Original airdate March 28, 2004
Written by John Levenstein & Mitchell Hurwitz
Directed by Joe Russo
Production Code #1AJD15
“It’s Spring Break in Orange County, and Gob plans on fulfilling a promise he made the previous year, by making the family yacht disappear. Enchanted by his uncle’s magic, George Michael begins spending his school holidays with Gob, until Michael objects and puts his son to work at the Bluth Company, replacing Kitty after he fires her. But when George Sr. reveals that Kitty has information potentially damaging to the business, Michael soon finds himself trying to get Kitty back. Life at the prison becomes equally lopsided when Tobias has a striking breakthrough with his new roommate, while the other members of the Fünke family make a startling discovery when trying to track down Lindsay’s nana.”
NOTE: Deconstructing Arrested Development openly discusses spoilers when relevant (which can include episodes that come later in the series). Readers who have not seen the series in its entirety are advised to proceed at their own discretion.
Arrested Development is no stranger to holiday episodes, having already covered Christmas and Valentine’s Day at this relatively early point in its run – both of which are sit-com staples. But Spring Break initially seems like a far less obvious choice for the genre, particularly when none of a show’s main characters really fall into the appropriate age group for the festivities. It becomes far more logical when one considers Arrested Development’s setting, however; with Newport Beach, Orange County being a prime location for party-goers, it’s safe to assume many people who reside there would be affected by Spring Break, regardless of their participation. Missing Kitty is actually the first of two Spring Break episodes for Arrested Development; the other – season 2’s Spring Breakout – effectively serves as a sequel to Missing Kitty in many ways. In addition to this, the penultimate episode of season 1, Not Without My Daughter, is also something of a follow-up to this episode. One would think, given the nature of the event, that an episode revolving around Spring Break would be a mostly fun, throwaway affair. But while Missing Kitty is indeed fun, it would also come to be one of the most important episodes in the show’s ongoing narrative. In fact, it does more to set up season 1’s endgame than any other episode – the kind of installment that, if missed, would leave a lot of blank spots in one’s comprehension of the story for future episodes.
As per other holiday episodes, this is not a Spring Break “special,” but rather, an episode that happens to be set during the occasion. This isn’t to say that Missing Kitty could’ve been set at any other time of year – not without some serious rewriting – but the festivities aren’t the focal point of the story. Rather, Spring Break is a means to an end, giving Gob the incentive for putting on an elaborate magic show, and the perfect excuse to be at his creepiest around George Michael, who himself has a reason to be out of school. It also serves as the motivation for many of Kitty’s actions here – but while Kitty’s storyline is of greater significance to the show’s overarching narrative, it’s the Michael/George Michael/Gob narrative that serves as Missing Kitty’s emotional crux. With two weeks off, George Michael has started spending more time with his uncle, whose typically sleazy behavior is only amplified by the occasion; having recently been shown pursuing an 18 year old girl in Shock and Aww, Gob’s conduct here is downright predatory (and perfectly in line with what we know about him). Nonetheless, George Michael finds himself genuinely inspired by Gob’s promise to make the family yacht disappear; referring to it as an “awesome mind puzzle” with unbridled wonder. It’s a promise Gob initially makes without Michael’s permission, but with Michael now looking to separate uncle and nephew, Gob takes advantage of his concern, promising to honor Michaels’ wishes in exchange for full use of the yacht.
Michael is, in many ways, a “helicopter parent,” albeit one with a lot of blind spots; he spends far more time telling his son what to do than he does actually listening to him. While Michael’s concerns about Gob’s influence are legitimate, George Michael isn’t anywhere near as impressionable as his father believes him to be. After all, this is the rare teenage boy who’ll direct all of his attention at a shirt in a hat when a nearby girl is about to expose herself. He isn’t even deterred by Gob’s failure to pull off a card trick (“Yeah, well, he hasn’t done it, and you’re holding a four of spades in your hand”), and the next time it’s performed, he can barely contain his excitement enough to let Gob do his patter. But rather than sitting down with George Michael and discussing his concerns about his uncle’s way of life, Michael flat-out forbids Gob from seeing him, and instead puts George Michael to work at the Bluth Company, filling in for a recently fired Kitty. It’s a parenting decision that actually prompts George Michael to break the rules in ways he normally wouldn’t, and almost gets him blown up in the process. The fact is, George Michael’s a good enough kid that he reaches all the right conclusions about Gob on his own; simply glimpsing the aftermath of a yacht party is enough for George Michael to decide this lifestyle isn’t for him. He even returns to work on his own accord, before Michael mercifully tells him “You’re fired” – a phrase he twice says to Kitty at earlier points in this episode. And as it turns out, the concern Michael has for his son is not only unfounded, George Michael isn’t even the Bluth Company secretary he should really be worrying about.
