Revisiting Arrested Development – Season 1, Episode 18: Justice is Blind

Your Honour, the purpose of a court of law is to find the truth, which is why witnesses swear on this. After all, they say justice is blind. Surely, she has enough sight to catch the truth before it hits her in the face…

It’s…

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SEASON 1, EPISODE 18: Justice is Blind
Written by Abraham Higginbotham
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
Original airdate March 21, 2004

Arrested Development begins the second installment of its first two parter not with a “previously on,” but with a quick recap in its usual documentary style. It works well, and throws us right back into the middle of the action, with most of the plots resuming from where they left off. One new addition to the story here is Buster (absent in the previous episode), who attempts to collude against George Sr. to ensure he remains in prison. It’s a plot twist that perfectly encapsulates Buster’s childlike qualities – desperate to retain the status quo despite its glaring unpleasantries – though, unfortunately, doesn’t amount to much, as Buster’s sole purpose in the story is to inform Maggie Lizer that Tobias is breaking into her house. This isn’t a major issue in the grand scheme of things, however, especially seeing as the next few episodes put Buster to some of his best use in the entire series.

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The other new addition to the story is Lindsay’s newfound crusade to remove the ten commandments from the courthouse steps (which is, of course, provoked by her accidentally tripping on them and breaking her shoe). The ten commandments later come to serve as a framing device for the episode, which is a curious choice for a show about a largely secular family, but it ties in nicely with the moral quandaries most of our characters find themselves in here. And, of course, having the crane operator accidentally drop them on Barry Zuckerkorn’s car is the perfect cherry on top. Meanwhile, the storyline with Maeby posing as the dying, wheelchair-bound Surely Fünke reaches a bit of a hazy conclusion, as George Michael tries to put a stop to it but finds himself pandering to the same crowd Maeby’s deceiving the instant he is brought into the limelight, and I guess it’s just implied that she opted to kill Surely off shortly after these events. Though the lack of clear resolution here isn’t a big deal (to be honest, it’s something that only just occurred to me, so I can’t exactly say it’s been bugging me at all).

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As mentioned in the previous installment, the remaining Fünke is undoubtedly the stand-out of this episode for me, as Gob manipulates Tobias into breaking into Maggie’s house and destroying the evidence she has against the Bluths – a plan that turns sour when Maggie (who Tobias thinks is blind, even though the audience knows otherwise at this point) arrives home, and tries to catch him out without revealing her secret, eventually giving up on the subtle approach as she winds up taking a swing at him with a baseball bat. The image of Tobias slinking around Maggie’s house wearing her robe is one that will always amuse me, and David Cross proves himself a sly master of physical comedy in the process.

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Perhaps the most troublesome element of this entire two-parter is Maggie Lizer herself, who I’m still lukewarm on as a character over a decade after the fact. I’ve discussed my issues with her motivations in the previous installments, which is the main thing that keeps me from fully embracing her (and believe me, I want to – I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Veep, and her chemistry with Jason Bateman is undeniable), though there are other problems too. For example, I understand that her jokes are supposed to be terrible – the running gag with her touching Michael’s face wouldn’t work otherwise – but it can be a little grating to sit through a character constantly cracking bad jokes and laughing at them. I dare say Maggie Lizer is actually a little more well-utilised in her next appearances on the show (season 2’s two-parter, Out on a Limb and Hand to God), as the angle of making the viewer question whether or not she’s changed her deceptive ways is far more interesting than the series of increasingly implausible plot twists we’re deliovered here. Luckily, Justice is Blind seems to be focussed primarily on making the audience laugh (as evidenced by the notably shorter episode notes below), and in that department, it more than succeeds.

MY FAVOURITE JOKES/MOMENTS

* GEORGE MICHAEL: Surely’s dying?
MAEBY: I figure I’ll kill her off just before graduation just so everyone gets really sad before prom.
GEORGE MICHAEL: Maeby, someone’s going to get hurt. Not to mention it’s kind of disrespectful for kids who actually have this.
MAEBY: Not a lot of kids have B.S. these days.
GEORGE MICHAEL: What does that stand for?
MAEBY: I don’t know. It’s B.S.

* I love that every time Gob tries to break things off with his wife, he ends up reaffirming his faux commitment to the relationship. It’s a beautiful insight into the inner workings of Gob’s mind.

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* Also great: Gob referring to Maggie Lizer as “that prosecutie.”

* “Honey, they’re just heels. They can only support so much weight.”

* LINDSAY: I’ve always been very passionate about the separation of church and state.
MICHAEL: What are you going to do with them?
LINDSAY: Oh, I don’t know. Give them to a school.

* “I’m not sure that one made it down the mountain, Gob.”

* Barry Zuckerkorn mentions he had an interesting date with “a woman who actually works two jobs,” at which point, we cut to this:

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* “You’re right. You can’t afford to get caught. I don’t need my lawyer in prison. We’ll have Gob break in.”

* As mentioned above, David Cross knocks it out of the park with the physical comedy in this episode. I couldn’t find a clip of the actual break-in, but this is just as great:

* BUSTER: Uh, I want immunity for me and my mom and I want my Dad to stay in prison. Also can you send Annyong back to Korea?
MAGGIE LIZER: Huh?

