Revisiting Arrested Development – Season 2, Episode 2: The One Where They Build a House

We don’t have to do a Revisiting Arrested Development installment, Michael. Like you said, it’s all for appearances anyway. We throw up a couple of walls… We build a fake one. Nothing on the inside!

It’s…

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SEASON 2, EPISODE 2: The One Where They Build a House
Written by Mitchell Hurwitz & Jim Vallely
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Original airdate November 14, 2004

The One Where They Build a House may not often be cited as people’s favourite Arrested Development, but it’s still a very highly-regarded one nonetheless. Part of this is due to the impressive number of “classic” moments the episode delivers (ie. “Get rid of the Seaward,” “I just want my kids back,” “Egg,” and a slew of great sight gags with Tobias), though I think part of it is also just how quickly and comfortably the show slips into the tighter, more dense style that personifies its second season, following all the ground-laying of the season premiere. The show established a lot of new dynamics in the previous episode, with Gob being made president of the Bluth company, George Michael now officially in a relationship, Buster being signed up to the army against his will, Tobias and Lindsay’s open marriage, and Oscar moving into Lucille’s penthouse, and the show wastes absolutely no time in exploring those for all their ripe comic potential.

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With these new dynamics comes plenty of new story fodder, and this second episode of the season is all about characters adjusting to these shifts in the status quo. Michael unconvincingly insists he has no problem with Gob being president (after all, it’s in name only), but that facade quickly crumbles when Gob takes Michael’s well-thought-out plan to build a second model home and cuts the deadline from two months to a mere two weeks – a plan driven solely by Gob’s desire for the glory of the unveiling. When Michael pulls Gob aside to tell him this is impossible, Gob explains his plan to build a fake model home instead. This story about an uninhabitable building masquerading as a home is juxtaposed with two stories about people who appear homeless but aren’t, as Lindsay comes to find herself attracted by a man she believes to be homeless (but is actually the actor Tom Jane researching a role), while Lucille rekindles her love affair with Oscar, only for footage of them kissing on the beach to be mistaken for Lucille giving mouth-to-mouth to a homeless man. The latter story also involves Lucille and Oscar trying to hide their affair from Buster, repeatedly punctuated by a running gag of Buster seeing Oscar’s erect penis, which is really just prime Arrested Development when you think about it.

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I’ve mentioned before that Gob is my favourite Bluth, and it’s not just because he’s so often the funniest – he’s also a remarkably complex character. This is a man who grew up being ignored, dismissed and outright neglected by his parents, who wants nothing more than to be as respected as he believes his father to be (albeit without doing any actual hard work – an ideology that’s likely been instilled in him by growing up in a life of excess and privilege). Deep down, Gob’s personality is more like that of Buster’s – he was raised in a way that rendered him unable to develop the smarts, people skills and commonsense to really make it in the world, but through emulating the bravado his father feigns more successfully, he’s wound up living a faux playboy lifestyle (or, at least, some misguided version of it). In a way, his plan to build an impressive-looking house that’s empty on the inside is the perfect embodiment of Gob’s personality – it’s purely for show, driven by a desire to impress while cutting every corner possible.

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The One Where They Build a House isn’t a perfect episode, however, as its story is so jam-packed, the episode winds up skimming past a lot of plot points. For example, when the Gob/Michael rivalry reaches its peak, Michael sets out to, as the narrator puts it, steal Starla – Gob’s new “business model” – for himself; a plot point which is established and then abandoned in a matter of mere seconds, despite its potential to explore Michael’s darker side while also creating some interesting parallels to season 1’s Martha story arc (although the latter is briefly mentioned in a throwaway line by Gob). George Sr’s storyline also feels a little undercooked, though I suspect this was intentional on account of the payoff the show provides a couple of episodes later in Good Grief (more on that when we get to that episode). But the overstuffing is easily forgiven, as the end result is a gut-bustingly funny installment of the show, which also serves as an excellent companion piece to The One Where Michael Leaves (not just in name – the episode revisits a lot of the gags established in the previous episode, such as Gob’s inability to use the Bluth company phone and Gob impressing the simple-minded board with magic), and firmly establishes that the show’s increased level of self-confidence is indeed here to stay.