Missing Kitty marks Kitty’s first return since the show’s early episodes, and she’s undergone some physical changes since then – the episode drawing our attention to a character’s chest for the second time, after having done so with Gob in the opening scene. The image of Kitty’s visibly lopsided nipples poking through her top is an inspired gag, and must’ve made for an amusing conversation with standards & practices. It’s the kind of joke that Arrested Development truly excels at; a lowbrow gag executed in a clever way, while also making you wonder how it ever made it past the censors. While Kitty’s scenes in Visiting Ours (her introductory episode) were undoubtedly memorable, this really does feel like the episode where she “becomes” Kitty. This could largely be chalked up to the fact that, up until now, she’s been characterized largely by three things: Her affair with George Sr, her attraction to Gob, and her distaste for Michael. Missing Kitty isn’t just a reintroduction to Kitty in the sense that she’s been absent for the past ten episodes, it’s where most of her defining personality traits emerge. Arrested Development doesn’t have many antagonists (in the sense that, more often than not, it’s the Bluths themselves doing the antagonizing), but Kitty definitely comes to fits the bill by the end of this episode, as what starts out as a firing for insubordination quickly sends her off the deep end.
The warped logic of Kitty’s mind makes her ever the entertaining character, and while Judy Greer is a legitimately great actress in her own right, she’s at her absolute funniest when playing things “full crazy” (her role as Kitty actually led to her being cast as an unhinged secretary in the animated FX series Archer, which also stars Jessica Walter as a character heavily inspired by Lucille Bluth, in addition to recurring characters voiced by Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross). The Arrested Development writers must’ve realized this early on, seeing as they lean into Kitty’s crazy side in almost all her subsequent appearances. Kitty is an ever-reliable plot device, largely because Greer playing unhinged is a guaranteed laugh generator. Her delivery of “Michael Bluth is threatening me,” for example, is the kind of line reading that cements itself in one’s mind. While it’s generally law enforcement types who come gunning for Bluths, Kitty is instead an unpredictable loose cannon; an agent of chaos on a quest for vengeance, and a wrench the writers can throw into the works whenever they need to make the Bluths’ lives a little more complicated. Kitty is the kind of character that could be likened to, say, The Simpsons‘ Sideshow Bob or Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Pontiac Bandit – a big personality who sporadically shows up to wreak havoc for the main characters. Only, unlike these other examples, Kitty is thankfully deployed on a more frequent basis than once a season.
Gob’s magic show and Kitty’s firing are so heavily intertwined, they each make up the episode’s A plot. If there’s a common theme between these plot threads, it’s that Michael is seeking respect; he wants Kitty to respect his authority, just as he wants George Michael and Gob to respect his wishes not to see one another. It’s a common theme for Michael’s storylines in the show (particularly the episodes that concern the Bluth Company), and here, it also carries over into the episode’s B plot. Picking up right where the story arc left off in Staff Infection, Tobias attempts to give counsel to his new cellmate, White Power Bill, which results in his suicide. Tobias quickly becomes a heavy-hitter in Orange County Prison, and uses his influence to literally buy George Sr’s time; poetic justice for a man who recently sold Tobias for a pack of cigarettes. With the newfound confidence of a prison kingpin, Tobias confronts his father-in-law about his ongoing hostility towards him, in an attempt to finally get some respect himself. As mentioned in the previous deconstruction, Tobias and George Sr. don’t share a lot of one-on-one time together, and their scenes here really get to the root of why that’s so. When forced to address the son-in-law George Sr. “once tried to shove out of a moving car,” he exhibits a rare moment of openness, telling Tobias “I do hate you. You took my daughter, my precious little girl and moved her away, and now I’m here and I’m afraid I will never get her back.”
For better or worse (it’s worse), George Sr. has always put Lindsay on something of a pedestal – as we’d previously seen in My Mother, the Car – so it makes sense that she would prove a particular point of emotional vulnerability for him. Tobias isn’t exactly a person anyone would want to have in their family, but that goes doubly so for George Sr. when his “precious little girl” is involved. As the show often communicates to us, the Bluths genuinely do care about each other, they just do so in very unhealthy ways; in this case, George Sr’s love for Lindsay manifests itself as hate for her husband. George Sr. is probably never going to like Tobias, but the fact that he’s admitted the root of his problems with him is a genuine breakthrough in the pair’s prickly relationship nonetheless (laying the groundwork for when they eventually team up in season 2’s Motherboy XXX and Sword of Destiny). And in typical fashion, any moments of personal catharsis here are immediately undercut by Tobias, who takes away the wrong lesson entirely from his extreme course in acting. As he observes, “You’re afraid. Fear has turned into hate. So Frightened Inmate #2 isn’t frightened at all. He’s angry. He’s a crabby old coot, and he needs love… just like everyone.” And so, Tobias comes out of prison with the notion that he needs to play this character as angry as possible. It’s a fitting end to the “Tobias in prison” arc, though sadly, the conclusion to the larger Frightened Inmate #2 arc (where we see Tobias putting this epiphany into practice on-set) was cut for time, and only made available as a deleted scene instead.
