That Revisiting Arrested Development is some kind of something. Boy, this Revisiting Arrested Development is all anybody’s ever talking about. I’m so sick and tired of hearing about how brilliant that Revisiting Arrested Development is. Overrated!
SEASON 2, EPISODE 7: Switch Hitter
Written by Barbie Adler
Directed by Paul Feig
Original airdate January 16, 2005
Following several of the show’s all-time best episodes, we’re now in what most fans would consider to be Arrested Development’s weakest stint (at least, as far as the original Fox run goes). Look, this batch of episodes around the middle of season 2, perhaps most closely associated with the Sitwell arc that takes primary focus for episodes 7-10, is far from bad tv. It goes without saying that a sub-par installment of Arrested Development still usually makes for a great episode of television. But this stint falls notably short of the high bar the show’s set for itself, particularly coming off such a strong run. Having said that, I’m actually inclined to say that I believe Switch Hitter is unfairly maligned by its association with weaker installments like Burning Love. Because in truth, it’s a damn funny and well-written episode in its own right, and I dare say people only group it with the following episodes due to the large role the Sitwell family plays in all of them.
The unusual thing about this episode’s mediocre reputation is that it actually contains quite a few of the show’s most notable lines, scenes and narratives. Perhaps most significantly is Maeby’s storyline, where she successfully cons her way into a job as a film executive. It’s one of the show’s longest-running story arcs, continuing all the way through to the end of season 3 (and even leaving some lingering elements that carry on in the fourth season), and it’s fantastic to finally see Alia Shawkat getting some solid material to work with here, as far too often, she seems to draw the short straw. I get why her character is often overlooked – so many of the show’s plots revolve around the business, the family’s legal woes, and adult relationships, making it difficult to logically work the kids in. And while George Michael can be dropped into pretty much any situation and reliably deliver the laughs thanks to his perpetual awkwardness, writing for a character like Maeby requires a much more deft touch. In a lot of ways, this arc is perfect for her character, making use of the show’s LA setting and providing some excellent satire on the film industry (like just how quickly her Old Man and the Sea outline becomes a Spring Break-themed project starring Jude Law and CGI fish) – not to mention the prominent role it gives Jeff Garlin, who fits seamlessly into the show’s universe.
There may not be a whole lot to analyse in this episode (save from Gob’s relationship with Stan Sitwell, which provides some considerable insight into his character), but between Lindsay’s exploits on Teamocil, the power struggle between Michael and George Sr. and Gob’s misadventures at his new job, I’ve gotta say, Switch Hitter is actually pretty damn good (and this is coming from someone who normally doesn’t care for stories about sport). You may very well disagree with my assessment here, and I certainly can’t compare this episode to greats like Afternoon Delight – it lacks the nimble intricacy the show’s plotting usually embodies, making it a fairly standard exercise in tv comedy as far as the storytelling goes – but it does pack an abundance of laughs, perhaps even more than most episodes of the show. Just look at the size of the “my favourite jokes/moments” section below! Maybe some fans felt a little short-changed going from the utterly ingenious jokes of the previous episodes to running gags about things in the model home breaking yet again, but we’re still a far cry from, say, Martin Short puking over his shirt. All things considered, I don’t believe this season really hit a wall until the next episode.
MY FAVOURITE JOKES/MOMENTS
* MICHAEL: Our business is in trouble, and I think he sees an opportunity, so, I figured the guy’s a family man. Why not invite him over and let him see us in our element?
MAEBY: Well, I hope you don’t mean the whole family, ’cause George Michael’s off with Ann.
MICHAEL: Ann? Hmm. That’ll play well with Sitwell. Where’s your son? He’s out with Ann. Who’s Ann? Don’t ask me, I’m just the boy’s father.
* “So, you have to read this and then explain it, and this is important: you have to say it in my own words, okay? Smart, but not too smart. Let’s have a four syllable max.”
* After Gob accidentally pushes the fridge into the crevice in the wall, Tobias says “I believe in letting children learn from their mistakes, Michael. They make a mistake once, they shan’t make it twice.” And then this happens:
Afterwards, Tobias says “Don’t worry. It has not fallen into the garage. Knock on wood.” He then knocks on the wall, and we hear the fridge fall into the garage. (And, of course, when Michael asks if he’s going to help him fix it, Tobias immediately responds “No, I can’t.”)
* TOBIAS: I’m up for a minor but meaty role in a feature film. Confidence Man 2!
GOB: Oh, yeah? I didn’t see the first Confidence Man.
TOBIAS: No, Confidence Man 2 is my character. I think I’ll drive up today and plot my route to the studio.
MAEBY: How about I come with you? I mean, I could help you prepare.
TOBIAS: Yes, well, it’s for a con man, which I don’t think you know anything about. And besides, don’t you have school?
