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Exit Strategy

"Exit Strategy"
Directors: Rebecca E. Asher — Writer: Mitchell Hurwitz & Jim Vallely — Aired: February 10, 2006 — Icon-image      

"Exit Strategy" is the twelfth episode of Arrested Development's third season.

The Bluth boys find a web of mass deception in Iraq when Michael and Buster rescue G.O.B., who was imprisoned while on a USO tour. Meanwhile, George Michael plans a Sweet 16 surprise party for Maeby.


Michael Bluth was preparing his sister for her upcoming deposition in the case against their father. But she couldn’t focus on the task at hand, as she had a lot to drink the night before. So did Tobias, who was trying to fortify himself for a sexual encounter with his wife of many years. But Tobias had a low tolerance, so Lindsay finished the bottle of vodka herself, thinking vodka goes bad once it’s opened.

Tobias announced that he couldn’t be deposed, as he had been called by the prosecution, which had asked for old photos and documents. Tobias happily grabbed them from the model home's secret room and put them in a box, thinking that he was auditioning for a role on a new CBS drama.

In the kitchen, George Michael nervously told the family that Maeby’s birthday was coming up. He suggested throwing her a surprise party, an event he had already informed Maeby about after she complained that her parents probably didn’t even know her birthday was on the horizon. Tobias decided on the spot to go buy Maeby a present.

Then G.O.B. entered and informed Michael he was going to performing in a USO show in Iraq. Considering that their father was being tried for treason for building homes in Iraq, Michael thought this was a fairly bad idea. But G.O.B. insisted he was going, despite his brother’s protests and he’d been doing his Christian magic act, including his walking on water and wine into water tricks.

Later that day, Tobias met with Wayne Jarvis. Again, this was not an audition, despite what Tobias thought - something that Jarvis coldly reminded him of. Jarvis offered Tobias a deal if he could put George behind bars. But because Jarvis had panned Tobias’ acting, he angrily turned down their offer. But as he waited for the elevator, a flyer caught Tobias’ eye: an advertisement for a scrap booking class. He thought this would make a perfect gift for Maeby, not knowing the ad was actually a trap set by Jarvis.

Meanwhile, Michael went to confront his father about G.O.B.’s trip to Iraq. George explained that he needed a way off the hook. Buster took a coma, Lucille was taking Lindsay to rehab, he was running out of options. Michael complained that he would have to ask the prosecution for a delay, and then warned his family not to make a liar out of him by skipping rehab.

But Buster was finding his coma increasingly hard to withstand. His mother had been offering his body to doctors, dentists and beauticians in training to practice very painful technique on his supposedly unconscious body. But he endured it all for Adelaide, the nurse who fell in love with his limp form. When she told Buster she desired to hear him say anything, even if that would mean he was faking the coma, he said "anything". Adelaide slapped him, called him a coward and a faker and berated herself for allowing herself to fall in love with a comatose man. Buster tried to follow her as she ran off, but he hadn’t used his legs in three weeks.

And Michael met with Wayne Jarvis, assuring him that no family members were in hiding. Jarvis informed him that surveillance tapes showed that the two women who checked in to Shady Pines (an allusion to a fictional retirement home in the Golden Girls, for which show creator Mitchell Hurwitz also wrote) under Lindsey and Lucille’s names were clearly not his relatives. And Buster had made fifteen phone calls to radio stations while supposedly in a coma. Lastly, G.O.B. was in Iraq, being held in jail as an insurgent.

Michael had been called to sign Buster out of the hospital. Buster was despondent over Adelaide calling him a coward. Michael told him that he had to travel to Iraq to get G.O.B. out of prison. Buster begged Michael to let him come along. He could prove to Adelaide that he was a hero, and use his limited Army training and Arabic language skills to boot.

The depositions were delayed, but the prosecution was about to get a bagful of evidence, thanks to Tobias falling for their scrap booking sting. Meanwhile, Lindsay and Lucille were at a spa in the desert, avoiding both rehab and their depositions. Unfortunately, it was a dry resort.

