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.
And now we come to Buster. This season of Arrested Development was about what happened when the Bluths went their separate ways after Lucille goes to prison. Everyone becomes lost in his or her own way, but predictably, Buster takes it the hardest. “Off the Hook” was a fine showcase for Tony Hale that not only allowed him to show off many different shadings of Buster’s oddness (from “puppy dog who can’t take a hint” to “nude and muttering to himself” and of course “several-day-long video-game-slash-drone-pilot binge and subsequent crash”), but also show some new sides to Buster in a way that seemed natural — which is no small feat for a character who is designed to remain permanently childlike. When Buster answered Ophelia Love’s challenge to either be a son or a lover … it was unsettling. But I also kind of felt proud of the kid, you know? When an enraged Buster slapped the shit out of Herbert Love, he actually seemed like a real badass for the first time in his character’s history. (Of course, the giant hand helped.) When Buster broke it down to George Michael’s wood block application — well, that was just Buster being Buster, but that was also welcome.
After just two days of serving “mother’s breakfast” to a makeshift Lucille (“it looked a little like that Vince Vaughn movie Psycho“) Buster is overjoyed when his mother finally returns home after the events of the season-three finale”Development Arrested,” and devastated when he misses his chance to testify at her trial, thus ensuring that she goes to prison. He’s even more devastated when he finds out that his former lover Lucille 2 got him hopped on juice (the real shit that comes from the boxes with the cartoons on them), knowing that the juice hangover would make him miss the trial.
Ashamed and in need of redemption, Buster rejoins the Army, where he is rewarded for his aptitude for piloting drones with a new hand. Not built to scale. He’s eventually taken in by Herbert Love, who needs a “Blindside Monster” for his campaign, and he’s later taken in to the bedroom of Herbert’s wife, Ophelia, who wants a way to get back at her husband for his cheating. (That was some pretty hot ham water he got himself into.) For a moment, Buster has finally found a new family. It seems like he’s actually grown past his need for a mother and can finally connect with a woman his own age. Unfortunately, Ophelia was just using him, and she kicks him out and tells him she’s going to try to make it work with her husband. Cue the “Good Grief” callback. Buster decides to get revenge by bringing Lucille 2 the photos of Herbert and his sister (unbeknownst to him). Lucille 2 tells Buster she’s surprised that he would do this, as “I’ve never known you to want to hurt anyone,” which seems like the most important moment in the episode. Baby Buster might have grown up a little, but like the rest of the Bluths, he’s finally becoming corrupted by the outside world.
Odds and Ends
- “Is that baby toe of yours still crawling over the others like a weird weed?”
- It was very considerate of Ron Howard to save us having to rewind by pointing out that, yes, Buster did drop the “2” from Lucille 2.
- If you wanted to see nude Buster, well, there you go. Hope you’re happy.
- “I can’t keep playing Guess My Fur six times a day.”
- And the “you’re a hot mess” callback reaches its apex here. I’m assuming.
- Today’s verdict: guilty, no parole.
- “Take that, Taliban wedding!” Drone-strike jokes just seem to cross some sort of line, but that’s probably a whole separate essay topic.
- “Should have thought about that before you let that cat live.”
- Buster’s story was largely separate from everyone else’s. He didn’t crisscross with his siblings that much, but it turns out he accidentally got hit with Marky Bark’s glitter bomb while campaigning with Herbert Love.
- This episode quickly but efficiently made clear what the reoccurring visual motif of the ostrich is all about when Buster looks at a cartoon drawing of it for a second. (“What happens when you stick your head in the sand / don’t be surprised if someone uses you as a footstool!”) An ostrich is, of course, a bird that sticks his head in the sand, which is a nice metaphor for the Bluths these days, everyone is in their own world, and oblivious to how their family’s disintegration has left everyone adrift and hurt. It might be a more on-the-nose image than whatever visual motif was in Mad Men this week, but it was still an elegant way to sum up this season.