While Arrested Development revolves around the Bluths and their crumbling business, the business is rarely at the forefront of any given episode’s plotline. For instance, Michael Bluth is no Don Draper—you’ll never see him giving orders to employees, and you don’t really have a handle on Michael’s day-to-day life in the office. The Bluth family business (I can’t even remember the company’s name off the top of my head) is more like Greendale Community College. It’s a backdrop, and the Bluths are legendarily bad at building houses, much like the main characters of Community are legendarily bad at school.
The Bluths’ incompetence in construction, though, is what kicks off this episode. Michael reclines in a chair that collapses. Blaming it on shoddy construction, Michael resolves to take a chair from work. George Michael questions this immediately, calling it stealing. Once again, George Michael is a quiet, unsure voice of morality, and Michael doesn’t listen to a single word his son says. He actually positions himself as morally superior, using the infalliable “I’m the one that taught you stealing is bad” clause in an attempt to end the argument. In typical Michael/George Michael fashion, the argument isn’t resolved. It just stops because Michael gets distracted.
Gob’s girlfriend Marta, whom Michael loves, shows up looking for Gob (speaking of Draper, Gob seems to subscribe to the Mad Men school of seduction). She wants to apologize for insulting Gob’s career as a magician, despite the fact that she did so because he terrified some kids by shoving a spike into his neck and yo, he’s a magician, for crissakes. Michael covers for his brother, who is off sleeping around. After Marta leaves, Lindsay tells Michael he’s too nice, and that’s while he’ll never be with Marta.
So one moment, Michael’s a thief. The next, he’s too good of a guy (Lindsay later offhandedly tells him, “You’re Mr. Moral. You can’t even take a desk chair”). Michael’s being ethically challenged, both in his business life and personal life. Initially, he passes one test: he doesn’t steal his brother’s girlfriend, though, you could argue that stealing a woman from Gob would be better for the woman in question, except Marta’s Hispanic, which in the AD world means you’re not a person.
The main plot of the episode, though, is that Michael attempts to fail morally and can’t. He tries to set it up so that Marta discovers Gob’s philandering at his magic show, which Michael sets up under the guise of getting Gob back into the Magician’s Alliance (yes, really). The show goes great, Gob gets back into the alliance, still gets to be with Marta, and views Michael as a hero for setting all the gears in motion. The cheating, lying thief wins everything, and Michael only gets a pat on the back for being so good to his family (that sentence probably sums up the entirety of Arrested Development). Actually, I’m wrong, Michael does get something: his stolen watch back from Gob. It may seem a small prize to you, but hey, it’s the only thing Gob’s ever stolen that he’s given back, so . . . victory.
As far as the chair? Michael steals it, straight up. Ties it to the back of his bike and rides it home, somehow. Eventually, George Michael tells Michael it’s okay to steal the chair, saying that Michael deserves it. Never mind that the reason the model home furniture is so terrible is because the company is so terrible.
The subplot of Lindsay becoming anti-leather and Maeby wearing nothing but leather (without her mother noticing) is classic Lindsay and Maeby. It’s also great because there is literally no discussion of the ethics of killing animals, except for probably my favorite line of the series. Lindsay says she’s anti-leather, and Maeby points out that she’s not a vegetarian. Then Lindsay says, “I’m not against the insides, people need meat to survive,” to which Michael replies, “You are aware that they don’t remove it from the cow surgically.” Other than that, no discussion whatsoever. Lindsay doesn’t even throw a wine and cheese awareness fundraiser. It’s a testament to how clever AD is.
Along similiar lines, this is the episode where George Sr. converts to Judaism. Religion is supposed to be our number one guide to morality, and the Hebrew God did say that adultery, lying, stealing, and dishonoring your parents were in the Top 10 list of Things You’re Not Supposed To Do. But the only issue George Sr. discusses all episode is whether or not it’s creepy for Buster and Lucille Two to date. Genius.