‘Arrested Development’ Episode Reviews: It Gets Better / Off The Hook / Blockheads

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In addition to our Arrested Development season 4 review, Splitsider has also been posting episode-by-episode recaps that have covered a few episodes at a time. So if you haven’t yet plowed through all 8 hours of the new season, and instead opted for a slower, more leisurely approach to screening the episodes, these weekly recaps should suit your old fashioned and increasingly obsolete lifestyle perfectly. Each of the articles have been written from the persepctive of someone watching the episodes sequentially, with gradually widening comprehension of the season’s convoluted, Inception-depth storylines. However, since we’ve finally reached the end of the season, feel free to comment with any jokes or plot details from the season as a whole.

Episode 13 – It Gets Better

What Happened: Following his high school graduation (and a pathetic family send-off party), George Michael heads off in the stair car to college at UC Irvine. His early years at college feature a mix of embarrassment, social acceptance, and experimentation (wherein his poor kissing skills are quantified), and when he studies abroad in Spain, he finally reaches sexual maturity upon sleeping with the Spanish woman whose children he nannies. He returns to Irvine as a senior with soaring confidence and a mustache, just in time for his father Michael to move into his dorm. While trying to record a demo tape of his wood block playing, he and P-Hound work on software for a wood block app. The only available domain name – FakeBlock – costs $5,000, so George Michael takes on tutoring high school students to make money, which is how he crosses paths with Maeby. George Michael is unable to reignite the chemistry with Maeby and tries to impress her by confirming his father’s misrepresentation of FakeBlock as sophisticated anti-piracy privacy software… something he and P-Hound realistically have no idea how to build.

After voting Michael out of his dorm, George Michael accompanies Maeby to the Opie awards. There, he meets Rebel and maintains his FakeBlock lie (in addition to changing his name to George Maharis) and is disappointed to learn Maeby is dating Perfecto. While snapping a picture of a child star, Marky Mark’s glitter bomb goes off, causing a power surge that brings down Mort Meyer’s Snoodle app launch and convinces Meyer that “Maharis” was behind it. The intrigue around Maharis and FakeBlock blows up, providing Maeby with investors and George Michael with another chance to get closer with Maeby. After his awkward “date” with GOB, George Michael tries to meet his father at the Ealing Club, but he instead runs into Rebel and hits it off with her. He and Michael leave a series of dishonest voice messages with each other, both lying about being in the same fake traffic. Later, P-Hound sues George Michael for the ownership of FakeBlock.

Our Thoughts: Things certainly get better with “It Gets Better,” as an increasing number of unexplained events are clarified and we get caught up with George Michael. While watching the earlier episodes this season, I was a little put-off that George Michael would be so proficient at software engineering, which I took more as a jokey nod to Michael Cera’s resemblance to Jesse Eisenberg/Mark Zuckerberg than as plausible character development. Indeed, it was one of Mitch Hurwitz’s cleverer choices with Season 4 to wait so long to reveal George Michael’s secret (his character is mostly defined by shameful secrets, after all), that FakeBlock isn’t some sophisticated anti-social network, but rather a lame app that makes the sound of a wooden block. While the jokes are certainly there – specifically the hint of George Michael’s “block block” chicken dance and the blood splatter when Tobias gets beaten by police – the real strength of this episode is Michael Cera, who has joined the rest of the ensemble as a fine comedic performer himself. Despite the obvious physical maturity (see also: Portia de Rossi, David Cross, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, and Steve Holy Crap Holt), Cera has also matured as a performer, managing to both recapture George Michael’s dopey innocence while also conveying the character’s increasing parallels to his father, noticeably by channeling the evasive rambling that Jason Bateman has made so iconic in Michael. The story arc in “It Gets Better” feels incomplete, leaving things to culminate in one of the season’s two remaining episodes, it does feel satisfying to see the story of the Bluths evolve the way Ron Howard imagined it would: with the focus being on the father and the son.

