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Key Decisions

"Key Decisions"
Directors: Anthony Russo — Writer: Brad Copeland — Aired: November 23, 2003 — Icon-image      

"Key Decisions" is the fourth episode of Arrested Development's first season.

G.O.B. decides to lock himself in his father's prison for 24 hours to get back in with the alliance, and to spend quality time with his father. Michael takes G.O.B.'s girlfriend to an awards show, and Buster inadvertently flirts with his mother's rival.


G.O.B. in prison[]

G.O.B. informs Michael that he has arranged to have himself incarcerated at the same prison that holds their father. He plans to break out three days later as a publicity stunt for his magic career. Michael is surprised by G.O.B.'s girlfriend Marta the next day when she tells him he is her date to her Spanish-language television award program Los Premios Desi. He is so taken aback by her beauty and strong moral code that he falls in love with her at the awards show.

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In prison, G.O.B. angers a fellow inmate White Power Bill and embarrasses his father. When G.O.B. decides it is time to pass the key he has ingested he can't go to the bathroom without privacy. He calls Michael to get him to use the stair car to escape prison, but Michael shows up on his bike. Michael decides that he doesn't need G.O.B.'s blessing to pursue Marta but when he tries to open up his heart she receives a call that G.O.B. has been stabbed. He had been playing his first game of catch with George, Sr. to make up for a childhood of being ignored by his father when Bill stabbed G.O.B. in the back.

They all rush to the hospital where G.O.B. recommits himself to Marta and Michael is too good of a guy to get in the way. When he is alone, G.O.B. realizes he has "made a huge mistake".

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Lindsay in a tree[]

Lindsay, upset that the new family car is the stair car, is asked by Michael to get an activist named Johnny Bark out of a tree so the Bluth Company can resume construction. When she gets stuck in the tree she reminisces about her activist days. Michael brings back the stairs but she decides to stand up for nature and protect the trees. Maeby, meanwhile, stands for the opposite of what her mother stands for, claiming she is a hypocrite. George Michael agrees with whatever Maeby stands for, hoping to get her attention.

Lindsay sneaks out the tree at night and Johnny follows her, professing his love for her. The tree is ripped down as she shoots him down, apologizing for leading him on.

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Lucille at the Desis[]

Lucille and Buster attend Los Premios Desi to keep up her social clout. There, she makes fun of her rival Lucille Austero's dead husband while the widow makes fun of George's incarceration. They laugh as if they are joking. Buster, not wearing his glasses, accidentally flirts with Lucille Austero and she has a waiter give him a proposition note.

Buster later celebrates his newfound love, not knowing who it is or what she really looks like. He runs into Lucille again at the hospital and freaks out that it is his mother's friend. He suffers a panic attack and she suffers a vertigo attack.


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  • Eduardo Palomo as Everado
  • Lee Ryan as Waiter
  • Bruno Oliver as Guard
  • Christopher T. Wood as Surgeon

Recurring Themes[]

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Callbacks/Running Jokes[]

  • Brownish area with points - Buster refers to Lucille Austero (who he was looking at without his glasses) as a "Brownish area with points." Later on, when he discovers her true identity, he removes his glasses again, and asks her if her hair has always "been that pointy."
  • Documentary - The caution "Professional magician. Do not attempt" is added at the bottom of the screen during G.O.B.'s swallowing of the key, as if to make the scene look like it's been censored by the networks.
  • "I've made a huge mistake" - This episode marks the first use of G.O.B.'s catch phrase. Throughout the series, it is uttered by multiple characters, including George Sr., Michael and Lucille.
  • "Good talk" - Michael ends two awkward conversations in this episode by saying "Good talk." There is also a deleted scene on the DVD with Michael and George Michael that ends with this phrase.
  • Ice cream sandwich - G.O.B. distracts the guards by unplugging the ice cream sandwich vendor; George Sr. has a continuing love affair with ice cream sandwiches throughout the series. Also, while watching G.O.B.'s attempted escape from prison on the television monitors, the guards are enjoying ice cream sandwiches.
  • Mini-mansions - Reporter Trisha Thoon refers to the Bluth homes as "Mini-mansions" for the first time in this episode.
  • Ostrich - Lindsay claims she's passionate for nature. Michael reminds her she's wearing ostrich-skin boots. She repsonds that she doesn't care about ostriches.
  • Stealing food - G.O.B. grabs Michael's sandwich when Lucille comes in. This is the beginning of a subtle running gag in which G.O.B. will enter the model home and immediately try to grab any food that Michael's eating. This later happens again in "Pier Pressure" and "Exit Strategy".
  • Swallow a key - This is the first time G.O.B. swallows a key as part of a magic trick. He later does so again in "Spring Breakout" and "Notapusy".
  • Hop-ons - "Hop-ons" to the Stair Car are a running gag throughout the show. Although the term is never officially explained on the show, it is meant to mean a person who hops on the stairs and rides it.
    • The scene in which Michael presents Lindsay with the company Stair Car is mirrored in "For British Eyes Only", when Michael gives his sister the keys to the Cabin vehicle, cautioning her about "live-ins."
  • "You're gross" - Lindsay tells Johnny Bark, “I think you’re gross.” She later tells Tom Jane the same thing in "The One Where They Build a House".
  • The Spanish Language - Many of the episodes detail several instances in which the Bluth family is unfamiliar with the Spanish language. In this episode, Buster, not wearing his glasses, turns to a large sombrero stand, thinking it to be another person, and greets it by saying, 'Como estoy?', which, when translated, means 'How am I?'
  • Carl Weathers - Lindsay tells John Bark that Tobias is in a stage combat class with Carl Weathers. This is referenced later in "Public Relations" when Carl and Tobias talk about this particular event.
  • "That's why you never..." - Johnny Bark, when the tree is felled, says "That's why you never get out of the tree", a foreshadowing of the lessons taught by George Senior and J. Walter Weatherman in "Pier Pressure".

