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 5 – A New Start
What Happened: In this Tobias-centered episode, the hopelessly in-denial brother-in-law finally realizes – to much surprise – that the family considers him to be gay. After his separation from Lindsay, he declares “a new start” (getting a license plate reading “ANUSTART”) and heads off to India, not realizing that he would be trailing Lindsay every step of the way. While hospitalized from a bus accident, Indian medical students laugh at his misfortune, which inspires Tobias to get back into acting. Back in the US, Tobias joins Lindsay in their new life together, buying a mansion and restarting his acting career with James Carr as his agent. Carr kills himself, but Tobias plows forward, taking Lindsay to his Method One clinic and spotting Debrie giving what he assumes is a monologue. Recognizing her as Sue Storm from a low-budget 1992 version of The Fantastic Four (as well as from a gay porn series called Straight Bait), Tobias falls for Debrie and considers it destiny that they be together. Debrie, high on methadone, tells Tobias to stick with his career because he can “write scripts” (as a doctor, not an actor). Debrie blacks out, and Tobias rushes her to the hospital, where he learns that she’s ridden with diseases from her drug addict past (also, that Method One is not an acting clinic). Tobias encourages Debrie to return to acting, and both take to Hollywood Boulevard in Fantastic Four character costumes (Debrie as Sue Storm, Tobias in a rock Thing costume). Marvel’s lawyers serve them cease-and-desist orders, but the two continue to appear as the copyrighted characters in public and are arrested twice more. Tobias accidentally saves Lucille Austero from an ostrich attack and is offered (but turns down) a high paying job in her brother’s rehab center. This infuriates Debrie, who nearly turned to prostitution to make money, and the two have a falling out. A depressed Tobias returns to Sudden Valley to find Maeby, but unknowingly walks in on John Beard’s To Entrap A Local Predator and is falsely accused as a sex offender.
Our Thoughts: Following the momentum of the previous episode, “A New Start” was equally a return to form for the series. Tobias’s self-image problem has always given Arrested Development an opportunity to showcase its clever wordplay, and this episode continued that march with analrapist-y word gags like “ANUSTART” and “METHODONE.” The reveal of his India trip paralleling Lindsay’s was predictable though still impressive in its execution. Maria Bamford’s Debrie is one of Season 4’s most interesting supporting characters – her bewildered, drug-induced romance with Tobias was an episode highlight. The episode’s strength rested in the AD’s longtime cruel treatment of Tobias, as a physician forever incapable of knowing himself, whose tragic fall knows no rock bottom, adding “addict” and “registered sex offender” to a list including failed actor, impotent husband, and absent father.
Episode 6 – Double Crossers
What Happened: George Sr. tries to convince the conservative politician Herbert Love (Terry Crews) to back his border wall project. Love demands a bribe. George Sr. finds Lindsay disguised in a red wig and freeloading food, and he pries a $50,000 check from her (which Lucille had written to Maeby for plastic surgery). Bribe in hand, Love comes out in support of the wall. However, George Sr. discovers that his borderline desert property is actually in Mexico (he and Oscar were misled by Buster’s crude map), rendering his wall scheme and the land he spent millions on worthless. GOB arrives to the sweat lodge colony (having been sent there for a job by Lucille and Oscar) with a limo full of bees, which swarm and destroy the colony. George Sr. and his twin brother angrily part ways. George Sr., stressing over having to live up to Lucille’s now-raised sexual expectations, meets with Dr. Norman about his recent impotency. Norman prescribes he masturbate in an MRI machine, which leads George Sr. to Michael’s Orange County branch of Imagine by mistake. We learn that it was Oscar who refused to sign Michael’s release form, so George Sr. offers to sign it… in exchange for Michael convincing Herbert Love to flip his position on the wall. Lucille tells a still-flaccid George Sr. to move forward with the wall and get GOB a new job, so he sends GOB to Sudden Valley to help Michael sell his worthless homes. Michael and GOB bond while drinking and GOB offers to reconnect his brother with George Michael. Meanwhile, George Sr. makes a video to reassure the public that the wall is being built (by circling a storage facility in his RV with Buster in his military uniform), but is futile. George Sr. attends the Cinco de Quatro celebration to hear Love change his position, and he explains to an angry Lucille Austero his donation to Love’s campaign and the Bluth wall project. Dr. Norman, dumping his medical supplies in the bay, informs George Sr. that his testosterone level is dangerously low. Mexicans begin rioting, and Love’s supporters get whipped up in a pro-wall frenzy. To disguise himself from the long-feared blowback, George Sr. wears a red wig he finds in the garbage, which strangely “feels right” to him.
Our Thoughts: The Season 4 story of the Bluth family becomes increasingly tangled in this episode, with George Sr.’s back-and-forth border wall schemes sending him bouncing amongst each of his family members. Seeing the Bluth patriarch share intimate moments with Lindsay, GOB, Michael, and Buster – as well as his brother Oscar, wife Lucille, and boss Lucille 2 – helped give this episode a classic, ensemble Arrested Development feel. Still, overall, “Double Crossers” concerned itself more with moving the plot forward than paying off the jokes this season has been so meticulously been setting up. And while an unshackled, scheming, and neutered George Sr. may be an honest transition for the character in his post-prison life, it makes for a somewhat less entertaining incarnation than the absurdly manipulative flight-risk we saw so often behind bars in the earlier seasons. Meanwhile, the “against the wall” wordplay was particularly amusing, and Terry Crews’ Herman Cain inspired catchphrase candidate brought yet another winning character to the already well stocked cache of Season 4. The season is certainly gaining traction by revealing plot twists and revisiting old scenes from new angles, as well as with some truly inspired running gags, but with a character like George Sr. so defined by his spinning of plates, his episodes are bound to feel more like work than play.
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 next week with reviews from the next two episodes!
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.