"Sword of Destiny" is the fifteenth episode of Arrested Development's second season.
G.O.B. and Buster team up for some magic illusions with the help of Buster's fake hand, but when Tony Wonder, a rival magician, starts to mentor them, somebody gets the finger. Meanwhile, Michael is forced to delegate some work when he's hospitalized and Lindsay teaches George Michael how to drive using the staircar.
Michael Bluth is stunned to discover that a contract his company was counting on is being cut back, and is on the phone trying to persuade the client to honor the original order when Lindsay marches in. She hangs up on the client and demands that Michael hire Tobias as his assistant so that Lindsay could get a break from Mrs. Featherbottom, Tobias’s singing British housekeeper alter ego. When Tobias shows up, Michael’s current assistant Starla feels threatened, and spreads the news of the order cut-back throughout the office as retaliation.
Tobias takes the opportunity to step into his "ass-masking therapist pantsuit" and opines that Michael has a problem with relinquishing control, and as a result is going to make himself sick. As if to support Tobias's hypothesis, Michael doubles over in agony clutching his side. Lindsay recommends Michael try out an herbal store called Ancient Chinese Secret. At that very moment, G.O.B. is at Ancient Chinese Secret buying a tea to prevent premature ejaculation ("Tea for dong!") when he notices a sword on display. The proprietor describes it as the Sword of Destiny, an ancient weapon cursed with a turbulent history. G.O.B. buys the sword to use in his magic act, ignoring the Chinese man’s warning.
G.O.B. catches up with Michael wearing his new sword strapped to his belt, and almost immediately cuts himself. To get around the ban placed on him by the Magician’s Alliance, G.O.B. wants Michael to register at the Gothic Castle as a magician, and G.O.B will masquerade as his "lowly assistant." Michael claims he's too busy teaching his son how to drive, which involves George Michael observing his father as he drives and gives pointers.
Before taking his son out for their drive, Michael stops by the attic, where George Sr. is making a videotape with a towel wrapped around his head like a turban. George Sr. tells Michael he made the videotape after hearing about the reduced order, to reassure the employees that a real authority figure is still in charge. "My presence needs to be reinstated," George Sr. says, as we flashback to his failed attempt to plant Tobias inside the Bluth Company as a mole.
Michael, preparing George-Michael to watch him drive, once again feels pain in his side and finally decides to take his first sick day. At the hospital, Dr. Stein - the "best doctor in the county" - explains that he's going to have to remove Michael's appendix. When Lucille and Tobias claim they will be able to cover for Michael at the company, and Lindsay volunteers to teach George-Michael how to drive, Michael is not reassured. He also seems uneasy with Dr. Stein's plan to slow his heart, but says "He's the authority here, we need to respect him the same way the employees of the Bluth Company respect me."
Meanwhile, G.O.B. is trying to recruit Buster to play the part of a magician so that G.O.B. could perform as his assistant at the Gothic Castle. His plan is for Buster to ram the Sword of Destiny through G.O.B.’s belly, a feat of magic on a level with Tony Wonder, and guaranteed to get him reinstated back into the Magician's Alliance.
The next morning, both Tobias and Lindsay are violating Michael's orders: Tobias, heading a meeting at Bluth Co., shows the "inspirational" videotape George Sr. had made in the attic, while Lindsay puts George Michael behind the wheel of the stair car. Meanwhile, at the Gothic Castle, G.O.B. and Buster - outfitted with a mechanical Halloween hand - run into Tony Wonder, who does several flamboyant magic tricks before wishing them good luck on stage. However, the Sword of Destiny illusion goes wrong when G.O.B., brandishing the sword dramatically, accidentally slices off Buster’s fake hand. The hand, being a Halloween toy, wriggles around on the stage until G.O.B. jams it back on Buster’s stump. The impressed audience thinks this is the trick. Backstage, Tony Wonder compliments Buster on his convincing illusion and asks him and G.O.B. to perform on his next DVD.
