices when it comes to billing clients, the second being the rather unsettling homophobic comments he makes (later recontextualised at the end of the episode when the show reveals that Zuckerkorn might not be of hetero persuasion himself – though we do learn in later episodes that it’s a lot more complicated than just “closet homosexual”), and the third, of course, being his general incompetence. Wayne Jarvis is also characterised a few running gags – his relentlessly serious and professional manner, and a very amusing little runner where he keeps having to duck behind objects – while still being a professional, of course. The quality of Arrested Development’s character writing isn’t just confined to the Bluth family, and these two exemplify it perfectly, being perfect polar opposites of each other while still being fully-formed characters in their own right – a very impressive feat given that they only get a few minutes of screen time between them – and that screen time is used excellently to lay the foundations for reliable sources of laughter.

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This episode also explores several well-established relationships on the show, with Michael and Lindsay perhaps at the most affable they’ve ever been with one another. Lucille, of course, views this as a threat to herself, and employs the heartless manipulation we’d witnessed in the previous episode. Only this time, Lindsay and Michael’s alliance provides them with the opportunity to be equally as manipulative, constructing an elaborate (and somewhat sit-com-esque) ploy to switch to a more competent lawyer when they believe Barry Zuckerkorn is attending the pageant with Lucille. But, of course, narratives are never quite as they seem on the show, and when Lucille’s date turns out to be Wayne Jarvis, their entire plan falls to pieces. Likewise for George Michael’s plan to wear the “muscle suit” at all times, initially thinking that Maeby believes him to be genuinely ripped, but later discovering Maeby’s known it’s a suit the entire time. Maeby and Lucille also plot between themselves to start spending more time together, thus driving the family crazy, though it’s never quite touched on again (Maeby does get a lot of time alone with Lucille a couple of episodes from now in Pier Pressure, though it’s initiated by something else entirely, and Maeby seems far less fond of Lucille in this episode). And the writers stumble upon the sheer comedy gold of putting Tobias and George Michael in a room together, which never fails to make me laugh.

At this point in the show’s run, I notice the pacing is definitely beginning to pick up, and the intertwining storylines are becoming increasingly complex. Both would stay relatively subdued for most of season 1 (at least in comparison to what the show would later become – it’s still far more fast-paced and intricately-plotted than almost any other comedy on tv), but the show’s definitely beginning to “feel” like vintage Arrested Development now. Between the classic Tobias never-nude montage, all the moments with Barry Zuckerkorn and Wayne Jarvis, and the very funny fallout of all the coalescing narratives at the pageant, it’s kind of amazing that the writers have the time to squeeze in all the world-building, character-driven content and clever plotting, but alas, Arrested Development makes it look effortless – practically proving itself as immaculate as the omnipotent being George Sr. so impressively portrayed… you know, prior to the Bluths being banned from the Living Classics pageant.

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MY FAVOURITE JOKES/MOMENTS

* BARRY: Okay, first of all… What are you doing? Pilates? Because no 40-year-old woman should look like that.
MICHAEL: Well, no 40-year-old woman does look like that.

* Henry Winkler’s little pause between “The courts have agreed to let your father out of prison” and “for the entire afternoon” really sells that joke.

* MICHAEL: We’re just not going to do it, and that’s that. What do you doing? Are you writing two hours?
BARRY: No, I’m taking notes. I’m taking notes on the case.
MICHAEL: Let me see that. Let me just see that.
BARRY: You’re scaring me. You know what? Just leave it alone!
MICHAEL: Let me just see what you wrote.
BARRY: Leave it alone! It is a gift from a client!

And then, following a brief pause:

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(On rewatching this episode, I lost it when Barry yelled “You’re scaring me!”)

* “It’ll be a long time before Barry Zuckerkorn calls anyone a homo again.”

* TOBIAS: You said you didn’t want her to come.
LINDSAY: I said I didn’t want you to come.
TOBIAS: Oh, that makes more sense.

* “Oh, Mama, I’ll help you clean up. (To Lupe) There are some salad plates on the piano.”

* MARTA: Te quiero.
GOB: English, please.
MARTA: I love you.
GOB: Great. Now I’m late.

* “You just can’t do anything that violates the original painting, like giggling or itching. They do allow some nervous crying, but you can tell they don’t like it.”

* “Lindsay was so upset at Michael that she tried meditating to calm herself but ended up taking a two-hour angry nap.”

* “You’ve gotta remember, mom typically has nothing in her system except a bottle of vodka and an estrogen pill.”

* LINDSAY: He’s a never-nude.
MICHAEL: Is that exactly what it sounds like?

Okay, let’s be honest here: The entire never-nude montage is just hilarious, from start to finish.

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I also enjoy Tobias insisting “I am completely undressed” at the doctor’s office, prompting the doctor to take more thorough look at his chart.