Michael and Buster checked out of the hospital. Adelaide overheard Buster mention their trip to Iraq, which made her think Buster was a hero again. After saying goodbye to Adelaide, Michael and Buster went to leave for Iraq, on "Operation Hot Brother," as Buster called it. As they left, George was admitted to the hospital, now in a fake coma of his own.

George Michael, meanwhile, got a hold of Maeby’s address book to invite all of her friends to her secret Sweet 16. And the guys finally did get to Iraq, arriving at the prison the Americans were training the Iraqis to run. G.O.B. was thrilled to see his brothers. G.O.B. informed Michael that he was arrested for doing street magic. But what got him in trouble was doing "the late, great Jesus' biggest illusion, the 'Burning Bush.'" When the bush caught fire, the crowd began chanting “Burn Bush!” and soon it looked like G.O.B. was leading an anti-American rally.

G.O.B. confessed to Michael that George asked him to burn a few model homes in Sadr City if he had the time, but now he was ready to go. Michael told him he was deemed an enemy combatant, and perhaps wasn’t going anywhere for a while. But they were actually released quite easily, which aroused Michael’s suspicions. Michael then decided to go check out one of the model homes in question.

There, they found somebody the U.S. government had been able to depose, one of Saddam’s many body doubles who lived with many other body doubles. The men were quite polite, so Michael offered to fix their air conditioning. But first, he decided to see if this model home also had a secret room. It did, and inside, Michael found a bombshell: an actual bombshell.

Back at the American model home, none of the invitees showed for Maeby’s birthday party. George Michael still greeted, but Maeby thought she knew why. The invitations reading, “Guess Who’s Turning 16?” had exposed Maeby’s secret and cost her the studio job. Alone, they decided to have a drink, not knowing it was the fake wine from G.O.B.’s magic show.

Back in Iraq, the Bluth boys stared at the nuclear warhead in the secret room. And their American cab driver, who was actually an undercover CIA agent by the name of Richard Shaw, came in and busted them, which explained why it was so easy to get G.O.B. out of prison. In fact, they had given G.O.B. multiple chances to break out. Then one of the fake Saddams pointed out the warhead was a fake made by Homefill, the same company that made fake home decorations for the Bluth model home. But inside the hollow shell was a U.S. government tape recorder. Richard Shaw called Langley, where he learned the government got George to build houses in Iraq so they could wire them.

Back home, George Michael and Maeby were drunk on fake wine. George Michael tried to console Maeby by telling her Lucille once confided that Lindsay never got pregnant. And maybe it was the wine, but that was the night George Michael and Maeby went to second base.

In Iraq, Michael finally learned that his father actually was a patsy, used by the government through a British building company, just like George had always claimed. Unfortunately, now that they knew that, the CIA agent was going to have to kill them. However, Buster had already sent cell phone pictures of everything to Adelaide. Michael hinted that the pictures would be kept secret if they were set free. Richard Shaw agreed to let them go, and now in a bargaining position, the Bluth boys were able to negotiate direct flights home, and that the treason charges against George would be dropped. And so, with Operation Hot Brother a success, our American heroes returned home. Mission accomplished.


  • Gary Cole as Richard Shaw
  • Al No'Mani as Saddam Hussein look-alike #1
  • David Kavandi as Saddam Hussein look-alike #2
  • James Evans as Saddam Hussein look-alike #3
  • Tyler Sedustine as US Soldier
  • Mousa Kraish as Iraqi Soldier
  • Jon Curry as American MP
  • Pej Vahdat Iraqi guard
  • Cooper Thorton as Baker
  • Erica Vittina Phillips as Tango
  • Bashar Rahal as Iraqi cab driver
  • Rif Haffar as Iraqi man
  • Ross Gibby as Resident
  • Kathy Kolla as Cosmetology instructor
  • Robert Michael Morris as Dentist
  • K.K. Goodrich as EMT
  • Larry Udy as Man
  • Lawrence Toffler as Newscaster