Episode 14 – Off The Hook

What Happened: Buster becomes distraught after his mother is thrown behind bars, replicating a Norman Bates scenario in the penthouse, complete with dozens of untouched cocktails and a creepy stuffed version of Lucille. She returns (two days later) and tensions mount, leading Buster to act out with Lucille 2. After a night of binge juicing, Buster sleeps through Lucille’s trial and arrives late (dressed as John John Kennedy) to see her incarcerated. Buster tries unsuccessfully to visit his mother in prison, while moonlighting with Lucille 2 – who breaks it off with Buster when his mommy issues are too much to handle. Buster pawns the jewels on his hook and returns to the army, hoping to win Lucille’s respect. The army deploys Buster as a drone pilot, and when Buster realizes he’s targeting real people and not video game characters, he freaks out and has an accident. The army, concerned that Buster will expose their drone program, gives Buster the best care available: replacing his hook with an enormous prosthetic hand.

During physical therapy, Buster proves incapable of controlling his powerful hand and becoming the monster killing machine the army wants him to be. Upon being discharged with nowhere to go, Buster is picked up by Herbert Love’s wife Ophelia to live with the Love family as an adopted veteran to help the campaign. “Blind Side” Buster helps the family in various ways, warding off the Love boys’ bullies at school, providing much-needed attention to Ophelia, and appearing at Herbert’s campaign rallies as a symbol of government hand-outs. After receiving photos of Herbert with a prostitute (Lindsay), Ophelia has sex with Buster. Buster brags to Lucille that he has moved on from her, but then Ophelia breaks up with him after deciding to stand by Herbert. Heartbroken, Buster takes the incriminating photos with him to Cinco and gives them to Lucille 2. She reveals that she gave him the juice that caused him to miss his mother’s trial and create the separation between them. Furious, Buster drinks some donkey punch and punches Herbert Love. In the chaos of the blowback, Buster briefly stumbles across the corpse of Lucille 2 on the stair car. He tries to cover his tracks by implanting George Michael’s FakeBlock software into the security footage of the night before, but given the software is merely the sound of a wooden block tapping, he’s clearly out of luck.

Our Thoughts: Perhaps it’s the physical comedy of Buster’s giant hand or the escalation of what many fans consider to be the most brilliant running joke of the series, but “Off the Hook” is by far the strongest episode of Season 4. Whereas the arcs of most of the other characters feel somewhat inconsistent with the trajectories the first three seasons had laid out so clearly, Buster’s adventures feel both faithfully heightened and right at home in the Arrested Development universe: the Psycho-esque withdrawal, violent juice binges, flirtations with Lucille 2, dressing up in children’s clothes, banners, dehumanizing stint in the army, and transformation into a monster unaware of his own strength. Yes, Buster’s Blind Side moments with the Love family seem a little contrived; however, where his affair with Ophelia felt hollow, his bullying anti-bully crusade and campaign antics provided more than enough comedic payoff. Tony Hale executes the over-sheltered Oedipus as perfectly as ever, ending the episode the same dependent man-child he was before. Buster’s isolation from the Bluth family storylines (the border wall/Love campaign, the Michael-Rebel-George Michael love triangle) freed up the character to simply play in the fallout of Season 3 – primarily, his separation anxiety from his incarcerated mother – which gave us a concise, hilarious, one-episode arc. Mitch Hurwitz saved the best for second-to-last.

Episode 15 – Blockheads

What Happened: George Michael and Rebel make out in the Ealing Club photobooth while hiding from their fathers. Rebel leaves from her dinner date with Michael to meet George Michael (whom she assumes is George Maharis) at his dorm, where they have sex. P-Hound files a complaint against George Michael, and after a long removal vote (featuring multiple sets of tie-breaking twins), George Michael is forced to leave. GOB sells him a house in Sudden Valley, much to the delight of the community’s sex offenders, who flock to the boyish 22-year-old with Twister and shirtless football games. Rebel visits with her son Lem (which drives all the sex offenders out of the neighborhood) and Michael offers to let the two live with him – which conflicts with the mysterious, anonymous George Maharis persona she had fallen for. Rebel leaves George Michael, and he seeks advice from Maeby at FakeBlock’s new office and fires her shortly thereafter. A bitter Maeby tells Michael that Rebel is planning on breaking it off with “the other guy,” so Michael goes to Rebel and moves things forward, sleeping with her. On his way out, he steals their photobooth pictures to finally have a picture of the two of them together. But he grabbed the wrong ones by mistake, and realizes that the other man Rebel is dating is his own son.