Michael awakes from his appendectomy to learn that Lindsay had already taught George-Michael to drive. The bad news continues when Dr. Stein tells Michael that, as it turned out, his appendix wasn’t actually inflamed - and that a bacterial infection from the operation had given him an abscess on his abdominal wall. Dr. Stein recommends to "go in there, Dr. Stein-style, and cut it out." Michael, still wanting to prove a point about respecting authority, agrees to this despite Lucille’s protests. His family leaves and Michael is dozing off when a newsbreak comes on: Starla had turned in the tape George Sr. had made to the FBI, which contained a shot of Michael walking through the background of the attic. They had matched the design of the attic to one of Saddam’s houses and assumed George and son were hiding out in Iraq.
Elsewhere, Buster and G.O.B. meet with Tony Wonder about the act they're doing for his DVD. When Tony Wonder tells Buster he doesn't need his assistant, G.O.B. angrily jumps up, rips off his mask, and proclaims that 'he' is the real magician and that the real Sword of Destiny trick hadn’t even been performed yet. Intrigued at the secret identity angle, Tony agrees to let them both perform at the show.
Michael awakes from his second surgery to hear "whoopsie" - Dr. Stein thinks he might have left his snippers inside Michael's body. Despite this bad news, after learning that Tobias had been handling things with the business, Michael pulls himself out of bed and rushes to the office, only to find "his worst fears had come true": the entire floor had been emptied. Michael is beating himself up over taking a sick day when the elevator opens on the next floor down, where the Bluth Company is setting up their new headquarters. An employee named Ted explains to Michael that they had leased out the expensive top floor to another company and were moving in one floor below, a move that would save the company enough money to stay afloat despite the order cutback. The employees were jubilant. Incidentally, Ted had proposed this exact strategy earlier, only to be rejected by Michael.
Back at the Gothic Castle, Buster and G.O.B. are again onstage. G.O.B. whispers to Buster to swap out the real sword for the fake one, then announces to the crowd that he is the real magician and Buster is only his assistant. Unfortunately, Buster hands G.O.B. the real sword, blade first, and slices off G.O.B.’s fingers. The audience (and Tony Wonder) think this is the trick and are very impressed.
And Michael comes to a decision. He is going to relinquish some control and - for starters - let George Michael drive home. But because George Michael had learned to drive on the stair car, which requires the driver to stomp the gas pedal to go anywhere, when he got behind the wheel of the family Mercedes-Benz he guns it and hits his father, breaking Michael’s leg.
Dr. Stein takes this opportunity to shorten Michael's calf muscle (to theoretically increase his jumping ability) and reattaches G.O.B.'s fingers with the middle finger and index finger swapped. Michael finally asks for a new doctor.
- Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder
- Mo Collins as Starla
- Ian Roberts as Dr. Fishman
- John Beard as Himself
- Charlie Hartsock as Ted
- Dan Castellaneta as Dr. Stein
- Paul Feig as Wizard
- Kevin Heffernan as Announcer
- George Kee Cheung as Asian Man
- David McMillan as Doctor #1
- Bob Glouberman as Doctor #2
- Ben Hoffman as FBI Agent #1
- Craig Anstett as FBI Agent #2
- The entire plotline involving the Bluth company is a metaphor for Fox cutting the show's episode order from 22 to 18.
- Tony Wonder's website is plagued with Family Guy pop-up ads as a reference to the show's own website problems.
- Dan Castellaneta, known for voicing such Simpsons characters as Homer Simpson, Barney Gumble, Mayor Quimby, and Krusty the Clown, plays Dr. Stein in this episode. He uses Homer's signature phrase ("D'oh!") when informing Michael that his appendix was not actually inflamed (though not in Simpson's voice, but in a feeble near-whine), at which point Lucille says, "I knew it." Dr. Stein's first name is revealed at the end of the episode to be Frank, a reference to Doctor Frankenstein. This is an allusion, something Tony Wonder suggests the characters make.