Recurring themes []


  • Alias - When Michael and Buster arrive in Iraq, "IRAQ" flashes on the screen, then zooms forward as the "camera" passes through the last letter (which is see-through), in a style nearly identical to how locales were revealed on Alias. Alias was mentioned twice before on Arrested Development - once when Tobias suggested that he wanted his own "Jennifer Garner-type show" and once when Buster said that "Alias is a show about a spy!"
  • Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse - When Michael tells Buster and George Michael G.O.B. is in a U.S. run prison he says "God knows what they're doing to him."
  • Dick Cheney - In Iraq, many of the roads appear to have been renamed after U.S. political figures. Richard Shaw mentions "the Cheney Expressway was backed up all the way to Halliburton Road," referring to Dick Cheney's former position as CEO of Halliburton Energy Services, and the corporation's role in the rebuilding of Iraq.
    • Later, Buster can be heard saying "Take Condoleezza Rice Lane. It's quicker."
  • Enron - Former Enron chairman Ken Lay’s scrapbook, “Where The Money’s Buried,” includes a line going into an elephant’s ass (i.e., the G.O.P./republican party of the USA, whose logo is an elephant).
  • George W. Bush - When G.O.B. performs an illusion called "The Burning Bush" at his Christian magic show, the crowd misinterprets this as anti-Bush sentiment, and begins to pull out effigies of George W. Bush to burn.
  • Law & Order - John Munch, a character from Homicide: Life on the Street and Law and Order: SVU played by Richard Belzer, has a minor role in this episode. When the camera pans up to reveal him, a piece of Law and Order-style sting music plays.
  • Martha Stewart - Martha Stewart’s scrapbook, “My Secret Stock Tips” reads “Up Yours G-Men.”
  • Mickey Rourke - The Narrator is surprised that George Michael invited Mickey Rourke to Maeby's birthday party, a notorious Hollywood actor who's had his fair share of controversy.
  • Oliver North - Oliver North’s “Too Precious to Shred” scrapbook includes a letter, “From the Office of the President: Oliver, Thanks for all the secret work! - RR” referring to Ronald Reagan.
  • Saddam Hussein - A video of the Saddam trial is shown, which is dubbed so that Saddam is claiming that he is just a lookalike and that the real Saddam has a scar on his head.
  • Songs - It is revealed Buster has made 15 phone calls to radio stations alternately requesting "I Will Survive" and "She's Out Of My Life".
  • The Golden Girls - Lucille and Lindsay go to a rehab called Shady Pines, the name of the nursing home Sophia escaped from.
  • Vagina Monologues - Tobias decides to do a Vagina Monologue for what he believes is an audition for a CBS show.

Callbacks/running jokes[]