MY FAVOURITE JOKES/MOMENTS

* Lindsay excitedly waiting for Michael to finish talking, so she can say…

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(George Michael’s subsequent obsession with getting the diamond cream for Ann is also quite amusing)

* LINDSAY: Who are you going to bring to this ribbon-cutting dance?
MICHAEL: It’s not a dance, and you don’t need a date. Although… George Michael, I’d love for you to come with me when I cut the ribbon at the new house.
GEORGE MICHAEL: Oh, wow. Hey, can I bring Ann?
MICHAEL: Who?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Ann. You know, she’s… She’s the girl I’m kind of hanging out with.
MICHAEL: I haven’t met Ann.
GEORGE MICHAEL: Yes, you have.
NARRATOR: Michael had met Ann.
GEORGE MICHAEL: You let her in. See, that’s… That’s her right over there.
MICHAEL: Oh, Ann. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I know Ann. Hey, you! She’s got a little hard-boiled egg going there?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Oh, it’s so cute. She sometimes takes a little pack of mayonnaise, and she’ll squirt it in her mouth all over, and then she’ll take an egg and kind of… Mmmm! She calls it a “mayonegg.” Are you okay?
MICHAEL: I don’t feel so good.
GEORGE MICHAEL: You know, I kind of want to buy her a diamond.
MICHAEL: Her?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Ann. I know I can’t afford it, but Aunt Lindsay was telling me about this diamond cream…
MICHAEL: George Michael, I’m sure that Egg is a very nice person. I just don’t want you spending all your money…
GEORGE MICHAEL: Ann.
MICHAEL: … getting her all glittered up for Easter, you know?

* “Hey, look, Dad may have illegally built some homes in Iraq, which is kind of not cool…”

* GOB: Paper covers rock.
MICHAEL: Ah. It is a rock, though. It should beat everything.
GOB: There’s not a lot of logic to it. It’s kind of like on a boat with women and children first… *nervously laughs* I mean, why should they…?

* “I heard zoo noises.”

* GEORGE SR: Listen, I got to make this quick. You’re the only one who can save the family. But you got to keep the company strong, because I’m going to need some of that money later.
GOB: I will, dad… It’s funny, after all these years of you making fun of me for the magic shows, and…
GEORGE SR: Gob? Oh, for God’s…! I called to talk to Michael, you horse’s… *hangs up*

* “They even touched my Charlie Browns.”

* While I love the whole scene where Gob makes the “TWO WEEKS” announcement to the board, the hardest laugh for me will always be the face Will Arnett makes in this shot:

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* MICHAEL: We can’t build a house in two weeks. Also, I’m not so sure how “solid as a rock” helps people forget the fact that we built houses in Iraq.
GOB: I love that.

(Also, Gob still appears to be dancing when him and Michael walk out of the board meeting)

* Another hilarious visual moment from Will Arnett – Gob pointing to his own head when he says “Nothing on the inside”:

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* LUCILLE: I want you out of the house.
OSCAR: Oh, I want you everywhere.

* LINDSAY: Two weeks? But what if my dates aren’t available?
MICHAEL: I’m trying to get a last minute crew together, Lindsay. Your inability to get a man interested is not at the top of my list.
LINDSAY: Oh, I’ve got a man interested, Michael.
MICHAEL: What’s wrong with him?
LINDSAY: There’s nothing wrong with him. …He is homeless.

* “I’ve got someone for your crew, Michael. My boyfriend. The homeless guy. …I wonder if he even has an apartment or anything?”

* LUCILLE: You’re building a house. I want you to give it to him.
MICHAEL: It’s not a real house.
LUCILLE: Perfect, he’s not a real man.

* Apologies for the aspect ratio on this clip, but this was the only full version of this beloved scene that I could find:

* Gob rocking up to the construction site on his segway (on which he has replaced the letters GOB with PRESIDENT – only the P’s fallen off, so it just reads RESIDENT) and rolling over the flowers is another moment that makes me laugh each time without fail:

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* “My brother wasn’t optimistic it could be done, but I didn’t take ‘wasn’t optimistic it could be done’ for an answer!” (Then, a few lines later, the narrator says “But as it turns out, Michael was right to not be optimistic it could be done”)

* Gob twice bests Michael at rock-paper-scissors, which later culminates in a literal version of the game, featuring one of my favourite pieces of narration ever in the show:

“Gob charged at Michael with the scissors, but Michael, as he always did, picked rock, which beat scissors. Unfortunately, the whole incident was covered by the paper.

