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Whistler's Mother

"Whistler's Mother"
Directors: Paul Feig — Writer: John Levenstein & Jim Vallely — Aired: April 11, 2004 — Icon-image      

"Whistler's Mother" is the twentieth episode of Arrested Development's first season.

Michael deals with numerous requests for some unfrozen money, and chastises Lucille for being too coddling with Buster. Also, Lindsay decides to protest the war to boost her self-esteem, Tobias and G.O.B. decide to start a coffee company.


Lemon of a deal[]

When the Bluth Company comes into some available funds, everyone starts asking Michael for favors. Lucille asks for money to pay for Buster's jaw surgery but Michael informs her that Mr. Jordan, a board member, is blackmailing Michael into buying him out of his stock for twice the value, else he'll inform the SEC of Bluth family corruption. At the Bluth Company offices, Michael gives the board a box of whistles so everyone can be a whistle blower and stop corruption. He then has to recollect the whistles because the board members were abusing them.

1x20 Whistler's Mother (32)

George calls Michael and asks him to give his twin brother Oscar $10,000. Michael meets with Oscar and finds out he owns a lemon grove, which Michael bypasses the board and buys for more than $10,000. He finds out from his father that the land is useless because the government has an easement on it. A series of verbal flubs lands Michael in hot water with Mr. Jordan. In a moment of need Michael visits Balboa Towers and asks his mother for help. She hugs him and leaves to take care of business.

Lucille visits Oscar and demands that he give back the money, and happily agrees to rekindle their secret romance. She buys Mr. Jordan off the board and takes her place at board meetings.

Gobias Industries[]

1x20 Whistler's Mother (41)

When Tobias and G.O.B. ask Michael for money at the same time, he suggests they draft a business proposal so they can earn their money. To brainstorm, they meet at North Roast Coffee where they run into Michael. He assumes they mean to invest in a coffee shop and tells them he approves. Finding themselves in a moment of unexpected success, they leave without saying anything.

Later, they present a binder for Gobias Industries—the name of their coffee company. Michael informs them the money is no longer available to their disappointment. G.O.B. blames George for the lemon grove deal and Michael tries to deflect but doesn't correct the blame.

Protest in style[]

1x20 Whistler's Mother (38)

In true Bluth fashion, Lindsay asks to borrow some money so she can have an affair to boost her self-esteem. Michael tells her to get back to her activist roots, which Lindsay takes as an invitation to see her hair stylist. At the salon she finds out Alex, her hairdresser, has been called to war. Appalled that there is a war happening and that Shawna might have to touch her hair, Lindsay decides to protest the war.

At a free speech zone Lindsay voices her shallow opinions on the war. When some locals hose the protestors down in the cage, Lindsay is the only one who remains and decides to cage dance. The dancing and attention boost her self-esteem.

The secret hair[]

1x20 Whistler's Mother (47)

While working at the banana stand George Michael sees his pop-pop with long hair on the Oceanside Wharf. He tells Maeby who makes fun of him. Later, Maeby sees the same thing. Not knowing that George has a twin brother Oscar, they assume George has escaped from prison. They visit him at prison and are relieved that he hasn't escaped, but accidentally reveal Michael's purchase of Oscar's lemon grove.


  • Ethan Phillips as Military Official
  • Peter Jason as Mr. Jordan
  • Dave (Gruber) Allen as Activist
  • Brian Gattas as Alex
  • Steven Shaw as Board Member #1
  • Monty Bane as Board Member #2
  • Dave Mantos as Local Man
  • Tommy Snider as Local Man #2

Recurring themes[]


  • "All You Need Is Smiles" - Could be a reference to "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles.
  • "Bad Girls" - The song Lindsay dances to while being hosed down is Donna Summer's "Bad Girls". It's also the song she plays to try to attract Tobias.
  • David Cassidy – Oscar claims to have written the David Cassidy song "All You Need Is Smiles," which he was supposed to sing on The Mike Douglas Show. He plays a recording of it when he comes to "court" Lucille.
  • Free speech zone - Lindsay is put in a "free speech zone," a cage, during her protest. Free speech zones (often in cages or fences) exist in real life to help curtail demonstrations at political events. (Read more on Wikipedia).
  • Say Anything... - When Oscar comes to "court" Lucille, he does so like Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything... by holding the boom box above his head.
  • Tunneling through a sewer line - Maeby sarcastically suggests that George Sr. tunneled his way through a sewer line out of prison, much like Andy Dufresne did in The Shawshank Redemption.
  • War In Iraq - Lindsay's stylist is called to the war. When Lindsay announces her intent to protest the war, Maeby tells Lindsay that she already told her about it but that Lindsay said it happened ten years ago, confusing it with the first Gulf War.
  • Whistler - "Whistler's Mother" is a James McNeill Whistler painting, but of course Lucille is also the "whistler's" mother after Michael buys all the whistles and encourages whistle-blowing. This might also be a reference to the fact that G.O.B. broke a tooth on a candy apple and was subsequently found whistling his "s"'s.

