Oh, Revisiting Arrested Development’s back? They just kinda threw this feature at me after Mr. Daniels had a stroke. I guess that’s the *grrrrr* of it!
SEASON 1, EPISODE 14: Shock and Aww
Written by Chuck Martin & Jim vallely
Directed by Joe Russo
Original airdate March 7, 2004
Michael’s romantic life is a well-mined source for story material in Arrested Development, though season 1 in particular is quite guilty of exercising the obligatory sit-com trope that is a revolving door of love interests for the main character. And so, after having struck out with Martha and Jessie, Michael finds himself briefly enamored with Beth Baerly (played by Heather Graham), who also happens to be George Michael’s ethics teacher. Heather Graham is far from the best actor around, but she does have a naturally charming presence that makes her well-suited to guest spots in tv comedies like this. While Arrested Development is certainly no stranger to big-name guest stars, Heather Graham is one of the rare few who’s only done a single episode of the show (and it seems unlikely that she’ll ever reprise the role). “Ethics” later becomes the main theme of the episode, as a web of dishonesty and revenge weaves itself around the characters.
Most of the revenge in question is delivered (or, rather, attempted) by Gob, who is still bitter at Michael for the events of the previous episode, despite the seemingly friendly resolution that capped that episode off. This begins with Gob setting Michael up with Nazhgalia, who is far from “conventionally attractive.” The jokes about the character’s appearance are, admittedly, quite cheap, though I definitely laughed at them as a teenager (and, while it doesn’t happen often, whenever the show features a male actor portraying a female character, it always adds a certain surreal quality to the show). Gob may very well be at his most despicable here, pursuing a high school student, sleeping with multiple women (who he describes as “dogs”) because he thinks Michael’s interested in them, along with the running gag of him receiving calls from women he doesn’t remember. Will Arnett normally brings a childlike vulnerability to Gob that makes his presence more palatable, but he’s playing it “full douche” for this episode, and as such, some of his lines here unfortunately fall flat.
There are, however, some interesting parallels between Gob’s plot and Lucille’s plot (Gob feigning attraction to various women to get revenge on Michael, Lucille feigning affection for Annyong to get revenge on Buster), and I also noticed that we once again have Gob and George Sr. both cheating on their respective partners in the same episode (as they did in Visiting Ours). The Lucille/Buster storyline also marks the introduction of Annyong – more on that in the episode notes below. I barely even register it as a joke anymore because it’s so deeply ingrained in my mind NOW, but the writers really did get some admirable mileage out of the joke with Annyong’s name, and had the good sense to retire the joke before it wore out its welcome.
With this episode being the first of the “back nine” (the last nine episodes of the season, ordered by the network after the initial thirteen episodes had been written), the writers come charging out the gate with the foreshadowing here, with multiple hints dropped about the Bluth family’s involvement with Saddam Hussein, generally in the form of Michael noticing similarities between photos of his palace and Bluth model homes (and, of course, the episode title itself). I definitely didn’t give these moments a second thought when I first watched this episode, and I think they play quite nicely as seemingly throwaway bits of surreal humour, though it’s the kind of thing the writers would have to play a little more subtly now, seeing as the fans are well-versed in their tricks at this point. This episode also marks the beginning of several instances where undercover feds are spying on the Bluths, which of course, ties in with the whole Saddam Hussein plot. The main plot might serve largely as a predictable (but enjoyable) standalone sit-com episode, but as always with Arrested Development, there’s far more than meets the eye, and it’s thrilling to see the writers really start playing the long game here.
MY FAVOURITE JOKES/MOMENTS
* “Well, maybe I’ll get a son who will finish his cottage cheese!” – I love how many major decisions Lucille has made on a rage-filled whim.
* LUCILLE: I don’t have the milk of mother’s kindness in me anymore.
MICHAEL: That udder’s been dry for a while though, hasn’t it?
* One of Arrested Development’s greatest incest jokes ever (and that’s saying a LOT):
* Michael and Miss Baerly laughing about the deaths of Mr. Daniels and Tracey always makes me smile.
* LUCILLE: Michael, the little Korean is here, and I don’t know what to do with him… At least I think it’s a him. You’ve got to strip them down to next to nothing before you could even tell!
MICHAEL: Yeah mom, I just spoke to Social Services and, although they don’t like to do this, if you can prove that it’s a bad environment for a child – and I would suggest saying what you just said to me, don’t change a word – they will take him back.
(Also, I LOVE Lucille saying “he’s out of control” when Annyong just takes his shoes off)
* “You know, I actually called Mr. Daniels and asked him, but he got all out of breath and dropped the phone.” – I’d forgotten about this, and it is a wonderfully dark joke.
* “Oh, great, another uncle to compete with.”
* This visual gag is easily the biggest laugh of the episode for me:
I LOVE what a shitty cover this is, and that someone thought it more practical and convincing than any of the other possible covers they could’ve used. There’s very little competence to be found from anyone in the Arrested Development universe.
* “George Michael. What are you doing at a high school dance?”
* This isn’t the first time I’ve said it, but I’m finding myself increasingly put off by the graininess of the show’s visuals during night scenes (this episode’s primary offender being the scene where Michael and Miss Baerly sneaking into the model home). The show had a considerably high budget for its time, so I imagine this was either a conscious decision (to compliment its documentary-inspired aesthetics) or just an unfortunate limitation of digital film equipment from 2003/2004.