  • Illusions - When describing his Christian magic act to Michael, G.O.B. mentions that Michael has already seen his "walk on water" illusion, a reference to the ending of "The Ocean Walker".
  • "Come on!" - G.O.B. once again uses his catch phrase, ending all the flashbacks in Iraqi prison with it. G.O.B. first said "Come on!" this way in "Afternoon Delight".
  • Phoenix - G.O.B. mentions Phoenix, the destination Michael always threatens to flee to, when he demands business-class airplane tickets.
  • Duck - George Michael ducks out of the way when Michael throws the keys at him. George Michael first did this in "Notapusy".
  • Homefill - Michael mentions that the bombshell is a Homefill, the company that makes fake items for model homes. Homefill was first seen in "Pilot" and mentioned in "Burning Love".
  • I'm No Scar (dot com) - Saddam Hussein's plea of "I'm No Scar. Dot com," mirroring Oscar's "I'm Oscar. Dot com" plea in "The Cabin Show".
    • Fake sites from Fox were built for both and; the latter mirrored the first one, with the exception of the fact that it was written in Arabic, and the pictures of Oscar and George were replaced with pictures of Saddam and the lookalike. The sites have since been taken down.
    • The Arabic text on was actually just meaningless gibberish written in Arabic text. Furthermore, the text on the website seemed to be written from left to right, while Arabic is written from right to left. It is unclear whether this mistake was intentional.
    • No matter how many times was visited, the counter at the bottom of the page always said you were the 42nd visitor.
  • Ice Cream - More references are made to the Bluths' love of ice cream.
    • G.O.B. and Buster say that the bombshell in the model home makes them want to have an ice cream cone.
    • Richard Shaw says "You'll have plenty of time for ice cream in prison. Ice cream sandwiches," referring to George's love affair with ice cream sandwiches when he was in prison.
    • When the Bluths are bargaining with Richard Shaw, Buster demands some ice cream.
  • John Wayne - The hospital is named John Wayne General Hospital, a reference to Tobias earlier noting John Wayne naming airports after himself in the episode "Good Grief".
  • Lucille's Fibs - Lucille has invented numerous fibs in an effort to consume more alcohol, all of which she has passed on to Lindsay.
    • Lindsay says that Vodka goes bad when it's opened.
    • Maeby later says "Would it kill her to let some Vodka go bad?", to which George Michael replies "Oh no, Vodka doesn't..."
    • Lindsay says that wine only turns into alcohol if you let it sit.
    • Lindsay appears to think that grape juice might turn into wine if you take the top off it and let it sit.
  • Operation Hot Brother - When Michael and Buster are in Iraq, Buster refers to the rescue operation as Operation Hot Brother. This is a callback to "Motherboy XXX" where Buster insists on having a codename for the rescue of George Michael from participating in Motherboy. He calls it "Operation Hot Mother", and though Michael thinks that is probably not a good idea, they never come up with a better name for it.
  • Robot - G.O.B. calls Michael a robot when he realises he isn't crying. G.O.B. first said this about Michael in "The Cabin Show" and "S.O.B.s"
  • Soup Nazi - In "For British Eyes Only" George had claimed about a meeting with Saddam Hussein that he thought it had been the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. In this episode the actor who played the Soup Nazi, Larry Thomas, does in fact make an uncredited appearance as one of the Saddam impersonators.
  • Switch - The people who check into Shady Pines under the names Lucille Bluth and Lindsay Fünke appear to be Lupe and a younger Latino woman, possibly Lupe's daughter.
    • Lupe is wearing Lucille-style clothing, likely some of Lucille's actual clothes.
    • The fake Lindsay that checks into Shady Pines is wearing Lindsay’s SLUT shirt, first seen in "My Mother, the Car".
  • "That's okay, try again" - When any of the students who are practicing on Buster make a mistake, their teacher will encourage them, usually using the words "That's okay, try again." Later on, the Americans can be seen saying this to the Iraqis who they are training as soldiers.
  • Is Tobias gay? - Numerous jokes are made about Tobias' questionable sexuality.
    • At the meeting with the prosecutor Wayne Jarvis, thinking it's an audition for a CBS TV show, Tobias recites: "A flower in my garden, a mystery in my panties."
    • Tobias tells Lindsay that she looks "very handso..." before passing out.
    • Tobias is wearing Maeby's suit, presumably unaware that it is a woman's suit, only made in a woman's size.
  • "You're such a [bleep]" - The scene where Buster is talking to Adelaide as he leaves the hospital directly mirrors the footage of A Thoroughly Polite Dustup from "Notapusy". Both scenes have a nurse telling a soldier he's brave because of what he's fighting for, then saying "You're such a *bleep*." The ending of the scene in "Notapusy" had the soldier saying "When I miss your lips, I'll put a fag in my mouth and think of you." The ending to this scene has Buster saying "When I miss your lips, I’ll put a fig in my mouth and think of you."
    • In "Notapusy", the actors in the A Thoroughly Polite Dustup footage are Tony Hale and Bronwen Masters, who play Buster and Nurse Adelaide, respectively.
  • DNA - George Michael says "Gangy once said to me, your mom might not have ever even been pregnant with you." Lucille had indeed told him this in "Beef Consommé".