- George Sr. wears a towel on his head to protect it from the attic rafters, and makes a video recording to send to his employees like Osama bin Laden.
- Tobias takes on Barbra Streisand's role in The Prince of Tides when giving Michael psychiatric advice.
- Tony Wonder produces a Subway Sub Club card from his ear. The sandwich chain used to award stamps for the card with every purchase, and then award a free sandwich once the card was filled up.
- The shop name Ancient Chinese Secret, as well as Michael and Tobias' response of "Ancient Chinese Secrete, huh?, are references to a series of Calgon commercials from the 1970s.
- Use Your Illusion - Tony Wonder's preferred title for his magic DVD is already taken by "some band," referring to the 1991 Guns N' Roses album. (His second choice, Use Your Illusion II, was also owned by Guns N' Roses.)
- This joke could also be a reference to the band The Offspring, who were threatened with legal action by Guns N' Roses when attempting to use one of their upcoming album titles in 2003.
- It could also be a reference to the show's court battle with the band Arrested Development over the use of their name.
- Speed - Michael says to George Michael, "I will be quizzing you too, hot shot," a reference to the "pop quiz, hot shot" line uttered by Keanu Reeves and other actors in the film Speed.
- Boiled into a bisque - G.O.B. tells Tony Wonder about the trick he first proposed in "Good Grief".
- Cat-like reflexes - Tobias jumps across Michael's desk with surprising agility, as he demonstrated in "Justice Is Blind".
- Dirty ears - Buster does the coin trick that G.O.B. did on "Dirty Ears"/White Power Bill in "Key Decisions".
- "The Final Countdown" - G.O.B.'s signature song plays when he and Buster perform the Sword of Destiny trick. Buster and G.O.B. first partnered up in "Good Grief".
- Ford Escape - George Michael sees George Sr. driving the Ford Escape which he test-drove in "Out on a Limb".
- Gobias Industries - Tobias lists the company that he and G.O.B. briefly started in "Whistler's Mother" on his résumé.
- George knocks himself out - Rather than knocking himself out, George wears a bath towel turban to protect his head... until a flashback, in which he hits his head on a beam as he stands up.
- The Gothic Castle - G.O.B. performs at the same premier magic venue that he did in "Storming the Castle".
- Graham crackers - Buster's affinity for the snack is shown when he is disappointed that Tony Wonder fails to pull one from his body.
- Hop-Ons - Lucille mentions she had seen George Michael get his first "hop-on" while learning to drive the family staircar.
- Lighter fluid - After botching his fireball trick again, G.O.B. lamely covers it up by asking where the lighter fluid came from, as he did in "Burning Love".
- Maeby's job - Maeby drives a company car, which she received from the studio where she works.
- Mission Accomplished - The banner that first appeared in "The One Where They Build a House" returns when the Bluth company is celebrating staying in business.
- Mrs. Featherbottom - Tobias makes a brief appearance in a flashback putting on his Mrs. Featherbottom outfit in the attic.
- Quincy Jones - Starla continues to claim to have had a relationship with the music legend, contracting rabies from his guard dogs.
- Star Wars Kid - George Michael's embarrassing video from "The Immaculate Election" is mistaken for a terrorist training video.
- Tobias is gay - Tobias continues to drop inadvertent hints to his sexuality.
- When analyzing Michael, he talks of taking off his assistant's skirt and donning a Barbara-Streisand-in-the-Prince-of-Tides-ass-masking therapist pantsuit.
- When reassuring the Bluth company employees that Michael is in good health, he remarks that his buttocks looked "as fresh and firm as a Georgia peach."
- In the hospital, he speculates about Michael's illness, saying it could be his colon, and he'd want to "get in there and find some answers."