EPISODE NOTES & TRIVIA
* A few episodes ago, I think I may have said we had the entire cast present for the remainder of season 1 – but evidently, I was incorrect there. Tobias is also absent from this episode.
* Nazhgalia is played by Iqbal Theba, who would later star on Glee alongside Jane Lynch, who makes the first of two appearances here as undercover government mole Cindi Lightballoon. I remembered Cindi Lightballoon being a much more prominent character than she ultimately is, but that’s likely just the power of Jane Lynch.
* This episode marks the introduction of Annyong (played by Justin Lee), who would be a significant recurring character for the remainder of season 1, and the first third of season 2, at which point, he is written out of the main cast. He would then resurfaces for a couple of short scenes in season 3, which are integral to the show’s mythology. He also has a VERY brief (and admittedly, totally unnecessary) cameo in season 4.
* George Michael’s delivery of “yikes” following his scene with Lindsay is a callback to In God We Trust, where he had the same reaction to Tobias revealing himself to be a never-nude.
* Lupe can again be stealing from Lucille’s penthouse in the background of a scene.
* Steve Holt also makes his first appearance here since his introduction in Bringing Up Buster.
* Michael and Gob go on their double date at a Klimpy’s Express; Klimpy’s having previously been visited by the Bluths in Public Relations.
* Despite the obvious joke with Annyong’s name being “hello” in Korean, another reason the writers opted for this was due to its written resemblance to the word “annoying,” which pretty much describes every new child character introduced into an established tv comedy ensemble.
* Gob says “I *beep*ed Nazbakalijan” the same way he also said “I *beep*ed Kitty” in Visiting Ours (and would later say about Starla, his unnamed wife, and Lucille 2 in various episodes in seasons 1 and 2).
* There’s a very amusing deleted scene for this episode where Maeby tells Lindsay not to believe everything she hears at parent-teacher night; the very existence of which is news to Lindsay. Lindsay follows this up with a comment about having not RSVPed, a question about who’s catering, and a remark about showing up for a quick drink. Maeby’s response is to ask Lindsay for her “best mother of the year” card back – which, of course, Lindsay never kept in the first place.
There’s also a brief deleted scene where Maeby walks in on George Michael making the Saddam Hussein collage, asking him for a Hitler-themed bird house, and George Michael muttering “I’m so over you” as she walks off, and another scene with Michael confronting Lindsay about her misunderstanding of George Michael’s desires with Miss Baerly (featuring a flashback with her pounding on the door, yelling “I want you to want me!”).
The first scene mentioned also contained a priceless explanation as to Tobias’s whereabouts for this episode: “Tobias was on trial for breaking a man’s sternum while giving him what turned out to be unnecessary CPR. Unfortunately, while demonstrating his innocence, he also broke the sternum of the obliging bailiff.”
THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
* Miss Baerly can be heard saying “minor crimes are punishable by brutally chopping off the offender’s hand” in one of her classes, continuing the show’s obsession with people losing limbs.
* Michael asks Lucille “Did you and dad adopt a child?” This could possibly be foreshadowing the revelation of Lindsay’s adoption in season 3’s Development Arrested.
* Nazhgalia and Shannon work at a military-themed clothing store called “National Garb.” It’s likely not a coincidence that the first episode where the Saddam Hussein references begin is also jam-packed with military puns.
* At Klimpy’s Express, an ad for coffee can be seen in the background, reading “Some Like It Hot! Some Like it Cold.” This is a reference to the film Some Like it Hot, which features men dressed as women (in a scene where a male actor plays a female character).
* George Sr. is again dealing in bananas, this time in the form of his Bluth Banana Jail Bars (also note the pun in “jail bars”):
* The undercover feds are operating out of a van labelled “Blendin Mobile Pet Grooming,” which is the first of several fake businesses they use under the name “Blendin” (a play on the phrase “blend in”).
The next instance is in the very next episode, where the Blendin Electric Company infiltrate the Bluth Company office. We also see Blendin Moving and Storage in season 2’s The One Where They Build a House, Blendin Catering in season 3’s Mr. F, and Blendin Floor Maintenance in season 4’s Off the Hook.
* The school halls feature a poster for Surely Bluth, setting up Maeby’s story arc in Altar Egos and Justice is Blind:
In addition to this, both Surely and Miss Baerly name also factors in to a running joke with character names (Baerly/Maeby/Surely, barely/maybe/surely).
* When Beth mentions that she’s met someone, you can see a kid (later revealed to be called Jeremy) stuffing a Saddam Hussein cupcake into his backpack in disappointment.
This is the same kid who later successfully asks her for a dance using the same tactic George Michael was planning to use. He can later be seen yelling “Somebody get her a cupcake!” when Maeby is posing as Surely in Altar Egos.
* Early in the episode, we see a flashback where Lucille signs the adoption papers, yelling “Well, maybe I’ll get a son who will finish his cottage cheese!” Later in the episode, Buster comes home to an empty house, and discovers this in the kitchen:
* The background music at the school dance is a remix of the Arrested Development theme song (you can hear it in the bass line).
THIS INSTALLMENT’S DISCUSSION QUESTION
Earlier in this feature, I said “There’s very little competence to be found from anyone in the Arrested Development universe.” Who do you think is the most competent character in Arrested Development? It’s undoubtedly a tough call, since even the best of them still have some undeniable blind spots (I mean, Wayne Jarvis briefly dated Lucille and spent most of his first episode ducking behind things, the Sitwells have entrusted the Bluths on multiple occasions, and while Lucille gets away with a lot, her family rarely ever buys into her crap).