MAEBY: No. Um… today is “Help Your Dad Follow His Dream Day.”
TOBIAS: Great! We can take the carpool lane!
* LUCILLE: Look at what Buster sent from the Army.
MICHAEL: It’s blacked out.
OSCAR: Oh, the government. Keep… Yeah, keep reading.
MICHAEL: “Sergeant blank is treating me very blank, and it looks like I’ll be shipping off to blank in about a blank. I blank you, Mother. Buster.”
* Lucille and Buster’s magazine cover shoot:
* LUCILLE: Get me a vodka rocks.
MICHAEL: Mom, it’s breakfast.
LUCILLE: And a piece of toast.
* MICHAEL: He happens to be a very modest and generous man.
LUCILLE: Modest and generous? Then why is he always waving giant $10 million checks over his head every time some…?
MICHAEL: Go ahead mom, finish the thought. Every time some children’s hospital needs funding?
* GOB: One of those guy’s eyebrows just fell in the bowl of candy beans.
STAN SITWELL: I always carry a spare.
GOB: Well, I hope you also carry a spare bowl of candy beans!
* George Sr’s hilariously evil methods of beating Sitwell Enterprises at softball:
* Stan Sitwell offering Gob a job:
* GOB: He’s waiting for me outside. We’re gonna swing by his wigmaker. His “just woke up hair” is finally ready.
MICHAEL: You’re really gonna do this?
GOB: It’s ready, Mike. They’re only gonna hold it for 24 hours.
* MICHAEL: What do you think of when you hear the words “Sudden Valley?”
GEORGE MICHAEL: Salad dressing, I think. But for some reason, I don’t want to eat it.
MICHAEL: Right. But “Paradise Gardens…”
GEORGE MICHAEL: Yeah. Okay. I can… I can see marinating a chicken in that.
* Michael’s response when George Michael suggests Ann for his position…
“You should be playing the field. There. In right. You know? Plus, I got Aunt Lindsay playing this year. I can’t very well pull her off the roster. Let’s make Ann the backup, okay? Very good way to think about her, as a backup.”
… Followed by the utterly hilarious misunderstanding when George Michael says “Maybe now, I’ll get a kiss.”
GEORGE MICHAEL: I… Oh. I meant from Ann.
MICHAEL: …Yes, I know. I just wanted to get in there first.
* MICHAEL: I need to do this job, okay? I need to prove that I can do this job.
GOB: To who?
MICHAEL: To… you.
GOB: Michael, I’m your big brother. I’ll never be impressed with you.
* OSCAR: I feel that we’ve not brought something up that might be a solution, to spare my feelings.
LUCILLE: Send you in his place? I called, they don’t want you back.
* Some more excellent physical comedy from David Cross as he talks up the Fünke name at the water cooler:
* “Gob was both angry and overwhelmed by the approval from this new father figure. It was confusing.”
* Two of my favourite consecutive narrator interjections:
* MICHAEL: Looks like I’m gonna need that female backup player after all. And Ann’s really good at softball, huh?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Yeah, she’s amazing. You know, she’s got this low center of gravity. You can’t knock her over.
MICHAEL: Well, I could knock her over.
GEORGE MICHAEL: Dad, I’m telling you, you can’t. They call her “The Wall.” You know?
MICHAEL: Well, that’s great. But I could knock her over. I won’t, but I could.
* Another joke I’m amazed they got away with:
LUCILLE: Bill, they’re shipping my son Buster off. I can’t have that happen.
GENERAL ANDERSON: I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.
LUCILLE: Is there anything… I can do?
GENERAL ANDERSON: Maybe if you… go downtown.
…”I haven’t done that in 30 years…”
Lucille then proceeds to perform the song “Downtown” by Petula Clark.
(I was hoping to find a clip of this, but the only one that contained the full scene replaced Lucille’s singing at the end with an entirely different song for some damn reason)
* I love how utterly delighted Buster is to be screamed at by the military commander:
* MICHAEL: Why do you think he hired you?
GOB: He liked my ideas.
MICHAEL: They were my ideas, and no, he didn’t. He just wants you for the softball game, because he’s trying to make our family look foolish.
GOB: I knew you had bad ideas.
* “What? You two have been talking to each other? How come nobody called me?”
* LINDSAY: Michael, I could’ve sworn I just saw dad! …Or not. I think hallucination is one of those side effects of Teamocil.
NARRATOR: It isn’t.
* GOB: Screw him.
GOB: I miss him so much.
* I can’t quite explain why it’s so amusing to me, but I’ve always liked the totally context-free visual of Andy Richter talking to two identical clowns, saying “I’ve gotta fire one of you” just before Tobias approaches him:
* “Oh, I haven’t felt hands like that in years! You are coming to the front.”
