Ep. 1: Flight of the Phoenix


This episode sets up everything.  It also introduces Kristen Wiig & Seth Rogan as a young George Sr. and Lucille Bluth, both of whom are pretty good – Wiig being particularly great at mimicking a young Lucille.  As usual, Michael is fed up with his family, but this time puts his money where his mouth is and gives his shares of the family business to Lucille 2, making her a majority shareholder.  He uses the money he got from her to send George Michael to college at UC Irvine, form the Michael B. Company, and complete Sudden Valley on his own.  Unfortunately, the housing market crisis hits just as he completes the neighborhood, which just so happens to have no cell phone service or Internet and cable access.  Michael is forced to borrow an additional $700,000 from Lucille 2 and then hits an all-time low when his mailman Pete dies on his front lawn after saying “Love each other.”  He ends up moving into the dorm room with a mysteriously mustached George Michael, now in his senior year of college.  It should be noted that in later episodes, GM and Maeby are established to now be 22- and 23-years-old.  After getting voted out of the dorm room Survivor-style, Michael returns home, where he belonged the entire time.

I’ve seen a lot of comments on the Internet that this episode doesn’t feel full Bluth at first and I agreed until I rewatched it.  There’s a Forget-Me-Now joke within the first 5 minutes and it doesn’t get much more Bluth than that, right?  However, Michael’s sad sack storyline is a character journey that we’re not used to seeing him go through.  Suddenly, he’s as pathetic as Tobias and stuttering like G.O.B.  His inability to use his cell phone reinforces that he’s become like his brother/brother-in-law and his inability to let GM go shows Michael is in his own state of arrested development.  Without having to keep his family together, Michael was lost and without purpose.  We get a lot of references to old seasons (a loose seal joke, the Charlie Brown music), winks to the audience (Michael’s phone calendar is stuck on 2003), and a few new running gags (George Sr.’s confusion about whether or not tip African Americans).  On both first and second watch, I loved it.

Worth noting:

  • Another “loose seal”/Lucille mix-up.
  • Michael finally gets to go to Phoenix.
  • The mural in the Phoenix airport is a nod to all of our favorite things from the first run of the series: the banana stand, the stair car, the lighthouse from the boardwalk, G.O.B.’s yatch, G.O.B. on a segway, the Mexican church from ¡Amigos!, Wee Britain, a seal with a bow tie, and much more.
  • Michael says to George Michael and Maeby in the computer lab while discussing who was going to vote for him: “Then I’d fall down a flight of stairs and crack my head open and you’d feel bad about yourself for the rest of your life.”
  • A reference to the Bluth brothers’ poor Spanish skills: “Then it’s adios, brothiero.”
  • John Beard calls Lucille a “seaward matriarch.”  (She’ll leave when she’s good and ready.)
  • The Altitude article about Michael has the tag line: “Michael Bluth Is Praying You’ll Fix His Huge Mistake.”
  • Michael to P-Hound: “Have you ever been on a plane, you piece of beeeeep?” calls back one of my favorite old gags, “Have any of you ever even seen a chicken?”
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