* MICHAEL: I really think the only reason you and I always fight is that since we were little kids, Dad’s always played us off each other.
GOB: Dad always said that was your fault.

* GOB: We almost did it, though, didn’t we? We almost pulled it off.

MICHAEL: No, it wasn’t even close.
GOB: Yeah, a lot of people got hurt.
MICHAEL: This was very, very bad.

* And lastly, this excellent reveal, playing on our expectations that Tobias will be once again camouflaged in blue:

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MINOR NITPICKS

* It is repeatedly mentioned in this episode that the Bluth Company is unveiling phase two of development. However, in season 1’s Staff Infection, the company was already on phrase three.

* The continuity team really dropped the ball on Tobias in the opening scene:

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* We see a photograph of George Sr. at the opening of the banana stand, dated 1963, but in the Pilot, it is stated that the banana stand opened in 1953 (this could possibly be a bit of foreshadowing that Annyong’s grandfather was the one who opened the stand, but Development Arrested seems to indicate that the Bluth family opened up a rival stand to drive him out of business).

EPISODE NOTES & TRIVIA

* This episode marks the first appearance of both Mo Collins (Starla) and Mae Whitman (Ann). Ann had previously been seen in the season 1 finale being portrayed by Alessandra Torresani, though Mae Whitman takes over the role from this episode onwards. This episode also marks the beginning of the “Her?” runner, along with Michael’s tendency to accidentally call Ann unflattering names.

* Cloud Mir Vodka (the product Lindsay was paid to promote in Public Relations) shows up twice in this episode – a bottle can be seen in Gob’s desk, and Tobias also uses a Cloud Mir ad to blend while following Lindsay.

* This episode has the classic “Get rid of the seaward” moment (in reference to Gob’s new boat), to which Lucille responds “I’ll leave when I’m good and ready,” thinking Michael said “Get rid of the C-word.” In the season 3 finale, we learn that Gob started living on a boat named “The C-Word” (it is unclear if it’s a different boat to this one, if he changed the spelling of the name at some point, or – perhaps most in line with the world of the show – the spelling was miscommunicated to someone who was repainting it) at some point after blowing up the yacht last season.

* Oscar’s erections are covered by a blue dot – a callback to Missing Kitty, when Gob assured Michael that George Michael’s face would be covered by a blue dot in the Girls With Low Self Esteem video.

* Lindsay says “You’re gross” to Tom Jane the same way she said it to Johnny Bark in Key Decisions.

* The Cornballer is, of course, from Bringing Up Buster (where it was actually established that the product was still available for purchase in Mexico).

* The tagline for Tom Jane’s Junk poster is a reference to the Sydney Pollack film “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”

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(Additionally, Les Cousins Dangereux is the movie George Michael and Maeby attempted to sneak into in My Mother, the Car)

* Gob once again announces he’s hooked up with someone by bluntly stating “I *beep*ed X” – in this case, the business model, Starla (who the narrator clarifies only made out with him). This runner’s been in a few episodes now, but it originated with “I *beep*ed Kitty” in Visiting Ours.

* Starla mispronounces Gob’s name as “Gahb” when introducing him at the ribbon cutting ceremony – something that had occurred before in Pilot and Storming the Castle.

* I had mentioned the strong Gob Bluth/George Bush parallels this season in the previous installment, which continue quite overtly here, as Gob also pre-emtively unveils a “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner:

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The banner would return again this season in The Immaculate Election. Additionally, in broader political references, Gob performs Howard Dean’s infamous “shout and punch” gesture several times throughout the episode.

* The moment where the house falls on (or rather, around) Buster is, of course, an homage to the performer of his namesake, Buster Keaton.

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* Buster’s line, “I don’t agree with your dirty doings here, but I will defend with my life your right to do it,” is a reference to the famous Evelyn Beatrice Hall quote, “”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

* This is the second episode in a row this season where Tobias has to go to the hospital, a running gag that continues in the very next episode.

