In addition to our Arrested Development season 4 review, Splitsider has also been posting episode-by-episode recaps that will cover two 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. These articles will be written from the perspective of someone watching the episodes sequentially, with no knowledge of future reveals or plot twists. That said, there may be some discussion of running gags or seemingly throwaway jokes, which, given the show’s reputation, may very well likely serve as setups or foreshadowing of events to come. We ask that commenters refrain from discussing information from episodes past the ones reviewed below.
Episode 11 - A New Attitude
What Happened: GOB takes on the job of selling Michael’s homes and asks his brother to pose as his gay boyfriend in a scheme to enact revenge on gay rival magician Tony Wonder. Michael refuses (as does Steve Holt), so GOB turns to George Michael, promising to reconnect his nephew with Michael. GOB uses George Michael to sneak into the Gothic Castle, where he tries unsuccessfully to sabotage Tony’s act. While watching it, however, GOB relates with the coming-out themes presented in the routine and hits it off with Tony at the bar – both men assuming the other is gay. GOB devises a new plan: get Tony to fall in love with him, and then break his heart. While GOB secures one deal with Tobias to sell the Sudden Valley homes to sex offenders, and another to have the Chinese “build” the border wall, we learn that Tony Wonder is not gay, but secretly colluding with Sally Sitwell, who stole money from Lucille Austero to re-brand Tony as a “gay magician.” Having overheard about George Michael’s FakeBlock software while hiding at the Gothic Castle, Tony now plans on using GOB to get closer to his nephew (whom Tony still thinks is GOB’s boyfriend) to exploit his million dollar software idea.
GOB tries to meet up with Tony but accidentally ends up at a children’s ball room, and Michael, having been stalking his brother, assumes GOB is meeting Rebel. The two men fight and Michael tells GOB he’s out of the movie (as is their mother and father). GOB catches up with Tony, and after hours of talking, their gay charade transforms into genuine affection for each other, and the two one-uppers plan to have sex on Cinco. GOB learns that Ann Veal has a son via Tony, and GOB plots revenge with a complicated ruse involving masks and sex with Ann, all with the goal of outing Tony as straight and ending his gay magician career. Ann refuses and finds Tony downstairs, warns him of GOB’s plan, and counter-plans (also involving masks) to help Tony get revenge on GOB. Ann then sneaks out, leading the two men to have actual gay sex with each other. In the episode’s tag, we learn that the other man Rebel is seeing is George Michael.
Our Thoughts: The second half of GOB’s arc provided us with perhaps the most convoluted episode yet of Season 4, with layers upon layers of mistaken identity and misunderstood intentions. While Arrested Development’s complexity has historically been its strong suit, unfortunately, as has been the case this season, it bogged the episode down. At its best, AD’s story twists occur at truly earned moments, when the comedic payoff is well worth the risk – but here the complexity exists seemingly for complexity’s sake. And the secret schemes seem all the more bewildering when the characters are acting contrary to their natures. We can buy GOB’s hyper-competitive personality leading him to pretend to be a homosexual to best a rival, but it’s asking a significant amount more to expect us to believe he would actually start feeling homoerotic urges. That’s not to say his transition was unjustified – on the contrary, I thought the masquerade between GOB and Tony was delicately handled. It’s just a little frustrating to see a static character we already love so much turn into someone different (see also: Tobias’s love for Debrie, George Sr.’s feminization). Despite its flaws, however, there was still fun to be had: GOB’s two fights with Michael (the Julie Bowen argument, and the wrestling in the ball pit) and GOB insulting the Mexican laborers were great sources of physical humor, and the jokes were still firing on all cylinders, with frozen dead doves, a Gothic Castle that looks and sounds like the Gothic Asshole, the Sitwell family’s alopecia, and a gay magic routine featuring both a Hot Cop and a man dressed like a certain analrapist we all know. If only Season 4 could be as consistent with story clarity and character development as it has been with joke quality.
