Revisiting Arrested Development – Season 1, Episode 16: Missing Kitty

 

Where does Revisiting Arrested Development come from? What causes it? I think you need to look deeper. I think these are issues of self-esteem. I know what it’s like. I know how it feels to have a father, or in my case, a father-in-law who doesn’t respect you. Anyhoo, we have very little time before this “4:00 pounding” you promised me. I’m going to take a shot at something and say what I think you hate.

It’s…

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SEASON 1, EPISODE 16: Missing Kitty
Written by Mitchell Hurwitz & John Levenstein
Directed by Joe Russo
Original airdate March 28, 2004

As you can imagine, being an Australian in my 20s often means some cultural (and pop culture) references go over my head. Spring Break is a very American thing – other western countries do have some variations on it, of course (over here, we have Schoolies, also known as Leavers, which is a boozy week-long celebration that closes out the school year, though is exclusively for final-year high school students), but for the most part, my knowledge of Spring Break is limited entirely to what I’ve seen in movies and tv shows. Nevertheless, I’d say I know enough about it to find it strange that Arrested Development did not one, but two episodes on Spring Break, seeing as its main cast doesn’t really contain anyone of the appropriate age for it. I suppose it works largely due to the show’s Orange County setting, but at any rate, it’s easy to overlook, as both episodes in question are fantastic (though, personally, I’m more partial to the second episode, season 2’s Spring Breakout).

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It’s difficult to pinpoint a unifying theme for this episode. Distrust and shaky family relations among the Bluths, general financial issues, problems with the Bluth company, and the family’s ongoing legal concerns all come into play here, but those are all recurring story themes for the show in general. Missing Kity, however, does seem to be an episode largely focused on moving the story forward – particularly in regards to Kitty, the show’s recurring agent of chaos, who I believe the writers planned to be a much more vital character to the show’s ongoing narrative than she ultimately became in the later seasons (more on that in the “Things You May Have Missed” section). We get our most obvious hints to date in regards to George Sr’s shady dealings with a certain Iraqi dictator, and some more character exploration, the highlight of which being the relationship between George Michael and Gob. The journey there is a bit messy, but it eventually all comes together when everything pivots around to Gob’s epic Spring Break trick – which may be the only time we see Gob successfully execute one of his “illusions” (and, seeing as the yacht he destroys is insured for more than it’s worth, this may be the ONLY episode of the series where the Bluths end up with more money than they started with!). It’s difficult to summarise Missing Kitty coherently, as so much happens in this episode, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most important installments of the first season.

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If I’ve one gripe about this episode, it’s Tobias’s storyline. The plot does indeed contain some gold (such as the amazingly dark moment where White Power Bill kills himself, Tobias’s rise to prison kingping “Dorothy,” and the hilarious bonding moment between Tobias and George Sr.), but the Frightened Inmate #2 storyline just kind of fizzles out after Tobias’s ill-conceived epiphany that Frightened Inmate #2 is, in fact, angry. The deleted scenes for this episode contain a much more satisfying conclusion to the multi-episode story arc, where we see Tobias on set repeatedly playing the character as angry, and the increasingly frustrated director eventually fires him. To the show’s credit, they do mention that Tobias was fired from the role much later in the series, but I still wish they could’ve made room for even an abridged version of this deleted scene; they could’ve cut the “on the next” scene with the cops, for example, as the later episode Not Without My Daughter renders it redundant. Still, this is a small gripe in an overall excellent installment of Arrested Development.

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MY FAVOURITE JOKES/MOMENTS

* The opening sequence with George Michael and Gob is great. I will always be amused by Gob screwing up magic tricks, and George Michael’s enthusiastic fascination with his magic just delights me to no end (along with Gob claiming it’s a new trick, followed shortly by a flashback of him doing the exact same trick one year earlier).

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* MICHAEL: Kitty, these are not the files I asked for.
KITTY: Oh, then I don’t know what I shredded.

* LINDSAY: Speaking of which, have we gotten anything from Nana?
MICHAEL: Buster got a perforated heart and Gob got that receding hairline, but you and I pretty much dodged a bullet.

(Michael’s line here is also a reference to Storming the Castle, where we first learn about the literal hole in Buster’s heart)

* The “DROP THE PIE!” moment is very comical, though my favourite detail is the fact that it took Maeby and Lindsay 90 minutes to figure out that the woman they were visiting wasn’t their nana.

