Arrested Development Recap: A Fresh Fünke

Photo: Netflix/FOX
Arrested Development
Episode Title
A New Start
Editor’s Rating

Vulture is doing fifteen immediate recaps for hard-core Arrested Development fans. Five regular Vulture writers will write on three episodes each. More in-depth analyses of the new episodes will appear in the coming weeks.

Tobias Fünke has always been a blissfully ignorant dreamer. He's a man aspiring to be blue, he's deaf to all gay sexual innuendo, and he's eager to turn his hardships into “Huzzahs!” And as confirmed by the first Tobias Fünke–focused installment of the new Arrested Development, our Mrs. Featherbottomed never-nude hasn’t changed one bit. You can take the analrapist out of Tobias, but all you’ll wind up with is anustart. (Read that sentence a few times, using all of the different pronunciations. It’s fun!)

Pretty much any description of this chapter in the Bluth Family Saga 2.0 will wind up sounding like a Stefon segment from SNL’s Weekend Update. This episode had everything: sex predators, skull injuries, pornography featuring that guy from those AT&T commercials, liberal use of the word bunghole, references to MST3K and the Ambiguously Gay Duo, Orthodox Jewish lawyers who resemble the Blues Brothers, a big Daddy who just wants to get his rocks off, and an ostrich attack on Liza Minnelli.

More specifically, it called back to the previous Lindsay-centric episode, demonstrating how increasingly intertwined these new installments are becoming. Both Tobias and Lindsay read Eat, Pray, Love (well, part of it) and traveled to India — in fact, it was Tobias who sat directly behind Lindsay on her flight, jolting her seat. They both ran off with new mates after lunch at a restaurant that apparently encourages all manner of swapping. And while Lindsay can’t drop her obsession with beauty, Tobias is incapable of giving up on acting even when it leads to lawsuits, multiple arrests, and maintaining a 500-foot distance from the Disneyland entrance while wearing a ridiculous The Thing costume. Nevertheless, a financially desperate Tobias still rejected a six-figure job as a counselor at the ironically named Austerity, Lucille Austero’s rehab clinic, on the grounds that it might distract from his craft. Even Tobias’s tweaked-out pseudo-girlfriend DeBrie Bardeaux (comedian Maria Bamford) knew how stupid that was.

While all that was happening, Tobias also managed to rattle off more gay double entendres than you can shake a banger in your mouth at. But the real high point in hilarity occurred when Tobias locked himself in an airplane bathroom and attempted to effectively rehide his thunder under a twin-sheet sari that he learned to tie from an Indian salesman at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Total douche chill.

Somehow, though, even after Tobias was wrongly apprehended on John Beard’s To Trap a Local Predator: Orange County Edition — Super Creeps, I found myself feeling more optimistic about his future than ever. All that Fünke has ever wanted is to be reassured that he’s really talented at something that he’s actually not good at on any level. Now that he’s been publicly shamed as a pedophile on national television, perhaps his dreams can finally come true.

Odds and Ends

  • There were several delicious callbacks to classic AD characters and sight gags, from the always literal  Dr. Fishman to the Shémale T-shirt to Tobias’s bag of take-out food from Klimpy’s Express. But I most appreciated Tobias’s long-overdue realization that his closeted homosexualty is a “running joke” in the Bluth family, one that keeps running because Tobias says things like: “I’ve got a bit of a stick up my bunghole about what I’ve now found is a running joke about me. But let’s be honest: For 2,000 rupees, we’d both go down on Matthew McConaughey.”
  • DeBrie cried “I’b neat!” while Tobias held her nose, a sly shout-out to the “I’b cute” moment from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That, along with the repeat nod to A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Fünkes’ Christmas Story–esque Thanksgiving meal at a Chinese restaurant, made for a nice hat trick of holiday-pop-culture references.
  • The gag about DeBrie being a butter face worked on multiple levels, playing nicely off the previous revelation that Marky Bark suffers from “face blindness.” I can only assume this will come up again when Ann Veal reenters the picture.
  • Finally, a slow clap for all the jokes about the 1994 version of Fantastic Four, which, technically, did not star DeBrie Bardeaux as Susan Storm, but did star Rebecca Staab, who will next be seen in the Showtime drama Masters of Sex. (Surely at least one Straight Bait movie shared a similar title.) Staab also once appeared in a TV movie called (a-hem) Dicks.