Spring Break is a holiday where women tend to get the raw end of the deal, and that’s unfortunately true of this episode, which sees the three Bluth females relegated to a C plot that gets minimal screentime. When a birthday card with money fails to arrive, Lindsay and Maeby embark on a search for Lindsay’s “nana” (Lucille’s mother), eventually coming to learn that she’s been dead for half a year, and Lucille’s been hiding this from the family so as to keep the inheritance money for herself. It actually winds up tying in more with the A plot than the mostly unrelated Tobias/George Sr. storyline, as the conclusion plays out during the aftermath of Gob’s magic show. This leads to a brilliantly sociopathic moment where Lucille tries to pretend nana was on board the yacht after Gob admits to blowing it up; indeed, this is a woman who’d rather convince her son he’s murdered his grandmother than get caught in a lie (or worse, lose her money). There are other ways in which this storyline impacts the A plot; namely, it gives Lindsay and Maeby a reason to be at the Bluth Company offices, prompting the latter to talk George Michael into ditching work and sneaking on board the yacht. Maeby doesn’t get all that many storylines of her own in season 1, but she can generally be counted on to stir the pot in other characters’ narratives. In the end, it’s all for aught; after having repeatedly used Annyong as a purse for most of the episode, Lucille gets the idea to put the inheritance into a trust fund for her newly-adopted son, preventing the rest of the family from accessing it. The final punchline here is more of an unstated joke for seasoned viewers, as those who’ve seen ahead will know that trusting (excuse the pun) Annyong is a terrible call on Lucille’s part; the Bluths may have netted $200,000 here from the over-insured yacht, but it’s a pretty safe bet that they never see that inheritance money again.
This closing scene also neatly ties together all the plot points concerning Gob’s magic show and Kitty, as she emerges from the sunken yacht clutching the very evidence the Bluths have been trying to keep from her. Leading up to this point, the turns in the A plot have provided clear dividing lines between this episode’s three acts; act one ends with Michael realizing he needs to hire Kitty back because of the compromising information she has access to, while act two ends with him not only failing to do so, but also being seen threatening her in a very public place. So it’s entirely fitting that the final act concludes with Kitty in possession of said information, and now also convinced that Michael’s followed through on that threat after all. It’s a plot point that encroaches on darker territory than Arrested Development generally dabbles in, but as is often the case when the show does this, misunderstandings and/or backfired schemes are usually at the heart of the narrative, and both apply in this case. Michael set out with reasonably good intentions in Missing Kitty – indeed, Kitty’s behavior was unprofessional, and few workplaces would tolerate it. But just as his desire to protect his son actually comes to endanger George Michael, so too his desire for a functional workplace ends up inviting far more dysfunction into the Bluth Company. And much like the family yacht, Michael’s efforts to placate Kitty are ultimately decimated.
GOB: I’m intercepting some telepathic energy. It’s telling me it’s the… eight of diamonds.
GEORGE MICHAEL: That’s amazingly close.
GOB: Gee, I got it wrong. Well, I guess you won the shirt off my back.
GEORGE MICHAEL: Okay, that’s amazing.
GOB: It’s the queen of diamonds.
GEORGE MICHAEL: No, no. It was- I, I had- but, I mean, if that had been the actual card, I’m pretty sure I’d be almost… too blown away. That’s…
GOB: It’s a, y’know, it’s- it’s a new trick, so I’m still kinda tweaking my nipple thing.
GEORGE MICHAEL: The presentation was… great.
(The pun in “tweaking my nipple thing” is a particularly great under-the-radar gag)
GOB: It’s my favorite holiday. Nothing gets me more excited.
MICHAEL: I can see that. You might wanna button that shirt up.
GOB: No, I’m good.
After just having told George Michael his “queen of diamonds” trick was new and still a work-in-progress, Gob is shown performing it (also unsuccessfully) in a flashback from the previous year’s Spring Break:
(It would appear he did indeed make some revisions to the trick during this episode, as he’s later shown with a four of hearts on his chest)
GOB: (to George Michael) Maybe we’ll meet a couple of young coeds along the way… How young is too young for you?
MICHAEL: Okay, th-that’s not gonna happen. Okay? There’s not gonna be any coeds. There certainly isn’t going to be any magic. It is a path to a lonely life where people mock you and you don’t even realize it.
GOB: But Michael, I’m a magici… Oh, I see what you did.
MICHAEL: Kitty, these are not the files I asked for.
KITTY: Oh. Then I don’t know what I shredded.
MICHAEL: (referring to Kitty) She’s been out for two weeks with this chest thing, but she’s had no problems cashing the checks I’ve been sending her.
LINDSAY: Speaking of which, have we gotten anything from nana?
MICHAEL: Buster got a perforated heart and Gob got that receding hairline, but you and I pretty much dodged a bullet.
(Michael’s line here is also a callback to Storming the Castle, where we first learn about the literal hole in Buster’s heart)
LINDSAY: I’ll take you down to see nana if you split the money with me 60/40.
MAEBY: Sounds like you guys are getting more than you think.
LINDSAY: We should go now before your dad gets back… No need going halfsies with him, too.
(It seems this would explain where Maeby gets her poor mathematical skills)
WARDEN GENTLES: But didn’t you come here to research the nature of fear? I can’t think of any better teacher than White Power Bill. He’s like a masters course unto himself.
TOBIAS: So you think I’m a coward?