* The whole scene with Michael and Kitty in the office is just fantastic – from Kitty’s lopsided nipples (another gag I’m amazed they got past the Fox censors), to the introduction of “’cause it’s the last time,” and Michael’s capper of “That’s, like, the seventh nipple I’ve seen today.”

* “In fact, Tobias had even produced a videotape, but its brief success was due to its misleading name. Once this was discovered, all but ten of the videos were returned.”

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(I think the fact that ten customers actually kept their tapes is my favourite detail here)

* ANNYONG: Annyong.
LUCILLE: That’s not getting old.

* During Kitty’s outburst at the restaurant, John Beard ducks out, muttering “I’ve got to get out of here. I’m part of the story. I can’t be a part of the story. I can’t be a part of the story.” We then smash cut to this:

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* GEORGE MICHAEL: *picks up phone* Good afternoon, Bluth Company. Talk you off? Talk you off of what, Pop-Pop?
GEORGE SR: George Michael… Oh. Hey, I thought you were… When’s that voice going to drop? Where’s Kitty?
GEORGE MICHAEL: I think Dad fired her again. He wants to talk to you.
MICHAEL: Well, I don’t want to talk to him. I made my decision and that’s that.
GEORGE MICHAEL: You heard? Yeah, all right. *hangs up phone*
MICHAEL: What’d he say?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Well, if I clean it up, it’s not really a sentence.

(There’s a callback later in the episode to George Michael’s awkward phone encounter with George Sr, where we learn George Michael has since started answering the phone with “Bluth Company, George Michael speaking, not Kitty.”)

* I talked about this pretty thoroughly in my write-up for Storming the Castle, but to reiterate – I will never get sick of Gob dancing around on stage to The Final Countdown.

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* I LOVE that Lucille tries to convince Gob he killed nana. The moment’s short-lived, but the mere fact that Lucille tried to pull that move is amazing on so many levels.

* Additionally, while I’m not particularly fond of the runner that no one believes Michael has the ability to fire people, I do love the capper, where we learn not even George Michael thought he had hiring-and-firing power. Especially seeing that this is the same kid who, earlier in this episode, referred to one of Gob’s magic tricks as “an awesome mind puzzle.”

MINOR NITPICKS

* Tobias says to George Sr. that he’s been in the family for 16 years, but him and Lindsay were celebrating their 14th anniversary in Marta Complex. It is possible, however, that Tobias was including the period of time when him and Lindsay were dating but not yet married.

* The “on the next” reveals that Annyong is actually 18. While the revelation itself was mainly intended as a clue that there’s more to Annyong than there seems to be, I’m disappointed the writers never did more with the fact that Annyong can already access the trust fund Lucille sets up for him in this episode – especially seeing as he is deported in season 4 due to his dire financial situation.

EPISODE NOTES & TRIVIA

* This was broadcast as the 18th episode of the season, with the Altar Egos/Justice is Blind two-parter airing between Staff Infection and this episode, resulting in more continuity errors (namely Tobias’s arc, seeing as he’s no longer in prison during the aforementioned two-parter, and of course, Gob’s lack of a wife in this episode).

* Buster does not appear in this episode.

* Quite a lot of recurring characters appear in this episode – Judy Greer’s Kitty Sanchez (making her first appearance since Charity Drive), James Lipton’s Stefan Gentles, and John Beard as himself, along with Lupe (BW Gonzalez), Annyong (Justin lee), White Power Bill (David Reynolds), Little Justice (Alden Villaverde), and the first ever appearance of Officer Taylor (aka “the white cop,” played by Jay Johnston), though he is paired up with a different partner here.

* The gag with Gob getting paint on Michael’s shirt would later be repeated with Tobias in the season 2 premiere, The One Where Michael Leaves.

* Lindsay and Maeby both demonstrate their well-established mathematic skills (or, more accurately, their lack thereof) when they’re discussing how to split nana’s birthday cheque for Maeby.

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* “Girls With Low Self Esteem” is a parody of the real-life “Girls Gone Wild” video series, where camera crews get inebriated college-aged women to expose themselves and perform sex acts on camera in exchange for t-shirts. While I can’t deny the name “Girls With Low Self Esteem” is quite amusing, I definitely find it troublesome that the target of the joke here seems to be the subjects of the videos themselves rather than the scumbags who profit off them, though I do feel this is largely rectified when the videos are later revisited in season 2’s Spring Breakout.

* This episode marks the first mention of George Sr. having a twin brother (though Oscar wouldn’t appear – nor even be referred to by name – until the season’s third-to-last episode, Whistler’s Mother).