* MAGGIE LIZER: Do you know anything about your father’s trips overseas?
BUSTER: I knew I’d have a fun time at home alone with Mom.
MAGGIE LIZER: Fine. Did you ever see him return from these trips with anything unusual?
BUSTER: He once came back once with a black statue with an erect penis. It stayed in our living room until my aunt objected.
MAGGIE LIZER: What about business associates?
BUSTER: I have none.
MAGGIE LIZER: All right, this guy’s wasting our time. Take away his grilled cheese!

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Another really funny detail here is how Buster leans in towards the microphone every time he is asked a question, and utters every response in a very matter-of-fact way, enunciating certain words in the process. He really does believe he’s giving them valuable information.

* BARRY ZUCKERKORNl: Something smells wonderful.
TOBIAS: Well, thank you. Would that I could say that I wore it to impress you, but, no, I’m afraid it’s merely a cloaking agent from a sadly blunderous afternoon.
GEORE SR: Who else have we got? What about Buster? Worst case scenario, he gets caught… no more Buster.
BUSTER: I’m not going anywhere. You’re the one who’s staying put. Not me. You!
LUCILLE: What’s gotten into you? Have you been eating cheese?

* MICHAEL: Are you going to admit that you were faking it?
MAGGIE LIZER: I think I’m going to go for “I was struck by the Bible and it restored my sight.”

MINOR NITPICKS

* I was always bugged by the scene where Officer Kelley approaches Maggie on the streets and she pushes Michael into the bushes, only for Michael to awkwardly step out and nod at Officer Kelley a few moments later. Knowing that their relationship could put both of them in serious trouble, why doesn’t Michael remain in the bushes? And why doesn’t Officer Kelley seem to have any reaction to Michael Bluth emerging from the bushes? I’m lost as to what the writers/directors were going for there.

EPISODE NOTES & TRIVIA

* As mentioned above (and in the previous installment), this episode and Altar Egos serve as a two-parter for the show.

* Maggie Lizer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) makes the second of her four appearances on the show here, and Gob’s unnamed wife (Amy Poehler) makes the second of her six appearances on the show. Also in the cast are frequent recurring characters Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler) and Annyong (Justin Lee), along with Judge Lionel Ping (Michael Paul Chan) making appearance three of six.

* Gob and Maggie both misquote the ten commandments, continuing the show’s running joke about characters misquoting or misunderstanding religious texts.

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Additionally, while my knowledge of Shakespeare is minimal, the internet tells me that Maggie misquoting the ten commandments is an allusion to Hamlet (she says a variation on “to thine own self be true,” advice the deceitful Polonius gives to Laertes, reflecting Maggie’s own deceitful behaviour).

* Lucille says that George Sr’s tie looks better on Buster, which could be a callback to her line about Tobias wearing Lindsay’s blouse in the pilot.

* Tobias’s catlike agility would come up a few more times throughout the series.

* Proctor – the guy who assists Maggie with her LSATs in the flashback – is played by Ping Wu, who appeared on several episodes of Seinfeld, often acting opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

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* Although this marks the end of Surely Fünke’s arc in season 1, Maeby would later don the persona again in season 3’s Notapusy – this time adding a fake nose to the costume.

THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

* The banner Surely tows behind her wheelchair reads “Surely Fünke rolling 4 Treasurer. I would run 4 it, but I can’t.”

* The cheque for Surely Fünke is made out simply for “Life.”

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* In the flashback scene with Gob’s wife, she gets upset with him fr not wearing the sweater she bought him. Over the course of this episode (and the next one), Gob can be seen wearing a series of garishly coloured sweaters in most of his scenes.

* When Michael and Maggie are in bed and keep trying to call off their relationship only to have more sex, Michael says “I was supposed to be at the prison to talk to my dad a half an hour ago,” followed shortly by another time jump with a “two minutes later…” caption, at which point, we cut to the prison with the following caption:

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* During the prison visitation scene, we learn that Gob switched out (what he thought was) the evidence with miscellaneous documents and magazines from the living room while Michael and Lindsay were discussing the ten commandments in the kitchen. If you rewatch the scene in question, you can indeed see that Gob and the folder disappear halfway through it:

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* Lucille has a line that hints she has far more involvement in the Bluth Company’s illegal affairs than the she lets on: “Well, it certainly looks like they’ve got a lot on us… uh… you. I was raising the children.”

* The interrogation room contains a board with photos of everyone connected to the Bluths (including the Bluth and Fünke family, Kitty, Annyong, Carl Weathers, Lucille Austero, Surely Fünke, and Marta – whose face is crossed out):

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Also visible is a “No Photo Available” image. Fans theorise this could be Tracy Bluth or Oscar (both of whom had yet to appear in the show), or possibly Gob’s wife. This could also be a reference to Mitch Hurwitz’s abandoned idea that there was a fifth Bluth sibling who did not give their permission to be in the show, and we’d occasionally get little hints of their existence.

Additionally, Tobias’s photo is one of his head shots from Visiting Ours.

* A cornballer can be seen in Maggie Lizer’s kitchen:

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* The crane that is used to remove the ten commandments from the courthouse steps is decorated with crosses:

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THIS INSTALLMENT’S DISCUSSION QUESTION

Are there any episodes on the show you wish could have been expanded to two-parters? Or, more specifically, are there any storylines you wish could’ve been explored over multiple episodes?

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