* MICHAEL: I love Marta.
LINDSAY: Mom’s housekeeper?

* GEORGE MICHAEL: 100.
MAEBY: 100? I had you at ten.
GEORGE MICHAEL: I did some earlier in the day. It’s a running total.

* “Oh, please, I’ll never un…? I’ll never understand? That you can never be nude? I understand more than you’ll… never know.”

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George Michael’s response following Tobias’s hilariously slow walk out of the bedroom – “Yikes” – is also uttered by Michael in the exact same way when the painting reenactment is unveiled.

* “I shall duck behind the couch.”

* MICHAEL: How do you treat somebody in your own family like that? Lying and deceiving and saying anything just to get your own way?
Lucille: So, what did you want to see me about?
MICHAEL: Hmm? Oh, um… there’s a big bowl of candy in my office. Why don’t you go eat it?
WAYNE JARVIS: Wayne Jarvis, attorney at law. I have a responsibility to tell you that there is no candy in this office.

* Jason Bateman’s delivery on “Excuse me, Wayne, my sister and I were outside having a business discussion” is also fantastic.

* MAEBY: Okay, so I printed the fake airline ticket from my computer. If my parents miss this, I really might go to South America.
GEORGE MICHAEL: That says Portugal.
MAEBY: That’s right.
NARRATOR: Maeby’s parents didn’t find the ticket, but Gob did…
GOB: Portugal?
NARRATOR: …which confirmed his suspicions.
GOB: Going to live it up down ol’ South America way, huh, Mikey?

* LUCILLE 2: Are you ready to show me off before God and the whole world?
BUSTER: Well, it’s not my dad’s reaction I’m worried about.

* WAYNE JARVIS: I shall duck behind that little garbage car.
MICHAEL: Guy’s a pro.

* “There are dozens of us. Dozens!” – I don’t know what the most quoted line from AD is, but this would definitely make the top ten.

* “Buster arrived with Lucille Austero and naturally assumed the yells of disgust were directed toward him.” – This was another line I’d forgotten that made me laugh out loud upon rewatching. It says so much about the character of Buster.

* “THERE IS NO GOD!!!

* GOB: Michael! I’m on to you! The Spanish lessons, the lawyer. If you’re heading for Portugal, it’s due south.
MICHAEL: What? No it isn’t!

* BARRY: Are all the guys in here, you know…?
GEORGE SR: Oh, no, no, no, not all of them.
BARRY: Yeah, it’s never the one’s you hope.
GEORGE SR: …Hope?
BARRY: Think.

MINOR NITPICKS

* A cameraman’s elbow can be seen in shot when Lucille arrives at the Bluth Company offices:

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* Wayne’s attraction to Lucille isn’t really explained at all (beyond him yelling “I AM A MAN,” of course), nor is it ever brought up again after this episode.

(On the other hand, Barry Zuckerkorn’s constant flirting with Lucille makes perfect sense, at least when it comes to explaining why the hell the Bluth family keeps him on board – Lucille does call the shots, after all. Though I can’t help but find it a little strange that it took us 8 episodes to meet the family attorney when so many of the storylines in the show thus far have focused on the family’s legal situation, but I guess Henry Winkler must have a busy schedule or something.)

EPISODE NOTES & TRIVIA

* The episode’s title is a reference to both George Sr’s role in the painting reenactment, and the slogan printed on American money – of which the Bluths manage to lose even more by the end of this episode (“Oh, and you’re going to have to forfeit that bond. I was way off about that.”).

* This episode aired before My Mother, the Car. As mentioned in the previous installment, this creates some continuity issues, seeing as Buster and Lucille 2 first hook up in that episodes, yet are shown as somewhat of an official couple here. Gob’s theory that Michael is fleeing to South America also makes a little more sense given the events of My Mother, the Car.

* As mentioned, Henry Winkler makes his first appearance as Barry Zuckerkorn, a beloved side character who appears in all four seasons (albeit only for a single episode in season 3, due to him having picked up a major role on another series at the time). Obviously, Henry Winkler and Ron Howard know one another from their work on Happy Days. Zuckerkorn’s paralegal, James Alan Spangler, an openly gay man who has sued Zuckerkorn (and, in season 2, the army) for discrimination, appears infrequently throughout the first three seasons, and is played by Sam Pancake.

* John Michael Higgins also makes his first appearance as Wayne Jarvis, another recurring character who’s quite popular among the fans (damn, this might be the only show on tv where pretty much all the lawyers are likeable!). He would later become the primary prosecutor in seasons 2 and 3. Unlike Zuckerkorn, however, Jarvis does not appear in the fourth season. John Michael Higgins would also work again with Mitch Hurwitz for a post-AD pilot – a US version of the British political comedy The Thick of It – which was not picked up to series. From all accounts, it sounded like a train wreck, so that’s probably for the best.

