If you ever happen to hear Bluth fans exclaim, “There’s always money in the banana stand!” you have this episode to thank. ‘Top Banana’ had a lot to live up to after a great Pilot, and boy, did it deliver. It built on the Bluth family dynamics we were introduced to in the first episode, but with more jokes and more running gags.
Unfortunately, the episode starts off with news footage of said banana stand in flames. We flash back a week to find Michael visiting his father in prison to ask for the company’s records, so that he can prove his father’s innocence. However, in true dysfunctional Bluth family fashion, George Snr laughs off his son’s attempt to get him out, claiming that he is “doing the time of [his] life” in prison, thanks to regular exercise, good sleep and a love affair with an ice-cream sandwich. I think we sometimes underestimate the level of care extended to prisoners. George Snr’s only request is for Michael to give his soon-to-be paroled cellmate and convicted arsonist, T-Bone, a position in the company, more specifically, in sales. Obviously, Michael is less than enthusiastic to hire T-Bone.
Frustrated by his father’s lack of cooperation, Michael seeks out the help of his mother, who appears to be irritated by her husband’s newfound love affair (“Then why don’t you marry an ice-cream sandwich?!”). Lucille claims to know nothing of the company’s records, but vaguely mentions something about a storage unit. Unsatisfied by his mother’s help, Michael tells her that the IRS (Internal Revenue Service for us non-Americans) would be stopping by her apartment later to check whether she’s bought anything expensive recently with the company’s money. This prompts Lucille to send her maid with a rack (yes, a steel clothing rack on wheels) full of fur coats across town on public buses to hide in the storage unit, and who else, but Michael, follows. When he finally reaches the unit, he discovers that it’s been burnt to the ground. We assume sales-position hopeful, T-Bone, was responsible.
Meanwhile, George Michael finds it difficult to adapt to living with his cousin Maeby, now that Lindsay and Tobias have moved into the model house. In order to escape his forbidden feelings for his cousin (a confusing and awkward storyline addressed in the pilot), he confronts the problem head-on, by asking for more hours at the family’s banana stand. His father couldn’t be more proud, and promotes George Michael to Manager/Mr. Manager. However, George Michael’s attempt to distance himself from his cousin goes pear-shaped when Michael makes him hire Maeby as his assistant, so that she does not turn out to be as lazy as her parents. And what was once an uncomfortable living situation has now extended to an awkward two-by-two square metre confrontation (to be later shared with none other than T-Bone himself).
In an effort to be supportive for her husband, Lindsay accompanies Tobias to his first audition as he tries to make it as an actor. And here is where the episode really makes its mark. David Cross, originally cast as a recurring guest rather than a full time cast member, pulled his weight and delivered one of his best Tobias Funke performances. Every Bluth fan will remember (and will probably be willing to re-enact) Tobias’ stellar audition, in which he mistakes a warehouse ‘fire’ sale as an actual fire (“Oh, my God! We’re having a fire … sale! Oh, the burning, it burns me!”). It is a shame the commercial’s casting directors did not see the same. When Lindsay is instead given the part, Tobias puts on a brave face, an effect lost when we see footage of him crying in the shower. Lindsay 1, Tobias 0. Unfortunately, after spending a day “celebrating a job [she] hadn’t actually performed with money she [hadn’t] actually earned”, Lindsay wakes up hung over the next day and misses her appointment, and next-in-line Tobias misses the call over all the in-shower crying. Lindsay 0, Tobias -1.
And like all things in life, the episode comes back in a full circle. We find out it was George Michael’s idea to burn down the banana stand, in an attempt to cover up Maeby’s stealing and mathematical errors. Michael is rushed to the situation to stop his son from performing an irresponsible thing (Maeby-level irresponsible, which says a lot), but decides to go ahead with it in an act of rebellion against his father. Turns out, there was really money in the banana stand – $250,000 in fact, as Michael learns from his father while having his own affair with an ice-cream sandwich. Oops.
- Michael(looking inside a bag labelled ‘Dead dove. Do not eat’): I don’t know what I expected
- Tobias (responding to Lindsay’s comment that he hasn’t even had an audition yet): Well exccccccccuuuuuuuuuse me! Excuse me.
- Michael (to George Michael): You stay on top of her [Maeby], buddy. Do not be afraid to ride her…hard.
- Tobias (auditioning): A Oh, my God! We’re having a fire … sale! Oh, the burning, it burns me! Evacuate all of the school children! This isn’t a fever! Ama … I can’t even see where the knob is … zing grace!
- George Snr/Prison security guards: No touching!