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.
This George Bluth Sr. installment of Arrested Development started out as a political satire of Herman Cain’s presidential campaign and ended as a comedy about a Bluth family cross-dresser who, for once, wasn’t Tobias Fünke.
In between those two points we got a densely plotted episode that was occasionally challenging to process, and not just because Herbert Love’s low-high tax plan made such little sense.
Here’s the basic gist: George Sr. bribed crackpot Republican candidate Herbert Love (Terry Crews) so he would support construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, where it would keep immigrants off American soil while standing on soil owned by the Bluths. Then George found out said property, home to the Father B. compound, is actually in Mexico and therefore useless from an immigrant-blocking point of view. Then George realized he needed to bribe Love again so he would oppose the wall, and also convince U.S. officials the wall already had been partly constructed so the government would provide enough funding to keep the Bluth family from going broke. While all that was happening, George’s estrogen levels spiked so high and his T-levels dropped so low — to a level John Slattery’s Dr. Norman described as “somewhere in the baby range” — that he began turning into a fragile woman who breaks down at the slightest drop of a hat in a CVS parking lot. Oscar, on the other hand, was becoming more virile than ever, a transformation seemingly predicted by that ostrichlike shaman that appeared in the desert back in episode two.
Got all that? I’m not sure I do and I rewound and rewatched some of these scenes five times.
Yes, this was a case where the intricacy of the new Arrested plotting perhaps got a little too intricate. The Rashomon-like nature of the proceedings — which threw a character like Gob back into Michael’s orbit without explaining why, say, Gob was driving a limousine with a cross sticking out of its roof — occasionally made it feel like the writers were speaking to us à la Lucille Bluth: I don’t understand your questions, and I won’t respond to them.
But there’s reason to believe they will respond to them eventually, because they’ve already started to do so. This episode — which was called “Double Crossers” and successfully delivered funny moments amid all that narrative complexity — already tied up a couple loose ends dangled earlier in this pseudo-season. For example, we now know why it was so easy for Michael to get George to sign off on that Ron Howard movie: because it was actually Oscar who turned down Michael initially, and because George Sr. used his signature to blackmail Michael into helping him with the Mexican wall situation. This episode also confirmed that, as speculated in a previous recap, Rebel Alley really was conceived in an alley — oh, and for the record, she’s also Ron Howard’s illegitimate daughter.
Speaking of Rebel, it’s worth noting that she, Lindsay, and now George Sr. all sported red hair in this episode, and that Herbert Love noted he has a passion for redheads. If all of that information doesn’t eventually add up to some major comedic shenanigans, our president’s name isn’t Barrack Hussein Obama Wamma Comma Mama on a Llama.
Odds and Ends
- Of all the rehashed AD bits — including the reprise of “All You Need Is Smiles” and a reminder of Buster’s cartography skills — the best was the return of Gob’s bees, a.k.a. the colony of bees that collapsed at Father B.’s colony, a.k.a. the most obvious computer-generated bees in the history of gentleman honey farmers.
- The brief spoof of a Terrence Malick movie — “Are we the same?” a voice-over mystically asked while the camera captured a close-up of an eyeball — was sublime. My only complaint: It should have been longer.
- It was difficult to choose the most quotable line in this episode. Let’s call it a tie between “It’s good to be out of that sweaty, old hot box” and the exchange between George and an African-American waiter he hit up for money. George: “I’m so sorry, I thought you were a successful Republican strategist.” Waiter: “Why, because I’m black?”