Rewind: ‘Arrested Development’ – ‘Top Banana’

Episode Rewind:

Season 1, Episode 2: “Top Banana”—November 9, 2003

This is the one where George Sr. keeps saying, to Michael’s and our confusion, “There’s always money in the banana stand.”

Throughout episode two, Michael tries to get a hold of the Bluth company’s flight records. However, his father George Sr. continuously thwarts Michael’s attempts, seemingly because he refuses to relinquish control of the company to Michael. When Michael suspects the records reside in their family storage unit, George Sr. hires T-Bone (Patrice O’Neal)—a fellow inmate released from prison halfway through the episode—to burn down the storage unit.

Michael experiences ongoing frustration with his father for running the company from prison and not trusting Michael to take control. He wants to prove he’s not like his father, that he can relinquish control and trust his own son. So he makes George Michael manager of the family’s banana stand.

Michael also hires his niece Maeby to work at the banana stand, but the rebellious Maeby begins embezzling. To George Michael’s dismay, she steals money from the register, throwing away one banana for every buck she takes, so she and George Michael can ditch work to do other things.

After George Michael realizes he and Maeby have been doubling their losses at the banana stand, he panics and tries to burn it down. Michael arrives and realizes he put too much pressure on his son—like his own father had always done with him—and actually helps George Michael burn down the stand.

When Michael tells his father what he and George Michael did, we realize why George Sr. kept saying, “There’s always money in the banana stand.” He was being literal—$250,000 had been lining its walls. Furious with Michael, he yells, “How much clearer can I say there’s always money in the banana stand!?”

Commentary:

Fire is the through-line of the episode—a “fire” sale commercial for which Tobias auditions, the storage unit and banana stand burning down, and a flaming banana’s foster Lucille and Lindsay have for dessert (which interestingly foreshadows the banana stand burning down). The fire motif symbolizes the destructive behavior the Bluths inflict upon themselves and each other.

We primarily see this destructive behavior in the lack of respect the Bluths display towards one another. Episode two also highlights how this lack of respect is passed down from one family member to the next.

Lucille consistently criticizes and demeans Lindsay. Commenting on how much Lindsay ate at lunch (which realistically probably wasn’t much), she tells Lindsay that her belt is supposed to buckle, not her chair. It’s clear that Lucille’s snide remarks hurt Lindsay, but Lindsay doesn’t explicitly express the offense she feels. The only thing she knows to do is offer condescension back, because that’s how her mother taught her to interact.

Because of the lack of emotional support she receives from her parents, Lindsay has trouble offering emotional support to her husband, Tobias. When Tobias talks about being an actor, she snidely remarks that he’s never actually had an audition. Like Lindsay, Tobias has difficulty expressing his emotions, and quickly leaves the room to cry.

In a subplot, Tobias goes to his first audition—a commercial advertising a fire sale—which becomes another way for Lindsay to undermine him. Accompanying him to the audition, she ends up stealing the part without regard to how it will affect Tobias emotionally. Lindsay’s actions once again prompt Tobias to cry hysterically in the shower. Lindsay is completely oblivious to the pain she’s caused Tobias, telling her mother that Tobias is happy for her.

Similar to Lindsay’s disregard for Tobias, Lucille and Michael have no respect for G.O.B. They both perceive and treat him like a child. Lucille lectures Michael for not giving G.O.B. responsibility at the company—not because she has G.O.B.’s best interest at heart, but because she finds him obnoxious and doesn’t want him calling her to complain. She tells Michael to give him some little job to make him feel special, to which Michael responds, “But he’s not special,” with which, Lucille agrees.

While G.O.B. is the most irresponsible, immature, and the least intelligent of his siblings, his family’s lack of respect for him has likely locked him in this state of arrested development. G.O.B never received the emotional support people need to mature.

George Michael also doesn’t consistently receive the support he needs from his family, especially his father. As mentioned, Michael puts too much pressure on his son. Appointing George-Michael manager of the banana stand is perhaps pre-mature and gives the young teenager more responsibility than a kid his age should have. It’s clear that Michael’s behavior has induced ongoing guilt and stress within his son (i.e. George Michael panics and tries to burn the banana stand). This stress is also clear when George Michael tells his cousin Maeby, “They’re grown-ups, they’re allowed to have fun whenever they want. We’re kids we’re supposed to be working.” George Michael doesn’t realize that this perspective is skewed, that the adults in his family should be the ones working and he, in fact, should be the one having fun.

Continuing with our fire motif, we see how various members of the Bluth family are self-destructive. Lindsay brags about her job offer which will earn her $1000. She buys a lavish meal (prior to earning any money) and drinks to celebrate. She subsequently passes out, fails to wake up in time for the commercial shoot, and loses the job.

Next on the call list for the commercial, Tobias doesn’t hear the phone ring because he’s sobbing in the shower for the millionth time in two days. Wallowing in his misery, rather than openly expressing his feelings to Lindsay, ultimately prevents him from getting the job he so badly wanted.

And Michael, unable to let go of his frustration and anger with his father, helps his son burn down the banana stand in part to defy George Sr. Of course, he kicks himself upon discovering that there really was money in the banana stand.

Best Quotes of the Episode:

  • “OK we are just about ass to ankles back here Maeby, do you wanna hop on your cousin’s lap there, please?” Tobias, squished in the backseat of a car with Lindsay, Maeby, and George Michael.
  • “Then why don’t you marry an ice-cream sandwich,” Lucille, angrily to George Bluth Sr., who’s apparently so taken with the dessert he even discusses it on the phone from jail.
  • This exchange between Michael and George Michael:

Michael: “I’m gonna give you a promotion. Welcome aboard, Mr. Manager.”

George Michael: “Wow! I’m Mr. Manager!”

M: “Well Manager. We just say Manager.”

George Michael asks his father if he needs to hire an employee, to which Michael responds: “Don’t look at me Mr. Manager.”

G.M.: “Right, it’s up to me now. I’m Mr. Manager.”

M: “Manager. We just say—”

G.M.: “I know, but you just said—”

Michael: “It doesn’t matter who.”

Previous Arrested Development Rewind:

Pilot

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2 Comments

  1. I love that you focused just on this one episode. BECAUSE IT"S AWESOME!

  2. I once interviewed the 'flamer' in this episode, the late Patrice O'Neal: http://www.atlanticcityweekly.com/news-and-views/

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