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Netflix has released Season 4 of Arrested Development in its entirety, which means we'll be binge-watching the series' revival and sharing our reactions with you over the next couple of days. The recap below contains spoilers from Episode 14 - "Off The Hook." Read no further if you haven't seen the episode yet!
”Now the story of a family whose future was abruptly cancelled and the one son who had no choice but to keep himself together. It’s Buster’s Arrested Development.”
Hey, Buster. It's only taken thirteen installments of the fourth season for the youngest Bluth brother to finally get his chance to shine and it's "Off The Hook." Literally. That's the name of this chapter of Arrested Development. Puns! Something tells me that Mitch Hurwitz doesn't think that playing on (or with) words is the lowest form of wit and the show is a pretty solid argument in his favor. Buster's episode sure has a handful of them. A giant handful. Right? Or is it left? Come On!? Fine. So I'm no Mitch Hurwitz. Buster has always been one of the (more) minor Bluth characters but his absence in the comedy's revival has still been a little conspicuous so it's great to get to see Tony Hale reprise the role for more than sporadic brief snippets. As the only member of the ensemble who's also currently a series regular on another live-action sitcom (Veep), he might have been hard to lock down. A theory further supported by the fact that his 'solo' effort is even more solo than the rest of the family's episodes.
"And while his days were spent trying to get his mother to love him, his nights were consumed with getting his lover to mother him."
Let's sidestep the first part of the cold open for a second and focus on another successful attempt by the show to screw with the viewer's sense of space and time by throwing some deliberately confusing exposition at the audience. Buster, in bed with the then still mysterious new mother (did we all figure out she was Mrs. Love ahead of the reveal?), proclaims that only six weeks ago he was a hot mess before the show cuts back the full five, uh, six years. Or however long it is between Lucille's break with the Queen Mary and Cinco de Cuatro. Egg said her kid with Tony Wonder was 5 years old, right? Seven years ago we found out that Lucille was really the mastermind behind all the shady company dealings and, after turning her getaway ship around, her youngest son is distraught to see his Miggle being hauled off to prison without her lipstick. I didn't even know we were calling her Miggle. Buster makes up for the absence of his mother in a Psycho-inspired fashion, starting innocently enough (well, for Buster) by continuing his daily routine before going full on Vince Vaughn.
”I need to getaway, getaway. Your hopelessly hopeless, Buster. It's as if they wrote that song for my own son. I'm glad you have a new hand but you need to find someone else to hold it."
Seeing Tony Hale artistically attack the 'chubs' version of Lucille with his hook was a delight, especially since it's not long for this world. But before the hook disappears, as well as a few other things (not Tobias, Lucille 2), mother and son are happily reunited with her house arrest homecoming. One of the best things about the new structure, is seeing events from the different characters' point of view and it was a treat to learn that Lucille was sick of being in such close proximity with her youngest son way before he gets fed up with her and her demands. Pushing him away would turn out quite costly, however, as the hot mess finds his way into Lucille 2's apartment and the bottom of a juice box. It's 8 a.m. somewhere. Soon the party was off the hook, so to speak, leaving Buster with quite the juice hangover which also makes him late for his mother's trial. The key witness! Star. Star witness. Too bad mom's getting 3-5 just like the mock pie. And he'll soon be in need of one or two to cry into when he's denied visitation at the nice prison that's still a prison.
”She eschewed the all-natural juice for the kind with cartoons and riddles on the box."
Even dressing up like Lucille's old college flame Alex Trebek didn't sway her or fool the guards. I'm laughed pretty hard when the answer to "Who is Alex Trebek?" was "Buster." Of course, we learn later that the Lady Austero planned the entire thing (not Tobias) in order to sabotage her friend and rival's trial. I love how the show played the flashback like a film noir, Lucille 2 in the role of the femme fetale and Ron Howard narrating in shorter, blunter verse. The motherboy takes action once he learns of her betrayal but that's not until Cinco de Cuatro several years later. In the meantime, Buster tries to make it work with Lucille 2, however, the miscommunication becomes too much for the latter, not to mention the need to be mothered, and he once again finds himself with nowhere to turn. Well, there is one other family that he can turn to, it's a shame he lost his Army uniform though cause even with there relaxed policy on homosexuals, I don't think he can wear the John John Kennedy outfit in the service. Especially with his motherboy balls out.