Callbacks/Running Jokes[]

  • Mr. Bananagrabber - Oscar is watching Mr. Bananagrabber on TV.
  • Bluth Company Board/Coworkers are Incompetent - When Michael gives them whistles in a symbolic gesture for them to be "whistle blowers" they instead act like children with them, forcing Michael to take the whistles back.
  • Man with "Freedom" sign - The gay protester from the "Pilot" and "Storming the Castle" who held the "Freedom" sign protests the war with Lindsay. He would later return again in the season finale.
  • "Hey" - Oscar greets Michael saying "Hey, nephew."
  • Lindsay Becoming a Cage Dancer - When Lindsay tells Tobias about her new dream, she makes the same face and exuberant laugh that Tobias used in talking about becoming an actor in "Pilot".
  • Is Tobias gay?
    • Lindsey confesses to Michael that she and Tobias had only had sex once in the past year, and Tobias "just lay there".
    • When Lindsay starts dancing on top of Tobias in bed, he points to the acting book he is reading titled Acting: Like a Man and states, "I'm trying to grow." Lindsay replies that that is clearly not going to happen.
    • Tobias tells Michael that he would not get in bed with Sofia Coppola but would get in bed with Robert Redford, and that he would not just "lie there" like he does with Lindsay.
  • Maeby's name used as foreshadowing - When George Michael is trying to convince Maeby that he saw "Pop-Pop", who was supposed to be in prison, when he had actually seen his great uncle, Oscar, George Michael says to Maeby "I know what I saw, Maeby", foreshadowing that he did not actually see his grandfather. This occurs in other episodes, such as Bringing Up Buster.

Hidden/Background Jokes[]

  • Animation Rights - Right before Oscar answers Lucille's call, Mr. Bananagrabber is on TV.
  • Acting: Like a Man - Tobias is reading a book titled Acting: Like a Man when Lindsay tries to have sex with him, a play on the recurring joke that Tobias is gay. Later Tobias tells Michael he needs to prove to his wife that he can "act like a man."
  • In the flashback to when Michael was a child, he says the line, "...and then Tracy will never marry me..." Tracy was Michael's wife who died, possibly indicating that they knew each other as children
  • Fart - At the coffee shop, Oscar accidentally farts twice in front of Michael. Later in the shot when Oscar is showing Michael his lemon grove, Michael can be seen moving back from Oscar, most likely for the same reason.
  • Stealing
    • Oscar steals leftover muffins from tables at North Roast Coffee.
    • While working at the banana stand, Maeby takes the customer's money and pockets it instead of putting it in the cash register.
  • Protesters - The signs the protesters hold read:
    • “You can take away out stylists but you can't take away our Style.”—Lindsay
    • ​“Where are the weapons of mass destruction?”
    • “War is Sexist,” “War is Racist”
    • “Larger Free Speech Zone”
    • “Free Jacko”
    • “We Support Our Troops by Opposing the War”
    • “We Support Our Troops That’s Why We Want Them To Come Back Home”
    • “Free Speech”
    • “Freedom”

Foreshadowing/Future References[]

  • Carbs - G.O.B. says that "People love to carbo-load," possibly foreshadowing the upcoming episode "Let 'Em Eat Cake", in which the Bluth family goes on the Atkins diet. The line could also be an ironic reference to the new fad of low-carb diets at G.O.B.'s expense.
  • Oscar is Buster's father - Oscar greets Michael by surprise with a shoulder rub and stating "Hey, nephew" much like Buster does to others, stating their name or relationship.
  • Say Anything... - Oscar's courting of Lucille is very reminiscent of the Say Anything film. In the next season's "Meat the Veals" Ione Skye, the star of that same film, would guest star as Mrs. Veal.
  • Oscar - When George Michael and Maeby visite George Sr. they unintentionally foreshadow the end of the next season first episode "The One Where Michael Leaves " where George Sr. disguises as Oscar using a wig


→ See more quotes from "Whistler's Mother" at Transcript of Whistler's Mother.


  • Buster does not appear in this episode. It is explained that he is getting surgery in Canada.
  • Jeffrey Tambor becomes the first actor on Arrested Development to have played two different roles here, starring as George Sr.'s brother, Oscar Bluth. Although he was mentioned in "Missing Kitty", this was his first appearance in the show. He would later appear again in the following episode "Not Without My Daughter", and would become a main character in Season 2.
  • This episode is rated TV-PG-DL.


→ See more images from "Whistler's Mother" at Category:Images from Whistler's Mother.

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