Hidden/background jokes[]

  • Address Book - The camera pans through Maeby’s address book which features: Grazer, B.; Grey, B.; Hilton, P.; Holt, S.; Howard, R.; and Kennedy, J.
    • B. Grazer and R. Howard obviously refer to Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, producers of the show. Ron Howard later comments that some guests didn't go to Maeby's party because "a lot of us just didn't want to drive down to Orange County", referring to himself for the first time in the series.
    • S. Holt refers to Steve Holt.
    • P. Hilton, obviously, to Paris Hilton.
    • J. Kennedy is Jamie Kennedy. He previously made an appearance on the show in the season three episode "Notapusy", where he was shown in a flashback bidding on Nicole Kidman's fake nose from The Hours for Maeby.
  • Adelaide - In this episode, it is revealed that the name of Buster's Australian day nurse is Adelaide. Adelaide is a state capital in Australia.
  • Baghdad Sign - When Michael, G.O.B., and Buster are leaving Baghdad by Rickshaw, a Hollywood-style sign is visible on a mountainside, reading "Baghdad" in Arabic ("بغداد"), but it is written backwards, presumably a joke about the incompetence of occupying U.S. forces.
  • Balboa Bay Window - The cover of the issue shown has the article “It’s Worse For The Mother!” by Lucille Bluth. Looking closely enough at Buster in the picture, one can see that the photo was taken soon after the beautician that was experimenting on him had put too much collagen in his lips.
  • Burning bush illusion - When G.O.B. is in Iraq performing illusions, he repeatedly fails at performing them. When setting up his next act, he says, "And now one of the late, great Jesus' greatest miracles, the Burning Bush!". However, Jesus had nothing to do with the burning bush; God revealed himself to Moses as a burning bush in the Old Testament of the Bible.
  • CIA File - The CIA file says that George, is an “unintentional operative.” The full text reads: “Operative contacted to build housing in the country of Iraq for the purpose of extracting information within the confines of laws regarding the Patriot Act. Housing was built and prepared for surveillance with American Operatives. / Information extracted from surveillance devices has been retrieved and secured to be used as evidence in whatever case the United States government deems fit. / Operative Bluth cooperated fully with American and Iraqi agents believing them to be British Home Builders. / Normal activity was observed regarding business procedures that are in accord with U.S. business practices. O. Bluth was later suspected of treason however will be absolved of all guilt commencing the completion of Operation Hammad. / Evidence for Bluth file BT333 can be found in section 3 of the International Trade section of the Patriot Act files. / Bluth is currently aware he was utilized as a patsy for the government, not unlike every U.S. citizen. This is largely due to the Patriot Act as well.”
  • Commercial - When Wayne Jarvis is waiting for the news report, a commercial can be heard “... and they deliver insulin right to my door.” This commercial can also be heard in the next episode, "Development Arrested".
  • "Connect a little" - When Lindsay says she and Lucille can "connect a little," there's a brief pause, followed by Lucille saying "I must have a Xanax" and Lindsay suggesting "I’ll go score some weed from the staff."
  • Just One More Season - One of the Saddam look-alikes says that they "wanted to keep the house for just one more season," most likely referring to the Arrested Development writers, who felt the show had ended too early.
  • Making Fun - A "tipsy" George Michael can be seen holding a corkscrew to his sleeve, saying "Look, I'm Uncle Buster." This is only the second time George Michael has ever intentionally made fun of another family member in the series, the first being when he made a joke about George stocking up on "Get Out of Jail Free" cards in the "Pilot".
  • RAM - G.O.B says Michael may not have enough RAM to understand his brotherly love, a reference to him calling Michael a robot.
  • Richard Shaw - The CIA Agent is credited as "Richard Shaw," an obvious play on the word "rickshaw" (Buster also rents out "the only rickshaw in Baghdad" when they arrive in Iraq).
  • Secrets - George Michael brings up Maeby after Michael says "You don't have any secrets." Realizing that he may have revealed he has a secret involving Maeby, George Michael says "I was changing the subject. We— no, yeah, we weren't talking about Maeby."
  • Set Dressing - After Tobias comments on how "incredibly detailed" Hollywood shows are, he opens the cupboard to reveal that there is nothing in there apart from a Starbucks coffee cup and a kettle. George Michael opens another cupboard, which contains nothing a Nature Valley granola bar.
    • Ironically, all the other cupboards in the background appear to be quite well-stocked.
  • T.A.I. Friday's - When G.O.B. is being tasered during the burning bush demonstration, there is a sign for 'T.A.I Friday's' in the upper right hand corner of the screen on a nearby restaurant. T.A.I. Friday likely means 'Thank Allah It's Friday' a play on the US restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday's, although most Middle Eastern countries have Friday and Saturday as their weekend days off, so "T.A.I. Thursday's" would have been more accurate.