While looking for GOB, Michael stumbles upon his son in Sudden Valley. George Michael, hoping to hide his soaring debt from his father, lies that he bought the house with FakeBlock money and to impress his girlfriend, which was a mistake. George Michael clears the air with his father, asking about his new girlfriend, to which Michael responds that they too will break up (also a lie). On the night of Cinco, GOB asks George Sr. for money to pay the Mongolians (not the Chinese) to build the fake border wall, but when there is no money to pay them, the Mongolians (not the Mexicans) begin rioting and causing “the blowback.” A drunk Michael has sex with Lucille 2 to repay his debt. George Michael gives a keynote speech for FakeBlock, and after considering coming clean, he finds what he thinks is a sexy note from Rebel (but is actually an ominous threat from hacker group Anonymous) and maintains the ruse, echoing Lindsay’s “Put up this wall!” chant. George Michael goes to Rebel, gives her the note (which she assumes is a sexy note from him), and they sleep together and agree to commit themselves to each other. On his way out the following morning, George Michael runs into his father, on his way in to see Rebel, carrying a gift for her. In an awkward exchange, Michael cautiously admits that he’s also dating Rebel, but plays dumb to having already known George Michael was too. But by accidentally mentioning the photobooth pictures, Michael outs himself, and after George Michael slowly realizes the truth, he punches his father in the eye. The episode’s tag reveals that, in Lucille 2’s absence, GOB will take over the family business, while Buster takes the fall for her murder… all while Ron Howard celebrates having obtained the rights to Buster’s story (the only one Michael didn’t tear up).

Our Thoughts: Having exhausted all the major reveals of the season, the finale concerns itself more with tying up any remaining loose ends and providing an emotional climax between Michael and George Michael. We learn the origin of the Cinco de Quatro “blowback” that propels Lindsay into politics and George Sr. into womanhood, while the exact fate of Lucille Austero remains a mystery – which is a bit of a disappointment, considering the season teased it in the very first scene of Episode 1. Story-wise, the structure featured some satisfying parallelism: George Michael getting ousted from his dorm in the same way his father was; GOB trying to roofie his nephew as he roofied his brother; George Michael punching his father for stealing Rebel as he had punched GOB for stealing Ann; Buster getting arrested as Lucille had gotten arrested as George Sr. had gotten arrested. However, considering most of the events were composed of shots and scenes we had seen several times already – just in a new context – some of the more climactic moments felt forgettable and redundant. The episode’s funniest moments involved big ensemble gags: the twin tie-breakers, the friendly sex offenders, the rioting Mongolians causing a Mexican blowback, etc. The downside, of course, is that none of those ensembles were main ensemble – the Bluth family – whom we saw so little of this season, at least all together at the same time. The best we got in this season finale were some truly excellent moments between Jason Bateman and Michael Cera – the MVPs of Season 4 – playing two oblivious liars in love with the same woman and, for the most part, keeping it interesting. They gave us a satisfying conclusion to the Rebel arc, and with the fortunes of the rest of the Bluth family now similarly entangled after 15 episodes, hopefully any future installments of the Bluth saga will bring the gang back together.

For a full list of all the subtle and recurring jokes in Arrested Development Season 4, see Splitsider’s comprehensive list. For recaps of other episodes from Season 4, see the list below:

Episodes 1-2

Episodes 3-4

Episodes 5-6

Episodes 7-8

Episodes 9-10

Episodes 11-12

Erik Voss is a writer and performer living in Los Angeles. He hosts the Evil Blond Kid podcast and performs improv on the Harold team The Cartel at the iO West Theater.