- 22/18 - At the beginning of the episode after the narrator finishes explaining a contract cut back with the Bluth company, you hear Michael say "...you initially told us to design and build 22 homes and now you're saying 18..." This is referring to FOX cutting the number of episodes from 22 to 18. Michael says "we've already got the blueprints drawn up", followed by the narrator saying "well that part wasn't true, but they would have", referring to the plot lines for episodes 19-22.
- Best doctor - Dr. Stein variously refers to himself as the "best doctor" of different places, including "the county," "the state," and "southern California." G.O.B. did something similar in "Afternoon Delight" when he kept raising the price of his suit.
- Brother's wife - Tony Wonder is a hyper-Orthodox Jew — the reason he kisses his brother’s widow is because of the Jewish tradition of Levirate marriage, wherein a younger brother whose older brother died childless had to father an heir with the older brother’s widowed wife. It may also be a subtle reference to George Sr./Oscar/Lucille.
- G.O.B.'s computer - The laptop showing TonyWonder.com is labeled "GOB GOB" under the screen, and the key to the left of the space bar is labeled "GOB."
- Maeby is reading a Working World magazine in her room, due to her secret job as a movie studio executive. The headlines all apply to the show in some way.
- Working World Headlines: "How to work with a MOODY BOSS," "Another Meeting? 10 ways to keep them from being a complete WASTE OF TIME," "Will the Company Pay for Jury Duty?", and "Handling Interruptions."
- Newspaper - The article on Tony Wonder, "Born and Bread in the USA", includes the following: "Tony Wonder wows his audience as he emerges from a giant sandwich... with the flair and fanfare of Liberace.... Despite the oohs and ahs of the mean audience there was one disgruntled ex-magician who was seen doing some sort of chicken-type dance at fevered pitch. He was carted off by the police before this reporter was able to interview him but it is the view of the by-standers that it was some sort of protest regarding the use of chicken used by Tony Wonder’s staff."
- The Sword of Destiny is a katana, a sword of Japanese origin and not a Chinese one. The joke is that the old man took advantage of G.O.B.'s ignorance to sell a supposedly priceless artifact for cheap.
- Tobias' Mustache - Tobias' mustache is visibly different than usual in this episode (it has an unusual reddish tint and upswooped tips). Tobias shaved his mustache off to pass as Ms. Featherbottom, and is wearing a poor faux replacement. It is also likely an in-joke to David Cross wearing a (more realistic) fake mustache to play the role of Tobias.
- Unwanted Visitors - Ted is visibly uncomfortable when he sees Tobias at the company meeting, after Tobias yelled and kicked a chair at him earlier in the episode. However, all of the employees give Tobias awkward, worried looks.
- In the "In the next..." segment of this episode, one of the nurses says, "Good job, Frank!" to Dr. Stein. making his full name "Dr. Frank Stein."
- Buster's attaining of a more realistic fake hand plays an important part in the season finale.
- → See more quotes from "Sword of Destiny" at Transcript of Sword of Destiny.
- This is one of the most debated episodes in the show's catalogue. Due to the episode order cutback, there are a few continuity problems that arose in the last few episodes, and most occur in this episode.
- This episode is notorious for its self-references and digs at Fox, most notably over the fact that Fox reduced the episode order for Season 2 from 22 to 18.
- Tony Wonder, played by Ben Stiller, makes his second appearance, and first speaking role. He appeared in a still photo in "Good Grief" and again in "S.O.B.s" without speaking.
- Former MADtv castmember Mo Collins makes her last appearance as Starla.
- Dr. Fishman, the literal doctor, makes his fourth appearance and manages to make the family think Michael is dying. Michael, wise to Fishman's speech pattern, waits for Fishman's full explanation before reacting.
- Dr. Stein (played by Simpsons voice actor Dan Castellaneta) makes his only appearance of the series.
- Paul Feig, who has directed several episodes of the series, makes a brief cameo as the magician who tells G.O.B. and Buster when they will first be performing.
- → See 82 pictures from Sword of Destiny at Images from Sword of Destiny.
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