This is also the first instance of George Sr. referring to Kitty simply as “Crazy.”

* Kitty can be seen wearing a Cloudmir Vodka shirt during her meet-up with Michael at the restaurant; Cloudmir being the brand of vodka Lindsay was payed to sponsor in Public Relations.

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Additionally, multiple Cloudmir signs can also be seen at Gob’s magic show.

* Gob mentions that the Girls With Low Self Esteem producers would be covering George Michael’s face with a blue dot. Blue dots later become the go-to form of visual censorship for Arrested Development in season 2 (namely in The One Where They Build a House).

* Tobias earns the name “Dorothy” after he inadvertently causes White Power Bill to commit suicide, a reference to The Wizard of Oz. This mostly serves as a source of gay jokes for Tobias in this episode, with Little Justice referring to himself as a “friend of Dorothy” (a slang term from the 1950s for homosexual men), and Tobias singing (a botched version of) Somewhere Over the Rainbow – rainbows being a popular symbol for the LBGT community. And, while it’s largely a tired stereotype, it’s probably also worth noting the cultural associations between The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland and gay male culture in general.

* Gob effectively destroys his home in this episode, creating a new mystery that fans would speculate over for the remainder of the Fox run: Where is Gob living now? This question would not be answered until the season 3 finale, Development Arrested.

THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

* Arrested Development’s version of MTV is called “YOM,” which I’m guessing stands for “Youth Oriented Music.”

* Kitty frequents a restaurant named Señor Tadpole’s (the logo of which later appears on a shirt Kitty’s wearing in The One Where they Build a House, and the restaurant itself serves as the setting of a couple of scenes in Spring Breakout). The name of the restaurant serves as a reference to the Mexican-themed bar and grill chain Señor Frog’s, but also functions as foreshadowing for Kitty’s storyline in season 2, when she’s trying to steal George Sr.’s frozen semen (or, you know, his “tadpoles”).

We’re going off track a bit now, but screw it, the plot with Kitty and George Sr’s semen is another story arc that just kind of fizzles out, and I think it’s largely due to Fox reducing the show’s episode order and then cancelling it. In season 3’s Exit Strategy, the Saddam Hussein lookalikes mention that they wanted to keep their house for one more season, citing that one of them had a baby on the way. Seeing as the semen storyline is the only baby-related narrative the show had established at this point, I took that line to suggest that Mitch Hurwitz’s plan for the show originally consisted of four seasons, and that an important storyline in the fourth season would’ve involved Kitty and George Sr’s baby. I may be totally wrong here, but I figured I’d mention my theory while I was on the subject.

* When Kitty gets in the elevator, we see a man holding a large jug of water – a possible pun about Kitty’s large “jugs?”

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* When George Michael takes Maeby’s advice and ditches work to visit Gob, Gob can be seen rigging the yacht with explosives:

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* Gob begins the disappearing yacht trick with the following spiel: “Any magician can make the queen of diamonds disappear. But what about a whole boat?!” Could this possibly be foreshadowing Lucille trying to disappear in the Queen Mary?

* During the magic show, Annyong flinches every time an on-stage explosion can be heard – a hint about Annyong’s pre-California life, perhaps?

* This episode contains one of the most frequently-cited examples of Arrested Development’s sly foreshadowing, in the form of the cooler of evidence labelled “H. MADDAS” – which, backwards, reads “SADDAM H”). The show does clue us in by staging its first appearance in front of a mirror, though the stenciling appears to read “H. MADDAZ” in this instance, in an unfortunate continuity error. Still, it’s one of my favourite hidden details in the show:

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Some fans have also raised concerns about the fact that George Sr. is desperate to destroy the evidence in this episode, yet in season 2’s Spring Breakout, is instead desperate to recover the evidence. This might actually make sense though, as the evidence could confirm he is guilty of embezzlement – the main charge he’s facing at this point – yet still clear him of treason.

THIS INSTALLMENT’S DISCUSSION QUESTION

Following up on my first paragraph about the cultural dissonance of Spring Break: Is there anything in Arrested Development that goes completely beyond your frame of reference? Now, obviously, AD’s fanbase doesn’t consist entirely of narcissistic socialites going through legal difficulties, but in terms of cultural/pop culture references, does anything stand out as being particularly alienating for you? For example, my age often means that a lot of the older tv show references initially went over my head (granted, I’ve done enough research that I can say I’m probably more knowledgeable on the subject than most people my age, but there still isn’t a whole lot of pre-90s television I’ve watched first hand).

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