WARDEN GENTLES: There’s only one man I’ve ever called a coward, and that’s Brian Doyle-Murray. No, what I’m calling you… is a television actor.
Lindsay and Maeby eventually figure out the woman that now lives in their nana’s house is not their nana:
LINDSAY: Go, go! It’s not her! Drop the photo album! We’re not in the photo album!
MAEBY: Drop the pie!
KITTY: If you need me, I will be at Señor Tadpole’s having a margarita made in my mouth.
MICHAEL: N-no, hey, Kitty, There will be no margarita in your mouth!
KITTY: Oh, yes, there absolutely will be a margarita in my mouth. Spring break! Whoo-hoo!
“Eyes up here, Michael. Up here.”
KITTY: So take a good look, ’cause it’s the last time. (flashes Michael again as she gets on board the elevator)
MICHAEL: … That’s, like, the seventh nipple I’ve seen today.
“Hell, I-I’ve been, I-I have been so corrupted by my power that I-I even enjoyed firing my own twin brother. You should have seen his face when he was begging me not to- well, he’s my twin brother. I can show you.”
At the end of the scene, George Sr. genuinely pleads with Michael to hire Kitty back – making the same expression himself – and Michael laughs, saying “It is kind of a funny face.”
“There’s enough evidence on this boat to put me away. You’re the only real thing I have… Oh god, there’s nothing to hold on to down there, you’re like a boy.”
(It’s easy to miss the subtle gag here, that George Sr. calls Kitty the only “real” thing he has while simultaneously pushing her to get breast implants)
GEORGE SR: I gotta get out of prison. Next time someone threatens me, I may not have a son-in-law to offer.
MICHAEL: Look, I can’t come in here… Offer?
GEORGE SR.: I may not have a son-in-law to offer me counseling. Y’know, he should have stayed a shrink, he’s, he’s very gifted, y’know.
LUCILLE: There’s just absolutely no purse that will go with this outfit… (notices Annyong) You’ve got a little pocket there, Annyong.
LUCILLE: That’s not getting old.
Lucille then follows up her purse line at the end of the scene; “Isn’t he great? And he goes with everything.”
When asked where nana is, Lucille immediately starts gaslighting Lindsay:
LUCILLE: I sent her on a wonderful cruise. You just missed a wonderful call from her. She just came back from a wonderful costume party that the captain threw. She gained ten pounds, there’s so much food on that boat. She’s up to 74. It’s wonderful. Just wonderful.
NARRATOR: In fact, Lucille’s mother had been dead for six months.
NARRATOR: Michael looked at his son and saw that he truly was inspired by his uncle. That perhaps the boy actually admired him.
MICHAEL: I gotta get you out of here.
“As for Kitty, I think you’re crazy that to have fired her. Who knows what kind of information she has?”
“…Yeah, she definitely knows way too much.”
TOBIAS: Yes, but where does the hate come from, Bill? What causes it?
WHITE POWER BILL: The Jews, I guess.
TOBIAS: Well, sure, but I think you need to look deeper. I think these are issues of self-esteem. I know what it’s like. I know how it feels to have a father, or in my case, a father-in-law who doesn’t respect you. Anyhoo, we have very little time before this “4:00 pounding” you promised me. I’m going to take a shot at something and say that I think you hate… White Power Bill.
WHITE POWER BILL: I hate you.
TOBIAS: You hate White Power Bill.
WHITE POWER BILL: I hate the government.
TOBIAS: You hate White Power Bill.
WHITE POWER BILL: I hate my father! (pauses in realization)
GUARD: (over P.A.) Recreation. All prisoners, one hour.
TOBIAS: Go get ’em.
WHITE POWER BILL: (climbing the railing) I hate White Power Bill.
It was a pretty audacious move for Arrested Development to have a character called White Power Bill in the first place, so it’s only fitting that he receives an equally audacious send-off.
GEORGE MICHAEL: (holds up phone) He wants to talk to you.
MICHAEL: Well, I don’t want to talk to him. I made my decision and that’s that.
GEORGE MICHAEL: (to George Sr. over the phone) …Oh, you heard? Yeah. Alright. (hangs up phone)
MICHAEL: …What’d he say?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Well, if I clean it up, it’s not really a sentence.
MAEBY: The only real way to find out how it’s done is to sneak on the boat while he does it.
GEORGE MICHAEL: Yeah, but then if he makes it disappear, won’t everyone just see me standing there?
MAEBY: …Let’s just sit quietly and consider how ridiculous that statement was.
Gob tries to keep the promise he made to Michael by sending George Michael away, in a typically dramatic fashion:
GOB: Sorry kid. More than you’ll…
GEORGE MICHAEL: What?
GOB: Beat it!
“I thought the two of us could talk. Man-on-man.”
MICHAEL: Alright, so how’d you do it?
GOB: Michael, a magician never reveals his… I sunk it! I sunk the yacht! At least I think I sunk it, I mean, I blew it up and I don’t see it anywhere. Oh god, my heart was in my throat when that curtain came down and I’m looking out…! (laughs)
MICHAEL: You sank the yacht?!