Episode 12 - Señoritis
What Happened: After Maeby and George Michael kiss (poorly, from Maeby’s perspective), the cousins decide to put some distance between each other. While George Michael goes off to college, Maeby puts her graduation on hold and leaves to shoot a movie in India. There, she spots Lindsay and poses as a shaman to convince her mother to return home. Despite repeating her senior year, Maeby gives up again when her parents separate and lose their mansion. Maeby then gets fired from Imagine Entertainment for not having a high school diploma and squats in Balboa Towers before getting displaced by her mother, Marky Bark, and their ostrich. Maeby moves into the model home, repeating her senior year over and over, hoping to get her parents to notice her. Poor grades lead her to take a summer tutoring program with George Michael at UC Irvine. Overwhelmed by George Michael’s explanation of his FakeBlock software, Maeby regrets her decision to stay in high school. In a bar, she arranges with some cops to rent out the model home for John Beard’s show, and shortly after sees them hanging out with her boyfriend Perfecto Telles (Lucille Austero’s adopted son), leading her to believe Perfecto is an undercover cop in her high school and will discover her true age.
Maeby learns that she’s being given an Opie for lifetime achievement. At the award ceremony, Mort Meyers tells Maeby he’s launching an Internet startup, which gives her the idea to sell FakeBlock. George Michael’s concerns are abated when Rebel takes interest in his software, and he introduces himself as George Maharis. Meanwhile Maeby tries to seduce Perfecto – who thinks she’s only 17, which would make him a predator and give her incriminating evidence against him. Perfecto tells Maeby he is a cop, and she moves forward with the seduction. After a profanity-ridden acceptance speech, Maeby escapes the Opies (thanks to Marky Bark’s glitter bomb distraction) and scolds her mother’s whorish behavior. Love’s campaign manager assumes Maeby is Lindsay’s pimp and pays her (with, ironically, Maeby’s original residual money). Maeby uses the money from pimping out her mother to launch FakeBlock, but George Michael, overwhelmed by the rapid growth, fires her. After finally having sex with Perfecto, Maeby discovers that Perfecto lied about being a cop, and that he’s a 17-year-old student, making Maeby technically a sex offender. Maeby gets arrested by Rocky Richter, an undercover cop posing as his brother Donnie, and Maeby realizes she’ll have to live in Sudden Valley.
Our Thoughts: As the season’s first and only Maeby episode, “Señoritis” benefits from a fairly straightforward storyline that fills a few small blanks from the season without concerning itself with tying together the major arcs – much like Lucille Bluth’s episode – while capitalizing on jokes and genuinely funny twists. As the most underwritten character of the series (her function falls somewhere between rebellious opportunist and neglected straight-woman to her parents’ self-absorption), the writers had an opportunity to flesh out the character without worrying about expectations or inconsistencies. As far as jokes are concerned, this episode was on par with the rest of the season, with some fun references to The Social Network, a genuinely creepy Barry Zuckercorn, and a brilliant moment when we realize that the characters George Michael and Lucille Austero never actually meet in the series. Meanwhile, Maeby’s carnal need to be loved by her parents manifests itself in a few farfetched schemes (I was thankful to hear George Michael call her out on her plan to repeat senior year until her parents noticed her), but using her own mother as a prostitute strangely seemed right up her alley. Maeby’s relationship with her mother has always been coldly utilitarian, and it was bound to take a dark turn eventually.
Meanwhile, the father-daughter relationship unfolds offscreen. Perhaps I missed it in the earlier seasons, but it seems like Maeby has inherited Tobias’s cursed destiny. Although Maeby seems to capable of spinning the plates in the short term, eventually her world crashes down around her (though on a smaller scale than Tobias’s does): trapped in high school, getting fired from Imagine, her Opie actually symbolizing the end of her career, getting fired from FakeBlock, losing her revenue stream from Herbert Love, and eventually following directly in her father’s sex offender footsteps… although, ironically, whereas Tobias is falsely accused as a sex offender (thanks to Maeby’s actions), Maeby actually does commit statutory rape. Like in Game of Thrones, no one is spared in the world of Arrested Development… though unlike George R. R. Martin, Mitch Hurwitz considers severing a hand to be hilarious enough.
For a full list of all the subtle and recurring jokes in Arrested Development Season 4, see Splitsider’s comprehensive list. (Warning: it contains spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen all the episodes.)
I’ll be back later this week with reviews from Season 4’s final three episodes!