* There are two short deleted scenes in this episode – one where Oscar shows Lucille the inside of his new house before the ceremony begins (which, of course, ends with them making out), and an “On the Next” where Michael decides it’s time to get to know Ann – only to walk in on George Michael trying a mayonegg, before quickly recoiling and leaving the room:

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THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

* The cut-off footage we see of Tobias’s Blue Man Group audition is a callback to the similarly shot and edited audition scene he had in the pilot.

* In the previous episode, Michael made a large hole in the model home wall with a sledgehammer. It’s still there in this episode (and, indeed, the entire rest of the season), but is now covered by a bookcase:

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Additionally, the pool room at the Bluth Company office now has multiple repainted spots on the wall, from Gob’s own sledgehammer-related shenanigans.

* When Gob buys a boat, there’s a banner hanging in the background that reads “Nothing creates the illusion of Success like a Boat.”

* We see a brief clip of Oscar moving into Lucille’s penthouse, dragging his belongings behind him wrapped in a sheet – the same way Buster did when Lucille kicked him out in Marta Complex.

* During Buster’s army physical, if you listen closely to the words Buster whispers, you can hear him say “My reproductive organ looks like a lobster tail, but without its shell.” Additionally, Buster also be utters the words “hole in my heart” at the beginning of this cutaway, something we learned about him in Storming the Castle.

* When we see George Sr. and Kitty together in Mexico, Kitty mentions that she’s eaten so many eggs (continuing the egg joke established with Ann earlier), claiming “it must be my unconscious desire to have a baby” – a plot point explored much thoroughly in the season’s penultimate episode, Spring Breakout. Additionally, the hybrid photo of a George Sr/Kitty spawn is courtesy of one of Lindsay’s failed businesses mentioned in Let ‘Em Eat Cake:

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* Kitty can be seen wearing a Señor Tadpole’s shirt, the restaurant she went to in Missing Kitty.

* When Michael asks Gob where George Sr. is, he responds “No way to tell, really… Portugal, down South America way…” Not only does this serve as a callback to My Mother, the Car (where we learned both Gob and Maeby believe Portugal is in South America), but it also continues the running gag of the Bluths’ inability to understand Spanish, as the Spanish operator can very clearly be heard saying the word “Tijuana” after George Sr. hangs up.

* George Sr. is tackled by federales and hit over the head with a baton the same way the cops repeatedly did to Oscar in the previous episode (in all instances, over a case of one twin being mistaken for the other). George Sr. tries to communicate that they have the wrong brother, by saying “Brothero, brothero,” proving again that no one in the Bluth family knows the Spanish word for brother (which was a major plot point in Martha Complex).

* I’ve not posted any screenshots of Tobias using his Blue Man get-up to go incognito, but it’s a really great gag that happens throughout the episode. One of the less obvious instances is the following, when Lindsay heads out to the club to try and meet someone:

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Astute viewers will also notice that the van is labelled “Blendin” (the fake name for all the cover businesses the feds use, seen in several season 1 episodes), which is doubly funny, since Tobias himself, is trying to blend in.

* Lucille’s pantry has a container of candy hearts, previously seen in Martha Complex.

* When Buster tries to look for a way to get out of the army, Oscar offers to cut off one of his fingers – establishing for later in the season that missing limbs/appendages can exempt one from combat in the Arrested Development universe.

* At the ribbon cutting ceremony, when George Michael mentions that he can’t find the diamond dust Lindsay bought for him, Michael responds “Your Aunt Lindsay has probably taken it. She’s just a taker.” He had previously called the family “takers” in Best Man for the Gob, though I think this throwaway moment serves as a great way to highlight Michael’s progressive change in character over the show’s run – immediately assuming the worst about his family, and being completely wrong about it.

* When Tobias disguises himself with the diamond cream at the end, he can be seen wearing the silver blouse Lindsay wore in the flashback to the bar at the beginning of the episode.

THIS INSTALLMENT’S DISCUSSION QUESTION

Tom Jane is one of many celebrities who plays themselves on the show. Do you have a particular favourite instance of this (aside from the obvious one, Carl Weathers)?

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