MICHAEL: (lowering his voice slightly) You sank a $700,000 yacht?
GOB: $900,000 worth of insurance on it. And got rid of the evidence! How about a “Good job”?
NARRATOR: Seeing a window of opportunity, Lucille made a startling announcement.
LUCILLE: Nana was on that yacht!
LUCILLE: You killed nana!
(Gob’s insistence that Michael tell him “good job” is a callback to his exchange with Kitty in the copy room earlier in the episode)
MICHAEL: I just don’t know what’s more offensive, (to Lucille) the fact you didn’t tell us about our grandmother’s death, (to Gob) or that you sank a $700,000 yacht.
LUCILLE: Stop lecturing me. I just lost my mother.
While it’s more of a season 5 gaffe than a Missing Kitty gaffe, this episode comes to pose some major issues down the line with the show’s serialization. In Arrested Development’s closing episodes, we see a series “flashbacks” set in the 1980s. The scenes that unfold in Saving for Arraignment Day and Courting Disasters actually provide us with an on-screen depiction of Lucille’s mother, Mimi, and eventually, her death – a good 20+ years before the events of this episode.
The simple explanation is that the writers *beep*ed up. With over a decade passing between this episode’s broadcast and the scripting of season 5, Hurwitz and co. likely just forgot about this minor storyline, or realized too late down the line. There are, however, other theories that can potentially explain the mistake. The first is that Lucille, like her daughter, is adopted; with Mimi being her birth mother who returned later in her life (as she does with Lindsay), while “nana” is the woman who raised her, making them two completely separate characters.
There’s also the more elaborate theory that Lucille hid Mimi’s death from her children (other than Buster), and has been sending fake cards/checks for years to keep up the ruse. Perhaps Lucille even went as far as to hire a woman to pose as nana – or at least route these payments through her account – and this is the person the narrator and family banker reference as being dead for six months. This theory fails to address whose inheritance Lucille would be claiming in this case, however, so I’m inclined to go with the former.
The lettering on the cooler changes between scenes. When we first glimpse it in the George Sr/Kitty flashback, the “S” is backwards (it may actually be a “Z” – admittedly, it’s hard to tell), but when Kitty clutches it in the closing scene, it’s a regular “S” at the end:
There’s also some haziness as to the cooler’s contents, and just what it means for the family. Here, the Bluths are trying to destroy the cooler, in fear that Kitty will find it and turn it over to the feds (it’s curious that George Sr. would wait until Kitty went rogue to do so, having known the feds have been after him for some time now, but hey, he wouldn’t be in prison if he were actually good at this, now would he?). In Spring Breakout, however, the Bluths are trying to retrieve the cooler from Kitty, in the hopes that its contents will exonerate George Sr. There’s a simple enough explanation: The cooler contains documents that confirm George Sr. is indeed guilty of embezzlement (the main felony he’s arrested for in the Pilot), but clear him of the more serious treason charges (which don’t come into play until Let Them Eat Cake). Nonetheless, it would’ve been nice had the show explained this a bit better, seeing as the cooler proves to be a relatively important plot device.
Tobias says to George Sr. that he’s been in the family for 16 years, but him and Lindsay were celebrating their 14th anniversary just a few episodes earlier in Marta Complex. It is possible, however, that Tobias was including the period of time when he and Lindsay were dating but not yet married. Going by Lindsay’s real age, rather than the age she believes herself to be, Lindsay turns 40 at the end of season 3. This would mean she’s 37 or 38 here, depending on her date of birth. For Tobias to have been with her for 16 years, they’d have started dating roughly when she was 21/22 (believing herself to be 18/19). This theory ultimately checks out; and of course, there’s the other obvious explanation that Tobias simply doesn’t remember correctly.
In The Fallout, we also come to learn that Tobias was working with the Bluth family as their therapist when Lindsay was 17 (believing herself to be 14); so technically speaking, he’s “been in the family” for 20 years.
The “On the next” implies that Annyong is already able to access the trust fund Lucille sets up for him here. Sadly, this plot point is never mentioned again, and in season 4’s Red Hairing (Annyong’s final appearance), his financial situation actually appears to be quite dire.
This episode was originally broadcast after the Altar Egos/Justice is Blind two-parter, creating several continuity issues. Most notably, this causes a major disruption in the Tobias/George Sr. story arc – rather than taking place over two consecutive episodes (as intended), Tobias is shown out of prison for a couple of episodes, participating in another narrative altogether, before inexplicably being back in prison and resuming the arc from where we last left it in Staff Infection.
The erroneous broadcast order similarly disrupts continuity for the upcoming story arc where Gob gets married (established in the aforementioned two-parter and designed to continue immediately into Best Man for the Gob); inserting in an episode into the middle of this arc where Gob is very much living a single lifestyle.
In addition to being something you might expect to see on a poster for a lost cat, the episode’s title has multiple meanings; referring to both Kitty’s disappearance, and Lindsay’s failure to receive her birthday cash (“kitty” also being a term for money in certain contexts). The term “missing Kitty” is even used in the episode’s “On the next.”