* Patricia Velasquez also has her first speaking role as Marta (2.0) here, after a brief silent appearance in the previous episode. I’m guessing this may have been a conscious choice, to help transition between the two Martas as smoothly as possible.

* The Living Classics pageant is a reference to Pageant of the Masters, a real-life event held annually in California.

The painting the Bluths recreate is Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” a very well-known art piece:

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We also briefly get a glimpse of another group reenacting “Tahitian Women on the Beach,” a painting by French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin.

* Lucille keeps saying “he’s very good” in regards to Barry, which we later learn is actually Barry’s advertising slogan:

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This phrase would also come up again in season 2’s ¡Amigos! and Righteous Brothers. A Spanish language version of Barry’s park bench can also be seen in Burning Love.

* Gob’s brief scene with Marta marks another instance of the Bluth family’s poor Spanish. Their inability to distinguish between Hispanic people is also briefly touched on later, when Lindsay thinks Marta is the name of Lucille’s housekeeper. And, of course, there’s the gag with Gob and Maeby both believing Portugal to be in South America (and Gob thinking that Michael’s been learning Spanish to move there – they speak Portuguese in Portugal, Gob!).

* Gob calls Michael “the boy who lived under the stairs,” which the internet tells me is a Harry Potter reference. You learn something new every day!

* Michael utters the words “This must be a freebie” to Wayne Jarvis. A variation on this phrase would pop up a lot in season 3, much to my annoyance (it’s one of the few catch phrases in the show that’s neither funny nor clever).

* The line “that sounds like mom” was also uttered in the previous episode.

* Tobias’s affliction is finally explained, after the past several episodes gave us multiple confusing glimpses of him in his cut-offs. It’s some of the earliest foreshadowing (and pay-off) the show actually dabbled in.

* Michael and Lindsay’s adorable drinking montage is the first of several instances where the show would use time jumps to show the characters becoming increasingly inebriated. Season 2’s Spring Breakout (with all of the Bluth siblings and Tobias) and season 3’s Exit Strategy (with George Michael and Maeby) spring to mind as other examples, though I might be forgetting some.

* Tobias’s line about there being dozens of never-nudes is repeated (in a much more casual manner) in season 2’s Motherboy XXX.

* George Sr. makes his first escape attempt (of several) in this episode – and does so while wearing a wig, a plan initially established in Visiting Ours (“Give Pop-Pop your hair!”) and later utilised in his successful escape attempt in the season finale.

* Maeby says to Lucille “I don’t think you’re a monster.” In season 3, during Maeby’s story arc as a film studio executive, she later depicts Lucille on-screen as a literal monster in the horror film “Gangie.”

* This is one of the few episodes that does not feature an “on the next.” However, the deleted scenes indicate that there it was simply cut for time (unlike Pier Pressure, two episodes from now, which has neither an “on the next” nor a single deleted scene). The deleted “on the next” in question shows Buster celebrating New Years Eve on the couch with Lucille, who is giving him the cold shoulder after learning of his relationship with Lucille 2. There are also some deleted scenes from earlier in the episode in which Buster keeps calling other family members “Lucille,” including his mother, George Michael and Lindsay.

THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

* During the Christmas gathering at Lucille’s penthouse, Lupe can be seen wearing the following shirt:

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It becomes a small running gag throughout the first season (the implication presumably being that these clothes are discarded hand-me-downs from previous holiday gatherings the Bluths have held).

* When Michael says “no 40 year old woman does look like that,” he’s shot in a medium close-up alongside Lindsay. Some fans believe this is intentional foreshadowing regarding Lindsay’s adoption (and the fact that she’s slightly older than she thinks she is), though I’m not entirely convinced on that. They really didn’t start driving that home until season 3. Still, I’ve included the theory here for you all to muse over, either way.

* The Creation of Adam is actually reenacted unintentionally a couple of times by Tobias at the beginning and end of the episode:

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* When Gob says “Ugh, if I have to smell another meal of fish, rice and mango, I’m going to kill somebody,” Lupe can be seen in the background eating some food out of a tupperware container. She pauses after Gob’s remark and replaces the lid on the container accordingly.

* The M. Sabino guard uniform makes it second appearance:

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(See the “things you may have missed” section for Key Decisions for a more in-depth explanation of this one)

* Tobias can be seen eating a corn dog during his infamous “there are dozens of us” line. This was also a small running gag the writers did in the first season, putting a corn dog in Tobias’s hand during some of his most overtly Tobias-esque moments.

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THIS INSTALLMENT’S DISCUSSION QUESTION

I mentioned my issues with the “Maeby gets left behind” runner here, along with “that was a freebie.” Are there any running jokes in Arrested Development you dislike?

LINK TO NEXT INSTALLMENT

LINK TO PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT

LINK TO ORIGINAL DISQUS THREAD