* Lindsay is taking Teamocil in this episode, but in Best Man for the Gob, it was stated that Teamocil was discontinued due to the drug causing “complete pituitary shutdown.” It is also stated here that she’s taking it for the side effect of diminishing her sex drive, which was actually a side effect attributed to Zanotab in that episode.
* The montage of Gob sexually harassing female employees at company softball games is pretty rough to watch, even if Michael subsequently acknowledges that his behaviour led to the company losing multiple court cases.
EPISODE NOTES & TRIVIA
* This episode marks the first appearance of Ed Begley Jr. as Stan Sitwell and Jeff Garlin as Mort Meyers, both of whom would be frequent recurring characters (particularly the latter, whose total episode count is in double digits now). There are also a couple of considerably high profile one-off guest stars here; with J.K. Simmons appearing as General Anderson, and Craig Robinson as the security guard at the film studio. Andy Richter also appears for the first time as himself, in a couple of brief cameos. He would later return in a much larger capacity in season 3’s S.O.B.s, and the season 4 episodes The B. Team and It Gets Better.
* Maeby’s report on The Old Man and the Sea (and the film that winds up getting commissioned as a result) would come back later this season in My Hand to God and Spring Breakout.
* The fictional drug Teamocil was first introduced in Best Man for the Gob, along with Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family-Band Solution.
* Gob once again says he needs ice, a variation on a line he first uttered in the Pilot.
* Gob repeats his phrase of “Come on!” a couple of times in this episode (introduced in the previous episode, Afternoon Delight). George Sr. also says it in a flashback, implying he may be where Gob got it from.
* This is the first appearance of candy beans in the show.
* Gob does his token chicken dance (introduced in season 1’s Staff Infection) in celebration during a flashback to an old softball game, prompting George Sr. to yell “Your Tweety Bird dance just cost us a run, you moron!”
At the end of the episode, Gob gets animated in a visually similar way during a dispute about whether or not he was out, and George Sr. menacingly whispers “Stop with the Tweety Bird dance, you moron.”
In both of these instance, Gob loses a tooth and begins whistling when he says the letter S, a callback to the early episode Charity Drive.
* Gob continues to mispronounce words, reading item #32 on Michael’s list of business pitches as “Wireless ‘crapability.’ That one explains itself.”
* Ann is revealed to have yet another highly unflattering nickname: “The Wall.” Though, this time around, it’s George Michael who says it, rather than his father.
* This is the first instance of Maeby uttering her most well-known catch-phrase:
Its usage would become very prominent over the next season and a half.
* The deleted scenes show an alternate exchange between Tobias and Maeby when they’re outside the film lot in the staircar (following on from her “You can’t do a U-turn on your dream” line):
MAEBY: You have a much better chance of getting it if they know who you are.
TOBIAS: Well, tell that to my stupid agent!
MAEBY: You have an agent?
TOBIAS: Oh, no no no no, that’s just an expression. But once I get the part, I’ll be beating them off!
There’s also a deleted “on the next” where George Sr. moves from the attic to the basement, only for the show to then imply that a possum drives him back to the attic shortly after. Seeing as there doesn’t seem to be anything in the finished episode establishing a reason for the move, much less the presence of the possum, I’d wager there was likely some more supporting material from this that was cut from the script before it could be filmed.
THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
* The first scene of this episode has one of the most weird, abstract background gags in the show. Listen to the background music as Michael says “I think he’ll be pretty impressed, knock on wood,” after which Gob knocks on the wall and causes the frame around the tv to fall off (as it did in Let ‘Em Eat Cake).
Five seconds after this, we cut to a flashback of George Sr. sitting in the attic, with the caption “five seconds earlier,” and we hear the dialogue repeat as Gob’s knocking on the wall also causes an air duct to dislodge and hit George Sr. in the face.
Now, that’s all very clever, and totally in the usual vein of the show’s humour style, but here’s the weird part: If you listen closely, you can hear that same background music repeating very quietly under Michael’s line, with a muffled effect, as if the music was actually playing in the living room as it happened.
* The film studio has a banner promoting Homeless Dad!, the movie Tom Jane was working on in The One Where They Build a House:
(Side note: Is this the only time we’ve ever seen the staircar successfully clear a banner?)
* Gob can once again be seen rocking back and forth in his chair with a male co-worker in his lap to demonstrate a defect with it, as he did with Gary in Good Grief:
Between this, and Lucille saying “no one would believe that a woman like me would have a gay son,” it’s entirely possible that the writers had planned on questioning Gob’s sexual orientation much earlier than season 4, and were sowing the seeds for it now.
* You can always tell a Milford Park:
THIS INSTALLMENT’S DISCUSSION QUESTION
As mentioned earlier, this episode features a small appearance from Craig Robinson, just over a couple of months before The Office premiered. Are there any guest stars who got their break after appearing on the show who you’ve been surprised to encounter upon rewatching?