This marks the first appearance of Officer Taylor, played by Jay Johnston. While he is paired here with an unknown character we never see again, he would typically come to be accompanied by his partner (in multiple senses), Officer Carter. This character receives his introduction later this season in Not Without My Daughter – which also marks Officer Taylor’s second appearance. Officer Taylor would return in season 2’s The One Where Michael Leaves, Out on a Limb and Hand to God, and after an absence from the third season, shows up in several season 4 episodes: A New Start, A New Attitude, Señoritis and Blockheads. His only appearance in season 5 comes in the form of a small on-screen photo, in the series finale, The Fallout.
Missing Kitty also features quite a few of the show’s most prominent recurring characters – Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer, making her first appearance since Charity Drive), Stefan Gentles (James Lipton, introduced in the previous episode), John Beard (himself), Lupe (BW Gonzalez) and Annyong (Justin lee). In addition to this, the episode also marks the final appearance of White Power Bill (David Reynolds) and Little Justice (Alden Villaverde). For minor one-off roles, we have Pat Crawford Brown as the woman Lindsay and Maeby believe to be nana (credited simply as “Old Woman”), and J. David Krassner as the bank manager they later visit. While uncredited, IMDB also lists Olga Kay, Jamie McBriety, Bonnie Mercado and Tarah Paige in the roles of various Spring Break goers.
The gag with Gob getting paint on Michael’s shirt would later be repeated with Tobias in the season 2 premiere, The One Where Michael Leaves.
Early in the episode, Michael is expecting Lindsay to be dressed and ready for work, implying she has continued to fill in for Kitty at Bluth Company (or, at the very least, was asked to) since the events of Staff Infection.
Kitty tells Michael she’s been Googling his father (to which Michael responds “So I’ve heard”); a rare instance where Arrested Development references the popular search engine by name. In later episodes, the word “Google” is either censored or merely alluded to, as the search engine refused to let Arrested Development use its name when it became a plot point in season 4 (specifically The B team, which kicks off a story arc where Michael works for the company).
This marks the first time that footage from an episode’s “On the next” actually does appear in the next episode; the scene teased in Staff Infection, where George Sr. sells Tobias for a pack of cigarettes. Here, it is presented as a flashback (with the show’s trademark white bordering to signify past events). The fact that it’s framed as such here, while originally contextualized as an “On the next,” seemingly implies a “lost” episode between Staff Infection and Missing Kitty (not unlike how For British Eyes Only deploys a fake “Previously on” that picks up where The Cabin Show left off and fills in the blanks between them). This isn’t to suggest there was literally a scrapped episode, of course, but rather, it’s a crafty reminder that the Bluths’ lives entail far more than just the footage we witness. The show would toy much more with the rules and mechanics of its “On the next” segments over the coming seasons.
We see Tobias twice going into “therapist” mode, first with White Power Bill, and then with George Sr. In both cases, Tobias is right on the money with his diagnosis, and manages to illicit a breakthrough with each of his subjects. Even though one of them immediately commits suicide afterwards, there’s still evidence that Tobias has some genuine talent when it comes to psychology; certainly moreso than he has an actor, which makes his career change all the more tragic.
The reveal of Kitty’s recent cosmetic surgery also explains her absence from the office in Staff Infection (although a deleted scene from that episode actually provided another reason altogether, explaining Kitty was at Burning Man instead – this does, however, establish Kitty as the type of person who’d participate in Spring Break).
Girls With Low Self Esteem is a parody of the real-life video franchise Girls Gone Wild, where camera crews get inebriated college-aged women to expose themselves and perform sex acts on camera in exchange for t-shirts. It’s… pretty messed up.
Much of Kitty’s motivation in this episode comes from her feeling she was wronged by the Girls With Low Self Esteem crew the previous year (“Okay, we got all the good stuff here”), with Kitty even declaring she’s “looking forward to a more successful Spring Break.” In season 2’s Spring Breakout – set one year later – Gob similarly finds himself seeking retribution against them. As it turns out, the footage of him making the yacht disappear gets left on the cutting room floor, in favor of his flubs (a detail that serves as a joke in its own right, since this is the rare illusion Gob actually pulls off, but it fails to be recorded by history). We also see footage from this video later this season, in Not Without My Daughter, where Michael comes to learn Kitty snuck aboard the yacht.
Missing Kitty also builds on the gag in another way, when we come to learn of Tobias’s counselling video, Families With Low Self Esteem. As the narrator explains, “Its brief success was due to its misleading name. Once this was discovered, all but ten of the videos were returned.”
Both videos appear as recommended products on Amazon in a brief cutaway joke in Let Them Eat Cake.
This episode features a running joke about Michael’s level of authority as the acting Bluth Company president. When he first fires Kitty, she retorts “I work for your father. You don’t have the hiring and firing power.” In the following scene, George Sr. says to Michael, “You can’t fire Kitty. First of all, you don’t have hiring and firing power.” The runner continues when Michael asks Kitty to return to the company, and she responds “Of course I’ll come back, ’cause I never really left. Because we both know that you can’t fire people.” At the end of the episode, Michael fires Kitty’s replacement – George Michael – and his first reaction is “Really? Can you fire people?”