Foreshadowing/future references[]

  • Adopted - Lucille 'mistakenly' gives Lindsay's age as 40. However, the next episode reveals that Lindsay is adopted and this is in fact her true age.
  • No Scar - It is revealed at the end of the episode that Achmed (the Saddam look-alike with the scar on his face) is in fact the real Saddam, and the Saddam on trial is a look-alike. This is hinted at by the fact that Achmed is fixated on the trial, with a sinister look on his face. He also complains that "I do a better Saddam than this guy. My Saddam would show his teeth." This also refers to George's tendency to replace himself with his twin brother Oscar (hence I'm No Scar) to avoid capture and his personal infatuation with the pristine quality of his teeth.
  • Religious Girlfriend - G.O.B. mishears George Michael, thinking that he said "G.O.B. should be ashamed of himself," to which G.O.B. replies "How does he know about her?", hinting at the fact that G.O.B. is dating George Michael's ex-girlfriend, Ann.


→ See more quotes from "Exit Strategy" at Transcript of Exit Strategy.


  • This episode was the third of four episodes, a two-hour season finale that aired on Fox.
  • This episode's title refers to the fact that the family is searching for a way out of their depositions, many people are seeking an exit strategy for the Iraq war, and the fact that it was indeed an "exit strategy" on behalf of the writers, as they had to write a conclusion for many storylines at once here (namely George's "light treason" charges). The title is also a callback to a line from "Charity Drive".
  • This episode is the second episode where the Bluths go to a different country, the first being in "¡Amigos!", when Michael, George Michael, Maeby, Lindsay, Ann and G.O.B. went to Mexico.
  • Richard Belzer makes his second appearance on the show (he was briefly seen as a guest star in "S.O.B.s"), this time as "Professor" Munch, who is in fact part of a police sting operation. On both Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Homicide: Life on the Street he portrays Det. John Munch. In light of the appearance in "S.O.B.s" as himself, it's unclear if he is appearing as "himself" or Munch.
  • The Saddam Hussein look-alikes are played by Al No' Mani, David Kavandi and James Evans. The role of Achmed is uncredited.
  • Wayne Jarvis makes his second (and final) appearance in Season Three. His first was in "Fakin' It". This is the first time his Japanese assistant Cho (Mitsu) has a speaking role.


→ See 97 pictures from Exit Strategy at Images from Exit Strategy.

1. "The Cabin Show"
2. "For British Eyes Only"
3. "Forget-Me-Now"
4. "Notapusy"
5. "Mr. F"

6. "The Ocean Walker"
7. "Prison Break-In"
8. "Making a Stand"
9. "S.O.B.s"

10. "Fakin' It"
11. "Family Ties"
12. "Exit Strategy"
13. "Development Arrested"

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