Hidden/Background Jokes[]

  • Buster's note - The note Lucille 2 leaves for Buster reads: “Call me maybe we could [covered by Buster’s thumb] some fun together xoxo.”
  • G.O.B. overlooked as a child - G.O.B. says that George Sr. told him he could get accuracy by throwing a ball against a garage door, implying that George Sr. told him this just to avoid playing catch with him as a child.
  • M. Sabino - The moustached guard at the penitentiary gate has a uniform labelled “M. Sabino.”
  • Origami - During the in memoriam segment for Ramon Villalobos, Michael can be seen folding a program into an origami crane, which he later gives to Marta to cheer her up.
  • Spanish soap operas
    • The clips for the Best Actor award at the Desis take place in many recycled Arrested Development sets: the two-thirds of a hospital room seen in "Beef Consommé", the hallway outside Dr. Gunty’s seen in "Visiting Ours", and George Michael and Maeby’s bedroom in the model house.
    • There is a running gag with Spanish soap operas, in which adults can be seen with dyed hair and painted-on freckles. This is a parody of Mexican television shows such as El Chavo del Ocho in which grown men and women play the roles of kids in costume with freckles painted on their faces.
    • During the Desi Awards, there is an in memoriam segment for Ramon Villalobos, credited as an "artista del maquillaje de la peca," which translates as makeup artist for freckles.
  • Stabbed in the back - After answering the phone, Marta tells Michael that G.O.B. has been 'stabbed in the back'. This refers to both the literal stabbing as well as Michael's attempts at seducing his brother's girlfriend.
  • In the scene that takes place in the prison cell with G.O.B. and George Sr. - where G.O.B. states that he is "a complete failure" - the phrase "Goo Goo Goo Joob" can be seen written on the wall behind them. This is from the song "I Am The Walrus" by The Beatles.
  • Michael can be seen holding a paper cup from In-N-Out Burger when he and Marta are on top of the stair car after the Desi awards.
  • Ostrich-skin boots - While this may be more of a Scrubs hidden joke, when Jason Bateman guest-stars on the Scrubs episode "My Big Bird" the Bateman character lives in a house full of ostriches and makes belts out of their necks.

Foreshadowing/Future References[]


→ See more quotes from "Key Decisions" at Transcript of Key Decisions.


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  • The title "Key Decisions" refers to both making an important choice (which all the characters must go through at some point in this episode) and G.O.B.'s key.
  • This is the only Season One episode other than the "Pilot" to have a cold opening, rather than opening with the show's usual intro.
  • Tobias does not appear in this episode.
  • The song played at the end of the hospital scene is "Cry Love" by John Hiatt
  • The song played with scenes between Marta and Michael bonding is "You Here With Me" by Gabriel Mann. It is an original song produced for the series.
  • The stair car that appears in this episode is based on a 1979 Ford F-150 pickup. In other episodes it is a different year of F-150.
  • Johnny Bark is portrayed by Ron Howard's brother Clint Howard, who has had a role in nearly every project Ron has been associated with.
  • This episode is rated TV-PG-LV.


  • Both G.O.B.'s never having played catch with his father and his seeming lack of experience throwing a ball at the episode's end seems to be contradicted by Season Two's "Switch Hitter", in which not only is he the Bluth softball team's best player, but his father recognizes him as such.
  • When G.O.B. is on the phone with Michael explaining his new escape plan, a guard can be seen picking up and unwrapping an ice cream sandwich. When the camera cuts to a close up of G.O.B., the guard is no longer holding the sandwich.
  • During the Desi Awards, when Michael is comforting Marta, the audio and video are not synchronized when she says "you know, commitment." This may only be visible on the wide screen version as Marta's lips are on the very left edge of the screen.
  • A camera can be seen in the shot while Michael is giving Lindsay the keys to the stair car.


→ See more images from "Key Decisions" at Category:Images from Key Decisions.

1. "Pilot"
2. "Top Banana"
3. "Bringing Up Buster"
4. "Key Decisions"
5. "Charity Drive"
6. "Visiting Ours"
7. "In God We Trust"
8. "My Mother, the Car"

  9. "Storming the Castle"
10. "Pier Pressure"
11. "Public Relations"
12. "Marta Complex"
13. "Beef Consommé"
14. "Shock and Aww"
15. "Staff Infection"
16. "Altar Egos"

17. "Justice Is Blind"
18. "Missing Kitty"
19. "Best Man for the Gob"
20. "Whistler's Mother"
21. "Not Without My Daughter"
22. "Let 'Em Eat Cake"

Season OneSeason TwoSeason ThreeSeason FourSeason Five