This kicks off the running gag of Kitty flashing people; typically done to Michael during a disruptive exit, and often accompanied by the phrase “say goodbye to these, ’cause it’s the last time” or a variation thereof (she says it twice in this episode alone, with an additional utterance by Gob). The gag is repeated in season 2’s Spring Breakout and The Righteous Brothers (the latter of which also has Lucille doing the bit), and season 3’s The Cabin Show. Additionally, Kitty is shown up to her exhibitionist antics again in season 4’s The B Team, while a variation on the “say goodbye to these” line is heard in a film in season 5’s Everyone Gets Atrophy.
George Sr. cautions Michael, “You don’t fire crazy. You never fire crazy.” He says a variation on this in season 2’s Spring Breakout; “Never promise crazy a baby.”
We have the first mention of George Sr’s twin brother, Oscar, though he would not be referred to by name until his first appearance later this season in Whistler’s Mother.
When Michael confronts Gob about George Michael, he says “I’m out looking for Kitty and I find my son in the middle of a Girls with Low Self-Esteem video,” to which Gob responds “Oh, don’t worry, he’s going to be covered with a blue dot.” This line receives several callbacks in season 2, when the show actually uses a blue dot to censor visuals in The One Where They Build a House, Good Grief and Queen for a Day; the blue dot then making a comeback in the series finale, The Fallout.
Arrested Development utilizes several different styles of visual “censorship” over its run – here, the nudity is blurred/pixelated, while in other episodes (Spring Breakout, The Righteous Brothers), it is “whited out.”
Gob’s flashback with Kitty is set during the events of Visiting Ours, after the two have sex in the copy room (“Glasses on, hair up”).
White Power Bill marks the show’s first on-screen death. Technically, he is the second character to be killed off after Earl Milford, whose demise was strongly implied in Public Relations, but this is the first time the show has made a character’s death explicitly clear to the audience (and the first time the show kills off a recurring character, with White Power Bill previously having appeared in Key Decisions and Staff Infection). There would be other deaths over the years – some depicted on-screen, others confirmed in dialogue: The racist old lady in S.O.B.s, Pete the mailman in Flight of the Phoenix, Johnny Bark (possibly) in Indian Takers, real estate agent James Carr in A New Start, Uncle Jack in The Untethered Sole, and Lucille 2 in The Fallout.
The Wizard of Oz is referenced several times throughout the episode, as Tobias earns the nickname “Dorothy” after inadvertently provoking White Power Bill to commit suicide.
This continues when Little Justice dons a pair of red shoes and starts going by monicker of “Tin Man,” referring to himself as “a friend of Dorothy’s” (an euphemism for homosexuals dating back to the 1950s), with Tobias later singing one of the musical’s most well-known numbers… sort of:
Kitty can be seen wearing a Cloudmir Vodka shirt during her meet-up with Michael at the restaurant (Cloudmir being the brand of vodka Lindsay was payed to sponsor in Public Relations).
Additionally, multiple Cloudmir signs can be seen at Gob’s magic show.
This is one of the rare instances where we see John Beard out and about in the show’s world, rather than simply reporting from behind a news desk. As he witnesses the incident between Michael and Kitty at the restaurant, he hastily starts to exit the restaurant, muttering “I’ve gotta get out of here. I’m part of the story. I can’t be a part of the story. I can’t be a part of the story.” When he reports the news later, he presents the story as “A woman shows all during a fracas at a local restaurant… sources say,” with a fitting news caption to accompany it:
Although John Beard and Michael Bluth are technically in the same scene together here, they don’t have any direct interaction with each other. The two wouldn’t officially “meet” until the series finale, The Fallout, when they share a lengthy one-on-one scene together; another one of the rare instances where we see John Beard off the clock. It would mark the second time John Beard came face-to-face with a member of the Bluth family, after accosting Tobias on a To Catch a Predator-style reality show in season 4’s A New Start (though for this occasion, he is once again on the job).
Michael repeatedly expresses his enjoyment at getting to work with George Michael (“Isn’t this much more fun, working with your dad?”). This would be further expanded on in season 5’s Taste Makers, when Michael says that, during George Michael’s childhood, he always dreamed the two would work together; a dream that once again becomes a reality in that episode. In both instances, George Michael is considerably less enthused about the prospect.
In the previous episode, Gob expressed an attraction to Lindsay when he mistook her for Kitty on the phone. Here, an even more horrifying variation of the scenario plays out:
When Michael calls the office later, George Michael answers with a very prompt “Bluth Company, George Michael speaking, not Kitty.”
This is the second time Gob performs a magic show to Europe’s The Final Countdown, cementing it as his on-stage intro music. It was first used in Storming the Castle, which also established several of the signature moves he uses in his act here (namely dancing on stage with a knife in his mouth, and tying a scarf around his head while it gets blown by a fan).
By blowing up the yacht, Gob effectively destroys his home, creating a new mystery fans would speculate over for the remainder of the Fox run: Where does Gob live after this episode? This question would not be answered until the season 3 finale, Development Arrested; as it turns out, he moves to similar living quarters, residing on “The C-Word,” the boat he buys in season 2’s The One Where They Build a House (effectively moving from a sea vessel named after Lucille to one she believes to be named after her).