”Your son went down while piloting a plane over Afghanistan. He deserves a big hand for that and we gave him one. I'm afraid besides that, there's nothing we can do."
Six months later, not that anyone is keeping track of time, a messenger from Army shows up at Lucille's nice prison that's still a prison to inform her that there's some bad news concerning Buster. Skeptical of another of his ploys, she throws a ridiculous reference involving Larry Kert and Dean Jones as a sort of military countersign. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who assumed that something would be amiss with her baby boy but it wasn't until seeing the literal doctor (this time, moustachioed) that I learned he got a big hand. Seeing for the first time was still hilarious and I immediately thought of the Michel Gondry-directed music video for Foo Fighter's "Everlong." What a great video. Lucille wasn't as happy to see it as I was though and Buster's efforts in Army to win her back were all for naught. Except the cool, big hand. Obviously. And the continued support from the military family who, in return, only wants him to turn into a killing monster. His mom, on the other hand, wants him to grow up. A sign of her growth as well?
”Really? What about these two guys, were they invited? Light drizzle and thunder!"
As for the circumstances surrounding Buster's injury, they also weren't quite as the literal doctor described even if technically correct. Buster was actually working as a drone pilot, a damn good one too, alongside Zach Woods (from The Office) somewhere in a U.S. shopping mall. The innocent and peace-loving Bluth boy mistakes the whole thing for a video game and in the process starts killing innocent people on top of all the guilty ones he then feels guilty about. Don't take that Taliban wedding! This sensitivity also helps him become the first drone pilot to ever sustain an injury as discussed by Andy Buckley (from The Office) in what seems to be a Pinkberry. After investing in Buster's hand replacement, Army sets about training him to become that aforementioned monster but, in light of his aversion to being a monster, Buster prolongs the development as long as possible, crushing everything in sight from a tube of toothpaste to a remote control (in one of a few jokes at recorded/streaming TV's expense). He too would like some ice cream.
”I suppose we could use a Blindside monster."
Just when it looked like letting the cute kitty live was a bad idea, Buster stumbles his way into a relationship that would help him grow up, well, at least enough to rub it in Lucille's face. This brings us back to the mysterious mother in the cold open who we see drumming up some passion with the handy veteran. Mrs. Love (Garcelle Beauvais), or Ophelia, initially feels sorry for the discharged Buster and convinces her right-wing politician husband to let her keep him around. The Blindside references are too much. I may have done a spit-take. Buster also proves pretty good on the campaign trail, quickly becoming a symbol of government hand outs, and with handling the boys' bullies at school. He's so good at the latter in fact, that glorified hall-monitor, former cop, and Lucille 2's 'adopted' son Perfecto recommends him for a commendation from whatever Richter is working undercover at the school. Full of confidence, Buster tries to broach adult adoption with Ophelia but when she counters with sex, either fear or growing up makes him finally act like a man.
”I'm not a motherboy anymore. I'm a motherman!"
And it puts a whole new spin on the phrase 'being in love.' That love turns out to be one-sided though, since it turns out Ophelia only let Buster zip-down to get back at her cheating husband. A Bluth for a Bluth, I suppose. Blindsided, he leaves Charlie Brown-style but not without first grabbing some photos to help Lucille 2 put Mr. Love in hot ham water, which, it turns out, is not something he wants to do because of her aforementioned betrayal. Even more bitter since she's now with his father (Oscar, who she thinks is George Sr.). Reeling and desperate for someone to punch, Buster swigs back some juice from Gene Parmesan before blindsiding Herbert Love. Perfecto! Until he stumbles across the Lucille 'the invisible woman' Austero on the stair car stairs. Oh no. Too bad he already signed away his life rights to Michael and is pretty much the only one left in the movie. Can George Marahis' fake FakeBlock software help? Nope. Carl gets to watch some sweet dancing though. Oh, and the Showstealer Pro trial version has expired! And with only one episode left! Will they purchase!?! I really enjoyed this episode and can't wait to see how they wrap up the season.
”On the next Arrested Development.”
Read more Arrested Development recaps here.