As mentioned in the nitpicks/gaffes section, season 5’s Saving for Arraignment Day and Courting Disasters gives us more insight into Lucille’s mother and the events of her death, but unfortunately, it directly contradicts the information we learn in this episode.
There are some commonalities however: Both storylines see Lucille lying about the circumstances of her mother’s death, and trying to convince her son that he bears a different level of responsibility than what’s true. And assuming “nana” and “Mimi” are the same person, her penchant for cruises remains a consistent personality trait across all these episodes.
The “On the next” contains a scene where Michael is interrogated by the police about Kitty’s disappearance. Although it unfolds differently from how it’s depicted here, this does indeed become a plot point later this season, in Not Without My Daughter.
Buster does not appear in this episode.
Missing Kitty has a total runtime of 21 minutes and 55 seconds, and is rated TV-PG-DLS.
Arrested Development’s version of MTV is called “YOM.” It presumably stands for “youth-oriented music” – a term the narrator uses when first introducing it.
Kitty frequents a restaurant named Señor Tadpole’s (the logo of which later appears on a shirt Kitty wears in The One Where they Build a House, while the restaurant itself serves as the setting for some scenes in Spring Breakout). The name of the restaurant is a reference to the Mexican-themed bar and grill chain Señor Frog’s, but also functions as foreshadowing for Kitty’s storyline in season 2, when she’s trying to steal George Sr.’s frozen semen (or, if you will, his “tadpoles”).
A pair of breast puns slip their way into the background of this episode. The first comes during Kitty’s exit from the Bluth company, when a man in the elevator holds a large jug as Kitty exposes hers:
The second is hidden in a college fraternity sign behind the yacht, while the Girls With Low Self Esteem video is being shot aboard:
The text on the cooler is the biggest hint to date about the Bluth Company’s involvement with Saddam Hussein; much like Michael’s observations about Saddam’s places in Shock and Aww, this one is very much hidden in plain sight. When read backwards, it spells “SADDAM H” – a fact the show subtly highlights by having the cooler visible in the mirror for several shots during the Kitty/George Sr. flashback.
When George Michael takes Maeby’s advice and ditches work to visit his uncle, Gob can be seen rigging the yacht with explosives:
The sign on the stage at Gob’s show reads “Mr. Magician,” a callback to “Mr. Manager” from Top Banana.
Gob begins the disappearing yacht trick with the following spiel: “Any magician can make the queen of diamonds disappear. But what about a whole boat?!” This could possibly be foreshadowing Lucille’s attempt to disappear in an even more expensive queen/boat – the Queen Mary – in the season 3 finale, Development Arrested.
A lone protester can be seen in the crowd at Gob’s magic show, holding a sign that reads “All Christians must unite – John 3:16.” They’re presumably taking umbrage at the general debauchery of Spring Break (if not magic and the “dark arts”).
During the magic show, Annyong flinches every time there is an on-stage explosion:
Between this and his anecdote about going to the beach in Staff Infection, it seems he had a considerably traumatic life pre-California.
The “On the next” reveals that Annyong is, in fact, 18 years old; another hint that there’s far more to the character than we realize.
This episode had an “On the next” that was cut for time. It may be the most important deleted scene in the series, as it’s the only one to be confirmed in-show as canon:
NARRATOR: Tobias has his first day on the set.
TOBIAS: …It wasn’t me. (angrily) I ain’t no squealer.
DIRECTOR: (off-screen) Again, not angry, frightened!
TOBIAS: And again, that is how I play fear.
DIRECTOR: You’re fired.
TOBIAS: (pauses) …I get it, you’re trying to scare me so I play it even angrier.
It’s very unfortunate this scene didn’t make it into the episode, as it provides a fitting conclusion to both Tobias’s arc in prison, and the larger arc of his role as Frightened Inmate #2. Instead, the show leaves this narrative to fizzle out without resolution, until season 2’s Motherboy XXX, where Lindsay mentions Tobias was fired from the job. The deleted footage finally works its way into the show in season 4’s Smashed, where it appears in Tobias’s acting reel. While only the line “I ain’t no squealer” makes it in, it’s enough to show exactly why Tobias wound up losing the role; an on-screen disclaimer even reads “released from final cast due to creative differences.”
2 thoughts on “Season 1, Episode 16: Missing Kitty”
I’d never really put together Judy Greer being cast on Archer based off her Kitty, but that sure makes sense, as she’s so good at it.
I chuckled over the bromide “what’s more important than family?” from Gob here as that’s always thrown around like gospel in lazy films and TV shows, when obviously family isn’t always as trustworthy as that; in the case of the Bluths, it’s perfectly wrong in fact, hence funny.
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Say goodbye….to these!
I hadn’t really thought about GOB’s lack of a home following the events of this episode, he is…well a bit of a parasite I suppose. I remember Fox’s screwing with the broadcast schedule. The Tobias arc made it especially glaring as you said. Nevertheless, this is still a classic episode!
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